The Road to Sex, Lies, and Duct Tape
Before they knew it, the weekend was over. Xander's alarm went off, the local country station twanging Hank Williams, Jr. at full blast. Spike's hand shot out from under the sheets as he instantly reacted to the unbearable noise by crushing the alarm clock without even pulling his head out from under the covers.
"Geez, Spike," Xander said, yawning. "I knew you hated country, but, damn. There's another trip to Wal-Mart…and you are going in with me."
Fuck, another trip to Wal-Mart. At this rate, he'd get time off Hell for good behavior. He whined, "It's too bloody early! What time did you set the feckin' thing for?"
"Six-fifteen. And do you want some cheese with that whine, Spike?"
"What? All self-respecting demons are in bed at this hour. Hell, most sodding humans are in bed at this hour!"
"Well, I gotta pick up Dawn for school, drop her off, and be at the site by a quarter to eight, Spike. This is actually later than I used to have to get up. I used to go to work before the sun was even up. Remember that old commercial? Time to make the doughnuts? I think Giles wiped a tear from his eye when I couldn't get those free jellies for him anymore after I got fired from that job. Just go back to bed, and I'll be home again before you know it." He pulled Spike back down and snuggled for a sec, gave a quick kiss to his neck, and got up to shower.
"What? No 'good morning' snog?" Spike asked as he snuggled into the warm spot that Xander had vacated.
"Let's wait till after I brush my teeth, okay? Xander morning-breath is so not sexy."
Spike smiled and responded, "What's my chance of getting a little more than a snog?" He waggled his eyebrows.
"Slim to none. Sorry, Spike. I've got a new crew to break in this morning. Including those two jerks we talked about."
Spike blew him a kiss, leered, and waved him into the bathroom before he rolled over and pressed his face into Xander's pillow to inhale his scent. A shower, one not-so-quick kiss - with tongue, one hastily packed lunch, and Xander was out the door.
Xander thought about things while he drove to work. He was worried about Buffy. She seemed off. Well, more off than usual. She had been bouncing back, but now it was all quiet on the Buffster front. He chalked it up to Giles leaving. The big send-off was tonight. It was odd how fast life could change. He smiled when he thought of the changes in his life, and then lost the smile when he thought about his new crew. Most of the guys were great and he'd worked with them before. It was Lloyd and Darryl he was worried about. He pulled his car into the lot, got out, and headed to the trailer where the office was located.
He kept thinking while he got his paperwork and work orders for the day. Lloyd was the company bigot. He had originally been hired by his brother-in-law who was the Site Manager, so he thought he could get away with anything. He made a point of telling offensive jokes directly in front of the ones who would find them the most upsetting. Darryl was his toady. He was tall and skinny, and wore a mullet hairstyle. He was always agreeing with Lloyd and laughing at his tasteless jokes and was dumber than a box of rocks, to boot.
Other crew members seemed to have 'accidents' around Darryl, but no one had ever stepped forward to accuse him. They were too afraid of Lloyd. Besides being an asshole of gargantuan proportions, the man was just plain big. Not really muscular, but built like a barrel. It was mostly fat, but he was still big enough to intimidate a lot of the others, and he had fists the size of hams.
Xander put on his bright yellow hardhat and walked over to his crew. It looked like Lloyd was in top form this morning. "Hey, Darryl. Whatcha call a black test-tube baby?"
"I dunno, Lloyd. What do you call a black test-tube baby?" Darryl asked back, making a point to look at Kenny while he did so. Kenny was a really sweet guy. He was an African-American and his wife was pregnant. Finally. They'd been trying for quite awhile and Kenny was ecstatic about the baby.
"Janitor in a drum!" Lloyd and Darryl snickered loudly and Darryl clapped his friend on the back.
Kenny just ignored them, but Xander could tell he was angry. He sighed and spoke up, "Lloyd, come on, man. That's enough. Let's all get to work, okay? We have to get the fourth floor offices framed out today and the sheetrock up."
The crew got up and walked towards their work site for the day. Xander slapped his hand on Kenny's back as he walked by. "How's Ginny doing? Getting big?"
Kenny smiled at him and said, "Yeah, Xan. Big as a house, but don't tell her I said that!"
Xander smiled back and Kenny walked on, but up ahead he could hear Lloyd winding up again. This time the joke was aimed at Jesus, a Mexican teen who was trying to save up enough to go to college. Poor kid wouldn't ever stick up for himself. He was just naturally quiet and shy.
"What's another name for a Mexican baptism?"
"I dunno, Lloyd."
Xander gritted his teeth and picked up the plans. It was going to be a long day.
When Xander walked through the door that afternoon, Spike got to see a side of the boy that the others didn't. The boy wasn't just tired and dirty. He seemed like he was less than himself, if that made any sense at all. That simply wouldn't do. Wouldn't do at all.
Xander's eyes lit up as soon as he saw Spike. His lips curved into a tired smile. "Hey, Spike. How was your day?"
Spike replied by pinning Xander against the front door with a thud and kissing him thoroughly. He pulled away after a moment and said, "Missed you."
Before Xander could speak, he dove back in again, and began to walk backwards, drawing Xander with him toward the bathroom. He managed to strip them both with minimal loss of lip-contact, while turning on the water to get it warmed up. Spike was absolutely brilliant at multi-tasking. He pulled Xander into the tub and directed his back under the hot spray.
They took turns soaping each other and washing each other's hair. Xander loved seeing Spike's hair wet and gel-free. He loved seeing the tousled curls. Xander rested his forehead against Spike's and ran his hand through the loose curls as Spike ran his hands up and down his boy's back.
"Bad day at the site, pet? You're so tense."
"Yeah. Those assholes, Lloyd and Darryl. Remember, I mentioned them?"
"Well, I think they were going for a personal record or something. They managed to piss off almost everyone on the crew today. All day long I was trying to get them to shut up, and trying to make the others feel better. I talked to Pete - he's the Site Manager and Lloyd's brother-in-law. Apparently, his sister, Lloyd's wife, has started divorce proceedings. So, he said that if it happens again I should give Lloyd and Darryl a formal reprimand. After they've got three, I can fire them. They've already got a bunch of documented formal warnings. It's just, Pete didn't want to fire him and have Lloyd take it out on his sister, ya know?"
"I take it they don't know about your lifestyle change, eh?"
"Oh, hell, no!" At Spike's off look, he continued, "It's not about us. I'm happy about us. Geez, I'm ecstatic about us. It's just…well…most of the guys at the site are okay. But, this is construction, Spike. There aren't a lot of sophisticated guys at work. I mean, I used a napkin once instead of my sleeve, and one of the guys called me a pansy. It's not really even those guys. I get along pretty well with most of them; I think they might give me shit if I came out, maybe treat me a little differently, but nothing much. But, it's Lloyd and Darryl. They could make things really bad for me at work. It's not just the comments. People tend to get hurt around them. Not really badly." He hastened to add at Spike's alarmed look. "There's never any witnesses, though, and no one wants to come forward. Lloyd's just really good at intimidating people, and Darryl's just…off."
Spike sighed. "Alright, Sweet. Just be careful, yeah?"
"I'm always careful!"
Spike merely cocked an eyebrow. It spoke volumes.
"Yeah, well. I guess you've got a point. I'll be extra-special careful, okay?"
"Alright, pet. Now, let's see what I can do about that tension," Spike said, dropping to his knees. His boy's dick was already at half-mast, twitching slightly as he stared at it. He took the warm length into his mouth and laved it with his tongue.
Spike smiled around the erection. He loved making his boy cry out. He wrapped his hands around his own cock and began to pump.
Xander's hands scrabbled along the tiles, searching for a purchase. His right hand settled in Spike's hair while his left found the shower curtain and balled it in his fist. He looked down into his lover's eyes, seeing them sparkle with mischief and watched his penis slide in and out from between those soft pink lips. His breath caught.
The blond kept his eyes locked on his boy's face, drinking up every expression, every response. He pulled back and sucked at the bulbous head, probing the slit with his tongue. He began to hum.
"Unh. Gah…Spi…plea…baby!" Xander shouted out incoherently as he came, yanking the shower curtain balled in his fist.
Spike came quickly after, stood up, and they held each other trembling, the spray from the shower going everywhere. After they recovered, Spike said, "Well, luv. It looks like you slaughtered another shower curtain. Good thing we bought another."
They dried off themselves and the bathroom floor, and then got dressed to go to the party. Xander decided to drive rather than walk. He was rather tired and wanted to get home early tonight. They walked out to the car.
"Spike, why don't you drive?"
Although Spike had a key, he didn't really expect Xander to relinquish the driver's seat. Spike felt conflicted. Both glad that Xander trusted him, and worried that Xander was so tired and preoccupied about work. But, some of that may be due to the Watcher and the ex-demon chit flying to Blighty.
"Sure, Xan." Spike made sure that Xander buckled up before pulling away from the curb. They drove in silence, both uncharacteristically broody, and Xander reached over and took Spike's right hand and held it.
When they walked back through the apartment door a couple hours later, the mood had not lifted. The farewell party had been tense. Buffy had practically vibrated with it. Everyone could tell that she was terrified at the prospect of Giles leaving. Giles seemed torn, but resolved to do what he felt was best for everyone.
Xander was glad to see Giles and Anya so happy. They practically glowed. He thought that it had happened too fast, but who was he to point fingers? Plus, she was over eleven-hundred years old and he was middle-aged. No time to waste.
Giles had insisted that they say their goodbyes at the shop. He hadn’t wanted a scene at the airport. The man was so uptight. Well, if anyone could loosen him up, it was Anya. While he knew that they weren’t going to be gone forever, it felt like the end of an era. Everything was changing.
Spike could tell that his boy was still brooding. Couldn’t blame him there. Bloody Watcher had crap timing. The Slayer was obviously holdin’ on by a soddin’ thread, Nibblet was feeling lost, Red was strung-out. Fucking tragic timing. All to give Buffy bleeding ‘room to grow’. Bollocks. Fuck ‘room to grow’. The chit needed help, not distance. And he knew who was gonna take up the bloody slack. Xander. Xander always took care of the girls. To the point where he neglected himself. Well, t’wasn’t gonna happen. His boy was not gonna stretch himself to the breaking point. Spike was going to be there every bloody step of the bloody way, whether his boy liked it or not. Time to stop the feckin’ brooding. Had enough of that with Captain Hairgel, ta very much.
He sat on the couch and pulled Xander onto his lap.
“What’s a hot bloke like you doin’ in a place like this?”
Xander smiled, and then laughed. Spike could always make him smile. “I’m sorry, Spike. That whole party was just…bad. Lot’s of badness all around. Except for Giles and Anya being together. I’m really happy for them, but, god…the girls! Can’t he see? Does he need a new set of glasses, or what? I can understand Anya; she always was kinda oblivious to that kind of stuff, or at least pretended to be. But, G-man is supposed to see it!”
Spike thought back to the party. Rupert saw it. He just thought he was doin’ the right thing. It was completely the worst fucking thing he could be doing, actually. That’s what he couldn’t see. Tosser. The bookman had given him threatening looks at him all night. Finally, Spike had drawn him to the side and said, “Come on. Out with it.”
“I don’t trust you, Spike,” Giles had said his name with obvious disgust. He’d removed his glasses and begun to polish them.
Spike had given him the ‘no, duh’ eye roll.
“You’ve nothing to recommend you. You’re a mass-murdering miscreant whom I should have never allowed to touch these children’s lives. If I had my way, I’d kill you now. But that would hurt Xander.” He’d leveled his gaze on Spike, unblinking and hard. “Be careful that I do not have reason to regret my mercy, Spike. I was not always as you see me now, and believe me when I say I can make you suffer unbelievable torment if I put my mind to it.” He had then put his glasses on and had walked away without giving Spike a chance to reply.
He couldn’t say the pillock was completely wrong, mind you. But Spike’s motives had changed. Before, the Scoobies were the means to an end. Food. Shelter. The occasional spot of blood-letting and violence. Then he fell, or thought he had, for the Slayer. Then really fell for his boy, for his Xander. He loved Xander completely. When Spike fell, he fell hard and fast and totally. He did care for the Nibblet, even for the Slayer. But when it came right down to it, he didn’t give a tinker’s damn for the rest of them. But Xander cared.
So he made himself care.
What mattered to Xander mattered to him, because Xander was all that mattered.
“Hey, come back to me,” Xander said, drawing him back to the present.
“Right here, luv.”
“Ya know, I think the highlight of the evening was when Anya hugged the cash register goodbye. Giles looked kinda surprised.”
“Hell, luv. I’m surprised she didn’t snog the thing and slip it the tongue!”
Xander laughed and squeezed Spike in a hug. “Thanks, Spike. I had a really bad day and just being with you made it so much better. Love you so much.” Xander leaned in and swirled his tongue into Spike’s left ear before drawing the soft lobe into his mouth and sucking.
“Ooo-oh!” Spike bucked up and tightened his hold around his boy. He’d never had anybody do that to his earlobe, and damn, but he liked it.
The time for talking was over. Spike swept his boy up into his arms and carried him into their bedroom.
Spike and Xander walked behind Buffy and Willow as they patrolled through Restfield. Xander had insisted on going along with the girls rather than doing a little patrol by themselves, since this was the first official patrol after Giles and Anya had left. Spike took a drag off his cigarette and looked over at his boy. Xander was nervously chewing on his lip and watching the chits.
Buffy was quiet. Too quiet. Red was glum and kvetching about her ex-bird and waving her hands about in odd, little gestures.
“Why wouldn’t Tara talk to me tonight? I mean, I know I’ve been all off-focus with the hocus pocus, but I-I’ve been getting better! Haven’t I? I come to the Magic Box everyday and never do any spells. I’m really trying here! I just wanted to talk to her…”
“Yeah, it’s not like you dropped a house on her sister, or anything, Red.”
“Spike! So not helping.” Xander glared at the blond and tried to placate his friend. “Will, she just needs some time. She wants you to get better. Plus, she and the Dawnnilator were goin’ to go see that chick flick, and they were running late, and...”
“I know,” she said, dejectedly. “I’m just being a worry-wart. But, I saw her at school yesterday talking to another girl. She was really, really pretty. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m not pretty enough…”
“Bollocks. You’re just fine. Bit on the scrawny side, but you’re a right nice bit of fluff. That’s not it. She needs time to be able to trust you again. She’ll come around, luv.”
Willow turned and looked at Spike, blinking at the backhanded compliment. “Um, thanks, uh, Spike.”
She turned around again and Xander took the opportunity to kiss the side of Spike’s face. “Thanks, baby,” he whispered.
Spike winked at Xander, inordinately pleased at the little show of affection from his pet. He raised his voice and yelled, “Slayer! What the bloody hell are we doin’ here? The joint is definitely not jumpin’. Why don’t we go over to Our Lady of Eternal Peace?”
“Hey, isn’t that the one with that awful slogan? ‘Lots of plots for your moms or your pops’?” Xander contributed.
Buffy just kept walking. She didn’t stop till Willow put a hand on her arm.
“What?” She looked up at them in mild surprise.
“Our Lady of Eternal Peace?” Willow prompted.
But then, Restfield became much less restful. A group of fledges came through the trees, bragging to one another about tonight’s exploits.
“’Bout bloody time!”
Spike rushed forward and took on two of the vamps. Buffy took the three, while the other two backed off and waited for an opening. Seeing that Buffy and Spike could handle them easily, Xander and Willow stepped back and nonchalantly leaned against a mausoleum. He took a candy bar out of his pocket and tore open the shiny wrapper. “Twix?” he asked, offering one to Willow.
They watched the fracas with minor interest…same old, same old. Amid the sounds of flesh hitting flesh, bones breaking, and the occasional ‘take that, you tosser’. They struck up a conversation.
“So, Wills? What’s happening with Buffy? She seemed like she was coming out of it okay a few weeks ago. Seemed like her old self. Now she’s all quiet and broodilicious. Nary a pun to be found. What’s up with that?”
She polished off the Twix and pulled a small bag of Fritos out of her satchel. “Chips?”
Xander opened the bag, scooped out a few, and began to munch.
Willow replied, “She was kinda getting all repress-y right before Giles left. But now, she’s all ignore-y. It’s like living with a pod person. Ya know? Where’s the Buff? I’ve tried talking to her. Even rented ‘Steel Magnolias’…”
“Oh, you brought out the big guns.”
She nodded in agreement. “And I got a big ol’ goose egg. I thought for sure that would make her show some emotion. I mean, come on. Who doesn’t cry when Sally Field loses it in the cemetery?”
Xander winced when Spike ripped out one of the vamp’s throats and the arterial spray shot out all over his shirt. “Oh, eww. That’s gonna take more than a stain stick.” How did that happen without circulation? Then again, how did a lot of things happen without circulation? Oh, forget it. He turned his attention back to his friend. “How’s Dawnster handling it?”
Willow snorted. “How do you think she’s handling it? Lots o’ door slammin’. I’m trying to help her with homework and stuff, but I know it’s not enough. She’s hurting, Xander. A lot. Did you know that Spike has been helping her with English Literature and History?”
Xander smiled, “Yeah. He’s been bitching about it. ‘What the bloody hell are they teaching nowadays? It’s shameful, I tell you, shameful! In my day, the average guttersnipe had a better education.’” he said, imitating Spike rather badly around the chips in his mouth.
She tsked. “You never could do accents.”
“Yeah, well. I think he actually likes tutoring her. ‘Cept the day she told him what she’d learned in health class. She actually shocked William the Bloody. I mean, he was all “the Nibblet said analingus. I can’t believe the Nibblet said analingus” over and over again.”
Willow chuckled, “Yeah. I was there. I think the chip was the only thing keeping him from dragging her into the bathroom and washing out her mouth with soap. Then for some reason he went off on Janice being a bad influence…”
“Oh yeah. He thinks Janice is a “trollop-in-training” and is going to corrupt his “sweet Bit”. She’s been on his shit list since Halloween. Off-topic, but what are we gonna do about Thanksgiving?”
“I dunno,” she said, shrugging her shoulders and taking another chip from the almost empty bag. “The traditional Scooby celebration?”
“Death, mayhem, syphilis, and pie? Gee, sounds like the kind of fun that isn’t.”
“I meant that we should all get together and celebrate the holiday. I could do with a ‘ritual sacrifice with pie’.”
“But what about the Indians and their oppression?”
“Vengeful Chumash be damned. I want sweet potatoes. Plus, apparently I need to fatten up; I have it on good authority that I’m on the scrawny side. This’ll be just the opportunity. Dawnie needs a little normalcy. Well, as normal as we can get. We’ll go to the grocery store on Tuesday. I’ll get Dawnie to help with the cooking and I’ll make the pies. You can come over and help, and Spike can come over and yell at the television.”
“Ah, yes. The ‘American football is played by a bunch of soddin’ pansies’ tirade.”
“Yup. That’s the one.”
“Spike!” Xander yelled out as he wiped chip residue off on his jeans. “Are you about done? I wanna go home and watch Deep Space Nine!”
The blond vamp tossed aside the arm he was beating the fledge with before staking him. “Yeah, Xan.” He sauntered towards them. “What’re you ‘n Red discussing?” he asked while taking out another cigarette.
“A hopefully venereal disease-free Thanksgiving.” He looked Spike up and down. “Hey, Spike. What’s black and white and red all over?”
He took a drag before answering, “A nun with a spear through her head.”
“I suppose you know that from personal experience?”
“Nah. Never a spear handy when you need one. Now a machete, however…”
“Spike?” Willow interjected. “If I make you those cookies you like, do you promise not to finish that sentence…um, ever?”
“Only if you promise to eat some too, Red.” At Xander’s off look, he added, “What? Chit needs some more junk in her trunk.”
Xander groaned. “You are way, way too white to say ‘junk in her trunk’. And why are you checking out Willow’s tushie anyway?”
Spike raised his eyebrows. “Tushie? What are you, five? An’ I’m dead, not blind.” He sidled up to Xander. “’Sides, I’ve recently learned the charms of havin’ something to hold on to when we’re…”
“Ooo-kay. On that little sojourn into the land of TMI, we’re going home.”
Willow had to smile until she turned and saw Buffy. She placed a hand on Xander’s arm to draw his attention.
Xander turned at her touch and looked at Buffy. She was kneeling on the ground, picking up handfuls of dust and letting it sift between her fingers. She was muttering something, repeating it over and over. He stepped forward to listen, but she was saying it so lowly, so under her breath, that he had to move even closer to hear her. When he did, he was shocked.
“Remember man, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” She began to rock slightly, back and forth. “Remember man, you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Remember man, you are dus-“
Xander became alarmed; he stepped forward again, leaned over and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Buff? Are you okay?”
Willow and Spike stepped up behind him.
She turned her head up and around slightly to look at him, her eyes wide and empty for a few moments, before she seemed to come back to herself. She shook the hand off her shoulder.
“I’m fine. Fine.” She tossed away the handful of dust and got up. She looked at their faces in turn. “What do you want from me? I-I can’t…just go. Go home. I’ll be fine. I’m just tired, that’s all.” She pivoted around and walked away without waiting for a reply.
Xander started to go after her, but Willow stopped him. “I’ll go, Xan. It’s getting late.”
He ran a hand through his dark hair in a frustrated gesture. “This has got to stop, Wills. She needs help. We’ve got to help her.”
“And we will, Xander,” Spike said as he moved forward and put his hand around his boy’s waist.
“After the holiday, okay?” Willow asked. “For Dawnie.”
Xander nodded. “For Dawn. Let’s go home, Spike,” he said on a sigh.
They turned and began to walk home.
“So, Xan. What’s black and white and red all over and goes around and around?”
Xander just chuckled and shook his head.
“Nun with a spear through her head stuck in a revolving door.”
Xander snorted out a little laugh and gave Spike a squeeze. His mind was still on Buffy. And Spike. Buffy – Spike – Buffy – Spike – Buffy – Spike. His mind kept going back and forth between the two of them like his brain was having its own private tennis match. But Spike was definitely the stronger player. That debt. That debt always lay in the back of his mind, ever-present. He picked away at it like a scab. Everyday, pick, pick, pick. But he didn’t want to bring it up, didn’t want Spike to think he didn’t trust him. He suddenly felt so tired.
Time seemed to pass by in a blur, or so Spike thought. He stretched in bed, thinking about the past few weeks while waiting for Xander to come home. He could never remember being so content, not with Drusilla, and definitely not when he was human. Xander was happy, too, except for work and the girls. Happiest when they were alone together and let the rest of the world slip away.
Thanksgiving came and went. The day had passed by pleasantly enough, he supposed. Spike had spent the day with his boy at the birds’ place. Willow had cooked and baked herself into a ruddy stupor; a redheaded whirlwind in the kitchen, that one. Spike had yelled at the television and played cards with Dawn. The Slayer had made an effort, but her smiles had been forced – they never did reach her eyes. ‘N they reminded him...her eyes reminded him of Dru’s dolls’ eyes. There was just nothin’ there. Xander and Red kept mollycoddling her. Bugger that. Girl needed a right swift kick in the bum, she did. Buffy just kept getting more and more distant, and the more distant she became, the closer the Bit had clung to him and the others.
Buffy was changing. Acting even more oddly. She was distancing herself from everyone. Oh, she was still physically there, it was just like she was putting up bloody walls around herself. Dawn wasn’t dealing with that too well. It was almost like when Buffy was dead ‘n they just had the ‘bot. He could remember the first few weeks. He’d been in bad shape himself…but the Nibblet. It was the worst for her. He’d remember going up to her room while she cried in her sleep at night. Stroked her silky hair and told her softly that everything was going to be alright. Even crooning old English lullabies that his Mum had sung to him. It was odd, that.
That such a slip of a girl, no more than appetizer really, could come to mean so much to him in a non-sustenance way. Something in her drew him. Made him want to protect her. Wasn’t his feelings for Buffy, or even Xander. Just the little girl. And she was in a bad way. Not gettin’ enough attention. Grades slipping, being secretive, hangin’ out with - that troublemaker in hot pants - Janice.
And there was that weird incident in Restfield a few days ago, rocking and sifting through vamp dust. Right disturbin’. Then, Red had found chunks of Buffy’s hair in the trash. Apparently, the Slayer had hacked at her long, blonde hair in a fit of pique before getting it fixed at the bloody beauty shop.
Buffy becoming invisible didn’t help, either. Although, it seemed the invisibility had lightened the load for a bit. Gave the chit a bit of a respite for awhile. Luckily, Red had worked through it and solved the problem, sans conjuring, in plenty of time before the holiday. She was still struggling, too. Spike had to admit that he was starting to like her more, what with the cookies n’ all. Brownies were all well and good, and his boy definitely liked ‘em, but give him an oatmeal scotchie and he was a happy vamp.
The little redheaded girl was really trying. Even admitted it when rat-girl slapped her with a mojo stick a week back. Went right back on the wagon. He respected that. Still could use a little padding on her, though. Buffy could, too. Looked like a stiff wind could knock her over.
Ruddy house of trauma, and his boy was in the thick of it. Helping out at the Magic Box, taking Dawn to school in the morning, talking to Red, ‘n telling her how proud he was of her. Trying to talk to the Slayer, get her to open up. Spike had seen all that and remembered his promise to himself. He’d started goin’ to the shop when the sun was low enough. Checking on Dawn, tutoring her, and giving Janice the hairy eyeball whenever he saw her. Patrolled with Buffy and backed her up. Even told the ex-witch a complement or two. Sort of.
Work was getting even more stressful for his boy. Xander had written both of the troublemaking berks up twice. One more time and he could fire them. He wasn’t sure what would be worse for the boy, firing them, or continuing to work with them.
And he took care of Xander. Kept the apartment neat, although he despised cleaning and had never missed having minions more than when he vacuumed. Bathroom was a close second. So far, the only tiff he ‘n Xan had, had been about the bloody toilet seat. Xander thought that since there were only guys in the apartment, he could keep the seat up. Well, he’d nipped that preconception right in the bud. There was no way he wanted that godawful thing saluting him every soddin’ time he went in the room. Human bodily functions were repugnant enough without havin’ to be reminded of ‘em at every whipstitch.
He even tried his hand at cooking. Wasn’t terribly good at it, but the boy was used to take-out and frozen dinners, so his stuff didn’t seem half-bad, at least after the first few attempts. There were a couple cremated casseroles in there that Xander had gamely tried to consume anyway. At least a few bites. After those, he’d had to threaten to withhold sex before Xander would try the first one that actually did turn out alright. It was feckin’ amazin’ how fast the boy took a bite after that. Not like he would’ve followed through with his threat. Boy didn’t seem to realize, however.
He felt like a bloody ponce doing all these things, at first. Then, he almost started to enjoy them. The cooking, at least. Who the hell knew you could do so bloody much with a can of Campbell’s Mushroom Soup? Xander refused to buy it at first because the ruddy can said it had garlic, but Spike had pointed out that there was very little chance that he would ever eat tuna soddin’ casserole or feckin’ green bean casserole…or any other casserole for that matter, any bloody time soon. And the garlic was so damned far down on the label anyway; he’d probably just get a mild tingle if he did eat the shite. So he cooked, and cleaned, and took care of his boy.
And his boy took care of him. Bought his blood, got the good stuff whenever he could. Got the crunchy things he liked to put in it. Rented him gory movies about ax murderers and serial killers ‘n the like. Spent hours in the grocery store reading every single sodding label just to make sure he didn’t accidentally buy something with garlic in it. Bought a bleedin’ stack of shower curtains and stored them under the sink. Got a new alarm clock and switched it to a punk station instead of that feckin’ country. Sid Vicious got ya outta bed faster than Loretta-whinging-Lynn any day.
Boy left him romantic messages on the phone machine in the middle of the morning when Spike was still sleeping. He’d even found a specialty store with imports from Europe, so he’d bring home various British treats like Jaffa Cakes and Cadbury Bars, which they would share while cuddled on the couch.
The best was the day he found out Timmy from Passions had died. Not the doll. The actor - whatever his bloody name was. Spike had been really upset. He’d really liked that character. Tabitha just wouldn’t be the same without him. Xander had already heard someone talk about it at work, so he had come home prepared. He’d rented Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness. Boy called ‘em Dead, Deader, n’ Deadest. Bought Cherry Cordial ice cream (Spike thought the cherries looked like globs of blood and Xander liked the chocolate chips), 2 bags of AB positive, massage oil, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and a new bottle of black nail polish. They’d sat on the couch and watched the movies while Xander rubbed Spike’s feet and painted his nails. By the end of the evening, they were both saying things like ‘Gimme some sugar, baby’ and ‘Hail to the king’ and laughing. It had ended with Xander making agonizingly slow love to him on the couch while the TV screen switched to snow. Xander had gone to work the next day on less than three hours sleep and had never complained.
Damn, he loved his boy.
He’d gone out last night when Xander slept to get a nice spot of violence or two. He’d come home before dawn, just in time to play around a bit in the shower with his hammering honey. So he’d slept in today, and was just lying there, basking. Xan should be home soon. ‘Bout an hour, he guessed. He noticed the light was blinking on the machine. He got up and crossed the room to listen to it. He smiled in anticipation. Xander was so soppin’ romantic.
Xander’s day had started out great with a little nookie from his cookie. Hmm. He had to come up with a pet name. Although he and Spike laughed a lot at Xander’s attempts - Evil Love Twinkie being the worst of a bad lot. Unfortunately, his good mood was dropping like a lead balloon. The terrible two were at it again. It looked like today would be the day.
“Hey Darryl, why did the Jews wander around in the desert for forty years?” The jerk asked. He answered himself, “Somebody dropped a quarter.”
Darryl snorted through his nose.
“You liked that, you’ll love this one! What did one dyke frog say to the other dyke frog?”
“I dunno, Eddie. What?”
“They’re right! We do taste like chicken.”
“That. Is. It!” Xander yelled above the two’s snickers. He tossed down his hammer and threw up his hands in exasperation. “Lloyd. I’ve told you time and again about the inappropriate humor. Hell, man, I’ve written you up twice in the last couple weeks!”
“Look, Harris. It’s no biggie. Just a couple of jokes…” Lloyd tried to wave him off dismissively.
“It is a big deal. You have made a point of insulting and harassing almost everyone here, Lloyd. If you bothered to read the handbook, you’d know that these types of jokes are against company policy. I’m sorry, but this is your third strike, Lloyd. You’re fired. Get your toolbox and leave. I’ll have Mary send you your last check in the mail.”
Xander tried to look stern. It wasn’t hard; he was most definitely pissed off at them. Lloyd for saying it, and Darryl for egging him on. In the past month, Lloyd had insulted Jews, Catholics, women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, lesbians, and gays. Basically everyone who wasn’t white, male, and Lloyd or Darryl.
He watched the muscle in Lloyd’s cheek twitch in anger. Yeah, the man was totally pissed off.
“This isn’t over, Harris. Not by a long shot,” he swore as he stalked away, shoving the onlookers out of his path.
Xander looked over at Darryl to gauge his reaction. Darryl just stood there, power tool in hand.
“Get back to work, Darryl. Unless you’d like to join him.”
The entire crew, except for Darryl, began to applaud. Loud whistles and ‘Way to go, Harris!’, ‘You da man, Xan!’ erupted. Xander just smiled and waved, saying, “Yeah, yeah, get back to work guys…and lady.” He tipped his hardhat to Linda. She’d been especially targeted lately. She blew him a kiss.
He turned around and put his hand up against the sheetrock to steady it. That’s when it happened. It took him a few seconds to realize, until the sharp, red-hot pain finally registered and he saw the blood running down the white, white drywall.
Spike pressed play. He immediately heard a crackling noise. Xander must have called from his cell phone again. The site got really shitty reception. His smile stopped as he heard someone else’s voice. “Xander cracklehiss bleeding hisscrack bad sssssshhhhhhhhh hospital.
He froze. Spike felt like a truck had hit him in the gut. Xander. Bleeding badly in hospital. In the middle of the fucking day! He had to get there. Had to. Right now. He began to breathe hard, panicking. Think, dammit, think. Buffy, he’d call Buffy.
He picked up the phone, but in his panic, he had trouble remembering the number. What was the thrice-damned number! And why were the numbers so fucking blurry? He reached up and touched his face. He was crying. He scrubbed the tears from his eyes and angrily punched in the number. It rang once.
“Pick up, pick up!”
It rang again. He squeezed the phone so hard it creaked.
“God damn it! Pick. It. Up.”
Third ring. He began to pace.
“Jesus Christ, pick up the goddamned phone!”
“Magic Box, how may I help you?”
He practically sighed in relief. “Willow? Xander’s been hurt. He’s in hospital. Please, Red, I need you to come and get me. I need…” Spike’s voice sounded choked and panicked.
“Spike? Oh my god! I’ll be right there, sweetie. I’m leaving right now. He’ll be alright. I promise. Call the hospital and find out what his condition is. I’ll be there in ten minutes, okay?”
Spike took a calming breath and answered, “Okay. Thanks, Red.” He hung up and dialed information. Luckily, the operator picked up after the second ring.
“I need the number for Sunnydale General, patient information. Now.” He wrote the number down on the pad next to the phone.
He punched in the number, breathing deeply to try and calm himself down.
“Hello, Patient Information. Please hold.”
Spike growled in frustration. The musak filtered into his consciousness. ‘We’ve only just begun to liiiive…’ Christ on a crutch. Karen bleedin’ Carpenter. The scrawny chit was dead…thank all that was unholy. Why the bloody fuck anyone in their right mind would want to listen to this shite was beyond him. The tripe she sang was so bleeding sweet in could give him diabetes, and he was fucking dead!
That one word stopped his inner tirade in its tracks. Xander. Could his boy be…dead? God, no. The merest thought that Xander might be dead sent his panic spiraling to new heights. There were so many things that could go wrong at a construction site. So many. No. Xander couldn’t be dead. He was so young, just a boy. He’d just found him. No. He was fine. Had to be. Please. ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ began another chorus. He choked back a sob before the musak came to a sudden halt as the receptionist picked up the line.
“Thank you for holding, how may I help you?”
“I need information on Alexander Harris,” he said in a rush, hating the desperation in his voice as he tried to swallow down the lump of dread in his throat.
He chirpy bint answered, “No one by that name has been admitted, sir.”
“T-try the Emergency Room.”
“Oh, okay. He was brought in about an hour ago, but there is no information listed…”
Spike slammed the phone down on the perky bitch, threw his clothes on, and grabbed a blanket. He was pacing at the apartment entrance waiting for Willow to arrive. Her car skidded to a halt in front of the building and the front, passenger-side door flew open.
He slammed the door and wrapped the blanket further around his face.
“Spike, it’ll be okay. We’ll get to the hospital in just a few minutes. Promise,” Willow said while pulling away from the curb and flooring it.
He relaxed his grip slightly. He could hear Dawn and Buffy in the backseat. Dawn was crying. He heard her sniffling softly. Smelled the saline of her tears. He heard the vinyl of the seat creak as Buffy leaned forward and asked, “What happened?”
“Dunno,” he answered mechanically. Can’t lose it. Can’t lose it. Must keep it together. Gotta get to Xander. He swallowed hard and continued. “Message said Xander, bleeding, bad, hospital. Was a bad connection. Couldn’t make out anything else.” He felt Buffy’s hand squeeze his shoulder – Slayer’s grip. He shut his eyes hard against the tears. Wouldn’t do to let them see the Big Bad cry.
Willow pulled up under the overhang by the Emergency Room. She said, “Go ahead. I’ll park the car.” But Spike was already out of the car by the time she said it. Buffy and Dawn followed right after.
Spike rushed up to the nurse on duty. She was wearing a uniform with puppies and kittens on the jacket in hot pink, acid green, and orange. Her nametag said ‘Mary Lou’. When he saw the nametag he remembered Xander talking about nametag jobs being shitty, or some such rot. He supposed that wiping arses and noses, shoving tubes in various places, and sopping up all sorts of nasty shite qualified as a shitty job. At least it paid well. Truly, right now he could give a flying fuck. The bitch was on the phone laughing and chatting. It was obviously a personal call.
“Xander Harris,” Spike stated.
She gave a brief smile and kept talking, holding up a finger to indicate that Spike should cool his heels.
Buffy saw that and knew that the poop was definitely about to hit the fan. Spike cooling his heels was not in the cards. He was about to lose it and vamp out on the woman. Buffy stepped forward and placed a hand on his trembling shoulder and firmly steered him over to Dawn and the seats. She turned back to the nurse and said, “Excuse me.” The nurse held up her finger again, not even bothering to look at Buffy. Buffy’s smile became forced. “I said, excuse me,” she said harshly, bringing her own finger down on the button and disconnecting the woman’s call.
The nurse looked at her angrily and began to get huffy. “I told you it would be a moment, miss!”
The petite blond looked back and leveled an ‘I’m the Slayer and I can kick your ass from here till eternity’ look on the unfortunate healthcare worker. “Make your personal calls on your personal time. You’re on my time, and I want to know how Xander Harris is doing. Now!”
“Are you a relative?” the nurse asked nastily.
“I’m his sister.”
“I’ll be right back, ma’am,” the woman pushed a button and stepped through the doors.
“Geez! I hate hospitals.” She turned around and flopped down next to Dawnie. Dawn was holding on to Spike’s right arm tightly, resting her head against his shoulder and whispering assurances, while Willow, who had come in while the drama with the nurse was happening, held onto his other hand. She rubbed his cool hand between her two warm ones and started up a mantra o’ assurances of her own.
Spike sat and stared at the cheap Formica and fake chrome coffee table in front of him. For some reason, he was noticing the unimportant stuff. The mismatched orange, yellow, and blue vinyl chairs in the waiting room, some with disintegrating foam padding coming though rips in the seats. The beaten-up, two year old ‘Family Circle’ with the address label peeling up at the corners. The black scuff marks on the green, flecked linoleum. The strong scent of disinfectant that seemed to permeate everything. The underlying scents of blood, and pain, and illness. The drone of the television. The mechanical sound of the automatic doors opening and closing. He barely registered the feeling of Red and Nibblet holding onto him or the words they said.
He couldn’t think. To think was to hope. Hope led to fear. Fear led to panic. So he kept himself numb. So numb, in fact, that he didn’t even notice the tears as they slid down his cheeks. But Buffy did.
Buffy was surprised. She knew that Spike ‘loved’ Xander, but hadn’t really realized. Spike was seriously freaked. Like, majorly freaked. He never freaked. It was…freaky.
Buffy was relatively calm. She knew, rationally, that she should be more upset, but life just seemed kinda surreal lately. Like a dream. Distant. She wanted to feel the emotions, but she just couldn’t bring them out. She stopped in her musings and looked up at the people across the waiting room. They were all wearing dusty clothing. Hey, wasn’t that Manny? The fella who did the damned, full, copper re-pipe that she was still paying for?
“Um, yeah. You’re, um, sorry…”
“Buffy. Did you come here with Xander?”
Spike raised his head and looked at the dusty men.
“Xander? You came with Xander?” Spike all but cried out as he came out of his trance. Jesus, please say he’s alright.
Manny looked at the distraught blond man, with an expression of confusion on his face. “Yeah. He couldn’t drive himself. How come you guys are so upset?”
Spike leaned forward in his seat and squeezed the girls’ hands hard enough that they winced. Which, of course, caused him to wince. He loosened his grip. “What the bloody hell do you mean ‘why are we upset’? What the fuck happened?” His voice got progressively louder as he continued, “All I got was a damned awful, half-arsed message on our machine. Couldn’t hear but every other word!”
“Oh. Sorry. With all that happened, I forgot that cell phones don’t come through real clear at the site. What did you hear?”
Spike was struggling not to vamp out and kill the man, despite the feckin’ chip. It was justified; the blighter was irritating the fuck out of him.
Willow looked at Spike’s clenched jaw out of the corner of her eye, spoke up and said, “All he heard was Xander, bleeding, bad, hospital.” She stroked Spike’s shoulder with the hand that wasn’t being squeezed.
Manny’s facial expression became contrite. “Crap. I’m really sorry, guys. What I really said was that Xander was hurt and was bleeding, but it wasn’t too bad and we were taking him to the hospital. He’s gonna be okay. Really.”
Spike practically collapsed in relief against the back of the chair and stopped squeezing the girls’ hands, but still held on. They seemed relieved, too.
“I’m really sorry, man. Has Xan mentioned Lloyd and Darryl?” Manny obviously felt bad.
Spike nodded, leaning forward in the chair again. “Yeah, the pillocks givin’ him a rough time of it at work.” He wanted to know how bad it really was. Then he wanted a bloody cigarette. Then he wanted to take his boy home and never let him out of his sight ever, ever again.
“Well, Xander fired that prick Lloyd, pardon my French ladies, and then Darryl decided to shoot Xander with a nail gun.”
“What?” Spike leapt to his feet, pulling Willow and Dawn up in a sudden, stumbling jerk with him. They grabbed onto his arms with their free hands to keep from being thrown forward. His boy was shot?
“Yeah. Asshole came up behind him and managed to nail his hand to the wall and shoot him in the shoulder before we stopped him. Kenny and Linda here got it away from him and sat on him till the cops got there.” He indicated the African-American man and the brunette woman next to him.
The brunette, Linda, spoke, “Xander is a really nice guy, great boss. I-I’m sorry we had to meet under these circumstances. He always talks about you.”
“Yeah. Harris is a great guy. You’re Spike, right? His best friend?” Kenny asked.
Willow’s eyes widened in shock at that. Even Buffy looked mildly surprised. Hell, Spike was even surprised. He knew that Xander hadn’t told anyone at work they were lovers, but he assumed that he didn’t talk about him at all.
“I…” The vamp stopped and turned. He had smelled Xander and Xander’s blood, as soon as his boy came through the doors. Spike couldn’t help himself. He released the girl’s hands and launched himself at Xander.
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