Becoming Known


by
Tisienne Blue



Part Twenty-Nine

The only good thing, as far as the heavyset man at the bar was concerned, was that while two of his lackeys were gone forever, the third had confirmed that the young brunette man had been as good as dead before the blond had shown up from out of nowhere. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he’d only have to pay the one guy now instead of the original three.

So yeah, things were working out just fine. He was going to get his money, and without spending anything like what he’d originally expected to.

He made one call from the pay phone back by the bathrooms—‘sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but Alexander Harris died in a mugging late last night. Yes, it’s really a shame. Me? Oh, I’m family…’—and he told his story, sure that it would help when he filed to collect the insurance on the useless kid… then returned to his spot at the bar.

“A round for the house,” he declared generously with a broad gesture as he slammed back his fifth shot of whiskey, “and a double for me. I’ve earned it.”

He didn’t notice the disgusted look on the bartender’s face… or the arched eyebrow of the one and only other customer in the place at that time of day. And he certainly didn’t feel anything strange through the alcoholic haze… nothing that might possibly be interpreted as someone rifling through his mind, which he possibly would have noticed had he been sober.

Or maybe not. After all, no one had ever called any of the Harris clan—with the possible exception of the undoubtedly dead young man—observant.


~*~*~*~*~


“Hey, Bailey… just calling to let you know I’m at Kent’s. The ‘Uncles’ needed some ‘alone time’. I guess you’re out with your Mom or something, so… have fun and if you want to call me when you get back, you have the number. Bye…”

It was only because of the very early morning phone call from Xander hours earlier that Dawn was so calm, and while she truly wanted nothing more than to run up to her apartment and see for herself that her big-brother-figure was truly alive and well, he’d sounded completely exhausted and wrung out. All he’d said, though, was that he was fine but hadn’t been and that Spike had somehow saved him.

Dawn wasn’t quite sure of what to make of that, but buried beneath the weariness in Xander’s voice, she’d heard an emotion she remembered very well from all their time in Sunnydale, though she hadn’t heard it so much since they’d gotten to Philadelphia.

Embarrassment was what she’d recognized. Whatever had happened, Xander was embarrassed about it, so maybe… well, she figured he’d probably gotten mugged on the way to the ATM and she was already making plans to tease him about losing his Hellmouth wariness.

In the meantime, however, she was just glad that he was home and sounded fine, aside from the obvious need for more sleep.

A small frown crossed her lips and she leaned back on Kent’s couch, tossing the magazine she’d been flipping halfheartedly through onto the floor.

“Hey, Kent…?” she called out, her head dropping back as she stared at the ceiling, “I’m bored. Amuse me!”

The redhead couldn’t keep himself from laughing as he strolled into his living room from the kitchen, bottle of water in hand. “You know, Dawny, I think you’ve been spending too much time with Will. You’re starting to sound like him.”

Dawn snorted softly. “Oh, har-dee-har-har. I so don’t have an English accent. Or say ‘bloody’ every fifth word. Come on, Kent, I’m really bored. There’s not even anything good on Showtime now!”

One hand pressed to his chest as Kent gave the girl a horrified look. “Oh, Heaven help us all! Nothing good on Showtime?” He grinned. “Tell you what, honey. You just call those protectors of yours and make sure everything’s okay at home. Then if you feel like it, you can come to a late lunch with me and meet some of my friends, hmmm?”

The girl blushed slightly. “I wasn’t fooling you at all, huh?”

A small laugh. “Sweetie… being worried about your family isn’t something to be ashamed of. Call. Then lunch.” Kent grinned again, bigger this time. “I really think you’ll like the Diner.”

Well, of course she would, Dawn told herself. Aside from the dump, she’d liked everywhere Kent had taken her so far.

“Cool. Five minutes, okay?”

Grey eyes smiled as Kent nodded. “Take your time, Dawny. There’s no rush.” And there really wasn’t, although he had a feeling the girl was going to be a rather big shock to his friends… all of them. She was far more intelligent at her age than most of them were even now.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander hung up the phone with a small smile before finishing his journey to the kitchen and retrieving juice for himself and a carefully heated mug of cow-and-Xan for Spike.

His steps lagged slightly as he retraced his earlier path from the bedroom, teeth nipping lightly at his own bottom lip.

He’d almost died.

He got that part. He did.

But Spike had somehow known he was in trouble and had found him. And then the vampire had done… something… that had saved him. Healed him. Fixed it all.

Xander couldn’t be a hundred percent sure, but… he figured that Spike expected him to be upset about it; either because of the forced sex aspect, which had turned out pretty well, actually, or for some other reason that the vampire hadn’t chosen to share yet.

Either way, he needed to know what was going on.

It was his right, Xander figured. After all, if Spike had done something—which he clearly had—to change him enough that he didn’t even have anything but minor scars from being stabbed and nearly dying, well…

Thus it was that Xander was looking entirely grim when he walked into the bedroom again… stark naked or not.

“Tell me,” he said firmly as he sipped his juice and perched on the edge of the bed gingerly, his ass still tender from earlier. “Spike… you know I trust you. Love you. But I need you to tell me what happened last night. Before all the… s-sex involving my ass.” He blushed.

The blond sighed softly and accepted the mug his beloved was offering.

“You don’t recall?” He smirked softly, trying to play it off. “Right, then. You came back from th’ bank and begged me ta take you, luv, and what was a desperately-horny-for-your-hot-ass vamp ta do, other than say yes and get on with it?”

Spike sighed silently. Can’t tell you the truth, luv… not yet. Goin’ ta take you a while to be ready ta know that I own you now. Can’t tell you I killed th’ bloody fuckers what tried ta kill you… can’t tell you that th’ soul was just as happy as th’ demon ta make them end…

“Why?” Xander asked softly, finishing the juice and dropping the glass without care on the rug. “Why, Spike?”

The blond shrugged. “How th’ bloody fuck should I know? Just what you said, pet…”

Brown eyes closed for a moment as Xander prayed for guidance.

“No,” he answered as he crawled up the pale, toned body of his lover and pulled the nearly empty mug from unresisting fingers, “I mean… why can’t you tell me the truth, Spike?” The mug found a spot on the table beside the bed. “What makes you think I’ll hate you if you tell me that you killed the guys who attacked me?”

He gazed into fearful but unrepentant eyes for a shuttered moment before going on.

“Spike,” Xander said softly, “Do you really believe that I’d do any less if it was you who’d been attacked? Because… human, here. I have a soul, too.” His eyes hardened, his face taking on a sharp, vicious cast. “I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second if anyone hurt you or Dawn. I would kill them so dead their graves would be vibrating from the memory of the beating, alone.”

Spike found himself swallowing hard. “I… how did you… you couldn’t know what I was… I only thought that an’ th’ Claimin’s fresh! Only way you could know what I was thinkin’ is if we’d been sharin’ blood before, an’ we haven’t!”

It took less than a second of staring into those wide, gold-flecked blue eyes to make Xander come clean.

“Um… there might be something you should know about the blood you’ve been drinking, baby…” He blushed, tensing for the reaction.


~*~*~*~*~


Bailey was acting weird.

She really was.

In fact, Bailey was acting more than weird and Dawn didn’t know why.

Okay, so she hadn’t known the girl for years and years or anything, but they’d told each other things that Dawn had thought were so personal and private that they could literally tell each other everything now, and yet…

“Come on, Bails… I know there’s something bugging you,” she said while Kent entertained DeeDee in the kitchen. “Just say it, okay?” And try as she might, Dawn couldn’t remember her friend ever looking so freaked out. “Trust me, Bails,” she added, “I’ve heard just about everything!”

Bailey shivered slightly, even as she tried to hold herself together. Finally she spoke, her voice more a whimper than anything else.

“I… I think I’m going insane,” she whispered.

Her eyes closed as she reached out one hand, wrapping her fingers around Dawn’s slightly larger ones.

“I… yesterday,” Bailey muttered, “I was fine, you know? Just shopping. I mean, what else would I be doing on a weekend? And okay, sure it was just window shopping, but still…”

She swallowed hard, debating how much to tell her best friend before finally deciding to just say it.

“I was standing in front of that window. You know, the one that’s so… skanky. And then all of a sudden, I felt… something.”

She forced herself to meet curious eyes. “I don’t know what it was, okay? But later… I mean, it was early but it was still dark out, y’know? And I had cramps. But not like… period ones. It was… different,” Bailey blushed.

“Then I sort of… I couldn’t help it, Dawn! I swear! I felt this pull that dragged me to an alley I’d never go down alone and there was this girl sucking on some guy’s neck and I thought I’d just… interrupted them but…” Bailey paled even more than was normal for her.

“When he looked at me, his eyes were so… desperate. And then I realized that she had her hand over his mouth, and…”

Bailey sobbed softly, turning away from her friend. “I know this sounds crazy, but… I fought with her! She was like… twice my size, and what the hell was a hot guy like that doing with her in the first place, but… I fought her, Dawn! And I never even studied how to fight but I won and there was a piece of crate nearby and I stuck it into her chest and I… and I won, and…”

Dawn found herself blinking as Bailey’s voice trailed off. “And she turned to dust,” she supplied sadly. “The woman you were fighting turned to dust and just… blew away, right?”

Wide eyes became even wider as Bailey realized what her best friend had just said. “How… how did you know?” she demanded, unsure of whether she really had gone insane, all of a sudden.

The taller, darker girl swallowed hard and bit her lip. “I… I guess I should maybe tell you the rest of the truth about Sunnydale now… and Buffy. Because you’re not going nuts, Bailey. Or… not in the bad way.”

And if there was a tiny tear forming in the corner of Dawn’s eye at the sudden proof of her sister’s death, well… at least she really knew now, right?

“It’s like this, Bails…”





Part Thirty

It wasn’t that Spike hadn’t been paying attention during the Bit’s little charm-induced bout of spewing venom—or after it, for that matter, but… so much had happened so quickly that he’d pushed it to the back of his mind.

He still couldn’t believe that Xander—finally his Xander for real and certain true, now—had been spiking his blood with type Xan-positive for ages and he hadn’t even noticed. Couldn’t quite manage to wrap his brain around the fact that his boy hadn’t freaked or run or hated him for doing what he’d needed to, either.

And yet here he was, just two days later, and… he was completely certain that he’d never been so happy in his entire existence.

He’d be happier still when Xander got home from work, though, and how fucking not romantic was it that the bloke had even gone to work so soon after they’d…

“Soundin’ like a bloody chit, I am,” he grumbled disgustedly to himself. “Not like we ran off ta Vegas and got hitched or anythin’, but he could have taken just a few bloody days off, right? Almost soddin’ died! Should have thought that maybe I’d like ta keep him home and make sure he’s all better, shouldn’t he?”

More like keep him home and shag him through the mattress, the demon supplied, and Spike couldn’t help barking out a laugh when the soul agreed.

Still, it wouldn’t be long until the bloke got home, anyway. It was a half-day for the schools, so there was no need to meet Dawn. The Bit had told them the day before that she’d be going to her little friend’s place for some ‘girl-time’ with the chit in question, her Mum, and Kent, of all people.

Spike growled softly, still a bit angry with the redhead for giving Nibblet that sodding evil bracelet, but then again, how would the man have known? Wasn’t anything even slightly supernatural about him, aside from being a fairy—in that he was gay, not that he had little wings… which he didn’t.

“Bloody hell. Startin’ ta think like my boy, even.” And wasn’t that a frightening thing?

Well, no. Not really. Just meant the Claim had worked, didn’t it? But he needed to figure out how to block their connection a bit, and soon.

There were things rattling around in his brain that would likely scare his love, after all, and that would never do.

Like the full truth of what had happened with Dawn while his Xan had been out getting himself stabbed and nearly dead.

It was while he was growling at the very memory that the Bit’s words came back to him. The words that had bothered him so much that night… before he’d felt Xander’s pain.

‘I guess you’d have kept writing til you started getting your e-mails back as undeliverable, huh? Or at least that’s what… Willow… told me happened, before… everything,’ she’d said… and hadn’t Xan been e-mailing Red’s account since he’d gotten to Spike’s—their—place, at the very least? And yet, no returned e-mails.

His brow furrowed even as he pressed his lips together, thinking hard.

Alright. It was Red, after all. Chances were, she’d set up her account with a good chunk of change, just so she wouldn’t be bothered with monthly bills and such. That could explain it. Might could be her credit just hadn’t run out yet.

Or…

Or maybe his bloke was writing to the wrong address. He doubted Xander had e-mailed with the witch much back in the one-club town that had been, so yeah. Might have remembered it wrong or… something.

Spike hoped so, anyway, because the only other option was just too… too cruel to believe—unless you were a vampire with both a demon and a soul, and well over a hundred years of seeing human nature under your belt.

The notion of his love’s friends simply abandoning the young man and the Bit had Spike growling so low it was more of a vibration than anything else, and maybe that was why he didn’t hear Xander’s uneven and nearly shambling footsteps until the young man had actually gotten the front door open and practically fell inside.


~*~*~*~*~


“Heeeeey, Spiiiiike,” Xander drawled, only the small table near the doorway holding him up, “Whaaaaatcha doin’?”

Gold eyes bled quickly to blue, even while Spike pushed himself quickly from the couch and crossed the floor with a speed he didn’t usually need to use at home.

One arm wrapped firmly around his bloke’s waist, steadying him as the vampire took a slow breath before smiling slightly with a small dash of amusement and a good bit of hidden anger.

“Well, well,” was what he said as he nearly carried the brunette to the couch. “Looks like somebody got out of work early, don’t it? An’ decided ta have himself a game of ‘swallow th’ bottle’, too.”

Xander’s smile—though clearly booze-laden—was bitter. It shook slightly when he was deposited on the couch, then cleared as his head stopped spinning quite so quickly. “Don’t have…” he swallowed hard, feeling queasy, “work. No more work for the Xan-man, Spiiiike… b’cuz I’m dead. He told them so, right? An’… an’ if he said so, it mus’ be true b’cuz they already h-hired someone else an’…” Xander swallowed again, his gut churning. “An’ I’m go’n be sick…”

Vampiric strength and speed kept his bloke upright even while his free arm darted out to snatch the small trash can from beneath one end table.

Spike held it in front of his Claimed’s face, growling softly as the scent of sheer misery and betrayal mixed with that of too much booze forcibly expelled.

He waited until his bloke seemed to be done before even trying to speak. “Who, pet? Who was it what said you were dead?”

Because the only ones who could possibly think that were those who’d been involved with what Spike now understood had been a targeted action and not some sort of random… attack.

Two of them were dead, he knew. He’d killed them himself, after all.

The third was still in Hospital, being watched very carefully by two armed police officers, though that would stop eventually when nobody came forth to say that they—or someone they knew—had been the source of the blood on the street that hadn’t matched that bloke or either of the other two men. There was a suspicion of wrong-doing, but in the end the police would have to decide that the three gits had been the victims and had gotten a bit of payback against at least one of their attackers.

So that was the ones who’d attacked his Xan all accounted for, which meant… there was someone else. Someone who knew who Xander was. Who knew where he worked, even, and had some sort of connection that would make his employer think Xander really was dead, and…

“C’mon, luv… know you’re drunk, don’t I? But you can tell me, Xan. Not mad at you, mate… prob’ly would have done th’ same in your place, yah?” And he really wasn’t angry with his love. Oh, no… he was entirely furious, but with whoever it was who’d done it.

Xander’s head really was swimming, and not just from the drinking or the very recent bout of voiding that same booze.

No, it was also rocking and reeling from the murderous impulses he could feel flowing through his blond, and… while a part of him appreciated it and thought that the rat-bastard in question likely deserved just such an end, the rest of him wasn’t sure it was true.

He gave Spike a bleary gaze, trying to pick just one bleached blond to focus on, then let his chin drop to rest on his chest. “Doesn’t… matter, baby… so… tired…”

Blue eyes shifted slowly to gold again but Spike simply sighed when his bloke’s breathing evened out, broken only by the soft, rhythmic wheeze that might have been a snore, otherwise.

“Fine, Xan,” he whispered as he lifted his boy and carried him slowly to their bedroom, “but I’m goin’ ta find out soon enough, pet. An’ then…” His eyes glittered dangerously. “Not th’ sort ta leave a threat ta my family just runnin’ around free, am I?”

He settled his bloke on the bed then undressed him quickly and efficiently before leaning down and kissing the lax lips softly. “Rest, luv… your Spike’s goin’ ta take care of everythin’.”

And he would, too. There was about zero chance of him not dealing with someone who was a danger to the bloke he loved… and especially when the bloke loved him back so bloody completely.

He’d never had that, after all, and he’d be even more firmly damned if he let himself lose it.

“Don’t care if’n it’s th’ Slayer herself, Xan… kill whatever tried ta hurt you, I will. Forever.”

A quick ring to the Scanlon place had DeeDee agreeing that Dawn could of course stay there for the night… and then the Bit herself was on the phone and Spike was telling her that something had happened at Xander’s work and the bloke was upset and it would be best if…

“Yeah, that’s fine, Spike,” she said quickly, “just send me a change of clothes for tomorrow, okay? Bye…”

He’d have to find out what had the girl so distracted, and it had better not be that sodding Darian prat, either… but later. She was safe and with friends, and that was all Spike needed to know at the moment.

Well, that and…

He stripped himself quickly and crawled into bed, wrapping his cooler body around Xander’s too-hot one. He made sure the bedroom waste bin was close enough to grab if it was needed then relaxed completely, one hand stroking slowly—soothingly—up and down Xander’s chest.

He honestly had no idea of why he hadn’t sensed his Claimed getting upset earlier, but he hadn’t… and Xander had to have been upset because his boy didn’t drink himself drunk ordinarily. A few beers was one thing, but this…? Oh, this had all the signs of a lengthy meeting with Jack Daniels, at the very least.

“Goin’ ta be alright, luv,” he whispered against the rapidly rising and falling heated chest. “Goin’ ta make sure nobody ever hurts you again, aren’t I? ‘s what I’m here for. Ta keep you safe an’ happy… an’ mine. Nobody messes with what’s mine…”

He kept up the murmured comforting words, smiling just a bit as the tone apparently pierced the liquor-numbed state his bloke was in and Xander sighed almost happily in his sleep.

He would find out exactly who had put the hit out on his boy—as Soprano’s-ish as that sounded even to him—and he would take care of it.

There was no other possible course of action, after all.


~*~*~*~*~


Dawn sighed softly with relief as she hung up the phone.

It was only DeeDee’s questioning cough that reminded her of the older woman’s presence.

“Oh,” she answered it, blushing, “Um, it’s nothing. Just…” she thought quickly. “Spike’s got a chance to do some publicity stills for some band in town. It came up really suddenly and Xander’s gonna go with him to be all assistant-y. You know… change film and carry stuff.” She shrugged like it was a normal thing. “Usually I’d stay with Kent but he’s got a date tonight, so…”

Kent blinked before nodding hurriedly. “Yeah… it’s not really a date-date, but…”

DeeDee looked between the girl and the young man in her kitchen then smiled. “Well, that makes perfect sense, then. Dawn, why don’t you tell Bailey that you’ll be staying? I…” she looked a bit overly grateful. “I’m so glad you’re here, sweetie. Bailey’s been acting very moody for the last day or so. Maybe having her best friend stay for the night will cheer her up.”

It was sad, Dawn thought, that Mrs. Scanlon—DeeDee, she meant—didn’t seem like the type who would understand about having a Slayer in the family. She teared up just a bit as she remembered the way her own Mother had finally accepted Buffy’s position.

That didn’t change anything, though.

Buffy had been the longest-lived Slayer ever, and… and even according to Spike, who’d been trying to kill her for most of the time he’d been near them, it had been because she’d had a support system. Friends. Family. People who’d loved her and cared and had wanted to help.

And Dawn would be damned if she’d let her best friend have any less than her sister had had.

“Okay,” she said bluntly as she walked into Bailey’s room again and shut the door behind her, “first thing we need to do is find you a Watcher…”

Unfortunately, Giles had always been kind of secretive about how to reach the Council, and… the more Dawn thought about it, those had been the very people who’d hated that Buffy did have friends and family, and that left her with only one option she could think of.

It wasn’t an ideal choice, but she figured it was probably her only choice.

“Um, remember I told you about Willow, Bails?” Dawn asked, worrying her lip lightly, “Well, Willow said Cordelia said—and I’ll tell you about Cordy later… um, she dated Uncle Xander for a while before he knew he was, um… G-A-Y—um, Cordelia told W-willow that Buffy’s other watcher was in L.A…”



Part Thirty-One

It wasn’t hard to slip into the Hospital in the dark of the night; especially not with his special skills, which translated as vampire skills, some of which he’d learned from Drusilla but had rarely had the need or desire to use.

The fact that the Hospital had yet to arrive in the twenty-first century and still relied upon ordinary closed circuit cameras rather than the more dangerous—to Spike’s kind—digital variety worked in his favor, as well.

It was even easier to duck into an empty room down the hall from the one the bastard who’d hurt his bloke was currently occupying once he’d made a small stop in the nurse’s lounge on the third floor.

He checked the clock on the wall quickly, then hunkered down beside the door to wait.

It was mere moments later that he heard his cue and peeked his head outside to see that the two armed police officers on the soon-to-be dead-man’s door were thoroughly distracted by the three seemingly-drunk and half-naked student-nurses he’d ‘spoken’ with earlier.

He waited until both of the men had moved away from their posts, apparently to either assist or arrest the young and definitely attractive women, then slipped quickly along the wall and ducked into the fuckwad’s room.

The breathing corpse was sleeping, luckily enough, so Spike hid himself in the small bathroom, listening closely as the thrall wore off and the young women began making soft, embarrassed cries before apparently retreating to dress again.

‘Shut your yap,’ he muttered silently to his soul, ‘we’ll send th’ chits some flowers or somethin’, a’right? An’ th’ coppers got an eyeful, so you know they’ll not be tellin’ tales.’

Fortunately, that seemed to satisfy his big ball of conscience. The soul hadn’t liked the idea of using the women like that, but it was for Xander. That didn’t mean it wouldn’t try to brood, but hopefully saying thank you—anonymously or not—with the flowers would derail it just a bit.

A few more minutes, Spike figured, and it would be safe enough to wake the git with a hand over his mouth… and if the bloke even tried to call for help, well, he didn’t know what he would do. He doubted the soul would let him kill the policemen, and simply knocking them out wouldn’t work. They would have seen him, after all… and it might be a very bad idea to have the blokes disappear, in any case. Would definitely be noticed that they’d gone off somewhere, regardless.

Still, it didn’t matter. He would keep the shit quiet. He would find out everything the fucker knew… and he would end the bastard, just as he’d done the other two. Not just yet, of course, but once the git was out of Hospital and on his own again? Oh, yeah… this prick’s days were bloody well numbered.


~*~*~*~*~


Getting out of the Hospital had turned out to be even easier than getting in had been.

The fucktard himself had helped; had even been the one to suggest it, in point of fact.

So Spike had stood against the wall inside the door and when the big git in the hospital bed started thrashing around and gasping… and when the two officers raced inside to see what was wrong… Spike slipped out, neither of the gents even a bit the wiser regarding his presence.


~*~*~*~*~


Of all the things Rocko had known the night he, Tony and Mitch had gone after the Harris kid, the one he’d been the most sure of was that it was a really bad idea.

Yeah, he’d taken money from the guy who’d hired them. He’d ignored the questions he’d had that he’d never even bothered to ask because he’d been sure he wouldn’t have gotten any answers.

The drunk fucker’s stories—lies, he was sure—about the things the kid had done before running to Philadelphia had sounded good on the surface, but after weeks and weeks of watching the young man, Rocko hadn’t been able to match the stories with what he saw.

A guy who’d viciously murdered his own family and stolen from them… well, that didn’t mesh at all with the guy who worked as a waiter and tried to look after a young girl who had no claim on him at all.

And there was nothing creepy or weird about that relationship, either, no matter what his employer had tried to imply was going on between the girl and the two men.

Between just the men…? Well, yeah, Rocko was pretty clear on what was happening there. It didn’t take a genius to figure out, after all, but whatever. They were both old enough to make their choices, and from what he understood of genetics, it wasn’t exactly a ‘choice’, anyway, and was definitely no reason to kill someone.

So yeah, he’d been pretty sure that taking the kid out was a mistake. Unfortunately, Tony and Mitch hadn’t shared his opinion.

He still cursed the day he’d hooked up with them for this job.

They were thugs, pure and simple.

They had no… well, he couldn’t call it class because he didn’t have any of that himself, but they had no… compassion, he guessed he meant.

They looked at the kid—and the girl, in Tony’s case, which still turned Rocko’s stomach—and saw a payday and a bit of fun. It didn’t matter whether the kid actually deserved what they’d been hired to do… or that the girl wasn’t even a part of their contract.

It mattered to Rocko, though, which was why he’d stood back, trying to find the right words to abort the whole mission. He’d thought for too long, obviously, because Tony and Mitch had been on the kid and there was blood and then they were laughing… and if Rocko’s laughter was strained and sick-sounding, well, neither of the other men had had a chance to notice.

They’d been down and dead in seconds, broken and bent by the bleached whirlwind that had blown through all three of them with so much ease.

He’d never expected to live after that, but he had.

He’d not only lived, but he hadn’t been reported… and that told Rocko more than anything else just how much trouble he was really in.

When he’d felt the cold hand over his lips earlier, he hadn’t been surprised. Hell, he’d almost been relieved that it was finally over.

And then it wasn’t over because the bleached blond was whispering, asking him questions and warning him against calling the cops outside his door—as if he’d ever look to the police for help.

Maybe he hadn’t looked scared enough or something—because he actually wasn’t afraid, just glad the waiting was over—because the blond had done… something, God knew what, and his pale face had shifted into something bizarre and borderline deformed and there were teeth and…

Okay, maybe he’d finally been a little bit frightened. Still, he figured he deserved whatever he got. He should have checked the fat fuck’s story before he took the job.

So he’d answered the questions to the best of his ability, not even trying to hide his relief when the blond went back to looking human again with a soft and odd crunching sound.

Hell, he’d even volunteered answers to questions the ‘man’ hadn’t thought to ask and finally the… whatever he was… smirked and arched a brow at him.

‘You know this don’t mean I’m goin’ ta let you live, right? Almost killed my bloke, you an’ your mates.’

‘Yeah,’ Rocko had said, just as quietly. ‘Just do me one favor. Make sure that evil fucker dies first, okay? I’d really like to know he’s gone before me.’

So they had a deal, he and the creature who was so protective of the surprisingly not-so-dead Harris kid.

Now, it was just a matter of waiting to do his part.

It was the least he could do, considering.


~*~*~*~*~


“How you feelin’, luv?” Spike murmured as he crawled back into the bed after his little excursion. “Head still poundin’ away?”

The brunette groaned and opened bloodshot eyes just a sliver. “God… I think I finally get why my Dad was always in such a foul mood…” He groaned again.

A soft snort, even as he pulled his bloke closer, taking care not to jostle him too much. “Think it was just because he was a soddin’ jackass, pet. Th’ booze mighta given him an excuse, but he was a right bastard, yah…?”

He wouldn’t tell the boy about what he’d done… and more importantly, what he was planning to do.

He was almost surprised by the quiet acceptance the pillock in Hospital had shown. Bloke had recognized his own death but wanted to be in on getting the fucker who’d wanted his Xan dead, and… Spike wasn’t sure of how he really felt about that. Still, he’d take whatever help he could get.

But he’d have plenty of time to think about all of that over the next day or two. First things first… and the very first thing was to get his love feeling more himself and less like a pain-filled sack of shit.

“Here, Xan… drink this, yah? An’ take some more aspirin.”

The water was likely to do more good than the medicine, but why take chances?


~*~*~*~*~


It was harder to get in contact with Wesley Wyndham-Price than Dawn had expected; mostly because there seemed to be some sort of… well, she’d have said ‘Hellmouthy thing’, but Los Angeles was not one of those… Some sort of something going on in L.A.

She’d tried at least a hundred times, it felt like, and every attempt was met with the same recorded voice, claiming ‘this area is experiencing technical difficulties; please try your call again’.

Sculpted brows lowered, drawing together slightly, and Dawn spared one quick glance for her anxious best friend.

“It’ll be okay, Bails,” she said with a grin she knew didn’t quite meet her eyes. “Even if Wes doesn’t answer, Xan and Spike will be able to help. Besides… who needs the official Watchers, right? Buffy did just fine without them.”

She nodded decidedly, but when Bailey started to smile, Dawn suddenly realized just how much she wasn’t ready to be in charge of anything.

“Um… by the way, Bails…?” Dawn bit her lip. “I guess I should tell you about, um… vampires with souls. Because it doesn’t happen often, but, um… there’s something you should, um, know… about Spike…”

Bailey’s eyes grew rounder and rounder as they widened in response to Dawn’s words of explanation.

She’d actually had a few adolescent fantasies about the bleached blond ‘Uncle’ her friend lived with… as well as Xander, of course, and… how could that be if she was meant to wipe out his kind?

Sure, Dawn said he had a soul, but so did humans, and they did awful things on a daily basis! She just had to read the newspaper to know that much.

Of course, it wasn’t all humans who maimed and killed and destroyed, but still, to Bailey’s way of thinking, a soul didn’t make someone good.

By the same token, having an actual demon in addition to a soul didn’t necessarily make someone bad, and… she’d seen the way Dawn’s Uncles—both of them—looked after her. And even how they tried to look after her, meaning Bailey herself.

Heck, the two men had been inside her home more than once, and aside from Spike—the vampire—accidentally breaking her Mother’s porcelain souvenir spoon from Santa Fe, they’d been wonderful guests. To the point that DeeDee Scanlon had invited them to participate in her book group.

And suddenly Bailey understood the looks on the guys faces when her Mom had told them the group was reading ‘Queen of the Damned’.

She thought about all of it for a few minutes, even while everything she knew about Dawn’s blond guardian played through her head, and finally she raised her eyes to meet Dawn’s darker ones.

“I… I can’t say that I really want a Watcher,” she finally admitted. “Not if they’re gonna tell me that Spike’s a bad person.” Bailey blushed softly. “I mean, he offered to go to the Father-Daughter thing the Community Center is having. He said he’d even play my Dad and nobody would ever know any different because we’re both… ‘blond and slight and too sodding attractive for our own good’. And… and are you sure he’s a, uh… vampire?”

As much as Dawn hated to destroy the hope in her friend’s eyes, she couldn’t make herself lie. Not when Bailey would notice the way her body reacted to Spike the next time they met.

Of course, that didn’t mean she couldn’t tell the truth in a way that made the girl comfortable.

“Um, okay,” she answered after a moment or three, “yes, I’m sure. I know he’s a vampire, because…” And she went on to tell Bailey the whole of Spike’s story—or as much of it as she knew, which was more than either Spike or Xander were aware of.

Fortunately, the so-called ending of the tale left Bailey feeling good about Spike and Xander… and about Dawn being in their charge. In fact, she only hoped that if anything ever happened to her Mother and brother, there’d be anyone in the world who’d care enough about her to do what Spike and Xander had done for her friend.

And then she realized… there were people like that. And they were named William Suffolk and Xander Harris.

They didn’t love her, she knew, because she wasn’t Dawn, but… they’d be there for her because she was Dawn’s best friend, and…

“Yeah… I’m sure now, Dawn. I don’t need or want a ‘Watcher’, okay?” Bailey smiled. “Besides. Your sister was like me and Xander worked with her and so did Wi, I mean Spike, so I’ll manage. And the Mall is open now, so let’s go. Darian will give us a ride.”

Dawn blushed slightly but nodded.

One crisis averted… and Bailey was probably right. Giles had been the exception among Watchers, from what Dawn remembered. How many times had Buffy cursed the whole group when she’d thought Dawn wasn’t listening?

Heh. A lot.





Part Thirty-Two

Well, well.

So the Bit’s friend was a Slayer.

On the one hand, it was good to know, simply because Spike was tired of wondering about the fate of the Sunnydale crew.

It sounded cold, even to him, but after months of no word at all from any of the gang and no sign of even a potential Slayer, it was good to be sure.

He still couldn’t say a hundred percent whether Slayer and the one his bloke called Faith were really dead and gone. Hell, he was a vampire. He for damned sure didn’t know the inner workings of being called and Chosen and all that rot.

Maybe it was only one of the Slayers that was dead.

Either way, though, he was pretty bloody certain that nobody would be showing up on his doorstep to haul Xander and the Bit off to… wherever the bloody fucking hell the Watchers were lurking these days.

The small smile he wore grew as he heard his bloke’s footsteps come off the elevator, the soft thuds of his shoes growing steadily louder, and by the time Xander actually unlocked the door and swept inside, Spike was waiting for him.

“Hi, honey. You’re home,” he deadpanned, congratulating himself on the grin the words earned him. “How’d it go? That git come through for you?” He’d better have, if he knew what was good for him, Spike told himself, all the while keeping his expression merely hopeful and curious.

Spike was up to something.

Xander knew Spike was up to something.

It would be easy enough to find out exactly what it was, too, but that would involve opening up whatever bizarre mental connection they had and Xander didn’t want to do that. Not yet. Not that he knew how to do that, of course, but he’d somehow managed to close it and he wasn’t willing to take a chance on not being able to do it again. He needed to figure out what to do about his… about the person he wasn’t thinking the name of until he figured out what to do about him.

He took it as a sign that Spike had some secrets of his own that the blond hadn’t bothered to ask why he’d shut him out, and Xander suspected that whatever the vampire was up to with the simple question and oh-so-innocent smile was only the tip of the devious, vampy iceberg, but for the moment…? He was fine with that.

His head cocked just a bit and he tried to look thoughtful. “It went… okay, I think,” he finally answered, one arm snaking around Spike’s shoulders and drawing the slightly smaller man against him for a long, slow kiss. “Mmmm… missed that.”

A deep chuckle bounced around in Spike’s chest for a few moments before slipping out past his lips. “Yah, pet… now define ‘okay’, right?”

“Huh?”

Spike’s smirk grew as he watched his boy give himself an obvious mental shake. “More snoggin’ later, luv. Promise you that, yeah? But for now, I want ta know what you meant by ‘it went okay’, got it?’

One full, red bottom lip plumped into a pout and Xander pressed his free hand dramatically to his forehead. “Oh, woe is me! The magic has gone out of our relationship! You’d rather talk!”

Another long, hard kiss later—this one involving much more tongue and a rather lengthy bout of roaming hands—found the two men tangled together on the couch, and when Spike asked again, Xander finally spilled.

His latest interview—this one for actual construction-type work—had gone much better than just okay.

In fact, he was just one background check away from being hired— thanks to Bailey’s mother, who had mentioned Xander’s plight in passing to her neighbor who just happened to be the site foreman for a new high rise office building that would be breaking ground sometime in the next month.

Xander had been afraid, initially, that he’d run into the same problem he’d had when he and Dawn had first arrived in Philadelphia, but DeeDee had apparently told the man about Sunnydale and so on. That being the case, the man had made a deal with his boss.

They would run Xander’s information through a Federal background check, as well as one for the state of California, and assuming they came back without any major black marks, they would spend a day putting Xander through his paces on a site that was currently in progress.

“So if it goes well, I… I might be an actual employed guy in like a couple of weeks, Spike!” Xander beamed, pressing yet another happy kiss to Spike’s lips.

And bloody hell, it was good to see his bloke excited about something again. Something other than sex, he meant, which was always exciting for the both of them, but… he was still worried about what was going to happen once the boy’s co-worker’s found out that Xander was such good company.

Oh, he didn’t really think Xander would go off and leave him, but he was used to having all of the boy’s time for himself and the Bit, and… still, this was what Xander wanted and as long as his bloke was happy, then he’d do his damnedest not to miss him too much when he ran off for the inevitable ‘drinks with the guys’ and ‘business party’ things. His boy would still be coming home to him, and that was what really mattered, he told himself. No matter what lies Xander had to tell at work just to avoid getting beat up… or fired. It was a small price, the blond figured.

“Never doubted it for a moment, luv,” Spike murmured as the kiss broke. “Just be sure ta mention your sister an’… cousin from England, I suppose. Y’know. Just in case they need ta call you an’ one of us answers.”

Just that quickly, Xander was frowning, his brow creased as he tried to understand what Spike was saying. “But I don’t have a cousin from Eng… wait.”

He took a moment to untangle himself from the blond and struggled up from the couch, arms crossing over his chest as he glared down into resigned blue.

“You think… I mean, you really think…” He laughed almost bitterly and shook his head. “Fuck you, Spike. Yeah, I call Dawn my sister or my niece or whatever because it just makes it easier for people not to think there’s something sick and weird going on. But if you really believe I’m gonna pretend you’re my cousin just to spare your fucking image, think again!”

He was nearly snarling, he was so angry all of a sudden. “You’re my boyfriend, damn it! My lover! I’ve had my cock up your ass, Spike, and you loved it! And you for damned sure weren’t complaining when you were fucking me through the mattress, so I’d say it’s a bit late for you to be getting all ashamed of us now! You bit me and fucked me and you made me like it, Spike! You made me feel all… not so… so not… not what my Dad ever said! And I… you made me gay, you stupid fucking vampire! There! I said it! I’m gay and I love you and you Claimed me, shithead! You took care of me and you said you loved me and you’re mine! You don’t get to back out now! Not when I’m finally… happy!”

“What th’ bloody fuck are you…” was all Spike managed to say because the next thing he knew, he was being dragged from the couch and hauled across the apartment, into their bedroom.

He heard the door slam and spared a moment to thank whatever Gods would listen that the Bit was in school for a good few more hours, and then he wasn’t really thinking much at all, aside from ‘God… yes… just like… yah, pet… bloody hell, Xan…’.


~*~*~*~*~


He’d been furious; Xander remembered that much.

He’d been furious and sad and determined to remind Spike of… something.

He had a vague recollection of shouting, then dragging his lover into their room.

He even thought he might recall throwing the blond onto the bed.

How they’d managed to get naked was a mystery to him, but if Xander was going to be honest, he didn’t really care much.

The how was irrelevant. It only mattered that they were.

“Spike…” he groaned, one hand tight on a slender hip while the other rested, fingers spread wide, on that pale, smooth back.

His own hips moved smoothly now, the sharp, disjointed anger of earlier soothed by the moaning, groaning acceptance of the body before and beneath him.

“Spike,” he muttered again, falling more fully into his rhythm as his thrusts became deeper, slower, more intense. “God… love you, baby… love you so much… sorry, so sorry if I h-hurt you…” And that was true. He hadn’t wanted to hurt the blond; hadn’t wanted to make him bleed, but… there was a slight salty-copper tinge in the air and he’d been so frantic at first—he knew it. He could feel the small bits of jagged emotion still fading inside him, and… “God… love you, Spike… s-sorry…”

And his boy could shag well enough to make even a vampire envious, Spike realized yet again. In fact, this time—even with as much as Xander claimed to be sorry—he could tell that a part of the boy was reveling in taking control the way he’d done.

Hell, Spike was reveling in it, too.

He wasn’t exactly the submissive sort, as he figured anyone who’d ever really known him would swear to, but… there was something in knowing—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that he made his bloke just as crazy as his Xan made him that just had some unknown part of him… relaxing.

Xander loved him. Wanted him. He’d known that. Hell, he’d known it, wallowed in it, wrapped it around himself and rubbed it all over his body… in the purely figurative sense, of course. But knowing that Xander needed him… that the boy wouldn’t let him go even if Spike went entirely off his bloody nut and wanted to be released?

Oh, yeah. That was bloody well sublime.

Part of him—the soul, he was sure—thought there was something a little bit sick about wanting to be owned so completely, but the demon in him understood.

As much as Xander Harris owned Spike, the boy was equally owned.

It was good.

Hell, it was beyond good.

It was right and true and desired and entirely fucking perfect, as far as the vampire was concerned, and Claimed was Claimed.

So no, he didn’t care about a little blood and a truly small amount of pain. Not really.

In fact, he only cared at all because his boy obviously did, and so Spike did the only thing he could think of to take that tiny edge of sorrow from his boy’s voice.

He spread his knees farther still and pressed up onto his palms, leaving small dents in the covers as his elbows straightened.

He lifted his head, arching his neck as he slammed himself back roughly onto the thick, hot shaft piercing his bowels. “Love you too, pet… harder, Xan!” he almost growled, and “Split me wide, luv! Fuck me! Fuck me!”

It was the obvious pleasure in Spike’s voice that kept Xander going. In fact, it was that same tone, combined with the way the blond was pushing into his thrusts that had Xander pistoning his hips forward harder and harder still, until Spike was gasping out short, desperate cries, and then Xander… stopped.

He stopped balls-deep inside his love’s stretched but still-so-tight hole and slid his arms quickly around that slender waist.

“Beg,” he ordered, while part of him cringed at the demand and wondered exactly what in the hell was wrong with him. He shouldn’t be acting even slightly like this; especially after what had happened to him as a child, but he couldn’t help it, not even a little bit, and… And the most disturbing part wasn’t that he couldn’t help it, but that… he wasn’t disturbed by the way he was treating Spike and Spike wasn’t disturbed either, and that should have been fine and it was, but at the same time it just… wasn’t… and his head hurt, his mouth hurt, his eyes hurt… but it was the good kind of hurt, like stretching sore muscles a couple days after a workout, and…

And Spike couldn’t move. Not with Xander over him, covering him like he was a bitch in heat, which he supposed he was, sort of. He could barely even twitch with those strong, dark arms holding him trapped, spine against Xander’s stomach, chest… And his boy wanted him to beg?

It was unexpected, but also somehow oddly arousing, and in this case, Spike was going to just go with flow, so to speak, and…

“Please, luv… please, pet… fuck me, Xander. Please. Harder. More. Let me feel you in th’ back of my throat, you’re so deep. Please, please, please… love you, Xan… do me good like you always do, pet…” and then—because Spike suddenly thought he knew what might be happening here—he added “Make me your own, luv… please!”

Xander wasn’t sure of when or how he’d fallen back onto his heels, but he’d done it.

More importantly, he’d taken Spike with him because he now had a lap full of heavily-breathing vampire.

His arms were still tight around Spike’s abdomen, his chest was still tight to Spike’s spine… and his cock was buried even deeper inside that blissful hole than it had been mere moments earlier.

His shoulders rose and fell in an improvised shrug, his hold on his vampire lifting and dropping that long, cool body on his throbbing shaft, and when Spike started gasping again, whimpering and arching, Xander did what he had to do. What he needed to do.

One arm tightened, continuing the fast, hard, up and down motion with Spike’s form while the other released pale flesh and darted down to wrap the vampire’s turgid length in hot fingers made hotter still by desire, exertion and need.

That hand stroked roughly, even as suddenly lengthened teeth drove deep into the top of one white, unmarked shoulder following a wild, desperate cry of “MINE!”

He’d been right, Spike thought dazedly as his body arched and bowed and emptied copious streams of slightly cool spunk onto the bed.

He’d been right about what was happening, and…

And he felt Xander’s thick, perfect cock swelling even more, throbbing inside him in time with his bloke’s racing heartbeat; felt lengthened but still mostly blunt teeth driving deeper.

He felt his bloke, his beloved, the love of his existence swallowing him down, and Spike couldn’t help but cum again right before passing out to the accompaniment of Xander’s muffled cries of completion against his skin.




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