Pairing: X/S friendship, X/S romance, hints of B/S
Rating : NC17 over all
Summary: Sequal to Quantum Xander. Now that Xander is home, how has his life changed?
Previous story found at: or http://www.squidge.org/vigsvale/cassy/quantum_xander/index.html>
Feedback: If you want to.
Disclaimer: If I were Joss, Spike and Xander would be naked 24/7. They aren't? Guess I'm not Joss then ;-p
Distribution: I never say no, I'm easy that way!
A/N: A huge thanks to Alex, the bestest beta ever!
A/N 2: I wasn't sure when I started this if I was going to use cannon as a base for this fic or not. I've decided yes, so this will contain season seven spoilers.





Quantum Xander 2
In Wake of the Curse


by
Jameschick



Part One

It had been two weeks since Xander had been back home. He had convinced his boss not to fire him by explaining that he had left his bride at the altar and felt it was safer to hide out for awhile. His boss laughed and told him he was insane for leaving a hot dish like Anya, then he asked for her phone number.

The evening had been spent tracking down a giant worm demon; Anya's work, obviously, and being surprised by the appearance of Spike. He just showed up out of the blue offering help and prattling on about something big coming from below. They dealt with the problem and now Xander was lying awake in his bed staring at the ceiling. Sleep would not come to him.

Spike was back. He was back in Sunnydale and living in the basement of the new Sunnydale High. That was the thought that kept Xander awake, he had only just found out. Buffy, it seemed, had known for a whole week and didn't see fit to share this information. That wasn't the only thing though. Spike was acting crazy, like he wasn't in his right mind. Like he was...

"Oh, God!"

Xander quickly pulled on his jeans and t-shirt. He stuffed his wallet and keys in his pocket, stepped into his sneakers and left his apartment. He ran down the stairs and out to his car. As he drove toward the high school, he had only one thought on his mind - Spike had a soul. He was in pain and he was all alone living directly over the mouth of hell.

"Hang on Spike, I'm coming." Xander parked the car and used his passkey to enter the building. Being foreman had its perks after all. He remembered that Buffy said Spike was living in a room in the basement. He made his way downstairs carefully. He was on alert for anything oogy that might be down there as well.

"Spike? Hey buddy, you down here?"

Xander flicked his flashlight around the walls and then stopped as he saw something move in the far corner of the room. He watched the spot but there was no further movement.

"Spike?"

"M'not here. Go 'way."

Xander chuckled at the vampire's reasoning. Only a crazy person would tell you they weren't there and expect you to believe it.

"Spike. I know you're here. I can hear you."

Xander walked closer to where the blonde had screwed himself into a corner, trying as hard as he could to be small and invisible.

"I can see you, too. Come on, Spike. This place is making you nuts; let me get you out of here."

"Can't leave. I don't have a pass."

"Then I'll give you one."

Startled blue eyes looked up with wonder. Spike studied the intent look on Xander's face and then smiled shyly.

"You'd do that? For me?"

"I would. I will. Come on, time to go."

"They won't like it. Change the walls they will, make it impossible to leave. Can't leave when the doors disappear."

"Hey, I have a map. Blueprints actually, don't worry. We'll be fine."

Xander smiled as Spike took the hand he held out, and he helped him to his feet. He steered the vampire out of the room and back toward the stairs to the main floor of the school. At the door to the stairwell, Spike turned back and stared in horror at something Xander couldn't see.

"Not skipping. I have a pass! He said so, said I could leave now. Please."

Spike began to tremble and Xander just caught him before he dropped to the ground. He scooped the shaking vampire into his arms and headed up the stairs. He didn't let go of him until they were back at his car, and then only to open the door and strap him into the passenger seat. Xander got in behind the wheel and started back toward his apartment.

"It'll be okay, Spike. I'll help you get through this."

"Why? I hurt the girl. Shouldn't help me, I'm a bad man. William's a bad, bad man."

"No, William is a good man. You stopped, Spike; you stopped yourself before you went too far. You got your soul back just to punish yourself. You're not a bad man. Give yourself time to adjust. You'll be okay, and I'll help if I can."

"Who are you?"

Xander looked over at the vampire and blinked rapidly; he was scared for a minute that Spike had completely forgotten him.

"I'm Xander, Spike. You know me; we used to live together in the basement of doom."

"No. Not Xander. Xander hates me; you're one of them, here to trick me, hurt me."

Spike began to pull on his lap belt, Xander was afraid he'd jump out of the car while it was still moving. He locked all the doors and put on the child safety lock so there was no way Spike could get out of the car.

"I am Xander. I'm just different than before, changed."

"You got your soul back, too?"

Xander laughed softly.

"In a manner of speaking, yeah. I grew up, Spike, learned some valuable life lessons. Let's just say things aren't so black and white for me anymore. I know who you are, who you really are and I like that person. I won't hurt you. I promise."

Spike nodded and then turned his head to stare out the window. The rest of the drive back to the apartment was made in silence. Xander parked the car in his spot and then unlocked the doors. Spike didn't make any move to get out of the car, so Xander walked around to his door and opened it.

Spike had fallen asleep in the car. It was kinda cute actually. Xander realised that this was probably the only sleep the vampire had gotten since returning to Sunnydale and taking up residence in the high school. He reached out and gently shook the vampire awake.

"Spike, we're home. You wanna wake up and walk, or am I gonna have to carry you?"

Spike merely blinked in confusion and closed his eyes again. Xander smiled again and gently lifted the vampire out of the car.

"Carried it is then."

He took the stairs up to his apartment, and then set Spike on his feet while he unlocked the door and pushed it open.

"Come inside, Spike. You are welcome in my home."

Xander nudged the vampire inside and then closed and locked the door. He looked around and realised that he had nowhere to put Spike now that he was here. He hadn't thought that far ahead.

"Why don't you take a shower and I'll fix up the bed for you."

Spike gave Xander another one of those confused looks but headed towards the bathroom to shower as Xander had suggested. Once the door closed and Xander could hear the water running, he stripped and remade the bed with fresh sheets. Then he raided the linen closet for extra blankets and a pillow to make up the couch.

Spike peeked his head around the bathroom door and called out for Xander. Xander left the blankets on the couch and made his way back to the hallway. He looked at the tousled blonde head peeking out of the bathroom and bit his lip to keep from grinning.

"Yeah, Spike?"

"Um, do you have anything I can put on? My clothes... well they kinda smell."

"Oh, sure. I put some sweatpants and a shirt on the bed for you. They might be kinda big but they're clean and warm. I'll pick up some stuff for you tomorrow. Okay?"

Spike blinked, nodded and then closed the bathroom door in Xander's face. Xander shook his head and walked away. Insane Spike with a soul was going to take some getting used to. He wondered if Buffy knew that Spike had a soul? No sooner had he thought it then he realised she must know. He wondered how she could leave him there, knowing what he was going through. He heard the bathroom door open and then quick footsteps across the hall before the bedroom door closed with a bang.

Xander put the kettle on and got two mugs down from the cupboard. He didn't have any blood in the house - something he would fix first thing in the morning - but he did have hot chocolate mix and mini marshmallows.

"Hey, Spike! When you finish dressing, come on out to the living room; I'm making hot chocolate."

By the time the kettle boiled and Xander made the drinks - adding extra marshmallows to Spike's - the vampire came out of the bedroom dressed in a pair of Xander's soft grey sweat pants and a long-sleeved navy blue t-shirt that was at least two sizes too big. He smiled shyly at Xander and then sat on the couch.

Xander handed him a mug and sat down next to him. They sipped at their beverages in silence for a while - Spike occasionally hooking a melted marshmallow on his pinkie finger and slurping it into his mouth. Finally, Xander had to ask.

"Why did you get your soul back, Spike?"

Spike looked up at him in alarm and then slumped in defeat.

"Told you, did she?"

"No. I can see it. So, why? Were you cursed?"

"Asked for it. Wanted to give Buffy what she deserves. Be the man I was."

"I see."

They finished the hot chocolate and Xander stood and stretched. He looked down at the miserable vampire on the sofa and his heart went out to him.

"She'll come around, Spike. Give her time."

When Spike didn't answer, Xander pulled him to his feet and walked him to the bedroom. He gave him a gentle shove toward the bed and told him to get some sleep. Then Xander went back out to the living room and flopped down on the sofa. He'd need to see about getting Spike a bed of his own tomorrow.





Part Two

Xander called in sick the next day. He showered, quietly sneaked into his room and liberated some clean clothes from his dresser, dressed and then headed out to procure some blood for Spike so he'd have something to eat when he woke up. He went by Willy's as well as the butcher's, figuring that human blood was better for the vampire than animal; and seeing how thin Spike looked, he could probably use it.

Once he got home, Xander quickly put the blood in the refrigerator and went into the bathroom. In his haste, he had forgotten to perform his scent-masking spell before he left. It wouldn't do him any good to confuse Spike more than he already had, by smelling like him.

It was a relatively simple spell. A few words and a couple drops of a mixture of herbs and pomegranate juice applied to his throat where the scar was. The only drawback was that he had to do it every morning, and with Spike now living with him, he'd have to be extra careful not to forget again.

Xander cracked his bedroom door open and peeked inside. Spike was still sleeping, though it looked as though it hadn't been a completely peaceful night for him by the way the sheets and blanket were tangled around his legs. He still had a few things to do today, so he backed away and closed the door.

The en suite storage in his apartment was almost as big as a second bedroom except without the closet or window that would usually be found in a bedroom. In other words, it was perfect for a vampire.

Xander moved everything out of the storage room and carried it to the living room. There wasn't a whole lot in there to begin with, just some tools for around the house, the Christmas decorations and a few boxes of comic books. He figured he could easily store these things in his bedroom closet now that he didn't need the space for all of Anya's things.

Once the room was empty, Xander swept it out and washed down the floor. He knew Spike was sensitive to strong smells, and the room reeked of dust and newsprint. He propped the door open with one of the kitchen chairs and then sat down at his desk and logged on to the Internet.

It was easy enough to order a bed and dresser on-line and arrange to have it delivered. He figured he had time to run out to Wal-Mart for sheets and pillowcases for Spike's bed before the vampire woke up. Just in case, he left a note on the coffee table telling Spike where he went and that there was blood in the fridge.

Wal-Mart was hellish, as usual. He smiled at the old man in the blue frock and accepted a shopping cart. The one bright spot to being practically guaranteed a short life and a painful death was that he wouldn't have to be that guy when he was old.

Xander stood dumbfounded in the linen aisle. He had no idea what kind of sheets to buy. Obviously plain white cotton was out. Spike would practically disappear on white sheets. If it were his Spike, it would be obvious - blood red silk sheets, or even black. Hell, if it was the Spike he knew before the soul, it would have been the same. Now he had to wonder what William would like to sleep on.

He decided against the typical vampire colours and settled on two sets of cotton sheets - one in navy and one in a deep hunter green. Manly colours, but not vampy.

He headed to the checkout before realising that Spike had no clothes other than the set he'd been wearing. Xander shook his head at the strange turn of events and headed for men's wear. He never would have pictured himself willingly buying clothes for Spike. At least not before his entire world was turned upside down.

He wasn't sure what a newly-souled vampire would want to wear, so he picked up two pairs of jeans - one black, one a faded blue, a package of black t-shirts, a few pairs of boxer briefs - just in case - and a jean jacket - also in black - since he hadn't seen the vampire's duster anywhere.

Having picked up everything he thought he needed, Xander headed for the cashier and got in line. He had just finished emptying his cart when he was touched on the shoulder by a small feminine hand. He spun around to see an amused slayer and younger sister.

"Hey, Buff. Dawnie. Shouldn't you guys be at the high school? Making with the learning and the earning?"

"It's a P.D. day, Xander; no school for me."

"I'm not exactly a professional so it doesn't apply to me. So, whatcha doing?"

"Oh, just a bit of shopping. You?"

"Same thing. I sort of ruined an entire load of towels the other night. I got that orange goop from the demon all over my hands and my hair, and well, let's just say water and demon slime? So not a good combo in this instance. Oh, that reminds me. You think you could come by later and look at the washing machine?"

Xander smiled.

"Sure, Buff. I'll be by after dinner."

"Okay. Hey? Since when did you start dressing like... Oh. My. God. Xander, tell me you are not buying clothes for Spike."

"I'm not buying clothes for Spike."

"Are you lying?"

"Yes."

Buffy sighed and looked at Xander in confusion.

"This isn't what I expected from you, Xander. I thought you'd be angry, that you'd want to stake him."

"Hey, Dawn? You want to go out to my car and get the package out of the glove box? I was going to give it to you later, but since you're here..."

"And since you so obviously want me to go away."

"I'm sorry. You're right. But I do have a present for you in the glove box."

Dawn smiled and took Xander's keys and rushed for the exit. Xander watched her go with a wistful smile on his face. He wondered what had happened to the Dawn of that crazy mixed-up world. Had she survived after Halfrek put them back there?

The cashier began to ring up Xander's purchases and put them in bags. Xander handed over his credit card, signed the slip and then collected his shopping bags. Buffy walked him out of the store.

"You should really watch what you say in front of her, Buffy. She's a lot like you; she'll hold onto a grudge tighter than Anya holds onto a dollar."

"When did you get so wise, Xander Harris?"

"I did a lot of growing up over the past year, er, two and a half months, Buffy. A lot of things happened while I was away."

"Like what? Why won't you tell us? We're your friends, Xander; we love you."

"I know, I'm just not ready to talk about it yet."

"Okay. But clothes shopping for the evil undead? What's up with that?"

"Not so evil anymore, Buffy. I know about the soul."

Buffy sighed in frustration.

"And what? It changed your whole opinion of Spike? Angel has a soul; I don't see you out shopping for him."

"I couldn't afford to shop for him. The bill for hair products alone would break me."

Buffy shook her head and smiled fondly at Xander. She saw Dawn approaching and quickly asked,

"Is he okay, Xander?"

"Yeah. He just needs some time."

"Okay."

Dawn was grinning like a kid at Christmas. She threw her arms around Xander and kissed him on the mouth. Buffy and Xander both gaped in shock and then closed their mouths at the same time. Buffy looked at Xander and quirked an eyebrow at him.

"What did you buy her?"

"Just a little gift."

"A little gift? She smooched you, Xander. That must have been some gift."

"Go on, Dawn. Show her."

Dawn pulled an envelope full of gift certificates to some of the trendiest stores in town out of her coat and handed them to Buffy. Buffy looked through them, adding them up mentally and gaped at Xander.

"Xander! There's $500 worth of gift certificates here!"

"I know."

He threw an arm around Buffy's shoulders and walked her a few feet away from Dawn before bending to whisper in her ear.

"I know things are rough for you right now, financially as well as emotionally. I just thought... well, I don't have to spend money on An anymore and I had the extra cash. Look at her, she's happy. I did that. And if it takes some stress off you, then all the better, right?"

"Xander..."

Buffy's eyes welled up with tears and she buried her face into his chest. Xander stroked his hand through her hair, offering her comfort the only way he knew how.

"I love you, Xander. You're the best friend a girl could ever have. I missed you so much."

"I missed you too, Buffy."

Xander was amazed to realise that for the first time, there was no ache - no tinge of jealousy at being called 'the best friend' from the girl he had loved since high school. He was happy that she loved him as a friend and nothing more, for as much as he loved her, she was no Spike. And all he wanted now was Spike.

"I have to get going; I have a delivery coming this afternoon I have to be home for. You want a ride home?"

"Nah, I still need to buy those towels, and I think Dawn's just dying to spend your money."

Xander kissed the girls and then jogged off toward his car. He hoped he got home before Spike woke up or the delivery guys arrived with the furniture for the vampire's room.





Part Three

Spike was improving. He was no longer as crazy as he had been that first week after Xander had brought him home. Now, midway through week two of their cohabitation, the vampire seemed almost back to his old self - annoying habits included.

"Spike! God damn it, I thought I asked you not to leave your wet towels all over the floor?"

"You did."

"So why are there towels all over the floor?"

"Just because you asked, doesn't mean I'm gonna listen, now does it?"

Xander stopped. Thought about it and burst out laughing. Spike stepped away from him and eyed him warily. He wasn't sure if he had finally driven the boy around the bend, but if that was the case, he wanted space to run.

"You know what? You're right. I should have expected this."

"You're not gonna yell at me some more? Take a swing at me?"

"Over wet towels? Nah, not worth it. Why? You want me to hit you?"

"Deserve it. After what I did."

"Spike, I already told you, I understand what happened with Buffy, I don't like it, but I do understand it."

"Not her, was talking about your girl."

Spike paused and looked at Xander in confusion.

"Didn't they tell you?"

Xander watched as Spike backed away from him, a look of horror on his face.

"They didn't tell you!"

"No, they didn't. I assume you mean Anya, so why don't you tell me?"

Spike sagged onto the couch and put his head in his hands. Xander sat next to him and waited.

"Well, now I know why you're being so decent to me. No one told you; I shagged your girl. I'll just be gettin' my things now."

Xander gaped at the mental image of his ex-fiancée and Spike... together... doing things.

"Wow, um, how did everyone find out?"

"Was caught on camera. The geek patrol that was stalking Buffy set up a camera at the shop. Just happened that the witch was trying to track the signal back and came upon the broadcast."

"Ouch. Bet Buffy was pissed."

"Well, not so much, actually. More hurt than anything else. Why haven't you hit me yet?"

"Why would I? Anya's not my girl; not any more. I lost the right to be pissed about her having sex with anyone else when I left her at the altar. So what happened? You guys break up?"

"What!? No, wasn't like that. It was... solace. She was hurtin', I was hurtin'. Just sorta happened."

There was silence for the next few minutes while Xander pondered the idea of Spike and Anya. It was definitely a better match then him and Buffy; at least it would have been, before the soul.

Spike, meanwhile, was using the silence to try and figure out who this new Xander was. The boy he'd known would have torn him apart for touching his girls; either of them. He wondered if he'd ever find out just what had happened to him when he'd disappeared. He hadn't had the guts to ask him just yet. Maybe now would be a good time?

"Xander? Can I ask you something?"

"You just did."

Xander smiled and Spike rolled his eyes.

"Fine. Can I ask you something after asking if I can ask you something?"

Xander smiled beatifically at him; Spike was even starting to think like one of them now.

"Sure, Spike. Ask away."

"Where'd you go? Before I left, everyone was looking for you, it was like you'd dropped off the face of the earth."

"Long story. Let's just say that the word 'wish' should be stricken from my vocabulary."

"You made a wish? After leaving your ex-demon fiancée at the altar? Not to mention the fact that there were a bloody lot of vengeance demons at that ceremony. Are you insane?"

"Insane. Drunk. Don't really remember making a wish. But there you go."

"What'd you wish for?"

"I wished I knew how my life could have been different. Spent about ten months jumping around to different realities."

Spike was shocked. He hadn't really expected Xander to tell him anything. And the idea that he had spent the last ten months - to him, two and half months to everyone else - hopping from world to world was mind boggling. He wanted to ask what he had seen; if he thought he had made the right choices in his life after seeing what could have been.

He wondered if there were places where he had made different choices, like not leaving that damn party over a century ago and getting turned. Was there a reality out there somewhere, where William the bloody awful poet had lived; maybe married and raised a family? Maybe a world where he and Dru hadn't gone to Prague and therefore never had reason to come to this damnable little California town. Were they still together? Happy?

"Don't do it, Spike. Trust me; finding out isn't worth the price you have to pay."

There was a note of pain and longing in the young man's voice that brought Spike out of his contemplation. Something had happened during Xander's time away, something that had fundamentally changed him, something that had hurt him beyond his endurance. Spike was determined to find out what it was.

"Wasn't gonna do nothin'. Was just thinking about the possibilities."

"Well, one possibility was you being recaptured by the Initiative. It wasn't pretty, trust me."

"How'd that come about? What have you got to do with me being recaptured?"

"I wasn't here, in Sunnydale. Therefore no cosy basement to hide out in. It's all interwoven. My life affects everyone else's, in some way or another. So does yours. Think about the implications of that before doing anything stupid. I'm going to my room. Goodnight, Spike."

Xander left the vampire sitting on the couch with a lot to think about. He stripped off his shirt and pants, crawled into bed and liberated the CD player from his nightstand. He popped in the first disc he grabbed and the not-so-soothing tones of The Ramones blasted through the tiny ear buds. Xander closed his eyes and remembered his mate dancing around the room listening to this and singing along. It was a good memory and it made him smile, even as the tears rolled down his face.

Spike heard the muted music coming through the headphones and tilted his head in confusion; he didn't know the boy liked classic punk rock. He walked down the hall and stopped just on the other side of Xander's door. He could smell tears and grief, as well as hear his muffled sobs. He made a decision; tomorrow while Xander was at work he was going to find out what had happened to him. He felt he owed him; for his friendship these past couple weeks, for his own sanity - the power of the hellmouth was making him even crazier than the soul - and his understanding about not only Buffy but Anya, as well.

Spike had no plans for the night so he heated some blood and settled in front of the TV. A&E was doing a biography on twentieth century poets, and if Xander wasn't gonna be around to take the piss with him for watching, he was going to do just that - watch.

The next morning, Spike waited until he was sure Xander was gone for the day before leaving his room and going down the hall to Xander's bedroom. He knew that snooping through the man's things was wrong, but he didn't know how else to help him. Besides, he might have a soul now, but he was still evil; just not in the 'killing, maiming and eating of people' way that he used to be.

The first thing he did was to open the closet. He knew from living with Xander in the basement that the boy hid all his personal things in his closet. He had been impressed by the sheer number of wank magazines the boy had had. This time, however, he was searching for something other than porn; although he had made good use of those skin mags.

Xander's clothes were mostly jeans and shirts that went in his dresser, so there were only a few button-down shirts and two suits hanging on the rod. Spike pushed them aside and froze at the sight of his beloved duster. Only, it wasn't his. He could tell his own coat, and this one, while identical to his, wasn't his.

For one, it had a rip on the left shoulder; his coat didn't. For two, he had left his at the slayer's and it was likely still there. And for three, there was a pair of Doc's sitting on the floor directly beneath it. Spike knew that his Doc's were in his room, under his bed where he kicked them off last night. So, if the boots weren't his, then it made sense that the coat wasn't his either. And that meant that Xander had brought back the duster and Doc's of some other Spike. But why?

Curious, but not really wanting to know any more, Spike righted the clothes in the closet and closed the door. He stood silently in the middle of the room and wondered if he shouldn't just leave this alone, let Xander tell him in his own time. If he told him. It was the 'if' that made his decision.

Next stop, the bedside table. Spike opened it and looked through the contents. A few CDs - decent bands too, some rather interesting sexual accessories - Spike took a moment to appreciate the softness of the leather cuffs before putting them back, and two leather-bound notebooks. Figuring that these would hold the answers he sought, he sat down and opened the first book. Noticeable shock registered on his face as he recognised his own handwriting.





Part Four

Xander was sitting at his desk eating his lunch and going over some invoices when the door to his trailer opened and Willow stepped inside. He looked up and saw her watching him with interest. He hoped that she couldn't feel the magic on him the way he could on her; otherwise he wouldn't be able to keep his secret.

"Hey, Wills. What brings you by? Scooby business?"

Xander tried to ignore the feelings of hurt and mistrust that washed over him. He really needed to try and get past this thing he felt for Willow; everyone made mistakes in their youth, after all, and if it weren't for the spell he never would have been cursed and met his mate. Everything else aside, it was worth it; he would go through it all again if given the choice. What he had - hopefully would have again - with Spike was worth everything.

"No. Friend business. Xander, you've been acting weird with me ever since you got back. Why?"

Xander took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He stamped down on the part of him that wanted to leap across the desk and throttle her for everything he had been through. The pain of the bond had been unusually high today and he was in no mood for her to interrogate him. Instead, he turned the tables on her.

"Were you going to tell me about An and Spike?"

Willow flushed and guiltily looked at the floor. After a moment she raised her head and defiantly looked at Xander.

"No, not at first. Spike was gone so it wasn't really an issue, then he was back but crazy so... and now, he's living with you, and Buffy thinks we might need him for whatever is coming so we didn't want to take any chances that you'd dust him."

"And what? You figured what I didn't know wouldn't hurt me?"

"To be honest? Yes."

Black rage filled him. He couldn't believe she had just said that to him. Like he was better off having other people make his decisions? Hardly! From what he had seen of the other Xanders he'd met, the ones who had control of their lives had done pretty damn well for themselves. And yet, Willow stood there in front of him basically telling him that he wasn't able to make the right choices on his own. That it was better to leave him in the dark.

"Who gave you the right to decide what's good for me? I don't think I want you making decisions for me anymore, Willow. I'd rather be hurt and learn from the pain than to have the decision taken from me. Now, if you don't mind, I have a lot of work to do today and you're taking up my time."

Xander hoped she would leave. He wasn't sure how much longer he could hold back the rage that was building inside of him. Willow looked at Xander strangely but turned and left. If she had stayed a few minutes longer she would have noticed how his eyes had turned black and his hair began to blow away from his face like a strong wind had suddenly swept into the trailer. She was back in the car and pulling away from the site when the explosion happened.

Xander hadn't realised how much power he had been drawing into himself as he tried to control his anger with his oldest friend. He was fast losing control over it and knew he had to channel it into something before it got away from him. He hoped to hell that no one was in the porta-potty, and let his power loose on it. He probably should have picked something less... messy.

Thankfully, being on the hellmouth, the crew had seen stranger things than an exploding toilet and were quick to come to the conclusion that it must have been the combination of the sun's heat and methane gas that caused the accident. Xander wasn't about to correct them. He was just glad that Rodney had exited the outdoor toilet before he blew it up. Although, he wished he had waited the thirty seconds it would have taken for the man to move out of range of the... spill. There was nothing sadder than seeing a grown man covered in shit and crying.

For the rest of the day, Xander fought with himself to remain at work. He was in utter agony; the loss of Spike was bad enough, but add to that the backlash from the power he had thrown around earlier and he was surprised he was still functioning. He thanked God that he was no longer on the crew and had a nice desk job now; he'd likely kill himself if he were expected to use tools today. He looked up as Jeremy rapped on the door and stepped inside.

"What's up?"

"Just wanted to let you know that Rodney's wife came and picked him up... in an open bed truck; said she was gonna hose him down in the yard before she let him inside."

Jeremy grinned. Xander couldn't help but smile back. The man was a sight, and you had to know Rodney's wife to fully appreciate the situation. She was proud of her home - very proud. He was surprised she let Rodney inside on good days. That house was a sterile environment if he'd ever seen one.

"With what? A power hose?"

"Yeah, probably that and a whole shitload of bleach. I'm bettin' Rodney is platinum blonde by the time we see him again."

"Anything else?"

"Yeah, the temp guys got the mess cleaned up. We didn't lose much in the way of materials."

"Good. Thanks for the update, Jeremy. Might as well tell everyone to pack it in for the day, nothing's gonna get done with that smell out there."

Jeremy nodded and left. Xander put his head down on the desk and tried to will away his pain. He was seriously thinking of biting his roommate if he didn't find a way to relieve the pain soon.

After the crew had left, Xander walked out of the trailer, taking time to lock it up, and then headed for his car. He wanted nothing more than to just go home and crawl into bed. Unfortunately, he had several errands to run that couldn't be put off. He had to go to the bank and deposit his paycheck, pick up some spell ingredients - he was going to try a healing spell on himself and see if it helped at all, and there was a book he had on order at the occult bookstore that had arrived this morning.

He was beginning to feel like Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down. Traffic was never this bad in Sunnydale. He could picture himself just leaving his car in the street and going on a rampage. His day had started off bad and got steadily worse. By the time he got to the bank, it had just closed, leaving him no way to cash his paycheck other than the auto-deposit. He hated that option as it took at least two days before the money actually showed up in his account. Grinding his teeth in frustration, he pulled out of the bank parking lot and headed for the magic store on the other side of Sunnydale.

It wasn't as nice a place as the Magic Box and the stock wasn't always the best quality, but since he had no other options, he made do. The older man - though Xander suspected he wasn't a man so much as he was a demon - who ran the shop was always pleasant to him when he came in. After getting the requisite herbs and other ingredients, Xander headed for the bookstore; if he was lucky, it would still be open - he was later than he had hoped he'd be. The owner of the shop - a small Asian woman - was waiting for him when he pulled up.

"I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner. Traffic was unusually heavy today."

"That's alright. For this book, I stay open."

"What's so special about this book?"

"You will see, young one. So much to learn still."

Xander looked at the woman curiously. She was older, but not old enough to be calling him 'young one'. All the same, he wanted the book so he followed her inside. She led him to a small table and then offered him tea. As she poured, she looked intently at Xander - it made him feel as though he were naked, that she could see right through him, to his very soul.

"You are touched by darkness, but it hasn't consumed you. The book will wield its knowledge to you. But not until you are ready."

"What does that mean?"

"Open the book. Tell me what you see."

Xander opened the book and looked up the woman; confusion was clearly written on his face. He turned the page. Then another. Then another and another. He looked at her and she smiled.

"It's blank."

"I told you, not until you are ready."

"You sure this isn't some way of charging me a hell of a lot of money for a book full of blank pages?"

The woman laughed and smiled softly at him.

"I would not do that to someone of your power, young one. When you are ready, the book will reveal itself to you."

"Okay. I uh, I need to get home. My ah, roommate will worry."

"Yes, the vampire. He worries even now."

"How do you..."

"I, too, am more than I seem. Fear not, I wish no harm to you or your vampire; he is no longer one of the hunters."

"Uh, okay."

Xander paid for the book and went back to his car in a haze of confusion. He sometimes wondered if he should take the advice that alternate-Willow had given him and leave Sunnydale. His life just got stranger the longer he stayed here.





Part Five

Spike sat on Xander's bed and read the first entry in the journal in his hands; he had no doubt whatsoever that it had been written by an alternate version of himself. Not only was the penmanship identical, it smelled like him.

So, here I am, William the Bloody with a soddin' journal. Well, I ain't gonna write in it like some bloody chit. So I'll just make like I'm writing this 'cause I plan on letting you read it at some point, okay love?

Love? Spike was shocked. He hadn't expected this. He read on.

Xander, I don't know what possessed you to help me, but I am deeply grateful to you. You will never know how close to the end I was, how easily I could have given up hope on ever having a better life. You saved me. Poncy as it sounds, I owe you my unlife.

I can't tell you all the things that I've been through; reliving them just isn't in the cards for me right now. Might just send me right around the bend to think of some of it. The lesser extent of the damage, you already know. I was raped, beaten, tortured, mutilated. I've had things inside me that no vampire should ever have inside them, crosses, holy water, stakes, UV lights.

Spike growled as the words on the page played out in his mind. That kind of torture was unheard of; even demons wouldn't do that to one another. Who the hell had put his other self through that?

You're probably wondering right now what's going on between us, wish I could tell you. Truth is I don't know. I know I want you, I need you - so bloody much I'm afraid of what will happen when you realise how pathetic I am and decide you're better off without me. I know that I don't deserve you, but I'll do whatever it takes to keep you with me as long as I can.

Since this is my book, and I don't have to let you read this unless I want to, I can admit to myself in here that I love you. Don't know when it happened exactly, but I do. Won't tell you though, too scared of running you off.

You've given me back my life, my freedom. You gave me safety, security, loyalty and friendship. You gave me the sun, Xander;

"What? How the hell?"

words can't express what that means to me, hopefully someday I'll be able to show you. You make me whole; with you I want to write bloody poetry and read it to you in bed. I used to be a poet, back before I was changed. You bring out the man in me, Xander. That's a good thing.

When I made love to you - and that is what I did - it was because I wanted to, wanted you. I hope you know that it wasn't just sex, that I wasn't using you. I wouldn't, not you - not ever. I'm not ready to let you take me, but it's not because I don't want you, it's just that I'm afraid. Yeah, that's right. The Big Bad is afraid. They hurt me, love. They hurt me so badly I don't know if I'll ever recover. I hope you can understand that, and that you'll be patient.

Spike knew that whoever had done these things to his double had caused him more than just physical damage. They hurt him emotionally; the big bad feared nothing. He'd survived Angelus, for Christ sake. Once again he wondered who had done this.

Meeting you as a vampire has been an enlightening experience - you make a bloody gorgeous demon, love. A part of me wants to turn you so badly it makes my teeth itch. My demon screams out for you. Not because I want to kill you, because I want to claim you, keep you forever. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you now. I need you so bloody much it scares me. The rest of me though, well, the rest of me wants you forever as well, but as you are, warm and human and so bloody perfect. I love dipping into your body, feeling all that heat surrounding me, holding me tight. Bloody amazing. Don't want to give that up any time soon, or at all.

Spike adjusted himself in his jeans and read on.

I know you're eager to get home, to get back to your mates and all, but I hope we don't get there too soon. I don't want to share you just yet; I'm selfish that way. I like having you all to myself, holding you close, watching you sleep. I'm afraid I'll lose you when we get to your world. To your friends, your life, your Spike. He must realise what a fine man you are, even if he doesn't say anything. I'm jealous of myself, bloody ironic, innit?

Spike chuckled. Before the soul, that would have made him laugh out loud. Now though, the way Xander had been taking care of him, he could almost understand the sentiment.

You gave me so much, my life, my freedom, your trust, your… innocence. You give and give, Xander. And I take and take. What the hell do you get out of this? I'm no prize, pet. I know that. Wasn't when I was human, nor after I was turned - Angelus wanted to stake me so many times it wasn't funny, even worse now. I can't even be a proper vampire, can't protect you from other humans.

Worthless. That's what I am. I won't tell you that though, figure it out on your own sooner or later. Me, I'm hoping for later. I want to have as much time with you as I can before it all gets blown to shit. Don't know what I'll do then, just wait for the dawn I suppose; ring comes off, after all.

"Ring? What ring? Bloody hell! He had the gem of Amara?"

Spike turned the page and read on. He was partway through the next entry when he vamped out and began snarling at the things he was reading.

He reeks of them, Finn, and his boys. I'm surprised Angel can't smell it, maybe he can.
You know they skinned me once? Peeled me like a fucking apple. I screamed, I'll admit. Wouldn't you? One long strip from shoulder to wrist, both sides. Then my legs, ankle to thigh. They laughed while they did it; couple of 'em even jerked off onto my skinless chest and back once it was all finished. I could still smell them, under my skin when it grew back. I had to cut it off again myself to wash away the filth. Wasn't easy, I couldn't reach my back, I ended up pouring holy water on it to burn the skin away.

Riley Finn had done those things? It was almost unbelievable; the Finn he knew was no rapist, he was nothing more than a submissive little shit who got his jollies off having vampires feed from him. He had his head so far up Buffy's ass he could see what she'd eaten for breakfast.

"What the hell turned Farmboy into a psycho?"

Spike continued to read the journal. He was shocked at the way this Spike wrote about Xander, about the things he had done. It wasn't the boy he remembered; the Xander he knew would never torture a human being. But from what he was looking at, Xander had done just that.

God, my pet bloody amazes me! For a white hat, he has some wickedly cruel ideas in his head. Hells, even Angelus was impressed by him. And that's saying quite a bit; my sire doesn't impress easily.

Xander never even balked once throughout the whole thing. Not when Angelus poured acid on Finn or when he pulled off his fingernails, not even when he rammed the hot poker up his ass. Hells, even I was a bit nauseated by the smell of that; burnt flesh and excrement, not a nice aroma.

The boy seems to have a particular fondness for pulling Finn's teeth. I think he's got all of them now. Kept them too. Don't know why, souvenirs I guess. Like that about him, sentimental fool.

Spike continued reading through the journal wondering if he shouldn't have started with the other book instead. Reading the thoughts of his other self was more than a little disturbing. Knowing that he had been in love with Xander, that Xander had been... intimate with him. He hadn't even known the boy was bent.

The second to last entry in the journal made Spike sit up in alarm on the bed. He desperately wished for a cigarette as he read.

I don't know what deity I have to thank for you, who it is that looks out for helpless vampires, but I owe them a bloody lot of gratitude. I still can't believe you're mine. That you agreed to mate with me has filled my dead heart with a joy that I've never experienced in my long life. Not even Dru made me feel this way and she was my sire.

I'm just sitting here in the dark watching you sleep, seeing my claim on your neck and I feel like I'm going to explode I'm so full of... don't even know how to explain it. Just knowing that you're mine, body and soul, it does things to me. Makes me wish I could shout it out to the world; that Xander Harris loves me enough to bind himself to me forever.

So, what the hell am I doing sitting in a chair watching you sleep when I could be in that bed with you? Holding you? Never said I was the smartest demon around.

If you ever read this, Xander, just know that you've made me the happiest I've ever been. If I had been cursed with a soul, I would have lost it the moment you looked into my eyes and told me you loved me. If I'm dusted tomorrow, I'll go a happy man. Everything I've been through has been worth it, because it led me to you. I love you Xander.

"Soddin' hell. The boy mated to a vampire? An alternate-reality version of me? A non-souled version of me? What the hell was he thinking?"

Spike had heard of vampires taking humans for mates, but it didn't happen too often. Usually the vamp would just turn the human; being the sire gave them the right to claim them as a mate, as well. He never understood why a vampire would want to claim a human as mate, not until Buffy, anyway.

Xander's treatment of him was beginning to make more sense to him now. He only hoped that he wasn't looking to replace what he had lost. He wasn't that Spike, never could be. He had fought too hard, endured too much, to the point of getting his soul back to earn Buffy's love. He wouldn't give up on her loving him. He couldn't.

The last passage in the book was rather detailed and personal. It was enough to make the soul blush in response to the images the demon conjured up to go along with the words. As he read, he knew he'd never be able to look at Xander the same way again.

The things I want to do to you, Xander you have no idea. Tonight? That was just the tip of the iceberg of what I have in store. Spanking your ass 'til it was nice and pink was fun, but someday, oh someday I'm gonna spank you 'til you're raw and begging for me to stop. Then I'm gonna spank you just a little bit more.

Seeing you spread-eagled on the bed, cuffed to the headboard and at my mercy, bloody hell you have no idea what that does to me. You're so beautiful love, so hot. I could look at you forever; see you stare at me with lust and love and longing in your eyes, watch your cock dripping for me, wanting to taste you - you taste exquisite - but making myself wait, knowing it'll be that much better when I finally give in.

I want to get you a piercing, a good sturdy hoop through your nipple. You'll love it; I promise. I think silver would look lovely against your tanned skin. Something I can play with, make you squirm and beg for more. You're so responsive, Xan; the way you took to the whip was unbelievable.

Can't wait 'til I can use it on you proper like. Teasing and soft touches are all good and fun and I know it was torture for you, feeling the softness of the leather as I dragged it over your skin, as I trailed it down between your legs. I knew the cock ring would come in handy; can't have you soiling my new toy. I wonder though, will you use it on me if I ask you? Would you tie me down and whip my back, my ass, mark me? Make me bleed for you? I'd love it, you know. To bleed for you, to beg for you.

'Course, turn about's fair play, innit? I'd want to do all those things to you as well. Would you let me? Would you beg for me so prettily? Call me master? I'd do it for you, be your willing slave. Would you bleed for me, Xander? I love the way you taste; your blood calls to me, makes me hard just thinking about it. I love the way you taste when you cum.

I don't know what we're going to face tomorrow when we go looking for the Master, but I do know that with you by my side, I can face anything.

The rest of the book was empty and Spike felt like he had been left dangling over a cliff. He wanted to know how it ended, what had happened to his doppelganger, how he had been killed. It was obvious that whatever had happened, it had happened not long after this entry, likely the next day. He knew the only way he would get the answers he wanted was to read through Xander's journal. It just felt wrong. At least he had been able to tell himself that because this was Spike's jounal, and he was Spike, he had some right to read it.

It was a flimsy excuse and he knew it, but he had no excuse for reading Xander's. He decided to go and have that cigarette; maybe the nicotine would help him think up some validation for invading the man's privacy.




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