Rating: NC17, some language, implied slash
Disclaimer: I don't own these guys. They remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN, and anyone else who has a stake in them. No money is being made. I'm doing this for kicks and kudos.
Summary: Two friends meet again after a long time separated.
Beta: The lovely LadyMerlin
Photo Manip: Me
Distribution: Ask, I'll probably say yes.
Xander sat at the bar, a beautifully carved walking stick propped next to him. He sipped a lukewarm beer and wondered how his life had gotten so far out of kilter. After the fall of Sunnydale, he’d drifted. First in Africa, searching for slayers. Later, to no real purpose. He’d become used to living on the road, and couldn’t seem to settle down. Not like I was the poster boy for normalcy before, but this is ridiculous. Ever since I found out... He cut off that line of thought and lifted the glass to his lips.
The bartender wandered over, leaned against the polished surface, and lifted an eyebrow at Xander. “You okay, buddy? Look a little down.”
“Seen better days. Seen worse, too. Guess it balances out, but right now – you couldn’t prove it by me.” He shrugged. “As they say, this too shall pass.”
A spotlight lit the stage at the back of the bar and a man’s voice boomed through the speaker system. “Good evening. I know why you’re here, and so do you. And I won’t make you wait. Folks, get those tips ready for Rex.” Music started and a young man, dressed as a Roman gladiator, strutted onto the stage.
Xander chuckled. “Oh, wow, this brings back memories.”
The bartender grinned. “You used to work the stage, huh? What was your name? Maybe I heard of you.”
“Doubt it. It was in Oxnard, California – and it was many moons ago, my friend. When I was younger, more desperate, and way better-looking than I am now.”
An older man, silver showing in his dark hair, sat next to Xander. “You’re not exactly hard on the eyes.” He held out his hand, and Xander automatically shook it. “Name’s Arthur Gentry. This is my place. You wouldn’t be looking for work, would you? Could always use another dancer.”
Xander frowned. “Wouldn’t think there’d be a huge market for one-eyed, older, scarred strippers. Your humor – if that’s what it is – isn’t appreciated, Mr. Gentry.”
The older man smiled. “The name of this place is Warrior’s, and if you stick around for the full show, you’ll see it’s appropriate. My clientele isn’t solely interested in perfection. We value the male form in all its glory – and if that glory includes battle scars, we don’t complain.” He placed a thick binder on the bar. “Take a look – we get retired military, former cops, ex-cons – if they have a good body, dance well, and can stay out of trouble, they’ve probably been up on that stage.”
Xander shot him a quick glance and opened the binder. He flipped rapidly through the pages, eye widening at some of the pictures. He closed the book and returned his gaze to Gentry. “You do realize that not all of your dancers are, uh... That is...”
“They aren’t all human. Yes, I’m aware of that. They are, however, all non-violent. Just looking to make their way in this world. I’m surprised you noticed that, however. Most of them pass quite well. Where are you from?”
“Lately, all over. Originally, Sunnydale.”
Gentry nodded. “That would explain it. Please, no violence here. My dancers and customers mean no harm.”
Xander flapped a hand at him. “Not looking to start anything. Not looking to work, either. Just passing through. Stopped in because... Well, today’s an anniversary, sort of. Wanted to have a beer in memory of a friend.”
“In that case, let me buy you one. No warrior should fall without a tribute.”
Xander nodded. “Thanks.”
Gentry returned the nod and rose from his stool, walking through the bar. He chatted with customers, checked to make sure everyone was happy, and in general acted like what he was – a man who wanted to keep his business humming happily along, and knew just how to do that.
The bartender turned back to Xander. “If you tell me your friend’s name, we’ll ring the bell for him next break.”
“Ring the bell?”
The bartender nodded. “It’s something we do for fallen warriors. We ring the bell, say their name, and the whole house toasts them.”
Xander thought it through and then smiled. “He’d like that. Always did enjoy being the center of attention, the egotistical bastard.” He slipped his fingers under the patch’s band and rubbed at the red indentation left by the elastic. “He was possibly the most irritating, arrogant, and deadly son of a bitch I’ve ever met. He was ... my best friend, my lover, my everything. And oh my god, it’s true – people will say anything to a bartender. Shit, sorry to dump that on you.” He took a deep breath. “His name was Spike. So, yeah – ring the damn bell, and let’s drink to him.”
Two hours later, and well after sunset, Xander exited the bar, walking stick firmly in hand. He’d had only two beers – these days he couldn’t afford to get drunk – although they’d rung the bell for Spike four times. Once for each death, and once for him as Xander’s lost love. He sighed as he made his way down the sidewalk, intent on getting to his room and falling into bed. Maybe tonight he’d actually sleep.
He stopped at the corner, waiting for the light to change, and felt the hair rise on the back of his neck. He shifted his stick into a two-handed grip, looked around, and gasped. Across the street, under a light, was a motorcycle. Leaning against it was a dead man.
Xander crossed the street in a daze, stopping in the pool of light. It couldn’t be, but it was. Spike. No one else had that cocky, sexy look. No one else had cheekbones sharp enough to wound. No one else had those incredibly blue eyes. “Spike? How... When... Why?”
“Are you ... real?”
“Real as you, luv. Was drifting along, then I heard a voice saying a warrior needed me. Popped up in the conference room at the Watcher’s Council. Set them all atwitter, trying to sort themselves out.”
Xander’s brain latched onto one word. “Warrior? Who?”
“Didn’t actually give a shite about that. Asked Rupes where you were. Told me you’d done a runner after a bad fight. Git. You’ve never run – wouldn’t know how. So I had Red locate you and transport me here. Along with my ride, o’course.” A scarred eyebrow rose. “Been a lot of years, Xan – you don’t look much older. Got a story there, yeah?”
“You could say that. Um ... the bad fight was really bad. I died. And then I was alive. Turns out, I’m an Immortal. Can only die if someone chops off my head. So I travel around, hunting demons. The ones most hunters don’t want to take on.”
Spike smiled – the warm, sunny smile only few ever saw. “Well then, looks like you’re my Warrior. And we’ve got forever, yeah?”
Xander uttered a shaky laugh. “Looks like.” He leaned closer and pressed his lips to Spike’s.
Spike hauled him in, wrapping strong arms around him. When their lips parted, he smiled again. “Let’s get to your place, pet. Time to start on that forever.”
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