Becoming Known


by
Tisienne Blue



Part Five


Yet another window needing repairs, yet another table broken by the ‘horsing around’ of the slew of young girls in the Summers’ house… yet another reminder, as if he needed one, that the plethora of potentials left him and Dawn pretty much out of things aside from the research, and in his case, the fixing.

He’d completely meant what he’d said to Dawn a couple of months earlier… she was special simply because she wasn’t special in the way the others were.

Yeah, she was special. That didn’t mean he was, though.

Hell, even Andrew, of all people, had been useful, considering how much he was involved with the patrolling and what had happened with the Seal of Danthalazar… and okay, the guy had killed his own best friend—which sucked and made Xander worry about having him in the house at all, much less watching the girls’ backs, but…

But could he really hold that against the geek? He’d called up that singing and dancing Sweet guy, after all, and while he hadn’t known it would result in people bursting into flames, well…

Xander sighed, taking one long curl of wood from the edge of the window insert he was adjusting with the plane. His friends had forgiven him, but that didn’t mean he’d forgiven himself, and…

Still, if he’d been told that he had to kill one of his friends in order to bring Sweet forth, he never would have done it, so… yeah. He could definitely dislike Andrew. Hate him, even.

Betrayal was ugly, even when it was accidental. Deliberate betrayal… well, that deserved its own circle of Hell, and he’d be damned if he wouldn’t hold it against the guy. Not as much as he would if he’d been friends with Jonathon, but so what? He’d known him, sort of, and… he never would have done what Andrew did.

He groaned softly as he finished setting the window in its recess and fastened it securely, ignoring the sighs of relief from the girls camped out on the living room floor.

“About time, Xander. It’s not like Buffy and Kennedy won’t still have us up at the ass-crack of dawn… okay, and did that sound wrong to anyone else?”

He groaned again, this time at the fact that the damned girls were so impatient… not to mention rude. It wasn’t as though he was getting paid to fix things, after all. And he did still have a day job to work. They were lucky he even…

“You’re welcome,” he said sarcastically, putting his tools back in their box and snapping it shut. “And good night.” And how sad was it that he wasn’t even surprised that they were ignoring him now that his ‘work’ was done?

He shook his head and sat down in the dining room, staring at the laptop before finally smiling just a little and logging on to his e-mail.



From: TheXanMan
To: NotBroodingJustThinking
Subject: Strange things

Hey, Spike.

Like I said up there, things are definitely weird here now.

Not that they weren’t before, right? But everything’s getting so… fucked up. And the damned potentials are getting on my nerves. Again.

But anyway…

Did I tell you Faith’s back? Well, she is. And she’s been getting along with the girls better than Buffy ever did.

I guess it’s because Faith’s so… Faith, y’know? Hell, she took the potentials to the Bronze the other night and okay, so bad. Not so much that she did it as how Buffy found out… and reacted.

Oh, and the whole thing with the cops, but I don’t think that was really Faith’s fault. Just more Hellmouth-y hijinks and possibly the whole ‘being seen in public after escaping from prison’ thing, but… okay, I had a point, here.

Oh, right. Buffy freaking.

She definitely freaked, even though she says she was just being conscientious and stuff. And she was, but Faith was right, too.

I mean, come on, Spike. The potentials are like… half-trained at best and they’re gearing up to go to war. Most of them are probably gonna die, and they know it. So why shouldn’t they have a little fun? Decompress for once? It’s not like Buffy never took a night off before, and sure we weren’t dealing with the First then, but it was still bad stuff.

But Buffy freaked. The girls freaked that Buffy freaked. Faith freaked that Buffy doesn’t really trust her, even though she tried to play it off like she deserves that distrust… and maybe she does in some ways. She tried to kill Buffy, after all, and me too, but…

Arrgh. Sorry. I’m getting confused myself. God knows what crazy vamp-man’s thinking, right? Other than ‘bloody Harris has lost his mind too’. LOL

Maybe I have, though. Lost it, I mean.

You know I’m just the human of the bunch, Spike, but… I keep getting this feeling like… like something’s coming. And not just the First. Something else. Something worse, maybe.

Not worse in general, but worse for us-- the original Scoobies. Like we’re… I don’t know.

That’s the sad part. I really don’t know but it’s like some sort of itch under my skin, behind my eyes.

Okay. Moving on again.

The Dawnster’s doing okay. She says to tell you hi and wants you to send her one of whatever the hell Pennsylvania’s famous for. Oh, and she said to remind you that that does not means she wants you to mail her a dead minuteman or patriot or whatever. LOL

The town’s getting more and more deserted so the High School’s closed for now. But don’t worry. Dawny’s doing plenty of studying and stuff. She’s like… the Research Queen these days. Almost reminds me of Willow, way back when-- except, you know… taller. And bitchier, which I blame on a certain bleached blond vampire she used to visit at his crypt. And not all scary with the magic. LOL

Oh, and Andrew’s been asking about you. I think someone told him we’ve been talking like this. Don’t worry, though. I didn’t tell him anything. Just that you’re still not dust.

I don’t trust him, Spike. Maybe I should, but I just don’t, and I know I’m one of the few. Hell, Giles and Wood seem to trust him just fine.

Speaking of Giles, he’s gone again and no one knows where. Or so they say. I’m not sure they’re telling me the truth. Or Wood isn’t, anyway.

After all this time in Sunnydale, I can sorta feel it when someone’s lying to me, and I just get that big-fat-liar-guy vibe from him lately. Um, not that he’s fat or anything because he’s not, but he’s definitely big all over. Like he’s spent his whole life training for… something. Pretty much like he was when you left.

Shit, Spike, I’m worried. Wood’s been getting more and more fixated on you, and… and Giles is missing and Andrew’s been trying to find out where you are, and…

Fuck, just be careful, okay? I’m not sure I could stand it if anything happened to you.

You’re the one who got out, Spike. You’re the one who managed to escape this fucking town. You…

I need you to go on existing. There needs to be someone out there to tell the tale.

Okay, and that sounds like I’m expecting to die or something, right? But I’m not. I just… shit, Spike.

Just watch your back, okay?

Talk to you later, buddy. Take care.

Xander

(P.S. I know you said they suck, but the pictures you took? Man, I had to save them to Willow’s hard drive. Don’t worry, I told her I found them while I was surfing the net. Anyway, she loved them. Wanted to know if I could find the site they’re from again but I told her no. She’s got the one of the gray kitten eating the bleeding mouse in the white snow up as her desktop right now. Says it’s ‘representative of the duality of innocence’, whatever that means. LOL

I just thought it was cool. Sweet little cat doing what comes naturally. Nothing wrong with that, and what can I say? Eating the mouse doesn’t make the kitten any less beautiful, right? Just more… itself.

And if you ever tell anyone I just called a cat beautiful… or sweet, I might have to stake you myself. LOL

Anyway, keep taking pictures. You’re getting really good. ~X.)


He felt so much lighter after sending his letter that he couldn’t help smiling. Then again, he usually found himself smiling these days when he even thought about the blond.

He was glad the souled vampire was doing well, and even more glad that the ‘episodes’, as Spike called them, seemed to be pretty much gone, along with some of the depression that had seemed to be swamping the much older man.

It was good that Spike had gotten out of Sunnydale; good that he’d found somewhere to be.

And if Xander missed him more now than he’d ever thought possible, well… he’d blame it on jealousy. Jealousy that he hadn’t escaped, himself… and possibly a good bit of regret that he hadn’t gone with the blond, although he’d never admit that—even silently.

Then again, he hadn’t been invited, and wasn’t it too bizarre that he truly wished he had been.





Part Six

He was downloading the latest pictures from his digital camera onto his computer when the tiny ding sounded announcing new e-mail and Spike grinned for a moment before frowning. Only three people had his e-mail address—Peaches, Clem and Xander—and the first had never used it, while Clem…

Spike glanced at the clock on his kitchen wall quickly.

Clem wouldn’t be writing this time of night. Not on poker night, anyway, so it had to be Xander, but… the bloke had just written a few days earlier and he hadn’t had the chance to get back to him, and yet… if he was right, Harris was writing again before Spike had even replied.

“What th’ bloody hell?” he murmured with a frown as his pictures finished transferring and he settled down to read… and write.



From: NotBroodingJustThinking
To: TheXanMan
Subject: Re: Strange things

Bloody hell, mate! Speaking of freaking people out, you’re doing it to me right now!

What do you mean I’m ‘the one that got out’? And yeah, it does sound like you think you’re going to die!

Bloody fucking hell!

Don’t rightly care that the dark Slayer’s back, do I? Never met the bint, aside from that time she was wearing Buffy’s body and that was just bloody well disturbing! Not to mention probably what made me think about doing anything but killing her in the first place! Meaning Buffy.

Glad the Bit’s doing well, of course, but bloody fucking HELL, Xander!

Worried about you, aren’t I? And maybe I don’t have any right to be, what with us not being friends before I left, but after all this time of writing back and forth, we are now! Or at least to me, we are!

And you’re sitting there telling me you ‘feel something coming’? Something that could hurt you?

Fuck that, pet! Fuck staying there and following Buffy and the other one to your death! You are a ‘regular human’, Xander. And there are how many bloody Potentials there now?

Don’t have many friends, Xan. Don’t want to lose you, do I? Think you might be the only one to even begin to understand who I am these days. God knows sodding Angelus doesn’t. Hell, that bastard doesn’t even care to find out, does he? And Dru… well, I’m well shut of that one, aren’t I? If I never have to join in another bloody tea party, it’ll be too sodding soon.

And yet there you are, telling me to watch my back? Watch your back, pet! Watch your back, your front, your bloody sides, for that matter! Not going to be a happy bloke if you make me punish you for letting yourself get hurt!

As for Wood… or the Watcher…? Not to worry, Xan.

Blokes come after me, they’ll have long enough to remember that I don’t have a sodding chip in my noggin anymore. Or am I reading something into your words that isn’t there? Well, if that is what you meant, then…

Might have a soul now, but even humans admit that self defense is a good enough reason to kill someone. But seein’ as I know how much the Watcher means to you, I won’t do more than punish him a bit and send him on his way. You know, mate… after whatever time he needs in hospital.

Wood, on the other hand, will have to hope I’m in a bloody good mood, yeah? Sodding pillock.

Need you to promise me something, Xander. Promise me you won’t go throwing yourself into something you’re not prepared to handle.

I’m not saying you’re incompetent, mate. Never going to say that again. And I don’t know if it helps any, but even when I did say that, it was just to hurt you. Always knew you were the heart of the bloody Scooby gang, and… take out the heart, the rest doesn’t matter, yeah?

I’m not kidding, pet. Don’t get yourself into something you can’t get out of.

Know you can kick some serious ass, Xan. Seen you do it, haven’t I?

And bloody hell, you faced off against Angelus and made him back down, so you know you’ve got stones of steel! And I know it too, mate.

Just don’t let those stones lead you, yeah?

Somebody once said ‘discretion is the better part of valour’. Don’t recall who it was at the moment, but somebody bloody well said it.

Listen to them, mate.

Bloody hell, Xan. I’m going to be worrying about you until you write me back and say you’re going to be careful!

Uh… regards to everyone who deserves them-- not that Andrew git! And I suppose you can tell Red it’s my piccy. Glad she likes it, and I have no sodding clue of what she means by that ‘innocence’ thing either.

Write the fuck back soon, tosser!

Spike


It was morning before Xander realized just how despairing and hopeless his e-mail had sounded, and even then he only knew because of the dreams he’d had before waking.

Dreams of Spike suddenly tearing up what roots he’d managed to set down in Philadelphia to return to the Hellmouth, risking losing his mind completely if the First realized he was there… dreams of the blond vampire somehow going up in flames, becoming dust forever… dreams of his own gut-wrenching sorrow if that happened.

Thus it was that Xander found himself leaping out of bed and running up from the basement, shirt hiked around his ribs as his fingers tried desperately to fasten his jeans before he reached the door to the kitchen.

Fortunately, he managed it and as he burst through the room he ignored the snide remarks of the ‘potentials’, focused entirely on one goal—to reach the laptop and send another e-mail. This time, apologizing for the tone of the last.

He found himself sighing softly as he opened his mail and saw the message waiting for him. Then he opened it and while a part of his mind was beating him up for worrying Spike, the rest of him was nearly giddy from the obvious concern in the vampire’s reply, although he had no idea of why.

He read the words once, then again… and finally one more time before clicking the ‘reply’ tab with a huge grin on his face, although he would have denied it if anyone had commented on it.



From: TheXanMan
To: NotBroodingJustThinking
Subject: Re: Re: Strange things

Hey, buddy.

Sorry if I freaked you out, okay?

It was just… a bad, bad night, y’know?

Don’t worry, Spike.

I’m starting to think that maybe I’m stressing too much. Everything’s been making me antsy lately. Maybe that’s why I said all that last night.

Look, I did mean that you need to be careful, okay? I… God, you know I love Giles. He was like the Dad I never had when I was younger. But I don’t think he’s the same guy now, Spike. I think he’s been through so much that he’s gotten kinda… hard.

Watch yourself, buddy. With him missing and everyone playing at being all clueless, he could be anywhere.

And I know you can take care of yourself. I’m not saying you can’t, okay? Just like you said to me, right?

Shit, Spike. It feels so wrong to say that I don’t trust Giles anymore, but I don’t! It’s like… Buffy doesn’t really need him anymore so he’s trying to prove something.

Look, it’s early here and I’m coffee deprived, not to mention I haven’t had my morning pop tart yet, so if I’m not making sense, that’s why.

Anyway, I’m fine. Not planning on dying any time soon.

Oh, and I’ll let Wills know about the picture. And describe the look on her face in detail next time I write.

Fuck, I miss you, buddy. WAY too much estrogen in this house. And I’m including Andrew in the estrogen brigade. LOL

Talk to you later…

Xander


Yeah, that would do, he told himself, waiting in front of the computer for the sounds of far too many teenaged girls to fade from the kitchen before getting up to obtain the aforementioned coffee and hot, tasty toaster pastry.

Hopefully his response would calm the souled and still kind of insane vampire. The last thing he wanted to do was upset the blond any further.





Part Seven

On his better, more sane days, Spike had to admit that his friend had apparently been telling the truth. After all, it had been three weeks since the bloke had said he wasn’t planning on dying any time soon. Hell, the e-mails he’d gotten in that time had been almost mundane in content. Or as mundane as letters from a guy in the middle of the Slayer’s Circle could be, anyway.

On his worse days—the days he found himself sitting in the corner of his living room, fingers plucking distractedly at the edge of the rug until long, crimped strands of wool came free—the vampire found himself wondering whether the human was simply telling him what he thought Spike wanted to hear.

Fortunately, those ‘bad days’ had been coming less and less often, going from three or so days a week to perhaps one.

It was… nice, Spike told himself, to wake up in his own bed more often than not, rather than curled in that corner shuddering from whatever disturbing thoughts plagued him during those times. Even better that he could define his bad days as ones where he was conscious and depressed rather than losing still more time.

He couldn’t be sure, but he thought… maybe he was getting better. Of course, only time would tell.

He’d taken a few more pictures lately, mostly of the old and dispossessed humans downtown, fighting the elements and the harsh winter the only way they knew how—with boxes on vents and hopeful gazes at the people passing by. It never ceased to amaze him that the survival instinct was so very strong. Even with the dreariness of their existence, those people… oh, they still found joys and pleasures in life, small as they might be. And if the money he gave them for the gift of capturing them digitally helped them do that even a little, then his soul was satisfied. Or as satisfied as it could be without somehow saving them all.

He figured he was lucky that the soul understood the impossibility of rescuing every lost or displaced person he came across. Then again, there had been no lack of homeless people when he’d been human, although that particular PC term hadn’t been in use in those days. Still, the soul seemed to remember that things had been even worse back then. At least now there were missions and government aid available, though the programs in place were far from ideal.

The vampire sighed softly and pulled a bag of blood from the refrigerator then submerged it in the smallish pot of warm water on the stove. He was very pleased with the way his latest series of photographs had come out, but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel for the people in them, regardless of how the demon railed against that same sympathy.

He puttered about for a while, waiting as the cold blood absorbed the heat of the water, then cut into the bag with a small knife and emptied the rich, thick fluid into the Star Trek mug he’d bought on a whim because it reminded him of Xander.

He couldn’t help smiling as he sipped, thinking about the young human who had truly become his closest friend. And how odd was it that leaving Sunnydale had been the catalyst to bringing him and Xander closer together? Emotionally, if not physically.

Not that Spike would ever admit to wanting physical closeness with the man. Well, not unless Xander admitted it first, and even then… with a whole country between them, what were the odds, even if Xander suddenly decided he was… but he wasn’t, and he knew it.

Still, just thinking about the brunette had Spike crossing the room, mug still in hand as he turned on his computer and sat down to write. He had a lot to tell his friend, after all.



From: NotBroodingJustThinking
To: TheXanMan
Subject: More bloody snow

Hey, mate, how’s it going with the Girl Scouts?

Yeah, yeah. Know they’re not quite that. Still, it’s funny to call them that. For me, anyway, and that’s what counts, right? Bet they’re going all nuts trying to earn merit badges and whatnot from the Slayers that Be, yeah?

It’s snowing again, Xander. Those big, fluffy flakes, you know? Falling thick and white, scattering the ground like dandelions gone to seed and blown on by a million kids intent on spreading their joy.

The flakes lower themselves gently over the drifts already there, covering the gray ice and rock with an oh-so-innocent blanket of purity.

Breaks my heart to see it sometimes, pet. Reminds me of… things best forgotten, I think.

Ah, sorry, Xan. Daytime here and I’m feeling a bit trapped, aren’t I?

Bloody hell, this might sound crazier than usual, but I want to be out there! Want to run through the streets and feel the snow hitting my face, feel it crunch under my feet… feel real. Human, maybe.

I don’t know, mate. I just want… something.

Could go out, I suppose. Clouds and such are thick enough. But… bloody hell, Xan, I’m so bleeding tired of being cold and I’m cold all the time!

Should have found a flat with a fireplace, right?

Anyway, pet, things are going pretty good here. Started a new series of piccys; might have to send some once I download from the camera. A good bit different from the last ones, but I think… I think they might be pretty good, mate.

Never stops shocking me how much humans ignore the people they’re not closely connected with, you know? See a bloke sitting on a corner in a sodding sweatshirt—and it’s bloody ten below!—and just walk on by. Don’t make eye contact. Like there’s nobody even there.

It’s like you people don’t understand that you’re all connected; just by virtue of your shared biology.

Don’t mean ‘you people’ like you, pet. More like… humans in general.

Stuns me that so many of you lot can be so cold.

Hell, Xan, before the soul I would have taken that freezing bloke into an alley and drained him dry just to spare him the freezing to death. And yeah, would have been a meal in it for me, but I was evil, right? Now, I can’t even offer him that dubious comfort.

Bloody hell. Sorry again. Guess I’m just depressed by this sodding endless winter.

They say it’ll end in another month or two. Not sure I’m buying that, though. Feels like it’s been going on for eternity and every time it starts to let up, it just gets worse again.

You know, I remember hearing you lot wonder why my kind tend to gravitate towards warm and sunny places. Seems we’d try to avoid places with a lot of sun, yeah?

It’s because of the cold, Xander. It reminds us that we’re cold ourselves. Dead, though we still move.

Being somewhere warm lets us forget that we’re an unclean and perverse race of abominations. Or maybe that’s just me with this disturbing, irritating, gut-wrenching… wonderful, beautiful, treasured soul.

Fuck, Xander, things were so much easier when I was just another vampire. I didn’t have all these sodding thoughts. I just… went on and did what vampires do.

I hunted, fed, killed… enjoyed the lack of conscience, you know?

But then that chip in my noggin…

Think that was the beginning of the end, pet.

Got to know you lot. Started to care!

Like farm children naming the livestock and not being able to kill their ‘pets’, I was.

And then the soul.

Know you humans can do bloody horrible things, even with your souls. Seen it, haven’t I? Hitler. Pol-Pot. Manson. Jeffrey-bloody-Dahmer.

Already did my ‘horrible things’, didn’t I? Did them over and over; just for fun. Loved it, I did.

But that was then, pet, and this… isn’t.

Guess what I’m trying to say, Xan, is…

I’m not sorry.

Not sorry I got this soul back. Not sorry I got to know you and the rest. Not sorry I left, either. Had to, didn’t I? Couldn’t stand it if I’d stayed and ended up hurting you, pet.

And I’m not sorry I did all the terrible things I did, as strange as that must sound.

Needed to do all those things in order to get here, didn’t I?

Could never have gotten to this place, to being this… man, I suppose… if I hadn’t.

And even with the sometimes-crazy, Xan… think I like being this me.

Bloody hell, just realized how I’ve been rambling, pet. Sorry about that.

I’ll just end this short and sweet, mate.

Miss you, Xander. Wish I could be there to help with the fight, but we both know that’d be a huge bloody mistake, yeah?

Hope things work out there; you know I do. And… bloody hell, pet, hope to see you once it’s all done, and… shit.

Take care of yourself, mate. And watch your back, yeah?

Talk to you soon, I hope. Unless this long sodding view into my psyche has put you off. Didn’t the last time, but who can say?

Spike


He couldn’t quite make himself regret sending the e-mail, even though it had exposed him yet again.

He’d more or less acknowledged—to himself, anyway—that the human was possibly more important to him than anything else.

Still, Spike forced the small part of his mind that insisted he’d opened up again because of a reckless hope that Xander might care in the same manner… away.

He was still a vampire, after all, and while Xander Harris might be willing to be his friend while they were thousands of miles apart, that didn’t mean the bloke would ever even entertain the notion of anything more.

Fortunately, his soul understood that, even if his demon was snarling at the injustice of it all, and wasn’t that just oddly fitting.





Part Eight



From: TheXanMan
To: NotBroodingJustThinking
Subject: FUCK!

FUCK!

I know I said that before, but what the fuck is she thinking?

FUCK!

Like I’m gonna just say ‘oh, okay… I’ll run away so you and the rest of the super-girls can save the world… with Andrew and Deadboy!’? Yeah, Deadboy, because fucking Angel’s here too, which makes me even more useless, apparently.

Well, shit. I guess I will run away, but only because....

She wants me to snatch Dawn, Spike.

Wants me to drug her and get her the Hell out of Sunnydale.

Can’t say I blame her, really; especially not after the sad waste of space—also known as Andrew—got his eye put out by… some guy I don’t get to know about, during some mission I was left out of.

Everyone’s all sorry and stuff, and he’s milking it for all it’s worth, so I guess I should trust him now, huh?

But I don’t. Not with my girls, not with anything more than a pot holder, and definitely not with where you are, buddy. I wouldn’t do that to you. I couldn’t.

Anyway, Buffy wants Dawn OUT OF HERE before she and the others die. And she wants me to make it happen.

‘Take her somewhere safe’, she said, and ‘look after her like she was your sister.’

Shit.

I know this is asking too much, but I can’t think of anywhere she’d be safer than with you, Spike.

I… we… need to leave tonight, but we’re driving. Six days until we’re there. Or maybe less. Depends on how Dawn reacts, right?

Maybe you could steam-clean your couch so Dawny doesn’t catch anything?

Yes. That was a joke. LOL

So we’re driving.

I’ll try to keep in touch.

And don’t worry, Spike. I’ll find a room somewhere nearby.

You’ll be able to give Dawn as much time as she needs; as much time as you want. I won’t go all protect-o guy on you. I… Hell, I trust you, Spike.

Fuck, I hope you don’t regret giving me your address.

A the risk of sounding very Princess Leia—and I know you’re smirking; you can stop now… you’re our only hope. Or Dawn’s, anyway.

We’re out of here soon, so… see you later. Feel free to send us packing.

Xander


He sent the letter off, then peeked carefully into the kitchen, heaving a soft sigh when he saw Dawn still absorbed in whatever it was Willow and Kennedy were saying to her.

It still made him cringe to think of his best friend being involved with the bitch of a Potential; especially since he’d always thought Willow was smarter than to fall for Kennedy’s line of crap.

Then again, Willow was lonely. Willow had been lonely, ever since Tara… died. And he didn’t have the right to begrudge her whatever comfort she took in the annoyingly confrontational girl. He never would have given his…

And suddenly it all made sense.

Willow was with Kennedy because the girl was sort of cute and kept her occupied. Kept her from feeling entirely alone. And also because… he was fairly sure, anyway… because Willow knew she’d never love the girl.

Add in the whole apocalypse thing, and… why shouldn’t Willow grab at some pleasure?

A frown crossed his lips regardless of his thoughts as he saw the girl’s possessive hand rest on Willow’s lower back; then he sighed again.

Willow would have to handle her own tragic mistake. He had work to do.


~*~*~*~*~


Two hours later, Xander finished packing his own things and crept out to his car, somehow managing to fit the two bags and Spike’s old pillow into the trunk with the folded and suitcased contents of Dawn’s closet and dresser. He’d been afraid to pack her hairbrush and makeup, simply because she’d notice them missing if she went up to her room for some reason.

He went back inside and made his way to the kitchen, ignoring the potentials as he started a bag of microwave popcorn.

It was possibly due to their eyes on him that Buffy’s voice came as such a surprise.

He jumped a bit, nearly banging his head on the cupboard above the counter, then let out one self-mocking laugh. “Sorry, Buff. Warn a guy, next time.”

He saw her eyes dart from him to Dawn, then back and he sighed silently. It was time.

“Did you remember to pick up the dry cleaning and the groceries, Xan?” he heard her say, and while a part of him was rebelling against what he’d promised to do, the rest of him accepted it. It was what Buffy needed, and he’d do it. He always had.

“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled, trying to sound playful, “One pack horse heading to the car. Any of you lovely ladies want to give a guy a hand?”

Unsurprisingly, none of the potentials offered their services, which was just par for the course, he figured. They didn’t even know what was going on, but they still didn’t offer. “Dawny?” he asked with an arched brow.

He almost laughed when she rolled her eyes.

“Fine,” she said, “but I am so gonna deserve popcorn, Xan. No hogging it this time.”

He did laugh then.

“For your kind assistance, milady,” he announced, following her down the hall to the front door, “it will be my pleasure to give you… your own bag!”

Dawn was still laughing at his incredibly bad Renaissance Faire accent when he pulled the syringe from his pocket and popped the protective cap from it.

“Hey, Xander,” she said confusedly as she leaned down, looking into the back seat of the car, “I don’t see any HEY!”

Brown eyes apologized even as the girl staggered a bit and Xander took her arm, holding her up while he opened the passenger side door and maneuvered her gently inside. “I’m sorry, Dawn… but Buffy thinks this is for the best.”

With that, he strapped her in and closed the door, locking it carefully before stalking back into the house for her toiletries and to check his e-mail one more time. He wanted to be on the road before the sun finished setting, after all.

“Guess it’s about that time,” he said, giving Buffy a small grin and entirely ignoring the vampire looming beyond her shoulder. “We’ll be…”

“Doing recon. Yeah. I know you can handle it, Xan. So… good luck.”

Right… wouldn’t want to get all emotional. “Thanks,” he said and turned, refusing to look back even as he pulled away from the house and started for the town limits.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander… Xander was coming to Philadelphia and he was bringing the Bit!

Spike wondered for a moment whether Buffy had any idea of the bloke’s plans, but swiftly pushed that thought away. It didn’t matter, he decided. If she didn’t know, Xander would tell her eventually; and if she did know, then she didn’t mind, and… either of those possibilities was fine with him.

He looked around his flat, taking in the empty beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays, then groaned. “Bloody hell. Not the sort of place for him… or a young chit. Right. Need ta get this crap cleaned up, don’t I?”

But first… first, he needed to let Xander know just how welcome he and Dawn were, and that was simple enough.



From: NotBroodingJustThinking
To: TheXanMan
Subject: Re: FUCK!

Xander,

Slayer’s right, mate.

Best to get the Nibblet out of there, yeah? Won’t have to be divided during the fight, worrying about little sis, and who’s better to look after her than you?

Always been the most reliable one, haven’t you, Xan? I know it. Buffy knows it, too.

Who else would she trust with Dawn, pet? Red? After all her issues with magic? Don’t make me bloody laugh.

The rest… this fight is what they do, Xan. All they can do. Can’t picture Giles or the rest trying to keep the girl safe, not when she doesn’t matter as much to them as winning does.

But you’re different, mate. You know the world is made up of people, and you care for the Bit enough to watch over her and protect her while the others deal with the big ugly mess that’s coming.

Bring her here, pet. Plenty of room for the both of you.

Not sure how much good I’ll be for protecting her, but I’ll do my best, yeah?

Hope you get this before you leave. If not, maybe you’ll manage to check your mail on the road.

If you need anything—and I mean anything, Xan—you let me know.

Drive safe and tell the Bit I’m looking forward to seeing you. Both of you. Even for the reason you’re coming, I… bloody hell, luv, it’ll be good to see you.

Spike


“Right, then,” he murmured quietly, “time ta find a service ta fancy this place up.”




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