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Spike/Xander, R-rating. Spoilers: Season 5 then off to AU. Summary: Buffy never came back. Notes: Answer to Darlean's Xander challenge - Xander in a tux. These are just one at a time tales, told in eleven parts

 



Tales of The Zeppo


by
Cimmer



Part One



Xander's POV

It's another grey Sunnydale afternoon; never clear enough for the sun to make the streets safe anymore. My damn shipment is late again and if I lost another driver and guard, I'm gonna - Hell, I'm gonna just hire some more.

They better get here soon or I'm gonna be watering down the drinks - again. Well, at least I'll make a little extra on the overhead. That'd make Anya happy except the money will go to paying for another guard and driver if these latest two ended up as someone's dinner.

Maybe I should think about just biting the bullet and putting out the extra cash for some real professionals. I hear Riley is looking for work again. The man just can't stay away from the leeches though, doesn't make him real dependable.

Still, heh, I could send him out with Spike. Hell, Riley might even pay me for the chance to go out with a vamp. He still hates Spike's guts but when you gotta have it, you gotta have it. Soldier boy can't have too much pride left; after all he came crawling back to good old Sunnyhell.

It's really earned that nickname, except that with the constant cloud cover called up by the various wizards and spell casting demons on behalf of the local vampire population you could take the 'sunny' out of the equation. Oh well, makes it easier on Spike.

Man, where is my shipment, damnit! That's what happens when you hire kids. I never should have listened to Dawn. So her friends needed the money to get out of town, who doesn't?

Wait a minute; what's that? Well, all right, it sounds like my truck, about damn time. C'mon guys, let's go, let's get unloaded, let's....Dawnie? Oh Jesus, Dawn, what the Hell happened? Spike, where's Spike, someone go and get him now!

She's still breathing, thank God. That's quite a gash across her forehead though but head wounds always bleed a lot. Just keep cool, keep it together. You can handle this; you can, oh Tara, good.

Look at her work. She's so damn calm, just smiling at me and working her mojo, like Spike would say. Doesn't look like there's much she can do for the driver though, at least it was quick. Oz's got the other kid, he just looks banged up, doesn't look like most of that blood is his. Okay, breath deep, don't start yelling; just keep it together.

What the Hell happened! Okay, so much for not yelling. The kid's stammering and stuttering about how he didn't know Dawn was in the truck until they got to the pick up point. He never would have let her come along if he'd known. Jeez, he looks like he's gonna cry and this looks like a little more than a case of friendship. And now Tara is glaring at me, well this is turning out to be a great day.

Dawnie's color looks better. Maybe Tara can get her up and walking before Spike shows up and trashes my bar to vent. I suppose I should see if any booze made it through. Never mind, here comes Anya and damn if she isn't smiling. Don't tease me like this. She's giving me a nod and yes, there is whiskey in the house!

Oh, oh, there is also one very pissed off vampire in the room.





Spike's POV

I knew it! I bloody well knew I smelled her blood! Thank God I can hear her heart beating strong. The witch has got her. Nibblet's going to be all right; Glinda's gotten so much stronger since Buffy died and that hell with Red. She's giving me a smile, so I know it's gonna be okay and now I can kill that wanker that Oz is helping.

Oi, here's Nummy stepping in my way, that probably means the kid's off limits. Damn!

What's this then? The help is off loading booze; Nibblet got hurt on a booze run! I don't fucking believe it. Xander would never, never let her go out on one of those. Hell, it's dangerous enough just walking the streets here in what passes for daylight.

And who the bloody hell is this kid Oz's got a hold of? He looks like he just lost his best friend and since there's a corpse bleeding out on the floor - except he's not looking at the body on the floor, he's kneeling next to my little girl.

Nummy's slipped his hand in mine, and giving it a squeeze. When did she get to be so grown up? It's only been five years since Buffy died. She's too young to have a beau. Ha, a beau, listen to me, showing my age, I am. If he let her go on a run with him, but no, Xan always did know what I was thinking, most of the time anyway. He's shaking his head. Great, that means she did it on her own. She's a Summers woman all right, headstrong.

She's waking up, moaning a little and the kid is holding her hand and looking at her like the sun rises and sets with her smile. Yeah, now I'm getting poetic. I really am showing my age. Sometimes, I know exactly how Ripper feels. These kids can make me so damn tired.

Tara's helping Nibblet to her feet; the kid is on the other side. Screw that, and don't bother trying to hold me back Xan, I'm picking up my little girl and putting her to bed!





Xander's POV

Well, that went better then I hoped. No one's dead and Spike is sweeping out of here with a protesting Dawn in his arms. Tara's checking out the kid and I give Oz a sign. He'll make sure the kid makes it home all right. Not too many things in Sunnydale want to deal with a werewolf who's got it under control. He better be back in time for his set. I can sell a lot more drinks when there's dancing and a show.

Well it looks like this is as under control as anything ever is in this place but that settles it, I'm hiring professionals; no more of this nickel and dime crap. I don't want anymore of my people hurt or of course, my business. Anya's giving me the Look; I shrug my shoulders and give her a smile. She's counting out the cash and handing it to the kid.

I suppose I better stop calling him the kid since it looks like I'm going to be dealing with him for a while. What the Hell was his name, Bill, Barry, no Frank, yeah Frank! And here's Frank, stuttering away in front of me, trying to explain and trying not to look at the covered corpse in the corner.

I find myself telling him that it's okay. I understand, and I'm sorry about his friend. He wants to know what we're going to do about the body. He probably believes those stories we've been spreading around about Oz's eating habits. Well it keeps the locals in line and gives the demons pause.

Tara's telling him not to worry and asking if his friend had any family in town; we'll take care of it Frank, don't worry. Your friend will rest in peace, more peace then most of us enjoy.

Time to get upstairs and get a shower. Anya's tending bar tonight so she's going to be slipping into that little red, low cut number she favours. She'll make a killing on tips. It's funny, after our marriage ended, everybody figured that was the end of the partnership and the bar but that's my Anya. She might walk away from a husband but she won't walk away from cash. I wonder how many people know how many businesses my ex-wife is a silent partner in: The Zeppo, The Magic Shop, and The Bronze. She's the lady to see for favours and information and in a place as dangerous as Sunnydale, both those things can mean the difference between life and death and something worse.

The shower's already running, must be Spike. He's laid out the white tux tonight, very Bogie. He must have been watching Casablanca again. Hmm, looks like I'll need another shave as well, no point in letting that hot water go to waste, hell there's no point in letting a hot vampire go to waste either.





Spike's POV

I can hear Nummy moving around in the other room. I can hear the door opening and yes, I've got a bit of all right taking up way too much space in the shower but you don't hear me complaining. Who knew that the Slayer's lanky knight would grow to Angel-sized adulthood?

He's kneading my shoulders, giving me those soft little kisses I like so much along my neck. He knows I'm tense about the Nibblet. I'm a bit pissed, yeah. He says he's hiring kids and down and outers for the runs because they're cheaper but I know that's not it. He wants everyone to think he's a hard-ass but he's still the White Knight. He gives them a chance to make some money and get out of town because no one stays here unless you can't get out; you're crazy, a demon or us.

Five damn years we've been holding onto the Hellmouth by the skin of our teeth. Five years since she died and everything changed and Sunnydale couldn't look the other way anymore. It was only a matter of time until the vamps and demons found out that the Slayer was gone and no new one could be called, not until Faith dies.

Sometimes I think of the irony of her lying there in the Hyperion in a coma, Angel watching over her. The Council springs her early so that she can protect the Hellmouth and some drunk driver comes along and just like that, she's in a prison again. Except this time, she's not going to get out early. Angel's so sure she's going to come out of it. She won't but what else can he do?

I heard from Ripper that the Council's tried to have her 'retired' twice since then but Angel's protecting her like, well like she was Buffy. I don't blame him, even after what happened to Red, I don't. Somebody's got to look out for the Slayers.

Xan's got me all relaxed now. I trace his scar with my fingers; took him over a year before he'd take that damn eye patch off in my presence. I had to sit him down and explain to him all the things I'd seen that were worse, besides when he's all dressed up with that black patch on I think he looks right sexy. I'm still trying to get him to grow the beard but he's reaching for the razor so I've lost that argument again for tonight.

Well, that's all right, we've got enough time to - Oi! Bloody Hell woman did I use to interrupt you when you were trying to get a shag in? Wait, I guess I did but; oh Nummy's giving me a smile and a wave, the bleedin water's going cold anyway and I love to watch my pet get dressed.

Damn, he looks good!





Xander's POV

Damn, I look good! Between Spike and Anya I actually now own a decent wardrobe. Both of them are surprisingly tactful about not mentioning my stash of Hawaiian shirts in the back of the closet.

Spike's dressing in his customary leather for the evening and most eyes will be on his ass wishing they could peel him out of those pants, but that privilege will be mine.

You'd think after all these years I could get this damn tie done up right. He's pushing my hands away and making 'tsking' noises. He always has to straighten it for me. I look him over. I look me over.

Anya's waiting for us outside the door, touching up her lipstick. She gives me a wicked smile and winks at Spike. He leers politely, as I offer them both an arm and we walk down the staircase to make our nightly entrance.

It's Showtime Folks and The Zeppo is once again open for business.





Part Two -Closing





Xander's POV

It's last call and only the diehards are still here. Giles is tending bar and expounding on his theory of magical constants, whatever the Hell that means, to some equally deranged demon of some sort. I swear, pour a few into our ex-Watcher and he can out talk me. That is until Anya starts singing. Her final number is our signal for last call, always something old and torchy. She's standing in that baby spot, she and Spike insisted on at two hundred bucks a pop, and caressing that mike stand like I remember being caressed once upon a time.

There's a somebody I'm longing to see;
I hope that he turns out to be
Someone who'll watch over me.

I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood
I know I could, be oh so good
To one who'll watch over me?

Although he may not be the man some
Girls think of as handsome
To my heart he carries the key

Won't you tell him please, to put on some speed,
follow my lead
Oh how I need, someone to watch over me

Where is that someone to watch over me?*

Damn, my ex has got a great voice. I raise my glass in appreciation and she gives me just the smallest smile. That dress, those legs, that voice and it's no wonder every male left in the place is focused on the stage with their tongues hanging out, some of them literally; oh that's attractive. Damn vamps.

I look for Skip, our doorman and bouncer. Ah, he's already heading this way; guys got a sixth sense for trouble. Skip's great; he's discreet, polite and big. He's also got a thing for my ex-wife and judging by the little smiles she gives him the 'thing' is mutual.

Well more power to him, especially if he can keep up with Anya. I had no idea the reputation I'd garnered in this town just by having kept an ex-vengeance demon happy, if you get my drift. If I'd known then what I know now about the sexual appetites of demons - I would have still dived right in with both eyes open, oh yeah: speaking of which, where's Spike?





Ripper's POV

I find it delightfully ironic that Anya of all people has a singing voice that would melt butter. I honestly thought we would kill each other in the beginning of our partnership. I admit that there were times when I amused myself by mentally compiling the necessary spells and ingredients to get rid of her. If it wasn't for the fact that it would have been wrong and if I also hadn't been absolutely sure that she was probably doing the same - well. I like to think I might have lost an astute business partner rather than some cherished body parts, but perhaps that's hubris on my part.

She does look quite delightful, yet again. The way she and Spike agonize over the final number every day is just one more oddity in my life. Watching the two of them argue over lighting and costuming and any props she might use is amusing and just strange enough to keep me sane. They never argue about music though and I must say the choices are always perfect. If I close my eyes as I sip my gin and tonic, I can almost pretend that I'm back in civilization.

Skip is beginning to ever so gently urge our patrons towards the door. He's quite an amazing fellow, this friend of Angel's. I don't believe I've ever seen his like. He's quite the fellow; I believe he and Oz have struck up a firm friendship of like-minded laconic individuals.

Also, if I'm not mistaken he and Anya are involved, which I find disturbing but perhaps that's just a bit of jealousy on my part.

I do like that dress.





Spike's POV

Anya's singing the closing song. That baby spot was a good idea but I think I'll change the filter just a bit for tomorrow night; make her look a bit more mysterious, yeah? I'll see if I can't talk her into the black velvet number.

I think this is one of the reasons that Wolfie keeps coming back to the 'dale; he secretly likes the tux and this bit of theatre we put on each night. Of course it's not the main reason; he comes to be close to Red. If I had a soul, I might even feel sorry for him.

Look's like Skippy is ushering the deadheads to the door, all demons. The humans cleared out hours ago. I still can't believe that they manage to crawl out of their little barricaded homes at all, but every night we get at least a dozen or so. I used to wonder if they were in denial or just plain stupid until I got a good look at some of them. They're whistling in the graveyard, they are, just a little act of defiance for the resident big bads.

Xan always treats 'em like royalty; says we need their courage to help in the fight to hold the Hellmouth. I don't know about that; seems to me all the courage in the world isn't going to help us. One of these days, our number's going to be up because we're just whistling in the graveyard too. We're holding onto the Hellmouth through cunning and trickery, smoke and mirrors.

Look at him, he's smiling and raising his glass to the ex, sitting here relaxed and looking capable of taking on anything that comes his way. He knows how I feel. He told me once; if I ever wanted to leave, maybe head to LA or just somewhere else, he'd understand. I nearly decked him.

It wasn't exactly the way I wanted him to find out that I could get around the chip, at least for a while. Dru was barmy as they come but she was right about things more often then she was wrong and she was right about the chip just being a problem of mind over matter.

In the end, it's all about perspective; am I trying to hurt them or am I just trying to protect myself? Granted, in Nummy's case it was about hurting him. Yeah, one of these days I may break his nose but I'll never leave, never.

Oi, Ripper, let's have one for the road, you old sod; let's drink to King and Country - I catch my pet's eye and raise my glass in salute - and mad dogs and Englishmen, too crazy to come out of the midday sun.





Part Three - After Hours

Xander's POV

Oh man, that was great. Nothing relaxes me like a good bout of lovemaking. Well, making love with Spike anyway. Oh damn, he's trying to move me to get to his cigarettes. Noooo, I'm boneless. I don't want to move.

Great, now he's poking me. No wonder women complain about men not enjoying the romantic afterglow. I'm being manhandled by a nicotine-addicted vampire with an obvious oral fixation Thank you to whoever's listening!.

Well I don't really mind him crawling over me to get to the nightstand. I'm tough; I can take it.

Heh, heh, oh, ticklish vampire, ha! Hey, hey, no roughhousing, watch it with the pillow! Oh great, I'm not getting out of bed to clean that up. No, no way, uh uh.

And no, a game of hide the snake is not going to change my mind either. Although feel free to keep trying.





Spike's POV

Big lummox. When it comes to post coital bliss, Xan is just a big happy tomcat, the way he leans back with his hands behind his head. I wonder how he'd take it if I told him Angelus used to do the same thing? He's much more easy-going though; wear him out and he'll agree to just about any bit of nonsense whispered in his ear. I wonder if this is how Anya talked him into buying the bar?

I need a fag, c'mon move it you. Oi, don't make me climb over you; I just worked my arse off. Well, I wouldn't call it work exactly but - c'mon Nummy. No! No tickling, no! Bloody 'ell. I'll teach you to tickle a Master Vampire! Where's that pillow?

I'm not cleaning that up. C'mon Nummy, just reach over there and snag my fags. What's this under the sheets then? Very interesting, I wonder if it bites, because I do. Pick up my fags, pick up my fags, you will do this. You are in my thrall.





Xander's POV

Ha, ha, ah stop it, stop nibbling! All right dammit, here are your cigarettes. For crying out loud, you are the laziest creature of the night, I've ever met.

I snag a cigarette from the pack and light it. Spike growls at me and snags it back. We play this game every night. We both know Anya will kill us if she catches Spike smoking in bed or me smoking, period.

"C'mon, give me a hit. It's no worse than lying here next to you breathing it in."

"Anya'll stake me right and proper if she catches you smoking, pet. Oh all right, don't pout."

Ahh, that hits the spot. Thank God I don't smoke. It's a bad habit and I have enough of those already.





Spike's POV

What is it with me and broody men? Look at him; he's gone all quiet and grim. I know what he's thinking too; about that call from the bartender Giles took over for last night, Teddy something or other: the poor stupid bastard. He's been playing both sides, he has. He can't even lie properly, said he was sick. I'll bet he was; you could smell the fear over the phone. Someone gave out the location of the booze run and Dawnie damned near died because of it. If it were up to me I'd have gone and ripped the blighter's throat out right then but Nummy told me to leave it. Bloody Hell, he's always got to make sure, he does.

"I'll take care of it luv."

"No you won't. It's my bar. I'll handle it."

"Look it doesn't matter if I do anything."

"Hey, it matters to me."

Dammit all, bloody, broody heroes and their overblown sense of responsibility! Oi! Give me my fag back! And no, a game of hide the snake is not going to change my mind either; 'course that don't mean stop.





Tara's POV

It's so funny, you know? To think that the safest place to be in Sunnydale is right where I am now, sitting on the edge of the Hellmouth. My friends would probably lock me up if they knew this is where I come to think, bathed in the soft pulses of light. It's so quiet here; if I sit very still I can almost hear her calling to me.

I think Oz knows that I come here; the way he stares at me sometimes, I'm sure he knows. I used to think he was watching me; waiting for the chance to get rid of me, once and for all, so that we wouldn't have to share our memories of her anymore. But now, now I think he's just waiting, like me, except he doesn't really know what he's waiting for. I do.

Shhh, I hear you. I won't tell, don't worry. I won't tell. I'm not sure what I'd say, anyway. They think you came here that night to try and close the Hellmouth, permanently, that I was helping you. I used to think that they couldn't conceive of any other reason why you would have been here but now I'm not so sure.

I think Anya knows.

No, no, I never said anything, shhh! I know she hasn't said anything to Xander and she won't. You have to believe me. She does love him in her own way. She wouldn't hurt him by saying anything. She won't hurt any of us. We're family now, all of us family, forever.

It's time to rest. It's time to close our eyes and rest without dreams or regrets or lies - just rest.

Hush little baby don't say a word
Momma's gonna buy you a mockingbird
And if that mockingbird don't sing
Momma's gonna buy you a diamond ring





Anya's POV

The glow from the Hellmouth is getting dimmer; Tara must be out there calming the savage beast.

I know what you are and I know what you did. It serves you right and I'm glad you're suffering because Xander's suffering and you deserved everything you got.

I always knew you weren't as sweet as they all said. I was a demon for over 900 years. What's that saying? 'It takes one to know one' and I know you, but not Xander. He believes in second chances and impossible dreams and beating the odds, and friendship. And no matter what he says, he believes in a human's ability to do the right thing because they have souls.

I think, between Spike and I, we'll eventually cure him of that little prejudice - or maybe not. It's so sweet, that trust; so sweet you just want to - but no, I can't do that to him: you lucky, lucky bitch.





Part Four - Interlude



Xander's POV

Well look at that, another one of our mayors seems to have disappeared, this makes, what, three now? Living in Sunnydale gives the term 'political in-fighting' a whole new meaning. I wonder if it was the Deputy Mayor or the Commissioner of Public Parks that took him out? I'll have to give one of my contacts a call if they don't call me first. I've got a fifty riding on Public Parks. Oz says she's the toughest Pack Leader the local werewolves have had in a long time; disembowelled the last two would be Alphas that came courting. Man, and I used to think being married to Anya was rough. Well, speak of the Devil and she will appear.





Anya's POV

When I see him lounging in his chair first thing in the morning, unshaven, bare-chested and dressed in that silk robe Spike bought him I think, Anya, you fool, woman. What were you thinking to divorce a big, good-looking piece of eye candy like that? And then he gives me that smirk and I remember. Oh yeah, that's right, when we weren't having mind blowing sex we were usually arguing; which resulted in me wanting my powers back so that I could turn him into a lizard and feed him to a passing owl. And, I didn't want our relationship to end that way. I don't think he did either. I actually like him much better now that we're not sleeping together, still, there are times.





Xander's POV

Damn she makes me uncomfortable when she stares at me like that and licks her lips. She also makes me hot but I've got a cool blonde to keep me company these days. There were times when I swear I thought we were gonna bring the house down with our arguments. We got so damn contrary with each other; if she said black, I said white. We took opposite sides on everything except sex. We never argued in the bedroom, or the kitchen, or the bathroom or the back seat of Giles' car.

I don't think he ever bought our story of spilled ice cream staining the upholstery. Cost me over five hundred bucks to get that back seat cleaned. From what I remember it was worth it though.

Those were the good old days; back when I was still young and naïve and thought that even without Buffy, we could still hold onto Sunnydale by fighting the 'good fight' just the way we always had before. I learned though; you've got to hold onto what you want anyway you can because it can get ripped away in a heartbeat. If I'd learned that sooner maybe Willow; ah screw it!





Spike's POV

My boy's brooding again. He's thinking about Red. I can tell. Been watching him sitting up there dressed in my silk robe, my colours if you like, trying to pretend he don't see his ex sitting next to him and damn near drooling in her coffee. I could smell them both from here. One of these days they're gonna fuck again and then I just might have to kill 'em or join in. I haven't decided yet. I always did like surprises.

Well, if it isn't our gallant Chief of Police and his current toady. I wonder what's gotten them out and about before sunset or who? I don't like minions, never even liked my own. Best get up there, it's time to play needle the copper and draw a little blood for breakfast.





Xander's POV

Oh fucking great! This is the third time this month. Why the Hell do I even bother sending money over to City Hall for? It's long past time for somebody to stake that little leech. I should just let Spike loose on him but better the devil you know. We might actually get someone worse taking his place. Oh man, I need more coffee.





Anya's POV

Maybe Xander can just get him to leave before - too late. Spike's already seen him. Great, this should be fun. Wonderful and I just had the floors refinished too.

"Harris, Spike. Anya, you're looking as lovely as ever." The Chief smirked showing just a hint of fang. Anya ignored him and Spike laughed. The Chief lost his smile.

"What do you want?" Xander poured himself another cup of coffee shoving the pot toward Spike. He pointedly did not offer any to the Chief.

"You're not very hospitable for a merchant are you Harris?" Unlike Spike, the Chief's Cockney accent was the real thing. He'd been an East End street thug before being turned and coming to the Hellmouth and being appointed Chief of Police by then Mayor Donatello. He managed to survive the rapid mayoral turnovers by providing muscle for the local politicians, collecting protection money, and following orders unquestioningly. His taste for blood and brutality endeared him to many on the City Council. His metamorphosis from human to demon hadn't been much of a change.

"How you doing Danny? Still walking with a bit of limp I see." Spike slowly stirred blood into his coffee. "Shame how long those kinds of wounds take to heal, isn't it." Spike's grin was all teeth.

The Chief snarled, briefly flickering into game-face. Spike's gaze never wavered as he blew on his coffee and took a sip. They continued to hold each other's eyes until Xander broke the silence. The Chief's eyes blinked and Spike smiled into his coffee as he leaned against the arm of Xander's chair.

"It's too early for a pissing contest and as I'm sure my partner's dying to tell you, she just had the floors refinished so I'll ask a final time. What. Do. You. Want?"

"I stopped by to ask if you've seen Teddy your bartender lately? Seems he was suppose to meet his girlfriend after work and never showed up. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that would ya?"

"Can't say as I do. He called in sick and Giles had to take over for him; haven't seen him since." Xander shrugged. "Maybe he decided to take a breather, you know, re-evaluate his priorities. Illness makes some people do that."

"Well, I'm sure he'll turn up. Most people do in this town, one way or another," the Chief snarled, barely politely.

"Well, if you see him be sure to let us know, won't you?" Anya asked with cold formality. "We still owe him his final pay check."

"Was there anything else?" Xander raised his eyebrows politely.

"I do believe it's time for Danny to be toddling off to bed where all good vampires should be at this hour of the morning." Spike murmured.

The Chief stared at the threesome with barely concealed hatred.

"And you're all such good people," he sneered openly. "I wonder if Mrs. Murchinson feels the same way? You know Mrs. Murchinson don't you? Her son Bobby was good friends with that little girl of yours, Dawn. Seems he passed away suddenly the other night. Very brutal from what I've been told. Shame, a young man like that, dying that way."

Xander's eyes darkened and his nostrils flared. Spike straightened imperceptibly in preparation for battle. The Chief smiled thinly as his lackey subtly moved into position.

"Yes, we'd heard. We sent flowers to the funeral. It was a lovely arrangement. It's a shame our police department can't put a stop to all this senseless violence. Whatever do I pay my taxes for?" Anya intervened languidly as she sipped her tea. She raised her head and caught the Chief's gaze directly for the first time. He swallowed unnecessarily as he stared into her eyes. He caught a movement at the periphery of his vision, suddenly sensing the presence of the club's bouncer, Skip.

"Please don't let us keep you. I know you have a very busy schedule." She gestured to the door. "Skip will show you out."

Xander continued to stare grimly at the Chief while Spike had again relaxed against Xander's chair. He gave a softly mocking laugh at the retreating vampire.

Anya gave him a chiding look before smiling wickedly and calling in a sweet voice, "Have a nice day." They heard a muffled roar from outside the front door.

She and Spike cackled evilly but stopped when Xander stood up abruptly.

"Bastard! Evil, undead bastard!" Xander paced agitatedly.

"Oi," Spike said mildly.

He rounded on his once and present lovers. "This isn't a game you two. Humans don't fall down and get back up again. Bobby was only nineteen."

Anya and Spike met his furious glare calmly. Spike walked over and gently touched his face, "And you're only twenty-five luv, and it wasn't your fault."

Xander closed his eyes and took two deep breaths, leaning into his lover's hand before turning and kissing his palm. He gave Anya a gently apologetic smile.

"Was it really a lovely arrangement?"

"For what it cost it should have been," she said calmly. Xander only smiled at her mercenary statement.

"And Mrs. Murchinson is on her way out of town?"

Anya briefly checked her watch, "As of nine this morning." She watched Spike slowly rubbing little circles along Xander's shoulder and back while he nuzzled at the brunette's throat. She licked her lips. Perhaps she should go check on Skip. There was one last item though.

"And Teddy?"

Xander smiled grimly, "I'm sure he'll turn up, most people do in this town, one way or the other."





Part Five - The Set Up





Dawn's POV

Spike is finally letting me out of bed today. Three days stuck up here being waited on hand and foot so that I don't have to lift a finger. I have all the time in the world to think. In fact I can't stop thinking; thinking about how Bobby looked when he died. How Bobby screamed when he died. How Bobby was a year younger than me.

I'm not stupid. I know people can die anytime, anywhere. It doesn't matter whether you're the Chosen One or if the Powers don't know your name, good or bad, everything dies. I know that or at least I thought I did. I'm so stupid and because I was stupid I got my friend killed. Hell, I didn't just get him killed; I got my friend partially eaten.

And the worst part, the worst part is that after everything that happened I don't even want revenge. I just want to run away. I'm the Slayer's sister and all I want to do is get away from this town as fast as I can. So I guess that means, I'm stupid and a coward.

Frank and Bobby and I used to talk about leaving. That's why I got them the job driving the truck for the booze run. They were going to get some money together and then Bobby and his mom were going to leave first and then Frank and I were going to meet up with them. We were all going to move to San Diego because it's so sunny there and there's the university. And most importantly it's not so far away that I couldn't convince myself that if they needed me I could come right back.

Anya thinks I was with them that night because I thought it would be an adventure. Xander thinks I went because Frank is the love of my life. And Spike? Well he didn't say anything at all but I think he knows.

I've lived my whole life with 'adventure'. I could learn to live without it. I like Frank a lot but I don't think I love him, not like Spike loved Buffy or Tara and Oz love Willow. I went because I realized that it was dangerous and they might need help. And they did, I just wasn't it. And, I went because I don't love Frank the way he loves me, so the least I could do was put my life in danger for him because that's what he was doing for me. It's a lot easier to put your life in danger than your heart. Spike taught me that. He didn't mean to but he did.

And I went, because despite all our plans, I knew that I was never going to leave Sunnydale. I was never going to transfer to the university in San Diego. I was never going to marry Frank. Bobby was never going to be our best man.

I always wanted to be a Scoobie, always. I guess it was just something that was made part of my personality when I was created. Maybe it's a protection mechanism; find the most powerful force in the area and stick to it. It used to be Buffy and the gang, than it became Spike and the gang. I'm part of this place and these people until the day I die. I can't leave them and they can't leave me.

Still I wish I could run. I really wish I could.





Oz's POV

Man, I heard it was a real exciting morning. First they find the remains of the mayor and then the Chief of Police shows up here and gives the Boss a hard time. That always struck me as a bad idea. I don't think pushing his buttons is a very good thing right now. Xander isn't the most laid back of people. That's cool though. He's got a tough job. I wouldn't want it.

I wonder if Skip is around or if he's hanging out with Anya. I can smell the faintest trace, whoops, well I won't be bothering Skip for a while. Giles isn't up yet. If Xander was upset then I know what he and Spike are doing. I guess I'll just hang out here and play for a while, do a few 'unplugged' numbers. I always sound better on this stage then any place else.

Sitting up here, strumming, I can close my eyes and almost catch a hint of her scent.

Something fearless in your eyes,
something careless about your smile,
Something fragile when you hold your breath
And when you move you move right through me*

I could go up and see her. She's probably pretty bored, three days stuck in that bedroom.


Shed your armour, spin your web
Hypnotize me with the longest stare
Make your promise or maybe it's a threat
'Cos when you look you look right through me

I could offer to listen if she wanted to talk about what happened the other night. I could but I won't. She'd probably freak and then Spike would have to kill me. If I weren't a werewolf he would have smelled how I felt a long time ago and I'd already be dead.


You're unfolding right before my eyes
And when you move, you move right through me.


It doesn't matter. She's never going to really see me. I'm just Willow's ex, some guy that plays in the band and gets furry every month. I've got to cut my ties to this place once and for all. And as soon as I find out what really happened that night at the Hellmouth I will. I know Tara's hiding something. I can smell it on her but she won't talk to me. So I just keep wandering back here, watching and waiting for something to happen, sometime in the future. Damn all these women who just keep getting under my skin.

I think Spike might know but then Spike knows a lot more than he lets on. He won't tell me but he won't stop me trying to find out. I wonder if that's a good thing? Less thinking more strumming.





Spike's POV

Got a chance to catch a cigarette before I see the Nibblet. Wolfie's playing something pretty and sad. He must be thinking about Red again. Well, I'm not gonna have sex with him to jolly him out of his funk. I've done my bit for King and Country this morning. Xander'll be down soon and we can start getting things set up for the show tonight.

Saturday's are our big night: big band and usually some out of town entertainment. For reasons that he can't explain, he hired a flamenco dancer for tonight. And not only is El Corazon a gifted flamenco dancer but she is an exceptionally high-strung, half-demon pain in the arse flamenco dancer. I've spent all week trying to deal with the bloody bint. I haven't put up with a prima Donna like that since Darla.

If it hadn't been for Oz and her guitarist I would have killed her, there's no question about it. The two of 'em had bonded; bloody musicians. So Wolfie kept stepping in to calm her down. She must have a soft spot for puppies because she would simper at him, sneer at me and usually do what she was told. Her guitarist has got my deepest sympathy and I mean that sincerely.

Best go on up and make sure Lil Bit hasn't completely talked herself into a lifetime of guilt and depression. Bloody humans! I spend all my time trying to get this lot into bed or talked out of a deep funk. Sometimes I just want to toss them all against the wall. Fine, the world's gone to Hell, we've all lost someone we love and we'll end up dying in a town called Sunnydale; deal with it! But then I realize that brooding and guilt is how my humans deal with their problems and that's probably why I care for them; the suffering appeals to the demon in me.

I wonder if they realize how lucky they are? Probably not, well that's my load to bear. Heh, heh, heh! C'mon Nibblet let's roll!




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