Quantum Xander


Part Twenty-One

Xander looked up when the door to his shop opened. To say he was surprised to see himself standing there with a vampire was an understatement. He looked over his shoulder and noticed that his lover had also seen the two enter. It wasn't that they didn't get the odd vampire in here from time to time, it was just that this was only the second time Xander had seen himself come through that door, and this time his double wasn't a vampire, and he hadn't accidentally summoned him.

"Okay, I know I didn't summon you, so who are you, why are you here, and why are you with Spike?"

Ethan came out to stand with Xander and looked over at their visitors. He leaned down and whispered in Xander’s ear.

"He's not a vampire; what do you suppose he's doing with William the Bloody?"

Spike snorted and elbowed the Xander next to him.

"Well, I must say I'm disappointed. I was expected babbling and death threats and possibly some fainting."

"Yeah, well. Sorry to disappoint, oh bleached one. Looks like this Xander is used to having himself walk in here, or something that sounds less stupid."

The Xander on the other side of the counter smiled. At least this one wouldn't want to turn him. He nudged Ethan and nodded toward the shelf behind him. Ethan turned and picked up a small orb before handing it to him. Xander addressed his double.

"So, what brings you here? And what's his deal, ‘cause I have to warn you, I have an orb of Thessula here and I know how to use it. Any trouble and your fanged friend there gets his soul back."

Spike gaped and surreptitiously slipped behind Xander. He had enough problems ta very much; he didn't need a soul on top of everything else.

"Hey, no worries. We come in peace. I just wanted to talk, maybe ask a favour?"

"Alright, we can go in the back. The vampire tries anything funny, he gets souled and you ... well lets just say green could be a very good colour for you."

Xander nodded mutely. He wasn't sure if he liked this possible version of himself. He was cocky, arrogant, and sure of himself. He reminded him of someone, he just couldn't grasp who it was.

Once they were all seated at a small table in the back, the Xander of this world spoke up.

"So tell me what brings you to my dimension."

After explaining how he ended up there, how Spike had been taken with him and what he was hoping his double could do for him, Xander sat back and rubbed his temples, he had a hell of a headache. Spike saw the pain on his face and scooted his chair in behind him and took over rubbing his head for him. Xander sighed in relief; Spike’s cool hands felt wonderful.

"I can do the spell you want, but first I have to know what kind of magic is affecting you. Do you mind if I do a revealing spell on you? It won't hurt, it'll just tell me if you are under the influence of any other magicks and what their intent is."

"Sure, do I have to move or anything?"

Xander chuckled at his double. He might not have any magical abilities, but it seemed he was able to charm a vicious vampire into caring for him.

"No, just sit and relax. I'll be back in a minute."

After Xander left the room, Spike stopped his soothing ministrations and turned Xander’s chair around to face him.

"I don't know about this pet, can we trust him?"

"Spike, we don't have much choice. It's either we trust him, or we get joined at the hip. That's the only way to assure that you come with me when I leave, and somehow I don't think that option would work out very well. I mean, I'm lucky I haven't shifted during a shower yet and ended up in some new world completely naked."

Spike shrugged his shoulders and spun Xander’s chair back around.

"If you say so."

Xander came back in, followed by Ethan. The two began setting up the spell while Spike went back to his earlier job of soothing Xander’s headache. He had started out doing it as an automatic response. He had done this back in Sunnydale for Riley; of course then it had been because he was ordered to do it. Now he did it because he wanted to, regardless of what Angel had said to him, he was not transferring.

"We're ready. Just relax and stay still. Spike you'll need to remove your hands from him."

Spike moved his hands and slid his chair back around beside Xander. He wanted to watch this spell and make sure nothing happened to his new-found friend. It had been a long time since Spike had had a friend, and he wasn't about to let some wonky spell take him away.

"It's done."

Spike had been so caught up in making sure Xander was okay, he hadn't heard the two warlocks casting their spell. He dubbed himself ten kinds of stupid for not paying more attention to what was going on around him.

"And? What kind of spell is he under?"

Xander and Ethan exchanged a look before Xander answered Spike’s question. Spike didn't like the look one bit. They knew something, something not good from what he had seen.

"It's vengeance magic. You mentioned you dated a vengeance demon?"

"Anya, yeah. We were engaged."

Xander sighed. He'd really hoped that Anya wasn't behind this, after all he had tried to explain to her why he'd done it. He was surprised to hear Ethan speak; the man hadn't said a word to him since he and Spike had shown up.

"Anya? I'm not familiar with that name?"

"Anyanka, actually. The patron saint of scorned women. There was an incident, long story. She became human, we dated, fell in love, got engaged and then I left her at the altar."

Ethan cringed at the idea of what that woman was capable of. He had heard tales of men who had been horribly disfigured or worse by the demoness, all in the name of justice.

"I must say, I think you got off easy, lad. I've heard tales of her deeds. You are either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid to have pissed that woman off."

Xander snorted. He shrugged his shoulders and looked at his double.

"I don't suppose you can break the curse and send me home?"

"No. Sorry dude, but you're stuck on this crazy roller coaster ride. But now that I know what I'm dealing with, I can do the other spell. You sure you want to take the vamp with you? I could think of less homicidal travelling partners."

"I'm sure. I dragged him into this after all. It's the least I can do, and we're friends."

What they weren’t saying was annoying Spike. He knew there was more to this and he wanted to know what else they saw.

"Tell him the other thing."

Xander looked at Spike, confusion on his face.

"They know something, luv. Something they aren't telling you."

Xander looked at his double and the wizard. He scowled slightly and his double sighed in defeat.

"Fine. It's not like I wasn't going to tell you. I just thought you might like some privacy when you found out."

"Found out what? Besides, obviously both of you know what it is so why the need for privacy?"

Xander looked over at Spike and then it made sense. Whatever it was they weren't saying, it was because of Spike.

"Okay, give me the basics and I'll decide whether or not I want this made semi-public knowledge."

Spike didn't have a clue what could be so secretive that the warlocks wouldn't want to say it in front of him. He was a bit concerned about Xander, and he wanted to know what was going on so he was relieved when Xander didn't automatically ask him to leave so he could find out in private.

"There is a second spell on you. Ethan recognised it right away, as it is identical to one I had on me when we first met. It's Wiccan in origin, Willow's work. Shall I go on?"

"Willow put a spell on me? Why would she do that? What is it for?"

The other Xander scrubbed at his face with his hands. He went through this a few years back; it wasn't going to be pretty watching his double go through it now. Thank God Ethan had been there to help him through it. Maybe Spike would help Xander to deal with the betrayal of a friend.

"Do you remember your birthday party that Willow and Jesse threw you - remember what happened that night? With Jesse?"

Xander nodded and blushed. He'd already had this conversation with himself once before.

"Yeah, and?"

"Have you ever thought about doing that since then?"

"Doing what?"

Xander raised his eyebrow at his befuddled double.

"Oh! No, um not since high school. Why?"

"That's the spell’s influence. It basically blocks those thoughts and urges. You know Wills was in love you, don't you?"

"Yeah. I know. But that was along time ago, why would she do that, and why not remove it by now?"

"She couldn't put a love spell on you, she wanted you to love her for real so she did the next best thing, she made it so she had a better chance by stacking the odds. As for why she didn't remove it? I don't know. I never asked her. I can remove it if you want."

Xander thought he was prepared for anything, but to find out that his best friend had fundamentally changed his whole life, taken away his choices, it shook him to his very core. No wonder his other selves were happy, they had the freedom of choice, something he didn't. He thought over his relationship choices. Cordy - well he wasn't under a spell's influence there. Was he? Just when had Willow done that spell anyway? The French teacher was definitely all him though, so was Impata. So really, it was just Anya, and possibly Cordelia that had been influenced by the spell. His other self that was involved with Faith was probably under a spell; he couldn't see himself willingly choosing to date the crazy slayer. But the others that he had met: the him that was so happy in his relationship with Spike, the one dating Wesley, and now this one who seemed to be doing well for himself out here in L.A. with Ripper's nemesis, they didn't act like the bumbling fool he knew he was. It was as if by having choices, they had been allowed to grow and mature as people - okay that crack about leaving Spike in Sunnydale wasn't really mature, but on the whole, they were more confident than he was.

So the question stood, did he want his double to remove the spell? On the one hand yes, he hated not being in control of his thoughts and feelings. But on the other hand, he was scared. He wasn't so sure he could handle having his entire world turned upside down. He snorted; he wasn't in his world, though, was he?

"Do it. I might as well face everything at once. I work well under pressure, go ahead and tighten the screw."

Xander nodded and left the room, Ethan followed behind him. Once they were gone, Spike put his hand on Xander’s shoulder.

"Want to tell me what that was all about?"

"No, but I will. If you're going to be travelling with me you should know the truth."

Xander closed his eyes and took a deep, calming breath. He let it out slowly and began.

"When I was fifteen, my best friend Jesse and Willow threw me a birthday party, I stayed at Jesse's that night and he kissed me. I pretended to be asleep and once he fell asleep I went downstairs and spent the night on the couch. We never talked about it, and after that he threw himself into the pursuit of one Cordelia Chase. I never forgot the kiss though, I was just scared."

"You were young, it's normal to be scared."

"I was scared because I liked it. See, my father wasn't a nice man and he'd get drunk a lot. He used to call me names sometimes, like ‘faggot’ and ‘no-good queer’. Once I realised what they meant, I was determined to never become what my father called me. So even though I loved Jesse - he was my best friend - I never acted on the feelings that kiss produced. After a while, after Jesse died, they just seemed to fade away. I never thought about why. Now I know."

Xander was trying not to cry as thought about all the pain and misery he might have been spared if he hadn't had this done to him. Would he even be in this hellish situation? Spike wasn't sure what to do to comfort the boy so he just waited in silence for Xander to continue. Eventually he did.

"Willow was in love with me, or thought she was. She put a spell on me to block my... bisexuality I guess. I mean, this isn't the first dimension that I've been gay in, obviously. Why would she do that to me? She saw how miserable my life was, how I was constantly struggling to fit in somewhere. I've always felt like I was missing something; I just thought it was because I didn't have super powers like all my friends, now I know that isn't it. She took a piece of me; she made me less than who I should be. Xander is going to remove the spell; I'll probably change. I don't know who I'll be when it's done."

"You'll be who you were meant to be, Xander. That's all you can be. And hey, I'll still be here. I don't care if you're straight, gay, bi, whatever. I'm a vampire; we'll do just about anything. Take Dru, she really goes for the slime-and-antlers crowd. Not my cup of tea, mind you but to each his/her own."

"Thanks, Spike. I feel better."

Xander and Ethan, who had been listening outside the door, came back in with several jars and books. After arranging things the way they wanted them, Xander had Spike stand to one side of Xander while he bound them with magic.

It took several spells, but eventually Xander was free of Willow's spell and had both Spike and his possessions magically linked to him. Ethan gave him a small jar of oil and told him to dab it on anything else that he wanted to link to himself. Before they left, his double stopped Xander and pressed something into his hand. Spike stepped outside and lit a cigarette while he waited.

"In case you shift when you’re outside in the sun."

Xander looked at the ring in his hand and then looked back at his double.

"Is this...?"

"Yeah, it is. Take it. The damn thing has been nothing but trouble for me. You look like you could use it."

"How did you get it? I thought Buffy sent it to Deadboy?"

"She did, but Oz is a smart guy. Angel in the sunlight equals joy, which could lead to perfect happiness. So he gave to me instead. Could you imagine the carnage Angelus could cause if he were unstoppable?"

Both Xanders shuddered at the very idea of it. Xander stared at the ring; it was so small to be able to do so much. He wasn't sure if he should give it Spike, but after everything the blonde had been through didn't he deserve some reward? Besides, the sunlight was going to be an issue. The only problem was not letting Angel see it.

"Thanks man. You've been a big help. I wish there was something I could do to repay you."

"Don't worry about it. I've been there, sort of. Take care, and I hope you make it home, Xander."

"Thanks, me too."

Part Twenty-Two

Xander kept the ring held tightly in his fist, hand inside his pocket, all the way back to the hotel. He was trying to decide whether or not to give Spike the ring - or at least whether or not to give it to him yet. This wasn't his Spike, after all; this one had been through a hell that he couldn't even imagine. Maybe this would make up for some of his mistreatment, maybe it wouldn't. One thing was certain, if he did give him the ring they couldn't stay at the hotel with Angel.

"Hey, Spike? How would you feel about going back to Sunnydale?"

Xander cringed under the look that Spike turned on him. He tried to remember that for Spike, Sunnydale was like Acathla's dimension to him. He took a calming breath and laid his hand on Spike's shoulder.

"This isn't your world, things won't be like that. If it makes you feel any better, we won't see any of them. I just want to be in Sunnydale when we finally get to my world, otherwise I might not recognise it. Okay?"

Spike reminded himself that this man had not only taken him away from Riley, but he had taken him from his own reality. Riley could never touch him again. He trusted Xander. If he said things would be okay, they would be.

"Alright, we'll go. But how the hell are we gonna get there?"

"I hadn't thought that far ahead. Any ideas?"

Spike grinned and pointed to a motorbike parked a ways down the street. Xander followed his finger and when he saw the bike he shook his head.

"No. We are not stealing a bike. I'm not going to jail just for a ride to Sunnydale."

"You got a better idea? I'm all ears."

The truth was, Xander didn't have any better ideas. He rolled his eyes and then nodded at Spike.

"Fine, but you realise that we'll probably shift out halfway there and end up a smudge on the highway in the next world."

Spike chuckled.

"Not if you dab a bit of that oil on the bike. Never know when you might need to make a quick getaway."

Xander hated to admit it, but Spike was right. He definitely could have used a getaway vehicle in Acathla's world. He let Spike steal the bike and waited for him the next block over. Once Spike pulled up to the curb, Xander quickly drizzled a small amount of oil onto the bike and then climbed on.

After a very brief stop at the hotel to say goodbye - and for Spike to get some blood, they were on their way to Sunnydale. Xander held on tightly to Spike as the blonde sped down the highway. The way Spike drove, Xander wondered if he'd live long enough to get home.

It was almost dawn when they sped past the 'Welcome to Sunnydale' sign. Xander knew they had to find a place to crash so they headed for the cemetery; hopefully they could find an empty crypt to hole up in for the day.

"You know, I really need to get some money for emergency hotel rooms or something. The last time I hid in a crypt I got dragged off by demons and put in a cell."

Xander shuddered at the memory and Spike frowned. He had a few bad memories of his own with regards to crypts and Sunnydale. Finn had once left him tied up naked and bleeding in a crypt for days. Every once in a while, he or one of the other soldiers would come by and whip him or cut him open ... or worse. The Sunnydale Motor Lodge was starting to sound like the Ritz-Carlton right about now.

"I hear ya, but seeing as we're broke and I'm at serious risk of spontaneous combustion, I think we'd better pick a crypt and get inside."

"Okay, you're the graveyard-dwelling demon here, you pick."

Spike looked around quickly and pointed. Xander chuckled and shook his head.

"Figures. Back home that's Spike's crypt. How did I know you'd pick that one?"

"Well I better pick another then, cause we don't know if there is a me in the Sunnyhell of this world."

Spike pointed at a smaller crypt further back in the cemetery and they headed for it quickly. They yanked the door open and pushed the bike inside. Spike went in to check the place out while Xander waited outside. Spike popped back out briefly to give him the all clear and Xander followed him in.

Blue eyes blinked in shock and surprise a few feet away. If Spike was right, he had just seen himself go into that crypt with a human and a motor bike. He was absolutely going to check this out at sundown. Spike turned back toward his own crypt and slipped inside.

Inside, Xander and Spike were trying to get comfortable on the hard floor of the crypt. Xander was using his bag for a pillow and Spike had pulled his duster off and was using it for a blanket. They lay side by side in the farthest corner of the crypt, Xander between Spike and the door. He didn't want the vampire to get hit by any stray sunlight if someone happened to open the door.

Of course, he could have just given him the ring, but he was still unsure. He wanted to be positive he was doing the right thing before he handed it over. In the wrong hands, that ring was dangerous. Eventually exhaustion won out and they both fell asleep.

As soon as the sun set, Spike slipped out of his crypt and made his way quickly across the cemetery. He slowly and quietly opened the door to the crypt he had seen himself go into this morning. He looked around and found the two sleeping men curled up together in the corner of the crypt.

Even if he was blind he would know that was himself lying in the corner with a human man sprawled across his chest. He could smell it. He wondered what the hell was going on - the only thing he could think of was Red was working mojo again and screwed up. He wanted an explanation before he ran off and accused her; her wolf was quite protective of her, and still human enough that his chip would go off if he tried to hit him.

Spike screamed and sat up abruptly, knocking Xander off his chest and waking him in the process. Xander sat up and saw that the vampire was still asleep and just reacting to something in his dream. He wrapped his arms around him and began talking to him in a low soothing voice, just as Spike had done for him the other night.

Spike stood back in the shadows and watched as the human comforted his double. He knew that scream; he had suffered nightmares himself after escaping the Initiative. If the Watcher and the wolf hadn't taken him in he'd have likely starved to his final death. He was intrigued by the behaviour of the human. He couldn't see the man very well, but he was familiar somehow.

Spike woke up and felt the warm hands on his skin. He froze in absolute terror. Eventually the voice broke through his fear-fogged mind and he sobbed in relief. Xander just held him and let him cry; turnabout was fair play after all, and he figured Spike had a hell of a lot more to cry about than he did.

He had made one decision; tonight he would give Spike the ring. If it gave him any small measure of happiness it was worth it. He'd never seen Spike like this. It was heart wrenching.

Eventually, Spike calmed down and pulled away from Xander in embarrassment. He couldn't believe he had broken down like that. It had been a long time since he'd had a nightmare that bad and even longer since he'd allowed himself to cry.

"Hey, don't be ashamed because of that. I don't think any less of you - like you said, everyone needs comfort sometimes."

Spike nodded but remained silent and rigid. Xander sighed in frustration. He knew this wouldn't be easy for Spike. He'd never met a prouder more stubborn person - demon, whatever in his life.

"Come here. Please?"

Spike allowed Xander to pull him close again. He relaxed into the warm embrace and just enjoyed the comfort being given to him. It was a strange, yet nice feeling.

"You don't have to tell me what that was all about, but if you ever want to talk, I'll listen. No pressure. Okay?"

Spike nodded again and they remained sitting together in silence for sometime. The Spike who stood watching from the darkness was shocked. He could clearly see the man’s face now. It was that boy he had kidnapped with the witch a few years back. Last he'd heard he was shacked up with some warlock in L.A.

Eventually, Spike and Xander got up and walked to the door. They both needed to eat, and in order to do that, they needed money. Xander couldn't believe he was going to let Spike scare people into giving them their wallets. Spike had been with him a matter of days and he was turning into a criminal. He hated to see what he'd be like after a few months of his company.

Spike followed them from a safe distance as they headed toward the Bronze. He watched with some amusement as his double went into game face and scared a couple teenagers out of their cash. Of course when he saw the vamp smile at his human, he almost threw up. No fangs. That just wasn't right. Who the hell would do that to him? Spike decided it was time for answers.

"'Ello pets, are you having fun?"

Xander and Spike spun around to see Spike watching them curiously. Simultaneously they both replied.


Part Twenty-Three

Spike chuckled. He hadn't exactly expected this reaction.

"Not for over a century, personally. Now, mind explaining to me why you have my face? And why you are here with... me, rather than in L.A. with your warlock?"

Spike looked first to his double and then to Xander. It was Xander who answered.

"What do you know about vengeance demons and the Initiative?"

Spike swore softly and then grimaced. It figured that Finn and his outfit were behind the fang-removal. He was once again thankful that he had escaped when he did.

"I'm far too familiar with the Initiative for my liking."

Spike tapped his head with a finger and continued.

"But as for the vengeance demon bit, I can't say as I know anything. Why don't we go back to my crypt and talk? I have blood, and you can pick something up on the way."

Xander and Spike exchanged a look and then Xander shrugged his shoulders. They followed Spike back to the cemetery and into his crypt. It was similarly decorated to the one his Spike had, including a furnished lower level. They ate in relative silence, Spike watching his guests intently. The vampire didn't change faces to feed, which was just odd. The blood scent alone should call forth the demon. Finally, when both had finished eating, Spike couldn't take the waiting any longer and demanded answers.

Xander explained his relationship with Anya, the former vengeance demon. Spike snorted in amusement at the size of the kid’s balls to leave a demon - ex or otherwise - standing at the altar. He could see why she had done what she had. It was himself that he was mostly interested in. Xander left that story up to Spike. He wouldn't say anything about Finn or the hardware that had been inside him; it wasn't his story to tell.

"Me? Simple really. The military recaptured me after I escaped from the lab. They did stuff; I ended up as the property of one Agent Finn. I was implanted with not only this buggery chip but also fifteen other pieces of technology, courtesy of the U.S. Government. Xander there shifted into my reality and didn't like my living conditions, so he called Angelus - Angel, to come down from L.A. and get me."

Spike looked shocked. His opinion of the human had just risen considerably. He knew none of the humans he associated with would go to that much trouble for him and he had been helping them for years. This kid didn't even know that version of himself and risked a lot to help him.

"We got chased through the woods by soldiers, hid out in the old mansion and waited for Peaches to ride in and save the day. Back in L.A., one of his pets did a spell to locate any tracking devices I might have on me; turned out I was a walking military experiment. I have no idea what any of the stuff did, except it doesn't hurt to shift into my true face anymore so that must have been part of it. Soldiers stormed the hotel, slayer in tow, and shot us down with tazers. Xander landed on me - lucky for me, and took me with him when he shifted out. Now we're here."

Spike nodded in understanding. He saw the look on his double’s face when he said they 'did stuff'. He knew what that entailed, but to live through it for this long? He wasn't sure he would have lasted. He figured that this Spike had likely endured things he couldn't even imagine, or wouldn't want to.

"And staying in a crypt?"

"No cash for a hotel room."

"So, when the boy shifts out again, what happens to you?"

Spike smiled at Xander before answering.

"I go with him. His double in L.A. worked some mojo on us."

"Fair deal. Can I have yer bike then?"

Xander laughed; he couldn't help it. This Spike sounded so much like the one he knew back home. Always looking for what he could get out of a situation.

"Sorry, Spike. The bike has been mojo-ed as well. It goes where we go, and seeing as it's stolen, that's probably for the best."

"True. Can't blame a bloke for asking."

Now that Spike had asked his questions and gotten them answered, Xander had a few things he wanted to know as well. For starters, he was curious about Willow.

"Can I ask you a few things, about this world?"

"Sure, can't say as I'll know the answers though."

"Willow is still with Oz?"

"Yeah, she and the wolf are engaged; they live at her parents’ old place. The house was given to them as an engagement present. Red says it's because her parents likely won't be back for the wedding, or ever."

Xander could see that. Where his parents were verbally abusive, Willow's parents ignored her. Xander didn't know which was worse - at least when his Dad was yelling at him, he knew he was there.

"I can see that. What about Dawn? Who's looking after her?"

"She was staying with Rupert until he went back to London. Her Dad's a right git, didn't even get off his secretary long enough to show up at Buffy's funeral, let alone come and collect the li’l bit. She's currently living with Wolfboy and Red. Sometimes she stays here with me. I don't know why, but she likes me."

"Yeah, the Dawn back home, likes you too. She must see something in you the others don't."

Spike was becoming uncomfortable with the turn of the conversation. He figured that Xander knew things about the Spike he was travelling with that were true of himself as well, but that didn't mean he had to like it. It just wouldn't do for anyone to find out how soft he was becoming. Especially where Dawn was concerned. She was the only reason he was still in this godforsaken town, now that Buffy was gone.

Xander continued without thinking.

"Hell, after Buffy came back from the dead, she was so messed up, you took better care of Dawn than she did."

"What did you say? Buffy came back? How?"

"Oops, maybe I shouldn't have told you that part. See, in my world, Wills is a very powerful witch; she and her girlfriend Tara can do almost anything if they put their heads together. We helped her do a spell, something to do with an urn of Osiris. It brought Buffy back, but she's still a mess. I don't know that she'll ever be completely herself again. Turns out, she wasn't in some Hell dimension, she was in heaven... and we ripped her out of it."

Any hope that Spike had was once again crushed. He could never do that to Buffy. She deserved to have peace, but he was sure Dawn would appreciate knowing that Buffy wasn't in a hell dimension.

"Well, that was brilliant then, wasn't it."

"We didn't know. How could we?"

Spike sighed. He was taking his frustrations out on this man for no good reason. He was just angry that this boy had Buffy waiting for him back home and Spike would never see her again.

"You should come and see the witch. She'll want to know you're here."

Xander had a flashback of the Willow from the demon dimension and shuddered. He wasn't so sure, after the nightmare especially, that he could face her.

"I don't know about that. We were hoping to keep a low profile."

"Nuh uh. She finds out you were here and I didn't tell her, it'll be my arse in a sling."

Xander sighed and looked over at his travel companion. He wasn't looking too thrilled about the idea of seeing anyone from the scooby gang. Xander didn't blame him, but eventually he would have to get used to them - at least if he was going to come all the way home with Xander.

"Question. Where is Finn, and what happened to the Initiative here?"

"Gone, and gone. Soldier boy took off in a big black helicopter, and the Initiative was blown sky high."

"All right then. But if anyone comes after either of us, I will hurt you."

Spike snorted but nodded in the affirmative. He knew that Xander was just trying to look out for the other vampire. He was almost jealous of the loyalty he showed to him. He didn't have anyone watching his back.

Part Twenty-Four

To say that Willow was pleased to see him was an understatement; of course, she thought he was her Xander at the time. Once explanations were given, she was still happy, but not as much. Apparently the Xander in this world had left SunnyD and never looked back. After learning about the spell, Xander didn't really blame him.

Dawn was thrilled at the prospect of two Spikes - at least she was until she realised that the other Spike didn't like any of them, other than Xander. She understood why after they gave a brief explanation of his recapture by the Initiative, and subsequent enslavement by Riley - and the gang by default. Willow was horrified by what she had heard. Spike just snorted.

"Oh, please. Just because you lot don't drag me around on a leash don't make it any better. If I don't have the information you're looking for, I don't get fed. If I don't play nice and do as you say, I get beat up. Not so much now that Buffy isn't here to do it, but it still happens."

Spike looked pointedly at Oz. The werewolf had taken it upon himself a few times to rough Spike up after Buffy's death. He wasn't happy about it, but it was what the slayer had always done, and it was the only thing he knew for sure that worked.

"If it weren't for the bit here, I'd leave you all to rot in this hell hole. I'd get better treatment from Angel than I do you people."

Willow looked down guiltily, and Oz nodded. He knew it was the truth, no point in denying it. He had wondered why Spike had stuck around after Buffy's death, now he knew. Dawn started to cry and flung herself at Spike. Spike held her and petted her hair.

"Hush, luv. Didn't mean to upset you. It's all right. Stop crying."

Dawn sniffled and wiped at her eyes. She lifted her head to look at Spike but didn't let go of him.

"I'm so sorry, I don't want you to stay here just for me. I'll understand if you leave, really."

"Not gonna happen, luv. I made a promise to your sis to look after you till the end of the world. I keep my promises."

Xander and Spike had crept towards the door during the previous conversation. This was way too personal to be intruding on as far as Xander was concerned. Spike just wasn't comfortable in the room with these people. He had only seen the werewolf the once since he'd been chipped, and that was when he'd tried to eat the blonde witch. He didn't trust the man.

They were almost at the door when Willow spotted them.

"Xander Harris, what do you think you're doing trying to sneaking out of here without saying goodbye?"

Xander sighed in defeat. He had really hoped to get away from her. He wasn't all that comfortable with any version of his best friend right now. After the nightmare, and then learning about the spell, he was on edge.

"This is personal, we shouldn't be here."

"Well, will you come back? I mean before you... shift?"

Xander shrugged his shoulders before replying.

"I can't really say; I don't know how long I'll be here. Could be weeks, could be a few hours."

"Oh, well where are you staying then? I'll come and check on you guys tomorrow."

"We're a few crypts down from Spike; I'm sure he'll let you know where it is."

Xander steered Spike toward the door. He had his hand on the doorknob when Willow spoke up.

"You can't stay in a cemetery! What kind of person would I be if I let you sleep in a cold, damp crypt?"

Xander didn't say anything but Spike looked over at his double - who was still crooning softly to the distraught girl in his arms, and then looked at the woman scowling at Xander.

"You tell me, ducks. Seems you don't have any problems with that at all."

Once again, Willow's eyes teared up and she looked down at the floor. Oz growled at Spike and put his arms around the redhead. Xander stepped in front of Spike and stared hard at Oz. He made his position very clear: if Oz wanted Spike, he had to come through him first.

"He has a point, Wills. Spike might be a demon, but that's not all he is. Look at him over there with Dawn… Does that look like a cold-blooded killer to you? Think about it. I'll come and see you again tomorrow if we're still here, but right now I think we should go."

Spike looked at Xander and then nodded to his double. Xander knew that Willow and Oz wouldn't do anything to Spike, but all the same he called out to him.

"Hey, Spike? We're heading out, you alright here or you wanna come with?"

Spike looked over and shook his head. He hoped he managed to keep the shocked expression off his face. He hadn't expected to be asked along.

"Nah, you two go on. I'm gonna stay an' visit for a bit."

Once outside, Xander shook off the tension he'd been feeling since they stepped inside the house and pulled out the rest of the cash they had stolen that night.

"Looks like we have enough for a room tonight, what do you say Spike? Crypt, or live it up at the old Sunnydale Motor Lodge?"

"Hotel. We can get more dosh tomorrow night if we're still here. That floor was bloody uncomfortable."

"I agree. I think we should leave the bike where it is though and walk over. No point in drawing attention."

Spike agreed and they set off on foot. The walk over was surprisingly uneventful, and after stopping off at the crypt to get Xander’s bag, they headed for the hotel. They only had enough for a room with one double-sized bed but they figured since it wasn't the first time they had shared a bed it would be fine. Of course, that was before Xander knew he had a spell on him that prevented him from being attracted to men. Now he knew, and the spell was gone.

Xander showered while Spike flicked around the television stations. When he was finished, he loaned Spike a pair of sweat pants so the vamp would have something to sleep in, and waited for him to go shower before pulling out the ring and looking at it. It still seemed so small, so unimpressive. It was hard to believe that this little piece of jewellery could make a vampire invulnerable. He wondered what Spike's reaction would be when he gave it to him. Also he wondered what he should say to Spike when he handed it over.

Spike was thinking about the way the humans and his double interacted. He could see straight off that this Spike had it a lot better than he did back home. Even still, the other vampire had a point. They did mistreat him, and it was obvious that they knew it. The girl - Dawn, loved him though. That was the strangest thing he had ever seen. The Dawn in his world wasn't allowed within ten feet of him. She never spoke to him or even looked at him. If she saw him, she turned away and left the room. Maybe she was saddened by what she saw? If the girl in his world was anything like the girl he had seen tonight, he wouldn't be surprised if she was.

By the time Spike came out of the bathroom, hair damp and wearing nothing but Xander’s sweat pants, Xander had decided to just give Spike the ring and see what happened. He waited until Spike had seated himself on the bed and leaned up against the headboard, then he turned off the TV.

"I have something for you."

Xander held his closed hand out and then opened it slowly. He watched as Spike's eyes widened, became glassy and then closed. He didn't understand why Spike hadn't taken it yet. His Spike would have snatched it out of his hand immediately. Then he noticed the tears on the vampire’s cheeks and the fact that he was trembling ever so slightly. Xander closed his hand and sat down on the bed next to Spike. He wasn't sure why the man was upset but he felt awful for making him cry. He reached out for him and sighed in relief when he didn't pull away.

"Hey, I'm sorry. I thought it would make you happy. I didn't mean to make you cry, really. If you don't want it, that's okay. I can keep it in case you change your mind."

Spike shook his head and held Xander tightly. When he spoke it was muffled by the fact that his face was buried in the other man’s shoulder.

"It's not that; I am happy. Really. It's just too much. You've done so much for me, been so nice to me. After ... After everything else, it's just overwhelming I guess. I didn't mean to cry to like some silly bint."

Xander chuckled and gave Spike a squeeze. He was just relieved he hadn't inadvertently hurt him somehow.

"No worries, I'm used to people going all emotional on me when I give them a ring. At least you didn't slap me."

Spike pulled away and looked at Xander; he wasn't sure what the man was inferring here. What exactly did the ring represent here? Xander caught the worried look on the vampire’s face and reviewed what he'd said. Whoops, he hadn't meant it to sound like that!

"Sorry, bad joke on my part. The ring is yours because I want you to be safe, that's all. I don't know what you were thinking, but I don't expect anything from you, I'm not like that. I like you; we're friends right?"

At Spike's nod Xander continued.

"Well as your friend, I want you to be safe. If we shift in the daytime, and I'm outside, you'll be dust. This way you won't."

"Where did you get it?"

"The other Xander; he got it from Oz when Buffy sent it to L.A. for Angel. Neither one of them trusted Angelus with the knowledge of the ring’s whereabouts so he ended up with it instead. He thought I should have it - said that I could use it more than he could. We have to be careful though, I don't want the others to see it. Oz would recognise it right away and so would the other Spike."

Spike thought about that for a minute; his double would have no qualms about taking it from him, hell he would if he were in that position. He wanted to put the ring on so badly, but what Xander had said made sense. They had to be careful.

"Maybe you should hold onto it until the next world. We'll figure out what to do with it then."

"Alright. But just to be sure, I treated it with the oil, if it's ever taken it'll come back."

"Thank you, Xander. You know, the Spike in your world is sure lucky to have such a good friend. I'm sure he misses you terribly."

Xander snorted.

"I may have been a bit ... misleading when I said we were friends. Don't get me wrong - I like Spike, it's just, in my world, I wasn't any better than Willow and Oz were with this Spike tonight. I just didn't understand. Now I know better, and if we ever get to my world, I plan on making it up to him. I owe him an apology - for a lot of things."

"Well, you've proven yourself to me. I'm proud to call you my friend."

Xander smiled and closed his eyes. He felt better now that the truth about his relationship with the Spike of his world was out in the open. He didn't want there to be any lies between them. Not if they were going to be stuck together for some time.

Part Twenty-Five

Somehow we've been coerced into staying at Willow's. Don't ask me how, I'm really not sure. They seem to be under the impression that Spike and I are a bit more than friends, at least I think so, since they have us sharing a room. Not that I mind so much; I'm still having nightmares and it's nice to have someone close by when I wake up shaking.

Spike is slowly getting more comfortable around Willow and Oz. He warmed up to Dawn almost immediately but I don't think he even knew the Dawn from his world. The Spike from this world is okay, he's a lot like the one back home, so much so that I sometimes forget where I am and have to stop myself from starting an argument with him just to hear what kind of creative insult he can come up with. I never thought I'd miss being insulted by Spike. Go figure.

I should probably tell you that the Xander of this world gave me the Gem of Amara. I gave it to Spike. He asked me to keep it for him until we shift. Oh yeah, that's another thing - he's coming with me. I didn't know what else to do, I pulled him out of his own world, so I feel responsible for him, plus I like the guy. So he decided to come along on this crazy ride. I'm happy to have the company.

I have some rather disturbing news; it seems that Willow put a spell on me back in high school, when she thought she was in love with me. It was designed to limit my affections. Oh hell, she put a whammy on me so I wouldn't like guys any more. Not that there were a lot of guys I liked to begin with. Only Jesse, and I was terrified of my father ever finding out so I never told him. Now, I'm not under that spell anymore.

It answered a lot of questions, like why the other me - the one with Spike, was with him. The Willow on that world was gay in high school; she had dated Cordy so therefore no spell on the Xan-man. I don't know about the one with Wesley, but I can only assume that he wasn't under a spell or someone had lifted it for him. The me of this world was under a spell; that was how he recognised it on me. He never asked Willow why she did it; he never spoke to her again.

I sort of hope we leave this place soon. I know Spike doesn't like it here, and I'm not really comfortable either. I hope the next world has a friendly feel to it. Hell, I hope the next world is home.

Xander closed his journal and looked over at the sleeping vampire next to him. He had never understood what it was about Spike that drew people to him. Sure, he was attractive - something Xander was realising a lot more since the spell was lifted, but he always put off such 'don't fuck with me' vibes that no one in his right mind would go anywhere near him.

Of course, getting to know the real man behind the image was something Xander was glad he was doing; although he did miss home, he was beginning to think this little adventure might do him some good - aside from landing in anymore demon-controlled dimensions. He had learned a lot about himself and his friends since this whole thing began. And, of course, there was Spike.

Since the hardware had come out, he had been gaining back some of his strength; he'd put on a few pounds and he could change faces without pain. Xander just hoped his fangs grew back soon; he knew it was a real sore spot for his friend. A vampire without fangs was a pitiful sight. Especially on such a proud, fierce demon as Spike.

It was late at night, or early in the morning depending on how you looked at it, so Xander switched off the lamp and lay down beside Spike. It was still weird sharing a bed with another man, especially one who didn't breathe. Nevertheless, the company was appreciated. Besides, at least Spike didn't snore.

The first thing Xander noticed when he woke up was that Spike was practically lying on top of him. The second thing he noticed was that the vamp had his hand over his mouth so he wouldn't speak. The third and probably the most alarming, was that Spike was in full vamp face.

Xander cocked a brow in question and Spike leaned in closer. For a second, Xander thought he was going to kiss him. He wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed when the blonde whispered in his ear.

"Be quiet. I don't think we're in the same place. I can hear voices, and I think they're ours."

Xander's eyes widened in shock. Spike moved his hand and then rolled off of the human. Xander sat up and immediately noticed the motorbike in the corner of the room. He knew that hadn't been there the night before. He reached for his jeans on the floor and slid them on. Xander looked over to see that Spike had followed suit and was dressing as well. He reached into his pocket and grasped the ring before reaching for the vampire’s hand.

Spike stood in numb shock as Xander put the ring on his finger. It was still so amazing to him that he had been given such a gift. He studied his hand and smiled in pure joy. He felt safe. Something he had thought he'd never feel again. He was so happy and so grateful that he pulled Xander to him and hugged him hard. Xander returned the hug and then stepped back smiling.

"We need to sneak out of here, or at least try to. What do you think our chances are?"

"Well the other me shouldn't smell us, or rather he'll think he's just smelling himself and the other you. As long as we're quiet and they're not right outside the door we might get away with it."

Xander nodded and silently went to the door. Spike followed. With a deep steadying breath, Xander opened the door, stepped out into the hall and stopped dead in his tracks. Spike walked into his back and was just about to ask him what the hell his problem was when he saw what Xander was looking at.

There, in the room right across from them was himself, Xander and the witch - naked and writhing on the bed. He looked from the tangle of bodies on the bed to the man standing in front and slightly off to the side of him and then back to the naked people in the bed.

Xander was stretched out on his back, arms above his head. Willow was straddled across him, her head off to one side of his neck. She was riding him at a leisurely pace. Behind her, Spike was thrusting into her ass, his head thrown back, a look of ecstasy on his face. He reached a hand out blindly and Xander grabbed it, entwined their fingers and dragged him down across Willows back to kiss him passionately.

Xander swallowed hard and tore his gaze away from the three in the bed. He turned slightly and saw that Spike was also watching the show with a look of arousal on his face. He couldn't blame him; it was very hot watching the three of them.

Spike jumped when Xander reached out and touched his arm. He spun around to look at him and smiled sheepishly. He couldn't help but glance down Xander's body; relieved when he saw that he was not immune to the affects of the sight in front of them. He looked back up and saw the human blushing. He winked at him and headed for the stairs. Xander followed Spike downstairs to the front door. They were just about home free when Spike was attacked by a naked version of himself in full gameface. Xander put up his hands in surrender and sighed.

"Hey Spike. Betcha you're wondering what the hell is going on huh?"

Xander and Willow appeared at the top of the stairs - both wearing robes, and started toward him and the two vampires. Willow looked confused, as did Xander.

"Could say that mate. Start talking."

The clothes-wearing Spike vamped out as well and snarled at his double. Naked Spike dropped his hands from his doppelganger and stepped back with a muttered 'Bloody Hell!' But Willow screeched and ran forward. Before Spike knew what hit him, Willow had her hands on his face, her eyes closed in concentration and green sparks were shooting from her fingertips into the sides of the vampire’s face. Xander panicked.

"What the hell are you doing to him? Stop it!"

He went to grab Willow but naked Spike stepped in his way.

"Calm down, she's healing him, she is. Then ... then I want to know what in the blue hell is going on here!"

Xander looked over at his Spike and saw that indeed Willow was not hurting him. He guessed after what he had learned about his friend, it would be a long time - if ever - before he would fully trust her again. As soon as Willow released Spike, Xander was at his side pulling him close and checking him over. The other Spike and Xander exchanged a look and then naked Spike went upstairs to get dressed.

"So, while Spike makes himself presentable - more or less, why don't we all go into the kitchen and I'll make coffee. Then you can explain who you guys are and why you're in our house."

Xander watched as Willow walked away, he looked at his double who made it clear that there were no other options open to them. With a weary sigh and a shake of his head Xander threw his arm over Spike's shoulders.

"Come on Blondie, let's go make with the explanations - again."

"Should just get flyers made up, would save time."

Xander chuckled.

"Yeah, I thought about that a few times myself. Maybe we'll do that before we leave this time."

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