Ulterior Motives


Part Nineteen

Xander groaned, he ached all over. Krav Magaw was hard. Master Bruce had told Spike that he thought the lessons would be good for Xander. Yakov Ptomkin was known to him but only slightly. They had all three met to discuss what would happen. Spike had explained his expectations and Master Bruce had admitted that he was more than a bit afraid that Master Spike would intercede in Xander’s behalf and destroy the Master/Student bond they’d developed.

Spike eyed Master Bruce for a moment. “Well, I wondered what was holding you back. I thought it was just that you were afraid of damaging Xander.”

Master Bruce shook his head. “I was trained much more harshly, when I was just a boy, than I’ve trained Xander. I was afraid that you’d ... I’m not sure what.”

Spike just nodded. It was right that Master Bruce should be afraid of offending or insulting him but he wanted Xander properly trained. If it took some minor physical damage to do it, well it could be healed away with masters’ blood and demon healing.

Yakov spoke up, interrupting with, “I don’t care about Master Vampires or any of that. I’ll train the boy. He has real potential. But you don’t tell me how to treat my students. If you mix in, I leave. Understood?”

Spike just shrugged. “I understand. So ... this is the way it is. No lasting damage. You can hit him if you need to. He won’t object. Boy has no idea that some people consider it wrong. Just be careful of his hands. He’s a carpenter and a damn good one. An’ he’s learnin’ to play guitar. Ok?”

Yakov nodded. “I got you. You want Master Bruce should sit in? I don’t mind. You sit in too.”

Spike settled behind his desk. “Deal. I’ll get a contract going and ... check or cash for your first payment?”

Yakov stood to leave. “Gold will do. See you in two days.”

Yakov had left then and returned in two days.

Now Xander was learning that Krav Magaw was not only deadly but really damn hard.

And Yakov wasn’t taking it easy on him either, Xander realized. He expected certain things and he knew how to get them. Mostly by just letting Xander exhaust himself by doing it wrong several times then showing him again how to do it right. Xander sighed and stood up again.

“Ok. Ready if you are.”

Yakov nodded to the young man. He was very impressed. He’d seen men older than Xander actually cry, in frustration, pain and anger. This one just got up and tried again. Yakov even admitted that he was very hard to impress.

“I’m always ready. Now, have you figured out what you’re doing wrong?”

Xander shook his head. “Not a clue. I can’t seem to get set, or find a center. It’s pissin’ me off.”

“Do not get mad. You get mad. You lose. It’s all about velocity. In Krav Magaw you ... explode. You don’t plan. You act. Set moves don’t get you anywhere in street fighting. This isn’t about form or religion. Not that there’s anything wrong with all that. It’s just that this is about survival. Pure, simple, not easy.”

Xander thought about it for a moment then said he was ready to try again. This time he just watched Yakov for a moment. When Yakov just looked back, he gave a small smile. Yakov attacked and Xander gave a funny kei, it sounded more like ‘yoush’ than a real kei, but it did the job. Yakov’s punch was straight forward and full force. Xander swung his hands in a horizontal arch that slapped the punch aside, but instead of trying to bring his hands back to strike, he continued in a pivot that brought his foot up in a twisting kick that caught Yakov in the shoulder. This knocked him off balance and Xander followed that up with a stomp that would have cracked the man’s sternum if it had connected. Yakov rolled away, managed to get to his feet and grabbed Xander from behind. This wasn’t as good an idea as it seemed as Xander eeled out of the grip and ran.

Yakov laughed and called Xander back. “Very good. You run. Why?”

Xander shrugged. “I can’t beat you yet. So, I ran. At least if it was real, I’d still be alive to be embarrassed.”

Yakov nodded. “Good, good. You got balls, kid. You’re gonna be great.”

Xander sighed and looked at Spike. He wondered what Spike thought of him running. He didn’t really feel that it was something to be embarrassed about. It would keep him alive long enough to do something better the next time. He said so to Yakov who nodded. “That’s right. But when I’m done with you, you’ll be killing bad things right and left.”

Spike sauntered over. “Been killin’ bad things since he was sixteen. Without a stitch of trainin’. How’s he doin’ really?”

Yakov shrugged his massive shoulders and smiled. “He’s good. Really good. He got training in something?”

“Swords. You wanna watch him work out with Master Bruce? He’s better than good.”

Yakov thought about it for a moment. “Ya, I’d like. I can see what kind of moves he’s got. Swords?”

“Better than guns against most demons.”



Xander took his sword from Master Bruce. This was going to be hard as he wasn’t quite sure exactly what Yakov was looking for.

“Xander, just do what you do. I think he’s looking for dedication more that moves. Ok?”

Xander smiled a bit nervously at Master Bruce. “Ok. Just go out, do my thing. Got it.”

So Xander went out to the middle of the room and went through his more difficult kata. Yakov just watched without comment. Then he asked Xander to show him what he could do with a gladius. Xander worked his way through a demonstration of gladius work and Yakov motioned him in.

Xander took the towel and bottle of water that Spike handed him. He settled on the floor near Spike’s feet with Master Bruce at his side. Yakov sat down on the bench on the other side of it from Spike.

“He’s good. Really good. You need to get him a better gladius, or a really good combat knife. I’m going to start in a different place than I thought I would. He’s got a core of steel, that one. I won’t insult him by treating him like a novice.”

Spike couldn’t help his self-satisfied smirk. His boy was coming alone fine.

Xander cleared his throat softly. “Sitting right here. Very much with the embarrassment. I’m not that good. Buffy’s much better.”

Yakov raised an eyebrow. “Buffy?”

Spike shrugged. “Slayer.”

Yakov nodded in sudden understanding. “Ah! Comparing himself to a slayer. Pffft!” Yakov waved a hand. “When Master Bruce and I are done with him, he’ll eat her for breakfast.”

Xander gazed at Yakov like he’d lost his mind. “She’s a slayer. I can’t beat her.”

“Bah! Slayers are all reaction, no action. You attack, she defends and hopes to get in a killing blow. I’ve heard that this one is more capable of making a plan than most. And her watcher is better. That doesn’t change my mind a bit.”

Xander turned his head to look at Spike. “So, me beat a slayer. Or you?”

Spike preened a bit. “Don’t know about that, pet. But you’re comin’ along great. Keep at it. Mr. Ptomkin knows what he’s talkin’ about. So,” Spike slapped both hands on his thighs. “Mr. Ptomkin, come to my office with me and I’ll get your gold for you. Krugerands do?”

Yakov just nodded and followed Spike out the door.


Xander had to smile. He knew he’d done well on Mr Ptomkin’s tests. He’d already learned several new moves. He was, admittedly, rather proud of himself. He also hurt, all over.

He stripped off his gi and tossed it in the general direction of the laundry basket. Strolling through the bedroom, naked, Xander raked a hand through his hair. It was getting really long in the back but every time Xander talked about cutting it Spike actually growled. He shrugged and hunted for a piece of string.

“Would you like some hair ties? I bought some, just in case.” Timmins stepped into the room with a hand full of elastics.

Xander took the one Timmins handed to him and pulled his hair back. Snapping the elastic around the short pony tail, Xander turned to the filled bath tub and eased into it.

Xander’s moan made Timmins laugh.

“Ass, don’t laugh. That Krav Magaw stuff is harder than it looks.”

Timmins just snorted. “I’m sure, Young Master. But then I’m a vampire so it doesn’t make that much difference to me.”

“Yeah, what with the superhuman strength and speed, as well as the healing and ...” Xander trailed off with a sigh. Timmins just got out the lineament the healer made for them.

“However, you do have an advantage over normal humans.”

“Yeah, what’s that? Oh, knowledgeable one?”

Timmins blessed Xander with a tiny smirk. “Master’s Blood. You’ve been taking it for quite sometime now. You’ll notice, if you think, that you heal more quickly than other humans. And you’re getting stronger and faster too.” He watched as Xander thought about that then got an arrested expression on his face as he was struck by some of the ramifications of that. “Oh, don’t worry. You’re still completely human. Master Spike won’t turn you. But his blood will protect you from all sorts of things. Infection, illness, aging. Although you’ll still age, just not as fast.”

Xander settled back in the tub, running the wash cloth over his chest absently.

“Oi, Pet! Come out an’ get yur back rub. Got things to do later.” Spike’s cheerful voice brought Xander back to himself. He quickly finished his wash and splashed his way out of the tub.

“Damn! Sorry, Timmins, didn’t mean to make such a mess.”

Timmins just shrugged. “Your master’s voice. Go on, I don’t mind.” Timmins shooed Xander into the bedroom with a wave of his hand and a smile.

Xander went on into the bedroom and settled on the bed. Spike climbed onto the bed and straddled Xander’s thighs. He began by checking that the oil was properly warm. It was, so he poured some onto Xander’s back and began his work.


“Yeah, pet?”

“What do you get out of this?”

“What? The massage?”

“Yeah. That. What are you getting out of it, beside a woodie?”

Spike didn’t bother to ease his erection away from Xander’s leg. “Well, pet, I get to touch you without you freakin’ out on me. And you’re getting used to the idea that I can touch ya without hurtin’ ya. So ... it’s all good, innin’t it?”

Xander thought about that for a second. “Ok. Makes sense. But, I gotta tell ya, I’m more than used to that. And I’m sorta starting to think you don’t want me.”

Spike nearly bit his tongue. “Excuse me? I’m not sure I heard ya right.”

Xander sighed. “Mom drowned all her stupid kids, contrary to popular belief. I know you want more from me than a ‘kiss and a cuddle’. And the bondage stuff? So not subtle. So are we going to fuck or are you going to mess around forever?”

Spike settled back on Xander’s calves and laughed. “Yeah, pet, we’re gonna fuck. Sooner or later. Not right this minute but real soon. I was waitin’ until I was sure you wouldn’t be frightened, or disgusted.”

Xander wriggled his butt under Spike. “I’m not frightened. Even a month ago, I probably would have been terrified. But I know you’re not going to hurt me, that way.” Spike cleared his throat, getting ready to say something, Xander didn’t let him go on. “Oh, please. That’s completely different from a punishment and I know it better than you do. You can relax about that. So I’m not frightened or disgusted. Timmins explained all that to me. And I found a bunch of stuff on the internet. I think I’m bi, I love who I love. I don’t love you ... not yet. But I like you a lot. More than I’ve ever liked anyone except Jessie. Or Willow. And the thought of making love, having sex, knockin’ boots. Whatever. Eeeeuuuwww! can you just say incest? No, not happenin’ yuck! And I’m babbling, aren’t I?”

Spike laughed softly. “A bit, pet. I’m not in a great rush, we’ve got plenty of time. I want you used to the idea, relaxed with it. So ... just a massage and a bit of a touch? Ok? Tell me if you don’t like it. Or it feels bad.”

Xander just relaxed and let Spike touch him.

First all Spike did was complete Xander’s massage. As Xander relaxed completely, Spike oiled his finger until it nearly dripped. Then he gently ran it over Xander’s tailbone. Xander didn’t stiffen or shift away so Spike eased his finger farther down. When he finally touched Xander where he really wanted to he didn’t do more than massage Xander’s anus until he grumbled slightly. Spike removed his finger slowly, letting Xander know that he would stop if Xander wanted him to.

“That was nice. I kinda liked it. Is that all you’re going to do?”

Spike’s respect for Xander increased ten fold. “Unless you want more? Don’t do it if you don’t feel like it.”

Xander considered carefully. “Maybe show me what comes next? I have no idea what to do.”

“Just relax, pet. I’ll do it all. Next, this.” Spike re oiled his finger and gently pressed against Xander’s ‘rose’ easing the very tip of it in, little more than just separating the muscle. “How’s that? Hurt?”

Xander sighed. His shoulders relaxed completely. “Doesn’t hurt. Doesn’t feel any worse than a really small plug. I’ve taken bigger, lots bigger.”

Spike snickered softly. “Nearly had a heart attack when I saw what ya’d done to yourself. Idiot. But this is different. It’s me, not a plug.”

Xander moved, pushing back against Spike’s hand. “Yeah, softer, not as cold. Feels ... nice. Push in a bit more.”

Spike did, just up to the first knuckle, then waited for Xander’s reaction. All Xander did was sigh again. Spike eased in a bit more then wriggled his finger a bit.

“How’s that, pet?”

“Now that feels ... odd. Hold still for a bit?”

Spike gritted his teeth, he was going to have to have a proper wank after this. “Ok, but I think this is all for now. I can’t take much more.”

Xander grunted as Spike slowly pulled his finger out. “Not bad. Didn’t hurt, in fact, I kinda liked it. More?”

Spike shook his head. “Not just yet, luv. Let ya think about it, yeah? Now, there’s a message for ya. Your secretary took several, best see to ‘em. I’m gonna take a shower. Scat!”

Xander rolled over and pulled Spike down onto his chest. “Ok, I’m all oily, but Timmins can give me a toweling off. You shower, have a ... what do you call it? Oh, yeah, a wank. And ... Spike?” Spike just raised his eyebrow. “Thanks ... for not rushing me. Kiss?”

Spike leaned down to oblige, not trying to hide his condition below the belt. Xander kissed back with careful concentration. Then Spike pried himself off Xander and sauntered into the bathroom, whistling softly.

Xander stared after him for a moment then muttered, “Ulterior motives? I think.” He gently touched himself trying to recapture the feeling of Spike touching him. He sighed and gave up. Calling Timmins, he got the oil wiped off and Timmins handed him some clothing.


After dressing, Xander went to his office to get his messages. He read through them with difficulty but didn’t say anything to his secretary. Sylvia tried hard and couldn’t help it that she really didn’t understand that Xander really wanted the messages left on his machine. He decided to have another talk with her later.

“I have an appointment with Tara at the Espresso Pump in ...” Xander glanced at his watch. “Twenty-five minutes. Tell Spike, ok? I have to leave now or I’ll be late.” Xander hurried out calling to Bud as he went.

Bud met him in the garage where Xander was having an argument with Arnold.

“Look, just get my truck. I got to get going or I’m going to be late.”

“I’m not giving you a vehicle until I know Master Spike said it was ok.” Arnold’s cross armed stubborn look made Bud cringe.

Xander just looked at him for a moment. “Get my truck, now.”

“Not until I know you have permission. I’ll send Frankie to ask.”

Xander gave a huff of expiration. “Him? He’s only half there. It’ll take him forever. Just get the damn truck. If I have to get it myself, you’re not going to be happy.”

“Not gettin’ that truck, I said.”

Xander just shrugged. “Ok. Be that way. Bud?” Bud started to react but all he had to do was catch Arnold as he collapsed. Xander had pulled a huge knife from somewhere in his clothing and stabbed Arnold in the belly. He’d refrained from cutting his guts out, just stabbing in and jerking the blade back out. He handed the knife to Bud. “Clean that, will ya?”

Xander glanced around, found his truck and headed for it, keys in hand. Bud followed after, wiping the knife on a chunk of t-shirt he’d cut off Arnold.

“Ruthless much?”

Xander looked at Bud for a second. “Sure thing. I’m Spike’s. No one else has the right to refuse me anything unless it’s a direct order from Spike. And I don’t like that little shit. Never have. So, ruthless? Yeah. Never said I was a nice guy, just a white hat. And I’m gettin’ over that. Besides, vampire, won’t die.”

Bud handed over the knife, Xander put it away and drove out the roll up door. Headed for the Espresso Pump and his meeting with Tara.


Tara looked up happily when Xander sat down in the chair opposite her. She had been reading from a leather bound book, a small frown on her face.

Xander took the book from her, glanced at the title and set it aside. “That’s all bullshit. You want a good book on the subject of fertility spells try Ushod’s Fruitfulness. Much better and in Greek. If ... call Giles, I think he has a copy. Oh, and hello.”

Tara had to smile at Xander. “Hello to you too. I already ordered. The coffee should be here soon. I wanted to talk to you without all the ... craziness. Thanks for coming.”

Xander shrugged. “Welcome. So ... Willow driving you to distraction with her whining? Or am I out of line?”

“Not out of line and yes, she is. She’s just not taking this as well as she should. She won’t even admit that it was her fault. She’s all for blaming everyone but herself. So ... I don’t know what to do.” Tara picked at the hem of her blouse for a moment then stilled her hands as the waiter came with the coffee.

Xander thanked the man and put a twenty on his tray, telling him to keep the change. He smiled, took the money off the tray and stuffed it into his apron. He made the change in front of Xander, showed him the five dollars and asked, “You sure? It’s a fiver.”

Xander snorted. “Sure. And when this cup is empty I want another, with whipped cream. Thanks.”

Tara looked startled. “I thought I got it right. That’s what you drank the other day. I’m sorry.”

Xander shook his head. “This is exactly right. Exactly what I had before. It’s just that I like whipped cream but I didn’t have time to mess with it. I had to get into that room fairly quickly so that Buffy didn’t piss Spike off too much. Sorry I jumped to the wrong conclusion. Buffy isn’t really going to be a problem, is she? Unless she apologizes me to death.”

Tara shook her head. “No, she said that if Spike didn’t start something she wasn’t about to finish it. She’s just glad that Spike isn’t going to upset the status quo. Willow’s the problem, she’s trying to find a spell. A charm. A chant. Something to ease her guilt.”

Xander made a face. “That’s too bad. You know what Spike’s going to do if someone tries to take me away from him?” Tara shook her head then sipped at her coffee. “I’m not sure myself. But end of the world as we know it isn’t far wrong. He’ll tear up Sunnydale at the very least. So. What do we do? You have any idea?”

“That’s what I was doing with that book. There was something somewhere about consummation and a blood spell or something. I thought if I could find it and you and Spike could do the spell ... even if it isn’t really ... workable?” Tara wrinkled her brow in thought. “Well, you know what I mean. Maybe she’ll give up. Get her mind back on her college work and stop obsessing. What do you think?”

Xander sipped his coffee and thought. He reached over and picked up the book, flipping through it he found the spell Tara was thinking of.

“This one. The Right of Thing ... something unpronounceable. But it’s a binding spell. Exchange of blood and ... um ... I hate hand written spell books. These fuckers can’t spell any better than I can and I swear, scribe or not, they write worse. You see if you can’t figure it out.”

Xander passed the book to Tara and waited as she struggled with the spidery, scrawling handwriting. She finally frowned. “Well, argus? Argen .. Something. Damn. Oh, sorry.”

Xander waved his cup negligently. “Don’t worry about it. You should hear my Mom.”

Tara fired up a bit. “Don’t want to. She’s not a nice lady. Sorry for the insult to you.”

Xander put down his cup and pulled the book over to his side of the table again. “Well, let me see. I wish the lighting was better. The parchment is ... bad, poor quality. I can make better myself. And might I just say Yuck. Nasty process.” While he’d been speaking, Xander had been turning the book back and forth trying to get a better light on it. “Ok, finally. Be nice if the light was better. Or I had a strong source. No chance in here. Dim isn’t the word.”

Tara rummaged in the huge bag she always carried and produced a small halogen bulb flashlight. “How about this? Will this help?” She handed it to Xander who grinned at her and used it to highlight the word he was trying to read.

“Got it. Argenteum. Silver. We have to exchange blood, which we’ve already done. And money, done that too. There’s no chants or spells, just the exchanges. Think that’ll convince Willow?”

Tara bit at her lip. “I don’t know. I hope so. I’ll tell her I asked you about it.” Tara shrugged. “If she believes me.” Tara stuffed the book into her bag and picked up her coffee. “I’ll just have to try.”

Buffy startled them both by leaning into their lines of sight. “Hey! How’s everything? Xander, the ol’ ball and chain let you out?”

Xander took the remark in the spirit it was intended and shrugged. “Got an escort. He’s just over there.” Xander lifted his second cup in Bud’s direction. Bud just nodded back then returned to his paper. “Good guy. Works out with me sometimes. So, what’s the what?”

“Not what. Just ... bleh. I’ve been checking around and ... frankly, the council needs its butt kicked. Majorly. I’m not going into it until I’m really sure, but I think those old geezers need ... a mental enema. They’ve been telling Slayers that all demons are evil, with a capital E. Only mostly they’re not. I wonder ... never mind. It’s too depressing for words. Just ... take my word for it ... I’m going to be asking questions before I kill demons anymore. I mean, sure, there’s some that are just nasty, end the world types, but there’s others that just want to do a night’s work and go home to the mate and spawn. Vampires, on the other hand, are still fair game. Except for two exceptions. Unless my ex-honey goes all Angelusey on us then ...” Buffy looked at Xander’s face then Tara. “Never mind. I came to mend fences not whine. No more whiney girl. Just happy face Buffy. Now. Tell me what you’ve been up to ok?” Buffy put on her patented bright-and-shiny-girl face and settled in to listen to Xander.

Xander knew better than to try to get Buffy to talk about whatever was bothering her, until she was ready all they’d get was that too cheerful cheerleader smile and some bland excuse or other. Instead of worrying about it, he told Buffy and Tara about his orchidarium, gardens and woodworking. He also told about his training. Buffy was much more interested in the training than she was the gardens. Tara was more interested in the gardens. All in all they spent the next two hours listening to Xander prattle on about his doings.

Finally Xander glanced at his watch. “Look, I’d stay longer but I have a translation I need to work on and Spike is expecting me back soon. I better get on the stick and get out of here.”

Buffy stood. “You going to be all right? Do I need to have the shovel talk with Spike? Really, Xander, I’m not going to apologize any longer it’s getting worn out. But ... you need me, call. Ok?”

Xander smiled at Buffy. “Well, I won’t say it’s ok, cause it’s not. But ... I know that you’d have done something if you’d been paying attention. And that’s the best you’re ever going to get from me. Ok?”

Buffy nodded once. “It’ll have to be, won’t it?” She looked sad for a moment then brightened. “At least he doesn’t keep you from going out and seeing people. Um ... see you soon?”

“Remember, I’m learning Krav Magaw from Yakov Ptomkin. And may I just say ... ow!”

He waved to Buffy as she grabbed her purse and dashed off, calling over her shoulder. “Stay in touch. Bye.”

Xander turned to Tara who just shook her head and finished her coffee. “Well, blast of fresh air. Or something.”

“Or something.” Xander agreed. He finished the last of his second cup of coffee put the cup down and leaned back in his chair. “How’s Giles doing, really?”

“Not bad. He feels really sad about all this. He thinks ... well, knows, that he should have done something. He’s wallowing in guilt, he won’t feel ... right until he makes amends. Something about balance?”

Xander bit at his lip for a moment. “Not sure where that’s coming from. Have to look into it.” He sighed. “I really meant it when I said that I needed to get going. So ... I’m outa here.” Xander stood up, tossed some money on the table and held out his arms. “Hug?” Tara slid into his arms, gave him a quick, firm hug and stepped back.

“Wow, some body you’re hiding under all that.”

Xander grinned. “What, a flannel shirt is all that? It’s chilly out. Besides, what are you doing admiring my physique, you got a girl friend. Bye.” Xander hurried off, worried that Spike would worry. Bud fell in beside him and they left. Neither one heard Tara say, “Maybe not for long.”


Spike met Xander at the door to their quarters.

“You’re almost late, pet. Come on. Guitar teachers’ going to be here any second. Want you dressed a bit better than that.”

Xander just snorted. “Want to show me off?”

“Of course. Worth showin’ off. Here.” Spike pointed to a pile of clothing on the bed. Xander just stripped off and changed. It wasn’t worth arguing about, besides, he liked dressing nice.

The clothing Spike had put out for him was a pair of linen trousers, a silk shirt and Gucci loafers without socks. Xander was pleasantly surprised to see that the trousers were very dark brown and the shirt was about two shades lighter. The loafers were that dark reddish brown called Ox-blood. Xander pulled them on without comment, content that Spike liked the way he looked.

Xander had to admit that he looked much nicer now that Spike was choosing his clothing. He’d never had money enough to worry about more than being decently covered. Willow had indulged her love of odd, bright things when she bought him birthday and Christmas presents. He wasn’t complaining. He’d been glad enough to get them. But now he realized how truly awful they’d really been. He smoothed a hand over his hip, checked his pocket for guitar picks and grabbed his guitar case. Spike was, by now, waiting in the main library to introduce him to his teacher.

Xander opened the library door and entered, carrying his case. One second later he was standing stock still, gazing at Giles, wondering ‘What the hell?’

Spike came toward him, collected his guitar case and led him to Giles. “Here’s your guitar teacher, pet. I’m going to be siting right here. Pay attention.”

Xander settled into the chair Giles pointed to. “Hello, Xander. I hope it’s all right with you that I took the job. I am competent to teach the instrument, you know. It’s one of the ways I made my living during my rebellious years. Ethan used to laugh his head off. I’m classically trained, but I favor folk and rock. You favor country, I think?”

Xander shrugged. “Only when I’m depressed. I like classical, jazz, folk and rock.” Giles gave Xander a sharp look. “Yeah, yeah, I know. Pick a style. But why? Why can’t I just pick songs I like?”

Giles shrugged, settling his guitar on his lap. “No reason I can see. I’m more in favor of you learning what you like. And there’s plenty of really good stuff out there that is simplistic enough for a beginner, but with enough challenge that an intermediate or advanced student can still use it. So ... you’ll just love this.”

Xander groaned, he knew that tone of voice. “Yeah, I bet. What is it?”


Spike groaned, a hollow, haunted sound. “Fuck.”

Xander looked from Giles to Spike. “Ok, so? Scales. How is that any different from hours of kata? What do I do first?”

So Giles showed Xander how to play scales. Xander carefully went through the three beginner scales that Giles taught him. He didn’t protest, or argue, although he did remark with a grin, “Just scales? I don’t even get Twinkle? Oh, well.”

Giles, recognizing an olive branch when it was shoved in his face, just smiled back. “Twinkle next week, scales now.”

Giles had sat next to Xander and guided him through the scales, correcting him, gently repositioning his fingers. Spike looked on from over his paperwork.

Giles finally leaned back to watch Xander as he patiently ran through the beginner scales again and again. Spike smiled as he watched. Xander was concentrating on his work with the single-minded fixation that he gave to any study he bent his mind to. Giles was watching in amazement as the, to him, usually feather-headed young man learned the finger positions and notation rapidly.

“Well, that was different. Xander, I’ve always said you just don’t apply yourself. That was ...” Giles blinked once as Xander stood up, put his guitar in it’s case and faced him.

“If you’re going to do that, we’re not continuing the lessons.” Xander turned to Spike. “I won’t be insulted in my own house. I always apply myself. I know eight demon languages and six ancient human languages. I can read and write them all. So I really don’t think that ‘you don’t apply yourself’ is the problem.” Giles opened his mouth but Xander cut him off. “Rupert, I really don’t care to discuss it. Stay, teach, pay a few earned compliments or go. End of story. Excuse me.”

Xander left the guitar in the library, as that was where he was going to practice, and stormed out of the room. He went into his garden to walk and think, leaving Giles sitting, open mouthed and astonished, in the library with Spike.

“Well, you great git, that was impossibly stupid. The boy knows more demon languages than you do. Ancient Sumerian, Hieroglyphics, hieratic, demotic, Greek, Latin, an’ I don’t know what all. And you open your gob and tell him he don’t apply himself? Where the hell is your head?”

Giles pulled off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I really don’t know. I’m usually not so ... heavy handed. Buffy’s driving me spare. Willow is ... experimenting with some rather dark magic and Buffy seems to think I ought to be able to stop her. I’m Buffy’s Watcher, not Willow’s keeper. Tara is worried too and that doesn’t make things much better, she’s always ... never mind. That’s no excuse for my managing to put my foot in it like this.”

Spike nodded. “That’s right. You’re gonna have to run him down and apologize. He won’t leave the house. I’ll have Timmins find him for you.”


But Timmins didn’t find Xander. He searched. He got Bud and Sylvia to search. Then he went back to Spike and told him Xander was no where to be found. Spike rubbed his face.

“Did you go to the station? He might be there, tending to the new plants.”

Timmins sent a minion to check. No Xander.

Spike was beside himself. Xander knew better than to leave the residence, didn’t he? He was sure that he’d told him not to leave without at least Bud with him. But if he wasn’t in the residence, where was he?


Xander wandered around the garden for a while. He checked the conditions of the beds, looking to see if they needed watering or weeding. He smelled his roses and listened to the stream babble. It didn’t help. He was still mad and probably would stay that way for a while. He needed to get out.

He went on to the station to look at the orchids and violets. They were in good shape. One of the new orchids was putting out a bud spike. Xander had to smile at that.

After spending a while with that, Xander went back to the garage bay that he’d turned into a workshop. He was still reconditioning the clavichord. It needed a few bits of inlay reglued and another coat of polish. He messed with that but couldn’t settle.

He had a translation in the office so he decided to go take a look at it. It had been delivered here by a rather confused demon. He’d handed it to Xander muttered something about William the Bloody and pets then left.

Xander looked the parchment over. It was in fair shape, nearly two hundred years old and not worth worrying about. He mumbled, “Love charm in Yiddish? What next?” and tossed it back down.

He paced around for a bit more then decided that he was going out. The minion who was searching for him missed him by about two minutes. He decided to go to the espresso pump for coffee. Completely forgetting that he wasn’t supposed to leave the residence without a bodyguard.


Xander took a short cut from the station down to the next level and then to the garage, through a door that was hidden behind a stack of barrels. He got his truck and just drove away.

He steered through traffic absently, paying more attention to his thoughts than to traffic. He couldn’t believe Giles. He finally decided to leave it up to fate. If Giles showed up for his next lesson, he’d let it slide. Unless Giles was stupid enough to start it all up again. Then – watch out.

He pulled into the parking lot at the end of the block from the Espresso Pump and parked as close to the street light as he could get. It wasn’t dark yet but he wasn’t sure when he was going to leave so he decided, better safe than sorry.

He locked his truck and headed into the coffee bar. He just wanted a cup of coffee and some time where he wasn’t doing something. Just a bit of time to goof off. He thought maybe he’d see someone he knew.

When he saw Buffy and Tara he called out to them. “Hey! Hi! Can I sit with you? Please?”

Buffy moved around the tall table a bit so that she, Tara and Xander were equidistant around the table. It gave them all enough elbow room that they didn’t feel crowded.

Tara smiled at him and asked, “Would you like something, or are you just here for the atmosphere?” which was a bit silly as the atmosphere was pseudo-industrial neo- something. Xander never had figured out exactly what the decor was supposed to be.

“Coffee, lots of it. I really want a double double espresso with a grain or two of sugar.”

Tara just got up to get it. Xander started to call after her but Buffy stopped him.

“She’s giving me a chance to talk to you. Ok?” Xander nodded. “I’m sorry I was such a shit. Really. I ... well, I was a bit jealous at first. Then we, Giles and I, got busy with that incursion. And can I just say, anticlimactic much? So ... I should have done something. I’m not quite sure exactly what, except maybe nag Giles until he looked at all the crap Spike left. But anyway, I’m really sorry.”

Xander sighed, he didn’t like keeping grudges, the baggage was way too heavy. Besides, Buffy was right. She was a slayer, she didn’t do magic and no amount of research would have helped her figure out what Willow had done.

“Never mind, Buff, you did what you could and that’s all you can do. Forgiven. Just do me a real favor and stay away from Spike as much as you can. He won’t do anything to me if you piss him off. But ... well, I don’t really want to find out what might happen if he loses a fight to you. Ok?”

Buffy nodded, sucking the last of her Mochachino frosty out of the glass. “Ok. Giles and the Council seem to have some sort of agreement with all the High Masters. We don’t stake you and you keep your people under control or something. Seems the Hellmouth is an exception to most of the rules of order. I’ve been told in no uncertain terms not to stake, annoy or other wise piss Spike off. Sucks, but there you are.”

“Well, thanks anyway. We good?” Xander gave Buffy an accessing look.

“Yeah, we’re good. And I said we’re not going over this again and here we are, tromping all over it. I guess I’ll keep apologizing until I don’t feel so guilty.” Xander just waved a hand then grabbed his coffee again. Buffy glared at her watch like it’d done something wrong. “Shit! I gotta book. Homework, then patrol, then study group. Bye.”

Buffy slid out of the seat and waved to Tara, who was coming back with Xander’s coffee. Tara waved back and smiled watching Buffy scurry to the door and out. She looked like any other SoCal college freshman. Looks can be so deceiving.

Xander smiled at Tara and took the cup from her hand. He swallowed half in two quick gulps. Tara reached out as if to take the cup, crying out, “Xander, it’s hot!”

Xander put the cup down. “Don’t worry, Tara. Thanks, but I’ve got asbestos mouth. I can drink stuff so hot it’s nearly boiling.” He followed this with a gentle smile. “So what’s the what?”

Tara sighed softly. “I’m sorry about Willow. She doesn’t like change, and ... well, she’s ... I’m not sure. Just different. And I’m a bit scared. She keeps doing stuff. Stuff she shouldn’t. That spell she worked on you and Spike. She ... it wasn’t ... she didn’t just mess it up, she changed things around so much that by the time she got done it was a different spell entirely. And you’re the one to suffer for it. I ... “

Xander reached out and took her hands, keeping her from picking the hem out of her sleeve. “I know. This is the second time for you too. Wonder when ...” Xander sighed and continued. “The only two people here who really have anything to apologize for are Giles and Willow. Willow, she’ll get around to it sooner or later. Giles? I’m not too sure about. But ... Spike got him to agree to teach me guitar. Only he put his foot in it just now and I’m kinda mad at him. I left to cool off.” He took another sip of his coffee. “So apology accepted. And ... um ... there’s a blessing I want. If you’d do a blessing for luck in love, I’d really appreciate it. As long as you do it yourself, no Willow. Ok?”

Tara nodded. “Sure thing. Love, huh? And who’s the lucky ...” Tara looked at Xander, he was shaking his head slowly from side to side. “Oh, Spike? Well, that’s good, I guess?” Tara gave Xander a rather forlorn look. “Isn’t it?”

Xander shrugged. “Better than hating him. But I’m really not sure, I think I might. He’s really good to me. He takes care of me. And stuff. And he ... well, he said he’d punish me when I needed it. But not do me any harm. So far, he hasn’t. And I’m happy. So, so far it’s all good. And I’m babbling or something.”

Tara smiled into her cup. “Me too. But ... oh, well. And look at the time. I have to go. Willow and I have study group and the class is really hard so I need it. I better go. Bye.”

Tara got up, grabbed her bag and, after promising to do the blessing Xander wanted, hurried out.

Xander just sat, watching the people in the seating area. He didn’t want to go back to the residence yet, but he was bored with no one to talk to. Just like always, he’d been allowed to peek in the door, but not come in. He’d had ten minutes of attention, an apology that didn’t really do him any good and off they’d gone. He realized that his girls weren’t his anymore.

He finished the dregs of cold coffee and looked out the window. He’d been sitting here, sipping coffee and thinking for the last two hours. It was nearly dusk and he decided that he needed to get back home.


Spike was frantic, no one could find Xander. He was nowhere in the residence, they’d even searched the forbidden levels. He paced the library snarling at every being that came into the room.

Giles watched in sorrow. He was responsible for Xander’s flight and he regretted it. He hadn’t realized how much Xander had progressed until just now. He kept reminding himself that he was Buffy’s Watcher that was his duty. The rest of the children weren’t his responsibility. If they weren’t, why did he feel so guilty?

Spike snarled at the minion that came into the room. It hovered by the door until Spike noticed it then at his snarl it mumbled, “Arnold says that Master Xander has come back. He’s in the garage now. Do you ...” but the rest of the sentence went unuttered. Spike was out the door and headed for the garage.

Giles picked up his guitar case and decided that he’d be getting home. He didn’t want to be between Xander and Spike in their confrontation. He followed Spike to the garage where he’d parked his car.

He was vaguely aware of Spike in the back of the garage yelling at a young looking vampire, but he decided to stay out of it. He saw Xander standing there too. He looked a bit defiant but no more so than some of the times Giles had reprimanded him for some carelessness or other. Giles thought it wasn’t out of line of Spike to want to know where Xander was. Nor that he wanted Xander to take a demon body guard with him. He sighed, pushed his guitar case into the back seat and drove out through the open garage door.


Xander sighed, he knew he was in trouble the minuted he’d pulled into the garage. Arnold’s self-satisfied expression and snarky comments made it clearer. “You’re not allowed to leave the garage until Master Spike gets here. He said. And I’m supposed to park your truck and give him the keys. So hand ‘em over.”

Xander just glared at him. “I’ll give Spike the keys myself. And I’ll park my truck myself. You stay away from it. Got me?”

Bud, standing nearby winced. This was not going well already. Arnold knew exactly what he was doing. He was getting Xander in as much trouble as possible. The snark and attitude were absolutely guaranteed to get Xander on his high horse.

So Xander stood by his truck for a moment then hopped in and moved it to its usual place in the garage, locked the door and pocketed the keys. He’d rather have parked it in the station but he wasn’t going to push his luck, Spike sounded mad enough as it was.

He was just getting ready to go look for Spike when he swept in coat tails flaring with the speed of his approach. Xander sighed, he was probably in for it no matter what he said. He decided to keep his mouth shut until he had a better idea of how pissed Spike was.

Arnold, however, had other ideas. “Master Spike, I told him that you wanted me to park the truck and he ... moved it himself. And he put the keys in his pocket, he was supposed to turn them over to me. And he didn’t. He’s going to embarrass you one of these days, just you wait.”

Spike eyed Arnold for a moment then just turned to Xander. “This true? I told him to park the truck and get the keys. Why didn’t you do what I said?”

Xander stiffened, Spike knew that Xander didn’t like Arnold and didn’t want him driving his precious truck. Now he was mad too.

“Because you didn’t tell me that. I don’t answer to minions. You said so. So I parked it and waited for you. You want the keys?” Xander took the keyring out of his pocket and extended it to Spike. “Here they are. I’d appreciate it if you’d make it clear to that toad that he’s not to drive it.”

Spike made a big mistake, he handed the keys to Arnold and told him to lock them up in the key safe. He didn’t tell Arnold not to drive it. Arnold gave Xander a smug look over Spike’s shoulder.

Spike snarled, “I told you never to leave without at least Bud with you. Now come on. You’re in for a punishment and I’m not ...” Spike turned to see that Xander was still standing right where he’d been.

“Not until you tell that little sneak not to drive my truck. I don’t need this on top of everything else.”

Spike reached out to grab Xander. Xander used a circular withdrawal to shake off Spike’s hand. Spike stepped back and snarled, “You better do what I say. I don’t care what you need. You’ll do as I say and stay safe or else.”

“Or else what?” Xander shouted, “cause I really want to know.”

“I’ll belt you til you can’t sit. That’s what.”

Xander froze then snarled, “You better never. You lay a belt on me and I’ll be gone so fast you’ll feel the breeze. Hear me?”

Spike blinked once then said in a flat cold voice. “You can’t. The curse will punish you worse than I will. You’ll never be at peace until you come back to me. I’m not sure what the punishment will be like but I don’t think you’ll like it much. In fact, we’ll just see what the punishment will be.”

Xander scoffed at that. “Can’t be away from you? I’ve been miles away from you and nothing happened. I was ...”

Spike interrupted Xander. “Working. With my permission, I might add. We’ll just see what happens if you’re away from me without my permission. You’ll learn your lesson now, instead of later. Take him!”

Xander tried to fight and did a considerable amount of damage, but in the end he was taken and bound. One fledge started to smack him but Spike staked him from behind before he could do more than raise his hand.

“My boy! I punish him, not you. You wankers even look like you’re going to give him what for an’ I’ll stake you too. Got me?” Heads nodded vigorously. “Bring him.”

So they did, they dragged him down a flight of stairs and into a room. It was small and half a floor down from the garage proper. It was probably meant as a break room but it was empty and cold.

Spike dragged Xander over to the wall and grabbed a chain that dangled from a ring. He jerked Xander around and chained his wrists together behind his back. Then he wrapped the other end of the chain around Xander’s neck. He used heavy locks but he only pulled the chains tight enough that Xander wouldn’t forget they were there. Then he ripped Xander’s clothing off.

Xander didn’t say anything. He knew he’d pushed it too far this time. But he wasn’t allowing anyone, not even Spike to take a belt to him like his father had. Not happening. So now he was in a mess. He turned his head away and refused to look at Spike.

Spike snarled, “You think you can resist the call of the curse. Fine, have it your way. Resist.”

He stomped to the stairs and started up, half way he turned to look back. If Xander would only apologize. But Xander still wouldn’t look at him, wouldn’t see the wistful look Spike cast his way.

Spike went up the stairs and snarled at Arnold. “If you so much as look at my boy’s truck I’ll dust you. Got me?”

Arnold nodded. Every demon, vampire and human in the residence trembled. No one wanted to deal with Spike in a temper. And his was as foul as it could get.

Part Twenty

Spike paced his office restlessly. He wanted Xander, here, now. But it wasn't going to happen. He also wanted to torture Arnold to dust, that might happen if he could find an excuse.

Spike knew Xander hadn't meant to cause so much trouble, but Spike was going to be master in his own house. And Xander couldn't act stubborn like that. He was Spike's thrall and would act like it or suffer the consequences. Spike couldn't keep him safe if he didn't behave himself. He loved his boy. He knew that, but he also knew that if he was soft on him they'd both get killed. Xander would get himself in a confrontation with some wannabe Master and that would be that. Spike would kill the wannabe and be lost in blood lust until someone dusted him. Not good for anyone.

So Xander had to have his nose rubbed in the fact that he was still Spike's thrall, no matter how indulgent he, Spike, was. Xander was going to get the full effect of being away from his master without permission. With permission, he could go hours without contact, without it, he couldn't stand to be more than six feet away without repercussions. And in this case he didn't have permission to be away. Spike doubted anyone would understand how it worked, but it did.

He wanted so much, wanted: to fuck him silly, to smack him up a side the head, give him chocolate, to give him his new gladius, to turn him over his knee and spank him until he begged forgiveness. He wasn't going to do any of that. He was going to make him suffer from their separation until he begged to be let back. He wasn't going to like it. It set his plans back by months.

Spike picked up the library table and smashed it to splinters, very tiny splinters.


Xander was chilled to the bone. He couldn't stop shivering. And everything hurt, not a great pain like a bruise, just a low level hurt like an over worked muscle. He wanted Spike to come back and get him. He knew he was wrong, his stubbornness had popped out at the wrong time. He also knew that Spike would come to get him when he decided it was time, not even begging would bring him sooner. So Xander did what he did best, he endured.

And while he endured he thought. Spike was definitely being patient with him. He knew exactly what Spike wanted. He just wasn't sure he was ready yet. He'd enjoyed the finger fuck a lot, but he was, as Faith had told him, nervous as a virgin in a whore house. And a butt plug was very different from a dick. He paced in his agitation, worrying at his decision. He'd liked everything they'd done so far. He just wasn't, well, he was. Only ... he realized that he was dithering again. He had to make a decision and stick to it.

Xander realized that he was scratching at his arms. He felt like ants were marching up and down his arms and legs with hobnail boots on. He wished Spike would come get him.

He didn't see Arnold, crouched in the shadows near the stairs, sneering at him.


Spike was in a foul mood, it had been twelve hours, Xander should be feeling the full effects of their separation by now. He snarled, paced, kicked the furniture and in general acted like a very pissed off Master Vampire. In capital letters. He was going to find someone to torture soon.

"Timmins! Come here! ... No! Go see my boy. See what he's doin'."

Timmins just stuck his head in the door, nodded and left again. He wasn't about to be in the same room with Spike if he could avoid it. Spike's temper was on a hair trigger and all it would take to set him off was a wrong look. Timmins didn't intend to be the one who looked at him wrong. Let someone else get gutted.


Xander worried about Buffy, Tara and Willow. His two meetings with Buffy and Tara had been almost identical. He knew that Buffy felt really bad about his predicament and Tara, poor, kind hearted girl that she was, felt even worse. Willow didn't seem to want to admit that she'd done anything wrong still and Xander was beginning to get pissed at her. Which upset him. He didn't want to be mad at her, but she wasn't doing anything to make him forgive her. He paced from one end of the chain to the other, walking a long arc from wall to wall at the end of it.

He wondered about Giles. What did he want? Did he want to make up, or was he just afraid that Spike would start something with Buffy if he didn't suck up? Xander decided he didn't care. As long as Giles taught him to play guitar and didn't treat him like a retarded three year old, it was all good. Xander bit his lip. He really felt terrible. He wasn't going to cry, really he wasn't. It had been hours, he'd called out, but no one had answered. He wondered how long Spike was going to leave him.


Timmins checked on Xander and saw Arnold gloating. He handled it like any gentleman's gentleman. He chucked the idiot out on his ear. Literally. He returned to see Xander sitting on the floor, rocking and whimpering. He'd gouged bloody furrows into his arms and legs. Timmins sighed. This was not good.

"Young Master. You must stop that. You'll do yourself an injury. Master Spike won't like that at all. Now. Let me look at you."

Xander stumbled to his feet. "I feel terrible. Now I know what Spike was talking about. If . . . why ... why doesn't he come for me? Please. I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry. He can punish me any way he wants to. Just ... I need him to .... please?" Xander knew he was becoming incoherent but he didn't care, he just wanted Spike to come for him.

Timmins looked Xander over, smelled him and took off. Fast. The man was in terrible shape and going downhill as Timmins watched. He needed to get Spike fast. After all Xander was asking for him. It occurred to Timmins that he didn't see the vampire that Spike had told to listen for Xander to call for him. He thought for a moment then went to find him, which didn't take long. The idiot was sitting in the garage drinking a beer. When Timmins asked him what he thought he was doing, he told him that Arnold was listening for Xander to call Spike.

Timmins punched him in the face so hard he crushed in his cheekbone. "Idiot, Arnold is jealous of Master Xander. He left him to suffer. He's probably been calling for High Master Spike forever. Go stay with the young master. I'll fetch Master Spike myself. Just pray that Master Spike doesn't decide to gut you."

Timmins made it to Spike's office in record time.

"Sir, that fool you left to listen for Xander's call was in the garage drinking beer. He left Arnold to watch Xander. I think he's been calling for you for some time now. He's in a terrible state. You better hurry."

Spike took off at a dead run. When a Master Vampire chooses to run, it's very fast. When a High Master runs, he just disappears. It took Spike no time at all to get to Xander. By now he was in a truly pitiable state. He was kneeling on the floor, still naked, leaning against the wall rocking and banging his head against it. He was moaning and whispering.

Spike stood for a moment to listen. "I'll be good. Please come, please, please. I'm sorry. I am. Really, really sorry. I won't leave again. I won't, I won't. Please."

Spike strode forward, keys in hand. He unlocked the locks and tossed them on the floor. He unwound the chains and dropped them. He pulled Xander into his arms and hugged him.

"You silly sod. What've you done to yourself?" Spike licked at the small trickle of blood that had run down the side of Xander's face. "You ... oh, hell, come on." Spike took the blanket from Timmins and wrapped it around Xander. He eyed the vampire who was supposed to have been listening for Xander's first call. "I'll deal with you later. Do not go anywhere."

The vampire nodded, wide-eyed. "No, master, I'll be here. Right here."

Spike glared over Xander's shoulder and snarled. "You better be."

Xander was clutching at Spike's shoulders, so he turned his attention to soothing and comforting him. "Hush, pet. I never meant to leave ya this long. Just until ya asked for me. Didn't know that wanker was gonna be a shit. Me an' Arnold have a talk coming." He eased Xander away from the wall some more, pulling him into a closer embrace. "Timmins, why don't you see that our friend stays here?"

Timmins picked up the chain and wrapped it around the vampire's waist, the lock clicked with a finality that made the minion shudder.


Spike took Xander back to their quarters. He had to nearly carry him, but when he tried to pick him up, Xander refused saying softly, "Better not. Let them all see."

Spike agreed but had to mutter, "Stubborn git." He let Xander stumble along at his own pace holding him up, one arm around his waist.

When they finally got to their quarters, Xander was exhausted. "Can I lie down for a minute? I feel like I've been run over by a bus. If you're going to finish punishing me right now, I could just sleep through it. Ok?"

Spike turned to Timmins. "Run a hot bath. He's freezing."

Timmins nodded and went into the bathroom. Spike turned back to Xander. "There's going to have to be a punishment, but tomorrow is soon enough. I want you awake and aware for it. Not cruising through it half conscious. And I'm not takin' it easy on ya either."

Xander just nodded miserably and sat down on the end of the bed. "I wish I hadn't been such a shit. I wish Buffy would let up. Um... she keeps apologizing and so does Tara. What's up with that? And I haven't even seen Willow since that day at court. And I'm in so much trouble with you that it's not even funny. But you can't belt me, you just can't I won't put up with it. Anything else, I don't care. Whip me even but not a belt, please? I wish I could do it all over. Why didn't you come for me? I called and called. I apologized, I did. I swear. Really. Spike? Please don't be mad at me anymore. I don't like it. And not just because it stings. Please?"

Spike took a moment to unravel this prime example of Xander-babble. "Ok, pet, I'm not mad at ya anymore. But that doesn't mean I'll let you off. I just ... I'm not going to belt you, I promise. And I'll try to figure out something not too horribly painful. Come on." Spike hauled Xander to his feet and steered him in the general direction of the bathroom. "I think Timmins has the bath now."

Xander sighed. "I'm sorry I'm such a prick tease. I don't mean to be. I liked it with the finger thing. And a butt plug is ... interesting. Sort of. But I don't know. And I know you've been incredibly patient with me and I really appreciate it, but I ... well, I'm so not gay. I think. Only I really sort of ... I want . . . Only it's just ... um ... I feel all fuzzy headed and I'm so not making sense, but I want you to know that I'm not trying to be difficult about the sex thing. Only I don't know what to do and I don't want you to think I'm stupid and what did you do to me that I'm all babbly with the truth and stuff and I really want to shut up now." Xander clung to Spike as he eased him into the tub. Spike gave Timmins a speaking look and Timmins just handed Spike the soap and washcloth.

"He's going to be like that for a bit, I think. If you have any questions that you really want answered now's the time to ask. I wouldn't though. He ... he's a bit touchy about that sort of thing and might take it more amiss than we want. Excuse me. I'll just go and find him something to wear. If he's allowed?"

Spike nodded. "You do that. I'll deal with the babble fest." Spike turned back to Xander and sighed. "Dammit, Xander." He just shook his head and started squeezing warm water over Xander's shoulders. Xander sighed and leaned back against the side of the tub.

After a few minutes, Xander asked, "Ok. So, now what? I embarrassed you in front of Arnold and three of your lieutenants. I know I'm in deep shit, but how deep."

Spike thought. "Well, pretty deep, but everyone knows you're my favorite. And ..."

He was interrupted by a soft knock on the door. Spike called, "Come in." And Timmins entered.

"May I speak?" Spike nodded tiredly. "This is good news, in a way. Several minions have knocked, enquiring as to Xander's health. They all heard him ... asking for you. There's some discussion as to the possibility of Arnold greeting the sun. If I might?" Spike pinned Timmins with glowing eyes and Xander perked up a bit. "I would, personally, recommend that you not punish Xander too harshly. Everyone knows that he was goaded beyond what is reasonable. Mercy, on this occasion, would do more good, for all concerned, than harshness. Excuse me. I need to see to the arrangements for Xander's meal."

Timmins bowed himself out.

Spike settled back on his heels. "Well, I'll be ... um ... never mind. Hear that pet?"

Xander exhaled in a soft ‘whoosh' and nodded. "Yeah. So I'm not off the hook but the hook's not so big? That's ... good. It's good, isn't it? Please tell me it's good."

"It's good. I can figure out something fairly easy, now that I know I'm not going to have a mutiny on my hands. I can't afford that just yet." Spike rubbed his face. The last mutiny he'd been involved in had turned out really badly. Most of the court had been wiped out and Angel had been furious. "Finish your bath yourself, yeah?" Xander took the sponge from Spike and started washing himself.

Xander scrubbed himself then settled back in the warm water, which was finally beginning to drive the chill out of his bones.

Spike settled in the bedroom on the small couch in one corner and put his feet up on a poof. He lit a cigarette and drew the smoke deep into his lungs. He was going to have to quit smoking around Xander. The second hand smoke wasn't good for him.

Finally Spike knew exactly what he was going to do. He had to show his displeasure with Xander and there were many ways to do that, many of which didn't involve any pain at all. And, to Xander's mind, not much humiliation either.

Tonight was court, he could get it over with quickly, before Xander had a chance to worry himself sick. Before Spike had a chance to work himself into too much of a lather. He wasn't best pleased with the world just now, which usually led to him doing damage to everything near. Not something he wanted Xander to see just now. He managed to keep from kicking the poof into the wall by a hair.

"Xander, come in here."

Xander stuck his head out of the bathroom. "Don't you mean ‘out'? I'm not sure. I think it would be out. And, don't gag me, please. I know I'm babbling but I'm really nervous. Sorry."

Spike got up and walked to Xander. "Don't fret, pet. I decided what I'm gonna do." Xander sighed and hung his head. "See ... the thing is, I have to show that I'm displeased with you an' you're bein' punished ... In public. Everyone an' his dog knows about the other. An' I'm gonna have summat ta say ta some'un. See?"

Xander shrugged one shoulder a bit sullenly. "Not really, not with the explaining yet."

"Stop talkin' like Buffy, or I'll really gag ya. See, we've been havin' a lot of fun with the outfits. All fancy an' glittery chains. Everyone knows that all that stuff is a sign of favor. I spend a lot of time figuring out those outfits and havin' ‘em made. So, you're comin' ta court ... um ... not naked like no clothing, but naked like Godiva. See?"

Xander was sure that the Godiva Spike was talking about didn't have much to do with chocolate but he really didn't have a clue, so he asked, "Godiva? I'm sure we're not talking chocolates here. Who's he?"

"She. Long story short, she protested a decision of her husband's by riding a horse ‘naked of all ornament' through the city streets. Got changed to simply naked in later years. But she just took off all her jewelry and stuff. So you get the plainest outfit Timmins can find and ... not even sure we got plain chain anywhere."

Xander just stared at Spike for a moment then broke down. He wrapped his arms around himself and hunched his shoulders. He tried to stifle his sobs but didn't quite succeed.

Spike eased Xander into a hug, coaxing his arms to loosen, replacing Xander's arms with his own.

"Don't do that, pet. Tell me what's wrong, yeah? Ok? Look at me."

Xander sighed and wiped his eyes with the heels of his hands, scrubbing the dampness off on his thighs. "You ... you've been really good to me. Better than anyone has ever been. Gave me stuff, taught me stuff. Let me be myself. Got me a Sensei. And I can't do one thing right. I'm too stubborn and I'm dumb as a box a' rocks. I'm sorry I was bad. I'll be better, I swear. Just ... I can't be away from you. I didn't realize what it would feel like. Like ants crawling underneath my skin. And ... not ... I just kept feeling like I had to say I was sorry. It never faded, it never got worse, it was just there, scratching at me. Like nails on a chalk board, if you know what I mean. I ... sorry, I think I'm babbling again."

Spike cuddled Xander, rubbing his back and rocking him. "Here. Stop that. Ya got me doin' the ‘baby dance' with a grown man. That's how much I think a' ya. Now. Dry your eyes. Go wash your face again. I'll have Timmins lay out your kit."

Xander went to do as Spike told him to while Spike explained to Timmins exactly what he wanted. Timmins sighed softly, "Well, that's a relief. I know exactly what you want. I'll have it ready in a few minutes. When do you want him to come in?"

"Late. But no fanfare, just lead him in. See?"

"Yes, sir. He'll never realize how ... punished he is. He doesn't equate removal of privileges with a punishment. He never had any privileges to lose at home. I'll have him ready in ... half an hour after court convenes?"

Spike nodded. "Yeah, that's about right. Just bring him in the side door and up to my ... bloody hell ... throne." Spike made a rueful face. He was never going to get used to having a throne. It was ridiculous.

Timmins bowed slightly. "As you wish." He was glad this was almost over. Master Spike had been in a temper since this fiasco had started.

Timmins dug around in the closet until he found the oldest pair of jeans Xander owned. They were threadbare and nearly white with age. The hems were ragged and one knee was just a ladder of warp. He also found an old, ragged, stretched out t-shirt in an indeterminate shade of either gray or tan, it was so old no one could be sure. He laid that out on the bed for Xander, calling out to him to get dressed.

While Xander was getting dressed, Timmins hunted up a set of plain jail-house shackles. Universal belly chain, heavy duty, stainless steel ankle bands and a pair of Winchester handcuffs. They were so plain, the insult, the punishment would be obvious to all. Except Xander. Timmins nodded his head in satisfaction.


When Timmins came back in, Xander was standing in the middle of the room, head hanging. Timmins sighed. The boy looked beaten, not physically, but spiritually.

"Young Master Xander. It will be alright. If you are truly repentant, he will forgive you. He may be soulless, but he's not heartless. Come, let me get you ready."

Xander just held his arms out from his body to allow Timmins to put the belly chain on. Timmins dropped the leg irons on the floor and put the handcuffs on Xander, running the cuffs through the big ring on the belly chain. When he knelt to put the leg irons on, he realized that he hadn't gotten Xander any shoes. But then he realized that Xander didn't usually wear shoes. He shrugged. The floors weren't that cold.

"There." Timmins got up and took Xander by the arm. "Come, now. We better head for the court."

"No leash?" Xander nearly tripped, the chain between his ankles was shorter than he was used to.

"Um ... no. You're not worthy of being a pet just now. So, no leash. But don't worry. I doubt that Master Spike is mad enough to let anyone touch you."

Xander shuddered. That was one of his greatest fears, Spike letting someone else use him. "That's good. Really good. I don't think I could stand it if he handed me around."

Timmins stopped Xander, moved to face him and looked him in the eyes. "Master Spike will never hand you around. If he even tries it..." Timmins vamped out. "Well, he just better not." Timmins took Xander's arm again, helping him to walk.

Xander mumbled, "Well, hell, and when did you become scary vampire valet?"

"Always have been. I protect my charges. Careful, the floor slants just here."


Spike gave the complaining demon a filthy glare. He was already bored. All these people, demons, vampires and assorted idiots did was complain. That one took this one's, book, CD player, girl, blood, whatever. He was sick of it. He wondered if he could get away with disemboweling someone.

Evidently his expression had morphed from slightly bored to seriously annoyed, as the demon stammered to a halt. Spike grumbled, stood up and demanded, "Ok, who's got his stuff? If I don't get a truthful answer on the count of five, I'll find out for myself and whoever it is, is in deep shit. Literally. One ... two ..."

Spike didn't get any farther. A shifty eyed, ferret faced vampire stalked forward and shoved the property in question into the demon's hands, muttered, "Skank." and scurried into the crowed again. Spike snarled, then settled into his cushions again.

He didn't turn his head when he heard the door behind and beside him open. He just called the next case. Xander shuffled to his place and knelt. Spike ignored him.

Xander just knelt on the cold hard floor and kept his head bowed.

Spike heard several more complaints, keeping watch on Xander from the corner of his eye. He was a bit amused to see that most of the court was also keeping an eye on Xander. Xander was oblivious to all this. All he did was kneel at Spike's side, keep his head down and his mouth firmly shut. Spike missed his whispered, snarky comments. The boy had a wicked wit when he chose to use it.

The court endured another two hours of Spike's ill temper then one of the older vampires worked up the nerve to approach him about it.

"Please, Master Spike, forgive the boy. We're all tired of your ill temper. No one could possibly think you weak. But we are, and your temper is a sore trial to all of us. Please?" He tried to look pleading and only managed sour.

Spike looked around and all he saw were hopeful looks and woeful faces. "Fine. Good. Know your places, don't ya. Boy's got to know his too. Won't stand for defiance. Even from him."

Xander perked up anyway. He cast a hopeful look Spike's way. Spike motioned for him to stand in front of him. Xander moved from where he was to in front of Spike, he didn't bother to stand up, he just scuttled on his knees.

"Stand up, pet. Ya sorry?"

Xander nodded vigorously. "Yes, I'm really, really sorry. I ... um ... you ... well, please? I won't do it again. Really, I won't. Ok?" Xander stammered under Spike's piercing gaze.

"Ok, pet. You're forgiven. Timmins!" Timmins moved from his hiding place behind Spike.

"Yes, Master. What is your desire?"

"Take ‘im back to quarters. Get him out of those disgutin' rags and dress ‘im nice. Burn the others. Go."

Timmins took Xander by the arm and helped him off the dais and into the back hall. "There we are, young master. Let me get you out of those things." Xander held still as Timmins got him out of the chains and tossed them aside. "Let's go get you dressed in something a little nicer. Master's orders. Come on now."

Xander just followed Timmins to their quarters. He was stiff and his knees hurt. He had never realized how uncomfortable some of his baggier stuff was. Until now. He really hated the feeling of having his pants about ready to fall off his hip bones.

"Um ... I have a training session with Master Bruce on ... Friday? Do you think Spike will still let me?"

Timmins shrugged. "I'm not sure. Who knows? The temper master Spike is in just now? I wouldn't push it."

Xander sighed. "Well, the only real reason I asked is I ought to send a message to Master Bruce if I'm not going to make it. I'll ask Spike when he gets home. And ... don't just burn these, flush the ashes."

Xander yelped as cold hands grabbed his butt and pulled the baggy jeans up, effectively giving him a wedgie. "Hey! Cut that out, you'll damage the equipment. Oh. Um ... sorry."

Spike just laughed. " ‘S ok, pet. Hate those baggy things. Ya look like some sort of white-bread wanna-be thug, or something. Race ya home." he took off, just fast enough that Xander had to jog to keep up.

"No more Mr. Cranky Vamp?" Xander trotted hard to stay level with Spike, holding his baggy pants up with one hand.

"No. Punishment is all over. Forgiven and forgotten. Sort of. If you have a session with Master Bruce on Friday. That's day after tomorrow. Should I cancel your music lesson?"

Xander thought about that as they got near the door. "Don't think so. As long as Giles keeps a civil tongue in his head, I'd like to keep them up."

"Ok, I'll have someone call him. I'm not calling him myself. It's all I can do, right now, not to chew him a new one."

"Well, I'd like to just eat around it and let it fall out. So ... I'll have Sylvia call him. How's that? And just like that I'm all forgiven and it's all done?"

Spike stopped Xander with a gentle hand. "I'm not your old man, Buffy, nor Red the guilt queen. You messed up, I punished ya, and it's over. Enough said. Ok? We don't need to talk it to death."

"Ok. Thanks. Um ..." Xander kicked his toe into the floor, peeked at Spike then looked back at his feet. "Kissandmakeup? Please?"

It took Spike a second to translate that. "Sure, pet. Like kissin' you." Spike pushed Xander against the wall and put one hand on either side of his head. Xander closed his eyes and waited. Spike didn't disappoint him. The kiss started out gentle. Xander replied a little tentatively but soon put all his heart into it. Spike replied to that passion with a heated passion of his own. They both wound up panting.

Xander whimpered. Spike snarled. He backed off, that pitiful little sound softened more than his heart.

"Still need more time? Sorry, pet, but I'm almost out of patience. Can't wait much longer. Only a vampire after all's said and sifted."

Xander managed to get his head out of his groin long enough to babble, "No! Stopping? Why? Want, I ... you... really kiss good. More kissage! Now! Kissing good. Stopping bad, very bad. Not good with the really bad badness."

Spike blinked. It took him a bit of time to translate Xander's full on SoCal babble. "You like it? What's with that little ... whimper? Why? Turns me right off, it does. Stop it."

"Whimper? What ... no whimper. Not whimpering. Me? No! No whimpering. What? When? No!"

"Ya do! I swear. If ya didn't do that little scared sound, I'd a bent ya over somethin' a long time ago. Ya sound like a stepped on kitten."

Xander blinked at Spike for a moment. "Oh, that! No, not scared, no way Jose. Not scared at all. Cordy used to laugh at me for making it. Called it my fuck me moan."

Spike looked as pole axed as he'd ever looked. "Oh! Well ..."

Xander grabbed his courage with both hands. He also grabbed Spike. "No talk. Kissage. Much kissage and then more ... much, much more. Now! More!"

Spike grabbed back. Xander made that little sound again but this time Spike was really listening. Xander was anything but frightened. Spike nearly combusted on the spot. It was a needy little noise, not a frightened one.

"Oh, man, pet. I need ya, yeah? Ya wanna?"

"I wanna. I'll ... I don't ... you won't laugh at me, will you?"

"Never. Or, if I do, it's joy. Laughin' with joy, ok?"


"Then, stop talkin', how can I kiss ya, if your lips are flappin'?"

"Lips stopped flappin' a while ago. You're the one babbling." Spike pulled back to give Xander a fulminating glare. "You are. I'm not. Silent as a nun. Why is a nun silent? Why would a nun be more silent that anyone else?"

Spike laughed and put his hand over Xander's mouth. "Because nun's used to take vows of silence. Like you should. Shut it." But he sounded amused so Xander just sighed and put his head on Spike's chest. "Better."

Spike managed to get them into the bedroom, stumbling through the sitting room, knocking over furniture. They tumbled onto the bed and bounced once. Spike pinned Xander down on the bed and literally ripped the worn out shirt off his back. "And those damn jeans. Never wear anythin' that baggy, ever." He grabbed the waist band and pulled, careful not to let the cloth dig into Xander's tender skin. "And ... there." He ripped down both legs and jerked the torn garment out from under Xander, tumbling him over. "Beautiful bum, pet."

Xander had to laugh. Spike's ministrations had landed him on his back, torso bent so that his knees were next to his ears. "Ya think?"

Spike didn't bother to answer. He just jumped Xander's bones. Xander whimpered again.

"Stop that. Puts me off."

"Can't. Feels so good. Kiss there."


Xander pointed to his lips. Spike nibbled at Xander's lower lip, nipped, kissed again, nibbled more. Xander did his best to reciprocate. Spike made a funny growling sound.

"Growling? You're growling at me? What'd I do wrong?"

"Started yappin' again." Spike shut Xander up by kissing him, with tongue. Xander sucked gently on the intruding member and nipped the very tip of it. Spike searched Xander's mouth like he was hiding something he desperately wanted. "Mmm, sweet."

Xander tangled tongues with Spike, sliding his into Spike's mouth. He realized that Spike was vamped so he pressed his tongue against one of his fangs. The few drops of blood made Spike suck Xander's tongue. Xander whimpered again.

Then Spike found the one thing that made Xander scream. His nipples were very sensitive. Very. Spike's gentle pinch sent him into ecstasy. "Like that, do ya?"

"Oh, yeah. More please. Please. Oh. Oh, please. More."

So Spike gave Xander more. He pinched, licked and nibbled until Xander was babbling incoherently. Spike smiled against his boy's chest. "Like that, do ya?"

Xander wondered dimly, what he'd been so afraid of. If Spike hurt him, it would be an accident. Spike wouldn't hurt him, this way, on purpose. He obeyed Spike when he told him to roll over onto his belly.

"Don't tense up."

"Ok. What are you going to do?"

"Gonna open ya up, so I don't hurt ya. Relax."

Xander did his best to relax and found that, due to regularly wearing a plug, Spike's well-lubricated finger was not at all uncomfortable. Then it was mind blowing. Spike had stroked that something inside him. Timmins had always told him that there was more to male-on-male sex than just penetration.

"Oh! Oh, yeah! Again, do that again."

Spike obliged. He eased his finger in and out of Xander, rubbing over his sweet spot until Xander relaxed completely. He was so relaxed that he nearly fell on his face. Spike got him rolled back over on his back.

"There, pet. Pull your legs up to your chest. You'll like this. If it hurts any at all, tell me."

Xander lay back and let himself be touched. He was liking this a lot. Spike was constantly kissing him, pinching his nipples, stroking his erection, but the thing he liked the best was when Spike stroked that small place right behind his balls. When Spike did that and wriggled his fingers at the same time, all Xander could do was scream. And he seemed to be doing that a lot.

"Dammit, Spike. Do something. This is driving me insane."

"Er. Insaner. Like it?"

"Yeahyeahyeah. And oh, hell yeah. More. Do something else. Why was I so afraid of this? Mind telling me? But later. Much later. After you've done the dirty deed. Not that it's dirty exactly only that's what ... someone called it. Not a bad someone, I just can't remember who. Especially with your ... fingers there."

"More than my fingers is going up there. And I want to make sure that you like it. Ok?"
"Mmmm. Ok. Very ok. Big with the ok. Soon."

"Soon, pet."

Spike dug the tube of lube out from under the pillow, slicked his fingers again and slid three fingers into Xander. Xander nearly threw Spike off the bed. "Oh, holy Hanna. Yeah, it feels incredible, better than last time. Burns a bit. But I like it. More. Something bigger."

"In a mo', pet. Then I'll give ya something bigger. My cock. You'll like it."

"Like it. Love it. Want, now. Now!"

"Demanding little shit, ain't ya?"

"And talky. Cordy was always telling me to shut up."

Spike snorted indignantly. "Like I care. Talk all ya want. I know how ta shut ya up, if I need."

Xander squirmed and wriggled under the assault of Spike's roving hand and lips. The other hand was busy opening Xander, helping him relax enough to accept Spike without pain or damage.

When he was sure that Xander was really ready, Spike slicked himself and eased into Xander. Face-to-face so that Xander saw Spike. Somehow Spike felt that was important. Xander moaned and made that little whimpering sound. This time it had the opposite effect to the past. Spike got harder.

He moved in and out of Xander, easily, slowly, giving Xander plenty of time to feel, stretch and react. Spike slicked his hand and grasped Xander's erection. "Like it, pet?"

Xander babbled, Spike moved in and out of his warm, wet body and stroked his cock. Xander came with a scream like a steam engine. The convulsions from his orgasm caused his inner muscles to clench and release, bringing Spike to climax almost immediately. Spike roared his pleasure.

Xander let his legs drop and Spike collapsed across his broad chest. "Brilliant!"

Xander snickered wearily. "You sound so English when you say stuff like that. And your accent is different."

"Sleep now."

"Good idea."

They both fell asleep almost at once, never noticing Timmins setting a tub of baby wipes on the bedside table.


Spike woke up soon after, vampire recovery rates being what they are, and used the wipes to clean them both up. He watched Xander sleep for a long while, most of the night, in fact, then went to take a shower.

While the shower was running, Spike allowed himself a soft whoop of satisfaction. This was going to work. His boy had enjoyed what they'd done. He was sure of that. Now all he had to do was keep him from freaking out.

Spike was startled to feel warm hands grasp his torso. He ruthlessly controlled the urge to strike out. It had to be Xander.

"Mmm. Warm. Vampires aren't supposed to be warm."

"Takin' a hot shower, ain't I, pet?"

"Nice. Pretty vampire. Mine."

"Yeah, yours, an' you're mine."

"Ok. Deal. But ... um ... Timmins said you were supposed to give me ... something?"

"Later. Wash now. Gift later. Promise."

So they showered. Xander washed Spike's back and Spike washed Xander's. They played like kids and made a mess of the bathroom. Then they trashed the closet, looking for something for Xander to wear. Xander wanted something sexy but not trashy. Spike was all for full on trashy-goth-whore. Xander refused and they spent half an hour alternately arguing like furies and snogging like sex-starved teenagers. Which Spike wasn't but acknowledged that Xander was.

They finally settled on a pair of dark-brown leather pants, bare feet, and a fitted but not skin tight, silk t-shirt in chocolate brown that matched Xander's eyes.

Xander looked at himself in the mirror and ran a hand through his hair. "Needs cutting. It's getting way too long. You have a hair fetish, or something?"

Spike ran his fingers through Xander's hair. "Yeah, I do. I love running my fingers through your hair. It's so soft and silky. Don't cut it. If I find ya with a pair of scissors, I'll swat ya."

"Ok. But I need to do something with it. It gets into my eyes. At least let me cut the bangs enough to keep them under some kind of control."

Spike called Timmins, who stuck his head into the room, grinning. "Pillock. Ya listened in, didn't ya?"

Timmins was all innocence. "Me? No, master. It's just that you're really loud. Most of the residence heard something. Can I help you?"

Spike roared with laughter at the chagrined expression on Xander's face. "You can. Bring me a pair of scissors. Boy wants a hair cut. I'm not very good, but I'm better than most of the hair butchers we've got."

Timmins smiled. "Well, as that is the case. I offer my services. I'm considered a fair hand at hair cutting."

Timmins went to gather his things. When he came back, he cut Xander's hair under Spike's sharp eye.

When he was done, he'd cut Xander's bangs into a neat casual length which emphasized its thickness and got it out of his eyes. He'd also trimmed the back to neaten up the length. He pulled the back into a tail at the nape of Xander's neck and put an elastic around it. "There. Not bad, if I do say so myself."

Xander examined the results in the mirror, never noticing the odd fact that there was a pair of scissors floating near his ear, and a Zippo lighter over his shoulder.

"Thanks, Timmins. It looks really good."

Spike nodded, unseen in the mirror, but his voice made Xander flinch slightly. "Yeah, looks good ... sorry, pet." Xander shrugged. "Master Bruce waiting on ya?"

Xander checked his watch. "I need to be there in twenty minutes."

"What are ya workin' on?"

Xander accepted the gi Timmins offered him. Tucking it under his arm, he replied, "Gladius work. Sensei said I'm getting really good so he's going to start me on real combats."

"You sure, pet?"

"No, but he is."


Spike followed Xander to the dojo to watch. He wondered if Xander would be able to take his music lesson later. Master Bruce didn't cut him any slack. Xander didn't seem to mind. He was always relaxed after a lesson.

Spike stopped to talk to the martial arts master. "Why'd ya cut into his schedule? Wanna know if he's hurt or summat."

Bruce just watched Xander as he ran through his warm up. "Don't want him to get over trained. That's not good with a human. He's good, and he'll get better and better. If we don't let him get stale. That's one reason I'm adding gladius now. He's been learning the basics and he's got them down, so now, we move on. I'm going to start teaching him with edged weapons now. He'll get some cuts unless you tell me not. But I don't recommend that, it'll undermine his confidence. What do you want to do?"

"Have a healer on hand. Wait until I call one."

Bruce glanced at a door on the opposite side of the room. "I believe he's here now."

Spike looked in the same direction as Master Bruce. The man hovering in the door was a true healer, small, slight and childlike. But his power was real and evident. He wasn't an herb healer, but a power healer. He could call on the powers of the earth to heal. Spike walked across the room to greet him.

Xander finished his warmup and picked up a towel. He saw Spike crossing the room and followed him.

"Hello. Who are you?"

The healer gave Xander a startled look. "You're allowed to speak?"

Xander looked from the healer to Spike then back. "Well, maybe not?"

Spike snorted. " ‘E's not a pet." Spike cleared his throat then continued. "He's a thrall. He's my body guard and translator. He's working on a new form and I don't what him incapacitated from injuries. See?"

The healer, whose name Xander would never know, just nodded. He set his small case on a bench and sat down next to it. "I'll just wait here until I'm needed."

Xander gave him a long look then just went to the weapons safe to get a sword. Spike stopped him gently.

"I need to get a sword, that gladius I was using isn't safe. Master Bruce said to put it up for sentiment."

Spike draped an arm over Xander's shoulders. "Know that. Come ‘ere."

Xander obediently followed the pull, saying, "You said the word. Brain gone."

"What word?" Spike looked at Xander like he'd lost his mind.

"The c-word. Come. Like that word. And I'm babbling again. You make me all babbley."

Spike rubbed Xander's shoulder. "Glad, pet. Ease off, though. Got ya sommat. See?"

Spike gave Xander the long leather-covered box he'd had hidden under a bench. Master Bruce grinned slightly. He'd already seen the sword.

Xander glanced at Spike then grinned like a kid in a candy store. "For me? Really?" Spike just nodded, sad that Xander could be so excited over something so small. It was just a sword. A very good sword, but just a sword.

Xander opened the box and gazed at the sword. It was magnificent. The grip was solid oak, wrapped with bronze wire then covered with the belly skin of a shark. The pommel was a solid ball of bronze, weighted to exactly balance the blade. And what a blade it was. His training had included a great deal of knowledge of blades and steel. He could tell that this blade was real Damascus steel. The blade was perfect in every way. Perfectly shaped, perfectly tempered, perfectly sharpened

"Spike! Thank you so much. This is beautiful. It's great. Just what I wanted. No one knows how to pick a sword like you do." Xander put down the sword to hug Spike. Spike hugged him back, cursing Xander's parents, and friends, silently. The only reason he was so deeply grateful for any present was he'd never gotten many, or perhaps any, before.

"Glad you like it. Best get on with it. Master Bruce is waiting."

Xander turned to apologize to the master but he just smiled a bit and said, "Take pleasure in your present. It's a very good sword. Take a moment."

So Xander did, examining his sword and taking happy practice swings. Master Bruce finally called him to order.

Xander listened while Master Bruce gave him his instructions. Spike listened too. The Master told Xander to run through his usual exercises, using the sharp sword instead of the wooden practice one he usually used. Then he was to work on the pells. Working on the pells was what had worn out his cheap first sword.

Spike, Bruce and the healer watched Xander as he started his deadly dance of steel and muscle. He worked his way through the exercises easily and went to the pells the second he was done. The sound of steel striking wood filled the room. Xander performed the six standard attacks then started again. He continued to practice until Master Bruce called a halt, nearly an hour after Xander started.

"Enough! Good, good. Excellent job. I'm very pleased." Xander grinned, took the bottle of water from the minion and allowed him to drape a towel around his shoulders.

The healer stood, bowed to Spike, asked if he was needed anymore, and when Spike said ‘no' departed.

Spike settled on a bench with Xander beside him. Master Bruce settled on a stool and they started dissecting the training session. Between them, Master Bruce and Spike picked every motion apart while Xander asked questions.

Finally Spike stood up. "Well, pet. If you're to have your guitar lesson ya better get something to eat and then rest a bit."

Xander shrugged. "You're right." He turned to Master Bruce. He bowed, saying, "Thank you for your kind attention." in perfect Mandarin. Master Bruce just bowed back. Spike blinked in stifled amazement. Who said the boy wasn't smart? Whoever it was, Spike wanted a piece of him, right about the jugular.


Xander was glad he'd taken the time to eat and get in a short nap. He had gotten several requests for translations. And Sylvia was on ‘vacation', whatever that meant. He shuffled the requests into three piles. What he called, ‘No', ‘Oh, hell no', and ‘have to do it'. There was also a tiny pile of ‘do right now'.

It wouldn't take him very long to take care of the first two piles, all he did was shove them back into the mailers they'd come in and put them on a secretary's desk to be returned, one pile with a polite letter saying he didn't find the work ‘rewarding'. The second pile got a nastier one, with check boxes, telling the sender why he wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot Snarfler demon. Anything that came from a ‘second offender' also got the threat to burn any further documents.

He was just finishing up when Giles knocked on the door frame.

"Excuse me. If you're busy, I can sit in the waiting area, if you'll show me where it is."

Xander shook his head. "There isn't one. Just come in and start setting up. I'll be done in a sec. I just have to send this stuff back to the senders. My secretary is on vacation so I have to get it ready for one of the other ... er ... girls to deal with."

Giles managed to keep his shock off his face. He wasn't about to insult Xander again. Especially after Spike had reamed his ass. He wasn't about to get on the wrong side of the Master of the Hellmouth. Even if it was just Spike. He shuddered suddenly, why had he gotten to thinking of Spike as ‘just'. And when?

Xander's voice dragged him out of his thoughts with a start. "Hey, you alright? You look a bit off."

"No. I mean, I'm fine. Just had a ... moment, you might say. Unpleasant thoughts." Giles settled into the chair he'd set out for himself. "Did you practice?"

Xander pulled up his own chair. "Yes, I practiced. I think I managed to do fairly well. I missed a day. Got a bit tied up. But I don't think it hurt me any."

Giles plucked a string, checking the tuning. "Show me.

Xander started the first scale, completing the run without an error. Giles nodded. "Very good. Go on." Xander worked his way through all the scales he'd been assigned.

"Excellent. You've really been practicing. Do you have any of it memorized?"

Xander thought. "Sort of. You didn't say I should or I would have made a real effort."

"I purposely didn't tell you to. I want you to just play as much as you remember. Start at the first one and work your way through until you really don't remember. Don't worry about an error or two."

Xander managed to get about two thirds of the way through the exercises before he had to stop. Giles was pleased and let Xander know. He had to rub his face with one hand to hide it as Xander glowed with pride at the rather lukewarm praise. He was finally realizing how much he'd neglected someone who had depended on him. Much more that he'd thought.

He was beginning to chew the bitter root of knowledge in earnest, and he didn't like the taste. He turned his attention back to the lesson.

"Fine, you've done very well. I want you to complete memorizing the scales. Also, work on the next two pages of scales. I'll run through them for you, so you can hear them. Then we'll work on them together, to get the fingering, for the rest of the hour."

Xander learned quite quickly and even extrapolated from the basic scale notation in order to read another octave on either side of middle C. Xander had taught himself to recognize three octaves from seeing one and a half.

Giles ended the lesson with the admonition not to practice so much that he blistered his fingers. Xander nodded but held out his hand. "Don't think I'll be in too much danger of that."

Giles looked at the calloused tips of Xander's fingers. Only two things would give him such calluses, or three. Wood working, martial arts, and playing a stringed instrument. He touched the slick, hard skin. "No, I don't think you will. See you next week?"

Xander nodded, bending away to put his instrument in its case. Giles busied himself doing the same thing. When Xander straightened up he gave Giles a different smile than Giles had ever seen. This one wasn't goofy, self-effacing or shy. It was gently amused. It set well on Xander's face. "Friends? Giles, I'd really like to just be friends. No Mr. Giles, the Watcher and Idiot-boy Harris. Just you and me, and some music. I'd really like that. Ok?"

Giles took his glasses off and polished them on the hem of his t-shirt. "I'd like that too, Xander. Just you, me, guitars and good music." He jammed his glasses back on his face and took the hand Xander offered.

Back Index Next

Feed the Author

Visit the Author's Livejournal Visit the Author's Website

Home Categories New Stories Non Spander