Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: Mature (not likely to change in part 2)
Disclaimer: Probably not what Joss envisioned.
Thanks: To [info]cordelianne for the great beta; maybe this one won't have typos.
Summary: Alternate timeline, Spike never came back after leaving at the end of Season 6; Xander is looking for slayers in Africa, but finds Spike.

Not Noisy or Excited

Savoy Truffle

Part One

It’s sort of a chicken-egg question, Xander decides.

He’s standing on a hill in Lalibela, Ethiopia, looking down on a gigantic cross carved into the ground.

Actually, the cross is a roof and the roof belongs to a church that’s been carved out of the solid rock hillside—forty feet tall, or is that deep?

Maybe the real question is: Who the hell carves an entire building out of a mountain? But he still wonders which came first—the vampires or the crosses—because Ethiopia is lousy with both and it’s no wonder he’s been sent here to track down no less than three new slayers.

He’s oh-for-three at the moment, but it took him a few days to work his way out of the city since he arrived on a Saturday and Addis Ababa may be the only African capital without a single cash machine.

Even Togo had one.

But what the country lacks in fast-cash, it makes up for in protective neckwear, so Xander figures Ethiopia’s got his back.

As if reading his mind—and you never can tell—a man appears at Xander’s side brandishing a handful of tiny wooden crosses on thin brown strings. But Xander prefers heavier chains. He slips a hand into his collar and catches them, lifting them out to display his collection. Three at the moment—one American standard, two more exotic—but the Coptic cross styles here have caught his eye and he’s likely to pick up a few more before he moves on.

The peddler admires for a moment, smiles and wanders off in search of the slightly less devout.

If Ethiopia had a McDonald’s, they’d probably give away crosses in their Happy Meals.

Hey, kids, collect ’em all!

Xander realizes he may be going a bit crazy.

He’d like to blame the Lariam.

This medication may cause stomach upset, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, hair loss, ringing in the ears, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, insomnia, strange dreams, or lightheadedness.

What’s really cool is when you get to have the insomnia and the strange dreams at the same time.

Tell your doctor immediately if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat, seizures, muscle pain, loss of coordination, numbness and tingling of hands or feet, vision changes.

Vision changes—boy, has he got that one covered.

No pun intended.

If any of the following highly unlikely, but serious side effects occur; call your doctor immediately; you may need to stop using Lariam and start another medication for malaria prevention: unexplained anxiety, mood changes, depression (sometimes severe, including rare thoughts of suicide), hallucinations, restlessness, confusion.

He’s got those covered, too, and it’s too bad he doesn’t have a doctor to call.

It’s too bad he knows it’s not the Lariam.

That night he dreams of the church.

He’s standing at the edge of the trench, peering down, and there’s a vampire there, lurking in the shadows. The walls of the trench are full of footholds—easy to climb—but it works its way up the church walls instead. Up and up it climbs—like a pale and slender King Kong—and when it reaches the top, it stands and turns to face Xander, features stark in the moonlight.

It smirks at him and lifts its arms, falling backwards like it wants to make a snow angel.

But it lands on stone, not snow. Lands on the giant stone roof that’s also a cross and starts to burn.

Xander hasn’t seen Spike in over a year.

Has never dreamed of him.

Their paths cross the next day.

Not much surprises Xander these days.

Even without the dream, when it comes right down to it, Spike had to be somewhere—Xander can’t quite imagine him as dust—and it’s just Xander’s luck to stumble into that somewhere.

Even—hell especially—when that somewhere happens to be a badly lit bar in a tourist town in the middle of the mountains of Ethiopia.

Why the fuck not?

Spike spent five years in and out of Sunnydale, playing the proverbial bad penny, and even if Xander still hasn’t figured out why the proverbial penny is so bad in the first place, that’s no reason to think Spike will stop turning up.

Seeing Spike doesn’t surprise Xander.

Their gazes catch and hold.

What surprises Xander is the rage.

It sneaks up from behind and sweeps through him like the Saharan winds—burns, stings, leaves his skin tight and his throat dry.

It brings Anya with it—and Buffy and Joyce and Dawn—and he didn’t even know he was empty until it fills him.

Didn’t know he was numb until the pins and needles start.

Doesn’t know how much of all this Spike reads off his face from his seat across the room, but Spike’s the one who breaks their gaze.

Spike’s the one who looks away, down.

Xander’s the one who turns and walks out.

He’s got two choices—think or drink—and it’s not what you’d call a stumper.

He starts out strong, but pulls up short of feeling-no-pain. Hits the point where the thoughts get too fleeting to hurt and sinks into bed.

Drifts, wondering if he’s asleep yet. He dreams of a slayer.

She’s not in Lalibela.

Morning comes, but Xander decides to give it a miss. He can get his plane ticket in the afternoon.

He doesn’t.

He finds a guide to take him up in the mountains instead. Up to the rock-hewn churches carved from even more improbable cliffs. It’s a long hike and steep in places, so the guide insists they take mules. After about an hour on the mule, Xander decides he’d rather have crawled. By the time he returns to his hotel, two hours later, he’s pretty sure if he ever sees a mule again, he’ll shoot it.

He pours himself into the bathtub. He’s smack in the middle of one of the three hours a day when he’s supposed to get hot water, but he only gets about four inches before it turns lukewarm, on the fast track to cold.

He abandons the effort, dresses, and walks back to the bar.

He tells himself he needs to find out what Spike’s up to, but Lalibela’s a pretty unlikely launching point for a campaign of world domination.

It’s closer to the truth to say he can’t help himself. Like poking at a cold sore with your tongue just to feel the sting. He can feel the numbness setting back in and he can’t resist a little jab.

It hurts too good.

He hovers in the doorway a few minutes—watches, fingers pressing into the doorframe—then slips back into the night.

The fact that he’s stalking Spike doesn’t trouble Xander until Spike starts stalking him back. He’s pretty much run out of anything else to do in Lalibela, but he can’t really follow Spike if Spike’s following him and there’s really nowhere to follow each other anyway.

Which is what leads Xander back into the same bar and over to Spike’s empty table. He sits and orders a bottle with two glasses, sets one up on the opposite side of the table and fills it, along with his own—waits.

Spike is to whiskey as moth is to flame and Xander wonders why they never asked anything useful on the SATs.

Not that he has any idea what the use is of buying Spike a drink.

Having Spike so close makes him itch under the skin.

“What are you doing here?”

It comes out an accusation, but Spike just sips and shrugs.

“Letting a strange man buy me a drink,” he says.

Xander ignores the strange part. “I’m not buying you a drink,” he snaps.

Spike raises an artful eyebrow.

“Okay, I bought you a drink. But it’s not like I’m buying you a drink buying you a drink.” It occurs to Xander that this situation really didn’t need that clarification. He veers back toward the point. “What are you doing here, Spike?”

“Preparing to launch my campaign for world domination. You?”

Xander feels his jaw ticking. “Looking for slayers,” he says between clenched teeth.

Spike flexes the brow. “Plural?”

“Spell,” Xander says. “First evil. Potentials to actuals. Long story.”


Spike takes another drink and Xander has just enough time to wonder how Spike can be so out of touch with the demon community that he didn’t know the world’s now lousy with slayers before it occurs to him to balk at the idea of explaining the last year of Sunnydale to Spike.

Spike, who missed the whole thing. Spike, who took off without a word and had no right to leave and no right to stay and good fucking riddance and—

“You never should have come back.”

“Didn’t,” Spike says.

But if Xander wants to blame Spike for daring to turn up in Lalibela, Ethiopia, he’ll be damned if he lets logic stop him.

“You fucked everything up,” he says.

Spike finishes his glass. “I suppose I did.”

The lack of fight in Spike’s words, in Spike’s tone, in Spike’s body, leaves Xander windless and grasping.

“What the fuck are you even doing here?” As if there’s an answer that would satisfy him.

“You invite me to sit down just so you could yell at me, Harris?”

There’s a hint of the old Spike in that one, some indication that he’s not going to take Xander’s shit and that’s the perfect reason to glare with a single eye and say, “Yeah, maybe I did.”

And Xander expects Spike to tell him to fuck right off—which Xander won’t, of course—but he’s stepped into bizarro world because…

“Guess I ought to fuck off, then, and leave you alone.”

Xander blinks and says, “Yeah, I guess you should,” because he doesn’t believe Spike will, but Spike does.

Says, “Thanks for the drink” and just stands up and walks out.

Leaves Xander sitting alone in front of half a glass of whiskey.

And Xander just watches him go, suddenly terrified that he’s gone for good.

He resists the urge to finish the bottle himself, but still weaves a bit on his way back to the hotel. Doesn’t sleep much, but dreams of another slayer. Still not in Lalibela.

He still doesn’t make it to the airport the next day, but he makes it to the bar the next night and the night after that. Sticks with the whiskey, asks for the extra glass. Looks up from his drink each and every time the door opens until, somewhere around midnight, his thoughts finally manage to conjure a real Spike.

The real Spike, in fact.

Not the extra-pale imitation of his earlier encounters.

This Spike swaggers into the bar like he owns the place, swaggers up to Xander like his welcome is assured, pours himself a glass of the whiskey like he’s the one buying and tosses it back like it’s water.

“Miss me, Harris?”

In the last thirty seconds, he’s gone straight from the missing back to the seething resentment of Spike’s existence, so it’s barely a lie to say, “Yeah right, fangless,” with their signature antagonism.

The old insult rolls off Xander’s tongue, leaves a sweet taste as it goes. But all at once there’s a cool hand sliding over his on the table and there are naughty tingles that have no business in this reality and Xander has no idea what the fuck Spike thinks he’s doing until he feels the single fingernail pressing, digging into his skin.

Ow. Fuck.” He scowls at Spike and pulls his hand away, but Spike’s all calm gaze and patient smirk and then Xander gets it. “The chip,” he says.

Spike’s hand returns to the bottle to pour them each another glass. “There’s more to the world than Western medicine,” he answers and Xander knows he should be getting the hell out of dodge right about now, but somehow he’s right where he wants to be.

Except he’s not.

Because right where he really wants to be shows itself two drinks and twenty minutes later, out in the dark dirt alley behind the bar where he presses Spike into the mud wall, gets a grip on his crotch and ruts against him until they both come in their pants.

He likes knowing that Spike could have pushed him away.

“Miss me, Harris?” Spike sits down and picks up the glass that’s already been poured for him.

They’ve worked out a nice routine.

“This town stopped being interesting a week ago,” Xander says. “At this point, I’d be excited to see foot fungus.”

The routine doesn’t work if they’re nice.

“Try not to let it go to your head, bleach boy.”

(The insult’s only slightly more accurate than ‘fangless.’ Spike’s roots have grown out so far that only tiny tips of blond remain. It’s a good look for Spike. Xander likes the way the tips peek out from between his fingers when he grips Spike’s head as Spike sucks him off.)

They’re about five minutes and half a drink from the alley when Spike goes off script. “Either they’re making slayers a lot harder to find these days or someone’s not looking very hard.”

Xander feels the itch beneath his skin. “Don’t fuck with me, Spike.”

He catches a glimpse of something—a thing he’s been trying not to see in odd after-orgasm moments when the moon shines in the alley and illuminates Spike’s face. The thing that suggests that Spike’s put-on persona is a little more put-on these days than it used to be; the edges where the wrapping’s peeled back just a bit.

It’s there and he’s not looking and then it disappears as Spike curls his tongue over his teeth. “Funny,” he says, “thought that was why you were hanging about. Gagging for it, aren’t you, Harris?”

Xander tosses back his drink. The glass hits the table—hard.

Screw the routine. Screw the alley.

Them’s fightin’ words.

Xander takes Spike back to his room and shows him exactly who’s gagging for what.

The new routine involves more lube and softer surfaces, but it’s starting to take the edge off and the problem is that the sheets smell like Spike.

Spike comes (and Xander comes and Spike comes) and Spike goes, but the scent lingers.

He sleeps with it and wakes up with it, until one night the sex starts seeming less about the angry and more about the lonely and Spike stays in bed past his clichéd cigarette—a moment too long—and ruins it all by asking:

“How are they?”

Xander doesn’t need to ask who they are.

“Get out,” he says, staring at the ceiling as everything he didn’t fuck into Spike tonight boils to the surface and over. “Get out. Now. You have no right, you hear me? None.

Spike leaves without protest, but even after linen service, the scent lingers.

He spends the next day thinking about Buffy and Dawn and trying to picture himself picking up the telephone.

He can’t.

He stays away from the bar. One night, then two. His resistance cracks on the third, and caves on the fourth, but he sits across from an empty glass until closing. Fifth night and the barman comes to collect the unused glass and the words leave Xander’s lips unplanned.

“Have you seen the, um… man I was with before?”

“The vampire with the soul?” the barman asks. He goes on and maybe he even tells Xander when Spike was last seen and where he’s gone, but it’s all white noise.

He leaves his glass but takes the bottle. He dreams of Spike’s eyes.

Part Two

Harris should be gone by now.

Harris shouldn't have come in the first place.

In the dreams, it's always Buffy. Buffy he chases, Buffy who finds him. Buffy who pities him, Buffy who makes him pay.

Harris doesn’t belong here, but he is.


Spike's spent four nights in a row skulking in the shadows and watching the wanker walk into the bar and they both know there’re no slayers here, so why the fuck doesn't he move on?

Why the fuck does Spike choose this night—or any night—to follow him in?

Funny how he can keep himself from crawling back to Sunnydale but can't keep himself from walking into a bar.

Or maybe not so funny.

Harris pours the whiskey.

"They're fine," he says. "They're living in Italy. I haven't been, but Dawn says they've got sweet digs and that the country's full of hotties."

"You talk to her?" He's not sure he should ask.

"She emails me."

Harris shrugs and Spike notes the phrasing.

Notes the way Harris isn’t looking him in the eye—not when he mentions Dawn and not during the silences either. There’s only the one eye to look and it’s looking away, except when it thinks that Spike isn’t looking and then it’s looking hard, like it’s searching for something and Spike has a bad feeling about this.

The bottle’s getting low like it’s time to go, but Harris looks tense and not in an about-to-ream-you-in-the-alley kind of way.

Spike doesn’t expect to see to the hotel room again.

Doesn’t expect Harris to look up and straight at him and say: “People with souls can still be evil.”

But he doesn’t flinch—just blinks. “We getting out of here or what?”

A long, still second.

Harris downs his drink and stands.

Spike follows Harris back to the hotel, but it’s different. Slow, awkward steps have replaced the long, angry strides and there’s the kind of silence that calls for a cigarette.

As soon as it’s lit, Harris nicks it from his hand and drags on it—deep.

Spike lights another.

By the time they’ve burned down to their filters, they’re there.

Spike resents the switch from angry to awkward.

Thing is, angry Harris was a hell of a shag. But awkward Harris?

“Christ, that was bloody awful.” Spike lays back and lights another cigarette, blows the smoke out hard.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

“Damn it,” Harris says, but he sounds less angry than defeated. “You wanted this.”

“Wanted a good shag.”

For a moment, Harris says nothing, then: “Well, who the fuck cares what you want anyway?”

Spike exhales again and watches the trail of smoke rise to the ceiling. “Used to be you didn’t.”

“Still don’t.” Harris is about as convincing as that bloke in that movie about the bomb on the bus—a flick Spike snuck into without paying and he still thinks he should have gotten some money back.

“It’s the soul, isn’t it?” Spike spends half a second looking for a suitable ashtray before ashing on the carpet. “Since when does Xander Harris believe in souls?”

“It’s not about the soul,” Harris says. “Shut up. Why are you even here?”

It keeps coming back to this question. This question which, by rights, Spike should be asking. “I live here,” Spike answers instead.

Harris takes the half-smoked cigarette, drags on it and hands it back. “Not in my bed,” he says.

Spike hands the cigarette back to Harris and lights a new one. “Do we have to do this?”

“Do what?”

“Talk this out like it’s supposed to mean something. I’ll let you in on a little secret: A soul doesn’t make you good, just makes sure you know that you’re bad. Every reason you ever had to hate me stands.”

“I haven’t stopped hating you,” Harris says.

Spike puts the cigarette out on the nightstand. “Then fuck me like you mean it.”

Harris hasn’t stopped hating him, but Spike knows he wants to. Harris may not know, but it’s written in every movement of the boy’s body—the yearning, the fatigue.

They call out to him, but Spike doesn’t listen. Spike wants to be hated.

Still, keeping Harris off the slippery slope to apathy—or worse, sympathy—requires constant vigilance.

Spike turns their midnight walks from bar to hotel into a confessional—and never once asks forgiveness. Night after night, he turns on the Big Bad, turns it up—the worse the deed, the wider his swagger—digging deep inside Harris until he strikes underlying decency, righteous indignation. Never asks forgiveness, just pushes and prods until Harris’ better and worse natures burst forth. Until Harris fucks the Hail Marys into and out of Spike’s body.

He blames Dru for the bloody Catholic imagery.

He blames America for the mixed metaphors.

He blames himself for everything else.

He knows it can’t last, runs out of the middle-sized sins—the slaughter of innocents, the defiling of virgins, the murder and mayhem.

Runs out and he’s left with things that don’t matter and the things that matter too much.

The things that if Harris really blamed him for would have left him a pile of dust on the barroom floor.

The things they don’t talk about.

On that night, they make the walk in silence.

And fuck until dawn.

Spike wakes up and lights a cigarette. The glow of daylight through thin curtains makes him jittery. A sense of what now presses on his chest.

Harris wakes beside him in a cold sweat. Spike smells adrenaline, like the thick of a chase. Judging by his nose, Harris’s run half a mile at least. He turns wide eyes on Spike, almost like he’s surprised to see him there. Spike wonders if he’s overstayed his welcome. Again.

“I have to go,” Harris says. It’s the sound of the other shoe dropping. The sound of Harris’ bare feet as they hit the floor, shuffle about the room.

“Well then,” Spike says. It’s supposed to be the beginning of a something, but it’s the end. He crosses one ankle over the other and takes another drag.

Harris glances back at him. “It’s not what you think.”

Oh yeah? “What is it that I think?”

Harris shrugs. “I don’t know. That this… last night… you… I… whatever.”

That was illuminating. The soul doesn’t keep Spike from rolling his eyes.

“It’s not that I… it’s just… I was supposed to leave a long time ago and now if I don’t hurry, someone’s gonna get hurt.” Harris picks up his duffel bag and shoves in a handful of clothes, punches them for good measure. “Fuck, I’m such an idiot.”

“Sorry, mate, having a bit of trouble following here.”

“Ah, come on, Spike. You never had trouble following the fact that I’m a fuckup before.”

“That’s not—”

Harris pauses a moment to scoff in his general direction. “Not true?”

“Not what I meant,” Spike says. The conversation is veering dangerously close to… something.

“Look, I have these dreams, okay? They, uh… tell me things.”

“Been giving you fashion tips, have they?” Spike lets his eyes travel over Harris’ body. He’s only wearing jeans, but he’s wearing them well. “’Cause I’ve gotta say—”

“Things like how if I don’t get to the slayer outside of Aksum soon, she’s not gonna be there to get to.”

More clothes roughly handled and Harris obviously isn’t ready to joke about this, but Spike’s not ready to be sincere, so they’re even.

“So, what? You’re a psychic now? Oughta take the show to the public. Could earn yourself a fair pile of dosh.”

“We’re not talking love horoscopes, here.” Harris pulls a tee shirt over his head and Spike regrets it. “They only tell me my future and they’re kinda on the metaphorical side.”

“Surprised you can suss ’em out,” Spike says, more out of habit than rancor. He watches Harris’ shoulder blades tighten beneath the thin cotton and the soul twitches.

“She was there, now she’s not. It's not exactly ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn.’” Harris’ slings the duffel over his shoulder. He travels light. “I’ll pay an extra night,” he says. “Leave when it’s dark.”

He’s halfway out the door and Spike’s voice is soft, but it startles them both.


Xander Harris and his sodding slayer finding mission shouldn’t matter and Spike shouldn’t be here, but souls are cheeky bastards. For all their nattering about the good of humanity and avoiding (or in Spike’s case cheating) the road to eternal damnation, they don’t know a damn thing about a body’s own good.

They ache for foolish things and they never know when to leave well enough alone.

“I’m not paying you,” Harris says, but he paid for the ticket that Spike hands the Ethiopian Airlines agent.

They walk out across the tarmac and climb the stairs rolled up next to the plane. Spike leads the way down the aisle to their row. He turns. “Haven’t you heard? Once a bloke’s got a soul, virtue’s its own reward.”

Harris raises the eyebrow with the eye under it and waits.

“You might be walking into a fight,” Spike says at last. It’s dark out, but he lets Harris in first and takes the aisle seat. “Been too long since I had a good fight.”

“She might be fine, you know. And she probably won’t be thrilled that I brought her a vampire.”

Spike shrugs and makes sure his seat back and tray table are in their upright and locked positions. “Either way, I’ll get my fight.”

The plane begins to taxi down the runway and Spike clutches the arm rests in what he hopes is a subtle manner. He’s traveled plenty and he’s all for Henry Ford and the automobile, but there’s something inside still tells him that vampires weren’t meant for sea or air.

Harris’ head drops back and he closes his eye. “Spike, you’d so better not kill my slayer.”

Kill her? He wouldn’t even lift his hand to block her punch. Wouldn’t be worth the effort. She’s weak.

“Untrained,” Harris says.

Spike snorts. “She’s a walking power shake.”

“Shh,” Harris says. “She’ll hear you. She made it this long.”

He watches her stagger back, blood trickling from her lip. “Bloody well shocking.”

“Shut up and kill that vamp for her,” Harris says, like he can’t be bothered to get his hands dirty.

Like just because Spike’s been taking it up the arse, he’s suddenly Harris’ bitch.

And, yeah, he does it.

But only because he wanted to anyway.

Watching the proto-slayer flail about is bloody well exhausting. And a fight’s a fight, even if the opponent’s all but a fledge. He toys with it a bit, then makes it go poof. Casts a glance back at Harris, but it’s in no way puppy-like and he sure as hell isn’t hoping to be told he’s a good boy.

Harris doesn’t see it anyway. He’s looking past Spike, at the girl, who’s all pounding heart and rushing blood and heaving gulps of air.

The sounds ring in Spike’s ears, make him half hard in his pants.

He pulls out a cigarette and lights it, inhales and turns to look at her just as her senses catch up with the proceedings and let her know that her savior is ‘one of them.’

Her head snaps to attention and her eyes narrow. She drops into a fighting crouch.

Spike cocks his hip and rolls his eyes, takes another drag. “Oh, please,” he says.

Harris avoids sudden movements, taking four slow steps until he stands between them. “Do. You. Speak. English?” he asks.

By slayer number three, it’s choreography. The approach, the fight, the confrontation.

A slayer’s easiest to find after midnight, when she creeps from her bed to the edge of her village and begins her hunt. When she’s not hiding from her family or being hidden by her family, and the children are too busy dreaming sweet dreams to gather round the pale strangers and point and stare.

Easiest, but when the slayer doesn’t need rescuing, Spike’s down to bait, and this third chit’s a good sight stronger than the first.

The wanker nearly misses his cue, steps in front of Spike just in time, holding up his empty hands and speaking in the soothing tones that make Spike want to rip his own hair out but always work a treat.

Boy missed his calling as a snake charmer.

“That’s it. It’s alright. Nobody wants to hurt you and nobody wants to get hurt, so let’s just lower that stake and have a little chat, okay?”

Three seconds later, Harris is holding the stake in his hand.

He slips the stake hand behind his back, out of reach, and gestures with the other toward Spike. “This is Spike and we don’t want to stake him. Spike’s a vampire, but Spike is good. Spike is our friend. We like Spike.”

The slayer glowers.

Spike raises an eyebrow. “That right?”

Harris shrugs. “I’m simplifying,” he says. “The truth doesn’t exactly translate.”

The truth.

It eludes him and he’s through with hunting it.

They spend the night in Bahar Dar and Harris finds an Internet connection in a tiny room stuffed with ancient computer parts. A decrepit air conditioner works overtime, groaning and grumbling as it pumps semi-cool air over the equipment and the patrons. With patience and a little swearing, Harris arrives at his inbox. Spike wants to snoop and knows he shouldn’t but can’t help it anyway because the place is too small and too crowded to stand anywhere but over Harris’s shoulder.

The first message comes up. Harris stares at it for over a minute.

“It’s from Buffy,” he says at last, but Spike knows that by now, has read every bland word—and the worry and hurt behind them. “You could… you know…”

Harris gestures at the keyboard and Spike would have been less surprised if he’d turned around, dropped to his knees, and blown Spike in front of God and everybody.

“I think she’d want to know… that you’re, you know… somewhere.”

Spike doubts this very much, but doesn’t bother to say so. “She wants to know that you’re somewhere,” he says instead.

Harris stares for another second, slides the mouse up and to the right. His finger hovers for a moment, then clicks.

The email disappears.

Spike steps outside for a fag.

Harris emerges ten minutes later.

“I told Andrew we’re headed to Kenya,” he says. “I know there’s a least one there and Andrew’s sources say maybe two. Hell, Kenya can have as many as they want—at least they speak English there. And you don’t have to fly everywhere, though I’m really not down with the whole driving on the left thing.”

Spike should hate the presumption, but he doesn’t. The time for hate has passed.

He drops his cigarette and crushes it under his boot. “Guess I’ll have to drive, then.”

Harris snorts. “Over my dead body,” he says. “And, no, that’s not an invitation.”

They walk back to the hotel. If they’re talking, they don’t say anything. Xander goes in, but Spike stops outside the room for another smoke.

He looks around.

The small cluster of one-story buildings is surrounded by a gravel parking lot and beyond the gravel, a strip of rough grass scattered with anemic trees. A wooden sign is posted among them, hand-painted in wobbly capitals: NOT NOISY OR EXCITED.

He stares at it a moment.

Makes no sense, but he doesn’t bother to figure it out.

It fits.

He drops the half-smoked cigarette in the gravel, turns and goes inside.

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