This is a human AU in which Xander is a fireman and Spike's in a band. They meet. Sparks fly. ::snicker:: I started writing this before attending MR2004 at the beginning of June ::sigh:: and will be finishing it for fall_for_sx.
Spike was lost in the music, his eyes closed as he leaned close to the microphone, his hands wrapped around the grip like a tender lover, his lips nearly brushing the foamy head. His first indication of trouble came when the tenor of the audience changed. The voices raucously singing along with the band tapered off, and an odd hush filled the room, then the sounds of excited voices raised in alarm ensued, and the loud clanging of the smoke detectors that finally went off.
Spike opened his eyes and looked out at the dance floor, but the stage lights blinded him to the darkness beyond. Then he heard screams, and smelled the smoke. Shit! he thought. A fire. In a dance club. How bloody cliche could you get? No one seemed to be taking immediate charge of the situation, so Spike decided to see if he could diffuse the growing panic until someone better prepared for the job came along.
“Okay, folks, don’t panic,” he said over voices already raised in panic. “Please remain calm, and proceed to the nearest exit in an orderly manner.” He watched the club’s patrons rush toward the exits in a manner that was anything but orderly, frantically pushing and shoving others out of their way. He shook his head, then turned to his band. “Let’s get the hell out of here, yeah?”
Angel stood in front of his drums, sticks clutched tight in his fist, a frown marring his usually handsome face. “That contract we signed covers us for lost equipment, right?” He gave his beloved drum set a lingering look, then turned to Spike with a glare.
Spike, who had been serving as the band’s manager since they fired the git who had been skimming fifty percent off the top for six months before they caught him at it, nodded. “Yeah,” he yelled over the clamor, “but I bloody well hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Gunn had unplugged his keyboard from the sound system and was holding it close to his body, like a lover. Oz’s guitar strap was still slung over his shoulder.
“Lead the way,” Spike told him, and ushered the other two after the guitarist, whose hair stuck up in fire engine red spikes this night. Spike snorted at the coincidence as Oz led them backstage and down the hall towards the rear exit of The Bronze.
“Good thing the girls didn’t come tonight,” Gunn said, yelling to be heard over the frightened crowd.
“Angel’ll kill you, he hears you say that,” Spike warned.
Gunn laughed. “English knows I’m only picking on him.”
“It ain’t Wes you need to be worried about,” Oz cut in.
The way was crowded, but not as much of a crush as in the front of the club. They had nearly reached the exit door when Spike remembered Maddy. He grabbed Oz’s arm to get the other man’s attention. “I need to go get Maddy,” he yelled.
“What?” Oz yelled back.
“Maddy! You guys go on, I’ll be right out!” Spike turned and pushed his way back through the throng striving to get out of the club, back towards the room they’d been given to use as a dressing room. He now had a notion of how salmon felt, he thought, as he squirmed through the mass of bodies.
The hallway cleared suddenly when he got near back stage, everyone having already vacated the area. He ran to the dressing room and pushed the door open. Smoke swirled out into the hallway and Spike mentally slapped himself for not checking the door first. Luckily, there were no flames that he could see, but the smoke was pretty heavy, and the room was becoming even more clogged as the smoke billowed out of the air vents near the ceiling.
He coughed and waved a hand in front of his face in a futile attempt to clear the smoke away before making his way to where he remembered leaving Maddy. His eyes were watering and he was having trouble breathing. Disoriented by the smoke, it took him longer to find Maddy than he’d thought it would.
Eyes closed against the burning smoke, Spike’s hand closed over her neck, and he grabbed Maddy and ran. The air in the hallway was clearer, but not by much. Before he reached the exit, he had to pause in an attempt to catch his breath. He bent over, one hand on his knee for support, and the other holding Maddy in a death grip. A severe bout of coughing nearly drove him to his knees, and he slumped against the wall.
Xander jumped off the fire truck as it pulled up in front of The Bronze, lights flashing and siren blaring. Paul and Larry had already started pulling out the hoses so they could get them attached to the fire hydrants. Xander grabbed his oxygen tank and axe, and then joined the half dozen other firefighters already gathered around Chief Giles. The Chief quickly and efficiently handed out their assignments and they disbursed.
Xander and his partner, Kevin, were part of Search and Rescue Squad. Their job was to make sure that everyone was out of the building while others fought the actual fire. Xander had worked the hose for three years until a position opened up in S&R. After talking about it with Willow, his best friend, and Faith, his partner when he was on the hose, he decided to let the Chief know he was interested. While Willow and Faith weren’t, Xander was still a little bit surprised he’d gotten the position he’d now held for two years.
Tonight he and Kevin had been ordered to enter the club by the rear exit and make sure everyone had made it safely out of the building. The remaining S&R crews were charged with entering the building via the other two exits, located at the front and side of the building. Xander and Kevin quickly donned their oxygen tanks, and then ran around to the back of the club.
People were milling about, some confused and frightened, and some just wanting to be part of the excitement. Since their response time had beaten the Sunnydale Police Department’s, unsurprisingly, Xander and Kevin had to push their way through the crowd. “Excuse us,” Xander called. “Excuse us. Please clear away from the building.” He wasn’t surprised when no one moved.
When they got to the back of the building Xander saw that three men, all clutching musical instruments of some sort, were standing worriedly just outside the range of the smoke rolling out the back door, arguing amongst themselves.
“We should go back in there!” the tall brunette said adamantly as he waved what looked like a drumstick. “He could be hurt!”
“We wouldn’t be able to find him in all that smoke,” the bald black man who was holding a keyboard replied. “We’d probably just get ourselves lost.”
“Gunn’s right, Angel,” the unnatural-redhead with a guitar slung over his shoulder calmly declared. “The firemen are here now. We should let them do their job.”
“What’s wrong?” Xander asked briskly. “Someone in there?”
“Yes! Spike’s in there. You have to get him out!” Angel replied. Gunn put a calming hand on the brunette’s shoulder.
“Our friend, Spike, is still in there,” the fellow with the interesting dye-job said. “We were almost to the door when he went back.”
“He’ll be devastated if he doesn’t find Maddy,” Angel said softly, to no one in particular.
“There’s someone else in there? Where was he headed?” Xander asked as he expertly hooked the mask over his face,
“Our dressing room. It’s behind the stage. Down this hall here and to the left.” Gunn pointed.
Xander nodded at the three men and then turned to the building. Probably some drugged up groupie, he thought uncharitably, glancing at Kevin before heading into the club. They’d worked together for over a year now, and didn’t need to speak, each confident that the other knew his job well and would be there to back them up should trouble arise.
Xander was in the lead as they entered the building. Not far into the smoke-filled interior the beam from his flashlight fell upon a dark form. He clicked his radio. “I’ve got something,” he reported to Kevin.
“What can you see?” Kevin responded.
“Looks like a man,” Xander said as he moved closer to the figure. “If it’s him, he almost made it back to the exit.”
Xander knelt beside the man who was down on one knee, supporting himself against the wall with his shoulder, pulled off his glove, and reached out to check for a pulse. “He’s still alive. We need to get him out of here. Help me lift him.”
Xander and Kevin each grabbed the man, Spike, if this was the same man the men outside had been worried about, under an arm and lifted him to his feet. “‘M all right,” Spike claimed, struggling to gain his feet. “I can walk.”
They ignored him, looped his arms over their shoulders, and carried him towards the exit. Spike was holding something large in his hand, and it kept bumping Xander as the two firefighters made their way out of the club with the man. “Can we leave this behind?” he asked, attempting to remove it from Spike’s tight grip.
“No,” the other man growled.
Since they’d nearly reached the doorway, Xander gave up and just concentrated on getting him out of the smoke and over to an ambulance so he could be treated for smoke inhalation. As soon as they cleared the door, the three men converged on them.
“Spike! Are you all right?” one of the men spoke, though Xander didn’t see who it was.
“‘M fine,” Spike replied, and promptly started choking.
Xander snorted. He and Kevin carried Spike over to the nearest ambulance and sat him on the ground. “Was there anyone else in there?” Xander asked him, remembering one of the other men mentioning a ‘Maddy’.
“No,” Spike said, choking again. “Didn’t see anyone.”
Xander nodded brusquely, spoke briefly with one of the paramedics, and left the man they’d rescued to their tender care. On the way back to the club, Xander radioed the Chief to check in and let him know what their status was, then followed Kevin back into the smoke-filled club.
Spike felt like a bloody idiot. He couldn’t believe he’d been overcome by the smoke, and so close to the exit, too. He could see the doorway, until the smoke got too thick, but he couldn’t get there. He was almost embarrassed to look his band mates, who were still hovering near him, in the eye. At least he got Maddy out of there; hopefully she hadn’t received any damage from the smoke.
One of the paramedics put an oxygen mask over his face and checked his vitals. Though the cops had finally arrived and managed to get most of the uninjured cordoned off and the gawkers behind a police line, it was still chaotic. Many people had been wounded, though he didn’t see any severe injuries. Most suffered from smoke inhalation, as he did, while others had cuts and bruises due to their frenzied escape from the building.
The paramedic treating him was making noises about taking him to the hospital for observation. “No,” Spike said, not really paying too much attention. His eyes had been captured by one of the firemen. He and another firefighter were walking towards the emergency vehicles from the direction of the rear entrance to the club. Spike wondered if they were the two men who had rescued him?
The man who caught his attention had removed his mask and helmet. His dark brown hair was sweaty and plastered to his head, and his face and hands were streaked with soot, but there was something about him that drew Spike’s gaze and caused his heart to start hammering in his chest. The man looked up and their eyes locked.
Spike lost track of time until he was brought back to the present by Oz’s voice. “You should let them look you over. I don’t think we have to worry about missing tomorrow night’s gig,” he said calmly.
Spike shook his head, but Oz didn’t give him time to speak. “Think about what smoke damage could do to your voice,” he said.
Spike froze, glared at Oz. “That’s bloody unfair,” he said.
“You’re being bloody ridiculous,” Angel chimed in.
“Better safe than sorry, eh?” Gunn added.
“What is this, a mutiny?” Spike asked, only partly joking.
“You’d have to be in charge for that,” Oz quipped.
“Ha bloody ha!” Spike said, and began choking.
Angel patted him on the back and pushed the oxygen mask back over his nose and mouth. Oz said, “We’ll take care of Maddy, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Might’ve gotten damaged from the smoke,” Spike said, gently picking up the guitar case. “Have Fred take a look at it, will you?”
“That’s Maddy?” a voice asked in disbelief.
Spike looked up to find himself staring into accusing brown eyes. “Yeah,” he said slowly, his voice muffled by the oxygen mask.
“You went back in for a guitar?” the fireman Spike wanted to pounce on and devour asked incredulously. His tone clearly indicated he thought Spike was a moron, which put his back up.
“Yeah,” he said again, this time with a bit more edge.
“You could have been killed, and over a guitar!”
“Don’t diss the guitar,” Oz warned softly.
The brunette just shook his head and walked away, irritation evident in his posture and the way he was shaking his head.
“Well,” Spike said, coughing. “That went well. I think he really likes me.”
Xander couldn’t believe it. He shook his head in disbelief. He’d walked over to the guy he and Kevin had rescued to see how he was doing, and overheard the men talking about Maddy. His chest had tightened, worried that someone had been inside the building, until he realized they were talking about the guitar the blond had a death grip on.
What an idiot! he thought. Risking his life for a guitar. He couldn’t wait to share this with Willow. She’d nod her head in all the right places, commiserate with him, and then remind him how much he loved his job—which he did, badger him about his sex life, and then try to set him up with a friend of hers who reads chakras, or some other new age thing that Xander didn’t understand.
Xander had wanted to become a fireman for as long as he could remember. As a child, he had run out to the road to watch, each and every time they roared past on their way to a fire or other emergency. He remembered one time when the trucks came to a fire at the house next door. He and Willow had sat on the porch steps and watched the firefighters and paramedics until the last man left. He’d wondered for years after that whether Willow had set the fire just so he could see the trucks up close.
The night he took her out to celebrate her graduation from UC Sunnydale at the top of her class, he got drunk and asked her. She’d looked at him, appalled, though Xander thought the look had been exaggerated by alcohol, and squealed, “Xander! I can’t believe you think I’d do something like that! I mean, you are my best friend, and I’d do anything for you, but the Davis’s lost their prize goldfish in that fire! You know...” She leaned in confidentially. “...that whole thing could have been avoided. What started out as a teeny tiny fire in the kitchen sink wouldn’t have gotten so out of control if they’d had a working smoke alarm in the kitchen.”
Xander stared at her. “How’d you know all that?”
“Read it in the paper.”
“You were seven.
“I might have overheard my mother and father talking.”
“Uh huh,” Xander replied, unconvinced.
“All right.” Willow broke down. “Mom said Mr. Davis was burning old love letters.”
“Really?” he perked up at the gossip. “From who?”
“Whom,” Willow drunkenly corrected. Xander rolled his eyes.
At the time, Mr. Davis had seemed old, but Xander now realized he’d probably only been in his mid-thirties. But it was still odd imagining him with a lover. Willow hadn’t known who it was, which meant her parents had probably realized she was there and shooed her out of the room before they continued speaking of it. Darn! Anyway, to this day, Xander still wasn’t one hundred percent certain Willow hadn’t started that fire.
He caught up to Kevin and they made their way over to the Chief as he dismissed some of the other firefighters. “What’s happening, Chief?”
“Alex,” the Chief greeted him distractedly. “I was just informing the rest of the guys...and girls,” he amended at a glare from Faith, “that we can pack it up. Carl and Toby found the fire in a storage room, and managed to put it out. Some idiot started a fire in a metal trash can. Luckily it didn’t spread, but whatever they used, it generated a lot of smoke. It’s up to the arson investigators now. All right, everyone!” He clapped his hands. “Let’s get those hoses rolled up so we can get back to the house.”
The next morning, Xander was watching cartoons with Faith when Kevin came in to tell him he had a visitor. “Looks like that blond from last night,” he added as Xander left the room. He ignored Faith’s loud “Was he cute?” and walked past the trucks to where Spike was standing on the sidewalk in front of the station. He had his back to Xander, fingers tucked into the front pockets of his jeans.
“Hey,” Xander said, and the blond whirled around.
“Hey,” he replied, and then fell silent.
“You wanted to see me?” Xander prompted.
“Oh, yeah. Wanted to thank you. For saving my life and all,” Spike said, moving nervously from foot-to-foot.
“I was just doing my job,” Xander said. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his ass against the brick.
“Right,” Spike responded, sounding a little bit disappointed to Xander’s ear.
“What in hell were you thinking?” Xander couldn’t help asking. “Going back in there for a guitar?”
Spike’s eyes narrowed. Who did this guy think he was? Sure, gorgeous. But that didn’t give him the right to treat him like an idiot. Spike conveniently forgot the fact that he’d felt like an idiot, getting overcome with smoke just steps away from the exit, and needing to be rescued.
“Are you always this judgmental?” he asked.
The brunette’s eyes widened, then narrowed to slits. “Only when it’s well-deserved,” he snapped back. “Do you have any idea how many people die because they think that some possession,” he spat the word, “is worth going back for?” He pushed away from the wall, his arms fell to his sides, hands clenched into tight fists, face flushed with anger. “I don’t care what it is—photos or family videos or little Bobby’s favorite toy—it’s not worth dying for.” He stopped speaking and the sudden silence was deafening. He got his breathing under control, and then looked a little sheepishly at Spike. “Sorry,” he said, “for blowing up at you. As you can see, I feel kinda strongly about this.”
“Really?” Spike asked with a raised eyebrow. “I hadn’t noticed.”
The other man did an eye-roll-shrug combination. “Yeah, well....”
“Besides, it wasn’t like that. Exactly.”
Spike wasn’t sure why he felt the need to defend his actions to this man, why he didn’t just say ‘adios’ and go meet up with the guys. He’d come to say ‘thanks’, and he’d done that. Sure, he’d sensed an attraction last night—and as luck would have it, the guy looked even better with the soot washed off—but that didn’t mean he had to share his life story with a fellow he’d just met.
He looked down at the sidewalk, scuffed his toe over a crack and studied it intently. Why on earth did he care what this man thought of him? He didn’t even know him. And what he did know was superficial and limited. Fireman. Pretty. Oh, yeah! And he felt very strongly about people risking their lives by running into burning buildings. Go figure.
He glanced up at the brunette and caught the other man staring intently at him. He looked embarrassed at being caught, but didn’t look away. Spike breathed deeply and took the plunge. “My mum gave me that guitar. For my thirteenth birthday.” He swallowed hard. “She worked overtime for six months to be able to afford it. She died a couple years back. ‘S all I got left of her.”
“Oh,” Xander said. “Well, that’s.... Look, I’m sorry about your mother, and I can understand why it’s so important to you, but do you think she’d want you to die for it?”
“No,” Spike was forced to admit. He gave a little laugh as he remembered his mum. “I can hear her now. She’d have torn a strip off me with the sharp edge of her tongue, then kicked my bum for good measure.”
Xander laughed at the image Spike created, which made Spike smile back. “I’m Xander,” he said, holding out his hand. “Alexander,” he clarified, “but my friends call me Xander.”
Spike knew he must have looked gobsmacked before a smile creased his face. He reached out and took Xander’s hand. “Spike,” he said as they shook.
Xander’s eyebrows rose almost without thought. “Your mum gave you that name?”
“No,” Spike admitted. “She called me William, but no one, and I mean no one,” he repeated menacingly, “calls me that and lives to tell about it.”
Xander grinned. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You do that, mate,” Spike said, grinning back. “Well,” he reluctantly added, “I should be going. Gotta meet the rest of the band at The Bronze and make sure none of our equipment got ruined by the smoke.”
“The investigators have released the scene already?” Xander asked, surprised.
“Yeah, I guess.” Spike shrugged. “Oz said they caught the git and he’s already confessed. Some pillock the owner fired recently took it a bit personally, is what I heard.”
To his dismay, Xander wasn’t shocked. Not much surprised him these days. Something Spike had said suddenly clicked. “You’re in a band?”
Spike raised one eyebrow. “You think I take Maddy with me when I go dancing?”
Xander blushed, shrugged. “Wasn’t thinking,” he admitted sheepishly. “The other guys, they had instruments....”
“Yeah, the rest of the band. There’s me, I sing lead mostly, and play some guitar, Angel on drums, Gunn on keyboard, and Oz on guitar.”
“Angel? What kind of girly name is that for a guy?” Xander froze in embarrassment. “Sorry. Man, that was so rude.”
Spike laughed. “No worries, mate. Angel is a big girl. I’ve never seen a bloke worry about his hair the way he does.”
“Even you?” Xander asked.
“Oi!” Spike ran a hand over gelled hair. He blushed, admitted, “‘M hair’s naturally curly. If I don’t gel it, I’ve got no control over it. Anyway, Angel’s not his real name, just a nickname his sister gave him. It stuck.”
“Ouch!” Xander winced. “I’d have hated to be him in school.”
“Listen, we’re playing again tomorrow night if you wanna come by and see me. Us. I meant, see us. Play. See us play.”
“The club’s reopening that quickly?”
“Yep. Oz said the owner wanted to make a statement. I figure he just didn’t want to miss out on the money. You know how many folks’ll stop in just to see what the place looks like after the fire? He’ll be rakin’ it in. I guess he’s got a platoon of people in there cleaning the place up, and even repainting some areas.” He shrugged. “I’m just glad to have the gig. So.”
“I’ve got to get going. The guys’ll wonder where I am. You know where to find m—, us, if you want.” Spike gave a little wave, turned, and walked away, his fingers tucked back into his front pockets.
Xander watched him walk down the sidewalk, jeans tight over his ass, strands of hair that the gel missed curling at the nape of his neck, and felt an electric jolt to his groin. Crap! he thought. Spike had been so cute when he was asking him to come watch him—the band—play, but Xander wasn’t sure if he was ready to start dating again.
Not that this was a date. Spike was probably just being nice, since Xander’d saved his life and all. But, it could be a date, couldn't it? If you tilted your head just so.
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