Making Them Pay
Spike spent the next week contacting one of his banks in England, opening an account at a local bank, transferring some money from one place to the other and arranging to rent the house he'd found in the paper. Much to his amusement and delight, Xander actually helped every step of the way without a single threat being uttered by the vampire.
Getting the boy to break up with Anya was a little more difficult. But not much. Xander argued against it more from fear of what Anya would do to him than not wanting to end the relationship. Anya turned out to be surprisingly understanding.
Two days after recovering from their trip to Willie's, Anya showed up at Xander's door unannounced, as was her usual habit, and caught Spike and Xander arguing about what size television to buy for the house. Her assumption that Xander had moved on to more demony pastures was not contradicted by either Spike or Xander. She seemed a little put out that Xander hadn't said something sooner but went on her way, wishing Spike many hours of fun with Xander's penis.
Since she was sure to go blab the news to the others, it worked out well all around. No pustules for Xander, no staking for Spike and she'd be the first to break the news to the Scoobies.
Still, it took the rest of the week for any of them to even try to find out if it was true. Another bonus for Spike. Their neglect of Xander only made him more willing to scheme with Spike voluntarily. It even made him a little mean when Red and her witch finally came to find out why they hadn't seen Xander in a week and why Anya was telling everyone that Xander was with Spike now.
Of course, no one could be mean to Red for very long and certainly not Xander. After a few harsh words that made it clear that he did not appreciate the fact that she had waited for three days before coming to check on him, he reassured her that he was fine. He even went so far as to say that no one was forcing him to do anything and that he was right where he wanted to be.
Willow checked his neck for bite marks, his head for concussions, surreptitiously pressed a cross to his hand and gave Spike a look that clearly meant dire consequences would be forthcoming if anything bad happened to Xander.
Spike just smirked back and waited through the inevitable barrage of questions. They had not settled on an explanation for the money, but Xander made it sound like he and Spike were moving to a place equally as crummy as the basement. And the boy outright refused to discuss his 'personal' life with Willow, insisting it was no more her business than hers was to him. Even if, thus far, there really wasn't anything to discuss.
Buffy's call came exactly two hours after Willow left.
Once the screaming stopped enough for Xander to put the phone back to his ear, he told the Slayer the same thing he'd told Willow, added that when she was ready to act like an adult, to call him back and then hung up on her.
Overall, Spike thought Xander did very well in holding up his end of the deal. But when he told the boy that, Xander shook his head and said, 'That had nothing to do with our deal' and changed the subject.
Xander spent the next few days delivering paperwork to the rental agency and the bank. All of which could have been avoided, according to Spike, if 'the wankers would just keep decent hours'. Those would be vampire hours, of course. Xander made a mental sticky note to himself to ask how and why Spike had the identity papers required to rent a house, open a bank account and buy furniture with a credit card, all under the name of Bill Reynolds.
Spike had insisted that Xander take no part in buying the furniture and actually shivered at the thought of living in a replica of the basement, only bigger. This from a guy who thought crypts were comfortable.
The only thing left to accomplish was to tell Xander's parents that he was going and then get gone.
"Now what are they doing?" Xander stopped bouncing his left leg and switched to the right. The little kitchen table shook in time to his nervous tapping, causing Spike to pick up his mug of blood and scowl at the mortal.
"The telly came on about ten minutes ago and someone is snoring. Will you just go already?"
Xander checked his watch and then nodded his head. "Seven-thirty. Right on schedule. Uncle Rory is always out cold as soon as dinner is over." He stood and took a deep breath for courage. "Why don't you meet me outside?"
"No fucking way I'm missing this!" Spike got up and went to the sink. He gulped down the rest of his blood and rinsed out the mug, setting it in the drainer. When he turned around, Xander was chewing his lip and had a look on his face that Spike couldn't quite decipher. "What?"
"I was just thinking about how much I'm going to enjoy this."
"Yeah, so what? I thought that was the point of telling them in person and not just leaving a note."
"I'm not supposed to enjoy stuff like this."
Spike smirked and headed for the stairs. "What can I say? I'm a bad influence." He paused halfway up the stairs when Xander didn't move. "Will you come on! I want to get out of here sometime this century."
"Fine." Xander stomped past Spike but paused on the landing at the top of the stairs. "Just stay out of sight, okay?"
"What'll you give me if I do?"
"If I stay out of sight, I can't see and I want to see. So, what will you give me if I just listen?"
"Um…" Xander considered this for a moment but came up empty. He really didn't want to ask Spike what he wanted because he didn't think he wanted to know the answer. On the other hand, Spike was the one that was making this whole thing possible even if it did all start with a death threat. And then there was the whole thing where Spike hadn't really pushed, threatened, bitten, or forced Xander to do anything in the last week. Oh, he'd coerced, growled, glared, and annoyed, but other than that first day, it was like he was the Spike he'd been since being implanted. In short, Xander thought he really should start paying more attention 'cause there was definitely something hinky going on.
Spike could see the hamster running on the wheel behind Xander's eyes and that was never a good thing. "We'll settle on something later, " he said quickly. "Go on up before you chicken out."
After a long moment, Xander nodded and opened the door into the kitchen.
Spike gave the boy a few minutes and then pushed open the basement door enough to hear everything clearly.
"Mom, Dad. I'm moving out."
"That's nice, dear."
Xander's mum never seemed to pay attention much, but Spike doubted she'd even heard what the boy had said.
"No, really. I am. Right now. I'm moving out right now."
"Okay, sweetie, just be careful and be home before midnight."
Spike could almost hear Xander's teeth grind in frustration. That was usually when Xander forgot that he was supposed to be nice.
"DO YOU PEOPLE LISTEN TO A THING I SAY?"
"Don't talk to your mother that way! I thought I taught you better than that. I want you to go to your room and don't come out until you've decided to apologize."
"That's it! THAT IS IT! I am so out of here. And another thing. I'm gay. That's right, I'm moving in with my gay lover. And.. and.. and.. he has a neck fetish! He's kinky. And so am I. Very kinky. Whips, chains, paddles, um.. poodles! The whole nine yards. Yep, we do it all."
Dead silence and then….
"GET THE FUCK OUT OF THIS HOUSE! No son of mine is going to talk that kind of trash in front of his mother. GET OUT AND DON'T COME BACK!"
"Oh, I guess he can 'talk that trash' and have a kinky gay lover as long as mum isn't around, hmm?" Spike shook his head in amazement. Humans were some of the oddest creatures in the universe. And he knew since he used to be one.
"That is what I've been trying to tell you. I'M LEAVING! Sheesh!"
"Oh dear. Are you sure that's a good idea, Alexander? Where will you go, how will you live?"
"I'll be fine. Better than fine. I'll be away from here and you can finally rent the basement to someone that you actually want living in your house."
Spike could hear Xander turn on his heel and start back towards the kitchen so he stood up and got ready to make a quick getaway. But before Xander reached the kitchen he let out a surprised yelp.
"Now you just wait a god damned minute, boy. You're not leaving until you apologize to your mother and me."
"Dad, if you don't let go of my arm RIGHT NOW, I'm going to remove it for you. And I can't promise that it'll still be in working order when I'm done."
"Are you… are you threatening me?"
Spike could hear how shocked Mr. Harris was at that idea. The menace in Xander's voice probably didn't help, either. This was really getting good.. maybe even get a decent spot of violence out of it.
"Yeah, I guess I am."
There was a few seconds of silence and then, "You made the right choice there, dad. See ya."
Xander came around the corner into the kitchen and saw Spike hovering the doorway. "Let's go."
Spike followed the tense young man back down the stairs and across the room to the door to the outside. He noted that Xander didn't pause to look around or show any signs of regret as he picked up his duffel bag containing his clothes and the few mementos that represented the entirety of his nineteen years and headed out the door.
"This is… uh.." Xander took in the couch, single recliner, one end table with lamp and the huge home entertainment system, complete with monster size tv, taking up an entire wall and tried again. "This is… Okay, I give up. What the hell is this?"
"Home, sweet, home." Spike closed the door, walked around Xander and flopped down on the couch. "Ain't it great? There's twenty million channels on the telly, DVD, VHS, home theater, a CD player that's like a jukebox or somethin', and a bunch of other stuff."
"Yeah, great. Real great." Xander just rolled his eyes and refrained from commenting on the 'bachelor pad' look and how they only needed a couple of milk crates for bookshelves or end tables, a board across cinder blocks for a coffee table, an orange traffic cone and a stolen street sign and they'd be all set. "So, where's my room?"
Spike, trying to figure out the remote in his hand, waved towards the hall with a careless gesture. "Pick which ever one you want, but the only one that has a bed is the master bedroom."
"Figures. Okay, well, um.. " He sighed and went to investigate the other rooms, just in case Spike was lying.
Opening the first door he came to, Xander found a small room, single window boarded up on the inside, a floor lamp in the corner and nothing else. He backed out and went to the next door. It turned out to be the half-bath, also empty. Not even any toilet paper. The third door on the opposite side of the hall was the second bedroom, a little bigger than the first but not by much. The window in this room was also boarded up, but this one didn't even have a lamp, just the overhead light.
Clearly, Spike was not big on extra's like chairs or tables. Once again, Xander backed out of the room and closed the door. He turned and stared down the hall at the final door. The 'Master Bedroom'. Still not sure whether that lack of furniture was because Spike was out of money, uninterested in Xander's comfort or intentionally leaving Xander no other place to sleep, he took the few steps that brought him to the door, turned the knob and pushed it open.
The room was, somehow, almost exactly what he'd expected from Spike. The window was, once again, boarded up from the inside but also had heavy dark curtains, a king size bed, end table with a lamp on it, an easy chair and an almost empty walk-in closet. The door on the right side of the room led to a full bathroom, with four towels on the shelf, and a clear shower curtain. And that was it. No decorations in either room, no soap or shampoo in the tub and nothing extra anywhere.
But still, it looked a hell of a lot better than the place he'd just left. With a shrug, Xander tossed his duffel bag into the closet and headed back down the hall to the living room. For some reason, which he couldn't quite work out, the idea of continuing to sleep in the same bed as Spike didn't even register as a concern. Xander had been sleeping in the same bed as Spike since the day Spike realized he could bite again and nothing had ever happened. Of the sexual nature or the bitey nature.
There had been a few times that he'd woken up with Spike pressed against him, but it was more like Spike had just ended up there, not like it was intentional on the vampire's part.
But now that they were away from the possibility of interruption, would that change? After all, Spike had made it clear that it was expected as part of the "not killing Xander or his friends" deal.
If I have to do the horizontal mambo with Spike, it's still a small price to pay for… not being dead… Right? He thought about the concept of actually having sex with Spike for a moment and then shook it off. Maybe he should be more worried about that part, but, he couldn't make himself get worked up about it. He knew, in theory, how two men did it, but add in that one was a vampire… Well, they probably didn't have any instructional books on that one. He decided not to worry about it until it came up for real, a skill that had come in handy many a time in his life.
After rounding the corner from the hall into the living room, Xander couldn't help smiling at the sight of Spike on the couch, still trying to figure out all the buttons on the remote. Xander had a moment of stark terror when he realized that this whole arrangement was quickly feeling normal.
And worse than that, he was actually having a pretty good time with the evil, undead, blackmailing, son of a bitch. But, we're not going to do anything really bad to anyone. So, it's okay if I'm having a good time. Right? Right? And it's not like they don't deserve a little something. And Spike has, for once, kept his promise not to go around killing people - or me- and… Sigh. Wonder if there's a support group for this type of thing?
"Stop thinking. You'll burn out your last three brain cells."
Spike's sarcasm cut through Xander's thoughts and he continued into the living room, flopping down on the couch next to the vampire. "Yeah, like you're one to talk." Putting any and all thoughts of his apparent insanity aside, Xander asked, "So, what's next?"
"Next?" Spike smirked and clicked off the television, placing the remote on the end table. "Next, I'm going out for a bit and you're going to unpack and then go buy yourself some groceries."
Xander shook his head and shifted on the couch, turning to face Spike. "Actually, I meant when are we going to start messing with Buffy." That was the whole point of this exercise, right?
"Man after me own evil heart." Spike pulled his duster off the back of the couch and rummaged in one of the pockets. He pulled out a crumpled piece of paper and handed it to Xander. "Tomorrow morning, go to this address and tell the guy you're picking up my package. Bring it back here and leave it in the back yard."
"Why does it have to be left outside?" Xander asked, suspicious.
"You'll figure it out pretty quick once you see it." Spike held up his hand when Xander opened his mouth to ask more questions. "I'm not telling you what it is. But you wanted to mess with her High and Mightiness and I think this is a good way to start."
The next few hours passed quickly for Xander, but with a pervading sense of unreality. Once he'd finished unloading the contents of his duffel bag into the closet -something that took a pathetic fifteen minutes- he returned to the living room to find Spike discarding a bag of blood and slipping into his duster.
Spike then handed him the keys to what turned out to be the Desoto- which was parked in the garage- a wad of cash, a list of what the vampire wanted, slapped him on the ass, and told him to go to the store.
Xander didn't mind doing the shopping, but it was just a little too domestic not to give him a slight case of the wiggins. Then again, he knew if he wanted to have actual food to eat, he'd have to go to the store.
He'd figured Spike wouldn't have a clue how to go about it anyway. That was until the vampire muttered something about 'snacking on the bint in the ten items or less line that always has twelve items, coupons and writes a check'.
The image of Spike in the local grocery store, having to wait out the annoyances that go with the whole grocery shopping deal and not killing someone, stayed in Xander's mind the whole trip to the store, causing him to burst out into a laughter every so often, but it kept him from being so anxious about the possibility of wrecking Spike's beloved car that he was at the store before he knew it.
Now, backseat loaded with numerous plastic bags of consumables, minus the beer Spike wanted, -he really had to explain that 'legal drinking age in places not frequented by demons' thing to Spike again- Xander was within a block of the house.
At least, he thought he was almost there. He'd only been in this neighborhood a few times in the past and all the houses pretty much looked alike to him. Just before he got to the 'crap, I'm lost and the ice cream is going to melt' stage, he saw the house at the corner of the next block.
Xander parked, brought the groceries inside, put everything away and then realized he had absolutely no clue what to do with himself next. He didn't know how long Spike would be gone and had no real desire to leave the house again.
Opting for the "do nothing" option, he went into the living room, snatched up the monster remote, and started pressing buttons. There was nothing more relaxing than flipping through hundreds of channels on the television just to prove to himself that there really was nothing on.
Xander peered closely at the address on the rumpled piece of paper in his hand and then at the door in front of him. "Ooookay." The address matched even if it didn't make sense. Shrugging, he pushed open the door of 'Frederick's House of Hair' and decided it was just easier if he didn't try to figure it out.
"Help you?" A man-at least Xander thought the four foot tall creature with red-orange hair down to his ankles was male-came out from behind a curtain at the back of the room, and looked Xander up and down in a way that definitely implied that the young man was in the wrong place.
"Yeah, uh, Spike said you have a package for him?"
The change in expression and attitude was immediate at the mention of the vampire's name. "OH!" The little man let out what could only be described as a squeal as he practically skipped over and grabbed Xander's arm, hanging on it like it was lifeline. "You must be Xander! This is soooo great, no one will ever believe I really met you! I'm Richard, but you probably already knew that didn't you? Sorry, I'm just so nervous. Can I have your autograph before you go?"
"Errr… okay. But, uh, I just… I'm here to pick something up for Spike. A package?" He'd heard it was safest to just humor demented people. "I'm in kind of a hurry," he added when Richard just continued hanging on his arm, staring and bouncing.
"Of course you are!" Richard detached himself from Xander and scurried over to a door, pulling a huge key ring out of his pocket. "I'll be just a minute, I have to put the cover on." He smiled over his shoulder at Xander. "Wouldn't do you any good if it went off before time, would it?"
"Go off?" Xander blinked a few times. Spike was planning on blowing Buffy up? That definitely wasn't part of the deal. "Uh.. what do you mean…"
"Don't worry, I sell only the best. Just keep it covered until you're ready to use it and it'll be fine." Richard unlocked the door and disappeared inside, his voice drifting out of the dark behind him. "Have a seat, I'll just be a minute…."
Xander shook his head and sighed. His day had just gone from weird to weirder, if that was possible. It started with waking up in bed with Spike draped over him. The waking up with Spike was not the weird part; that had been happening for weeks, it wasn't even that he was sure he'd fallen asleep on the couch the night before; it was obvious Spike had simply moved him. No, the weirdness was that, for the first time, he felt no desire to move out from under the slumbering vampire. Xander tried to tell himself it was simply because there was no reason to move. No threat of parents or friends walking in and nothing really urgent that needed to be done. It certainly wasn't because it was…. nice.
He'd been perfectly content to lie there for nearly an hour, slowly becoming aware of how different Spike's skin felt against his own compared to Anya's and how Spike only breathed in his sleep when he was dreaming. Finally, his bladder insisted that he needed to get out of bed and he, very reluctantly, disentangled himself and got up.
That was just… wrong and completely unlike himself.
After relieving himself, he'd stared in the mirror for a long time, trying to see what it was that had changed to allow for the fact that he actually liked Spike sometimes and that he was starting to see him as something more than an evil vampire that was blackmailing him.
"Need anything else while you're here? Maybe a trim?"
Xander jumped at the interruption of his musing and shook his head at Richard. "Uh, no. Thanks." He looked over the box the little man was holding with some trepidation. "Any special instructions? You know, so it doesn't 'go off'?"
"Just the usual; it doesn't like bright light and keep it out of water. Oh, and don't ever, ever feed it after midnight."
Xander narrowed his eyes and glared his best 'don't fuck with me' glare-something he'd been practicing- and said, "If you tell me this is a gremlin, I may have to hurt you."
Richard smiled sheepishly and shrugged. "Sorry, I couldn't resist. But really, just keep it covered and out of the sun. Once you take the cover off it's ready to go." He held up the cloth-covered box by a wire handle waiting for Xander to take it. "So, how about that autograph you promised me?"
Xander accepted the box and nodded. "Yeah, okay." He still didn't know what that was all about. "What do you want me to sign?"
Richard scrambled behind the cash register and pulled a small blue book from under the counter. "I have three already and this will put me one ahead of Paulie over at the Sunnydale Inn!" he enthused as he flipped the pages to the next blank one. "If you could sign it, 'To Richard, Thanks, Xander', I'd really appreciate it."
Before signing, Xander flipped back a few pages and was beginning to think this was all some elaborate joke but near the middle of the book he saw a familiar name. "You know Giles?"
"Not really. I cut his hair a few times. He has really nice hair for a human his age. Of course, he took it all with him when he left, more's the pity, but still, he signed my book for me, so that was okay." Richard flipped a few more pages and pointed out another signature. "His name was all I could get out of him, wouldn't personalize it at all, but at least he didn't make me gather up the trimmings or anything." He ran a finger over the fancy cursive 'A' that started the name and sighed. "Oh well, still better than nothing."
"You're very weird, you know that don't you?" Xander shook his head, still not really understanding why this guy was collecting their signatures or hair, but signed the book just as Richard had requested. "There. Nice meeting you and all that, gotta go."
Xander turned and practically ran out of the shop before Richard had time to open his mouth again. Checking his watch, he saw that it had been over an hour since he'd left the house. He hadn't eaten breakfast, wanting to get this little errand over and done with as soon as possible, and now his stomach was reminding him of that fact. He was tempted to put the box in the trunk of Spike's car and head over to the Espresso Pump for some pastries and coffee but decided that leaving anything that could 'go off' around the general public probably wouldn't be a good idea.
Having stashed the box between the back wall of the house and a weird yellow-leafed bush – the only place in the backyard that never got any sun – Xander made himself some breakfast and plopped down on the couch to watch mid-morning T.V. He flipped channels until he came to some show about forensic science and crime detection, laid the remote down on the couch next to him and finally dug into his bacon, eggs and toast.
It wasn't long before Spike wandered out of the bedroom and glared as he passed the couch on his way to the kitchen. Xander waited until Spike had finished heating up his blood and then took his empty plate to the kitchen and put it in the sink.
"I picked up your package."
Spike grunted, drained his mug and got up to warm the other half of the blood packet.
"You know, it would be easier if you'd just get a container big enough for a whole bag and warm it all at once."
Spike glared again and resumed his seat at the kitchen table, hands cupped around his mug. Xander shrugged, turned on the coffee pot and rinsed his breakfast dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. He knew from experience that it was useless to try to get a reaction out of Spike until the vampire was good and ready to be awake. Sometimes Spike woke up and was immediately yammering away, other times it took hours before he was ready to interact with the rest of the world, let alone Xander.
When the coffee was done, Xander poured them both a cup and sat down next to Spike at the table, pushing the vampire's cup of coffee carefully in front of him. "You could have warned me about Richard. What is his deal, anyway?"
Spike smirked and picked up his coffee. "He's harmless, just don't let him have any of your hair."
"I didn't, but what's with the autographs?"
"Groupie. What else?"
Xander blinked a few times and processed the words. "A groupie. Err… of what?"
"In your case, the bloody Scooby gang. He's got a separate book for the bad guys. Strange little chap but he's the best supplier in town so most of us humor him."
Xander nodded and sipped his coffee thoughtfully. "And the hair?"
"Sells it for use in spells."
"You look at what Richard gave you?"
"No, I was afraid to." Xander hesitated then asked, "It's not really going to hurt her, right?"
Growling, Spike pushed back his chair roughly and stood, bending over the table to get into Xander's space. "As much as I'd like that bitch dead, no, it won't really hurt her. That was the deal, right?"
Xander held himself very still and waited, fear suddenly thick in his throat. He wasn't sure Spike even knew he was yellow-eyed and fangy. After a few minutes passed with neither of them moving, Xander swallowed hard and nodded. "Yeah, that was the deal."
With a huff of annoyance Spike backed off, snatched both his empty mugs off the table and shoved them in the dishwasher before turning and leaning back against the counter behind Xander's chair. "I don't know what the hell your problem is, boy, but I've done everything I said I would. You haven't."
The accusation seemed to startle Xander out of his terror. "Hey! That is so not true! I haven't told anybody, I haven't tried to stake you, I haven't tried to run away and I even did the damn shopping. You send me on a stupid errand that you don't explain and then act like a psycho when I ask a simple question! If that's not keeping my end of the deal, then what is?" By the time he'd finished, Xander was nearly quivering with anger and standing toe to toe with Spike, getting into his personal space.
Spike's lips curled into smirk. It was a smirk that Xander recognized as usually meaning 'You're really not going to like what happens next'. He was proved right when Spike leaned forward the few inches that separated them and whispered against Xander's lips, "Sex slave."
Xander shivered at the husky tone and, belatedly, jerked his head away. A breath and he backed away two paces for good measure. "I…" He voice broke and he cleared it to try again, "I never really agreed to that."
"I don't remember asking for your agreement." The vampire again moved into Xander's space, forcing him back against the kitchen table. "I think I've been patient enough, letting you get used to me, to this, and now I'm tired of waiting." He stepped between Xander's legs, forcing them apart, and continued to lean forward until Xander was practically laid back across the table. "After the Scooby meeting tonight, after we deliver Richard's package, you and me are going to celebrate."
Eyes wide, Xander gulped and tried really hard not to hyperventilate. What could he say? If Spike had made up his mind, well, then that was it. Wasn't it? He'd known it was coming – so to speak- eventually, so when they got home tonight…. Wait… "How do you know there's a meeting tonight?"
"Was lurking about last night, heard the Slayer reminding Red."
Xander frowned, absently pushing the vampire back so he could sit up. "Stalking them you mean. I guess I should call Willow, see if I'm still welcome or not." He pushed himself away from the table, again moving Spike out of his way. "I meant to call earlier, before they left for classes."
"Here now! I was in the middle of bloody seducing you!"
Xander casually waved away Spike's outrage, "I wouldn't say that was seduction, Spike, but it was going just fine, I really should call though. Besides, like you said, I don't have a choice so why bother with seduction?"
Spike fumed silently as he watched Xander pick up the phone and dial. When it was apparent that the human wasn't going to say anything more, he began cursing under his breath and headed down the hall to the bedroom. Why bother with seduction indeed.
Xander knocked on the door. "Hey guys, it's me. You home?" He pressed his ear to the door and heard nothing. "Buffy?" He knocked again, just to be sure; Buffy could be sneaky that way.
Still hearing no movement from inside, he finally waved the all clear and watched as Spike eased open the stairwell door at the end of the hall and walked calmly down the corridor as if he had every right to be there.
It appeared to work since no one paid him the slightest attention. Remembering the visit from the Gentleman, Xander figured it was just that the students had seen odder things than Spike in their halls and they were content to ignore the obvious wrongness that the other man presented as long as he didn't seem threatening.
Spike handed Xander the still covered cage and dropped down to his knees in front of the door, lock picks appearing out of his duster pocket like magic. "Be through this piece of crap in a sec, keep watch."
Xander positioned himself directly behind the vampire and turned to face the hall. He nodded pleasantly at the two women who passed by. They took in the scene, smiled once and went back to their conversation without a pause. He thought maybe he should talk to Willow about moving some place a little safer.
"There, that's got it." Spike opened the door and stood up, turning and holding out his hand for the cage. "You might want to back up a few paces."
Once Xander was clear, Spike leaned forward to stick the cage through the open door. It stuck once his hand encountered the threshold. "That bitch!"
"She had me un-invited!" Spike pulled the cage back and stared mutinously into the darkened dorm room.
"What did you expect?" With a sigh of inevitability, Xander went over and took the cage out of the vampire's hand. "Just tell me what to do."
Spike continued scowling at the door, jaw muscles working as his teeth ground together.
"Oh, just get over it already! Just speaking of the recent past, you betrayed us and corrupted me. Can you really have expected any less? Now, just tell me what to do so we can make our alibi appearance."
"Fine." Spike snapped. "Go just inside the door where it's dark, set the cage down, unlatch the door, back away a little, snatch the cover off just before you hit the light. Get the hell out fast, like before the light even has time to fully come on."
Xander very gingerly followed the instructions, slamming the door behind him just as another door across the hall opened and a girl Xander had seen several times in the area on his various visits to the dorm, stepped into the hall, her arms filled with books.
"Hey, if you're looking for Buffy or Willow, they're not in. I saw them leave about an hour ago."
"Thanks. Guess we'll see them later then." Xander smiled reassuringly and elbowed Spike in the arm trying to get him to start moving. "Um… bye." This time Xander all but dragged Spike down the hall towards the stairwell.
"Now will you tell me what was in that cage?" There was a squish underfoot and Xander shuddered but didn't look down. "And why do sewers have to be so… gross?"
"Two more turns to the left and then one to the right. Sun will be down in ten minutes so shift it."
He could tell that Spike was still pissed off about the whole un-invite thing but that was just tough; Xander wanted an answer. "What did I just put in my best friend's room?"
"Kind of like a skunk, only the demon variety. Don't like light at all and will spray until it dies or finds darkness. I figure it will take ol' Rupert a day or two to figure out how to get the smell out. Now shut up get a move on."
Xander stopped walking, images of how the scene would play out when Buffy and Willow went back to their dorm room dancing in his head. "That's… That's just evil." He snorted and let his mind fast forward to the tomato juice bath or whatever the demon skunk equivalent was. And the looks they would get for weeks… The snorts and chuckles erupted into full-fledged guffaws of laughter and soon he was bent over at the waist desperately trying to draw enough air to keep from laughing himself into unconsciousness. "Oh, god. I love it! Get them where it really hurts!" That sent him off into another fit of giggles.
"What the bloody hell is the matter with you?" Spike had backtracked when he heard the boy start carrying on like a loon. "We have to be at the meeting right after sunset or we'll be at the top of the suspect list."
"I know, I know." Xander made an attempt to bring himself under control but was only partially successful. "How do you think of these things?" Another giggle made it past his lips and he covered his mouth with his hand. "Sorry."
Spike sighed in exasperation though he was secretly pleased that his plan had delighted Xander so much. He'd been worried that at the first sign of any kind of harm to his friends the mortal would be running to Buffy at full speed. But he really needed to get the boy moving. "Comes with the Vampire Superstation Package, wanna subscribe?"
That sobered the other man up a little. "No." Xander gave the vampire a long look. "Oh, ha ha. Fine, I get it. Let's go." He stepped over something that he didn't want to try to identify and continued down the tunnel. Every once in a while another giggle would escape but he mostly managed to control himself.
Once they reached the appropriate manhole cover, Spike leaned back against the wall and dug a cigarette out of his pocket. "Just a few more minutes and it'll have been long enough." He lit his cigarette and exhaled slowly, calming his apprehension and studying his companion. "You gonna be able to contain yourself once we're at Rupert's?"
Xander shrugged much more carelessly than he felt. "Yeah. Just don't, you know, make comments."
"You know exactly what I mean. If you have to bait me to make things look normal, fine, but don't even go near anything to do with skunks, clothes or odors and I'll be fine." Looking down, he scowled and wrinkled his nose at the mess but at least now he understood why Spike had insisted on him wearing his old steel-toed boots. "Is there someplace we can get the gunk off our stunning footwear before we get there? I think going in smelling like a sewer would be a pretty good tip-off that we didn't leave just at sunset and travel topside."
Spike nodded and threw down his cigarette, stomping it viciously. "Yeah, behind the Chinese place. Nice and shady in the afternoon."
Sudden connections were made in Xander's brain. "You cheat! All those times we thought you'd braved the sun…"
Spike just smirked and started to climb the ladder to push back the cover above.
The meeting was going so normally that Xander was starting to worry. And, quite frankly, getting a little annoyed that the huge changes in the last few weeks of his life didn't even rate one single question or concern. Sure, he'd told them it was none of their business but since when did that make any difference?
Upon arriving, Willow had greeted him the same way as she always did and, unless she'd become a slight of hand artist without Xander's knowledge, didn't bother checking him for bite marks this time. The questioning 'are you okay' look was conspicuously absent as well.
Buffy had been the same, too. Casual hello to Xander, snarky comment to Spike and then right back to whatever business they'd been discussing before the two men had arrived.
Giles had paused mid-sentence to greet the pair but then went right back to his explanation on why it wasn't a good idea to provoke a confrontation with something called a Robasissy- or at least that's what Xander heard- and again, there was no concerned look or questions.
Since Willow had told him earlier on the phone that Anya was currently in pursuit of some guy she'd met at the supermarket, Xander wasn’t really surprised that his ex wasn't there.
It was almost anti-climatic. Even Spike looked a little disappointed at the non-event.
"Xander, have you heard a word I've said?"
Huh? "Huh?" Xander blinked at Giles and then nodded. "Oh. Yeah, I was listening."
Giles narrowed his eyes and peered at Xander for a few moments then appeared satisfied and went back to discussing their options for dealing with the demon-of-the-week. "We don't know for sure that it has any intention of causing trouble."
"It tore the playground apart. Wouldn't you call that 'causing trouble'?" Buffy shifted on the couch to pick up the book next to her on the cushion. "Willow found two references in here of similar behavior just before it went on a killing spree. Hundreds died and that's not 'trouble'?"
In his best 'I'm speaking to a mental midget' voice - the one Giles usually directed at Xander - the ex-Watcher tried again. "Yes, Buffy, that is correct but, as I said before, both of those instances involved humans having taken or killed its young. I don't believe that is applicable in this situation since the demon you described did not have any red markings and, therefore, is not old enough to have reproduced. We must find out the real purpose of its presence here before we go charging off to punish it for something that hasn't happened. This species generally avoids confrontation with humans and rarely enters populated areas. That it is here may mean that there is something larger at work."
"But…" Xander tuned back out and looked over at Spike where he was sprawled at the dining room table, occasionally rolling his eyes at whatever was being said and lazily flipping through some dusty book.
And that was just another thing that was ratcheting up the annoyance level; Spike was being very well behaved and, again, no one had taken notice. Since when had Spike sitting quietly and not entertaining himself at their expense meant that all was well?
Maybe they had all been sucked in to an alternate reality again? Xander thought that would explain why there had been very little panic at Spike's little 'we're going to celebrate' announcement this morning.
His mind made a sharp right turn away from that subject, something that he'd already thought to death through the long afternoon of watching soap operas with Spike, and returned to the point of his mental wanderings.
There was a distinct lack of interest in his well being, despite having another possible crisis on the horizon. There was a total disregard of Spike as a possible threat, even though they thought he was still chipped. None of them, even his bestest friend since childhood, had said more than three words to him all evening. But he was sure that once the fighting started, they would be quick to remember that he and Spike existed.
He knew it hadn't always been this way but it was now and it bordered on insulting.
No, it was insulting and that was really how he'd gotten here in the first place, wasn't it? Why he'd gone along so willingly and mostly enthusiastically with Spike's plans? He hadn't thought he needed this reminder of just how far away he'd drifted from Willow and Buffy, or how little they paid attention to anything but Slayer stuff and their 'we're mature women now' lives at college, but he was suddenly glad he'd gotten it.
From now on, whatever Spike had planned for them that didn't include death, wouldn't get an argument from Xander Harris, official ex-Scooby.
"What bug crawled up your butt and died?"
Xander jerked his gaze away from the cracked sidewalk beneath his feet and looked at the vampire strolling along next to him. "That's disgusting."
"And that doesn't answer the question." Spike stepped in front of Xander and halted his progress. The mortal had been exceptionally quiet once they'd reached Rupert's and seemed to grow more and more angry as the first hour turned into two. When Spike had finally had enough of the blathering, he'd stood and headed for the door expecting that he'd have to 'encourage' Xander to leave with a few choice words, but Xander simply got up, waved a vague goodbye to his friends and followed Spike out. They'd been walking for nearly an hour and still Xander hadn't said a word, just walked with his head down and his forehead creased in deep thought.
Xander looked at his surroundings and frowned. "This isn't the way home. Where are we going?"
Clearly he wasn't willing to talk about it but Spike let it go for now. "Been walking in circles for the last little bit, waiting for you to re-join the world. If you're done brooding, we can get on with the celebratin'." Spike watched Xander closely for a reaction, but none was forthcoming. The mortal simply stared back at him and, when Spike didn't move to go, lifted both dark eyebrows in question.
"Err… right. Meeting a mate for a drink and we'll catch a ride home from there. Don't fancy walkin' all the way back to the house." Spike hesitated a few seconds before adding, "Wouldn't want to be too tired for shaggin'."
Still, there was no comment from Xander. With a huff of annoyance Spike spun around and started across the street toward an inconspicuous demon-only bar where he'd arranged to meet a guy he knew that dealt in 'special' inks. Howie had told Spike the night before that he thought he knew where he could get his claws on something that would fit in with Spike's plan for the Watcher.
Xander caught up with Spike in a few strides and followed the vampire's lead, mind already drifting toward home and taking the final step that would complete the re-making of his life. Strangely, the thought of losing his virginity for the second time held no fear for him now.
Spike had tried to monitor Xander's alcohol intake all night, without much success, and made sure he'd eaten something. It wouldn't do to have the boy fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He seemed relaxed, maybe a little goofy, but not sleepy.
The human had perked right up as soon as they'd crossed the threshold into the bar, ready for some partying and adventure. He hadn't gotten much of either but he'd seemed to have a good time despite the fact that most of the demons present were businessmen that just wanted to relax a little on their way to or from work and weren't looking for any trouble. A few clearly did not approve of a human being in their hideaway but none were in the mood to make an issue of it.
Spike spoke quietly with Howie for a few minutes while Xander found them a table and was pleased to hear that what he wanted could be delivered in a few weeks. Xander had chosen a table near the back door and he joined the human there, ordering something to eat as soon as the waitress slithered over: blood for Spike and a hamburger, well done, for Xander. After awhile, a few of the patrons drifted over to their table, probably curious about the human Spike had dared to bring with him. It hadn't taken Xander long to charm even the most reluctant demon into sitting down and telling him a little about themselves. Of course, talking is thirsty work and, almost to a demon, they ended up buying at least one round for the table before having to leave for wherever they were headed.
The human seemed fascinated by the most mundane things; family life and the problems of raising eggs or spawn or children (depending on the species speaking) on the Hellmouth, cheating suppliers trying to price-gouge just because they knew the demons couldn't go to the authorities about it, why mates in spawning season were impossible to live with and he even made the appropriate appreciative noises when the inevitable pictures of butt-ugly children and mates were produced.
By the time Spike decided he'd had enough of just sitting around and listening, Xander had the most recent occupant of their table in stitches, nearly falling out of his chair laughing at some story Xander was telling about his childhood. With a promise that he could come back some other time, Spike hauled Xander out of the bar, hopped in a cab that he'd called the last time the human went to the bathroom and now, they were on their way home.
When the cab pulled up in front of the house, Spike threw a twenty over the seat at the driver and followed Xander out of the cab. The mortal was waiting for him at the door, a strange smile quirking his lips. "What, forget your keys?"
"No, just making sure you weren't going to eat the cab driver." He let Spike step past him and unlock the door before pressing himself along the vampire's back, leaning sideways a little to whisper into a pale ear, "Because then you wouldn't be hungry for dessert."
Spike whipped around so fast that Xander was nearly knocked to the ground. "What the bloody hell are you playin' at?"
Xander caught his balance and said neutrally, "Not playing, finally accepting that my old life is truly over." Then his naughty smile was back, making his eyes twinkle with anticipation. "I thought we were going to celebrate tonight?"
When Spike just continued to stare suspiciously, Xander shrugged and stepped around him, going inside. "I'll be in the shower if you change your mind."
Spike watched from outside the front door as Xander flipped on the hall light and made his way to the master bedroom. It wasn't until the light in the bathroom came on that Spike was able to get his brain and his legs to cooperate enough to move him inside to the living room. He carefully relocked the door behind him and then leaned back against it.
This was not going as planned. Something important had happened to Xander tonight but Spike could not even begin to guess what it was. He supposed someone could have slipped Xander a little something in one of his drinks, but the mortal wasn't acting like someone under the influence of a potion. No, it wasn't that, but it was something.
Xander was supposed to be afraid, not seductive. He was supposed to be hesitant and uncertain, not bold enough to invite a vampire to shower with him. And he certainly wasn't supposed to be practically daring Spike to say no. For all the gradual changes in Xander since striking this bizarre deal with him, this was the biggest one yet and for the first time, Spike wondered if he hadn't pushed a little too hard too soon and… broken something in the mortal.
"What the hell am I complaining about?" Spike banged his head back against the door once and strode swiftly down the hall, flipping the light off as he went. If Xander wanted to dive in to the deep end first with this, Spike was more than willing to keep him from drowning.
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