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Unbreakable


by
Fanbot


33
Therapy

“What ever you want, Spike.” Scott pinched and rolled his client’s nipples before running his hand on down and admiring the rippled abs.

Spike closed his eyes and let himself get lost in the sensations of a human man touching him. The boy’s technique was still unpracticed, but that just added to it.

“Mmmm, Spike,” the boy said, his lips moving against Spike’s neck as he grasped Spike’s erection.

“Yeah! Like that.” Spike thrust into the boy’s grip. “My neck. Kiss my  neck.”

Scott kissed and nipped at Spike’s neck as he worked his foreskin. “So hard, Spike.”

“Do you want me, whelp?”

“Yes, Spike.” He truthfully did. This man was a little strange, but he’d never seen a man’s body that was so beautiful. He laughed in his mind. Two months ago, he’d been a virgin to the world of gay sex, now he found himself with a woody for another man. True, the man’s build was small enough he made Scott feel oafish. It was funny that until he actually touched him that Scott thought Spike was much taller.

“Tell me what you want,” Spike gasped.

“I want to take you,” the boy said, then hesitated. Most clients wanted to take him. He thrust his hard cock into Spike’s hip for good measure.

“Yeah? How? Tell me how.”

“I want to bend you over and slide my thick cock into your tight hole, Spike.” Dirty talk often got him tips.

Spike sucked in a deep breath, his eyes still tightly shut. “Harder! Bite… bite my neck!”

Kinky, but it wasn’t the first time that had been requested. At least his client was clean and sober. He bit into Spike’s neck just below his ear, stopping short of drawing blood, and was rewarded when his client arched his back and spent in his fist.

That was thirty dollars earned. Only thirty out of a possible five hundred. Disappointed, Scott kissed Spike’s neck and started to roll away, only to be stopped by the surprisingly strong arm around him. “Where you going, Whelp?”

“Well, you’re done…”

“You’re not.” Spike reached over and grabbed the boy’s flagging erection. Scott gasped.

“Um, no. But I don’t matter.”

“You said you wanted to take me. Were you lying?” Spike’s voice had a new edge of steel to it, and perhaps some hurt.

“No! No! You’re sexy as hell. For a guy.” Scott clapped his hand over his mouth, worried that he’d offended his client.

Spike chuckled. “Then get the lube from the bathroom and get on with it.”

“But you…”

“Came, yeah. I have remarkable stamina. Fetch!”

Scott stumbled from the bed and pawed in the overnight kit sitting on the sink until he found a tube of KY. When he returned to the bedroom, Spike was laying on the bed face down with a couple of pillows under his hips. His face was turned away, and he was fingering his asshole. The exotic long braid lay across his bare back.

Scott paused and took a condom from the pile of his belongings. At the sound of the package opening, Spike called out, “No. I’ll pay more for bareback.”

Scott hesitated. He knew the risks, and so far he’d managed to not do it more than once. “I… I don’t know.”

“My partner is a germaphobe,” Spike gave the practiced lie easily. “He makes us get a test every year. We tested clean just two months ago.”

“But… I may not be clean.”

“I don’t care. A hundred dollars over and above the five. Please. I want to feel you pump me full. My partner never will.”

“Okay. Sure.” Truth be told, Scott wanted that lean ass straight up. He dropped the condom back on the table and climbed in bed behind Spike. He lay on his face, holding his buttocks spread with both hands. Scott wondered how he breathed like that. The pale skin of the back beneath him was faintly crossed with old scars. Scott ran his hand over the firm, upturned buttocks before him as he fisted his cock to hardness.

He picked up the lube and put some on his cock and fingers. Gently, he worked in a finger. After he had two fingers in, Spike panted, “That’s enough. Make me take it. Be rough. I… I shouldn’t want this like I do.”

The man’s hole was tight, but he had learned to always do what the client said. Scott lined his hard, thick cock up with Spike’s hole and thrust. He hadn’t expected Spike to raise up to meet him, and he found himself buried to the hilt. Both men gasped at the sudden sensations.

“Lay… lay on top of me,” Spike gasped. He shifted his hands to pull at Scott’s hips.

“I’ll crush you.” Scott looked down at Spike’s pale body.

“It doesn’t matter!” Spike snarled, then took a deep breath. “Please. I want to feel you all around me and in me. Your warmth.”

Hesitantly, Scott lowered himself. His football player’s body completely covered the smaller man. The rush of excitement he felt was unexpected. His girlfriend always wanted to be on top because he was so big and she never let him fuck her ass. He thrust in and was rewarded with a groan.

“That good for you, Spike? It’s great for me,” Scott murmured. He lowered his head to kiss Spike’s cheek, but the man turned away, his eyes still tightly closed.

“Fuck me, use me like you will, Whelp. Don’t get mushy.”

Scott shifted and thrust even harder into Spike’s tight ass. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the feel of the small body pinned under his and the clenching tunnel around his cock. His client’s hair smelled like fine liquor, smoke, and some kind of musk or spice. He rocked there as along as he could before needing more. He rose to his knees, pulling Spike up with him. “I’m gonna fuck you hard, okay?”

“God! Yes! Take me! Fuck me!” Spike dropped his hands and reached for his own cock.

He grabbed Spike’s hips, enjoying how he could feel the points of his hip bones even with lean muscles of his legs against his own. The room was filled with the sounds of slapping flesh and grunting breaths. “Harder!” Spike ordered.

Scott clenched Spike’s hips with a force he knew would bruise the pale flesh and slammed the smaller man to him. It was not long before his movements grew erratic and he came. He started to pull away, but Spike reached back and grabbed his hip again. “Lay… lay on me again. Don’t pull out.”

His cock was softening, but Scott managed to lower Spike back down and he covered him one more. “How’s that?”

“Good. Relax, you won’t crush me.”

Scott settled over the slight, yet muscular body and had a sudden intuitive flash that he would never have a lover like this again. He sighed and gave into the urge to kiss the back of the head that was presented to him.

An unknown time later, he woke up. The memory of the fantastic orgasm came back to him and his partly erect cock throbbed. He blinked more awake. He still filled and covered his client who was laying still beneath him. Too still. Tentatively, Scott touched the hand that lay beside Spike’s face. It was cool and limp. “Fuck!” Scott cried and scrambled off the cool body and away from the bed. He’d crushed him. He could swear the man wasn’t breathing.

To his surprise, Spike rolled over. “What’s all the noise?” he demanded. “Why did you leave?”

“You… you weren’t breathing! You were so still!”

Spike scowled. “Sleep apnea. Should’ve told you.” Spike eyed the frightened man. His heart was pounding and fear poured off him. Spike’s stomach rumbled. “Go shower, I’ve got a business call to make.”

“But…”

Spike rolled over and out of bed with one smooth movement. Scott couldn’t help but think of some big cat, for there was a grace in even these simple movements that spoke of predator. “Go. Shower. Now.” The sweetness of earlier was replaced with something more steel. It was a trick of the light, but he thought he saw glints of gold in the blue eyes. He’d seen blue eyes turn green before, but never gold. For the first time, Scott feared his client.

“Okay. I... yeah, I need a shower.” Scott grabbed up his clothes and scrambled for the bathroom. He locked the door this time.

Spike sighed, rubbed his face, and fished his cell phone out of his coat pocket. From memory, he dialed a number.

“Butch’s Butchery,” answered a familiar, gruff voice.

“Hey, Butch, it’s Spike.”

“Spike! Long time no call. What’s up?”

“I need a discrete delivery. Three pints of whatever’s fresh.”

“I got some antelope in this morning.”

“No. Nothing African.”

“Buffalo? Nothing more American.”

“Yeah. Three pints.” Spike gave the directions and sat down on the edge of the soiled bed. He slumped and ran a hand over his hair. He was in need of a shower himself. The sex with Scott had been amazing, but now he had to dispose of the body, so to speak. Back in the day, that meant a sewer drain or a dumpster, now it would mean chit chat and a plane ticket to somewhere. Sometimes Spike hated the soul.

He called room service and ordered a tray full of food that young men liked. Fifteen minutes passed and he was about to go drag “Scott” out of the shower when the water finally shut off. He listened to the boy fumble around and get dressed. Hesitantly, Scott opened the door.

Spike still sat sticky and naked on the edge of the bed. “I’m sorry I snapped. I have low blood sugar.” The sweetness was back.

“Um, maybe you should order some food.” Scott wondered how the man could not be cold.

“Just did. I ordered a protein drink from a heath store for me and burger and fries for you, sound good?” He saw Scott look at the money on the table. “If you want to go, take it all and go. You’ve earned it.”

“What?” Spike saw Scott add up the actions of the night before. Even with the barebacking, he hadn’t come close.

Spike sighed and looked away. Time for more acting. “It was... amazing.” That part was no lie. He’d thought he could deny his need for sexual contact and still spend time with naked Xander. It wasn’t a mistake he’d make again. “And I have nothing to do and no where to go until dark. That’s five hours. Would… I would like it if you stayed. We don’t have to do anything else, unless you want to. Just… keep me company.”

“Well...”

“Please. You can call your roommate or whoever you need to. I’ll buy you dinner before taking you where you need to go.”

Scott looked into the crystal blue eyes and wondered how he could have imagined the danger. “Sure. Sounds fun.”

Spike put on his robe when a knock sounded at the door. As he’d hoped, it was the delivery boy from Butch’s. He paid with a generous tip and took the plain paper bag. He sat one of the Styrofoam containers in the mini fridge and carefully handled the other two. “I’m going to drink these in the shower. I’m feeling… sticky for some reason. Sign for the food when it comes. I won’t be long, okay?” Scott nodded and Spike knew he’d stay. He picked up his smaller bag and carried it into the bathroom with him.

He turned on the shower and immediately went game face. He almost spilled the rich blood as he guzzled it down. It was cold, but he dare not heat it in the little microwave. He poured the second container in a thermos from his bag. Then he stepped into the shower. Swiftly, he washed himself and cleaned out any traces of blood from the containers before throwing them away.

When he returned to the bedroom, Scott was busily stuffing a massive hamburger into his mouth. It reminded him so much of young Xander, his still heart gave a twinge.

“Better now?” Scott asked after washing down his mouthful with a drink of Coke.

“Yeah, thanks.” Spike sat on the end of the clean bed, flipped on the TV, and surfed around until he found the sci-fi channel. One of his favorite shows was playing. Absently, he combed his hair and worked it onto a neat braid as Scott finished his meal.

“I never liked science fiction,” Scott said, sitting beside him, and startling him out of his reverie.

“Huh? Oh. I didn’t for the longest time. Than a friend turned me on to it.”

“Your partner?”

“Him? No. He’s got no imagination.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Spike got the boy talking and learned about his past and how he’d come to be in the big city on the west coast. His girlfriend had gotten pregnant and was going to put the baby up for adoption. When her time came, she stayed home and delivered it by herself instead of going to the hospital as arranged. It was born dead, and she threw it in a dumpster before calling him.

“I went to that dumpster and I looked in. She… she hadn’t even put the little thing in a blanket. It was dead, and blue…” Scott sobbed. “I couldn’t face the police. They’d blame me, so I ran.”

Spike let the boy cry on his shoulder, soothing him. He talked the boy down, and convinced him to talk a lawyer. He handed Scott a card. “This is the best damn lawyer on the planet. Tell him your story.”

“I… I can’t afford that.”

“I can,” Spike said and dialed the phone.

“Charles Gunn,” came the professional answer.

“Charlie, it’s Spike.”

Spike heard him swallow. “Oh. Hey.”

“Look, I’ve got a young man here who thinks he’s in trouble, and needs some help getting it sorted out, will you talk to him on my tab?”

“Spike, you know I’ll help your strays any time. And Spike… I’m sorry.”

Spike’s voice softened. “I know. Here, talk to Scott.”

Spike walked to the other side of the room and busied himself  rearranging his clutter. He picked up his cell phone and stared at it. He should call Xander. After all, he was AWOL. He half listened as Scott re-told his story, then listened to Gunn’s positive comments. After half an hour, Scott hung up the phone.

“Was I right?”

“Yeah. He… he’ll hook me up with a good public defender in Dayton. Thank you, Spike.” The boy sat a litter straighter than he had.

Spike shrugged and sat down beside him. “So you ready to go home?” 

“Yeah, I… I guess last night should just about cover it. If you could just drive me to the airport? I left some crap at the mission, but it’s nothing I want.”

“Where do you need to go?”

“Dayton, Ohio.”

Spike picked up the phone and connected to the airport through information. Scott listened as Spike made a reservation in his real name and rattled off a credit card number. He hung up the phone and smiled at Scott. “You have an 11 o’clock flight non-stop to Dayton. Do you need to call someone to pick you up?”

“But…”

“But what?”

“You used your card. How much do I…”

“Shut up, fool. It’s on me. You gave me something I needed this morning, so let me return the favor. All I ask is you follow through on everything the lawyers tell you, okay?”

Scott ducked his head, suddenly shy. “Yeah. This… this is more  than anyone’s done for me. Ever.”

“Me with the big, shiny soul. I can’t help it.” Spike handed him the phone. “Call home. There’s someone I need to call, too.”

Spike picked up his cell phone, went to the bathroom, and shut the door.

“Hello, Chez Rosenberg,” Willow answered.

“Hey, Red.”

“Spike! Where did you run off to?”

“Had to bolt, pet. Is Xander there?”

“Yeah. Yeah, hold on.”

Spike heard her walk through the house, climb the stairs, then knock on a door. Even with her thumb over the mouthpiece, he could still hear. “Xander? Spike’s on the phone… I don’t know where he is… Okay…”

Spike stopped breathing and sat very still. Finally, he heard a door open, a soft “thanks” from Xander, and the door closing again.

“Hey, Spike. Where’d you go?”

“Out for a run,” Spike said softly.

“Look, I don’t completely remember what I did or said, but I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I… My demon nearly did something we’d both regret. I had to go.”

“So my demon did get a bit fresh,” Xander sighed.

“More than a bit, but I don’t mind. I find it flattering, actually.”

“Sorry,” he could hear the misery in Xander’s voice.

“Hey, don’t get like that. There’s nothing bad between us, okay?”

“Yeah… so, when you coming back?”

“I’ve got some loose ends to tie up and a fight to pick tonight. If I don’t get too thrashed, I’ll come home tomorrow evening.”

“Okay, be careful, Spike.”

“You too, and stay out of the bottle!”

Xander laughed. “Don’t worry about that. The ghost of my father will not get another chance to channel through me again. Consider me exorcised.”

“Speaking of exercise, we need to spar again.”

“Okay, it’s a date. Thanks for calling, Spike. I was worried.”

Spike scoffed. “I was a bloody ass for making you think it was your fault.”

“Well, do that again, mister, and you’re fired!”

“Fair enough. Ta, Xander.”

“Bye, Spike.”

When Spike came out of the bathroom, Scott was curled on the bed. Spike sat down beside him. “How did it go?”

“Well, after my mother cussed me out for scaring her so bad, she cried and told me about Melody. She’s been arrested and there’s a warrant out for me.”

“Did you give her the contact information from Gunn?” Scott nodded.

“She’s meeting me at the airport. I didn’t know what to tell her about how I could afford a ticket.”

“Tell her you got a job stripping.”

Scott laughed. “Yeah, right.”

Spike ran his hand over Scott’s broad shoulders. “Could happen. You’re a pretty man.”

“I… I think you must be an angel I was meant to meet.”

Spike barked a laugh. “I am so far from Angel, you’d never believe it. It’s still an hour an a half till dark…”

Scott rolled over and looked up at Spike. “You want me to earn my ticket?”

“No, I want to give you a present.” Spike turned on the radio to a quiet station, made the lights low, and dropped his robe.

Scott swallowed and felt himself grow hard as Spike slinked toward him. Spike gently pulled the boy up and kissed him firmly. His long fingers made quick work of Scott’s clothes as he continued kissing and licking Scott’s body as it was revealed. He lay the boy on the bed and caressed and kissed him until the boy was writhing, grasping the sheets.

Spike looked down at him. “I’ll be your toy. Tell me what you want, boy. My hands? My mouth, my ass, my cock?”

For the next hour, Spike pleasured the young man, worshiping his body and arousing him as he wanted to do for Xander.

Afterwards, the two cleaned up and Spike drove him silently to the airport. Scott hesitated before opening the door. “I… I have to thank you for all you’ve done. And that last hour…”

“Shush. It was all a selfish outlet on my part,” Spike looked straight ahead at the signs directing passengers to terminals without seeing them.

Scott put a hand on his leg. “If I can be forward… I don’t think your partner deserves you. He sounds hateful.”

Spike chuckled. “Thanks for caring, mate. You may take some of that into consideration yourself.”

“Melody’s all right. But, I think I’ve learned a lot this trip, and… I don’t think I’ll ever have a lover like you again.”

Spike sighed. “Then become one yourself. Pay attention to your partners and give them what they need, yeah?”

“I’ll try.”

“It’s been fun, mate. Best of luck.”

“Thanks.” Scott opened the door, then hesitated. “Tell me one thing?” Spike looked over at him. “What’s a whelp?”

“It means puppy. Go on, don’t miss your flight.”





34
Not Tonight

Xander lay dozing. He was tired and wanted to sleep, but he could not stop listening for Spike and replaying his stupidity of the night before. He thought it would be no big deal to just go through the list and mark off people’s fates. After all, his conversations with Spike had stirred up so many bad feelings, he didn’t think he could feel worse.

But he did feel worse, and rapidly. There were so many people he’d forgotten about. Even the ones he didn’t recognize gave him a pang because he couldn’t help. He had set the bottle on the dresser, dismissing it. After an hour, he’d poured himself a small drink. After another hour, he had moved the bottle to the table. He wasn’t sure when he’d done away with the little glass and started drinking from the bottle. It was stupid. When young, he’d never allowed himself to drink anything stronger than beer. In Africa, well, who cared what he did or what fermented thing he drank?

The last things he remembered were nesting on the floor because that is where Anthony liked him to sleep sometimes, then Spike joining him. The vampire had felt so good against him, and Xander so wanted to forget the list and the ghosts of all the people he’d thought about that night. In Africa, his best escape was sex. Spike was there, with him in bed, then he was alone. He had a vague memory of seeing Willow and Dawn, then he woke up on the floor alone in his nest feeling sick and very hung over.

Spike wasn’t there to hold his hair for him when he needed it. When Willow finally came up to look in on him, she was short with him until she determined he remembered nothing of what had transpired between them, then she left the house. When he ventured downstairs, Gunn was apologetic to the point of being annoying, and Dawn slipped out the front door as he came downstairs.

So he’d spent the day with Oz, walking up to the Gazebo and discussing what needed to be done there. All Oz could tell Xander was that they’d heard shouting, Spike tore through the house like a tornado, and Gunn was lucky to be alive. They both knew Willow well enough that she’d confront Xander when she was ready.

Oz had helped his escape from the tension in the house by going on a drive to show him where the local building supply places were. They bought Xander some proper steel toed boots, ate out at Oz’s favorite pizza place, and came home late to find Dawn and Willow waiting for them. At a stern look from his wife, Oz left Xander with a supportive nod and went upstairs.

“Sit down, Xander,” Willow said levelly. Dawn wouldn’t look at him.

Xander sat, his heart tight in his chest. “I’m sorry, Willow, Dawn, I…”

“You don’t remember what you did, do you?” Willow said.

Xander looked away, staring at the dark TV screen. “Apart from making myself miserable, drinking too much, and somehow pissing off Spike?  No, sorry.”

Willow sighed and sat beside Dawn. “When we came in, you were crying. Dawn sat beside you to comfort you. When she put her arms around you, you dragged her down into your lap and buried your face in her neck.  You then shoved aside your blankets, and, well, you were all… naked, and said you were glad they'd sent you such a pretty pleaser, and tried to kiss Dawnie!”

Xander closed his eye. “I’m sorry. God, I’m so sorry.” He buried his face in his hands.

“When I tried to pull you off her, you dragged me down, too. You groped me! So I cast a sleep spell on you and left you where you were.”

Xander didn’t even try to stop the tears that ran from his eye. “I… things were different, over there. I…”

“You had women sent to you whenever you wanted? Were they captives like you?” Willow snapped.

Xander could only nod. “I… I never mistreated any of the pleasers, I swear. Last night…”

“You were drunk, Alexander Harris!” Willow sobbed. “I know you changed o... over there, but, Xander, you were drunk!”

“You don’t know what it was like, Willow,” Xander pleaded. “You can’t have any idea. Yeah, I drank and I hired pleasers,” his voice rose until he was shouting, “because I was held captive in a fucking cave and forced to kill people!”

Willow shouted back, “Well, you’re not there now, you can’t…” Dawn put her hand on Willow’s arm and she stopped herself and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. It’s just I don’t even know you any more, Xander. I… you spend all your time with Spike. I’ve gotten my best friend back, but not really.”

“Oh, Willow,” Xander came over to the couch and knelt beside her. “I’m back, I’m just not… here yet.”

She let him pull her into a hug. “I know,” she whispered. “I know, I just… missed you so much.”

“I missed you, too.” He opened his eye and met Dawn’s dark gaze. He held out his free hand and she took it. “Both of you.” He sighed. “My experiences in the last five years changed me and I hate what I’ve become. I’ve done things I hope you never hear about. Spike… Spike is helping me so much. I should never have looked at that list without him around. If you want me to leave your house, I will. All I can do is say I’m sorry.”

“Oh, Xander, I don’t want you to leave. Please.”

They shared a good, weepy hug and then sat awkwardly together. Dawn sniffed loudly, picked up the tissue box and passed it around. “Hey, at least you called us pretty,” she said.

Xander wiped his nose and turned to her. “I have to apologize for movie night, too, Dawn. I… there was someone who looked a lot like you when I first met you,” Xander pushed a lock of hair from her face. “She… she was a captive, too. It was seeing her that shocked me out of what I was doing. Seeing her pretty brown eyes was what made me have to get out of there somehow.”

“And you did,” Dawn said wonderingly. “It’s like you were meant to be there so Spike could find you.”

“Yeah, I’m so very lucky. And I’ve learned my lesson about drinking, that’s for sure.”

Willow pulled back and took his face in her hands. “I’m watching you from here on out, mister!”

“You and Spike both. If he forgives me, too.” He risked a hug for them both. His friends hugged him back, and he untangled himself from the soft female arms as quickly as he gracefully could. “I need a shower and some sleep. Good night, guys.”

He thought his trials for  the night were over, but Midra stepped out of the sewing room as he reached the top of the stairs. “Tomorrow I teach you to do your own laundry, if you are going to keep wallowing your blankets on the floor like that.”

Xander ducked his head, suddenly very tired. Was there anyone in the house not mad at him? “I’m sorry. I can do my laundry. Hell, I used to live in a laundry room.”

He didn’t expect to feel Midra’s strong hand on his cheek, guiding his head up. “Xander. I am joking. You do what you need to get grounded, right?”

Xander gave her a little smile. “Thanks.”

“And try to keep your vampire off Charles. I’ve already let him have it with both barrels and he feels like a right dog for giving you that bottle.”

“I don’t blame him, Midra. I shouldn’t have taken it.”

“I do blame him. He did not think. Let him take you to that comic shop and make it up to you, okay?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Now go get some sleep.” Midra dropped her hand and headed for the stairs.

“Midra, do you know where Spike went?”

Midra looked back. “That vamp was within a hair’s breath of breaking Charles’s neck. I’m sure he went to blow off some steam.”

“I don’t know. I pissed him off, too, somehow. “

“Don’t worry, he’ll be back. I think only the true death could part him from you now.”


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


When Xander finally heard the soft creak of the first flight of stairs, then the click of the door to Spike’s room, he relaxed. True, the vampire had promised to return the next night at the latest, but Xander was glad he hadn’t gotten himself too badly beat up. Or maybe he had.

Xander sat up, thinking to go downstairs and investigate, then hesitated. If Spike wanted to talk to him tonight, he’d come up. Xander lay back down and listened to the subtle sounds from below. The house popped quietly, but no more was heard. Spike was probably changing clothes.

After half an hour, Xander was wondering just why Spike had not come up to see him. That he was still mad was the only answer Xander could come up with that fit. Well, he wasn’t going to get any rest worrying about it. Xander threw back the covers and pulled on his sweat pants and t-shirt. Quietly he padded downstairs and to Spike’s door.

Light shone under the door and Xander could hear the click of a keyboard from inside. Softly, he tapped on the door.

Spike didn’t stop his typing. He’d followed Xander’s progress through the halls. He had hoped to wait until tomorrow to talk to the man, to let the experience fade somewhat, but apparently Xander needed the support. “Come in, Xander.”

Xander quietly opened the door, went in, and closed the door behind himself. “Have a seat,” Spike said, not looking up or pausing in his typing, “I want to finish this thought.”

The only place to sit besides the chair at the desk was the bed, so he sat on the edge and looked anywhere but at the bit of computer screen visible over Spike’s shoulder. He caught a glimpse of a little icon and remembered Spike briefly showing him Live Journal. What a vampire like Spike could blog about, Xander didn’t really want to know. An open thermos and a mug sat beside the microwave, and Xander could smell warm blood. Spike’s black coat was thrown over the back of the chair and a suitcase sat in the corner. After a few minutes, Spike closed out the program he was using and turned around, resting his arm on the back of the chair. 

“What’s up, Xander? It’s late.”

“I… I couldn’t sleep. You said you were going to go pick a fight, so I…” Xander shrugged and looked away.

“You wanted to see how beat up I was?” Xander shrugged again. “That’s sweet, mate, but I didn’t get in a fight.”

“You couldn’t find a fight to get in?” Xander joked, smiling. “What’s wrong?”

Spike smiled back. “I found I didn’t want to.”

“You smell like Willy’s bar.”

“I went to a demon bar I know, smoked half a pack of cigarettes, and when nothing happened after two hours, I paid my hotel bill and drove back.”

“That doesn’t sound like enough fun to get rid of the mad I caused you,” Xander ventured.

Spike shook his head. “Wasn’t you made me mad, Xander. It was Gunn. Damn fool gave you that file and bottle and left you alone. I still may have to call him out over it.”

“Midra already did.”

“Did she now? Well, maybe I should just stomp my foot in his direction just to watch him cringe.”

“Do you honestly think you can scare him more than Midra?”

“Nah. Probably not.”

“So… what did you get up to?”

Spike studied the back of his hand for a minute, looking like he wished he had some polish to pick off. “Let’s get some sleep, eat a good breakfast, let me work off the last of my restlessness with a good sparring session tomorrow, then I’ll tell you.”

“I won’t like it, will I?”

Spike cocked his head. “I honestly don’t know.” He stood up and opened the door. “Good night, Xander. I’ll see you at breakfast.”

Xander nodded. “Good night, Spike. I’m glad you came back.”

“Hey, my bike is here. I couldn’t leave her.”

Xander made his way upstairs and fell into a heavy sleep.

Spike took a sniff of his cigarette smoke-saturated sleeve and made a face. If he showed up at the breakfast table smelling like an ashtray, he’d be frowned away by the ladies for certain. Spike turned off his laptop, and went to clean up before grabbing a couple of hours sleep for himself.

When he came out into the hall with a towel around his hips, Willow’s door opened and the little redhead slipped out, a fluffy lime green robe with a butterfly on the breast wrapped around her.

“So you came back?”

“Did you doubt me, luv?”

“No. Not really. It’s just that I’m used to you disappearing before now. This is the longest you’ve ever hung around.”

Spike pouted. “Are you saying you’re tired of me?”

“No, of course not. Just…” Willow glanced upstairs. “You ran out on Xander. He’s changed so much. The things he said to Dawn and me yesterday, and grabbing us…”

Spike frowned. “What did he say? What did he do?”

“He… He thought we were prostitutes or something. He tried to kiss us and groped us. Xander would never go to a prostitute! And you keep him upstairs all the time, with you!”

“He’s not the man you knew, Red.” Spike’s voice was flat as he sifted through Willows barrage of emotions.

“He says that, but when he comes around to dinner, he jokes and…”

“Like he did in high school,” Spike interrupted.

“What?”

“Boy hid his pains with jokes back then, too, didn’t he?”

“Well, yeah...”

“How long did you spend in merry ole, getting over your black-eyed day of evil?”

“I don’t understand…”

Spike stepped closer. “Several months of the coven sitting on you and Giles watching your every move for you to mostly get over the one day you trod on the dark side and the one man you killed. Xander spent five years in hell, and killed over a hundred beings. Yeah, your best friend’s changed, and there’s no one but me to get him through the worst of it. If whoever is pulling our strings is gracious enough to allow him to keep fighting his way out of hell, your friend will continue to return from the brink of insanity.”

“I never get to see him!” Willow pouted, half hurt, half angry. “When I do, he’s just as likely to run off when things get relaxed!”

“I don’t tell him what to do. I just let him make his own choices and support him however I can. He spent five years with no freedom, Red. I thought this was the best environment he could possibly be in, but maybe I was wrong. Seems no one’s looking out for him but me…”

Willow’s eyes widened. “No! Spike, please don’t take him away. He asked if I wanted him to leave earlier.”

“You confronted him?”

Willow looked away. “Dawn and I did. We… He made us mad!”

“How much did he remember?”

“Not much. He knows he made you mad, but not how. He didn’t remember seeing us at all. What happened between you two? We heard shouting.”

Spike sighed. “None of your business, Red. It’s between me and Xander.”

“Sorry."

Spike ran a hand through his wet hair. “Look, just… continue to give him space. He… he’s like a wounded animal who has to get used to not being kicked all the time. Stop trying to make him out to be the man he was. He’s changed, we all have.”

“Okay.”

“Next time you want a word with him, let me brace for impact, yeah?”

“Yeah. Night, Spike.”

“Night, Red.”





35
Sparring & Talking

“Wake up, Xander. You’ve laid about long enough.”

Xander blinked up at Spike who had just pulled his warm blankets off him, then squinted toward the darkened window. “It’s not even light yet, evil one,” Xander protested and pulled the blanket back up.

Spike removed the covers again, this time tossing them off the bed, and leaving Xander naked. “No. It’s 10 o’clock. It’s raining out.”

“Oh.” Xander sat up and rubbed his face. “You want to spar, huh?”

“Yep. That’s the plan. What do you want for brekkies, and it’ll be ready when you come down.”

“Um… fruit and maybe some oatmeal.”

“What? No pound of pancakes, butter and bacon?”

“No. My system’s started to protest that treatment.”

“And all your new jeans getting tight?” Spike said with glee.

“Shut up, fang,” Xander growled and stood up.

Spike turned away before naked Xander began his habitual morning stretch. “Get your fat self downstairs! I want to fight.”

“Call me fat again, and I’ll give you a fight!”

“Okay, fattie!” Spike closed the door just before the thrown pillow could hit him.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Once in the barn, Xander set down his spare change of clothes and started his warm up. Spike just popped his neck, then waited.

“What do you want, Spike? You called this session.”

“Show me your moves and I’ll show you mine.”

“Shouldn’t we go out to a bar for that?” Spike could tell by the way he was joking that Xander was itching to get it over with and talk.

“The only bar I’ll go to with you is a coffee bar.”

“You know what? I still don’t like coffee.”

“I’ll buy you a double chocolate minty something. With ice cream and shit.”

“Leave out the shit, and you’re on!”

For almost an hour, the two grappled and talked about fighting tricks and techniques. They fought as equals, and each learned something new.

Xander stood panting, resting his hands on his knees. “Damn, Spike. I shouldn’t be this winded, I’ve not been out of the arena that long.”

Spike handed Xander a cold water from the fridge. “How long did the trip take?”

Xander took the bottle with a grateful nod and drained half of it before answering. “I’m not sure. Two, almost three weeks?”

Spike pointed up to the loft. Rain still fell, and there was no danger of stray sunlight. “Shall we adjourn to the comfy couch?”

Xander finished the water and nodded. “Yeah. Let me get another one of these.”

Soon they both sprawled on the couch, looking out into the heavy California rain.

“So,” Xander ventured.

“So, what?”

“Are we good, Spike? I… I don’t remember what I did. All I know is I was lonely and sad, and in the caves, the cure for that was sex.”

Spike chuckled. “Always been one of my favorite outlets when I can get it.”

“I groped you, didn’t I?”

“Yep.”

“So you left.” Xander sounded almost hurt.

Spike studied Xander as he hid behind a fall of hair. “Ah, Xander. You would have regretted it in the morning, we both would.”

“We would?”

“Yeah, that’s no way to start anything.”

Xander peeked at Spike. “Are you saying you want to start something with me?”

Spike shifted, and looked out at the rain. “I don’t know about that, but you’re certainly not hard on the eye.”

“Thanks.” Xander watched the rain, too. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

“I know that.”

“So you’re not mad at me for… getting fresh?”

“I’m a bit hurt that you dove into the world of pain that is that damned file without me. And it was damned stupid to have that bottle within a mile of you.”

Xander ducked his head. “I know.”

“Why’d you do it? I didn’t have to go out with Oz.”

“You were so excited and… I’m a big boy. I already felt bad from thinking about… about Anthony’s death. I didn’t think I could feel worse than that.”

“Well, it was a bloody stupid thing to do, and I hope you never do that again, cause you don’t have to face things alone.”

“I know,” Xander said quietly. “I’m sorry.”

“Oh, don’t be bloody sorry.”

“But I fucked things up with everyone else in the house, too.”

“No, not everyone.”

“Okay, Willow and Dawn. God! Did you know I hit on them, too?”

“Willow told me last night. Do you know that girl actually had the gall to pout because you don’t spend time with her? One minute she complains about how you misbehaved, and the next it’s all about her.”

“That’s my Willow. Maybe… maybe I should spend more time with them.”

“Does it make you uncomfortable?”

“Gods, yes.”

“Then don’t.”

“I live under her roof, she’s opened her home to me.”

“You could move.”

Xander looked at Spike. “Move? Where?”

“Anywhere in the bloody world. You’ve got the money to buy a nice house almost anywhere.”

“I guess I do. I hadn’t thought about that.”

“It’s an option.”

“But I don’t want to, Spike. I… I love my friends.”

Spike sighed. “Then sit them all down and tell them what’s up with you. Willow’s acting like you haven’t changed. Dawn had never experienced anything like what you’ve been through. Oz understands, he’s got his own demon. Gunn knows in theory, cause he’s been in the dark shit himself, but he doesn’t know you. Midra knows Africa and respects the hell out of you. Talk to them, Xander.”

“I should. I really should. I mean, Willow deserves to know, and if she thinks I’m spending too much time with you, then, I owe her.”

“I think Willow’s jealous of me.”

“Willow’s…” Xander laughed. “Right.”

“She is.”

“I’ll talk to them, for certain.”

They sat quietly together for a few minutes, sharing the revelations.

Xander broke the quiet. “Tell me your stress relief secrets.”

Spike peered sideways at Xander. “Tell you what, mate. I’ll answer you fairly, but I get to ask what I want, too.”

Xander shrugged. “It was that bad, huh? Okay, I got nothing to hide.”

Spike watched the rain fall for a minute before answering. “I went to the big city, picked up a young man, took him back to my hotel room, cleaned him up, fed him, and had sex with him.”

Spike listened to Xander’s heart jump. “So… you just picked up some random hustler?”

Spike had to admire Xander’s carefully schooled reaction. “No. I chose quite carefully.” He glanced at Xander who nodded for him to continue. “There has always been one street in every city where the newbies wind up. I don’t know why this happens, but trust me, it does.” Spike looked back at the rain. “He was tall, dark haired, broad shouldered, and had only been in the business for a month or so.”

Xander felt his heart skip when he matched the description to his own features. As much as he knew Spike had probably picked up on that, he would keep his cool. He didn’t look at Spike. “I can’t judge you. Hell, I hired enough pleasers in my time.”

“Why call them pleasers? Seems like a soft word some pasha would use.”

Xander shrugged. “It’s just what they were called there. I don’t know why.”

Spike felt Xander’s hesitation. “Ask away, Xander.”

“It’s just that I… I envy you that you can hire someone when you’re horny. I can never do that again. It’s not right.”

“Did you hire male pleasers?”

“Yeah. I did. There was one… Zack. He’s a Jewish college student, who was traveling abroad to gain new experiences. How ironic is that. He was slim, with pretty dark eyes and thick black hair. He… he liked me because I let him top.” Xander laughed. “I’d play the girl for him, cause the other fighters… well…”

“He was small so they liked to use him,” Spike supplied.

“Yeah. Maybe… maybe we can get him out of there.”

“Okay, Zack is on the list with Morgan. Your turn.”

“Why a newbie?” Xander asked.

“It’s a catch and release program.”

“Huh?”

“Before the soul, it was catch and kill. Okay, sometimes it was catch, torture, kill, but you get the idea. Anyway, I learned his problems, what he was running away from. Instead of leaving him in a dumpster, I gave him the number of a good lawyer and put him on a plane back home.” Spike turned to meet Xander’s gaze squarely, daring him to tease. When a smile started to form on Xander’s generous lips, Spike looked away. “Plus, I like the way those new to the game are unsure and fumble. It’s… a turn on.”

Xander blew out a breath. “I know what you mean.”

Spike raised a brow, resisting the urge to picture Xander with his slim lover, and shook his head. “Ever take another vampire lover?”

Xander took the lid off the bottle and drained the last of it. Spike let him fiddle and take his time. Finally, Xander sighed. “No. I couldn’t trust any of them. I was in a position of power, and had to be careful.”

“No offence, mate, but how did you hold that power?”

“I owe a lot of that to Harse.”

“Harse?”

“Vampire, big guy. When they brought him in, he got put in a cage with a Nughla demon who had a grudge against vampires. The demon had just rallied the others in the cage to attack him. I don’t know why I did it, but I went in there and pulled them off him.”

“You found a lieutenant.”

“Yeah. Harse was big, ugly, and steady. He had all the common sense you could want, but no imagination. He was called Harse because he mispronounced horse.” Xander started tossing the bottle cap from hand to hand. “It was also because I was liked. I kept things as good as I could for the other fighters. You know, it turned out there was a track in a valley in the mountain they could run on. Hell, I didn’t know about it for three years. Kinda mad at Anthony for not letting me out.”

“I was wondering how you were so tanned after living in caves.”

“It was a dangerous track, but moral increased ten fold.”

“Shall we put Harse on the rescue list?”

Xander shook his head. “No. He’s very much a soulless demon who dreamed of getting out to rip the heads off babies. And he wasn’t good for dinner conversation, either.”

Spike chuckled. “I’ve had plenty of minions like that. One fella was a good worker, but I had to keep ripping out his tongue ever so often cause he’d prattle on so.”

“Ew.”

“Tell me about it. Made him a messier eater, too. You need to tell Gunn about the track. It may help us in finding the place.”

“There’s a lot I need to tell him, I guess.”

“In your own time, Xander.”

“Thank you, Spike.”

“What for?”

“What for? For being more understanding than my oldest friend in the world. For… for not turning away from me when I assaulted you.”

“Well, if you look at it another way, you’ve already hired me.” Spike put his hands behind his head and stretched out his long legs. “I mean, we agreed that I would help you over the rough spots…”

“Spike!” Xander sputtered. “Don’t be a tease.”

“Who says I’m teasing?”

“I do!” Xander leapt to his feet. “Now let’s… let’s go another round if you’ve caught your breath.”

“I never lost my breath. Well, once, over a hundred years ago, but if you think you can challenge me this time…”

This round of sparring, Xander was more closed mouthed and focused. Spike could tell he was angry about something. Finally, Xander’s anger caused him to let his guard slip.

Spike knocked him to the ground and straddled him. “There!” he panted. “I knew you wanted me on top.”

The fierceness with which Xander responded to his joke caught him off guard, and Spike found himself on his back.

“I told you not to tease me, Spike!” Xander shouted down at him. “Damn it! Of course I want you on top! I want anybody on top! Or bottom! I’m so fucking horny!” Xander stomped away and leaned with both forearms against the wall and his head down. “And I’m apparently not good enough for you, you had to go off and hire some random whore!”

In an instant, Spike was behind Xander, trapping his hands against the wood with one of his. “You want I should have given in? Huh?” Roughly, Spike tugged open Xander’s draw string pants and shoved them down. “Is this what you want?”

“Let me go!” Xander struggled against the smaller, yet stronger man.

Spike pressed against him. “Make up your mind, Xander! I walked away because I wanted to take! You think it’s easy for me? Do you know how long it’s been since anyone’s touched me with desire without me paying them?”

“Stop it,” Xander said with less conviction, loosing some of the tension in his body.

Spike leaned close and talked low in his ear. “I like what we have, Xander. I left because I wanted…” He let go of Xander’s hands and turned away. “I wanted something base that would have messed that up. You’re worth more than being used as an itch scratcher.”

Xander remained leaning against the wall, unmindful of his partial nudity. He was more embarrassed at his outburst. He hadn’t looked at the situation from Spike’s point of view; he’d been so long on his own. A sob rose in his throat and he let it out. “I’m sorry. I… I didn’t know.”

“No. I didn’t tell ya, did I? I… I’m not used to anyone giving a damn about how I feel or when I come and go.”

Xander cried against his hands, and when Spike touched him this time, it was to gently turn him around. Spike took the big man in his arms and held him as he cried himself  out.

“I can’t stop pissing people off, can I?” Xander asked.

“Sorry about that, mate. You just changed directions too quickly for me to follow. Used to be good at that, what with Dru’s madness and all. I guess I’m out of practice.”

Xander pulled away and rubbed at his face, sniffing loudly. “You saying I’m nuts?”

“Naw. I know for nuts, and you’re not.”

“Thanks. Mind if I pull my pants up?”

“Make yourself comfortable, Xander. That’s all I ask.”

Xander redressed himself and didn’t look up as he tied the string. “I’m comfortable naked, to tell the truth.”

“Then be naked.”

“I don’t want to tease.”

Spike stepped close to Xander and brought his hand up to the back of Xander’s head. For an instant, Xander thought Spike was going to kiss him, but the vampire guided his head down and rested their foreheads together. “I never expected to be lucky enough to be liked by you, Harris.”

“What does that mean, Spike?”

“I mean, I gave you such a hard time long ago cause I could see the big heart you had and how you used it. I knew I’d never be… liked by you, so I did my best to not think about it.”

“Silly vamp.”

“What I’m trying to say is, I like what we’ve got here. I like… holding and being held. Yeah, I may have to run off some times.”

“That’s fine. Just…” Xander moved away, feeling suddenly awkward, “just tell me what’s up. Or at least when you’re coming back, okay?”

“As long as you tell me ahead when you’re going to do something traumatic.”

“Sounds fair. I… I’m going to go clean up now.” Xander turned towards the showers.

“I think I’ll go work on the bike, seeing as I’m all dusty and the like.”

“Hey, Spike,” Xander called him back. “Can we still… I like to share a bed with you. Or at least a  room. I mean, the room’s big enough we could put two single beds in...”

Spike laughed. “Xander, we’re both too old for bunk beds. Let’s just keep it like it is and talk more about us, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Once in the shower, Xander wasted no time in acknowledging the erection that he’d been suppressing all morning. He pictured some stranger covering Spike, and remembered the strong, lean thighs pressed against his own. Spike truly thought he was attractive. It meant more to him than he’d realized.

In the tunnel under the garage, Spike took a minute to get his head together. The man truly wanted him. Wasn’t that a kick in the ass? 





36
A Message & a Package

Xander felt a lot better then he had in a long time as he crossed through the dry tunnels to the house. He paused at the stairs to the garage, debating watching Spike fix his bike, but his hunger won out.

“Xander!” Midra greeted him. “I know you’re back in the real world now. You have  a phone message and a package.”

Xander blinked. “I do? Wow. What’s the message?”

Midra theatrically peered into the other room and moved close to whisper in Xander’s ear. “Jen says she has your special order ready.”

“My what? Oh, gods, just in time. Dawn’s birthday is tomorrow, isn’t it?”

“Sure is. And your package is in the table in the hall.”

“Thanks, Midra. How about a sandwich?”

“No, thanks, I just ate, but you can make yourself one.” Xander paused and looked at her, not sure if she was teasing or not. She casually leaned against the counter, watching a frown slowly form. “I’m kidding you, Xander. Beef or chicken?”

Xander blushed and ducked his head. “Chicken would be good.”

“Stop being on eggshells. We all love you here.”

Xander sighed. “Yeah, but only about half of you understand me.” He met her warm brown eyes. “Do you think a house meeting could be called tonight?”

“That package is from Giles, and that means gifts from afar. If you want to open it first, I recommend you hide it away. I’m the only one knows it’s here. If nothing else, you can hand out the presents.”

“I’ll do that now.” He turned away and paused. “Thank you, Midra.”

“We’ve both done time. Me not near so much as you, but we have to stick together.”

“I think that’s the problem. Some people… they don’t understand I’m not who I once was.”

“I’ll let everyone know about the meeting. How about after dinner?”

“Perfect. Thanks.”

A large cardboard box, scuffed from much handling, lay on the table in the hallway. Xander ran his finger over the foreign postage marks and the computer printed label. He remembered Giles neatly hand writing labels for shipping packages from the Magic Box. For a second he hated that Giles had to finally give in and use a computer after holding out for so long. A long-faded pang at the memory of Jenny Calendar and her progressive views on computers followed as he picked up the box to carry it upstairs. 

He knew it contained his backpack, the blue one he carried through almost a year in the wilds of Africa. The first one he’d bought at a high-end camping store before his trip had not even stood up under the handling of airport personnel. He had pulled it off the baggage return with a torn strap and the thing had rapidly gone downhill. He had been forced within the week to buy a new one that the Watcher he met up with recommended. The now-battered blue bag had been his one constant in that year of adventure.

Xander set the box on the table, then hesitated. It somehow wasn’t a table thing. He placed it in the center of the rug where Spike had helped him shed the weight of his jewels and then sat down beside it. Unconsciously, he drew up his knees and stared at the sealed box.

He jumped when Midra called his name softly from the door. He looked back at her with tears welling in his eye. Midra sat close beside him, not touching him.

“I don’t want to open it,” Xander whispered. “That’s a piece of Africa in there.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Yes, I do. It’s not just my stuff. I bet Dawn’s birthday present from Giles is in there.

Midra contemplated the box with him. “It’s from before the bad stuff, though. You did have some good times, didn’t you? Even with the effort of helping slayers?”

“Oh, yes. I made some friends. I saw and did some cool things.”

“Then it’s a piece of the good Africa. Of the open air and sunshine Africa, right?”

Xander studied the box again and it was suddenly not so menacing. “You’re right, Midra.”

“Plus, you don’t have to open it right now. Or alone. You can lock yourself away with Spike later.”

Xander nodded, which was echoed by a rumble from his stomach. “Yeah. I learned the hard way to not do things alone yet.”

Midra smiled and patted his leg. “Then come downstairs and eat your sandwich before someone else claims it. It’s been known to happen.”

Xander smiled shyly at her and nodded. “Good plan.”

Xander tucked in to the sandwich, sharing a bowl of fruit pieces with Midra. He watched her pick out a grape with her fingers, then chose a piece of orange for himself. “You know, it’s still strange to eat with a fork.”

Midra laughed. “There’s less to wash this way.”

“Midra, can I ask…” Xander delayed his question by taking a big bite.

“Xander, you can ask me about anything. We’re all family here in this house.”

Xander finished his bite and washed it down before he asked. “I don’t know anything about your time in the caves. If it’s rude for me to ask, or you don’t want to…”

Midra cut him off by laying her hand over his. “It’s okay. It was years ago for me, and I was only there about six months.” She patted his hand and selected another grape. “I have a little bit of healing ability, so I was put in charge of caring for the pleasers.”

“That would explain why I never saw you.”

“I saw you once.”

Xander paused in his chewing. "Yet you didn't tell them you'd seen me?"

Midra shook her head. "The few pictures they have of you, you are grinning like a fool and dressed in bright colors. When I saw you, you were asleep in a table. It was when you had your operation, the implant. It wasn't until you'd been here a week that I connected you with that man. I'm sorry.”

"It's... no worries, Midra. I shouldn't have thought you'd..." Xander blushed at the realization that she had seen him naked and asleep when he’d been given the implant in his crotch that kept him safe from diseases like AIDS, but made him sterile. “I thought Morgan did that operation.”

“Morgan?”

“It’s what I called him.” Xander told her the healer’s real name that was a series of clicks.

“Oh! I assisted. You’ve seen him recently? Is he good?”

“Yes, as good as anyone is there, when I left.”

“Morgan? Morgan got me out of there. I don’t know how and I’m not sure why, but it was him arranged to get me on the ship out of there.”

“He did a lot of good for me, too. Maybe we can rescue him.”

Midra sighed. “I hope we can. I hope we can shut that hole down and salt the ground.” She made a sign against evil which Xander echoed. “With all the good information you’ve provided, Charles has new leads for the first time in ages.”

They ate in silence for a couple of bites.

“I guess you saw Anthony?”

“Once, yes. He had a great amount of power about him. I didn’t know he was a vampire at the time.”

“He made you a healer?”

“At first I was insulted he didn’t find me pretty enough to be a pleaser.” Midra laughed at herself. “Then I saw the hard life they had.”

“You’re plenty pretty! I’m sure it was that your healing skills were better needed elsewhere.”

“Thank you, Xander.”

“Anthony’s dead, by the way.” Xander wrapped his fingers around the pearl at his throat.

“Oh? In the ring?”

“No. A rival killed him.”

Midra couldn’t miss the sadness in his voice. “He meant something to you?”

“Yeah, everything.”

“Then he’d be happy you could get out when he could not.”

Xander tilted his head and contemplated this new point of view. “What did you know?”

“Not much. Only what the pleasers whispered. They were all terrified of him. It was said that when a pleaser stopped being… useful, they were fed to him.”

Xander had to force himself to swallow. “Is that true?”

“Who knows? He was a vampire and cursed to stay in the caves, that was common knowledge. Others were cursed, too. He had a short temper at times and everyone walked carefully around him. So, too, I heard stories from pleasers who were requested by him, treated fairly, paid well, and returned unharmed.”

Xander shook his head and sat the remains of his sandwich on his plate. “He was a paradox at times,” he said softly. “I got to see the intelligent, educated side. And he taught me to fight.”

“He took you under his wing?”

Xander nodded. “If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have lasted.”

Midra nodded and patted his hand again. “Anything else you want to know?” Xander shook his head. “If you think of anything, ask me. Okay? Now, finish your meal, then take lunch out to Spike. That man gets wrapped up in his projects then comes in with a bad mood.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Spike glanced up when Xander came in. He had a dark smudge on his pale chin. “Good timing, mate. I’ve got a three hand job here.”

Xander set the steaming mug on a counter and knelt beside Spike. The vampire positioned his hand on a part and quickly threaded a bolt and tightened it down. “You can let go now, thanks. I was having a sodding hard time getting that to line up. Mind your jeans.” Spike tossed him a rag. “Do I smell food?”

“You smell blood.” Xander stood up and frowned at his still-unfaded pants. “You know, It wasn’t until I got the construction job and moved out on my own that I owned new clothes.”

Spike cupped the warm mug and gratefully took a deep drink. “What was with all those loud shirts, anyway?”

Xander ducked his head. “My uncle Rory gave them to me. They were real Hawaiian shirts! He served at Pearl Harbor!”

“He was there when the Japs bombed it?”

“Naw, he served about 3 three months there in the seventies.” Spike hid a smirk by draining his liquid lunch. He watched Xander run a respectful hand over the fender he’d sanded and painted to a shine. “Then it became easier to believe people were laughing about my shirts than about me. So I found them at thrift stores.”

“Hide in plain sight?”

“Something like that. Hey, Spike, give me a ride to town?”

Spike shrugged. “I’ve got no plans. You got a goal in mind?”

“Jen’s shop. Dawn’s present is ready.”

“Let me go in, clean up, and we’ll be on our way,” Spike said as he rinsed out the mug in the stained sink.

Once in the car, Spike flipped on the satellite radio. “Want to pick the tunes?”

“Almost anything but punk, okay?”

“Oi! What’s the matter with punk?”

“Everything!” Xander crowed.

“Bloody fine, then. I’ll pick another favorite.”

“Gods. It isn’t German heavy metal is it?”

“Maybe. Open your mind,” Spike teased.

Xander braced for impact, but what came out of the finely tuned speakers was horns and a smooth voice. Xander frowned at Spike who was cheerfully tapping on the steering wheel, then read the scrolling title on the electronic read out. “Minnie the Moocher, Cab Calloway?”

“Big band! They knew how to party in those days. Big, unairconditioned rooms filled with drunken, sweaty people dancing like they meant it. The music was live, talented musicians every night. The south invented the blues, that was the place to be back then.”

Xander shook his head in wonder at yet another unsuspected facet of Spike’s personality.





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