Book 2 in the Second Verse series
Xander woke to the warmth of
the bed he now shared with Spike, his lover's arm still curled around his
naked waist. He had to admit that he felt more whole than he had in
recent memory. The voice—which he now could recognize as his own personal
demon—had withdrawn into a happy curl in the back of his brain. He
felt the demon purring at the feeling of *master's* arm wrapped around him,
but the feeling was distant enough that he didn't start an actual auditory
"Mornin' pet. Bit early, yet," Spike murmured from behind him.
"Yeah, I just feel like I've slept for a week," he admitted as he squirmed a little. For the time that he stayed with Cassidy, he had been half-asleep, locked within his own mind as the demon ran the show, and now he itched to get back to actually living. Speaking of which…
“So what comes next?” he asked Spike. The silence held for a long time, and he wondered if Spike had gone back to sleep on him. He turned all the way around so that he lay on his side facing Spike instead of spooning with him. Blue eyes watched him before Spike turned onto his back and turned his gaze at the ceiling.
“France maybe, haven’t been to China for a while, pet. Have some good memories of that place,” Spike finally answered without moving from his place on the bed, one arm under Xander and the other curled under his own head. Xander relaxed into the loose embrace, draping one of his own arms over Spike’s chest.
“Um, I was kinda thinking of things like how do I tell my mother I’ve suddenly taken up with a man…although the whole vamp thing does seem to trump the whole man thing—not that I'm planning to tell her about the vamp thing," he hurried to say, horrified at even the passing thought of having either of those conversations with his mother.
“What? You plannin’ on staying here?” Spike turned his head and cocked a single eyebrow.
“I sure hadn’t considered the option of picking up and moving to China.”
“Didn’t say move, luv. Could just travel through, see the sights.” Spike’s eyes returned to the ceiling, but he could feel the sudden tension in Spike’s muscles.
“And I’m suddenly feeling like this is a little more than just a passing thought.” Xander studied Spike's face, the avoidance of eye contact and the subtle tensing of Spike's chest beneath his own hand.
“Might be. Just don’t want to be round here too long, not good for the health.” The nonchalant tone contrasted with the tense twitching of various muscles.
“Angel?” When Spike looked over in alarm, Xander rushed to explain his thinking. “I heard how that asshole talks to you. He’s probably a decent person to Cordelia ‘cause she sure seems to be pretty loyal, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a real jerk to us.” Xander didn’t miss the narrowing of the eyes at the word ‘us.’
“Don’t like my sire, pet?”
“Don’t like that he doesn’t seem to like you,” Xander explained honestly.
“Yeah, these’s that. More interested in gettin’ you away before the fireworks, luv.”
“Fireworks?” At his confusion, Spike rolled his eyes and let out a sigh.
“Oi, you’re smarter than this, pet. You know full well there’s goin’ to be trouble.”
“I think you’re overestimating me, Spike,” he laughed, but the look in Spike’s eye stopped his laugh in less than a second. The vampire’s eyes flashed gold and his eyebrows had lowered in a classic look of annoyance bordering on homicide. “Um, Spike?” he asked, suddenly unsure in the face of such an unexpected response.
“I’ve heard how you’ve talked about yourself, pet, and it stops now,” Spike ordered, his voice low and soft and indescribably commanding.
“I don’t kn—”
“Stop,” Spike cut him off mid-word. “You talk in your sleep, pet. Night after…that,” here Spike waved absent-mindedly toward the far end of the room where Xander remembered spending an evening chained to the wall by an angry Spike, “Night after that you talked all night. Laughed at first. You couldn’t shut up even in your sleep, pet.” Spike stopped and tightened the arm around him, grabbing him in both arms and pulling him into a tight embrace that left him resting on Spike’s chest, breathless. “Then I heard what ya said, what ya thought of yourself--won’t have it. No one insults my pet,” Spike ended with a declaration; his tone of voice showed his willingness to enforce the proclamation.
“Spike, you don’t und—”
“I *do* understand, pet. You fought vampires at night, fought your own demon every wakin’ minute, and you still kept it together.”
“Not very damn together, Spike. I barely graduated. I’ve never held a job more than five weeks.” He could feel the tears start; he never cried in front of people. Alone he turned into the mighty manly water works, but he never cried in front of people and now he struggled to hold it all in, to not show Spike how truly weak he was.
“Sh, pet. It’s all right.” Spike simply held on, a cool hand now rubbing up and down his backbone in a gesture that suddenly set the tears free.
“God, I’m pathetic,” he finally hiccupped out.
“Bloody hell, pet. You’ve survived ten times more than most people. You survived what my Dru didn’t—you fought the demon inside your soul and won.” Those words turned the tears off as quickly and the comforting hand had released them.
“You believe that?” Xander asked, unable to believe that Spike had compared him to the late Dru and found him better in any way, shape, or form. He still remembered the night when Spike had told him that he would never be more than a pet, a human companion who would be protected but always inferior.
“Just don’t ask me to say it again, pet. I’m evil; I’m not supposed to do this supportive bollocks.”
“Deal. As long as you’re willing to ignore reality and believe it…” He stopped at the growl that immediately erupted from the chest below his cheek. “Right, not insulting the vampire’s pet.”
“Right. Now would ya like to try and tell me why there’s goin’ to be fireworks? You already know the answer.” Spike loosened his grip, and Xander returned to his place lying beside Spike.
“Not July yet, so I’m coming up clueless.”
“Think about minions, pet—minions and masters.” Xander furrowed his brow for a moment before a possible theory began to form, and even the fuzzy edges of the hypothesis he had formed caused his breath to catch in his throat, panic causing the demon buried in his subconscious to suddenly growl its way to life and stir.
“Oh shit, I killed Cassidy,” he whispered. He almost laughed when he felt the joy and pride from the small piece of demon he had inherited from Cassidy’s bite. Once the demon had howled for Cassidy and happily groveled on the floor for the now-dead vampire. Now the demon belonged to Spike so much that it roared with pleasure at the thought of killing Spike’s enemies. However, he pushed the demon aside with practiced ease, and he felt the demon yield to his prodding. “And because Cassidy is dead, a lot of minions are running around without a master to control them.”
“Yeah, and Peaches sure didn’t accept any minions, leavin’ them to take shelter on the streets,” Spike added.
“And without a master, they’ll hunt indiscriminately,” he finished, suddenly getting a clear picture of just how dangerous the streets of L.A. would be when the minions found enough courage or suffered enough hunger to return to hunting.
“That’s part of it, pet. But many of those minions were older—some were even childer of fallen masters. Ya need childer or other younger masters if you want workers who can do more than eviscerate enemies.”
“How many is ‘some’?” Xander asked nervously, suddenly very afraid of the picture that began to solidify in his imagination.
“From what I saw in his soddin’ little ‘court,’ I’d say at least fifteen or twenty vamps had enough years under ‘em.” He didn’t even need to ask Spike what ‘enough’ meant; he knew.
“Oh shit. Fifteen or twenty vamps are going to try and set up as masters,” he whispered in horror.
“Yeah, pet, they are, and then they’ll fight over minions and territory.”
“Oh god, Gunn.” Spike suddenly growled, and for the first time, Xander felt his demon urge him to yield to Spike, to show his neck and kneel at his master’s feet. He had to gasp and grab the headboard to prevent his demon from hijacking his body.
“Pet?” Spike had gone from angry at the mention of Xander’s friend to concerned in 0.6 seconds flat.
“I’m fine,” he muttered while he pressed his eyes closed and fought for control. Always before, the demon wanted something so different from what he wanted so that he could fight the urges, that is until Cassidy captured him and he just gave up and yielded total control to the demon. Now, the demon wanted Spike and he wanted Spike and he struggled to divert the demon’s desire to submit to his master. He loved Spike, but he had finally earned the respect he had always wanted, and he wouldn’t give that up just to allow the demon to sit at master’s feet.
“Luv, you’re not fine; you’re not talkin’.”
“Yeah, the demon just doesn’t like it when we fight,” he explained briefly as he struggled to get his breathing and his heart rate to return to normal.
“You got control then?” Spike asked with his head cocked to one side.
“Yep. Just having a small psychotic moment—it’ll pass.” Spike nodded slowly, head still cocked to one side in a concerned expression that he was quickly loving to love on *his* vampire. Oh yeah, like the voice in his head wasn’t enough, he now had to have delusions that Spike was his; that’s not the way the power ran in this relationship, and he knew it. It might take longer than he thought to get past this latest piece of psychosis. He finally pulled himself together enough to continue. “We aren’t leaving with a city-wide vampire disaster looming on the horizon.”
“Little melodramatic, pet.”
“Still not leaving, blondie.”
“And if I said we were?”
“Are you saying that?
“You’re mine, pet. You gave yourself to me.”
“I did, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll do everything you tell me,” Xander responded after a long pause. He could hear his own demon grumbling unhappily. Spike appeared equally unhappy if the pinched expression were anything to go by.
“And what does it mean to ya then, mate?”
“Means when push comes to shove, I’ll always pick you,” he hurried to assure both demons, the one muttering in his own chest as well as the gold-eyed one lying on the bed next to him. “Means I’ll always fight on your side and listen to your advice… and love the feeling of your hand on my skin.” He added the last as he took Spike’s hand and laid it on his own stomach. The cool fingers spread out and then began rubbing, and he could feel Xander Jr. begin to take notice, his cock twitching slightly at the feeling. “Means no one else in the world will ever touch me like this and I’ll never depend on anyone else this much and I’ll never trust anyone else to know who I really am and what I really feel.”
“But no blind obedience.”
“Nope, not really good at the obedience thing. Not even very good at the following directions thing, so obedience is *way* out of my league.”
“So what do ya expect to do round here, pet? You want to go find your Gunn, tell him what’s comin’? He’ll want to know how ya know, pet.”
“Yeah, I figured that one out already. How much time to we have before all hell breaks lose?”
“A vampire war is not *all* hell, trust me. Got sent to hell for a month once when one of Dru’s spells went wonky…at least a hell dimension…was a mite bit messier than one little vampire war that most humans won’t even notice. They’ll just pass it off as one more gang war.”
“Fine, how long until partial hell?”
“Right now, those that’re older are probably tryin’ to set up territory, maybe trying to attract some minions. They’ll keep quiet for another few days. May have more vamps hunting on the streets now since minions hunt more without someone to control ‘em. Once the territories get marked, the vamps’ll start fighting over who owns what. Could be a day or a week, doubt any longer than that.” Xander fought to concentrate as Spike hand continued its movement. "Unless some old master comes in and fights them all into submission," Spike finished, and he could feel himself tremble under Spike's talented hands.
"Hey, no fair. You've already had your chance at the naughty touching, and I haven't," Xander pointed out as he captured the hand and brought it up to his lips so that he could kiss the pads of the fingers before releasing it. Slowly he raised himself and slipped one leg over Spike's body so that he crouched over the vampire and looked down at the amused blue eyes. The demon in his head shifted uncomfortably, and Xander shoved at it unmercifully before returning his attention to Spike.
"I don't have to be fair, pet. I'm evil."
"Be quietly evil, please," he whispered into Spike's ear as he reached out and took an earlobe between his teeth and nipped before moving down to suck and lick at Spike's neck. He could feel Spike's erection begin growing next to his own, the two cocks nestled together between their bodies. He moved his mouth down to a collarbone, exploring it from the neck out to the shoulder. Remembering how he felt when under Spike, he pulled back slightly and blew across the still damp skin. He felt Spike tremble, and he couldn't resist nipping again as the skin under him shivered. From the movement he felt below, he guessed it was a good twitch.
Sliding down the slim body, he turned his attention to one nipple, the darker skin already hardened and wrinkled into a point. He ran his tongue around the edge of the nipple before closing his mouth over the skin and sucking. The body under him bucked, and he simply transferred his mouth to the second nipple while he used his fingers to alternately stroke and pinch the first. When he raised his head, he found himself straddling a demon in full game face.
He reached up, curious, and ran his thumb over the ridges on Spike's forehead. He had expected the skin to be tougher or thicker, but it wasn't. The soft skin followed the ridges that had formed under the skin, and he followed these formations with his thumb, aware that Spike now squirmed beneath him. A sudden image of Ferengi oo-max flashed through his mind and he felt a giggle slip out.
"Oi, not proper to giggle when you're feelin' up your lover, pet."
"I just…" Xander laughed again, but at least this time it came out a snort rather than a giggle, slightly more manly. "I had an image of a Ferengi getting his ears stroked," he admitted. Spike simply rolled his eyes as he slipped back into his human face.
"Bloody hell, why do I get all the loons?"
"Hey, you made the bumps go away!" he complained, frustrated that he hadn't gotten to finish his exploration.
"You laughed at 'em, luv. That just evil, and *not* in a good way."
"Bring them back and I'll do something to make it up to them," he promised in a low voice as he moved up and brought his tongue out to touch the bridge of Spike's nose. Almost instantly, he could feel the skin wrinkle under his tongue. He ran his tongue up the ridges, feeling it bounce over every bump as he worked his way back to the brow ridges, which he now explored. Again, after he had left each damp patch behind him, he would pull back and blow over the skin, and each time, he could feel the resulting tremor in the body under him.
When he had explored every inch, he moved down to the mouth, but he felt strangely hesitant; he'd never before initiated a kiss with a man, he always responded to what the other wanted. True, he could count the number of kisses on one hand: the men at the club and Spike last night. However, he didn't quite know how to approach such an intimate act, and he certainly didn't know how to do with a partner whose fangs could easily damage him. Spike must have felt the hesitation because he moved for the first time, slipping a hand behind his head and pulling him into that mouth. He felt their lips connect, and he instantly opened, giving Spike access to his whole mouth even as he gingerly stretched out his tongue and explored the new shapes: the sharp little front teeth, the long fangs on the top, the still dull teeth on the bottom. Exploration over, he turned to truly kissing his lover, his lips brushing over Spike's lips; using his teeth to gently nip Spike's lower lip, his tongue wrapping around Spike's fang until he could feel the prick of the point.
When he had teased until he though he would die, he started sliding down Spike's body, kissing and nipping as he moved in on his target. However, when faced with Spike's cock, he suddenly froze, completely unsure of how to approach such an act. He could feel his own heartbeat speed up as he considered the fact that here he was, with no practical experience at all, in bed with a 120 demon who had probably had more lovers in his life than Xander had ever known people. God, what if he screwed this up? What if he just sucked at it? What if he couldn't suck at it? What if he didn't like sucking at it? He tried hard to control his breathing, but he knew he had failed when he felt Spike's hand at his head.
"It’s okay, pet. I don't expect anythin' here," Spike crooned with a soft caress to his hair.
"It's not…” he didn't know how to finish.
"Not what?" Spike asked with infinite patience, not even complaining about the hard cock with a single drop of milky-white pre-cum slowly sliding down the shaft.
"I don't know what…" he stopped again. God, how pathetic of a lover was he? Surely Spike could find someone who didn't hyperventilate at the thought of being intimate. Could probably even find someone who knew what the hell he was doing.
"'S'all right. Just touch it," Spike suggested. "Run your finger up it." He reached out and did what Spike said, running through the pre-cum drop as he trailed two fingers up and down the shaft. Remember the older man from the bar, he slowly lifted two damp fingers to his mouth and sucked off the fluid. From the way Spike gasped for breath, he guessed that he had done right.
"Touch the head, pet." He did just that. He played with the folds of skin that surrounded the head, pulling them up to play with the unfamiliar foreskin. When he let go, the foreskin slipped back down, the head barely poking out. He ran a finger around the slit of the head and felt his own cock twitch in sympathetic joy as Spike threw back his head and gasped for breath. "Go on, pet," Spike encouraged him in a shaky voice, and he suddenly felt empowered—he could make a 120 year old demon gasp for breath that he didn't need. With that encouragement, he lowered his head and slipped his tongue along the slit. The pre-cum, salty and slightly fishy, tasted much stronger now that he took it from its source, licking along the head and shaft to recover the fluid. Taking a deep breath, he slipped his mouth over the head and twirled his tongue around the end as he began sucking.
"Bloody hell," gasped a voice under him, and he felt a hand grab his wrist, pushing his hand to the base of Spike's penis. "Press here," Spike ordered and he felt his fingers pressed into Spike's flesh. "Otherwise, we're gonna be done right quick." He would have smiled at the thought of making Spike lose control, but his mouth had other work. He slid his mouth up and down the shaft, letting his tongue play, wiggling over the line that ran down the underside of Spike's cock and to his balls. He pulled back his head and worked his tongue under the edge of the foreskin, pulling it gently to make room for his exploration. He slid down again and sucked as hard as he could. It was almost like it didn't matter what he did, Spike still gasped and squirmed.
Opening his mouth as wide as he could, he sucked in as much air as possible through his mouth, causing the cold air to rush by Spike's damp skin, and the vampire bucked so hard that he found himself gagging as the cock hit the back of his throat. He knew that many people could relax enough to deep throat, but either Spike was larger than normal or his own throat was smaller than normal because there was no way he could get that down. Instead he pulled back slightly as he tried to control his gagging. Spike must not have noticed because he continued to rock his hips up, so Xander simply closed his fist around the base of Spike's cock and squeezed so that the entire length couldn't slip in too far and choke him.
Then he relaxed and let Spike thrust while he worked his tongue around whichever part of Spike's anatomy he could reach at the time, careful to make sure that he didn't get caught in the foreskin as Spike thrust up more and more powerfully. He released the fingers Spike had positioned as he felt the muscles tremble under him, and with one final thrust, he felt his mouth fill with the strong taste of semen. He gasped, and then started coughing wildly as he felt the fluid trickle into his lungs. Pulling his head to the side and still coughing, he closed his hand around Spike's shaft tightly as Spike continued to slam his hips up as one spurt followed another. Soon, the movement stilled, and he released Spike to concentrate on his own pathetic attempts to breath.
"Alright, pet?" Spike asked as he finally managed to catch his breath and cough out the irritating fluid.
"Yeah, less than impressive end, there," he gestured toward the bed as he felt embarrassment color his cheeks.
"Not complainin'," Spike commented mildly, "but doesn't seem like we're finished yet." He suddenly felt himself flipped onto his back and his own cock surrounded by a slightly warmer than room temperature mouth. He reached down to grab Spike's head, to touch, to do something, but Spike caught his hands in his own and pressed them into the mattress on either side of his hips even while sliding all the way down on Xander's cock, Xander struggled not to thrust up as a squeezing sensation milked his cock before Spike slowly pulled back with a delicious suction.
He struggled to free himself and respond to the onslaught of pleasure, but his hands remained pinned to the bed, and Spike lay on his legs, immobilizing them completely. All he could do was squirm as Spike deliberately and slowly alternated between sucking as a talented tongue explored the head of his cock and deep throating as powerful muscles massaged the shaft. He cried out and gave up on control, thrusting wildly, but Spike pinned him to the bed and the little movement he managed simply caused the slender figure to move up and down with him. Spike laughed, even with a cock in his mouth, and remained in control as he slid up and down more quickly now. Xander screamed as he felt his balls tighten and his leg muscles begin to tremble; he arched off the bed and gasped for breath as he shot one spurt after another, each neatly caught in Spike's mouth and swallowed without choking, sputtering or gagging.
Wow. Just wow. He couldn't even form other words as Spike slid up and pulled him into an embrace. Yep, wow covered it. He only wished he could have offered Spike such a good time, but he could hardly be expected to compete with 120 years of experience. Experience that could leave a person with no words in the brain other than wow.
"Wow," he finally said out loud. Spike chuckled.
"Pet, you are a treat. Got half a mind to chain you here and keep ya in my bed all the time." The two lay there, tangled in each other's limbs until he felt his bladder begin to complain about the lack of attention.
“Well that was a nice diversion, but it still seems to me that we have to get back to real life, starting with a pottie break."
“Real life’s overrated, pet.” Spike mumbled without moving.
“Yeah, but the longer I’m away, the more difficult it’s going to be to explain.”
“Not dark yet.”
“Not vampire yet. I mean,” he stumbled when he realized what he had said, “not vampire ever, not going there, never, like not ever.”
“Know what ‘never’ means, pet. Demon got away from ya there?”
“Yeah, I think so. Either that or I just opened my mouth before consulting with my brain. I do that,” he muttered.
“Noticed once or twice,” Spike agreed without rancor as he rolled over onto his stomach, facing away. “Goin’ to Gunn’s then?” Xander heard the tremor in Spike’s voice, and he wondered how much control it took for Spike to say that without pinning him to the bed and chaining him to the wall.
“Have to talk to my mother, Spike.” He didn’t miss the fact that Spike suddenly relaxed, the contours of his body eased so that Spike’s back, which had been a roadmap of muscles leading from bone to bone, smoothed out into an expanse of pale skin. “I won’t talk to Gunn without you there,” he promised.
“What ya going to tell your mum?”
“God, I figure I’ll figure that out when I get there.” Spike turned his head and raised one eyebrow in amusement.
“So you’re just going to blither and hope she figures out the main points?” Spike teased.
“Ha-ha, Mr. Evil Dead. Do you want me to meet you back here?”
“No, don’t come here alone.” Spike must have noticed the hurt and confusion because a slim hand reached out and caressed brown curls. “You can't watch out for critters followin' ya 'cause you don’t have vamp senses, least-wise not most of the time. I don’t want some stray vamp followin’ ya back here. I can meet you at your mum’s or you can get to the club before dark and I’ll meet ya there.”
“Um, club. I don’t really feel up to a really long conversation with my mom. I’m still trying to figure out how to break the whole gay thing, so I’m thinking that I’m just going for the whole moving out thing. I’ll get my stuff, so I’ll probably have two or three bags.”
“Bloody hell, you’d better not bring any of those god-awful clothes of yours. If ya don’t have decent kit, I’ll buy ya more.”
“Is that an order, master?” Xander allowed his head to drop and he looked at Spike from beneath his eyelids. He watched as the rim of Spike's eyes glittered gold.
“Bloody hell yes, your clothes give me a headache,” Spike grumbled. "If you show up with one flower, I'll shred your whole bleedin' wardrobe."
"Deal," he laughed. If giving up his wardrobe made Spike happy, he'd do it. Besides, if he didn't fight about the clothes, he thought he might have a better chance with the music because he was not going to listen to punk music all the time, even if it was beginning to grow on him. He slid off the bed and headed for the bathroom as he mentally reviewed the contents of his room at home. Yep, Spike was about to meet his collection of country music greats.
Xander slipped into the apartment
a good hour before his mother would come home and two hours before sunset.
The apartment felt strangely empty to him, as though he had never lived there,
but he pushed those thoughts aside as he grabbed a couple of bags and went
into the room that had been his since the night when he and his mother had
snuck out of their last apartment without paying the rent--two weeks after
his father had left them without a word or enough money to pay the monthly
The music collection and trinkets of his childhood went into the suitcase first. If he ran out of room, he had no doubt that Spike really would buy him new clothes, but the pictures and comics that had given him an escape from life during his early years--those were irreplaceable. He packed the comic book he won from Jesse, the pictures from his life in Sunnydale, his country music CD's and cassettes. He used to have more, but his father had once "punished" him by breaking every single one of his CD's one at a time. He'd had to save a lot of allowances just to replace his favorites.
He felt the demon's anger rise to the surface of his mind, and he struggled to push it back. Four years he had fought with the demon, but now it just seemed so much harder. He almost wished he had waited until Spike could come because his demon seemed so much more controllable around Spike; without Spike he was back to the constant struggle that had become such a part of his life that he didn't even realized how much effort it took. Obviously he wasn't strong enough to dominate the demon in any permanent or meaningful sense, so what did that have to say about his long-term mental health, he wondered as he sorted his clothes. Wearable jeans, underwear, and plain shirts in one small pile in a knapsack. Rummage sale rejects, Hawaiian prints, and just plain ugly went into the large pile on the bed.
When Spike got tired of him, would he even be able to control the demon anymore? Would he become prey to whatever vampire discovered his secret? His own mind formed an image, and the horror caused him to actually drop the load of underwear in his arms. The demon's answer seemed pretty clear: Angel. If Spike didn’t want him, the other master from Spike's line would claim him. The demon started pushing, bringing forward thoughts of Angel's broad shoulders in that sleeveless t-shirt at the theater, the sight of the large vampire forcing Spike to submit in the dark, the knowledge that Angel was so much older than Spike. Yeah, the demon didn't have a problem with the thought of Angel, but Xander fought back. Angel had rejected Spike; Angel had hurt and abandoned Spike. Angel wasn't worthy. Angel couldn't always control himself if the stories of Angelus in Sunnydale were anything to go by. That made him weak. He focused on the thought of Angel torn between the demon and the soul until his own demon finally relented and retreated. He bent over to pick up the dropped underwear as he felt a shiver run through his body-either the demon's desire or his own revulsion, he wasn't sure which.
Luckily, his mother interrupted his internal conflict with a happy shout.
"Xander!" his mom shouted happily before standing frozen in the doorway to his room. He could see her eyes harden as she took in his activity. "Alexander," she began again, far more cautiously, "it's so nice to have you home. I expected you to come home a few days ago."
"Yeah, I didn't mean to worry you," he sheepishly offered as he tried to mentally add up the number of days. Let's see—two days sleeping in Spike's lair, two or three days captured by Cassidy, the night demon-bar hopping. So not of the good. Okay, he could bluff his way though this. "Things were so messed up in…" he totally blanked on his cover story for a moment before it came back to him. "San Diego that I had to stay there a few extra days to straighten things up because they were really screwed up…with inventory." He just shut up the minute he realized that he had blown his chance to get away without drama. His mother had her stony look that made it clear that short of physical violence he wasn't getting out without a lecture.
"Really? I thought you said you were going to San Francisco." The fists on the hips, squared off don't-challenge-mother posture told him how absolutely screwed he was.
"Okay, I was in town," he admitted before she could trick the truth out of him. "There was a problem with a competitor and I had to check out a few places. I just didn't want to have to drag myself back here."
"And you were staying with…"
"A friend," he offered, but he flinched at the uncertainty in his own voice.
"Right, a friend who has invited you to stay a few extra days, perhaps?" He watched as his mother gestured toward the bed, the open duffle bag, the suitcase waiting on the floor.
"Um, a friend who asked me to move in?" he responded warily, just waiting for the maternal eruption.
"A week!" his mother screeched, her voice stabbing into his brain. "You're moving in with someone after a week!" The fists left the hips now so that the arms could get in a good swing as she paced, partially in the room and partially in the hallway. Finally she stopped and glared at him. "I thought I raised you better than to fall for this big-city shit about free love and moving in with each other. God, is she pregnant, Xander?"
"What? Ah, no. Just…no,"
"And you're using protection? God, please tell me you're using protection every time because you do not want your life ruined by getting some girl pregnant."
"Geez, Mom, I *so* don't think there's ever going to be risk of that," Xander snorted and then froze at his mother suddenly shocked expression.
"Xander?" she asked, her voice suddenly cautious, as though afraid he would bolt for the door, which was actually pretty perceptive of her since he really was eyeing the space between her body and the door frame and estimating whether or not he could run for it. "Xander, is there something you want to talk about?"
"Oh god, you're gay," he mother suddenly stepped into the room and sat heavily on the edge of the bed. "I should have known considering some of the girls you brought home. That Gretta girl had more testosterone in her than your father."
"Gabi," he correctly quietly. He couldn't exactly deny it, but he sure hadn't planned on this conversation tonight.
"God, please tell me he's not that pushy,” his mother asked, her hand running absent-mindedly through her graying hair.
"Surprisingly?" his mother snapped back, picking up on the word and brandishing it like a weapon. "Why 'surprisingly'? What kind of man are you seeing?" she demanded.
"He's nice," he quickly declared. "He's a very kind man." Oh god, please don't ever let Spike find out about *that* comment or he would never live it down; however, he didn't think proclaiming Spike's evilness would win points with his mother. "He has his own place downtown, a nice one bedroom with its own laundry. You'd like him."
"And you're using protection, right?"
"Mom, I'm not having the 'safe-sex' talk with you," he squirmed as he tried hard to keep any thought of sex as far away from any thought of his mother as possible. The two just did not ever need to exist in the same place at the same time.
"Oh good lord, you're blushing to even think about it. Did you have the guts to talk to your boyfriend about this or are you just trusting luck to protect you from your own stupidity? If you can't be responsible enough to talk about this like an adult, you have no business doing anything with another man until you grow up. So, did you use protection or not?" Xander stood beside his dresser, pressing himself into the wall as he tried to remind himself that his mother was speaking out of fear and shock. Tried to remind the growling demon in his head of that too.
"I can take care of myself, Mom," he chided gently. "He's a good man, and I'm fine." Of course, he actually doubted each of the three statements to varying degrees, but he really didn't need to worry his mother with details.
"Then tell me you weren't stupid enough to risk dying just so you could get your rocks off." Xander almost choked at the crass expression coming out of his mother's mouth.
"Mom," he began a little louder this time. "I'm not talking to you about my sex life. Please trust me when I say I know what I’m doing." He tried hard not to look guilty or sheepish or confused despite the fact that he felt all three. He watched as the anger drained out of his mother as though some psychic plug had been pulled.
"Tell me that he's good to you," she whispered, tears clear in her eyes as she looked up at him. He went over and sat next to her on the bed.
"He is. He makes me happier than I've been since we moved here."
"Please, Xander, please tell me he makes you happier than you've ever been because you've had too damn little happiness in your life." He could hear his mother's voice crack as the tears started now. He couldn't remember the last time he had seen his mother cry; she didn't even cry when his father, in a rare mood for a physical fight, had backhanded her into the coffee pot. Brown stains had decorated the wall of the kitchen until they had moved out of that house in Sunnydale looking for a better life.
"He does, Mom; he honestly does," he promised her as he put an arm around her shoulders. "Maybe we can come over for my birthday on Thursday," he found himself offering.
"Right," his mother snapped out of it as if they had been discussing nothing more emotional than the weather. She quickly swiped the back of her hand across her face as she stood up. "Thursday will be the big birthday bash. I'm getting off work an hour or two early, so the three of us can order pizza and get some movies."
"Um, I can't make it until dark," he objected. At his mother's curious look, he continued. "I still have work, Mom. I just started, so I can't just take off early like some people. In fact, I have to finish packing and get my butt to work before dark," he finished as he look at the sun hovering just above nearby roofs. "I wanted to talk with you, but I didn't think you'd be home this late."
"So you're leaving?" she asked, and he tried not to hear how small her voice was.
"I have to get to work," he explained. "I'll call; this time I won't forget," he promised.
"Don't let him forget how special you are," she whispered as she smoothed his hair away from his face before turning to leave the room. "And if you want your father to know, you'll just have to tell him yourself because I am not going to talk to that asshole about this. If I do, you'll be bailing me out of jail for homicide. Your father is a closed-minded Neanderthal," she announced briskly as she walked out of his room and into the bathroom.
He heard the door shut and the lock turn before the water started. Recognizing the dismissal, he decided to head to the club and see if he still had a job. Oh god, he had forgotten to even ask Spike if he could keep his job. The demon mewled in distress as Xander stamped down on it and decided that he was going to keep his damn job whether the pushy vampire liked it or not. Unless of course he had already lost the job. He picked up his two bags and headed for the door. When he stood at the apartment's front door, he looked down at the key in his hand. With a sigh, he turned the lock on the doorknob, put the key on the counter, and then closed the door behind him. No going back he decided.
Xander arrived at Safari mere minutes before opening. Half-dressed men rushed by him as he slipped in the back door by the freezer and slipped into the kitchen, hoping to find T. Instead a large man with long hair pulled up under a fishnet cap worked in the kitchen.
"Um, have you seen T?" he asked as he pressed himself up against the prep table so that he didn't get in the way of the stream of people rushing back and forth and put the bags on the floor before carefully maneuvering them so they were half under the prep table and not in anyone's way.
"Out front," the man snapped before he grabbed a sheet from the oven and began loading trays.
"Move it sweetcheeks," ordered a familiar voice, and he turned to see a short Hispanic stripper sneering at him. "You back to get your final check after walking out?" Xander finally put a name with the face: Luis. He was about to respond when a deep, familiar voice interrupted him before he could begin.
"Hey, hey! It's the much-missed food runner," Charlie quipped as he stole a potato skin out from under the cook's nose. When the cook glared, Charlie gave a small laugh and winked at the man. "You know you love me, Ross." Charlie turned back to him. "So, you running away from home, then?" Xander nervously shifted the two bags with his feet.
"Um, meeting someone here," he admitted.
"Well you go, boy. Shy little virgin one night, moving in with the beau a week later. Knew you had it in you," Charlie used a shoulder to push into him. "Course this means that I don't get my shot at you, but I can wait. When you get tired of this new man in your life, you come on back to your first crush, deal?" Charlie asked with a wink, and Xander found himself blushing and choking on air as he tried to come back with a response to that. Charlie just laughed as he started for the floor in the Tarzan outfit. "Drop the bags in my dressing room." He called as he walked out the kitchen.
"Suck up," Luis snarled as he grabbed a tray of food and headed for the floor. Xander picked up the bags and headed for the back so that he could put them away before facing the rest of the club. It wasn't until he had reached Charlie's dressing room and stowed the bags in the small bathroom that he realized that Xander Jr. hadn't even reacted. He could still look at Charlie and recognize a near-god of a man, but he wasn't the man Xander Jr. wanted. Nope, Xander Jr. was more into lithe and blonde. Shaking his head at how much life could change in a week, Xander went out onto the quickly filling floor and looked for T.
"My god, darlin', it's about time you got your ass back here," sang out a voice as soon as he stepped into the hallway. Charlie had obviously snitched on him.
"T," he responded happily and then realized that he really didn't know what else to say.
"Oh, you're not getting out of it that easy, you start spilling before I call Gunn and the guys and have them sit on you till you fess up," T threatened while opening a door and gesturing for him to follow. Inside he found T already perched on the edge of a well-worn desk with various stacks of paperwork waiting patiently.
"Um, I don't know where to start," he finally admitted as he dropped into one of the two metal folding chairs.
"This vamp hunting thing, was this just cover so you could run off with your boy?" T asked in a more serious tone than he had ever heard the man use. Serious with just a hint of anger.
"Well then?" T asked after a long silence.
"Spike and I didn't…I mean, we obviously did, but not until after. Oh shit." Xander couldn't even get his thoughts together enough to figure out how to tell the story without revealing too much. He closed his eyes, took a breath, and shoved his demon as far back as he could before he started again. "Spike wanted to kill a vamp named Cassidy--the same vamp who was in charge of the nest where Frederick got killed. We've been hunting him. Spike knows how to hunt vamps better than anyone I've ever seen, and I helped him find places, including the place Frederick died. We got attacked, I got hurt, Cassidy got dead, Spike got me somewhere safe, and now I'm back." Yep, enough truth to sound true, but not so much truth to get himself kicked out or Spike staked.
"And the bags?" T asked, this time in a far more mild tone.
"Well after the whole killing thing, we sorta, ya know." He blushed and then looked up when T started laughing.
"Shit, darlin', I always thought that once you found someone you'd lose that innocent charm, but you've still got the stuff to make a man's heart beat faster." T stood and clapped him on the shoulder before heading for the door. "I'm glad you came back; some of the regulars been askin' about you. In that outfit you'll clean up in tips again tonight." Huh? Xander looked down and realized that he had dressed in club-wear with a deep sapphire blue shirt tucked into tight black jeans. He hadn't even paid attention to what he had pulled out when Spike had opened the armoire and pointed to a shelf with clothes that would fit him.
"I don't know if Spike…" he stopped at T's suddenly suspicious expression. "T?"
"Oh cutie, please don't tell me you've fallen in with some man who'll tell you what to do every minute of the day."
"No," he quickly responded; he didn't need to have T's sympathy. "I told Spike I'd meet him here and I don't know when he'll show up," he finished weakly. T's expression remained suspicious, but the man slowly nodded.
"That's okay, you can work until he shows up. When you leave, just give me a head's up, okay? So, *are* you going to keep working?"
"Don't really know yet, might be too busy," Xander added the last when he saw the worry and disappointment in T's eyes. Shit, he'd only met the man a week ago, his disapproval shouldn't matter so damn much, but it did. He never wanted T to know just how much he needed Spike and Spike's approval.
"Well, you let me know. Going to be some mighty disappointed folks around here if you don't." T quietly pointed out while opening the office door for Xander to leave first. He didn't have any idea what to say to T that would be both true and stop the look of pity and worry.
"I'm happy," he finally settled on.
"Good for you sweetie," T said as he closed the office door and ushered him back to the kitchen. "You just make sure that you do what's right for you." Xander only wished he knew what that would be; it was hard to tell with both his own thoughts and his demon rattling around. How could he have assumed the demon was simply his own dark thoughts for all those years?
"Ross, this is Xander; he'll be running food when he isn't dropping it on the floor," T introduced him with a wink.
"Um, hi Ross," he smiled to the heavily tattooed white man who looked him up and down appraisingly.
"He the one who got the front stirred up last week?" Ross asked T without interrupting his visual inspection. Xander shifted uncomfortably under the gaze.
"Yep, one and the same."
"Well try not to drop so much of my food," Ross commented as he turned his back to them in order to work with something in the sink. T simply laughed.
"From Ross that's the seal of approval," T whispered as he picked up a tray of chip-bowls and handed it to Xander. "He's a little like your Luther, except *he* isn't an asshole," T confided. Xander had to laugh at the thought of the tall, well-muscled scarred Luther being anything like the short, heavy, tattooed Ross. Then he felt himself pushed back out onto the floor of Safari, the food islands lit by colored lights and Charlie slinking down the raised runway as hands reached through the bars and caressed legs and thighs and even occasionally grope under the loin-cloth when the customer's arms were long enough. He stood mesmerized by the sight of Charlie's dance for a moment until he felt a warm hand on his arm.
"Oh, I have missed you," a man with salt and pepper hair commented as he moved in. He could feel his face growing warm as he recognized the man who had fed him his own semen less than a week earlier. "Such a lovely boy," the man commented as his hand moved down to the waist and began to pull the shirt out from jeans.
"I, ah, have to get this food out," Xander stuttered. The man laughed and then slid a bill down the front of Xander's jeans before quickly sliding a hand across his bare stomach under the shirt.
"Just a welcome back," the man assured him before laughing again and then returning to a small group standing a few feet away. Xander slipped away toward one of the far food islands.
"Yell if you need me," a deep voice behind him offered, and he nearly dropped his tray in surprise. He turned to see the black-vested Carlos standing there.
"Carlos, hey," he said as he braced the tray on one hip so he could straighten up the bowls.
"Some things never change," Carlos laughed as he walked a few feet away and turned to watch. Yep, some things never changed; here he was straight off killing one master vampire and bedding another and people still assumed he couldn't take care of himself. He sighed. Oh well, at least they cared enough to watch out for him even if it was annoying.
The next two hours passed with a minimum of trouble. Xander ran food, customers felt Xander up, Xander watched for Spike. Yep, he didn't figure the trouble would start until Spike actually showed up, which he had expected much earlier. Part of him wanted to retreat to the back room and wait for Spike in privacy, but another part of him reveled in the fact that he was acting without permission. Yeah, where were all the psychiatrists when you needed them?
Xander had been caught by a man sitting at a table when he felt the tingle down his backbone. Spike? Vampire? He turned his head, trying to spot the source of the tingle, but he had limited mobility at the time. In trying to get to a far food station, he had walked near a booth, and hand had slipped between his legs, and the occupant of the booth now sat hugging one leg as he smiled up. Xander sighed tried again to pull free, but the man had a good hold. He might be able to pull the man out of his seat, but he couldn't pull loose without his hands, which just now balanced a tray half-full of the dreaded potato skins.
"I do have work to do," he pointed out reasonably, but the man held on and exchanged a knowing look with his friend at the table.
"You shoulda seen him lasht week," the man slightly slurred to his friend. "Hottest thing ever."
"Please, let go,” Xander asked as he started looking around; he caught Carlos' eye and the bouncer started moving in. The drunk must have seen the cavalry arriving because his second hand held up a bill, proving that he was a tipping customer in addition to being a grabby jerk. The second hand slipped up under the loose front hem of Xander's shirt and then he felt fingers pushing down into his jeans. The drunk smiled and shifted his arm up so that it circled the thigh just below Xander's crotch. Xander had to shift his legs apart to keep his balance, feeling annoyed with the liberties the man was talking. The other customers had settled for quick grabs at the ass, caresses of the silk shirt, and darting thrusts into the jeans with money in hand. Xander had enjoyed the attention even if Xander Jr. had been less than enthused. But now, he just waited until the hand withdrew from his jeans and then he tried to step back again. The arm around his leg simply tightened as the drunk leered up salaciously.
"Oi, hands off," came a familiar voice. Xander jumped, his leg still trapped, and managed to lose two bowls off the edge of the tray before righting it. The bowls landed with a thunk on the floor as grease and potato bit splattered. He groaned and turned his head to see Spike directly behind him, a cool arm quickly sliding his waist
"Spike," he whispered, unsure whether he was happy for the rescue or terrified of the vampire finding him with a drunk attached to his pants. He really didn't want to get every grabby man in the place killed, and he suddenly realized that Spike was quite capable of doing just that. His heart sped up as the panic set in.
"Okay, time to let the server get back to work," Carlos' voice interrupted.
"Back off, git," Spike snarled, and the arm around his leg disappeared as the drunk and his friend slipped away, not wanting to get in the middle. Xander put the tray down on the table so that his hands would be free--not that he could do much if Spike started anything.
"Let go or I'll toss you out on your ass."
"Like to see ya try, mate."
"Spike, don't. He's just trying to look out for me," Xander interrupted when he felt the body behind him tense and start to bounce slightly. Oh yeah, bouncy Spike equals trouble. "Carlos, head bouncer on Xander-protectage duty, meet Spike." He felt Spike step forward, and then he found himself suddenly thrust behind Spike, watching while Carlos and Spike tried to glare each other down.
"You the one who gave Xander a hard time last week?" Carlos asked with a growl in his voice that came impressively near to the real thing.
"You the git who walked off and left him alone?" Xander could feel the hostility getting quickly out of hand.
"Spike, he's the one who got me out of the crowd after you left. Carlos, Spike's the one who protected me from the guy who killed Frederick." As he watched the two consider each other, he just wished Cordelia would walk in. That woman managed to make Spike and Angel play nice, or at least fairly nice, and he really needed to discover her secret weapon.
"Didn't seem to be protectin' Xander from that wanker," Spike snarled.
"I was coming to stop the guy when I spotted you. Last time you were more trouble than a friendly drunk," Carlos snapped back. The two stood, unmoving.
"Reckon I was," Spike suddenly turned amiable, and he held out a hand. After a brief look of confusion that Xander could identify with, Carlos took the hand.
"Nice to meet you," Carlos managed even while looking to him with a confused expression. Xander shrugged; he couldn't explain the vampire's mood swings any more than Carlos.
"Right, need to talk to my pet, here," Spike announced, turning a back to Carlos. He shrugged again as Carlos looked to him before moving off a distance to watch. He simply he knelt down to recover the lost food.
"Well this seems familiar," Spike commented as he crouched down to bounce in front of him, one arm leaning on the table. Xander bent his head, his heart still pounding with the fear that Spike would be angry, angry with him and with the various men who had touched him. Stupid. How could have risked so many lives just to prove something to himself. And T, he suddenly realized. He didn't want T to think of him as some weak thing that did whatever his boyfriend told him. Boyfriend? No, master really was closer to the truth. "Pet?"
"Yeah?" he answered without lifting his head. He pulled the last potato skin into the bowl and knelt there, cleaning his hands on his towel.
"You alright, pet?" He risked a quick look up and saw the head cocked to one side and the eyebrows lowered in clear confusion.
"Right," Spike snarked sarcastically. "Anytime you can give one word answers, ya aren't fine. Can't read minds, luv, so you better start talkin'."
"Don't get mad at them," he asked in a small voice, continuing to rub his hands on the towel even though he had already gotten them clean.
"Who’s that, luv? The wanker who grabbed at ya?"
"Yeah," he whispered.
"You thought I'd eat them for doing that, didn't ya?" The bouncing stopped, and he felt Spike's hand close around his arm. "That's it, innit?"
"Well, yeah," he admitted, looking up at Spike in the low light of the club.
"If he'd hurt ya, he'd have died a slow and painful death," Spike admitted. "But he didn’t."
"I thought, with the touching…" Xander felt his heart begin to truly race as his demon squirmed, wanting to throw itself at master's feet and beg forgiveness. Spike looked at him for a long time, a strangely neutral expression on his face. Spike finally pulled him close and whispered in his ear.
"If you want to work here, it’s all right with me. Like people seein' what they can't have. Like showin' you off and then watchin' people lust after ya, knowin' that you only lust after me." Spike added a lick from the collar to the ear, and he felt himself shiver as Xander Jr. suddenly came to life. "Cassidy showed ya off, making ya go starkers so they'd all see what they couldn't have." A second lick and he closed his eyes and shifted so that he could press himself into Spike's firm body.
Now Spike pulled him up so that they stood next to the booth. Spike positioned him so that he faced the club with Spike standing behind him. He watched out of half-closed eyes with his head tilted so that Spike could continue exploring his neck. The vampire obliged by sliding a hand under his shirt and closing his lips over the place where neck and shoulder met; he felt the suction and squirmed under the attention, barely registering the customers who had turned to watch. "But don't ya think we should take care of the vamp feedin' on the customers before we continue this?" Xander continued to writhe against the hard body behind him until the words finally penetrated the lust.
"Vamp?" he squeaked. Spike laughed.
"Yeah, business first, then?
Need to drive this wanker off since I don't really want vamps hangin' out
round ya." Spike commented as he continued nipping at Xander's neck.
Xander scanned the crowd; he didn't see anyone suspicious, but if Spike said a vamp was out there feeding on the crowd, he didn't doubt it for a minute.
"I've gotta…" he gasped as Spike nipped particularly hard at his shoulder. Xander Jr. gave a simultaneous twitch of his own. "I've gotta tell T," he finally gasped out.
"Right, I'll wait here then." Spike let go so suddenly that he found himself struggling to keep his balance. He turned to glare. "What?" Spike asked innocently although the corner of the mouth twitched twice.
"Evil vampire," he hissed as he tried to rearrange his jeans so he could walk. Now Spike openly smirked. He gathered up his food and made for the bar as fast as he could with Xander Jr. pressing against the zipper. He felt hands reaching for him, but he side-stepped and spun out of reach all the way to the bar where T worked one end. When he dropped the tray on the bar and leaned over to get T's attention, he felt hands slip inside his shirt. He looked back to see an older man in a plaid shirt smiling, but in the background he could also see Spike leaning against a wall, watching. He had an evil thought, and his demon whole-heartedly approved of the game.
He slowly wiggled his butt as the hand under the shirt slid down to the jeans. Spike's eyebrow shot up, but otherwise he remained motionless. Xander could see that T would still be another minute, so he deliberately smiled at Mr. Plaid and pushed back. The hand now slid all the way in the jeans, and he could feel fingers exploring down the crack. He kept his eyes on Spike, and now he could see the lights of the club reflecting softly in eyes that probably had gold in them now. As fingers reached the puckered goal, he shivered and then reached up to touch Mr. Plaid's cheek. "No more," he whispered, and he could see the disappointment as the man sadly smiled his acceptance. The hand withdrew for a moment and then returned with the dry feel of paper against skin as the man slid a tip in equally far. Xander had a sudden image of getting a paper cut and having to explain it to the doctor, and he had to stifle a laugh just as T came up.
"You leaving us then?" T asked with a nod toward Spike.
"Actually, you have a vamp hunting in here." T's eyes suddenly narrowed as he inspected the crowd. "Spike and I are going to go see if we can't get it out and stake it," he quickly added. When T shot him a disapproving look, he amended it. "Fine, Spike will get it outside and stake it while I watch from a safe distance."
"Darling, you watch your back."
"Hard to do that what with the eyes being in the front an all," he quipped, but the worried expression in T's face made him stop. "I'll watch Spike's back, and I trust Spike to watch mine."
"More than you trust Gunn?" T asked sadly. He had to really think about that. A week ago he would have followed Gunn to hell, but how would Gunn take the knowledge that he wasn't entirely human? How would Gunn react to his coming out of the closet. Hell, how would Gunn take him sleeping with *any* vampire, male or female?
"Spike can protect me better than Gunn can," he finally told T before returning to Spike's side. The trip back across the club proved a little easier without his hands full, but he still had to sidestep several interested customers.
"Not nice, pet." Spike said when he arrived. For a minute he thought Spike was talking about his comment regarding Gunn, but then he remembered Mr. Plaid. Spike took his arm and started walking him toward the far end of the dance floor.
"Yeah, well it's your fault for getting everyone worked up with a floor show before sending me through the crowd alone."
"Nearly came over, threw you on the bar, and claimed you right and proper for everyone to see." Xander Jr. jerked to life so suddenly and painfully in the confines of the jeans that he physically tripped, but Spike simply reached out and pulled him close before he could hit anything. "Like that thought, do ya?" Xander wished he could come back with some witty comment, but even his babble abandoned him in the face of the mental image Spike had created. Spike laughed.
"There's the wanker now," Spike said as he nodded toward a tall thin black man with actual red hair who had his limbs tangled around a hunky line-backer type. He watched at the vamp laughed at something and then kissed the man on the lips before nuzzling into the man's neck. He would have cried out a warning right there, except Spike held him back. Caught between wanting to save the man and following Spike, he physically swayed, and Spike's arm tightened around his waist.
"Ya don't want to interrupt him right now, luv. Dinner might not survive it." Before he could ask what Spike meant, the vampire raised his head, still showing human features and planted another kiss on the man's lips. The man had a dazed, happy expression, and the vamp backed him toward a wall, where he left him leaning. With a glance in their direction, the vamp started for the door. He felt himself pushed along as Spike followed. Once out in the night, he couldn't see the vamp anywhere, but Spike didn't hesitate as he moved north up the street and toward a closed and boarded up gas station.
"He's there," Spike commented as they came to a halt outside the station. They stood there for several minutes.
"Aren't we going in, I mean, it's a little hard to stake a vamp if you don’t actually go in."
"Who said anythin' about staking?" Spike turned to him with a confused expression-the eyebrows drawn down so that the wrinkled form an upside-down V on his forehead.
"You said we were going to get rid of him, that's how you get rid of a vampire." Spike simply snorted at that, but then the conversation stopped when a tall, red-haired vampire stepped out from behind the station. Spike grew suddenly still, and he felt himself for the second time thrust behind his lover. The vampire's hair curled in tight coils and he walked with a gangly stride that suggested youth.
"Wha' ya want den?" called the other vamp, and he could see each of the vampires subtly shifting their bodies. Spike took a step forward and raised his head as if he was sniffing the air. The other vamp shifted to the side, closer to the gas station, and showed his demon features.
"Want ya' away from what's mine," Spike finally announced.
"He be yers?" the vamp asked, and Xander found himself trying not to laugh at the competing accents.
"Yeah, mate, he is."
"Yer a master, can smell ya. Knew I's run into one'a ya's sometime or ruther. If ya want, I's fittin' to move on. 'Bout time to anyways."
"Just don't want ya near my pet. You got control enough to feed without killin', so I don't mind ya in the area or even in the club, but ya smell my pet, and you'd better clear out, mate. Got it?" The other vamp suddenly lost his demon features and dropped his head.
"Raht, Ah won’t go neah him,” the vampire agreed. Spike stood there glaring for a few seconds and before turning and sweeping Xander away down the street.
"That's it?" he asked, indignant. "You want to go vamp hunting and we end up nicely asking the vamp not to kill anyone. At least I think that's what you asked. I swear, I thought I had trouble with English what with the constant D's and all, but I'm not entirely sure you guys know how to actually speak English."
"Don't 'Pet' me," he groaned softly when he realized his mistake, “I mean, don't go saying 'Pet' at me, AND don't actually pet me right now; I'm mad. That vamp was hunting in T's club, and you didn't do anything." He felt himself pulled toward a parked car. Spike jumped up on the hood and pulled him into an embrace between his legs before covering his mouth with a cool hand.
"Pet, do ya want T and the customers in there safe?" Spike asked seriously before removing the hand.
"Of course I do."
"And do ya trust me to keep you happy and safe?" Spike asked as strong arms settled in at the small of his back, pulling him in closer.
"Well, yeah." He had to admit that he actually did trust Spike, he just sometimes wondered how much of that trust came from the demon in his head and how much came from his own thoughts, not that he had always picked the best people to love or trust.
"So do ya trust me to keep your soddin' club safe?"
"Okay, we have a problem there, because that club is just a buffet for you, and you can't convince me of anything else, blondie," he pointed out.
"Bloody right, they could all get eaten tomorrow and I wouldn't care, but you would, so I'll keep those gits alive just to avoid the emotional scene you'd throw if ya found them all dead."
"You'd actually protect them? They're like walking meals on wheels to you, without the wheels part, but still. Why would you do that?" Spike simply snorted.
"Not sayin' more emotionally supportive crap tonight, don't want my reputation to be completely buggered, but that vamp is old, older than most and old enough to have control. If he's huntin' in there, it'll keep most of the others out."
"He's a master?"
"Bleedin' hell no, a master would’ve fought for his territory. He's old enough to be, has to be at least fifty, but without someone to teach him, he'll just be a really old minion." Spike fell silent for a long time. "Surprised he can feed without killin', that's usually a master's trick."
"So with him draining a few pints here and there…"
"It takes the club off the huntin' list for other vamps," Spike finished.
"My hero," he purred agreeably as he pushed into the embrace, pushing his own hip into Spike's groin.
"Bloody hell, don't go spreadin' that bollocks around or I really won't have a reputation. And if you keep up with the teasin', you're goin' to get tied to the bed and ravaged." Xander Jr. had his oh-so-predictable response to that threat, and Spike laughed, his eyes ringed in gold. "Oh, yeah. You're mine."
"Yep," he agreed amiably. Times like this when Spike acted like one of the good guys, it was just so easy to say.
"Well, let's grab some dinner before we have to go and see Peaches," Spike announced and the mood evaporated.
"Dinner as in Italian?" he asked hopefully, even though he knew the answer.
"Wouldn't mind a Luigi or a Leonardo," Spike agreed and Xander groaned.
"I was thinking pizza," he argued as Spike jumped off the car and started back toward the club.
"Let's get your kit and drop it off first, right?" It didn't escape him that Spike totally avoided the conversation, but he couldn't ask a lion to go vegetarian, and he couldn't ask a vampire to give up blood. He did wonder why Spike so adamantly refused to do what the other vamp did and drink just a little.
Xander followed and made the right noises at Ross, the only person he ran into as he dashed through the kitchen to grab his bags before meeting Spike out back with the motorcycle. Once the bags were stowed, Spike turned the bike toward a part of town full of junkies and whores, and within minutes of parking the bike, he had pinpointed a small man who robbed two different street-people while they watched.
"He bad enough for ya?" Spike asked with a nod.
"You can't think I'm going to give you permission to kill someone. Oh, no. So not going there, Spike."
"That’s all right pet. I know he's bad enough. Can smell the blood on him from here, even with all the soap he used to wash it off. Probably forgot to clean his boots, most of 'em miss them."
"You mean he killed someone?" Xander turned in horror to watch the young man laugh as he grabbed a bottle of alcohol from some older man and then chased the older man down the street.
"Evil don't just come with the demon package, luv," Spike announced before he started walking toward the mugger. Xander followed at some distance, trying to ignore it when Spike maneuvered his prey into an alley and slid his dagger into the man's neck before drinking deeply and making little happy sucking noises. Ew. When had he started thinking of sucking noises as happy? He severely chastised his demon before returning to ignoring the whole scene.
"Right then, suppose it's time to face Peaches, pet." Xander watched as Spike calmly licked the blood off the knife as they walked down the street.
"Aren't you afraid of someone seeing that and assuming you're some sort of serial killer?" he asked as he glanced nervously around at the pedestrians.
"First rule of the night: people ignore anythin' they can't explain away. A hundred years ago, I'd of worried. Now, people see what they want. Long as they don't have hard proof, they make up all sorts of excuses." Spike finished the cleaning job and replaced the knife, tucking it into a duster pocket. "S'why I use a knife, don't pay to leave proof laying around with teeth marks in them."
"Is that why you won't leave people alive…because they'd see proof?"
"Don't go there, pet." Spike reached the motorcycle and quickly mounted.
"Don't go where, Spike? Don't talk about why you kill?" He stood on the sidewalk, determined to have the conversation. If the minion in the club could feed without killing, he didn't understand why Spike couldn't as well.
"Xander," Spike's voice drew the name out into a clear warning.
"Spike," he returned in the same tone of voice.
"Enough," Spike bellowed in a deep, loud tone, and Xander felt his knees go out from under him. A couple on the street turned to look in shock as he neatly collapsed to the ground in a heap. The echoes of Spike's cry chased each other through his brain, and he struggled to clear his ears enough to even hear the distant voices. The demon struggled against his control, and he squeezed his eyes shut as he silently hummed Rubber Duckie. Thank god for his arsenal of Sesame Street songs because he had worked through four or five before he trusted himself to open his eyes.
"Spike?" he called softly before he realized that he lay in the vampire's lap with a cool hand smoothing the hair away from his face.
"You’re all right, pet. Be just fine in a bit. Just had a spill, that's all." He could hear the slight panic in Spike's voice, and he looked around for what might have caused the fear, but he only saw the faces of curious bystanders who whispered to each other and watched with meaningful expressions.
"Spike?" he called again, confused.
"Are you sure you don’t want an ambulance?" a man with a cell phone asked, and Xander waited for the guy to get told off, but it didn’t happen.
"Thanks mate, but he'll be fine. Goin' to hospital won't help epilepsy." He reached out and took one of Spike's hands so that the vampire looked down at him.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Just a spell, that's all. We'll get you back on your feet and you'll be right as rain." Xander felt himself pulled up as Spike stood so that he now leaned back against Spike. He tentatively put some weight on his legs and felt a wave of relief when his legs held without buckling. "Let's go sit," Spike said, and he felt himself guided toward a nearby bench. Now that the invalid had gotten scraped off the sidewalk, the crowd slowly dispersed and they were left on the bench without any observers.
"What the hell was that, Spike?"
"Bloody hell, I don't know. That shouldn't have happened." Spike watched him silently for several seconds. "Tell me exactly what it felt like from your side."
"You yelled," he began, and he could see Spike flinch at the words. "I felt this moment of pure panic so strong that my knees just sort of stopped working and I started going down. I wanted to get back up, but I could feel the demon struggling, struggling harder than it has since the day I took control back and killed Cassidy. Eventually the demon stopped struggling, and I that's when I opened my eyes.
"Bloody hell," Spike repeated.
"Why? What did it look like from out here?"
"You just soddin' collapsed without a sound."
"Oh god, maybe the demon has done some sort of damage to my brain. Shit, I don't have so many spare brain cells that I can afford to have a demon randomly frying them."
"Shhh. That's not it, pet."
"If ya have a theory, I'd love to hear it because I've left freaked out behind days ago and I'm quickly approaching the land of blind panic."
"It shouldn't have happened, didn't mean to cause that."
"Whoa, what did you cause it and how do we make sure you never cause it again because that was just plain unpleasant."
"Used sire's voice," Spike began softly, as though he were admitting some great sin.
"I missed out on vampire anatomy and psychology in school, you know. Kept trying to get the principal to add it as an elective, but they insisted that I should take physics instead. Vampire anatomy would have been more useful." When Spike only looked at him with a guilty expression, he abandoned jokes for the direct route. "I have no idea what that means, Spike."
"Sire's voice keeps fledges in line. When they hear it, they soddin' well stop whatever nonsense they're doin' and follow their sire's commands."
"And your sire's voice dropped me to the ground? Can I vote for you never using that again? Shit, that's just totally not fair." Xander leaned back against the building feeling the cool bricks through the thin shirt material. He had never felt so entirely helpless; Spike could control him with a single word, leave him twitching on the ground with the demon raging in his mind. Shit. Why hadn't he staked Spike when he had the chance? Oh yeah, he'd never had a chance. And he'd fallen for the bastard. Life would be much simpler if he hadn't fallen for the bastard, but he'd fallen so hard that he didn't think he could get back up even if he wanted to.
"But it shouldn't have worked," Spike objected. "Wouldn't have used it on you on purpose."
"Um, if that's not working, I really don't want to know what sire's voice does when it does work. I felt like a kitten grabbed by the back of the neck. Not that I'm kittenish because I'm a man, so I'm more like a manly thing, a bear or a lion or something: a completely helpless bear all curled up and quivering, but a bear nonetheless." He opened one eye to glare at Spike, but the vampire simply watched the traffic.
"That's just it luv, that's exactly what happens to a fledge. But pets don't have enough of the demon in them to react like that. Pets just get uncomfortable. Occasionally I've seen pets lose control of their bladder, but I've never seen one react like a fledge."
"You thought I might pee myself?" Xander opened both eyes and looked over toward Spike in horror. "And ya know what? I'm starting to get a real inferiority complex about this whole pet thing. If either you or Angel point out one more way that I'm doing this pet thing wrong, someone is not getting any more sex…unless it's Angel, him I'll just stake." Spike laughed.
"I like the way you do things, so I'm not complainin'."
"Good, so can we go home?" Xander had regained control of all his limbs, but he still felt shaken up by the revelation that someone had that much power over him. Of course his demon was stupidly happy, damn thing would be happy to lay on the floor under Spike's feet.
"Sorry, luv. Have to go see Peaches, don't we?"
"Um, no?" That earned another one of Spike's laughs.
"Well that's the condition he put on us hangin' around. This is his turf, and I won't fight him over it. Means we either have to go make nice with the pouf or get out of L.A."
"Shit, I thought when I took up with a vampire that I didn't have to deal with the in-laws."
"Yeah, well wouldn't mind skipping town and leavin' the nancy-boy wonderin' where we went."
"Um, so not okay with the leaving town part, Spike. At least not now."
"So, we see Peaches."
"No chance you could drop me off at home?" he asked hopefully as he pushed himself up onto his feet.
"Bloody well wish I could, but the wanker wants to see that I haven't been torturin' you. Has it in his mind he has to save every bleedin' soul that crosses his path, even the ones that don't need him." Xander grumbled, but he followed Spike to the bike and got on, shoving the helmet over his head before leaning into the strong body in front of him.
When they stopped at a normal-looking office, Xander had to smile. He expected some grand mansion with gargoyles or maybe an abandoned building with heavy velvet curtains lined with dust. Instead they got a perfectly normal little office with "Angel Investigation" painted on a sign at the front.
"A vampire detective agency?" he asked skeptically.
"Yeah, Peaches does do his own thing," Spike agreed as the two of them went into the office.
"Man, where the hell have you been hiding your ass?" demanded an angry voice as soon as the door came open. He could feel Spike shifting into game face behind him before he could even react. He watched as the speaker's eyes snapped open and the man reached for a stake.
"Gunn, I can explain," he insisted as he stepped between his friend and his vampire.
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