"I don't see why I'm not invited to her sodding birthday party."
He watches Xander dig around for a clean shirt and mumble to himself about annoying vamps. Finally, the boy turns to look at him and Spike waits for the explanation.
"Look, Spike, It's not you—Well, okay, it is you, but a bunch of Riley's buddies are going to be there too. Do you really want to get nabbed again?"
"No," he says and internally winces when it comes out sounding petulant.
"Something horrible always happens on Buffy's birthdays. Willow and I just want to give her a nice surprise party like normal girls have."
"Why can't I go stay with the Watcher then? It's boring down here!"
"Because Giles is going to be at the party too. Just, relax okay? I'll bring you some cake."
"And blood. We're about out."
Xander pulls on his shirt and then proceeds to ruin it by pulling on the ugliest sweater vest that Spike has ever seen. He checks his pockets before heading toward the stairs.
"Yes, yes, cake and blood. God, my life is messed up," Xander mumbles as he stomps up the stairs.
Spike sulks for a few moments before he realizes what he's doing. Instead, he snatches up the remote for the TV and starts flipping channels. He shouldn't be surprised really. It's not like he's one of them. They never consider his feelings, the little bastards.
A couple of hours later, Xander comes tromping back down the stairs with demon girl behind him. They're apparently in the middle of another argument. It seems like any time Spike sees them together they're arguing, and as usual he's the main topic.
"I don't see why we have to ruin our whole evening just for him," Anya says giving him a dirty look.
"Anya, we talked about this. It's just this one time. I have to do this so he'll quit whining and maybe we can spend some more time together, okay?" Xander says tiredly. The boy sounds like he's been repeating the same thing all evening, and Spike doesn't doubt it one bit.
"When? You're always working and when you're not, you're helping Buffy. Now you want to waste our valuable alone time with a vampire! If you have better things to do, then so do I. I'll see you later, Xander," she says and flounces back up the stairs.
The boy sighs and hands him a piece of cake as promised. Spike follows him over to the kitchenette to get a fork. He watches Xander unload blood containers from a large grocery bag into the fridge.
"Ooh, leave one of those out. I'll drizzle some over the cake."
"You are disgusting on levels that humanity has yet to fathom," Xander complains, but hands over one of the bags.
"So what was that all about?"
"You and demon girl."
"That? Nothing. Just eat up your cake. We have somewhere to be."
"Please tell me there is something horrible that needs ripped to pieces."
Xander rolls his eyes and replies, "Yes, it's a nasty monster called boredom. I'm hoping you'll slay it permanently and leave me alone."
Spike is confused by this, but decides to just eat his cake and wait. The suspense will hopefully be a refreshing break from the sum of his dull day. It doesn’t take him long to finish, and in no way does he regret that Buffy didn't bring him the slice personally.
Xander sits on the couch with his head bent back and his eyes closed. He is always quiet after a fight with Anya. In a way, it's a blessing, but in another it's kind of annoying. To Spike's unease, he is getting used to the banter he and Xander share. It isn't really a friendship, because none of the Scoobies would ever consider a vampire a real friend, but it is comforting and a lot less lonely than what Spike is used to. If it wasn't for Clem, Spike would have gone nuts most nights back in his old crypt. He wonders if that is why he hasn't bothered to go back there yet. In fact, he hasn't even mentioned it to Giles or the others.
"Done," he says to break the silence.
Spike follows the boy out into the night. It's a nice one as far as Sunnydale is concerned. They only have to dust two vamps to reach the brightly lit two story building on the backside of Main Street. Spike has never been in the building before, and it's not until he sees the sign that he knows why.
"The library? You brought me to the library?"
"Yup. You keep complaining that you're bored. You said that at least Giles' place had books. Well, I may not have books, but I have a library card. We're going to get you something to read so you'll quit whining like a little kid."
Spike is surprised to say the least. He's not sure if it's because the boy actually cares enough to do something to help Spike out, or the fact that he chose the library of all ways to do it. Xander has to all but shove him through the door. Inside an older man, that in no way resembles Giles, greets them. Xander pulls him past the brightly colored kid's section into the main stacks.
"They stay open later on Thursdays because they show free movies in the little theater over there and a couple of book clubs meet here too. Get whatever you want, as many as you think you can read. You will--and I can't stress this enough--take care of the books we borrow because I am not paying any damage fees for you. They also rent videos over there so you can get some movies if you'd rather do that, but they don't have that great of a selection it's mostly PBS stuff." He pauses as he realizes that Spike is staring at him as if he had two heads. "What? Surely reading won't ruin your evil rep more than hanging out with us does."
He snaps out of his surprise. "Right, yeah, okay." He goes to pick out some books while Xander sits down to one of the computers to look up jobs on a local bulletin board.
That night when Xander goes to sleep, he leaves the lamp behind Spike's chair on so that he can read if he wants. It's just a small thing, but it makes Spike smile... for all of two seconds until he realizes what he's doing and stops.
The following evening is uneventful. Spike reads off and on during the day and is actually glad for the boy's thoughtfulness. Because of the brush off from the night before, Anya drags off Xander that afternoon almost as soon as he gets in from work and he doesn't return until quite late. He watches Harris flop on the bed exhaustedly. Xander smells like sex and Spike tries not to remember the last time he got laid. He knows how wild the demon bint usually gets, so he takes pity on the boy and flips off the light to let him rest. Spike lies back and listens to the contented snores that slowly fill the room. He dozes off before he knows it.
It's the scream that wakes him. In a fraction of a second he's on his feet growling in game face. Xander is cowering over in a corner in his underwear throwing objects at a Fyarl demon. The demon is calmly trying to explain its situation. The whole thing is so hilarious that Spike ends up sprawled across the foot of Xander's bed howling with laughter. The other two stare at him dumbly, which just sets him off again.
"Spike! Will you quit laughing and kill that thing already!" Xander bellows once Spike has finally calmed into chuckles.
"Oh yes, slay the nasty demon. Don't even try and understand what's going on." Giles says dryly.
Spike laughs a little more before looking over at Xander. "It's Giles! The meekest Fyarl demon known to man."
"Giles?" Xander asks in shock.
"Yes, that's what I said, if you'd have stopped to listen to me."
"He can't understand you, mate. You're speaking Fyarl. That's why he didn't know it was you."
The usual Gilesian quote coming from the beast's mouth causes Spike to snort.
Xander for some reason looks even more upset than when he thought a random demon was attacking him. "What happened?"
"This is all thanks to Ethan Rayne. You have to help me find him. He must undo this and then he needs a good being killed."
Xander looks confused and then looks over questioningly at Spike.
"Ethan Rayne did this to him and we have to track the guy down. We'll just hop on down to the Sunnydale Motor Inn just as soon as the sun goes down."
"Wait! You know where he is?" Giles asks.
"Well, that's where he was the last time. Don't see why he'd be somewhere else."
Giles gives a deep growl and closes his eyes. "You knew this was going to happen, and you didn't tell me."
"Oh terribly sorry, Ethan Rayne's going to turn you into a demon, Giles. There. It's your own fault drinking with him. What sort of idiot trusts an old enemy anyway?" The pair stare at him a moment. "Right, strike that last bit."
The afternoon is filled with tension while they wait for the sun to go down. Xander pulls on some clothes and tries to be a good host, but he's skittish around Giles. Spike gets fed up with playing translator quickly and after the third time of telling Xander something innuendo laden instead of what the Watcher actually says, Giles gives up trying. Spike goes back to his chair and pulls out one of his books.
"What did you get at the library anyway, Spike?" Xander asks in the silence. "I wasn't paying attention."
"You took him to the library?" Giles asks, of course it comes out in a series of burbling grunts, but Xander seems to understand his tone.
"Yeah the library. He was driving me nuts, so now he has something to do."
"What sort of books does a vampire read?" Giles wonders aloud.
Spike easily ignores their conversation, but he can feel their eyes on him and it drives him up the wall. He drops the book onto his lap with a sigh and stares back at them. They both just wait patiently.
"A couple of horror books for the sheer amusement factor, several classics, and three or four mysteries. Now quit bloody staring at me!"
Spike is grateful when the sun finally goes down. He explains that it'll be safer to move around in Giles' car, and after some arguing he gets the man's keys. He uses the walk over to have a smoke and clear his head. The Citroen is parked next to the curb and Spike grumbles at it. He drives it back to Xander's house where the boy and Giles are waiting out front. Xander climbs in the back and is promptly squished by the seat as Giles settles his larger frame into the passenger side.
"I still don't see why Xander can't drive," Giles says grumpily.
"I don't see why we can't just tell the Slayer."
"No. When I find Ethan I can clear all this up without Buffy ever having to find out that anything happened to me at all."
Xander jostles around a bit until he can pull his long legs around to sit Indian style in the pathetically small backseat. He leans forward and asks, "What did he say?"
"He said we could clear it up on our own. What he means is he's as embarrassed as all hell and doesn't want Buffy to find out."
"Spike, do shut up, and for god's sake if you can't find third gear don't try for third gear!"
The car makes a horrible wrenching sound again as he jerks on the gears. "Let me drive. Oh, and if you get any bright ideas about jumping out and scaring someone, leave it. Last time we had the whole bloody Initiative chasing us."
"I did no such thing! You're making that up!"
Xander leans up with a grin and asks, "Did he really?"
"You should have seen it. Watcher decorum right out the window. He was snarling and everything. Did my dead heart good, it did."
Giles gives a low growl and Xander leans back again. Spike just smirks and heads toward the edge of town where the highway leads into Sunnydale. They find the motel quickly. Spike recognizes it.
"You know, I think I killed someone here before. Seems familiar."
Xander and Giles stare at him. He ignores the looks and waltzes into the office to ask about Rayne. The smelly woman behind the counter doesn't want to give him the number at first, but some soft words and a few smiles have her eating out of his hand. They march down the sidewalk and Giles kicks in the door before Spike even lifts his foot. He and Xander exchange a surprised glance. Giles bursts in, ignoring Rayne's pleas and grabs the sorcerer by the throat.
"No! No! Don't kill me! I can't undo you if you kill me!" Ethan manages to choke out.
"Giles! Let him go!" Xander yells and pulls ineffectively on the Watcher's scaly arm.
"He's lost it, mate!"
"Do something! Spike!"
Suddenly, Giles drops Ethan and grabs the boy by the shirt. He tosses Xander across the room. There's a nasty thunk as the lad hits the wall next the bathroom and slumps to the floor. Spike shakes his head and kicks Giles hard in the side. It only knocks the new demon back a few steps and quickly he's all over Spike. A couple of punches to Spike's face have him reeling and he can barely manage to get in a couple of blows to the Watcher's torso. Giles grabs his coat much like he grabbed Xander and tosses him across the room. Spike ends up in a heap on top of Harris as the boy is trying to get up.
"Oof! Get off me!"
"Oh, like it's my sodding fault!"
They pull themselves up to their feet ready to take Giles on again when Buffy runs into the room. Xander gives a gasp and shoves Spike backwards into the bathroom. He stumbles and trips over the toilet landing hard on his wrist.
"Ow! What the..."
Xander marches in after him and quickly shuts and locks the door. "Shut up! Riley's out there with Buffy."
"The soldier boys probably have this place surrounded!"
Xander yanks open the tiny frosted window next to the bathtub-slash-shower and then looks back at him anxiously. Spike stares at the pint sized window then stares at the boy.
"You've got to be kidding me."
"You're skinny, now move!"
Spike can hear the fight escalating in the other room. He looks at the window again and groans. Sticking his head out shows no commandos, but it's only a matter of time before they start doing a thorough search. He gets his shoulders wedged a bit but with some wriggling they finally pop through. His waist is another matter all together. He's always been slim and normally it would be no problem if his shoulders fit, but his duster bunches up and jams him in good and proper.
He hears Xander's excited voice behind him. "Hurry up! Hurry up!"
"Do you speak English? I'm stuck!"
Spike kicks his legs uselessly. He hears Harris grumbling under his breath about stupid useless vamps and then, a strong pair of hands grab his rear end and start to push.
"Quit bitching and start helping!"
Spike plants his hands on either side of the window and pushes with all his might. Meanwhile, Xander's hands are replaced by something more solid, his shoulder perhaps and the pair grunt and strain trying to get him the rest of the way through. The fight going on in the main room suddenly gets quiet and he can distinctly hear Buffy yelp Giles' name. There isn't much time. Spike thinks he hears the thump of boots coming toward the bathroom door and before he can yell, the duster slides a bit and he's tumbling out onto the ground right onto his head.
"Riley! What are you doing here?" he hears Xander say from the window above. Spike scuttles until his back is against the wall. He looks up and hopes that Captain Cardboard doesn't want to take a look outside.
"Xander?" Riley's voice asks full of confusion. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm with Giles. Did you get him calmed down? Is everyone all right?"
"Yeah, Buffy stabbed him, but he seems okay. She's threatening Rayne right now. What are you doing in the bathroom?" The last question is asked dangerously close to the window. Spike flinches and wishes there were more shadows to hide in.
"Uh! I was going to yell for help. But you're here... so, now I don't have to. Maybe we should go HOME!" The outburst causes Spike to cringe. He rolls his eyes and reminds himself to make the kid look up the word subtle later.
"Why are you yelling?"
"It's all the excitement. I think I hear Buffy calling we'd better go back in. Coming Buff!"
"I don't hear anything..." Riley's voice says distantly as the lad ushers him back into the main room.
Spike takes the hint and slinks back toward Harris' basement while keeping an eye out for any soldiers. He hopes to hell that this little incident will be swiftly forgotten. His rep is already frayed enough.
Spike sits on the stairs in Giles' condo watching Xander re-hang the front door properly. Anya is beside him and she appears to be admiring Harris' rear end. He tries not to let the distaste show on his face and from the confused look he gets from Xander, he obviously fails.
"I don't see why we have to help clean up the place. It's not like we went on a destruction spree," Anya says loudly.
"You're telling me," he agrees.
Willow shoots them a dirty look from where she's sweeping. "We're trying to do more stuff together. Poor Giles got all demony because we weren't around to help."
Giles comes out of the kitchen with a tray full of drinks and replies, "I hardly blame you or the others, Willow. It was my own foolishness that got me into that mess. I knew better than to let my guard down in front of Ethan. But I do appreciate the help, especially your skills, Xander. I'd hate to be charged excessively when I move out."
"Don't worry, it'll be good as new when I'm done. I've got all the lumber to fix the railing, and that hole by your mirror just needs a bit of plaster." Xander steps back from the door swinging it with a critical eye before closing it to make sure everything is working to his satisfaction.
"I notice Buffy isn't here helping, even after stabbing you. If I stab you, can I leave?" Spike asks.
As usual, Giles ignores the question, but Willow pipes up. "I guess she's out with Riley and his buddies again."
Xander tosses a screwdriver into his toolbox and pulls out a measuring tape. Anya gets up out of his way and heads for the tray Giles left out. Spike sprawls even more on the stairs not caring if he's in the way or not and receives a kick from Xander for his trouble. He contemplates pinching the boy's leg, but decides a jolt from the chip isn't worth it.
"I think Riley is okay, in an oafish kind of way. And I hate to agree with Spike here, but am I the only one with a big floating question mark over his head about this Initiative thing?" Xander asks while he measures the railing.
"Well, they do seem to fall into the 'good guy' camp. I mean they are anti-demon," Willow says pausing to look at Anya. "Probably pro ex-demon."
Anya exchanges a look with Spike and replies, "Maybe. I choose to feel threatened."
"You can say that again, sister," Spike grumbles. "Plus, you haven't seen the real nasty yet. Adam's no babe in arms."
"I'm curious if this Adam you keep going on about has anything to do with the warning Ethan gave me. Something called 314," Giles says examining his newly fixed door.
"Well, now that Buffy's all in with them maybe she can poke around and get some answers." Xander squats down to dig in the large toolbox with a frown.
Spike scoffs, "Not likely. She's probably too busy making kissy face with Cornfed."
"Jealous much?" Xander quips digging around in a bag on the stairs next to Spike's hip.
Spike grabs Xander's wrist harshly and practically growls, "Not jealous. Don't care about her or that idiot."
"Settle down, Blondie. I was just kidding," Harris says with surprise and pulls his arm free.
He looks away but he can feel Xander still staring at him. A distraction is in order. "What are you looking for anyway?"
"My palm sander. I'll need it for the new railings before I stain them, and for the plaster on the wall. I think I left it on the workbench back in the basement. I'd better run over and get it."
"I'll go with. Knowing you, you'll get jumped by something."
"Gee, Spike, I didn't know you cared."
"Don't. Just feel like ripping something to shreds."
Xander rolls his eyes and informs the others that they'll be right back. Spike considers pulling the door back off its hinges with an 'oops' but doesn't. He'd hate to hear Harris whine all the way to the basement and back again. The night is quiet and he sets a good pace that has Harris struggling to keep up. They cut across the corner of Peaceful Heights cemetery to save time. A small noise makes Spike freeze.
"What is it?" Xander asks.
"Don't know, can't hear anything with you blabbering."
Spike tilts his head and listens to the sounds of the night trying to find something out of place. Just as he hears something, Xander steps close and then gasps in pain. The boy tumbles forward and Spike catches him dumbfounded. It's the smell that alerts him. The marvelous smell of Xander's warm blood slaps him across the face before he really understands that Xander's been hit. There's more rustling in the distance and he knows that it's the Initiative. Spike throws the boy over his shoulder and runs at a full clip back to Giles' praying that his speed alone will loose the soldiers.
The others jerk in surprise when he bangs back inside. Willow immediately yells for Xander and rushes forward. Spike nudges her out of the way and carefully puts the boy onto a chair.
"What happened?" Giles asks worriedly.
"Soldiers. They shot him."
"What?" Willow asks in surprise.
"They were aiming at me. It's a tracer. Homing device. Whatever. It happened before. I'm a bloody fool for not being more careful. Harris just stepped in the way right before it hit me. We need to do something fast or they'll beat a path right to the fixed door."
Xander jerks up abruptly with a yelp. "Oh god that hurts! What got me?"
"Stay still, Xander. You've been shot. Anya, could you get me some towels please?" Giles says stepping over to retrieve a large medical kit.
"Shot? I've been shot! Oh... oh god! I'm going to die aren't I? Tell me the truth, Willow." When the girl stares at him teary eyed and doesn't answer, he turns to Spike. "Spike, you'd tell me if I was dying, right?"
"Hush. Come on now, get up on the desk so Giles can have a look at you," he says softly and helps the boy up. Giles hands him a pair of scissors and he gently cuts the lad's shirt away. Then, Anya is shaking towels at him with a white face. "Willow, can you take them? I can't use them to stop the blood. Adding pressure will hurt and the sodding chip..."
"Right! On it!"
Spike and Giles lower Xander onto his stomach across Giles' desk as Anya quickly clears it of clutter. The smell of blood is overwhelming and it's all he can do to keep from letting his fangs drop. Giles takes over from Willow and sops the wound to see the damage.
"Anya, there's a bottle of Cognac in the cabinet next to the sink. Can you get it for me?" the Watcher asks. "Willow, get the alcohol from under the sink in the bathroom please."
As soon as the two women step away, Giles shoots him a questioning glance. Spike leans over to take a look. "It looks like it's lodged between his spine and the shoulder blade. I think he'll be okay. It's not too deep. Getting it out is going to be a bitch though."
"Oh god!" Xander murmurs.
The girls return simultaneously with the requested items. Giles puts the towels back over the wound quickly.
"Anya, keep the pressure on with these towels. Spike, help Xander get as much of that Cognac down as he can. It's the closest thing I have to anesthesia. Willow, I need your help with something."
The two step away and start pulling out magic books and talking mumbo-jumbo. Spike pulls a chair around by Xander's head and opens the bottle. The boy's face is pale and he looks scared to death.
"There now, Giles is letting you have the good stuff. A couple of shots of this and you won't mind at all."
Xander's hand reaches out and snags his with a fierce grip. Spike leans him on his side a bit and puts the bottle to his lips. The first tug causes some coughing which makes him wince in pain. The second drink passes with a grimace. From then on though it's smooth sailing. Whenever Xander tries to slow down, Spike pushes the bottle at him again. The quicker he drinks the faster it will hit him. After about half the bottle, the lad's dark eyes are a bit glassy and regard Spike with pained amusement. The hand holding tight to his never once lets go.
By the time Harris is good and pissed, Giles and Willow have their spell sorted. Some chanting from Red and the lights explode around them. Spike curses softly and feels every hair on his body stand on end. When his eyes adjust he realizes just how true that is. They all look as if they've put their fingers in light sockets. Spike slams the bottle down on the desk next to a blinking Xander and tries to flatten his hair back down. It's hard to do one handed.
"I like fireworks," Xander mumbles drunkenly.
Anya gets a flashlight while Giles moves the towels and pulls on a pair of rubber gloves. When she returns, he starts to go to work. Anya looks over and catches sight of him and Xander holding hands.
"What are you doing? I should be holding his hand. I'm his girlfriend."
"That's fine with me if you can pry him off. He's just scared, is all."
Giles snaps, "Quit moving around Anya, I need the light steady. Actually, perhaps you and Spike should switch places. I may need his... expert advice."
They do as the Watcher asks and he finds himself looking over a shoulder at Xander's lightly tanned back. Giles seems to be doing all right and only needs occasional consultation. Anya and Xander, on the other hand, aren't getting on so well.
"Why were you holding Spike's hand? I would have done it for you if you asked."
Xander blinks at her a bit before replying, "Cause I knew he wouldn't make a big deal 's long as he got to watch me bleed."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Anya asks testily.
"Bitch, bitch, bitch 's all you ever do. Blah, blah, blah. I'm never good enough."
Anya looks hurt and asks, "Is that what you really think?"
"No, think you would be worse if... wasn't giving it to you all the time. Keep talking 'bout me not caring, but hell you jus' want a screw and some money."
"That's not true!"
"Isn't? Yeah, really is. Course wouldn't be my girlfriend if wasn't treating me like crap. 'S all I ever get... crap."
"How do you think I feel? All the time you act like you're embarrassed for me to be around!"
"Prob'ly cause I am!" Xander slurs loudly. "You jus' say whatever without thinkin' how other people feel. Don't care how anyone feels."
Anya is close to tears and she jerks away from the table and the drunken hurting man on top of it. "I don't care! None of your obnoxious friends care how I feel. They're always mean just because I used to be a demon. They're never going to like me Xander as long as you refuse to stand up for me."
Her outburst is met by snores. Xander is out for the count. About then, Giles pulls the tracer out triumphantly and shoves it at an embarrassed Willow. She runs for the bathroom and there's a loud flush that causes Spike to sigh in relief.
"I'd better sew this up," Giles says awkwardly. Neither he nor Willow seems to be able to meet Anya's eyes. Spike shoots her a sympathetic look.
"Is he going to be okay?" she asks.
"Yes, I don't think he lost too much blood."
"Good," Anya says quietly and then disappears out the door.
Sometime later, Xander comes around, groaning painfully. He's not as sloshed as he was, but he's still not completely sober. Giles helps him up off the desk and lets him borrow a shirt. It takes several minutes before he realizes Anya's not there, and Spike almost feels sorry for the boy.
Willow looks saddened and replies, "She left. You were kinda harsh with the booze and all."
"Oh, god. What did I say?" the boy asks rubbing his face.
"Something about her not feeling anything and how she only wants you for sex and money," he supplied helpfully.
Xander sighs. "Great. Harris genes strike again. I'd better call her."
Spike watches him slowly make his way to the phone.
"I still can't believe they were willing to shoot you with a civilian that close." Giles says coming over to stand next to him. "At least we got rid of the tracer before the Initiative soldiers could get here. We should be safe for the time being."
"No," a voice says by the door. They all turn to see Buffy coming in looking worse for wear. "It's not safe for any of us."
"Buffy, good Lord, are you all right?"
Xander puts down the phone before he can even finish dialing. "Yeah, Buff what happened?"
"What happened to me? What happened to you? You look like death warmed over. Spike has more life."
Spike flips two fingers at her while Xander snaps, "Your Initiative buddies shot me!"
Buffy's grumpy face is immediately replaced by shock. "Are you okay?"
"Sore but fine. It wasn't deep. Giles pulled it out of me. If Spike hadn't carried me out of there, we'd both probably be in a lab."
"Well, they're not my buddies anymore. They tried to kill me."
The others react with surprise. Spike merely shakes his head. It's the perfect time to say 'I told you so' but he's not in the mood for getting staked. Willow immediately goes in to mother hen mode and tries to get Buffy to sit down.
"What happened?" Red asks chewing on her lip.
Buffy starts in on her story of betrayal. They all listen quietly. Xander looks pale and Giles quickly helps him to a seat while Buffy finishes.
"And then this gate slams down behind me and I... I try to use the gun but it goes pfft."
"You're saying Maggie Walsh set you up?" Giles asks bringing Xander some pain medicine.
Buffy looks at the boy worriedly and nods. "It's not just me. They know that you all know about the Initiative. They proved tonight that they're not just happy getting rid of me, they'll take out anyone that gets in their way. Xander, I'm sorry. If I hadn't been so wrapped up in these stupid military games...."
"I'm okay, Buffy. They were aiming at Spike. It's just my usual luck that I got in the way."
He's surprised when she looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, Spike." She doesn't look happy to say the words, but he can feel her honesty. "I should have listened to you regardless of whether I like you or not... mostly not."
Spike isn't sure what to say at first. He shrugs instead. "You're the Slayer. It's not in your nature to believe a vamp like me."
"Wow, what was in those pills you gave me, Giles?" Xander asks staring at the pair of them stupidly.
"I can be nice!" Buffy says shooting the boy a look.
"What's his excuse?" Xander asks with a grin, but it's not as bright as usual.
"I'm evil. I get to be unpredictable."
Buffy waves the embarrassment of having to apologize to him away and says, "Seriously though, guys. I think you might all be in danger. I need to get you to somewhere safe."
"Safe being...?" Xander asks.
"Um, your basement for now. They haven't seen the two of us together as much."
"How did I know that you were going to say that?"
"Fine, but I'm not giving up my bloody chair," Spike grumbles and holds a hand up before Giles can protest. "Don't want to hear it! You shoved me off onto the blighter now it's time to have a taste of your own medicine."
Giles looks like he's going to get all stuffy an indignant, but fortunately they're saved his posturing by the door bursting open to admit Riley. The others jerk at the intrusion, but Spike merely groans and tries to hold back a growl.
"Buffy! God Buffy, are you okay? What happened?"
The Slayer stands with her arms crossed and a hard expression on her face. Spike smirks at Cornfed over her shoulder. He knows that pose by heart. It was directed at him often enough.
"Maggie tried to kill me."
Of course the commando doesn't believe it one bit and they argue for a while. Spike tunes it out. He's heard it all before and he didn't think much of it the first time around. It's only when Riley slows down enough to actually see him standing behind Buffy that he's pulled back in.
"That's hostile 17."
"Did they not teach you observation skills at GI Joe school, or did you miss that day?" he asks mockingly.
"His name is Spike. He's not a number," Xander barks.
Spike pats him on the back gently. "Damn right."
Riley looks fit to be tied and snaps back, "We've been looking all over the place for him, but you've known where's he's been all along."
Xander snorts. "Pretty much. Though you almost found him tonight. To bad your buddies shot me instead! Or was that you pulling the trigger there, Ri?"
"Is that such a surprise?" Spike asks moving past Buffy to look the confused man in the eye. "You're working for a bunch of mad scientists, kid. Do you really think they give a damn about people who get in their way? They've already tried to take out your girlfriend. Why not her friends too? And the worst is yet to come. Your precious Walsh is doing her own version of Frankenstein. Pretty soon your little soldier buddies are going to be nothing but fodder for his plans."
"Get out of my face."
"Why? You're too blind to see me or anything else. Go back to your bunker and wave your flag, Private Ryan. You're not welcome here."
For a moment he's sure that Finn is going to punch him. The square jaw is clenched so tight, he can hear the soldiers' teeth grinding. There's a rustling sound off to Spike's right that means that Xander has gotten up. Nice to know the boy wants to defend him, even if he wouldn't last two seconds against someone trained like Riley, and that's uninjured. The angry blue eyes flick over his other shoulder to Buffy and apparently Finn's not happy with what he sees there because he's out the door in a heartbeat. Spike slowly comes down off the edge he's on and he can feel his body deflate a little.
"He could have kicked your ass," Xander says behind him.
"Yeah, but you were all ready to jump in, hurt or no. Then he would have kicked your ass, and we both know Buffy wouldn't stand for that. So I would have won in the long run."
A flash of teeth gets him a dirty look from both of them, but he can see Rupert smirking beyond and that's enough. Buffy looks hurt and she's definitely ready to take it out on him.
"Some vampire you are, making The Slayer do your work for you."
"Just shows I'm cunning, innit? Now, Giles, I'd appreciate if you'd take us back to the basement. Harris here needs a lie down, and I don't fancy hanging about while Captain Cardboard runs home and lets them know where we are."
"The sun's up."
"So bring a blanket."
"We should all go," Buffy says firmly.
Trying to get the five of them in the Citroen is like loading a clown car. Spike ends up in the back covered by a blanket. It's his only barrier against the sun and an irate Slayer who's scrunched up next to him. Xander is sideways in the passenger seat to protect his back with Willow partly on his lap. Red yelps an 'ow' anytime Giles has to shift into lower gears because the shifter keeps smacking her in the knee.
"Tell me again why you bought this, Watcher?" Spike grumbles under the blanket. He's not surprised when he doesn't receive a response. He is surprised that they all make it to Harris' alive.
The accommodations are sparse when it's just him and the boy but the five of them is ridiculous. Spike flops down in his chair before any of them can get any designs on it. He's not sleeping on concrete for any of them. There are a few minutes of amusement as Giles works himself into the beanbag chair on the floor. The kids pile up on the bed together like a litter of puppies. Their choice of television shows is nauseating. He can't even read because he knows full well that Buffy will have something to say about it. In an hour or so though, she's out like a light after her hard day, so Spike can finally pull out one of his books. Willow, who is curled up with Xander, looks at him curiously. He can see her out of the corner of his eye twisting her head to the side to try and read the title. With a sigh, he reaches under the chair, pulls out a Jane Austin, and tosses at her. When she opens her mouth to say something stupid, he keeps her silent with a hard look. The two of them read quietly while The Slayer and her Watcher sleep and Xander drools at Baywatch.
It's late in the morning when the TV wakes him. Spike opens his eyes in time to see Giles try to pry himself out of the beanbag accompanied by cartoon sound effects. He can't help but chuckle. The Watcher grumbles a bit at the noise and flips the TV off which is fine with him because he needs some more sleep. That plan gets shot as Xander tramps down the stairs with a big tray full of food.
"Turn the TV on now!"
The News blares on and they catch the tail end report about a boy being skewered then mutilated. Spike has some pleasant flashbacks after this news and almost misses Buffy's announcement.
"The Polgara demon had a skewer in its arm. That's the one Maggie insisted we bring back alive."
Spike says, "It's a part of Adam now."
"And I helped them catch it... God."
Willow wraps her arms around the other girl. "Buffy, it's not your fault."
"I'd better go check out the scene. We need to find out what this Adam guy is up to."
"Buffy, if what Spike tells me is correct, you may not be strong enough to destroy Adam on your own," Giles says worriedly.
Buffy shoots Spike an angry look. "I don't care. I have to do this, Giles."
They watch her gather her things and leave. Xander sighs and starts handing out the food on the tray. Willow gets cereal while Giles is handed a bagel. Xander hands him a mug of blood, and then to his surprise, the box of Fruit Loops.
"What?" the boy says. "I know you like to put it in your blood."
"I am trying to eat over here," Giles warns.
"You know, I should really get back to campus. There's some stuff I have to get," Willow says handing the last of her cereal over to Xander.
"Well, do be careful, Willow."
"I will, Giles. Promise."
As the girl stoops to get her things next to his chair, Spike leans over and whispers, "Gotta catch up with your witch, eh?"
She stands and looks at him nervously. Spike gives her a small smile and tosses his head back toward the stairs telling her to go. Willow flashes him a quick grin and scurries out.
Xander watches her go with a mouthful of cereal he says, "Guess it's just us men folk. Who wants to play some poker?"
Giles and Spike stare at him in disgust. He has the grace to blush and finally swallow. Giles doesn't look to excited by the prospect, but Spike talks him into it. After all, it's a good way to pry some money off the git. They play for an hour or two before Buffy barges in the side door helping a shaking Riley to the bed.
"What'd you bring him here for, Buffy?" Spike snarls.
"He's sick. Shut up!"
Spike watches the soldier shake and scratch his hand until it's bleeding. Riley ignores Buffy's attempts to get him to lie down.
"I thought I knew, but I don't know anything..." Riley mumbles. He curls up into a ball and finally rests.
"You're just sick. You'll be okay," Buffy whispers and rubs her hand through his hair. When she's sure he's asleep she steps back over to them.
Spike looks at the soldier seriously before turning to her. "He's got bugs under his skin, Buffy. He looks like he's clucking."
Giles replies, "Withdrawal, Buffy."
"Makes sense doesn't it?" Spike says. "They're doing experiments down there. Of course they're going to experiment on their own. Who knows what they've been doping him with?"
"Maggie must have kept records somewhere. About Riley, about 314, about all of it. And I'm sure she wasn't the only person that knew what she was up to."
"So what's the plan?" Xander asks.
"Xander, you and I are going undercover."
"Wait just a bloody minute!" He growls at her. "You can't take the boy. He's still hurt."
"Okay could you stop calling me 'the boy'? So a man here."
Spike ignores him. "I've been down there before. I should go with you."
"Spike, first of all, I don't trust you. I know you've been helping, but I just don't, okay? Secondly, they have all sorts of monitoring equipment. They'll know you're a vampire. There's no way I could take you. Giles doesn't exactly scream American military. Xander has to be it. Plus, he has the military experience from that Halloween."
"It's not right. He's not a hundred percent. You're just going in there asking for trouble."
Suddenly, a hand is on his shoulder, and Spike turns. Xander looks at him and says seriously, "I'll be careful. Promise."
He stares at the lad for a moment before jerking away. "Go get both your heads blown off. S'not like I care."
When the two of them leave, Spike feels eyes on him and looks over at Giles. The Watcher is looking at him with one eyebrow raised. It's stupid because Spike knows only he can get away with that expression.
"I don't suppose you're going to tell me what that was all about, Spike?"
"No, Rupert, I'm really not."
They spend the next few minutes in silence until Willow shows back up babbling about a spell that didn't work. When she tries to explain it to Giles to figure out what went wrong, Spike has a good notion it was probably Glinda, but he doesn't say. It's too soon to bring all that up. Maybe there is some way he can talk to her on the sly and ease her mind. He's always liked Tara.
In the middle of their conversation, Finn gets up and starts interrogating them as to Buffy's whereabouts. When Giles lets him know that they've gone off to the Initiative, solder boy freaks and plows through Willow to get to the stairs. Spike manages to catch her before she hits the hard concrete floor.
"No problem, Red. I just hope genius there doesn't blow it for Buffy and Xander."
Spike waits impatiently as the rest of the day drags on. Finally, after what seems an eternity, Xander comes limping back into the basement. Willow and Giles quickly hover until they get him to lie down on the bed.
"What happened?" Giles asks.
"We ran into Adam. Man he's strong. He killed another scientist guy, someone who was working under Walsh. Maggie's dead by the way. Riley failed to mention that. Adam tossed me, Riley, and Buffy around like we were nothing. I hit my back again on the wall when he threw me. Then he just walked away. Riley's buddies showed up and drug him off. They escorted Buffy and me back out. That's it. She went back to the dorm. Maggie's attempt on Buffy was apparently personal. She said we could all go back home for now."
"I'd better go back to the dorm. She might need me," Willow says patting his hand before she leaves.
Giles nods. "Yes, I should get back to trying to find the spell Spike mentioned." He looks at Spike. "I don't suppose you have any details."
"Not really. I missed most of it."
"Well, I shall keep looking. Xander, get some rest."
"Thanks, Giles. I will."
When it's just the two of them again, Spike helps Xander out of his shirt. The wound is bleeding again after his rough treatment, so Spike helps clean him up and re-bandage it. He puts Xander safely in bed and it's not long before he's sleeping like a baby. Spike pulls on his coat and goes out to kill some demons. If it's one thing he hates, it's feeling useless.
Spike is laid back in the barcalounger watching Xander's back muscles twitch and move under the plain white T-shirt he's wearing. Harris has been futzing with the Initiative zap gun for the last hour and from the various noises coming from the boy, it hasn't been going well. The bed is folded up as a couch for once. Willow and Giles sit on it drinking Kool-aid and discussing her classes. Spike hasn't been this bored in ages.
"How's it coming?" he asks without real interest.
There's a wordless grumble for a response. Buffy takes that moment to come out from the bathroom and looks over her troops. Giles and Willow get a soft smile, Xander gets a worried look, and he gets a wrinkled up nose. Spike is too tired to bother flipping her off. Their Scooby meeting is interrupting his prime sleep time.
"So can you repair it?" the Slayer asks standing on her toes to peek over Xander's shoulder.
"Sure. Just as soon as I get my masters degree in advance starship technology," Harris grumbles and throws down his pliers.
Spike gets up and takes a look at the thing that brought him down. He sniffs it a bit and pokes at the wires. Xander stands beside him and the pair stare at it like a couple of shade tree mechanics. Spike lights a cigarette and puffs thoughtfully.
"What do you think?" Harris asks.
"I've messed around a bit in my time, but I've never been much for wiring and such."
"You want to give it a shot?"
"No thanks, I get enough Initiative zaps as it is," he says tapping his temple.
Buffy looks impatient. "Just tell me, can you two repair it or not?"
"I'm working on it. I'm working on it," Xander grumbles and goes back to twiddling. This time Spike stands over his shoulder and does some backseat tinkering.
Willow, Buffy, and Giles start having a discussion behind them. Extra patrols... are you tired? Blah, blah, blah... Spike tunes them out and watches the boy work.
"No, no, try the blue one."
Xander tries the blue one. A big spark flies out making Spike rear back. Xander jerks his hands away and starts shaking them out. The gun gives off a big puff of smoke and the boy shoots him a murderous look. He merely shrugs.
"Maybe you should have tried the yellow one?"
"You... you... vampire!"
Spike rolls his eyes. "Yeah, what of it? Be glad, that's not even a fraction of what it's like when the chip goes off."
Xander sucks on his fingers and gives him a sympathetic look. The puppy dog eyes are too much for him, so he looks back at the others. As usual, they missed the whole drama.
After a while, Giles heads home and they all gear up for patrol. Buffy moves off on her own. She's got her mind on Finn, so Spike sticks with the other two. He listens to Willow and Xander's idle chatting and it's almost soothing. Their quiet conversation is a nice background murmur and Spike lets it wash over him as he stretches out his senses looking for trouble.
They make their way through a clump of trees when he hears Buffy's heartbeat suddenly speed up. Spike quickens his pace and the three of them find what has the Slayer so upset. A demon is strung up between two trees and is cracked open from stem to stern. It's a lot like that alien autopsy film that Xander watches occasionally because he knows it amuses Spike even though he gets grossed out every time. Someone's lit a fire inside the poor beast to show off his handy work. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out whom. After that, they don't bother finishing out patrol.
Back in the basement and Buffy is pacing. She is staring off into nothing. The others are quiet. Spike never thought something like that would bother them. Sometimes it seems as if nothing fazes these kids.
"I've never seen anything like that," Buffy says finally.
Xander nods. "And I can go a long healthy stretch without seeing anything like that again."
"Eh, I've done worse."
The three of them look at him. He's as unapologetic as usual. Xander digs around in the ancient fridge and pulls out sodas for the girls. Neither of them accepts the offer. He heats up some blood instead.
"He's studying biology," Buffy surmises. "Human, demon—whatever he can get his hands on and tear apart."
"That fits. He wanted human and demon body parts to make more like him. He's obsessed," Spike says taking the blood from the boy.
"Tell me, Spike. Tell me what happened. How did we stop this thing?"
"I wasn't exactly around for the planning part, Buffy."
"Then where were you? You want us to trust you, then start talking!"
"Fine. I don't know what you lot did because at the time I was working with Adam." He can't look up at them, but the silence tells him enough. "Back then, I was living in a crypt in Restfield. Adam came to me. He said that he could get the chip out. At the time, it was all I cared about, so I went along."
He looks up and catches Xander's eyes. He's not quite sure what emotion he sees. Buffy's anger is obvious to anyone.
"You're working with him aren't you? This is some big set up... this, this future crap!"
"Buf—Slayer, I'm not a good guy. I'm not one of you bloody white hats. I never said I was. I made my choices then the way I usually do, but I'm different now. Things... are different now. I want rid of Adam just as badly as you do."
"Why?" Willow whispers.
"He can't get the chip out, Red. Even if he could he wouldn't want to. My life revolved around getting this piece of sodding plastic and metal out of my head. That's why I made the deal, not that it did Adam or me any good. I lived for almost four years with this thing. Hell, I've given up thinking I could ever get it out. I can't be a demon with it, and I can't be a man with the demon still there. I don't know what I am anymore. But I have learned one thing. No matter what this Hellmouth throws out, no matter what big bad thinks he can take over this town, you Scoobies and the Slayer are all that's ever left standing. There's no point in throwing in with the bad guys. Maybe that's why I'm here. I don't know."
Spike jumps to his feet. As usual his mouth has gotten away from him. There's plenty that Buffy doesn't need to know. He pulls on the duster and looks at the others.
"I'll do a quick sweep, though I doubt anything will be out tonight after that. Word spreads fast in the demon world," he says and quickly is out the door.
He comes back late. The girls are gone and Xander is in bed. Quietly, he slips out of his coat and sits down on the barcalounger. The boy's breathing changes in the darkness and Spike knows he's awake.
"Riley showed," Harris says sleepily.
There's a snort from the pillow. "I asked him if he had a chip in his head."
"And did he?" Spike asks with a snicker.
"He just looked at me funny."
He remembers the chip in soldier boy's chest and how Adam controlled him, but doesn't mention it. Payback's a bitch. He listens to Xander drift back asleep, and closes his eyes.
The next evening, they all head over to Giles'. First thing, Buffy blurts out his deal with Adam. Giles seems to think that she means right then and he sits through being threatened a while before Xander can explain that Buffy meant the first time around. The Watcher gets a contemplative look on his face while Willow haltingly fills him in on the cut up demon. Riley shows Xander how the Initiative stun gun works, much to the boy's chagrin. Spike just sits quietly. He is afraid to open his mouth. He can't seem to keep from spilling everything when he talks, so he's decided to not talk at all. They discuss trying to get plans for Adam.
"Well, if there are any files they'll be in the Initiative," Buffy says with a frown.
Giles sets a tea tray on the table. As he's pouring he says, "Which we can't even get into without mounting a major offensive."
"Speak for yourself," Riley replies. At their looks, he adds, "I'm just saying."
"I must admit, a man on the inside would be, uh...." Giles trails off. Funny thing, he's not looking at Riley when he says it, but at Spike.
He quirks an eyebrow at the Watcher while the others discuss Riley being a double agent. He catches the tale end of Sergeant Beefcake's reply.
"... I will share information. It's the least I can do."
"Riley's right. It's the least he can do," Xander adds with a hint of venom. Getting shot has certainly gone a long way toward the boy seeing Spike's point of view.
The phone interrupts their strategy session, and Giles answers. He quickly hands the phone to Buffy. Whoever is on the other end, it's not good news. Buffy looks upset when she finally hangs up.
"What is it?" Giles asks.
"It's Faith. She's awake. She beat someone up, took her clothing, and disappeared out of the hospital. No one knows where she is."
"I'd say this qualifies as the 'worst timing ever' award," Harris quips.
The group discusses what to do about Faith for a while. In the silence when they're done, Riley and Spike ask simultaneously, "Who's Faith?" They stare at each other with contempt but neither of them gets an answer.
Buffy runs off to patrol while the others make going home noises. Spike falls in behind Xander as they head back toward the basement. The boy is unusually quiet which makes him itch.
"So, what's your beef with this Faith?" he asks.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Shame I was off with Dru when she was here. From the way you're all acting, she must be my kind of Slayer."
"She's not anybodies kind of Slayer."
"Ah, old girlfriend?" he says knowingly.
Xander stops dead on the sidewalk and turns to glare at him. Spike smiles back sweetly.
"I don't think I could have ever called Faith my girlfriend. Listen, I'm not going to tell you no matter how much you annoy me, so just drop it, okay?"
Spike holds his hands out in a 'who me?' expression, but Xander just turns on his heel and keeps walking. He makes a mental note to ask Willow later and lay on the 'Will Be Done' guilt to get the answer.
The next night, Spike and Xander show up at Giles' and find the Watcher ready for patrol. They exchange a look and follow the man out into the night. Giles fills them in on Faith's attack on Buffy. Spike frowns.
"Why can't things like this happen at night were I can watch? I mean two Slayers going all out? They could sell that on pay per view, they could."
Giles shoot him a dark look, but Xander grins. It's not long before he and Harris are walking behind the Watcher acting like bratty kids asking 'are we there yet?' and whatnot. Giles has more patience then they thought and does a good job of ignoring them. It takes him a good half an hour before he snaps.
"Xander! If you do not shut up, I will gladly tell Spike all the details of your relationship with Faith. Then, perhaps, he'll have someone else to target this childishness at."
Xander shuts up, which takes a lot of the fun out of patrol seeing as how they aren't finding any nasties to fight. They make their way towards the Bronze because it's always a good hotspot, when Xander breaks away from them at a trot. He and Giles follow only to realize that the boy has spotted Anya walking down the street.
"Anya! An, wait!"
"Go away, Xander. I don't want to talk to you."
"Please, let me explain. I've tried to call you."
The former demon whirls around and crosses her arms. "I know. I've stopped answering my phone because you are the only one who calls me."
"Anya, please. Whatever I said, I didn't mean it. I was drunk and I say stupid things when I'm drunk."
"Yes, I know. It runs in your family."
Xander cringes at this. Giles looks like he would pay money to be anywhere else. Spike just watches with interest.
"I'm an idiot, but you knew that. I'm sorry."
"Xander. Just because you're sorry doesn't mean the things you said weren't true. If you felt that way, you should have said something to me. Now I feel betrayed and I don't like it. I've done a lot of shopping and it's helped a bit, but I'm not sure I'm ready to forgive you yet, or even if I should. Now go away."
As she turns, Giles leans forward and says, "Um, I don't suppose you've seen a Slayer by the name of Faith around? She's about your height, long dark brown hair... she may exhibit some disturbing behavior...."
"She's nuts," Spike explains helpfully.
"Why are you looking for a crazy Slayer?" Anya asks.
Spike shrugs. "Because she wants to kill Buffy, or all of them, I don't know. They won't explain it much."
"She wants to kill you all? Good. If I see her, I'll point her in your direction."
"An!" Xander yelps, but demon girl has already stomped away.
After that, Xander is quiet the rest of the way through patrol. They split up and head for home, unsuccessful. Xander drags his feet most of the way to the basement. No sooner are they inside, but he flops down on the bed face first. Spike knows that feeling so he lets the kid wallow.
"Chicks, mate," he says derisively and flips on the TV.
He's flopped on Giles' couch with his feet propped up on the coffee table despite the looks he keeps getting from the Watcher. Xander is slumped next to him. The boy's been crap company since they ran into Anya on the street. Spike even ended up fielding a phone call from Xander's current employer because the git wouldn't get out of bed. Now he's lost yet another job, not that Spike's yelling had anything to do with it, of course. They're just waiting around when Buffy finally deigns to join them.
"The Scooby gang's all here. Willow, Xander, and," she pauses looking at him, "everybody. What's up?"
"It's about Faith, not surprisingly," Giles answers.
"Didn't Joyce tell you? I already kicked that ass."
"Bloody hell, I miss everything," Spike mumbles and slides down further into the couch.
"Where is she?" Willow asks.
"On her way to the big house. Cops took her off my hands about an hour ago. Poetic justice."
Giles looks concerned and says, "Unless I'm mistaken, Faith is no longer in police custody."
"What are you talking about?" Buffy asks sounding pissed.
"Watcher's Council. They, uh, sent a retrieval team to capture Faith. It was a special operations unit. They handle the Council's trickier jobs—smuggling, interrogation, wetworks."
"What's wetworks?" Willow asks innocently.
Spike bends his head over the back of the couch and looks at her upside down. "My kind of work, love."
"So, no more Faith? They're taking her back to England, right?" Buffy asks gleefully.
Giles nods, which sends the girl into a strange laughing fit. They all stare at her until she settles down. Spike watches her for a moment. There is something off about Buffy. Maybe this Faith chick was worse than he thought to get her all upset. While the others blather on, he stares some more. She finally catches him looking, and instead of giving him her usual glare, there is a different look. This one has heat in it like he hasn't seen in a long time. Suddenly, Spike feels naked and has to look away. If fighting this other Slayer has gotten her worked up into one of her dark fits, she won't be taking out her frustrations on him. He refuses to go down that road again.
When he looks over, Xander is watching Buffy too. He must have caught the look because he glances over. Spike can't hold the boy's eyes and looks away. Xander and he are good now. Surprisingly so. He doesn't want the boy, or the others to know about him and Buffy. Spike can't go back to being hated again.
"You alright?" Xander asks and actually sounds like he's interested in the answer.
"Yeah. Just bored."
"Let's get out of here. BBB?"
"Beers? Billiards? Bronze?"
Spike jumps to his feet. "Right. We're off Watcher."
Giles waves them away and continues discussing something with Willow and Buffy. He can feel the Slayer's eyes on him until they're finally out the door. Spike shakes the feeling off and follows Xander.
"Mention beer and he hops like a bunny," the boy says with a grin.
The Bronze is quiet when they arrive, but it's still early. He quickly swipes the boy's wallet and heads for the bar. He orders four beers and an appetizer medley before heading back to the pool table that Xander has staked out. Spike digs in his coat pocket and pulls out a few more quarters to add to Harris' stack. He wants to keep the pool table for the rest of the night. Spike racks them while Xander flips a coin to see who will break first.
"Tails," Spike says without looking.
"Damn. How do you do that?"
"I'm lucky. Now take a seat and learn something."
His break sinks four balls and he calls solids. Xander is already grumbling. Spike smirks at him as he prepares for his next shot. He doesn't even look at the ball, but instead looks at Harris when he lets the cue go. He hears the ball sink and the boy groans at him.
"Show off. Look at the table, not at me."
"What and miss the agony of defeat on your face? No, I don't think so."
Spike moves around the table sinking a few more shots letting Xander swallow down most of his first beer. When he's finally relaxed, Spike speaks.
"So, you ever going to tell me about you and Faith?"
The bottleneck pauses at Harris' lips. The beer slowly moves down away from his mouth and Xander looks across the table. Spike tries to project earnestness on his face, somehow he doubts if it comes across. It must be something though because Xander sighs and sets the beer on the table.
"If I tell you, will you promise to never bring it up again?"
"That depends on how juicy it is, mate."
"Spike, please." There is a slight tremble in the boy's voice. "I don't want you holding this over my head forever. If you're going to mock me, I'm not going to tell you."
Spike curses himself for a poof and says, "Okay. Tonight's a freebee. Whatever's said over this table is never to be repeated. But don't expect to get off this lightly all the sodding time."
Xander nods and waves him back to the game. Spike sinks another ball before he hears the boy talking behind him.
"Last year. You were gone. Well, except for the drunken episode where you threatened to kill me and Willow and smacked me over the head with a microscope and basically ruined my life because Cordy and Oz caught Willow and I kissing in the factory," he says all in one breath. Then quickly adds, "Not that I'm not holding a grudge or anything...."
"Oh, no. Never that," he says sarcastically. They share a quick grin, before Spike turns back to the table to let the boy talk.
"Faith was this new Slayer. Before Buffy killed the Master, he drowned her. I brought her back. CPR. Anyway, she was gone long enough for another Slayer to get called. So now, two Slayers, because of me. Faith... Faith was different. She was tough, streetwise. You'd like her."
"Ho-yeah. Scorching. I was just..."
"Randy as a sailor?"
Xander shoots him a dirty look, so he just turns back to the table and finishes off the frame with a chuckle.
"Smitten. I was going to say smitten," Xander continues. "Then there was this crazy night..."
The boy looks lost in thought, so Spike steps over and snatches a beer. He drinks a few swallows before going back to rack the balls up again. When they are set, he walks back over and pokes Xander in the ribs. The boy jumps at bit and Spike smiles.
Xander goes over to break. Spike quickly takes his stool and soaks up the left over warmth. The break is okay but only one ball goes in a side pocket. Xander walks around the table sizing up the easy shots. Spike watches him and drinks and waits. Finally, after he's made another shot, Harris comes back for his beer. A swallow and he starts talking again.
"Jack O'Toole: bane of my existence, general all around psycho, oh, and he also was a zombie. He did a little voodoo and raised all his buddies for a wild dead ol' time. Of course genius me ends up in the middle of all this. Buffy and the gang were fighting off some kind of lady demons that wanted to open the Hellmouth or something or 'nother. Anyway, in the middle of trying to stop Jack I saved Faith. Ran a car into one of the evil chickies. I took her back to her place and..."
Spike pauses with a cigarette in his lips lighter half way up. "Oh ho! Xander Harris, you stud!"
"Yeah, it's really not as exciting as it sounds. I coulda been a bedpost for all she cared."
"Oooh," he grunts sympathetically and lights up ignoring the no smoking sign on the post right next to their table.
"My first time and I was pretty much a walking dildo. Story of my life," Xander bitches, then seems to realize what he just said and whom he said it to. He shoots a worried look at Spike.
"If it makes you feel any better, I had to die to get my first."
"You mean before Dru..."
"It was Victorian England and I wasn't married. Connect the dots. Of course I've had more than my fair share since, but hey, I'm a right sexy bastard."
Xander rolls his eyes and heads back to the table. He misses his next shot so Spike grabs his cue and comes over. Xander stands to the side and watches him play.
"Stupid me, I thought that meant that there was something between us, you know? I thought we had something. So Faith goes bad. Stakes the Mayor's assistant, only problem was that he wasn't a vamp. She killed the guy. From that moment on, she went off the deep end without any water wings. Because I thought we had something, dummy me, I thought I could talk her down. Hell, I was prepared to testify for her that it was an accident and I wasn't even there. She laughed at me."
Spike looks up from the bank shot he's setting up and sees the misery and self-hatred in the boy's eyes and stands back up. Xander is not looking at him. Instead, he's staring over Spike's leather clad shoulder, miles away.
"She thought I was funny because I actually believed... Next thing I know, she's shoving me on the bed again ripping my shirt off. I told her—I.…” There's too much emotion in his voice and it quickly gets cut off. He finishes tonelessly like a robot. "Her hands were around my neck. I couldn't breathe. I tried to get her off of me, but she was too strong. I knew I was going to die. Everything went dark. I should have died."
He stops and is still staring off into space. Spike didn't realize it was this bad. If he had, he wouldn't have ever pushed the boy to tell him. It brings back too many nights in his crypt with a demanding Slayer of his own. He asks softly, "What happened?"
"Angel. He must have stopped her. Next thing I knew he was slapping me awake and asking me if I was okay. He must have seen." Xander jerks back to the moment. He looks hard at Spike and his eyebrows wrinkle up in confusion at what he sees. Spike looks back at the table. Harris snorts. "Another reason to hate Deadboy, I guess."
"Yeah," Spike says softly and bends down to try and finish the bank shot, but his hands are shaking a bit and the five ball taps the edge of the pocket, but doesn't fall in.
Xander steps up and concentrates on the table. The waitress comes over with their appetizer tray and he orders two more beers. Spike attacks the spicy wings and gives the boy a minute to pull himself together. The food brings him back to their table though. They chow down in silence. The place is starting to fill up so they finish quickly and move back over to the pool table.
Spike doesn't know what to say. He's gotten better at the comforting thing over his years in Sunnydale. First it was soothing his ill Sire, then it was trying to hold back Nibblet's hurts, and finally Buffy, though she never wanted his comfort, never let him try and ease her pain with something other than violence. But Xander is a boy turning into a man. He doesn’t know how to make him feel better, or why he'd even want to, but the urge is still there.
As usual, silence isn't something that Harris is comfortable with. It doesn't take him long before he's cracking a joke at Spike's expense and they slowly salvage the night. They're having a pretty good time playing pool and trading barbs when a blonde head flashes in the lights on the dance floor and makes Spike turn. Buffy is dancing. It's something that will always draw the eye. Xander stops in front of him and turns to see what he's looking at. By that time, Buffy has spotted them and casually makes her way over.
"The Buffster. The Buffinator. What's up?" Xander asks with a smile.
Buffy smiles back and there's something predatory about it. It makes the hairs stand up on the back of his neck, even more so when she turns that smile on him.
"Xander. Hanging out with the undead now, are we? How cozy."
"Lay off, Slayer. You know with this chip in my head that the lad is safe."
"Yeah, Buffy. Spike is kind of one of the gang now, no matter how much he bitches."
"Oi!" he warns and turns back to the table hoping she'll just go away.
"Spike?" he hears Buffy ask and he can hear confusion before she settles in again. "Spike. William the Bloody with a chip in his head. I kind of love this town."
"What, Xander? Oh... I get it."
Spike bristles at the tone of her voice. He turns and holds back a growl. "Get what, Slayer?"
"Look at him standing up for you. It's sweet."
Xander frowns. "So we're kind of friends now. I know it's strange and freaky, but, you know, Hellmouth."
"Friends?" Buffy says slyly. He and Xander exchange a glance. Buffy huffs a throaty laugh. Spike grips the pool cue so hard he can hear the wood creaking under the strain. Buffy continues, "Yeah, you must be good friends what with all the looking and the touching. And Xandy here playing guard dog for his big blonde puppy."
Xander slowly starts to catch on to the vibe Spike's been getting from the beginning. His warm face clouds over and he's almost nose-to-nose with Buffy before Spike can start something.
"What's your problem, Buffy? I know you and Spike are never going to get along, but you don't have to be like that. Have you been drinking?"
"Back off, Xander!" she barks and shoves him backwards. Xander stumbles back against him and Spike wraps his free arm around the boy's waist to steady him. This makes the hard smile on Buffy's face shine brighter. "Look at you! It's so obvious that you're jonesing for each other."
"I'm not jonesing! There is no jonesing!" Xander snaps and pulls free of Spike's hold.
"Please, you always like the tough ones don't you, Xan? Somebody to tell you what's what, to push you around a bit, make you want it? I should have seen it from the start. Tell me, is Spike a good Daddy?"
"That's enough!" Spike barks loud enough to draw attention to them. "Move on, Slayer. Move on."
Buffy tosses her hair over her shoulder and looks both of them up and down with a sultry gaze. It leaves Spike cold. "You're right," she says. "There's nothing to see here. At least nothing that everyone can't see already."
With that she turns on her heel and is gone. Xander looks worse than if she'd staked him with Mr. Pointy. Spike reaches out to touch his arm, bring him back out of his head, but the boy twists away at the last moment to avoid contact. Spike stares at his arm hanging in the air a moment before letting it drop. He tosses the cue onto the table with a clatter.
"Night's over then, I guess."
Xander doesn't answer. He just heads for the door. Spike follows silently. The trip back is entirely too quiet. He's glad for it at first, after an emotional roller coaster of an evening, but it doesn't take long before he misses the boy's constant babble. Something is definitely wrong if Xander isn't trying to make some kind of crack.
"You shouldn't let it get to you, Harris. She's just mad is all. It must be hard on her to have me around, knowing what I know, making her sacred duty all bleeding wonky."
Silence still from the boy and he starts to get desperate.
"She's probably just upset over this Faith business, and we know it's not true, so who cares?"
"I want you to know that I appreciate you telling her that we were mates and all, but you never heard me say that, right?"
Empty air. They make it all the way back to the basement and inside the door. He's about to tear out his hair because of the quiet.
"Just... bloody say something!" he yells finally.
"Shut up, Spike!"
Spike looks to the ceiling in relief and gives a loud "Thank you!"
"This is what I get? I mean you're an evil, soulless vampire. One of the things we kill. I should have known better! They've both stopped talking to me, then Anya, and now this."
"What are you on about?"
"I should have never started treating you like a person. You're just dragging me down to your level and alienating me from my friends! If it weren’t for you, I wouldn't have gotten shot. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have gotten drunk and lost Anya! Now they think... they think... No wonder they're always too busy for me now."
"Are you cracked? Xander, she's just trying to get a rise out of you. She's trying to make you mad so that'll you do what you're doing now. It's just another way to get rid of me!"
"Is it? Is that it? 'Cause during Willow's spell you sure were handsy... and, and groiny... For all I know you are trying to get into my pants!"
"Oh please!" he sighs turning away, only to have a big hand grip his arm and jerk him back around.
"What is your deal, Spike? Why are you here? And why are you being so nice to me?"
Spike steps up closer to the boy and slaps the hand off of his bicep. "I told you. Things change. There's a lot that happened to me. I'm trying to make it better this time around."
"And better is what? Having the Zeppo wrapped around your finger? Well, forget it Spike because it's never going to happen!"
"Like I'm really interested!"
"Oh you are!" Xander keeps yelling.
"Are not!" Spike yells back.
"Are too!" Xander yells stepping closer.
"Are... bloody hell, I'm not starting this crap with you!" he snaps and leans forward menacingly.
"Just, just shut up, Spike!"
And then the world goes insane because Xander is grabbing his shoulders and pulling him the rest of the way forward, and he's got the boy's waist and yanking the warm stomach against his own. Xander's head tilts right before their faces collide and he's got a warm mouth on his. The kiss is hard and feral and nothing like the sweet kisses of a woman. Not that he's had many sweet kisses in his life being a vampire. But still, it's hot and needy. He slides his hands up the boy's back and one ends up tangled in the dark hair at the nape. Xander's hands are sliding down from his shoulders, fingers slipping along the edge of his pecs and just barely skimming nipples before slowly inching down his ribs to grab his hips tightly. Spike opens his mouth to let the hot exploring tongue against his lips inside. He tilts his head a little to let Xander get even deeper. He never would have guessed that Harris could kiss this well, except he never shuts up so his tongue must get enough of a work out.
Then just as abruptly as the kiss began, their lips separate with a pop and they both pull back. Blue eyes on brown and then it hits them. Spike lurches backward in growing horror. He watches Xander rub his face with both hands before they slide back into the dark hair and fist there tightly. A quick flash enters his mind that he knows exactly what that hair feels like now, and Spike is out the door without a second glance. His feet eat up the pavement in a random direction. He doesn't stop running until he's most of the way across Sunnydale. Spike chugs unneeded breaths and wonders what the fuck just happened.