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Spike/Xander, Pg-13 rating. Spoilers: Buffy - Season Six. Summary: It's off to South America for the Naming Day.

Sequel to Old Friends

 


WINNER - Best Action/Adventure. 2002


WINNER - Best G-PG13 rated Fiction 2003/04.




Not So Innocents Abroad


by
Cimmer



Part One

"Spike, duck!" Xander yelled.

The vampire responded by ducking and spinning around with a sweeping kick that knocked the demon they were fighting off his feet where the blonde quickly dispatched him.

Meanwhile, Xander and Tara were trying to hold their demon still enough for Giles to skewer him. Luckily Spike was able to step in and neatly impale said demon.

"I almost had him but thank you for your assistance nonetheless." Giles nodded and straightened his jacket.

"Oh yeah, right mate, you almost had him. If I hadn't a stepped in you would have stabbed the Whelp or Glinda Two." Spike smirked as he lit a cigarette.

"I'll have you know that I've been well trained in hand to hand combat and Xander and Tara were in absolutely no danger from me." Giles huffed.

Xander and Tara exchanged a dubious look at this declaration.

Willow arrived with the Buffybot in tow and slightly out of breath. "Did we get them? Oh, look, we did, eww." She wrinkled her nose at the still oozing remains. "Are they suppose to decompose that fast?"

"I vote we move way, way over there, who's with me on this?" Xander held up his hand and looked to the group for approval as he backed away.

The group quickly moved away with the Buffybot sandwiched between the witches.

"Did you get her patched Will?" Xander indicated the torn shirt on the robot.

Willow gave a nod and held up her handy glue gun. "Just call me the Martha Stewart of the Hellmouth." She grinned. "You know though guys, we should figure out a way to put her in mesh or something so that a skin tear wouldn't be so obvious. I mean I can't keep sealing her up, especially in the middle of a fight."

"Oh, oh, we could put her in biker leather and fishnets!" Xander bounced. "What! Oh yeah, like I'm the only one right?" Xander met their scandalized stares, well except for Spike who was grinning at him.

"Bit of the old Black Canary right pet?" Spike winked at him and Xander gave him the thumbs up.

The girls just shook their heads while Giles tried to look disapproving.

"We are not putting the Buffybot in fishnets and a pushup bra." Giles stated firmly.

"You know we'd have to glue her in to make sure everything stayed put in a fight." Tara ventured shyly. Willow raised her eyebrows at her sweetie.

"Not, that, well, I'm not saying we should. It's just that they never make that clear in the comic books. Its like gravity doesn't exist during those fight scenes but that's because it's male artists and they don't really know how breasts work." Tara ended her stammered explanation with a fierce blush.

"Tara, you closet comic book fan you. All right, I'm not the only one." Xander enthused.

"You told me you were looking at those for class," Willow said in mock horror.

"I was, my modern writing class." Tara stammered.

"Right and Harris and I read Playboy for the articles." Spike said patting her shoulder conspiratorially.

"Yes, well as enlightening as all this is, I don't really think I need to hear any more." Giles shook his head; discussions like these were just one of the hazards of working with the young. He sighed, he'd been seriously considering going back to England for a while but how could he leave people he'd come to think of as his family? They all tried to act so grown up but even the eldest, Spike and Anya still behaved like children at times.

He watched Spike showing Xander some silly putty he'd found or stolen somewhere. The two young men stretched it out and then Spike vamped out and slapped the pancake of silly putty to his face before quickly shifting his features back to human. Xander peered carefully at the putty and then nodded his head in awe. Spike smirked. Giles sighed to himself. "Don't ask, just don't ask."

They all arrived back at the magic shop intact. Anya counting out the till for the day while Dawn finished her homework.

Dawn looked up with a smile. "Hey guys."

Spike ruffled her hair gently as she pouted at him and attempted to smooth it back into place. "I'm not a baby."

He stopped and gave her a measuring look. "No, you're a young lady. I should start treating you like one," he said gravely and a little sadly.

"We can start small," she said hurriedly, biting her lip as she met his eyes, "You know, make it easier on you."

He smiled, "Thanks Nibblet, that's good of you."

"Hey Anya, how's the take for tonight?" Xander leaned casually against the counter.

"We did quite well, even taking into account the items that had to be marked down from that damaged shipment." Anya neatly entered the final tally in her laptop before closing out the program and powering down for the night.

She looked her former fiancée up and down, "You appear undamaged, good. Now that you are back we can leave." She gestured to the other women. "We have a great deal of studying to do for our mid-term." Anya began gathering up her backpack and purse.

Ever since they had their 'talk' and decided that they needed to take a breather in their relationship, Anya had mellowed considerably. Xander hadn't realized how much strain they had both been under with the engagement and Glory and everything else. Now that the engagement was off Anya had found an outlet for her energies in college courses. She was studying Archaeology and was even in some classes with Tara and Willow. The three women had actually managed to become friends, real friends.

Xander shuddered inwardly; it was downright scary.

"Need me to walk you ladies home?" he asked with a smile.

"Thank you but no." She pulled out her taser. "I believe we can protect ourselves. We are going to consume a great deal of sugar and caffeine and gossip while studying together."

"Yeah and I get to help," Dawn added proudly.

"Should I be afraid?" Xander waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"Yes, of course you should. We will be initiating Dawn into our secret female organization and by this time tomorrow she will possess all the knowledge needed to bring down the fall of male dominated society as you know it." Anya stared at him and Dawn smiled sweetly.

"That's a joke right?" Xander asked. Willow and Tara waved good-bye as they followed Anya and Dawn out the door.

He turned to Spike and Giles, "They were kidding right, right?" Spike patted him consolingly as he steered him outside. Giles managed to look resigned.

"No, c'mon now, that was a joke right?" Xander continued protestingly as the door shut on the retreating males.

Giles smiled to himself and then frowned deeply. On the counter was what appeared to be a formal invitation addressed in a flowing script to "William the Bloody and Mr. Alexander Harris". There was no return address. He was sure it hadn't been there when they came in.

"What the Devil?"





Part Two

"So are we on for tomorrow night?" Xander asked Spike as the two made their way to Xander's apartment. Xander had picked up a stick along the way and was parrying and thrusting at various bushes and trees in mock swordplay.

Spike was watching him carefully as the boy fooled around. He was probably the most accident-prone being on the face of the planet. Actually come to think of it: he, Xander and a pointed stick in close proximity to each other was a poor idea.

"Harris, you want to drop the stick mate?" Spike asked and then had to quickly jump back as Xander whipped around. "Bloody Hell, whelp, put it down! Someone's gonna get hurt!" Spike snapped.

"Whoops! Sorry Spike," Xander grimaced in embarrassment and carefully set the stick on Mrs. Wolinski's lawn. "Just messin' around."

"Oh sure it's all just fun and games until someone loses their entire body," the vampire grumbled.

Xander gave the blonde another sheepish look before his natural exuberance took over and he started bouncing along, trying to walk backwards and carry on a conversation at the same time.

"So, I got Dynasty Warriors 3 and the new snowboarding game; my snappy new Playstation(tm) and I will be ready and waiting for you tomorrow night. You bring the beer and soda and I'll provide the pizza. Get ready to have your ass kicked." Xander snickered condescendingly.

Spike just gave him his patented raised eyebrow look and said, "Tree."

"Wha?" Thunk! "Oww!" Xander rubbed the back of his head and gave the offending tree a dirty look.

Spike gave a genuine full out laugh and just shook his head. "Harris, you're a walking disaster."

Xander ducked his head and gave the vampire a rather shy smile. "Yeah, I know." He kicked at the ground in an 'aww shucks' manner.

Spike stared at the young man's down bent head almost fondly for a moment before shaking the feeling off. Do not get attached to the human, give them even a little encouragement and the next thing you know they're following you home, he admonished himself.

The moment was broken by the dulcet tones of "Strangers in the Night" played out on Xander's cell phone.

"Oi, I thought you were gonna change that?" Spike said in disgust.

"Hey, I have a very busy life firmly packed with responsibility. I'll get around to it." Xander huffed. "Harris here. Hey Giles, long time no see. What's up?'

"A what?" Xander's eyebrows rose slightly before Spike snatched the phone out of his hands.

"When did you notice it?" The vampire nodded while holding an irritated brunette at bay as the boy tried to snatch his phone back.

"And it's addressed to both of us? Right, we're on our way back." Spike closed the phone with a snap. Xander stared at him frostily. "What?"

"Where do I begin; the eavesdropping, the grabbing, the hijacking of my conversation with Giles?" Xander shook his finger at the unrepentant blonde. "Bad vampire, bad." Xander held out his hand, "Phone?"

"You gonna change the tune?" Spike held the phone just out of reach.

"Does it really bother you?" Xander asked with seeming sincerity.

"Yes," Spike said slapping the phone into the young man's hand.

"Then no, no I'm not." Xander smiled evilly.

Spike returned the grin with one of his own, "That's my boy," he said proudly.

They arrived back at the magic shop within a few minutes. Giles was staring distrustfully at the envelope on his counter as if waiting for it to manifest itself as something other than a piece of correspondence.

Spike walked up to the counter and picked up the envelope. As soon as he touched it there was the faint chime of bells and a slight sprinkling of silvery dust glittered through the air.

"That was pretty," Xander said as he and Giles peeked over the vampire's shoulder. Spike just rolled his eyes.

"I say, I haven't seen a faerie blessed invitation since I was child." Giles smiled reminiscently.

Spike just grunted and opened the enclosed card.

"Your presence is respectfully requested at the Naming Day celebration etc., etc., etc." Spike glanced at the young man peering over his shoulder. "Looks like this is it pet. You fancy a trip to Brazil?"

"Really, I mean I can really go? Wow, way cool." Xander was absolutely beaming.

"Just a moment," Giles interrupted, "Naming Day celebrations, Brazil, Xander and you?" The Watcher took a deep breath and removed his glasses for cleaning. "Please explain."

Spike opened his mouth but Xander jumped in, the words tumbling over one another as he tried to explain. "Well, it's the baby's Naming Day and I can't believe that Nualla and Rolf actually invited me along with Spike although she did stay at my apartment and all but then she left the next day after Rolf came and of course they would invite Spike because the baby's father has to be there but I didn't even think they would remember me although there was that entire confusion about Spike and I being mated but we got that all worked out. I can't believe they invited me." Xander sighed as he took the invitation from Spike's hands and looked down at it with gratitude and a sweet smile. "Gosh, she sure is a cute baby. What do you think they'll name her?"

He looked up to find Giles and Spike staring at him with varying degrees of disorientation. Giles took another deep breath and continued to clean his glasses as he turned to the vampire and inquired politely. "Naming Day celebrations, Brazil, Xander and you?"

"Without going into too much detail, a couple of 'old friends' of mine and their child were in town a few months ago. Harris and I did a little babysitting and as a result we've been invited to the Naming Day celebration. 'Course they live in Brazil, which is where I met them and the two o' us will need to go down there or risk insulting a very powerful demon leader and setting off a bloodbath that could bring about the end of the world as we know it." Spike shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.

Giles replaced his glasses and gave the vampire a disgusted look, "Do you expect me to believe that?"

Spike smirked, "Well, I threw in the bloodbath bit but the rest of it's god's honest truth." Spike did his best to look sincere.

Giles watched Xander turning the invitation over in his hands and carefully tracing his name written in gilt on the envelope. He was still smiling so sweetly like he'd won first prize or been kissed by the prettiest girl in school. Giles gave the boy a fond slightly sad smile then looked over at Spike who was still attempting to look sincere.

"I want an itinerary laid out to the hour." Giles admonished the two young men. They both nodded solemnly. "I mean it. I want phone numbers where possible and responsible contacts in case of emergency. I want to know where you'll be and whom you'll be with. I want a timetable that British Rail would be proud of and I want it kept to; no gallivanting about."

The two continued to nod seriously. Giles fixed the vampire with a stern look, "You will look after Xander and make sure he comes to no harm."

"And you," he addressed Xander, "will pay attention to what Spike tells you. He's an adult and used to travelling abroad." Giles closed his eyes briefly as the magnitude of what he'd just said sunk in. "I must be mad," he muttered to himself.

Xander nodded his head so quickly the Watcher feared it might detach itself from his body. " I promise Giles. You don't have to worry."

"Right, Rupert, not to worry mate. I'll make sure the lad stays out of trouble. This is just a nice, quiet little civilized affair. Piece of cake." Spike nodded confidently.

"Who are you calling 'lad', blondie?" Xander groused. "I can keep myself out of trouble."

"You have to do what I say, the Watcher just said so." Spike smiled arrogantly.

Xander narrowed his eyes mutinously but then caught Giles' stare on him. He smiled through gritted teeth.

"Shall we meet back here tomorrow? That should be enough time for you to make travel arrangements." Giles addressed Spike.

The vampire nodded, "About sunset then?" He turned to Xander, "Vacation days pet?"

"I'll arrange everything with work," Xander said haughtily, still annoyed at Spike for his previous comments.

Spike just smiled to himself and gave the Watcher a wink before scooping up the invitation and throwing an arm across the whelp's shoulder. "C'mon your highness, growing boys need their rest."

Xander punched him in the ribs and Spike pretended to double over in pain coaxing an unwilling laugh from the brunette.

"Jerk."

"Laddy."

"Idiot."

"Takes one to know one."

"I'm rubber and you're glue....."

"What have I done?" Giles rubbed the bridge of his nose. He suddenly froze as part of Xander's previous babbling finally worked its way into his brain. "Good Lord, did he say Spike was the baby's father?"





Part Three

Nualla looked up from folding diapers upon hearing the faint tinkle of chimes. Oh how nice, William and Xander had picked up their invitation. She did hope that both of them would be able to come. Despite their protestations to the contrary she thought that the two would make a wonderful couple. She'd said as much to Rolf on their way home. He'd given her a stern look and warned her about mixing in the affairs of vampires. She'd listened seriously then given him a sunny smile and patted his arm. He'd sighed deeply then tactfully changed the subject. Goodness he was getting good at that.

She smiled fondly at her husband as he explained to an apparently interested baby, the complex workings of the new car seat he'd bought her. Nualla remembered the conversation when it had arrived yesterday.


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


"Look Nualla, it's here!" Rolf beamed proudly as he quickly opened a large wooden box and extracted a very solid looking adjustable car seat. "Isn't it beautiful?"

Nualla bounced the baby on her hip, as she looked the contraption over warily. "It's a car seat," she stated somewhat bemusedly.

"The finest most solid car seat the humans make. I checked, this is the best one on the market today." He shook it for emphasis, causing the straps to rattle a bit. The baby giggled appreciatively.

"Look, she likes it." Rolf grinned at his daughter.

"But, Rolf, sweetheart, we don't have a car. We don't even know anyone with a car." Nualla interjected hesitantly. He was so proud of himself. She didn't want to hurt his feelings. Ever since they'd returned from visiting William, he'd become more confident of her feelings for him. He'd grown closer and closer to her and the baby. From being fearful of hurting the baby or not doing the 'right' thing he'd become the most attentive father any woman could want.

"Well, no, I know that, but well we might get into a car someday before she's old enough and well, I realized we didn't have a car seat," he began to look crestfallen.

She came over and perched on his knee. "That's right, human children need to be in car seats past the toddler stage don't they?" She gave him a big kiss. "What good thinking. I hadn't even remembered that." Of course she had remembered that she was a several hundred-year-old sprite with more than enough magic to keep her child from being hurt in a car accident but that wasn't important right now.

He gave her a sweet smile. "You think I'm being silly and over-protective?" he asked.

"I think someone's being a wonderful father." She turned to the baby, "What do you think? Is Daddy being silly, is he?" She tickled the baby under the chin and the little one burbled joyously. Rolf laughed and hugged his family.


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


She folded the last diaper. "William and Xander picked up their invitation."

Rolf looked up and grimaced, "That's nice."

She merely smiled indulgently and picked up her market basket. "I'll be back in a bit. Don't forget, she needs her nap soon." She gave him a stern look.

He nodded absently as he and the baby studied the diagram of how to adjust the car seat for growing babies.

Nualla just rolled her eyes and headed to the market; so much to do before the celebration; she certainly hoped Xander came along with Will, it would make her work that much easier. Trying to help relationships along long-distance was very difficult.


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


It was just past sunset when Xander and Anya arrived at the Magic Shop. He'd managed to get a whole two weeks off because their next job wasn't going to start on time. His boss was happy for him to take some vacation time now rather than later. Spike had explained that it would take close to three days to get to Nualla's village. They were going to fly out of Sunnydale Airport via a connection of Spike's and into Mexico where they would refuel and then into Brazil. They would then take a boat to the village.

Armed with that knowledge, Xander had spent the day reading up on South America and Brazil. He'd then called Anya, who'd stopped by and given him the benefit of her not inconsiderable knowledge of what to expect and who to expect.

She knew of Nualla by reputation although she hadn't known she was married. Nor had she known that Spike was one of her husbands. That piece of knowledge had elicited a raised eyebrow from the ex-vengeance demon. Xander felt slightly guilty about telling her, but then figured he needed to know what to expect.

He packed his duffel bag while they chatted then sat back and watched her re-pack his duffel bag. She'd had him try on his best white shirt and dress pants and then declared the shirt too tight, so it was off to the store for a new one, a respectable tie and a pair of comfortable walking sandals. He was admonished to be careful of bugs, snakes and various other creatures, some of which did not show up in his guidebooks. Luckily, Giles had always insisted that the Scoobies be up on every shot know to man, what with all the various saliva, slime and blood they encountered in their nightly patrols.

Because they were flying 'Air Spike', a passport wasn't strictly necessary but Xander had one anyway. He'd applied for it when he and Anya had been an item. He'd hoped to take her to Mexico for their honeymoon.

She caught him staring at it rather sadly and after a moment of silence, took it from his hands and slipped it into his walking knapsack. She'd given him a brisk pat on the arm and handed him a slip of paper with the words to a summoning spell on it.

"Only use this in case of dire emergency." She said very seriously.

"What will it do?" he asked rather hesitantly.

"It will summon a friend of mine who owes me a rather large favor. I got rid of her rather large husband." Anya smiled in fond reminiscence. She shook her head, gave her ex-boyfriend an exacting once over and pronounced him suitable for public.

Everyone else but Spike was already present when they arrived. Giles had already filled in Willow, Tara and Dawn and they were bursting at the seams with questions. Giles too had a few more questions now that he'd had time to digest last night's explanations. He brought out a treatise on South American demon culture and blanched when Xander pointed out Rolf's species. Xander had also paled slightly after he'd finished reading about these warrior demons that often served as mercenaries. They were highly regarded for their cunning and ferocity in battle along with their occasional berserker rages. They seemed a lot like the Vikings of the demon world.

The girls, who had been reading over his shoulder, gave him a wide-eyed look of respect.

"Wow," said Dawn with awe, "One of them stayed at your apartment? Wow."

Willow looked worried. "Are you sure you're going to be okay, Xander? I know you'll be with Spike and everything but - wait a minute, what am I saying? Xander are you really sure?"

"Don't worry Wills, Rolf's a pretty cool guy and believe me Nualla is one tough cookie. I don't want to get into it here but let me just say, 'the female of the species is more deadly than the male'. He nodded sagely and tapped his nose with his index finger. "Spike and I will be just fine."

"Course we will," said the vampire as he sailed in the door with a small knapsack over his shoulder. "Just a short jaunt to the next continent over; nothing to it really." A somewhat hyper Spike waved his hand in the air. "We take off at midnight Harris so, got your gear, bags all packed? Is that what you're wearing for the trip? Why not just paint a bulls-eye on your back?" Spike gestured to the bright Hawaiian shirt decorated in multi-colored parrots.

"We are going to the jungle, I picked a jungle motif." Xander huffed, "This is one of the few times that I can blend in dressing like this." He indicated his shirt proudly, "It says 'Tourist'."

"It says 'Lunch'," the vampire snarked back.

"Ah ha! You see the beauty of my plan. To anyone who sees us we will simply appear as Master Vampire and Snack." Xander beamed proudly. "It's the perfect cover in demon territory."

"That's actually....," the vampire started.

"A very good plan, Xander." Giles finished looking suitably impressed. "I say, 'well done.'"

The girls clapped as Xander gave them the royal wave. "Thank you, thank you."

Spike snorted, "Right, well thought out plan. You just came up with that, admit it."

Xander shook his head firmly, "Nope, did not."

"Did too."

"Did not."

"Did," Spike pouted

"Didn't." Xander sing-songed.

"Gentlemen, please," Giles intervened. "Now, Spike, if you please, there is something I would like to ask you about this child before you leave. If you would step over here." The Watcher indicated the back table.

Spike frowned then grimaced. Giles had apparently processed the Xander-babble from last night. Damn.

"Are you going to ask him about being the baby's father?" Anya asked looking up from Xander's knapsack, which she and Dawn were filling with snack foods and disposable cameras.

"Oh," said Willow.

"My," said Dawn.

"Goddess," said Tara





Part Four

"You're a dad?" Dawn stared hard at the annoyed blonde who was in turn glaring at Xander. Dawn put a stop to that by walking right up and slapping him on the arm, hard.

"Oww, Nibblet!" Spike actually looked shocked, as did everyone else in the room.

"You told Anya and you didn't tell me?" Dawn looked outraged.

Faced with a highly irritated teenager, Spike rubbed at his arm in an apparent bid for sympathy, "I didn't! It was the whelp!" He pointed at Xander. "Or maybe, the Watcher!" He swung around in accusation. "Oi, let's have it! Who spilled their guts?"

Giles drew himself up to his full height, "I've never 'spilled my guts' in my life but that does answer my question to a certain extent. So, you were simply babysitting for old friends eh? Yes, well, obviously quite good friends."

"Well no one spilled their guts to me, at least not literally, although Xander did mention that you were married to Nualla. I just assumed that the baby must be yours. " Anya interjected then blinked as everyone who hadn't already been aware of that titbit of information turned to stare at the ex-demoness.

"Marriage and then babies; as if I couldn't figure something like that out on my own." Anya tipped her chin regally.

"So it was you, Harris!" Spike nodded his head, "I should've known."

"Wait a minute! You can't nail me for telling Anya after I already told Giles last night and you were here for that!" Xander defended himself energetically, at least until Willow stepped up and smacked him on the arm.

"Oww, what was that for?" Xander whined.

"You knew that Spike was a dad and married and you didn't tell me?" Willow gave him her version of puppy dog eyes. "I'm just a little hurt." Tara gave her a squeeze and frowned deeply at Xander and Spike.

"Right, that's it, there will be no more hitting, by anyone. Is that understood?" Xander recognized that Spike was using his Master Vampire voice to get his point across and to give him his due it did sound just as imposing as the last time the brunette had heard it. Unfortunately, this time around it was completely wasted on a Watcher, two witches, an ex-demoness and a teenage girl. Everyone simply snorted and waited for an explanation.

Spike sighed in resignation before he began. "Fine, I'm married and yes I have a daughter. Xander and I are going to Brazil for her Naming Day celebration. I never told you because I hadn't seen her mother in two years and before you start asking, no, I did not abandon a pregnant forest sprite with a baby. She got married, before I left, to her second husband, the demon of her dreams. He's a complete pillock but that's not the point." Spike had drawn himself up to his full height, playing to the crowd. "The point is that I didn't tell you because it's not really any of your business."

"Now, are there any other bloody questions?" he snarled, his eyes glinting with just a hint of gold.

"Do you have any pictures?" Dawn ventured, seemingly unimpressed with her friend's mood.

"What? No, I don't have any pictures!" The vampire's voice had risen slightly.

"No baby pictures at all?" this in a soft, slightly scandalized tone of voice from Tara.

Spike stared nonplussed into the faces of three shocked women, Hell, even Anya looked vaguely disapproving. Bloody Hell! He took a mental step back, cautiously assessing the situation. It was at this point that Xander and of all people, Giles, came to his rescue.

He felt Harris step up behind and put a hand on his right shoulder and Giles move up on his left. It was a bit of a male bonding moment and Spike felt his inner demon grimace. On the other hand, beggars can't be choosers.

"In Spike's defence he was little busy when the baby was last here; thank goodness you've packed all those disposable cameras. I'll be sure to take just tons of pictures at the ceremony." Xander smiled ingratiatingly, "As long as someone doesn't object and say, rip my arm off. Will that do it for you ladies?"

Dawn stepped forward and gave the wary vampire a hug. "I'm sorry I smacked you and I bet she's just the cutest thing if she looks anything like you." She stared up at him from under her lashes.

"All right, you're forgiven but don't do it again." Spike growled. Bloody Chit! When he got back they were going to have a talk about respecting your elders. Although that was a healthy punch, got quite a good right hook, the Nibblet did.

"I'm sorry too," Willow gave Xander a hug and a smile. "I was just feeling a little, jealous, I guess." She swallowed hard and turned to the blonde. "You're right, it's not really any of our business if you're married and have a baby." Willow stopped and turned to Tara who was giving her a look like, 'who are you and what have you done with my girlfriend?'

"What am I saying, of course it's our business. I don't care if it sounds nosy, is anyone else hiding any other deep dark secrets?" Spike opened his mouth but the young witch held up her hand, "And no I don't mean about having dispatched hundreds of people in disgusting or," she gave a nod to Anya, "highly inventive ways. I mean does anyone else have any marriages or children they want to tell the group about?"

Everyone nervously looked around the room for the space of a few heartbeats and then shrugged. Willow gave a brisk nod, "Well then good, good. I'm glad we were able to clear the air."

"Are we done bonding?" Anya asked. "Because we need to start for the airport. I just don't want to do anymore bonding in the enclosed and relatively small space of my SUV." She looked about hopefully and then gave a slight smile. "Good."

"Stick a fork in me and call me done," Xander quipped.

"I'll stick a fork in you all right," The vampire grumbled.

"Are you going to sulk all the way to Mexico?" Xander admonished the blonde.

"I might," Spike snapped, still a little miffed at Xander. He wasn't even sure why he was annoyed. It was just something about Xander and Anya having been comfortable enough with each other for Xander to tell her about Spike, it just rubbed him the wrong way.

"I brought my extra Gameboy(tm)," Xander coaxed. He still felt a little guilty for having told Anya about Spike, just a little disloyal to the vampire although he felt better about clearing the air. Willow was right; these little secrets didn't do anybody any good. Witness Spike's use of them to sabotage the Scoobies during the Adam affair. Nope, talking was good.

Spike gave him a sidelong glance, "I get first choice of games." Xander dropped his mouth open in mock outrage.

"Oh all right you big baby."

"And the window seat for the first part of the trip." The blonde raised an eyebrow at Xander's indignant gasp. "Take it or leave it."

"You have no shame do you?" Xander stared at the smirking blonde.

"Very little mate, very little. I'm being seen with you in that shirt aren't I?" Spike snickered, mentally adding a 'one' to the score he kept in their ongoing repartee.

Xander at a loss for words merely sneered.

They all piled into Anya's car and after the initial jostling for the shotgun seat got settled for the trip to the airport. Dawn had manage to seat herself next to Spike and slipped him two thermoses; one filled with blood and one with hot cocoa and a packet of mini-marshmallows. "Just in case," she'd whispered. He kissed the top of her head softly.

They arrived at the airport with twenty minutes to spare. To his credit, the vampire had actually prepared an itinerary for the Watcher as asked, never mind that he wouldn't keep to it. It was the bloody thought that counted, right?

The Scoobies followed the intrepid travellers out to the far end of the runaway where they encountered a piece of machinery right out of a World War II film. It was a large propeller driven cargo plane with the picture of a buxom beer drinking demoness in a revealing red dress painted on the side.

"Good Lord!" Giles intoned and the girls nodded in silent agreement.

"Maurice!" Spike shouted. "C'mon mate where are you?"

"Spike, mon ami, I am here. Where else would I be?"

Xander blinked, then blinked again. He swallowed. He and the rest of the Scoobies were faced with something that resembled a cross between Oz on his wolfier days and a World War I flying ace. Maurice was big, furry and yet surprisingly dapper. He sported an aviator's cap perched on his head at a jaunty angle and a leather-flying jacket. A rather dashing red scarf completed the demon's entire ensemble.

"Spike!" He dragged the vampire into a hug, kissing both cheeks. "You are looking surprisingly well." Spike scowled albeit patiently.

Maurice turned to the women with a gleam in his eye, "And these must be the delightful young women I have heard so much about. Enchanted, absolutely, enchanted. And from what I've heard I could be meaning that literally, yes?" He bowed to the witches and kissed their hands with old world charm. Willow giggled like a schoolgirl while Tara blushed bright red and smiled shyly.

Maurice turned to Spike, "Absolutely charming." Spike rolled his eyes.

Maurice then turned with grave courtesy to Anya, bowing deeply as he took her hand, "Madam, I am honoured." Anya gave a stately nod and a pleased little smile.

"And this must be Dawn." He held out his arms, "Aptly named though Aurora herself could not hold a candle to you mademoiselle." Dawn looked bemused but accepted the compliment with a grace beyond her years.

It gave Spike a pang in the region of his heart, if he'd had one. He'd just caught a glimpse of his Little Bit full grown.

Maurice then turned to Giles giving the Watcher a firm handshake. "Sir, I salute you."

"Yes, well, thank you." Giles said, sounding very British.

"And you must be Xander." Maurice clapped two furry paws on the still stunned young man's shoulders, kissing both cheeks. "It will be my pleasure to escort you and Spike safely to Brazil." He gestured to his plane.

"You have ten minutes to make your farewells. Do not worry, Yvette and I have never lost a passenger, willingly." He mounted the stairs to the cockpit stopping at the top to give a final salute, "Adieu!"

"Wow!" Dawn said in awe. "He's totally..."

"Yeah, he's a bit barmy but a hell of pilot. Well, right then, let's try to keep the sentiment to a minimum shall we? I don't think my demon can take much more hugging and goodwill." Spike clapped Giles on the shoulder, shook hands with Anya and the witches and suffered through a final hug from Dawn before mounting the stairs to the plane.

"Hurry it up whelp. Night's a wasting." Spike yelled over his shoulder.

Xander felt the butterflies in his stomach flutter even more wildly but still managed an excited smile. "Well this is it. I'm off."

"Be careful and don't forget, dire emergency." Anya kissed his cheek as she whispered the reminder in his ear.

"You are so lucky," Dawn groused good-naturedly as she hugged him.

"Have a wonderful time and be careful," Tara gave him a careful hug.

"Yes, well I expect you to keep your wits about you Xander. I believe Spike will do his best but, well, best to be prepared." Giles shook his hand before Xander grinned and pulled him into a hug. "If you get into any trouble, just call please." Giles added.

"Not to worry, Giles." Xander gave him thumbs up.

He and Willow looked at each other for a moment before grinning at each other goofily. "I got you a pre-paid phone card with enough money on it to make a couple of long distance calls and I wrote the country codes on the back and I laminated the instructions for making an international call." She handed him the card and instructions before giving him a fierce hug.

"I expect you to be careful Mister. Don't make me come looking for you." She gave him her resolve face.

He grinned, "I'm Mr. Careful, Wills. I'm so excited. I think I'm going to be sick." He blanched slightly and held his stomach.

"Oh, I almost forgot," she handed him a small pouch. "This is something we made up for motion sickness, just inhale and you'll be fine."

"Harris!" Spike's voice could be heard from the plane.

Xander gave everyone a final wave from the top of the stairs and then stowed his gear and took his seat next to Spike. The vampire gave him a look and they settled in as the stairs were drawn up and the engines started.

Xander took a deep whiff of the herbs in the pouch he'd been given and felt filled with serenity and clarity of thought. Wait a minute.

"Spike, did Maurice say something about not losing a passenger willingly?"





Part Five

They were two hours into the flight and the immediate excitement of long distance travel had subsided to a slight case of boredom. Xander and Spike had played their computer games and had graduated to cards, cribbage to be precise. Xander could actually play a pretty mean hand of just about any card game owing to a cardsharp of a grandmother. He learned a fair amount about card counting, bluffing and cheating at her knee. Thus, he was able to give the vampire a run for his money and spot at least half of Spike's attempts at cheating.

"Put that ace back!" Xander snapped for the third time.

Spike grumbled but didn't even try the 'who me' look anymore. A steely-eyed mortal who took his cards seriously had replaced Donut-boy. Spike wouldn't admit it out loud but he was having fun. He was also contemplating a side trip to Rio and the casinos for him and the boy. The casino owners usually frowned upon vampires cruising the game tables unless they were intent on playing. Now, all he had to do was come up with enough cash for a grubstake and they could be talking about some serious money.

"Why do you even bother cheating? It's not like we're playing for real money." Xander huffed as he rearranged his cards.

"What d'ya mean not real?" Spike worked a sucker around in his mouth. Maurice had absolutely refused to let him smoke on board owing to a small fire that had occurred on a previous journey. Spike had pointed out that it had been Dru and not him but Maurice remained firm.

Xander gave him a slightly disgusted look, "Oh yeah, we're playing for real money and I really owe you," he checked the score sheet, "One million, four hundred and sixty-three dollars."

Xander shook his head, "Less of course the amount that you owe me so that would actually bring the tally down to seventeen dollars. Will you take a check?" Xander laughed softly at the vampire's sucker distorted sneer.

Spike growled before pulling the sucker out of his mouth and yelling, "Oi Maurice, how about some service back here?" Spike smiled evilly at the Scoobie, "I'm getting peckish, might have to eat your other passenger."

The furry pilot appeared shaking a finger at the vampire as he stalked by on his way to the back. "For shame! To even joke about such a thing; there will be no eating of passengers on board."

"Yeah, shame on you!" said an aggrieved Xander. "Is that a UFO?" Xander's eye's widened as he glanced out the window.

"Wha?" Spike turned to look then whipped back to stare suspiciously at the artlessly smiling human.

"Must have been a trick of the light." Xander blinked innocently.

"Just like that fighter plane you spotted earlier eh?" Spike snorted derisively.

The human nodded solemnly.

They quickly finished out the hand with Xander winning, just barely. Spike cocked an eyebrow at him as he saw the cards in his hand. Harris had picked up the King of Clubs that Spike had palmed to the bottom of the deck. Xander just smiled.

Maurice returned dressed in a white dinner jacket with small towel draped over his arm and wheeling a cart bearing the before dinner drinks and hor d'ouvres. "For mon ami Spike, a nice O negative and an excellent merlot." He presented the vampire with a crystal goblet. The vampire took a small sip; his eyes flashed gold briefly before he nodded. The pilot smiled.

"And for you m'sieur, we have a small but distinguished choice of micro brews or your favourite soda pop." Maurice gestured proudly to four brightly colored bottles.

"Oh this is just so cool." Xander enthused, "I'll try that one."

"Excellent choice monsieur. I think you will find that it compliments both of tonight's dinner choices. I'll leave you to enjoy your drinks. I will return to take your dinner orders momentarily." He set the hor d'ouvres tray within easy reach before leaving the men to their cocktails.

Xander stared at the assorted offerings with something approaching awe. Spike hid a smile as he leaned back in his seat. Watching Harris, he was reminded of his first trip abroad. His family hadn't been able to afford the entire Grand Tour but he had gone to Italy for several months. It had been a very enlightening experience. He'd been so worried he'd do or say the wrong thing at first. Luckily his cousin Bertie had taken him under his wing and smoothed over any minor mishaps. That's precisely what he was going to do for the lad.

Xander hesitantly reached for a puff pastry. Spike laughed out loud at the look of rapture on the human's face as he bit into the snack. "Oh, Spike, this is wonderful. It's some kind of fruit, nut, meat thing."

Xander swallowed and gave a contented sigh. He stared at his friend for a long moment. "Thanks for bringing me. I mean that. This is just great." Xander said sincerely. He gave the vampire a big grin before snatching a mushroom cap.

"Yeah well, Nualla'd have my hide if I didn't bring you, probably never hear the end of it." Spike muttered awkwardly.

Xander just laughed at the uncomfortable blonde.

Maurice returned and took their dinner orders and handed out small scented towels. It was then that Xander started to feel a twinge of panic. When the meal arrived it was on a cloth draped cart with china plates and real crystal glasses. It was the most elaborate place setting that Xander had ever seen. He watched Spike taste the dinner wine and nod his approval. He'd never imagined his friend in this type of setting. Spike seemed perfectly at home. Xander tried not to squirm. He felt grubby and a bit like a poor relation.

Spike, picking up on the human's sudden distress, caught his eye and winked. "Soddin human meals, all these utensils and such when all you really need are these," he said briefly flashing into game face and showing an impressive array of fangs.

The awkward moment was broken as Xander wrinkled his nose in disgust and Maurice rolled his eyes delicately. Spike just laughed and then went on to explain in humorous detail about place settings and just how large they could get. Xander was completely relaxed and in a very jolly mood by the time the meal was done.

Maurice cleared away the dinner cart and returned with after dinner brandy and some fine cigars. Xander was in a very mellow mood from the food and half glass of wine he'd had with his meal. The pilot poured him just a touch of brandy and handed him a cigar. Spike raised an eyebrow inquiringly.

"Going to let me smoke it then mate?" The vampire asked hopefully.

Maurice nodded an affirmative and took a cigar and seat for himself. "If you have no objection?" he asked Xander. Xander quickly shook his head. He stared at the cigar with indecision; he didn't want to insult the pilot but he wasn't a smoker. Spike again came to his rescue.

"A man should always have a cigar on hand, mate. You never know." The vampire said patting his own pocket. Maurice nodded in agreement as he settled comfortably into his chair.

"So Xander, Spike tells me that you were born and raised on the Hellmouth? You must have some fascinating stories to tell." Maurice smiled encouragingly at the nervous young man.

Xander flushed in embarrassment. He looked at Spike entreatingly but the vampire just gave him a calm look. "Yeah, Xander's got some great stories. C'mon mate, tell him the one about the Porak demon we took on." Spike turned to the pilot, "I took him out but Xander here gave me a bit of a hand." Spike propped his feet up and took a sip of his brandy.

"What?" the human gasped in outrage. "A bit of a hand, you were about to be skewered!"

Spike shook his head condescendingly. "That's not how I remember it." He tapped his forehead and gave the pilot a knowing look. "The lad's taken a couple of hits to the head over the years - memory's not what it should be for a young man." He winked at the human who was doing a good imitation of a gasping fish. "Sad really, close your mouth luv, you'll catch flies."

Xander, now completely over his shyness turned to the grinning pilot, "Let me tell you what really happened." He embarked on a highly entertaining version of the Porak demon story as well as several other amusing anecdotes of life on the Hellmouth.

Spike watched the human loosen up and bask in the approval of his audience. He felt almost proud of the boy before giving himself a mental shake. He was already far too attached to humans for his own good and now he was feeling proud? I've really got to start hanging out with more demons, he sighed to himself.

Maurice was laughing softly and turned to the pensive vampire. "I like your friend. It is a pleasure to have a civilized conversation. Ah, Yvette and I don't have too many passengers who like to engage in those."

"Yvette's a beautiful name for her." Xander complimented.

"Oui, my beauty," the pilot said proudly patting a chair lovingly. "We have been together for years she and I."

"Well she's a great plane, really." Xander looked around with interest. He felt wonderful and it wasn't just the brandy or at least not completely. It was the conversation and the camaraderie. Here he was, Xander Harris, drinking brandy and being witty and even, dare he think it, a bit sophisticated. He didn't think he was the screw up kid he'd been in high school anymore. He didn't think it, not consciously anyway but deep in his heart he'd always wondered if anyone outside of his friends would really like him; want to spend time with him. Granted he was talking about sprites and demons and vampires, oh my! Xander laughed at himself. Hey, at least I've finally got male friends.

Xander refocused on his companions. Spike was smirking at him in that way that always meant trouble and Maurice was looking perplexed.

"What, what did I say?" Xander quickly reran the previous conversation in his mind.

"We're flying Yvette all right pet, but she's not a plane." Spike told the worried young man almost gently then ruined it but doubling over in laughter at the look on his face.





Part Six

Spike had been laughing on and off for over fifteen minutes. He would quit and then catch Xander's eye and be off on another bout of evil giggling. "Oh mate," he kept saying, "You should have seen the look on your face."

Xander gave him a mock growl. "Yeah, like of course I knew that we were flying around in a large, 'usually docile' shape changing demon. Maurice thought I was an idiot."

"Well, you're Hellmouth born and bred. You should have a sixth sense for these things." The vampire retorted virtuously. "You should know to look beyond surface appearances."

Xander "pshawed" him; "Thank you Master Po for that lesson on Zen and the Art of Demonology."

Spike gave him the two-fingered salute.

Xander narrowed his eyes then reached forward and rapped the vampire gently on the top of his head. "How would I know that Spike? No one would know that Spike. This comes under the heading of things Xander needs to be told, okay? Besides, I know you did it just to freak me out," he finished muttering under his breath.

Spike tried to keep a straight face but lost the battle and started laughing again.

Xander raised one eyebrow, "Anytime you want to stop giggling hysterically is just fine with me."

Spike widened his eyes in shock, "Oi, I'm a Master Vampire! We don't giggle!"

Xander gave an exaggerated yawn then fixed the 'Master Vampire' with a bored stare. "Son, I was possessed by a hyena for several days and let me tell you if there's one thing I recognize, it's giggling." Xander nodded wisely.

"Possessed by a hyena? Yeah all right, that would explain it." Spike said seriously.

Xander stared at him suspiciously, "Explain what?"

"Well, that smell of wet dog you sometimes have after a shower. Don't tell me no one's ever mentioned it?" Spike managed to look stunned while hiding a smirk.

"I do not smell like a wet dog." Xander snapped. "You're making that up."

"No, of course you don't. I was just joking." The blonde said soothingly reaching forward to pat the boy's knee making 'there there' noises.

"Just you wait, I'll get my revenge and it won't be pretty." Xander retorted ominously.

Spike sighed deeply, "What have I told you about telegraphing your intentions?" Spike shook his head. "You lot, what am I going to do with you? I'm not going to always be around you know." Spike gave the boy an almost brooding stare.

Damn it all, I've gone and gotten attached. I knew this was going to happen. Spike you idiot! If you had any sense of survival left you'd ditch the kid in Brazil and make a run for it. The vampire snarled to himself.

Xander reached forward and hesitantly put a hand on the vampire's arm, giving it a quick pat. "We're lousy fledges, huh?" Xander gave the vampire a tentative grin.

Spike returned the smile reluctantly, "The worst."

"Hey, what you said, about not always being around, you don't mean like soon or anything, do you?" Xander asked a little worriedly. "You just meant, like someday, right?"

Spike stared into the earnest, anxious eyes of the young man across from him and mentally threw up his hands in defeat. "Yeah pet, I just meant someday."

Xander felt himself relax, "Okay then, that's all right." He smiled in relief a little surprised at just how comforted he felt that he wouldn't be losing the blonde any time soon. Spike had turned to stare out the window pensively and Xander searched for something to cheer his friend up.

"Hey Spike, bet you don't know what the conventional long name of Brazil is?" Xander sing songed.

"But you're going to tell me whether I want to hear it or not, aren't you mate?" Spike turned long-suffering eyes on the brunette.

Xander smirked at him, "Federative Republic of Brazil." Xander leaned back in his seat and propped his feet up. "Yup, Brazil, only slightly smaller than the United States and the largest country in South America received its independence from Portugal on September 7, 1822. Portuguese is the national language followed by Spanish, English and French."

Spike's head dropped back in despair, "Oh Lord, stake me now. This is your revenge innit?"

Xander waggled his eyebrows and cackled gleefully.

"Did you know that the rivers come in three colors in Brazil? Yes indeed, green, white and black. Let me explain to you about how sediment and organic matter cause these color changes." Xander lectured in his best Giles' voice. Spike just groaned.


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


Xander had enjoyed tormenting the vampire for a good half hour before Maurice's voice came over the intercom announcing that they would be landing for refuelling in Mexico and could they please fasten their seatbelts.

They touched down at a small conventional airport. Xander wasn't sure what he'd been expecting, something more exotic perhaps but this looked just like Sunnydale Airport except that everything was in Spanish.

Maurice lowered the stairs and told them they had time to get out and stretch their legs. It would take Yvette about thirty minutes to 'refuel' and then they would begin the final leg of their journey.

Xander stifled a yawn and headed across the tarmac toward the small terminal in search of caffeine. Spike stayed to talk to Maurice.

Even though it was the middle of the night there were a surprising number of people in the little terminal. Some were human and some weren't. Xander spotted three vampires right off the bat but aside from a cursory look they ignored him. There were two demons whose species he didn't recognize sitting quietly in the corner. The female appeared very pregnant and was passing the time knitting what looked like a very long tube while the male was carefully ripping newspaper into long strips and putting them in a paper bag. Xander frowned but then just mentally shrugged his shoulders and continued his search. He failed to notice a furtive little rat faced demon dressed in a cheap white suit watching him in his search for caffeine.

He passed a Fyarl demon using the pay phone in the corner. Next to it was a huge stuffed teddy bear with a big pink bow tied around its neck. Xander continued walking, ah ha, you could always find a concession stand. He ordered the largest soda they had; there was a little confusion over pesos but he got it sorted out. If he knew Spike, and he liked to think he did, the vampire hadn't thought to get any money exchanged before they'd left. Xander grimaced; it was very possible that Spike hadn't brought any money at all.

He started to amble back to the plane when he noticed a man standing in the corner apparently talking into the lapel of his trench coat. The man immediately quit when he caught Xander looking at him.

"Hey, how's it going?" The guy, young and clean cut asked with a pleasant smile.

"Fine thanks. You?" Xander answered.

"Just great. Well, I gotta go. Be seeing you." The man gave him a friendly wave and quickly slipped into the women's bathroom.

Xander's eyebrows raised as he waited for any forthcoming shrieks, before he slowly backed away shaking his head. "There are some very strange people in this terminal," he muttered to himself.

He found Spike and Maurice bent over one of Yvette's wheels.

"Is everything okay?" Xander peered over their shoulders.

"Everything is fine my friend. We are just being careful. Yvette is not as young as she used to be. Of course," the pilot gave a fatalistic shrug, "neither am I." Xander laughed.

"Hey Spike, there are some really odd people here. There was a guy in there talking into his coat. Very hush, hush. I think he was a spy or something." Xander slurped his soda.

Spike was still bent over the wheel, "Yeah mate? That's nice."

Xander glared at the vampire's back. "You're not listening to me are you?"

"What pet?" Spike pointed out a rough patch on the tire and Maurice nodded his agreement.

Xander snorted and was about to make a scathing remark when he caught sight of a vending machine across the tarmac promising American chocolate. His eyes lit up and the vampire was quickly forgotten.

"Don't wander off mate. We're going to be leaving soon." Spike admonished the empty space Xander had just occupied.

"Let's see, I think I have enough change." Xander mumbled to himself. "Oh damn!" Xander bent over to pick up the coins he dropped when he heard a loud bang and the vending machine in front of him gave a strangely human groan before disgorging numerous candy bars and gummi babies in its death throes.

Xander looked up in shock to see a large hole where his head had been only moments before. "Hey? Hey!" Xander yelled as he realized that for the first time in his life, someone was shooting at him. He tossed his coke and hit the dirt rolling behind some trashcans trying to figure out who was shooting at him and why.

Spike's head jerked up when he heard the first shot. He and Maurice shared a quick look as they rolled for cover behind Yvette's tires; Spike desperately trying to locate Xander. He spotted the boy hunkered down behind some trashcans. Spike snarled in frustration because of course Xander wasn't just hiding like a smart human, oh no, he kept trying to sneak quick peeks to see who was firing at them.

Maurice hissed at the vampire and pointed. They saw three or four demons being directed by a creature in a rumpled white suit. Spike's eyes narrowed and he hissed in anger. "Bloody Hell, Ernie, that little rat faced bastard!"

The ground was peppered by a round of semi automatic gunfire as Spike slipped into gameface. Maurice got the vampire's attention again and pointed upwards before patting the tire before him. There was a soft chugging noise as the engines came to life.

Spike nodded to the pilot. He needed to get Xander and get out of here. It was obvious Ernie wasn't trying to kill them probably just keep them here until more of his goons arrived. Spike watched Maurice slowly change color until he blended in with the tarmac so well that even with vampiric sight it was hard to spot him. Maurice slowly made his way to the cockpit. Now, to get Harris and get out of here before the reinforcements came.

Xander saw Spike crouched behind the plane wheel. He'd seen Maurice too but now the pilot seemed to have disappeared. He must have gotten inside and started the engines. That meant they had to leave now. He couldn't figure out why these guys with guns weren't just rushing them. Of course guns didn't really bother vampires, although they hurt and maybe guns didn't bother Maurice at all. Great, he was the only lucky target that could bleed to death or be used as a hostage. Right Xander, time to call on any of that old soldier training still left in the brain and move it.

Spike sorrowfully pulled out his whiskey flask. "Sorry luv, I know we've been together for years but 'needs must'." He gave the container a last kiss before tearing off a piece of his tee shirt and stuffing it into the neck of the flask and pulling out his lighter. He lit and threw in one smooth motion. It hit the ground in front of the demons and exploded spectacularly just like a giant sparkler. Spike pumped the air with his fist and crowed in victory. Yes, he'd paid a lot of money for that spell over fifty years ago but he just knew that one day it would come in handy.

Xander watched the explosion with admiration. Yes, way to go Spike! Xander made a break for the plane while the demons were dazed.

"C'mon on pet, move it!" The blonde yelled as he darted out and grabbed the human. They just made the stairs when the gunfire recommenced.

"We're being shot at!" Xander yelled as he scuttled up the stairs.

"I know pet." Spike pushed the human forward.

"I've never been shot at!" Xander dived into the plane.

"Yeah, a rush innit?" Spike finally laughed as he dived in after the boy.

The stairs came up and the door shut with a bang as the plane began to taxi down the runway.

Xander sat against the wall gasping for air. Spike sat on the floor across from him before pulling out a cigarette and calling out "Do you mind luv?" Xander didn't hear a reply but maybe the blonde did because he gave a short laugh and lit the cigarette.

Xander just stared at him. "Is this one of those broadening travel experiences I'm always hearing about?" Xander asked dryly.

Spike just chuckled.


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


In a seedy tavern in a small village along the Amazon River a very nervous looking demon took a phone call. He listened carefully then whimpered softly. He stood up slowly, thankful that his affairs were in order as more than likely after delivering the message he'd just been given, he'd be dead.

He slowly approached the table in the back of the tavern reserved for the local crime boss. A very large, very vicious looking individual currently occupied that table. His face was scarred. One ear was notched and torn. He resembled nothing so much as a beaten up old Tomcat, if a Tomcat had a hook for a hand. He looked up as his lackey approached.

"Well?" he growled.

"He got away. He used some sort of spell or something." The demon stammered fearfully as his boss's eyes began to glow.

"So? Ernie has four guys, why didn't he rush him."

"He was with Maurice and Yvette," the demon squeaked. "And you know how Yvette can get."

"Where is he now?" He snarled.

"Ernie's not exactly sure," the demon jumped back as his boss abruptly stood up. "Don't worry Boss, we'll find him. Somebody's sure to squeal on him. I mean who cares about a vampire?" The demon soothed desperately.

His boss held up his hook, "I care, after what he did to me. I care a lot. Tell Ernie to find him!"

The little demon yelped and scurried out glad to still have all his working parts. A lot of guys hadn't been so lucky.


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


"Sir, Private Owens reporting."

"At ease Private. What was so important it couldn't wait until morning?" The CO covered a yawn.

"We just got a report from Johnson in the field sir. It's Hostile 17; our informant in Sunnydale was right sir. He's on the move and we believe he's heading this way."

"Are you sure Private?" The CO was awake now.

"Yes Sir!" Owens grinned. He'd heard about Hostile 17. If they could get him back it would mean promotion for sure

"Inform the Lieutenant and keep me posted. Dismissed." Riley Finn covered his face and groaned to himself.

Spike you idiot!





Part Seven

Lt. Graham Miller stared worriedly at his old friend. Riley had summoned him to his quarters but had yet to say a word. He sat on his bunk staring morosely at a crack in the floor. Graham was about to break his silence when Riley heaved a big sigh.

"I guess you heard huh?"

"About Hostile 17? Yeah, it's all over the camp." Graham leaned forward, "Is that what all this is about, bringing back bad memories of Sunnydale and the Initiative?" Graham hoped not. Even since Riley had left Sunnydale and all that craziness behind he was becoming his old self, the gung ho kid that Miller had signed up with; Graham didn't want to lose his friend again.

"His name's Spike, you know, not Hostile 17." Riley met his eyes then rubbed his face wearily. "What the Hell is he doing here? Why isn't he in Sunnydale where he's relatively safe?"

"He's a vampire Ri, why the Hell do they do anything? Those kids probably got tired of having him around." Graham carefully did not mention the Slayer's name. That was definitely a 'no fly' zone with his old pal.

Riley perked up a bit, "You think? Yeah, that would make sense. He probably pissed them off. He pisses everybody off." Riley smiled but then the smile faded again.

"What, what's wrong?" Graham burst out.

"You know what they're gonna do to him if we catch him don't you?" Riley asked seriously.

Graham squirmed a bit. He didn't really like thinking about stuff like this. He was more of a straight-ahead guy but this was war. Riley never really got that. He was too soft hearted for his own good sometimes.

"Yeah, I know but we've got standing orders where he's concerned. Hostile 17 is just an assignment; that's all." Graham explained.

Riley stared at him.

"Look Ri, I mean it. You can't get involved with these demons. So what if Spike..."

Riley's eyebrows raised at the slip and Graham just slumped in his chair.

"Okay, this officially sucks." Graham threw up his hands in disgust then fixed his friend and commanding officer with a look. "So, Captain, what are you going to do about it? It's a little late to pretend we don't know. The whole camp's talking about it."

Riley rubbed his neck, "Yeah, I know. Hey, maybe we'll get lucky and the son of bitch will outsmart us?" Riley gave him a weak grin.

There was knock on the door and Private Owens entered and saluted, "Sir, we've had another report from Johnson in the field. He said there was some sort of gun battle but that Hostile 17 got away." The Private swallowed, hating to deliver this kind of news. "Also Sir, Johnson reported that the vamp has taken a human hostage. Some poor tourist that he's got in thrall."

"A hostage, is Johnson sure, Private?" Riley looked sceptical.

"Yes Sir! He's some younger guy, dark hair in a loud Hawaiian shirt. He was yelling about being shot at; the vamp is probably dragging him along as some sort of living snack." The Private looked vaguely ill.

Graham closed his eyes and just shook his head. The Private noted that the lieutenant looked just as disgusted as he felt. The CO on the other hand looked very calm. The Private couldn't be sure but he almost got the feeling that his Captain was trying not to smile. The Private shuddered to himself; damn his Captain was cold. He probably thought that poor hapless bastard Hostile 17 had kidnapped would slow the demon down. He wondered if the tourist was going to fall under acceptable losses.

"Thank you Owens, dismissed."

It was now Graham that gave the heavy sigh. "Tell me that's not Harris."

Riley had a beatific smile on his face, "Yeah, that's got to be Xander."

Graham snapped, "What the Hell is he doing flying to Brazil with Spike?"

"I don't know. They're probably on vacation or something." Riley shrugged.

Graham just stared incredulously then tried to focus. "Well this is just great; with Harris slowing him down we've got him for sure; if he really is heading this way."

Riley still had that same joyous smile on his face, "No don't you see? This is perfect. I was a little worried but," he glanced heavenward, "someone's definitely looking out for us."

"What?" Graham wondered if his friend had finally snapped.

"Look, we both agree that Spike is one lucky demon right? It's almost like something is watching out for him, right?" Graham nodded his head reluctantly.

"About the only person I know who might be luckier is Xander Harris. Think about it; he's got to be the most accident prone, demon magnetized human on the face of the planet but he always makes it. He grew up on a Hellmouth, he's best friends with a Slayer but yet, he's still alive. He's like an idiot savant of survival. The two of them teamed together, well let's just say it, they're close to unstoppable." Riley flopped back into his chair, completely relieved.

Graham shook his head again, torn between wanting to argue and just giving in to the apparent inevitability of the situation. "You are going to let the men at least try to get him though, right?"

"Oh sure, sure, now that there's no real danger of actually catching him it'll be a good exercise for the men." Riley gestured expansively.

"I could have been a Navy Seal. God knows they wanted me but nooo." Graham left muttering to himself. Riley frowned, poor Graham, after this was over, he'd make sure his friend got some leave time.

He leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up. "Spike you are one lucky vamp."





Part Eight

Spike leaned back in his seat staring off in to space, thinking about nothing in particular. Xander had fallen asleep next to him, feet propped up and lanky form reclining in a boneless mass on his seat. It had taken him almost an hour to calm down enough to fall asleep. Most of that time was spent in explaining whom Ernie and his boss, Big Mike were. Xander, smart lad that he was, appeared unconvinced that this Big Mike character was just upset with Spike over a little misunderstanding. He fixed the vampire with a stern look, asked him point blank if it involved anybody dying, listened to Spike's vehement denial and then gave a sharp nod and yawned widely. He'd fallen asleep soon after.

Yvette had shuttered the windows and dimmed the lights. Edith Piaf singing 'La Vie En Rose' was playing softly over the speakers. They would arrive at the airfield about an hour before sunset. Maurice said that he could time the arrival for after dark but Spike wanted Xander to have his first view of the jungle and the Amazon River in sunlight. He'd almost changed his mind after Maurice gave him a knowing smile but then decided, to Hell with it, he was the Big Bad, he could do what he liked.

Xander gave a little grumbly murmur as his blanket slipped down to his waist. Spike stared at the sleeping human, watching his chest rise and fall and listening to the steady slow beat of his heart. He glanced around almost furtively before slowly reaching over and pulling the blanket back up and tucking it under the boy's chin. Xander made a happy noise and his head dropped over to lie against the vampire's shoulder. Spike reached over to push him back and then let his hand drop back to his lap. He scowled as he glanced up.

"Not a bleedin' word luv," he admonished the plane. The cabin lights flickered briefly.

Spike grimaced; he had to be the world's unluckiest vampire. "First an insane Sire, then there's the entire Buffy/Angelus fiasco leading to the loss of said Sire. Oh, lets not forget losing the bloody Holy Grail of vampirism, the Gem of Amara. That was a stellar moment. Good thing the Initiative captured me and saved me from spending all my time wallowing in self-pity. Then unauthorized brain surgery, forcing me to throw myself on the mercy of the Slayer and her rag tag bunch of do-gooders. And of course being me, I end up falling in love, or something close to it with my worst enemy. And when she dies, does it stop there? Oh no." He glanced down at the softly snoring human on his shoulder. "No, I find that I've grown fond of the food. There's no excuse for it; obviously, I'm cursed." Spike nodded decisively to himself. "And now I'm talking to myself, sad really." He heaved a sigh and settled back, slipping into a dreamless sleep.


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


Xander yawned widely and blinked several times. He rubbed his head and sniffed, hey pancakes? He became a little more alert. Blueberry pancakes to be precise, and coffee. He closed his eyes again and breathed in deeply, good, rich coffee. He smiled widely before finally noticing a sleeping Spike-shaped object. The vampire had draped a blanket over himself. Xander lifted it carefully and took a peek. His face softened. Spike's hair had fallen forward in soft curls across his forehead. He looked a bit like pictures of James Dean that Xander had seen in his mother's old movie magazines. The ones she had hidden in the back of her closet. Xander lifted his hand to reach out and push those curls back into place. His eyes widened as he stopped and stared down at his hand with an expression approaching horror.

Okay, that was weird. Xander what are you doing? The brunette was just a bit panicked. He slapped his hand lightly, 'bad hand, bad' he scolded silently. He carefully slid out from under his blanket by inching himself slowly to the floor and then standing up, all the while keeping a wary eye on the sleeping demon. He congratulated himself on not waking Spike before looking up and facing a bemused looking Maurice. The pilot had one eyebrow raised, at least Xander was pretty sure he did and was standing quietly holding a breakfast tray. He indicated that Xander should meet him in the cockpit when he was ready.

Xander gave him a weak smile and a little wave before grabbing his kit and stepping into the tiny bathroom. He stared at the unshaven, tousled looking young man in the mirror. Aside from looking rumpled, which was pretty standard for him, he looked kinda, well, cool. The beginnings of the beard made him look older. He unbuttoned his shirt and took a quick sponge bath before pulling on a clean tee shirt and another tropical shirt, this one with an orchid motif. He then carefully pulled out his going away on vacation gift for himself. He unwrapped it, staring at it almost reverently. It was a straw hat, but not just any straw hat. It was a duplicate of the hat worn by Ed Norton's character on 'The Honeymooners'. He'd spotted it in a shop over a year ago and just had to have it. He loved 'The Honeymooners', watching that and 'I Love Lucy' and various other old time sitcoms on TV had been his only escape from his parent's fighting. He'd never worn the hat; no time had seemed right, until now and this trip.

He finger combed his hair before setting the hat neatly on his head. He grinned at the bright-eyed stranger in the mirror. The shirt, the hat, the stubble, all of it combined to make Xander Harris look like a man on an adventure. He could see himself seated at an outdoor café, languidly ordering another drink while surreptitiously keeping an eye on some international spy or jewel thief at another table. In his imagination the non-descript jewel thief's face began to alter and shift into the angular planes of Spike's features. Spike giving him one of his trademark sneers, getting up and trying to give him the slip, only this time, Xander was ready for him because he was a man with a mission. He had Spike trapped in an alley. He was moving forward slowly when...

The brunette suddenly pulled his fantasy up short. Whoa there big fella. Where do you think going with this little drama? He admonished his psyche. I need coffee and breakfast. Yup. Xander dropped his eyes from those of the man in the mirror. He wasn't sure he was ready to face the emotion that might be in those eyes and he certainly was not ready to face it on an empty stomach.

He sneaked a quick look around the door. Spike was still asleep. Good. He should be able to make the cockpit unmolested - unnoted! I meant to think unnoted! He mentally slapped himself before dashing for the relative safety of Maurice and breakfast.

Spike blearily opened one eye in time to catch a streaking Xander shaped object. He scented the air. Oh, blueberry pancakes, that explained the boy's haste. Spike pulled the blanket up over his head again.

Xander stared at the cockpit in awe. "Wow, this is amazing." There were buttons and dials and levers dotting the control panel. Xander took the co-pilot's seat. He had a wonderful view of the countryside. Xander suddenly frowned.

"Maurice, do you use all these dials and things. I mean, are they real?" Xander asked hesitantly.

"Well they are as real as I want them to be. Yvette likes me to keep busy and out of her hair while she's flying." The pilot grinned at him.

Xander laughed. Maurice settled the tray on his lap and Xander now noticed that these weren't blueberry pancakes, they were crepes covered in fresh blueberries and crème. Xander took a big bite and gave a happy sigh. Maurice chuckled.

The pilot puttered about until Xander had finished his breakfast. He watched the contented young man. "I like the hat. It is very much, you." The pilot nodded approvingly.

Xander gave him a shy smile in return. He fidgeted a bit running his hands across the instrument panel almost soothingly. The engines took on a deeper tone, almost a purr. Xander snatched his hand back guiltily and gave Maurice an apologetic look.

"Sorry. I didn't mean anything by it," he stammered.

Maurice cocked his head to the side, giving the boy a long look. Xander wondered if he was about to be punched or something for, well, whatever it was he'd been doing that caused Yvette to purr like that.

The pilot reached toward Xander and he flinched. Maurice gave him a wry grin and carefully pulled a small leather case about the size of a cigarette case from next to the co-pilot seat. He opened it, staring at it for a moment before showing it to Xander. It was a very old tintype in sepia of Maurice and another smaller, female version of the pilot.

"My wife. I suspect you would not think so, but she was very beautiful. I was very lucky for a great many years." Maurice touched his wife's face tenderly before continuing. "We did not have a great romance. Great romances are a great deal of trouble. They very rarely end well for anyone involved. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Lancelot and Guinevere; these were not happy people. There was great passion in their lives but very little joy, I think. My wife and I did not have a great romance; we had a fine romance. Do you know the difference?" Maurice asked the young man.

Xander swallowed passed the sudden lump in his throat and shook his head.

"A fine romance is where one moment you can look at this person you love and think, 'have they always slurped their soup like that? It is annoying.' Then something happens and they laugh and you think to yourself, 'that is the most wonderful laugh. I will never get tired of hearing it.' The pilot patted the boy's arm. "That is a fine romance and that is what we had for a time." He sighed a little then smiled at a teary eyed Xander. "Everything is always coming or going. I think you already knew that, yes?"

Xander nodded and gave him a watery smile. Yvette gave a little rumble and Maurice patted the plane. "Yvette is in the same position as I. She too lost her mate some time ago but we found each other." He winked at the human. "She keeps me out of trouble and I give her something to scold. We are partners and we are friends." He gave Xander a sidewise glance. "Like you and Spike," he said artlessly.

"Oh I don't think Spike would like us being referred to as partners, friends maybe but partners?" Xander laughed self-consciously. "I'm a bit of a screw-up, you know, always tripping over my own feet and just generally being a goof. I don't think the Big Bad wants to have The Zeppo for a partner." Xander shrugged and gave a self-deprecating laugh, "Comic relief maybe."

Maurice crossed his arms and glared sternly. "I think, young man, that you underestimate yourself. However, if what you say is true, then you would do well to remember that most vampires do not have friends that are goofs or comic relief, as you say. Most vampires I have met have very little sense of humour at all unless it involves unpleasantness. Of course, most vampires are not Spike." Maurice smiled fondly and Xander rolled his eyes heavenward.

"Amen!" Xander said fervently causing the pilot to burst into a deep rolling laugh. Xander felt the tension leave him as he joined in.

Spike pulled the blanket down and glared at the door of the cockpit. Bloody inconsiderate of those two, there were people trying to sleep back here. He had a good mind to go up there and well; he wasn't sure what he'd do but something befitting his evil, undead state.

He was about to get up and make his displeasure known when the chair he was in subtly altered its shape, becoming longer and a little softer. A comfortable heat began to radiate from it. Spike started to purr unconsciously and snuggled deeper into his blanket before dropping off to sleep with small smile on his face. The lights flickered briefly in laughter before dimming again.





Part Nine

"Wakey, wakey, Mr. Vampire."

Spike grumbled and swatted ineffectually at the annoying whatever it was that was tapping his nose. There was silence and then the smell of richly brewed coffee with the underlying scent of human blood. Spike sniffed sleepily.

"I don't know Xander, he doesn't seem to be moving. Maybe we should try the chocolate croissants," trilled Xander in a chirpy voice.

"Good thinking Mr. Sockpuppet. You go get the croissants and I'll stay here and continue to try to wake up Mr. Sleepy Demon." Xander chirped.

"Mr. Sockpuppet is going to find himself shoved where the sun don't shine if you don't stop tapping me on the nose." Spike snarled; opening one eye and glaring at the grinning fool he called a friend and the hastily created Mr. Sockpuppet. Both Sockpuppet and Xander stared at each other in mock horror and gave a high-pitched squeak before ducking behind one of the cabin chairs.

Spike just lay there, staring at the ceiling in a bleary eyed daze for a moment before Mr. Sockpuppet re-entered his field of vision, peering over the chair at him. He had a sudden flashback to Dru holding up Miss Edith to his face, insisting he talk to her doll because Dru was too angry to speak to him herself. "Is it me," he wondered, "do I attract insane brunettes with figurine fetishes?"

Xander's head followed that of the puppet's, he had a tall cup filled with warm blood and coffee in his free hand. "I come in peace. I have breakfast and Maurice says we'll be landing in another thirty minutes."

Spike sat up running his hand through his hair before taking the coffee. "I have told you you're an idiot, right?"

"Well not in the past twenty-four hours. Is that some sort of record for us?" Xander grinned good-naturedly offering him a warm croissant.

Spike gave him a narrow eyed stare before deliberately ripping off a piece of chocolate croissant and dipping it deeply into the blood and coffee mixture. Xander didn't blink although he did swallow a little heavily as the vampire continued to eat his breakfast making a great production out of eating the bloody mixture. It wasn't until Spike slurped the last bit of his coffee that Xander's nose finally inched upward; almost unconsciously Spike was sure, into that revolted wrinkle.

"Three, two, one," he counted down silently to himself.

"Ewww, that is so disgusting!" Xander exclaimed.

"Yes, I still got it." Spike raised his fist in victory. "And don't talk to me about disgusting after that entire yogurt fiasco last week." Spike shuddered. "Here Spike, does this smell all right to you?"

Xander just sneered. "Shows what you know. I keep telling you, its yogurt and the expiration date means nothing when it comes to yogurt. All that happens is that it becomes more 'yogurty'; As long as it's not green it's fine to eat. It's a biology thing, Willow will back me up on this."

The vampire looked unconvinced but settled for a superior look before heading in to the bathroom to throw some cold water on his face and brush his teeth. When he returned, Xander was carefully checking his knapsack and the various portable cameras, water bottle and food rations it contained. He pulled out the calling card Willow had given him.

"Hey Spike, remind me to call Willow when we get to a phone okay?"

Spike growled. "You're a grown man Harris. It's not like you've got to call home every five minutes."

"Yeah, okay Mr. Big Bad. I'll just pass that sentiment along to Willow and Dawn. I'm sure they'll understand, not." Xander said sarcastically.

Spike grumbled under his breath until Xander took pity on him. "Oh give it up and just accept the fact that there is someone out there who cares whether you're okay and the trade off for that is the occasional phone call." Xander admonished him. "You're not just a foot loose and fancy free demon any more my man, you've got a family now, responsibilities. It's time to grow up."

"That'd mean more coming from someone who wasn't talking to a sock earlier." Spike said dryly.

Xander seemed unfazed by the criticism as he continued checking and re-packing his knapsack gear.

"Gentlemen we will be landing soon. Please take your seats." Maurice intoned.

Xander felt his stomach flutter in excited expectation. Spike glanced over and Xander gave him a 'thumbs up' sign. Even though Spike had done all of this before, he found Xander's excitement infecting him to a certain extent.

Yvette touched down smoothly and glided to a gentle halt. Xander looked over at Spike uncertainly when the vampire didn't make any move to stand.

"You go on mate. It's still light out. I'll just wait here while you go have a look around, get some of those damn pictures out of the way." Spike waved the brunette to the door.

Xander stood and put his hat on. Spike raised an eyebrow at the straw hat. Xander crossed his arms and waited for the forthcoming snarky comment.

"Nice hat, mate." Spike said pleasantly and skinned his teeth back in a smile.

Xander scratched his chin while contemplating the vampire and then gave a curt nod. He turned to grab his duffle bag.

"Along with the beard, makes you look like a sleazy reporter." Spike smirked. He was therefore slightly taken aback when Xander turned and gave him a sincere grin.

"Yeah? Thanks." Xander rubbed his chin again and slung the duffel bag over his shoulder as he headed for the door that Maurice was carefully opening. Xander pulled out a pair of shades and slipped them on, stepping forward into the late afternoon sun to catch his first glimpse of the Amazon.





Part Ten

Xander surveyed the lush jungle before him. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath of humid air. He could hear all sorts of exotic sounds. He propped his duffle bag next to the door, pulled his handy guide to Brazil out of his knapsack along with one of the portable cameras, gave Maurice a boyish grin and blew his cool image by galloping down the stairs.

He could see they had landed in a large field only about 100 yards from the river on which sat a small dock. He wasn't sure where to start. There was a loud howling sound and he gave a yip of delight, whipping out the camera and taking two quick pictures.

"Oh my God I hope these come out, wait until the guys see this, an actual Howler Monkey. Ah, there's a baby too. Oh my God!" Xander ran towards the jungle wall and the curious monkeys who seemed transfixed by the brightly colored human.

"Oi, what's he found then?" Spike quickly stood up when he heard Xander's whoop of delight. He motioned to the open door. "Well go on mate, keep an eye on him."

Maurice gave the fretful vampire an indulgent look. "He is a grown man mon ami, not a child. I can see him from here and there is nothing very dangerous in the vicinity."

"Yeah, well I know him and trust me, keeping an eye on him from up here isn't good enough." Spike grumbled. "He's bound to trip and break a leg or something and then I'll have a hurt human to look after and they're a right pain in the arse."

The pilot hid a smile, "Yes of course I had forgotten how fragile humans can be. You are correct I shall keep a closer watch on him."

Xander was busy tipping over a log and grimacing with disgusted delight at the giant golden cockroaches he found. He was busy snapping several pictures of these.

"Work with baby, give me smile," he grinned happily at the slow moving bugs. The cockroaches ignored him and went about their business. He looked up as Maurice approached him. The pilot squatted down next to him looking over the various creepy crawlies Xander had uncovered.

"So what, he's afraid I'm going to get eaten by a snake or something?" Xander jerked his head towards the plane.

"He worries, but don't tell him I said so." Maurice shrugged.

Xander gave a rueful shake of his head, "Told you I was a klutz. He's probably afraid I'm going to break a leg and then he'll have to shoot me." He grinned at the pilot good-naturedly.

"I think he is more afraid that his friend might get hurt and then he'll be on his own." Maurice returned gently.

Xander felt his cheeks grow warm but decided to attribute the flush to the heat. He hopped up and pointed to the river. "Any piranha in there?"

"Well perhaps, more likely there are giant catfish." The pilot said carefully.

Xander flipped his tourist guide open, read the description and pulled out a fresh camera, "Cool." He grinned and headed toward the river. He yelled into Yvette as he was passing, "We're going to look for piranha, Spike, be right back." He winked at the pilot.

"Maurice!" came a yell from the plane. Maurice gave a deep sigh.


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


The sun had set sufficiently behind the high forest canopy to allow Spike to exit the plane after the longest fifteen minutes of his life. Xander was still busy snapping pictures of everything. He had Maurice pose in full regalia in front of Yvette, snapping several shots of the dapper pilot and plane. Spike just sat and smoked at the bottom of the steps, calmer now that he could keep an eye on the boy himself.

He wasn't stupid. He knew Xander wasn't a child. Obviously he was a grown man, obviously, especially with the five o'clock shadow and stripped down to his tee shirt with the heat of the rainforest. The vampire comforted himself with the thought that he would keep an eye on any of the others just as closely, after all this was a foreign environment. It was dangerous; there were snakes and bugs and things although none of this seemed to faze the human in the least as he cheerfully asked Spike what the chances were of seeing an anaconda or some army ants at the very least.

Spike shook his head in despair; that was the problem with those born and raised and aware in Sunnydale: the rest of the world just didn't seem that dangerous. The vampire abruptly raised his head and scented the air, humans; a group of them headed this way, natives. He looked over at the pilot who had his head cocked to one side and a wide grin on his face. Xander looked up a moment later, imbued with that sixth sense that continued to keep him alive in one of America's most dangerous small towns. He broke into a wide smile when the Native group entered the clearing. There were several adults but the group primarily consisted of children of varying ages and sexes. They hung back shyly, as they surveyed the strangers, with Maurice however there was no such reticence.

"Bonjour, bonjour, mes amis," he called out gaily, holding his arms wide. Several of the children scampered up, tugging and petting the pilot while vying to be picked up first. He bent down and staggered theatrically to his feet awash in kids. Those too old to be picked up stared longingly at the stairs leading into the plane. They were too wary to approach the vampire. Spike continued smoking his cigarette and studiously ignoring the kids until Xander walked up. He plopped down on the step next to Spike and casually reached over, snagging the vampire's cigarette. He took one puff, coughed and hacked dramatically before carefully putting the butt out. Spike looked outraged but Xander just nudged him while pulling his sunglasses aside to waggle his eyebrows entreatingly.

Spike growled, Xander nudged, Spike grumbled, Xander dropped his head to the vampire's shoulder and batting his eyelashes outrageously; the children giggled.

"Oh all right," groused the vampire standing up so the children could skip past him up the stairs. "You're ruining my image you know? I've got a reputation to maintain."

"You're still a vain, rude bad tempered demon in my book Spike." Xander clapped him on the shoulder. Spike was about to return a scathing reply when they heard the clear deep horn of the riverboat that was to take them to Nualla's village.

Xander fairly bounced in place waiting for the boat to come into view. When he saw the old steamer he almost clapped his hands in delight. It was a small boat with a dog of indeterminate pedigree barking a greeting from the prow.

"This is perfect. Spike go stand over there so I can get a picture of you and the boat before the sun goes down." Spike simply raised his eyebrows.

"You know Dawnie is going to want some cool pictures of you in the jungle Spike. She'll be so disappointed." Xander cajoled.

Spike yawned, pulled out another cigarette and lit it before stalking to the riverbank and striking a pose. Xander snorted and snapped several shots. Secretly he thought the vampire looked, well sexy, although he stuttered over the word a bit.

The boat docked and a character straight out of a pulp novel came out of the pilot's cabin and onto the deck. He looked like a cross between Humphrey Bogart and Popeye. He tossed a rope to the vampire and Spike tied the boat off.

"Spike, you ready to go then? I've got a timetable to keep and the missus is waiting dinner." The captain asked gruffly.

"We're ready all right. Harris quit taking pictures and get your stuff. Let's be off before we're swarmed by more of these ankle biters." Spike finished his smoke, caught Maurice's eye and gave a nod. The pilot smiled and waved as well as he could with a child on each arm. Xander ran and grabbed his duffle bag. He skidded to a halt beside the pilot. He grabbed a free hand and pumped it vigorously.

"Thank you, thank you so much. We'll be seeing you on the way back right?" He turned and waved at the plane. "Bye Yvette," he called, the engines purred to life briefly.

"Harris!" Spike yelled impatiently. Xander rolled his eyes and hurried to the boat. He ducked his head politely at the Captain who returned the greeting. The dog barked his own salute while they cast off.

Spike slumped into a seat on the deck. "Bloody Hell, didn't have to worry about those Little Meals last time. Maurice wouldn't let them around when Dru and I passed through." Spike pulled a beer from the cooler on deck and tossed one to Xander before popping open his own beer and drinking half the bottle down.

Xander raised an eyebrow at that piece of news but wisely refrained from commenting. He turned to wave one last time and literally felt his eyes grow big, for there in the clearing was a very large and graceful creature glowing softly in the gathering gloom; long necked like a swan with wings neatly folded and children playing about her nesting body.

"Spike?" Xander whispered in wonder.

"What pet?" Spike was squinting at the far bank and didn't turn his head as the little boat sailed around a bend in the river and out of view of the clearing.

"Never mind," Xander smiled tenderly, "Never mind."





Part Eleven

Spike turned to catch a look of bemused wonder on Xander's face. The vampire frowned slightly then went back to staring at the far riverbank. He was sure he caught movement, the kind produced by people. It was just hard to tell with the lush rainforest; even his supernatural eyesight wasn't proof against dense underbrush and his sense of smell was picking up too many scents to easily identify them. He wasn't sure where vampires came from originally but he'd be willing to bet it wasn't the rainforest. Oh well, probably wasn't that important. Ernie was back in Mexico and Big Mike didn't know where he was and who else would be after him? He shrugged unconcernedly and finished his beer.

The Captain lit the boat lanterns. Spike relaxed back and just enjoyed the approaching night. He stretched luxuriously; this was the life, warm night, semi-warm beer and a warm human. From under lowered eyelids, he watched Xander fiddle with his camera. He took in a deep breath filled with Xander-scent and felt himself relax even further into an enjoyable haze. This was pleasant, peaceful even compared to the last time he'd been down South America way.

Xander watched the vampire unwind into a big old squishy lump of vampire goo. He sniggered to himself. Sometimes it was hard to remember that you were sitting across from a highly dangerous and successful predator who just happened to be leashed right now. Xander never had bought that whole 'I'm neutered' business. Oh sure, there was a chip but if Spike really wanted to hurt them, he would. Xander was also pretty sure that if the chip ever came out, Spike would just leave after scaring the stuffing out of them, laughing manically as he hit the road. He thought about not having Spike around and again got that pang of loneliness. He sighed, oh well; it was bound to happen someday, no use worrying about it now.

Spike heard the heart-felt sigh and wondered what was making Harris sad. He was probably thinking about Anya and how romantic this boat ride would be if he were with Anya and how Anya would have liked this for a honeymoon or something. Spike felt a growl starting in his throat; well he wasn't with Anya, he was with a Master Vampire, the Big Bad not some doozy ex-vengeance demon. The boy would just have to swallow his disappointment and tough it out!

Xander slowly raised his eyebrows at the low growl emanating from the blonde. Hmm, so much for vampire goo, Spike was obviously slipping into one of his moods again, probably thinking about Dru. Xander sighed softly; vampires sure were testy creatures.

"Hey Spike," Xander ventured.

"What," he snapped.

"Want to see what I got the baby for her Naming Day present?" Xander asked gently as he carefully pulled out the small box. He wasn't going to wrap it, just tie it with a bit of ribbon, and maybe do a fancy knot. He held the box out shyly, biting his lip in anticipation of the vampire's response.

Spike sat up and reached for the box, stopping briefly to wipe his hands down on his jeans before taking it out of Xander's hands. He lifted the lid and uncovered two tiny barrettes made out of wire and glass beads and twisted into the shape of butterflies.

Spike traced the outline of a wing and looked up at the nervous young man. "Anya help you pick these out?" he asked gruffly.

"Naw, Dawn gave me the idea. I remember her wanting a pair of barrettes shaped like dragonflies when she was little." Xander stopped and then shrugged, "Well I don't 'remember' but you know what I mean. She thought they were just the coolest so I figured, you know for when the baby gets more hair." Xander gestured vaguely to his head. "You don't think they're a dumb idea do you?" he asked anxiously.

Spike didn't answer right away, couldn't answer actually past the sudden lump in this throat. He gave the worried human a small smile and pulled his own box from an inner pocket. He offered it to the brunette.

Xander grinned up at the vampire when he saw what was inside; four child-sized lace handkerchiefs embroidered at the corners with little blue flowers.

Spike motioned to the handkerchiefs almost shyly. "She's going to be a proper lady; she'll need those."

"Absolutely," agreed Xander enthusiastically. They switched boxes, each carefully putting their treasures away, companionable silence once again restored.


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


"Are you sure that's him?"

"No, there's probably another vampire with white blonde hair dressed in leather wandering around the Amazon." The soldier said sarcastically holding up the heat sensor and double-checking his readings. Yup, one vampire, two humans and a dog.

"Look, I just want to be sure. I don't want to report back to base and have the Captain bite my head off for getting it wrong." The other soldier answered. This was his first mission for the Special Branch; he didn't want to screw it up. At least the captive was still alive, the Captain would be happy about that.

"Don't worry, we're not wrong, that's him, Hostile 17." The soldier shuddered; at least now they had an idea of where he was heading, all they had to do was gather the squad and then they could end the reign of one of the most evil and vicious creatures to ever walk the face of the earth.


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


"Look, I'm just saying that I think Mary Anne was much cuter than Ginger, that's all." Xander said.

"Well, yeah, cute sure but Ginger had the curves." Spike argued. "'Course if you want to talk about true curves."

The two men looked at each other, shared a smile and chorused "Jeannie!" Xander gave Spike the thumbs up sign. "Man I used to love that harem costume."

"Too right." Spike agreed.

The dog barked out excitedly as they rounded another bend in the river and Xander saw the village come into view. Chinese paper lanterns hung all along the dock. There were several canoes tied to the shore. Xander could hear music and smell wonderful cooking aromas.

Spike watched Xander scenting the air like a hound dog. The vampire had this sudden picture of Harris letting out a deep baying howl and running off to tree a meal. He snickered; he'd better get the boy some food, get himself a drink and let Nualla know they were here.

He and Xander sprang lightly to the dock. Xander, ever polite, shook the Captain's hand and patted the dog before he left. Spike just shook his head; it really was like owning a big old friendly puppy. Xander just ambled along, happy to be friends with those who were friendly and keeping an eye on those who didn't; this was a very different compared to the last time Spike was in the village. After the initial binge drinking and fights he'd spent his time helping Nualla get Rolf's attention and acting the part of a true Master Vampire. He cringed inwardly, he'd been all broody and pompous and Angel-like, observing the rules of formal vampire lore concerning mates. It had been a right pain; this time was going to be much more fun.

Xander was trying to look everywhere at once. Spike grabbed his sleeve and tugged him towards the village cantina. There were various demons and humans sitting outside on the patio drinking and eating. There were several speculative looks when they caught sight of Xander and Spike but no one ventured any comments.

"I'll order us some food and something to drink. You, go make your bloody call to the chits so we don't have the entire gang showing up on our doorstep." Spike pointed to the back of the cantina.

Xander dropped his duffel and gave the vampire a big grin. He pulled out his phone card and was reading the instructions when he noticed a large stuffed teddy bear tied up with a big pink bow. He frowned, now that looked familiar. He studied the bar and spotted a Fyarl demon by the phones in the back. He was hunched over the receiver and speaking rapidly to someone on the other end.

Xander slid in next to him and studied the written instructions Willow had given him. After five rings Tara picked up.

"Hello, Summer's residence." Tara intoned softly.

"Hey, Tara, it's me, alive and well and checking in. We're here." Xander bubbled.

"Xander, hang on." Xander caught the smile in her voice.

Xander heard Tara shouting for Dawn and Willow. He looked at this watch, wondering what time it was there, morning he figured.

"Xander, hi!" Dawn's excited voice came over the receiver followed by Willow on another extension. He realized that he was talking to all three women at once.

"Ladies, ladies, there's only so much Xan-man to go around," he babbled happily listening to the excited questions.

He gave them all a blow by blow of the trip down, leaving out the part about the shooting. They would just worry so he'd moved on to describing his first sight of Yvette's true form when he heard a rough voice call out.

"Hey vampire, yeah I'm talking to you."

He faltered and turned to locate Spike, hoping against hope that they were talking to some other vampire in the place. Nope, no such luck. There was Spike leaning casually against the bar while four rather large demons of indeterminate origin were fanned out in a semi-circle around him.

"Big Mike's put the word out. He wants to have a talk with you, leech." The lead demon sneered.

Uh oh, Xander gulped. The other patrons of the cantina were starting to edge warily away from the confrontation. The bartender had a long-suffering look on his face and was begging them to take it outside.

"Xander, Xander are you still there? What's going on? Is there a problem?" Willow's voice started to rise in panic.

"No, no Wills, absolutely no trouble here, I think Spike's just trying to get my attention. Our food must be ready." Xander improvised desperately. The demons were still taunting the blonde vampire. Man, they must be total idiots. Spike just stared back at them with that superior smirk on his face, seemingly totally unconcerned. Xander felt himself tensing up; he recognized that smirk, any minute now. Oh, there we go.

Spike had just smashed a bottle across the nearest demon's face and kicked one of the others in the family jewels. Xander cringed, ouch, that had to hurt.

"Xander! I just heard glass breaking. Where are you? Is there a fight going on?" Willow asked sternly.

"Fight? Don't be ridiculous, it just the TV. Oh wow, this is one of my favourite movies and I think the food really is here. Give my love to Anya and tell Giles we got here safely." There was the sound of a chair being smashed. "I'll call you later." Xander hung up over the vehement protestations of the girls.

Two more demons had joined the fray having latched onto Spike's arms and refusing to let go. The first demon, Mr. Bottle-in-the-Face punched the entrapped vampire a nasty rabbit punch to the kidneys. Xander grabbed the nearest object at hand, which happened to be a woman's parasol and launched himself onto the back of the demon who was punching Spike.

Spike watched proudly as Harris hooked himself like a limpet to the back of the demon, flailing about right and left with the parasol. He looked like a deranged jockey. This allowed Spike to shake off one of the demons holding his arms and claw the other one across the face. It howled and backhanded the vampire over the bar.

Meanwhile the demon Xander was riding managed to finally get a hold on Xander's shirt and was busy tossing him over his shoulder and out the front window.

Xander felt himself flying through the air and thinking ruefully that this happened entirely too often. He hit the ground with a bounce and a roll, coming to rest winded and bruised against what felt like a pretty sturdy tree trunk. He reached up to pull himself to his feet. Hmmm, this was a very odd tree. He looked up and found a very large demon staring back down at him. It looked a great deal like Rolf except that it's markings were lighter.

"Hey, how you doing?" Xander smiled weakly. The demon merely raised an eyebrow, reached down and with one hand easily lifted Xander to his feet. Xander staggered a bit and found himself surrounded by three such demons and, oh thank goodness, Rolf!

"Rolf, you're here. Thank God. They're trying to take Spike away." Xander pointed wildly towards the bar.

"Promise?" asked the big demon mildly.

"What?" asked a flustered Xander.

"Just kidding." Rolf patted the distraught young man consolingly. Xander made as if to re-enter the bar but Rolf held his arm and silently shook his head. He indicated that they should just wait.

They heard cursing, spitting, a couple more howls and then a group of worse for wear demons exited the bar holding a tied and struggling Spike who was busy insulting their mothers. They stopped when faced with the calmly waiting Rolf and clan. Xander prepared himself for another fight, gripping his parasol tightly.

The lead demon looked the group over warily. "What do you want Rolf? This isn't any of your affair just some business for Big Mike."

"I heard that Mike wanted to have a word with William." Rolf gave the vampire a dry look. "But that's not going to happen tonight so why don't you just untie him and be on your way." Rolf motioned politely.

"But why do you care?" burst out one of the other demons, the one Spike had clawed. He had picked up Xander's hat, which had fallen off during the fight, and was now wearing it perched above his horns.

"He's family." Rolf looked like he just tasted something particularly unpleasant for a moment but then he gave Big Mike's group a strained smile over sharp teeth. "Now untie him and go away."

The other demons with Rolf all took a menacing step forward and Xander glowered fiercely. Big Mike's group, deciding that retreat was the better part of valour yanked the ropes off the now grinning vampire.

Spike made a great show of stretching and generally being obnoxious. He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke in his former captives' faces.

Rolf rolled his eyes, "William are you finished?"

Quicker then Xander could track, Spike punched the demon wearing Xander's hat in the solar plexus and snatched the hat off its head. He handed the now rather battered straw hat to the young man. Xander gave him a big grin.

"Now I'm finished," Spike said virtuously.

Rolf sighed, "Get your things. Nualla's holding dinner for you."

Xander scampered inside and grabbed his duffel bag, gave the forlorn bartender an apologetic look and returned outside.

"Nice move mate, you gave them a run for their money." Spike complimented Xander proudly. "Sorry about the hat."

"Hey that's okay. Now it looks lived in." Xander smiled brightly as they followed Rolf into the jungle.

"They ruined my shirt though," he said fingering the torn material.

"Every cloud has a silver lining, hey pet?" Spike teased, Xander glowered and then they both burst into laughter.

Rolf just closed his eyes and sighed.





Part Twelve

"I've been waiting for you to call, how did it go? Uh huh. So the romantic dinner worked out fine? Wonderful, Maurice I can't thank you and Yvette enough. Now don't forget, if you can possibly manage it we'd love to see you at the party."

Nualla listened to the reply and laughed, "Cross my heart, I wouldn't dream of matchmaking; besides you and Yvette are perfect for each other. My love to you both."

Nualla juggled the baby and her dinner preparations and the little glowing orb that was serving as a phone tonight, all the time keeping her ears open for Rolf's return. He wouldn't be very happy if he caught her meddling in William's love life but darn it, William and Xander were perfect for each other! William needed to have someone to look after and pet; preferably someone sane with a good sense of humour because living with William required someone with wit and a great deal of patience.

She was sure that Xander was the person for Will. He was smart and funny and brave and she could just tell that he needed someone who would dote on him. William would certainly do that for someone he loved.

"Besides, he's cute and doesn't let Daddy William get away with everything," she said as she rubbed noses with the baby. Her little girl giggled appreciatively in agreement.

Nualla waved the orb away and frowned thoughtfully. She hoped Rolf had arrived and picked the boys up without any trouble. She'd had to beg, plead and pout to get Rolf to go to the village. He'd grumbled and groused but eventually he'd given in and taken a few of his cousins with him. She'd heard him mutter about family always causing the most trouble as he stomped out the door.

"Daddy's a big old growly bear but he won't let anything happen to Daddy William, not if he considers him family. At least, he won't let anything happen to him here." She amended as she continued her conversation with her child.

She cocked her head to the side and then made a cheery face at the baby. "Sounds like both your daddy's are here and Uncle Xander too."

She breathed a sigh of relief. She'd been a bit worried about Big Mike and the word he'd put out about wanting William 'alive'. Big Mike was known for holding grudges and loosing an appendage was a pretty big grudge. Well, he really shouldn't have tried to touch the baby when she was still an egg. He'd threatened to scramble her. William would have killed him normally but Rolf forbade killing in the village and so Mike had only lost a paw. She grimaced to herself and gave a slight shudder. William had been every inch a Master Vampire when he'd punished Mike. She'd almost felt sorry for him, almost.

She looked up with a big smile as the men returned. She sighed; they'd obviously been in a fight. William was looking cocky, Xander flushed, and Rolf long-suffering. They all gathered around in greeting and she found herself hugged and kissed and the baby taken from her hands and tickled and petted. Everyone was talking at once and there were too many males in her kitchen, knocking things over and insulting each other, mostly good-naturedly, and trying to steal food and she just smiled, she was so happy to have her family back safe and sound.

Spike raised an eyebrow at the happy sprite and glanced about at the controlled chaos. The two of them shared a look of understanding. He winked at her and then winked at a scowling Rolf as well before taking the baby in one arm and Xander in the other and heading toward the living room.

"C'mon mate, let's get you a decent shirt; one that doesn't glow in the dark. Disgraceful, showing up looking like that," the blonde made a disapproving noise. "Kids these days."

Xander huffed loudly protesting that it wasn't his fault, which caused the baby to giggle. Spike gave her a mock look of horror. "You're just encouraging him you know?"

He laughed as she blew a bubble at him. "Same room as before luv?" he called over his shoulder.

"Oh, yes, but with all the guests, you and Xander are sharing the room. Is that okay?" she asked innocently. Rolf gave her a look that clearly said she was not fooling him but didn't interfere. Meanwhile his cousins were watching the proceedings with wide-eyed solemnity. He handed them each a drink.

The eldest motioned towards the living room. "Is that William's new mate?"

Rolf smirked and saluted his wife, "If Nualla has anything to say about it, he will be." Nualla just hushed him and smiled.

The cousins shared a look and wisely kept their silence.


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


"Dismissed Private."

"Well, so much for your theory." Graham shook his head. "I almost believed you there about some sort of cosmic luck working for those two but now..." he gestured toward the door, waving the report the departing Private had left.

Riley sat comfortably in his seat looking amazingly unconcerned. "What do you mean Graham?" he asked.

Graham Miller just stared at his friend, "It's all over Ri. We found them. We have them under surveillance. They're not leaving that village without us knowing about it. Spike and Xander are as good as captured."

"You've got to have a little more faith Graham, trust me." Riley propped his legs up on the desk. "We don't have them yet," he answered his friend serenely. "Heck, anything could happen."

Miller sighed deeply. "Fine, we can't go in and take them out anyway; too many non-coms in the way. Maybe you're right, maybe they'll just waltz right past us or something amazing will happen and they'll escape in the nick of time."

Riley gave his friend one of his best farm boy grins. "Now you're talking," Riley told his disgruntled lieutenant. He laughed softly as Graham exited the tent muttering under his breath. "I hate this assignment."


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


"Are you trying to tell me that all of you couldn't take out one lousy vamp and his human pet?" Big Mike roared as he slammed the table.

"Rolf showed up boss. He's claiming him as family and you know what that means. We can't touch him as long as he's in the village."

"Then lure him outside the village, idiots! I don't care how you do it but I want that little leech in front of me on his knees, got it!" Mike snarled.

He was not a happy crime boss. He hadn't expected Rolf to actually claim the vampire as family. He knew Rolf didn't like Spike and disapproved of vampires in general. Nualla must still be mighty fond of the blonde if Rolf did that. Well, maybe he could do a little favor for the demon chief. Rolf probably wouldn't be too concerned if something were to happen to Spike outside of the village. He could claim that it was outside his jurisdiction; even Nualla couldn't argue with that.

He had a sudden thought and gave one of those hissing guffaws which raised the hackles of all those listening. "You say he was mighty fond of that little pet he had with him?"

His henchmen nodded timidly. "Well that's the answer then, lure the pet and the Master will follow." He snorted, "The kid can't be all that smart, he's with a vampire; should be a piece of cake."

He leaned back, his pupils gleaming as he contemplated the capture of his enemy. He looked up at the still waiting henchmen, "Well, go!" They all scattered, happy to still be able to move of their own volition.

"Yeah, a piece of cake." Big Mike chuckled to himself.





Part Thirteen

"Thanks so much for embarrassing me back there, Fang," Xander groused as he followed the vampire to the bedroom. Spike ignored the complaining with practiced ease and continued rapidly switching from gameface and back again, much to the baby's delight.

Xander heaved a sigh that quickly turned into a crow of delight. "Dibs on the hammock," he cried.

Spike raised an eyebrow and shared a look with his daughter before remarking dryly in a bad American accent, "Darn it! I wanted dibs on the hammock."

The baby gave him what could only be described as a suspicious look that Spike returned with one of his rare genuine smiles.

Xander tried to think of a snarky comeback but he was too caught up in the way Spike's eyes crinkled up at the corners as he grinned at his daughter. Wow, he's really good looking, movie star good looking, thought Xander. And this is yet another deeply disturbing notion brought to you courtesy of Xander's wayward brain. He gave himself a quick mental shake and dived at the hammock. Unfortunately he overshot the centre and the tricky device ended up dumping him on the floor where he landed in an ungainly heap.

He caught his breath and stared up at a smirking vampire and interested baby. He gave them both a good-natured grin.

"What's going on in there?" Nualla called down the hall.

"Nothing," the two men answered in unison. There was moment's silence followed by, "Fine, we're ready to sit down to dinner."

"Be right there luv," Spike called before reaching down one handed and lifting Xander to his feet.

"Best get cleaned up mate," Spike informed the brunette. He rummaged around in Xander's duffle bag, ignoring the huff of indignation from the young man. He pulled out a somewhat subdued bowling shirt in red. It actually had 'Xander' embroidered above the pocket. Spike gave Xander a look.

"Yeah, fine, I bowl all right and I'm not ashamed to admit it." Xander snatched the shirt from the blonde's hand.

"You got the whole kit then?" Spike asked mildly.

"Yeah, so?" Xander's chin went up.

"I've never seen it." Spike continued calmly.

"Well, it was in the closet," Xander's eyes shifted slightly.

"Not your closet, I ought to know. I'm always going through your stuff." Spike ignored the "Hey!" from the brunette. The vampire contemplated the baby in his arms before continuing thoughtfully, "That means, you kept it somewhere else; Red's place most likely. I can't believe you two managed to keep it secret. I wager even Anya don't know. Am I right?"

"Not a word, not one word to anybody." Xander shook his finger at the vampire. "I mean it Spike!" Xander stared at the shirt in his arms despairingly. He hadn't even noticed Anya packing it and she hadn't paid any attention to it, never knew what it meant to him because he never told her. And that pretty much sums up our relationship: the blind leading the clueless.

"So you on a team then?" Spike bounced the baby gently, frowning slightly as Xander continued to stand there staring at the shirt in his hands, making no move to change.

"Not anymore and yes Willow has my stuff and yes, I'm pretty good and no Anya didn't know and I don't want you telling her." Xander said sternly.

"It's just bowling mate. It's not like you're a closet figure skater like the Slayer and are you going to get changed or what?" Spike growled. Bloody Hell, you'd think they were discussing state secrets not possible blackmail material.

"Fine, I'll get changed. I'll be out in a minute." Xander gestured impatiently to the door when Spike didn't move. "I'm not getting changed in front of the baby, Spike."

The vampire calmly turned the baby to his shoulder and smirked. Xander gave a passable imitation of a vampire's growl and ripped off the torn shirt. He quickly pulled the undershirt over his head and pulled on the new shirt all the while accompanied by teasing comments like "Take it all off baby!" from the vampire.

Xander wanted to think that the flush he felt was caused by anger at the annoying bleached menace. He definitely wanted to think that because any other thought was just too wiggy.

Xander slipped into the bathroom across the hall and quickly washed up and then took the baby while Spike got cleaned up. They both arrived in the dining room to find Nualla, Rolf and his cousins already seated. They swiftly took their places after handing the baby to Rolf.

"These are my cousins, Lars and Olaf. I would have introduced you earlier but you were both otherwise engaged." Rolf gave Spike a razor-sharp smile, which the vampire returned.

"And this is William the Bloody of the Line of Aurelius and Alexander Harris of Sunnydale." Rolf finished the introductions. Both demons nodded formally to Spike who nodded coolly in return before turning to Xander.

Xander stood and stuck out his hand, "You can just call me Xander." Lars reached out hesitantly and engulfed the human's hand with his own. Xander shook the massive appendage briskly. "How do you do." He said brightly before turning to Olaf and repeating the greeting.

Spike stared down at his plate, trying desperately not to burst out laughing. The two demons looked gob-smocked after being introduced to Xander Harris, All American Guy. He looked up to catch Nualla's eyes on him. She winked before handing Rolf a bowl of vegetables to be passed around the table.

"So pet, the party's day after tomorrow, right?" Spike asked.

"Do you need us to do anything Nualla?" Xander asked blithely disregarding Spike's scowl at the offer.

"Well, there's some supplies coming in on the boat tomorrow, you could help Rolf pick those up." Nualla answered studiously ignoring Rolf's glower.

"Sure, no problem," Xander smiled at her.

Spike frowned to himself. He didn't like the thought of his friend going off by himself. He wasn't sure that Rolf was going to take the proper care where Xander was concerned. There was a trick to Xander-care that Spike wasn't sure the demon could manage but if he voiced his concerns here, in front of everyone, it would sound odd. After all it wasn't like the human was his mate or consort. He wasn't even a pet. He was a friend, but that relationship didn't exist between humans and vampires as far as the demon community was concerned.

Actually, now that Spike thought about it, how as he going to explain Xander to the party guests? He was one of the baby's fathers and Nualla's first husband. Rolf had, surprisingly, acknowledged him as family; that meant he had a certain status to maintain and he was still a Master Vampire, chip or no chip. He mentally groaned to himself, Spike, old boy, you've got to start thinking things through.

He sighed, Oh well, why start now? he thought before shrugging his shoulders as he listened to Xander asking numerous questions about the jungle and nodding wide-eyed at the answers.

The rest of the meal passed amicably. Lars and Olaf seemed to take a shine to the animated young man. Spike noted the interest and made a valiant effort not to show any indication of possessiveness and would have succeeded if Nualla hadn't been watching for any such signs. She smiled to herself as she and Rolf retired for the night. William would end up making a formal declaration before his visit was through, of that she had no doubt.

Spike lay on his bed listening to the nighttime sounds of the jungle; the squeak of just caught prey, the prowling nocturnal hunters, the sounds of the river in the distance and the soft creak of hammock as Xander gently rocked to and fro.

For his part Xander stared out the window through the gauze of the mosquito netting draped over his bed. He could smell the rich loam of the jungle. Although there was no breathing coming from the occupant of the bed next to him, he could sense the vampire's presence and found it comforting.

"Hey Spike? You want to hear a joke?" Xander whispered.

The vampire raised an unseen eyebrow before answering. "Is it dirty?"

"No," Xander said patiently.

"Yeah, all right," Spike propped his arms behind his head as Xander began.

"So this mushroom waddles into a bar and climbs up on a barstool. He says, 'Hey barkeep, I'll have a beer.' Well, the bartender just looks at him and then shrugs and figures what the heck and gives him a beer. Well the mushroom sits there chatting with the bartender, the waitress, and the people around him. He orders a round for the house and starts telling a few jokes and everybody just loves the guy. The bartender's thinking, 'I'm glad I decided to serve this little mushroom." He's so much fun that the bartender asks him if he'll come back the next night and the mushroom says 'Sure,' before finishing his beer and heading home.

He comes in the next night and the same thing happens, he entertains the whole bar and the bartender's business is great, everyone happy and ordering drinks and the mushroom telling jokes and being amusing. At the end of the evening the mushroom gets ready to leave again and the bartender says 'Hey, I gotta ask you, where did you learn to play to a room like that? You're a born entertainer.'

The mushroom just laughs and says, 'What can I tell you, I'm just a fungi.'

Xander didn't even see the vampire move. One minute he was laying peacefully in his hammock and the next he was being unmercifully tickled.

"That was the worst bloody joke I've heard." Spike didn't seem hampered by the netting, which Xander found very unfair as he tried unsuccessfully to defend himself.

"No it's not! I love that joke! Willow told it to me when we were six. It's the only one I can actually remember." Xander gasped and batted at the vampire's hands.

Spike stopped his torture of the human and leaned over the panting brunette. Xander felt his breath catch in his throat because he was now on the receiving end of one of the vampire's rare genuine smiles. "Why am I not surprised?" Spike stared down into deep brown eyes.

" 'Cause you know us so well?" Xander said in a hushed voice caught by deep blue eyes.

"Yeah, that must be it," Spike murmured before capturing the human's lips with his own.





Part Fourteen

Spike heard Xander's breath hitch as he continued the kiss, running his tongue along the softening lips, gently seeking access. With a faint sigh of surrender, Xander allowed the vampire entry.

Spike leaned forward, trying to press himself more firmly against Xander and Xander arched up slightly to return the caress. Unfortunately, they were too caught up in the kiss to notice that attempting sex or even heavy petting in a hammock required a certain degree of finesse and concentration that neither man was capable of at the moment. Xander tried to untangle his arms from the netting in an attempt to wrap them around the blonde at the same time Spike tried to move up on the unsteady bedding, resulting in Spike flipping the hammock over and dumping the twosome on the wood flooring.

In an effort to save them, Xander made grab for the mosquito netting, which was never manufactured to take the weight of two full-grown males in the throes of passion. Spike's elbow ended up in Xander's midriff, leaving him gasping for air, and most of Xander's weight ended up centred on Spike's more delicate parts, leaving him just gasping.


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


THUMP!

Rolf rolled over heavily and glared at the bedroom door. "Some of us have work to do tomorrow. Some of us aren't nocturnal predators!"

Nualla patted him gently on the arm and made the same soft soothing noises she made for the baby. "Shhh, sweetheart. I'm sure they'll settle down soon."

"You see what comes of meddling? Now we're going to have to listen to their sexual escapades for the rest of their stay." Rolf punched his pillow and tried to get comfortable again.

Nualla cocked her head to the side, listening carefully. Her husband stared at her, scandalized. "Nualla! What are you doing"?

"I don't think they're having sex, honey. I mean, it's awfully quiet and there's no growling or anything." She wrinkled her nose in thought, "Of course, Xander's human and they don't growl and he does strike me as being shy."

Rolf clapped his hands over his wife's ears. "Stop listening for sounds of sex from our guest's room."

"What, I can't hear you, someone has their hands over my ears." She grinned sweetly at the outraged male above her.

He grumbled, taking his hands away and then making a great show of trying to rearrange his covers. Once that was done he determinedly closed his eyes trying to banish thoughts of blonde vampires having sex down the hall: of blonde vampires having sex with his wife. He snarled.

Nualla waited until he was settled before launching herself onto his chest and tickling him until he opened his eyes and scowled at her. She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

"I can think of lots of ways to get your mind off what's going on down the hall."

He gave her a slow grin, "Oh yeah?"

"Uh huh," she whispered. "Let me show you."


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


Both men recovered at about the same time with Spike being pragmatic as he carefully rubbed his bruised parts. "Well, I suppose it's just as well that I've already fathered a child."

Xander coughed in agreement. He hated getting the wind knocked out of him although at least the fall had served the purpose of knocking some sense into his head. He and Spike had been making out. Spike kissed him and he kissed back. They kissed each other and it was pleasant. Well actually, more than pleasant, pretty great, but still, just kissing. There's no law that says you have to make a complete lifestyle change based on kissing. Xander nodded to himself calmly as he considered the past, he glanced at his watch, wow, only five minutes.

Spike watched Xander nodding to himself and thought, "So, he's in denial then. Well, I'll put a stop to that."

"If we hadn't tipped over I was gonna try and shag you, you know?" Spike smirked half on his way to being angry.

Xander turned to the leering vampire with the same calm look in his eyes and smiled, "Well I have it on good authority that I'm a very shaggable guy Spike."

Spike frowned suspiciously at the serene response. "I was well on my way to seducing you; another minute and I would have had you, too."

Xander cocked his finger at the vampire and pointed, "You the man."

"Bloody Hell, aren't you going to try to deny it!" Spike burst out. "You aren't going to tell me how you're not gay and the kiss didn't mean anything or that you're at least confused by what just happened"?

Xander held his chin, seemingly deep in thought for a moment before turning to the vampire. "No."

"What does that mean?" Spike asked, completely thrown by this strangely tranquil young man sitting next to him.

"No, I'm not going to deny it. We were definitely kissing." He raised his right hand in oath, "I can vouch for that. As for being gay, well, I don't think I am gay. I think the word is bi-sexual considering that I like sex with women and we haven't technically had sex yet so I don't know if I'd like it with you or not."

Spike opened his mouth to protest but Xander forestalled him with a raised hand. "Don't even bother telling me how good you are okay?" Spike gave him a 'you don't know what you're missing' look but shrugged.

"As for the meaning of the kiss, hmmm, well that's a toughie. I'm not confused, perhaps bemused would be the correct wording?" Xander gave the blonde a long look. "How about you? How do you feel about what just happened?"

Spike blinked, "You just used the word bemused correctly in a sentence."

Xander gently whapped the vampire across the back of the head, "Focus, I'm trying to have an adult conversation here." Xander said in disgust.

"I just, why are you being so calm?" Spike asked. "I expected tears, recriminations, accusations, the usual."

Xander patted the vampire's knee sympathetically, "Man, and I thought my track record with relationships was bad. Look, I used to date Cordelia Chase. I used to hide in broom closets making out with a woman who wouldn't acknowledge me in public. I asked an ex-demon to marry me and I'm not even going into the women who tried to kill me as a method of courtship, so being attracted to a good looking guy is a little disturbing but I'm a grown up, I'll deal." Xander threw up his hands in acceptance.

Spike stared at the young man with new found respect and scooted a little closer. He gestured to his bed, "So any chance we could just pick up where we left off then?"

"Ah, no. I think I've reached my limit of adulthood tonight; give me a little time to decide whether or not I want to ease into the deep end of the pool so to speak." Xander gave the hopeful vampire an entreating look.

Spike grumbled, "Yeah, all right then." He was sure this was just a polite way of telling him to sod off. He stood and felt a slight tug on his hand. He looked down into pleading eyes.

"Spike, I damned near screwed up a great friendship once by trying to become lovers. Willow and I had to really work at staying friends after that whole 'Spike kidnaps us' incident." He and Spike shared a wry smile before Xander again grew serious. "I don't want to take the chance on screwing up another friendship by trying to make something fit where it won't, understand?"

Spike nodded mutely, swallowing past the sudden lump in his throat. Xander wanted to keep Spike around. He didn't want to risk losing Spike and Spike most definitely did not want to risk losing Xander. He gave the worried human a bright smile. Xander returned it with a relieved smile of his own. The blonde tugged him up and they went about righting the hammock and putting the bed back together.

They heard a loud thump followed by giggling, which was quickly muffled. Spike glared at the door slightly scandalized. "And with guests right down the hall too!" Xander just rolled his eyes at the vampire.

Spike thumped his pillow, got settled in and listened to Xander's breath getting slower.

"Night Spike," Xander murmured.

"Night Xan." Spike turned his head, keeping watch and patiently waiting until his friend was asleep before dozing off.





Part Fifteen

Xander awoke slowly, first one eye then the other. He blinked once, twice and yawned widely. He turned his head to squint out the bedroom window, not that there was much to see through the mosquito netting and overhanging foliage that heavily shaded the room. His head rolled slowly in the other direction. Spike had burrowed into the bed covers and all that could be seen of the vampire were several tufts of white blonde hair sticking above the blanket.

Xander smiled softly, Aww, he's so cute when he's sleeping, he thought. Actually, he's pretty darn cute even when he's not, Xander gave a silent sigh; And that's the problem. I think Spike is cute. Kissing Spike turned me on. I like Spike. I am insane. Xander nodded to himself, his stomach paying no attention to his internal dialogue, growled for attention. Xander glared at his middle, Pipe down, you. No one asked for your opinion. His stomach only growled louder in reply.

"Oh for God's sake go get something to eat! There are people trying to sleep here!" The Spike shaped lump on the bed growled before burrowing deeper into the covers. Xander raised an eyebrow and yawned loudly and theatrically.

He rolled out of his hammock, slipping into his jeans before snagging a fresh shirt and underwear. He walked across the hall to get cleaned up and found fresh towels, instructions on how to use the environmentally friendly shower and a small green lizard eyeing him curiously from its perch on the wall. Xander kept a wary eye on the animal (because you just never know when something may morph into a huge scaly demon) while he showered and shaved.

Feeling much refreshed he slipped back into the bedroom to snag his sandals, hat and rucksack, stopping on the way out to ask whether Spike was absolutely sure he didn't want to get up and help run errands; a two fingered salute was his reply.

Xander whistled an off key tune on his way to the dining room. Rolf and the baby were already seated when he arrived. The big demon was sipping a really large cup of coffee and studying a list while keeping one eye on his daughter. The baby was happily making a mess with something that looked like mashed banana. Xander wasn't sure how much of the food was actually making it to her mouth but she seemed in high spirits. Nualla bade him a cheery good morning and slipped another large cup of sweetened coffee in front of him along with a basket of various fruits and bread. Rolf nodded a greeting and went back to checking his list. The baby slapped her hands down and gurgled at him appreciatively.

Xander pulled out his camera. "Do you guys mind?"

"No of course not, as long as we get copies," Nualla beamed. Rolf grunted in agreement.

"There are four angry females at home that can't believe Spike didn't have any baby pictures." Xander started snapping shots. The baby seemed to realize what was happening and giggled engagingly for the camera. "We can't go home without them."

Rolf laughed, "So, William has four females to answer to, perhaps there is some justice after all." Nualla swatted him in mock outrage. He merely gave her a slow grin in response. Nualla flushed a bit at the look and asked Xander, rather breathlessly, if he'd like anything else for breakfast.

Xander, recognizing the looks passing between the couple and remembering the noises from last night, hid a smile and just shook his head and continued taking pictures of baby.

You are a natural ham, baby girl. I can see Spike in you for sure. Xander thought, snapping another shot. The baby just batted her lashes and cooed.


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


It was decided that Xander would accompany Rolf down to the docks to help unload party supplies. They would stop by the cantina on the way so that Xander could call home and reassure Willow that he was indeed safe and still in one piece and to pick up Rolf's other cousin, Sven. Xander was just dying to ask the demon why everyone in his family seemed to have Viking names but didn't want to be insulting or end up pounded into human goo. He all ready knew that Spike was not one of Rolf's favourite people so he wasn't sure how Rolf viewed him. Since meeting him again, Rolf had treated him with a sort of amused politeness that made Xander rather uncomfortable, like the demon knew a secret that concerned him.

Xander squirmed mentally; maybe Rolf had picked up on the fact that Xander liked Spike. Xander felt his cheeks heat up, was he that obvious? He didn't think so but he'd never been very good at hiding his feelings when he was interested in someone. Well, except for Cordelia, he managed to hide that from everyone, including himself.

Darn, if Rolf had figured it out, that meant Nualla had too and boy, was this going to add a whole new and exciting complication to his attempts to work out his relationship with Spike. "Well Xander old pal, you always wanted a family that showed some interest; be careful what you wish for," he thought with a rueful smile.

Rolf glanced behind him at the subdued young human. The boy had a half serious look on his face. Rolf sighed. He supposed the human was engaged in some form of soul searching after the events of last night. If Nualla was right, then William hadn't claimed the human yet, perhaps that's why he seemed so introspective or maybe the human was just now thinking through the implications of being mated to a vampire. Perhaps he should say something reassuring? Rolf frowned, no he was not going to get involved, besides, the boy should think this mating through carefully, mixed marriages were difficult at best and from what he learned in Sunnydale, the Slayer considered this human family.

William was insane, wanting to be family bound to a Slayer. Why it was unheard of for a vampire. It was a good thing the line of Aurelius was either dead, cursed or insane otherwise there would be Hell to pay. Of course now that he'd claimed William as family that meant he could also end up being family bound to a Slayer. Being able to claim a Slayer and Guardian of a Hellmouth as family by marriage might come in handy someday; Rolf narrowed his eyes thoughtfully; perhaps he *could* say something to reassure the boy.

"Vampire's rarely eat their consorts," He said heartily, slapping the young man on the back gently. He gave a self-satisfied smile, well, that should make the human feel better.

Xander stared nonplussed at the smiling demon. What, where, what? Rolf nodded encouragingly then returned to leading the way to the village.

Xander started trying to trace the events of the last few minutes to figure out where in the heck that non-sequiter came from before just shaking his head and giving up. At least this answered his question; yes Rolf did indeed think there was something going on between Spike and Xander. Xander suddenly brightened considerably; Rolf had said consort, which meant he must have picked something up from Spike too and now the vampire's family was taking an interest. Of course the kissing and petting last night had let Xander know that Spike was attracted to him, but consort made the whole thing more respectable and homey.

Xander blanched, homey? Respectable? No, no, they were friends who just might, in future, have sex, maybe, if Xander didn't have a coronary thinking about it first. Spike wasn't courting and he wasn't waiting around for Spike to make an honest man out of him. They weren't even dating for gosh sakes! He wasn't getting rushed into another marriage, not this time. This time he was going to take things slowly.

Xander winced, now see this was the down side to having an interested family: unasked for advice, talk of consorts; it was like be swarmed by a whole pack of resolved and concerned Willows. Xander gave a delicate shudder.

Xander was so caught up in his thoughts, he didn't even notice when they entered the village square and Rolf came to a halt in front of the cantina. Xander pulled himself up short and just avoided bumping into the big demon's back. Admonishing himself to pay attention, Xander found his hand being engulfed by a large paw. Sven, the other cousin from last night, gave him a toothy smile and growled something completely unintelligible at him.

"Right back at ya, big guy," Xander smiled trying to discreetly free his hand before the friendly demon dislocated his shoulder. Sven, oblivious, continued to pump Xander's hand, babbling away until Rolf gently rescued Xander's appendage.

"Go make your phone call. The boat should be here soon. We'll meet you down by the dock." Rolf gestured to the river.

Xander nodded and gave them a cheery wave before heading into the cantina. He didn't notice the small rat faced demon that slipped out the back door upon spying him entering the bar.

Rolf watched the young man depart and then exchanged a look with Sven whose good-natured grin was replaced by a feral smile and a low-throated growl. Rolf growled in return. Sven bowed briefly to his Chieftain before turning and swiftly disappearing into the jungle.

Rolf watched him leave, glanced once more at the cantina and then made his way to the docks.

Xander checked his watch, quickly calculated the time difference and dialled the Magic Shop. This time he got Giles on the phone. The Watcher was relieved, to say the least. He'd apparently received a distraught phone call from the girls last night and had just managed to talk Willow out of flying down to Brazil to 'fetch the boys home' as she'd put it.

Xander tried the loud TV excuse. Giles told him not to insult his intelligence so Xander went with the truth. Oddly enough or maybe not, Giles had pretty much figured out what had occurred and didn't seem all that surprised or scandalized.

"You mean you don't want me to come home right now?" Xander asked hesitantly after finishing his description of the previous evening's excitement, without the bedroom scene of course.

"No, why should I? You're a grown man. I would of course be much happier if there were no more bar brawls and attempted kidnappings by irate demon gangsters but you are among friends and you have a good head on your shoulders, when you choose to use it." Giles said calmly, trying desperately not to panic and demand that Xander come home right this minute. He would have known he'd made the correct decision if he could see the beatific smile that lit Xander's face in response to the his declarations.

Giles thought he was a grown man, with a good head on his shoulders. Xander stood a little straighter and taller.

"Thanks Giles and, just, thanks. You'll tell the girls I called and let them know everything's fine? Also, tell them I have two disposable camera's worth of baby pictures so far. That may help when you talk to them." Xander asked.

"Yes, of course I will and Xander, you will take care won't you? And if you do need help?"

"I'll call, don't worry. Give everyone my love and I'll try and call after the party, let you guys know how it went." Xander smiled and bade the Watcher good-bye before hanging up the phone. "Well all right," he couldn't stop grinning. It was definitely going to be a good day.

He walked outside, smiling at two very pretty young women who were busy cleaning the cantina's outside tables.

"Good morning ladies," Xander tipped his hat respectfully. The girls giggled appreciatively and whispered to each other. Xander puffed his chest out just a tad.

He spotted Rolf down by the docks but was distracted by a sudden flutter of color. An incredibly large parrot flew past him before settling on a low roof. Xander carefully pulled out his camera and moved slowly towards the bird as it preened. Just as he was about to snap his shot, the bird flew off to land, this time, on a small shed.

Xander followed it again, trying to line up his shot and again the parrot flew just a little further towards the edge of the village finally landing on a vine outside the village boundaries.

Xander growled, "Look bird, I'm not chasing you all over creation. Do you want your picture taken or not?" The parrot gave a low caw, which Xander took to mean yes. He lined up his shot one more time. He raised the camera and felt a sudden sharp stinging on the side of his neck.

He slapped his hand to his neck and stared in confusion at the tiny, feathered needle that now lay in the palm of his hand.

"Well Hell," he thought disgustedly before passing out face down on the ground.




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