Becoming Known


by
Tisienne Blue



Part Thirty-Three

Spike woke to the sounds of soft whimpers and Xander’s heart beating faster than it’d been doing while his bloke had been fucking him so right and good.

He couldn’t quite manage to swallow his contented moan, even as one arm stretched across the mattress, looking for stunning heat and smooth, swarthy skin.

It was only when the sounds continued and his hand found nothing that the vampire managed to force himself upright.

His eyes darted worriedly around the room before he made himself focus, and when he did, he managed to trace the sounds and heartbeat to the walk-in closet, and what the fuck was going on?

He rolled quickly from the bed, nearly purring at the ache radiating through his body from his anus.

Yeah, he’d been Claimed good and proper, alright.

The knowledge was only borne out by the matching pleasurable ache of his shoulder.

Still, he’d think about that later because Xander was apparently hiding from him for whatever reason.

Spike pulled the door open slowly and peered inside, his brow furrowing even more when he saw the curled up shape of his Claimed pressed back into the far corner.

“Luv?” he murmured, frowning when he got no response.

“Pet?” he tried again, only to see that body try to become even smaller.

“What th’ bloody fuckin’…” he whispered, but then… then he got it, all of a sudden.

Spike was pretty sure that he’d never moved as fast as he did right then, with the definite exception of the night Xander’d been dying.

Still, he was across the small bit of floor and on his knees, arms around the shaking brunette in less than a second, his mouth buried in the crook of Xander’s neck as he whispered to him.

“Hush… hush, luv… ‘s a’right, yah? You’re a’right… love you, pet… love you, Xander… you’re not your Da…” He swallowed hard. “Fine, I am… better than fine, got it? Loved feelin’ you own me, Xan… been Claimed all proper-like now, I have… not a demon on this earth who’d ever doubt it, luv…”

Xander heard the whispers, but he couldn’t quite manage to make sense of them because… he was worse than his Dad ever was and he knew it!

He’d… oh, God, he’d raped Spike! He was supposed to love the vampire, and he did… except maybe he didn’t because you didn’t do something like that to someone you loved and that’s what made him worse than Tony Harris had ever been because at least his dad had never pretended to love him; had never said he cared even a little bit, and Xander had said it, had insisted he loved Spike and then first chance he got he’d just turned around and done… that, just because Spike said something he didn’t like, and… and he’d made Spike bleed down there, and…

And Xander had liked it! Loved it, even! He’d been entirely uncontrollable, even by himself, and thank God Spike hadn’t tried to stop him because he didn’t know what he might have done then, and…

“Sorry… so sorry… so sorry… so sorry, Spike, so sorry…”

And he’d fallen asleep after with his dick still inside Spike’s abused body and he’d dreamed… God, he’d dreamed about exactly what he’d done and his Dad had been there laughing at him and pointing and ‘I always knew what you were, Alexander… but look at you! You’re so much worse, you disgusting little faggot, you sorry little shit…’ And dad was right because he woke up hard and disgusted with himself and wanting to slide in and out of that tight ass until he came again and…

But there were arms around him.

There were arms around him and there were words… whispered words, but still there, and… and he didn’t know why he’d done it. Didn’t know what bizarre, twisted, sick part of his psyche had decided to rise up and hurt the one and only person he’d ever been involved with who had actually loved him back!

But there were arms around him. And there were words. Whispered words, but still there…

“Stop, luv. Stop. Didn’t do anythin’ wrong, Xan. Good bloke, you are. Gave me what I needed, you did.” A sigh that was nearly a sob penetrated Xander’s haze. “Wouldn’t have let you if’n I’d known how it’d hurt you, luv… ‘s my fault, pet. Can’t bear ta see you like this, Xan. Please, luv… please, pet. Talk ta me, yah? Need you ta forgive me…”

And that was so not what he should be hearing right then that Xander actually forgot to beat himself up for a moment.

Fortunately, a moment was all Spike needed.

“Look at me, pet,” he murmured, pulling back just enough to allow that motion. “Let me see th’ bloke what changed my world, yah?”

And if Spike was surprised by the slightly orange eyes and still-elongated teeth, he didn’t show it.

Instead, he smiled and cupped one tear-stained cheek before pressing a deep, soft kiss to swollen red lips.

“Yah… there he is. Th’ love of my life, in th’ flesh…”

And while it didn’t make everything all better, Xander swallowed hard and admitted silently that he might have overreacted… just a little.

It was close to half an hour later—after he had Xander back in their bed and not crying anymore, thank bloody Christ—that Spike knew it was time.

He would make the call later that night and Rocko would do what he was told; Spike was sure of that much. The man wanted the fucker who’d hired him to be dead badly enough that Rocko would likely cut off his own left nut if Spike told him to.

His boy wouldn’t ever be free of his history, but he could for damned sure be shut of his fucking so-called ‘family’.

So, yeah.

One more of the Harris clan was going to die.

And as that death would more or less ensure that nobody would be out there gunning for his boy, Spike—demon and soul, both—could live with it.


~*~*~*~*~


It was entirely due to poor timing that Dawn and Bailey ran into Spike… and some guy Dawn didn’t know who looked kind of dangerous.

And okay, maybe she shouldn’t have been out after midnight patrolling with Bailey, but… damn it, Xander and Willow and even Cordelia had patrolled with Buffy when they were younger than Dawn was now, and they hadn’t had anything like the experience Dawn had just by virtue of being the sister of a Slayer! So Spike had no reason to be so upset, to her way of thinking.

Of course, that didn’t change the fact that the blond vampire was stalking back and forth in front of her and Bails, ranting like he’d caught them selling themselves on some random street corner for spare change.

“… and you’re only a bloody child! Both of you!” he went on, features shifting back and forth from true to human repeatedly. “Soddin’ children, out ta prove… what, exactly? That you can die just as fast and easy as bloody grown-ups? You don’t know half of th’ things that’re out here! You’re bloody well dangerous ta yourselves, you moronic. ignorant. pathetic little bints! Now stop with th’ poutin’ an’ figure out what you’re goin’ ta tell Xan, yah? Because I’m for bloody damn sure not sendin’ you back ta Bailey’s! It was her Mum what let you sneak out, this time of night!”

In the end, Dawn counted herself lucky that Spike’s attitude got Bailey all riled up. Otherwise, she might have said some things she would have meant in the moment but not overall.

As it was, her very petite blonde friend flung herself from the crate she’d been sitting on, and fast as that, she had a ruler pressed against Spike’s chest, just over his heart.

“I could make you dust in like a second,” Bailey announced, “but I really don’t want to because I like you, Spike. And Dawn loves you and she’s like the sister I never had.”

Bailey’s eyes followed Spike’s down to the ruler and she gave him a cheeky grin. “Just because it’s not super-pointy doesn’t mean it won’t go in, you know. In fact, I’ve calculated the levels of resistance between a traditional stake and a ruler just like this one, and because of how thin this is, plus the small point at the edge of the rectangular shape, it’s actually easier to drive a ruler into a vampire’s chest.” Bailey smirked. “And there’s the added benefit of a high school girl with a ruler being way more acceptable than one with a big pointy stick. Do you see where I’m going with this?”

Dawn couldn’t help the smirk that spread across her lips at Spike’s stunned expression.

Yeah, Bailey had never acted very forward around him or Xander, but now that her friend had embraced her Slayer-ness, she was opening up. And in this case, that was possibly a good thing. Depending on how Spike took it, anyway.

In all honesty, she figured there was about a fifty-fifty chance of being locked in her room for the next twenty years, at least.

Fortunately for Rocko, he actually had a functioning brain that was capable of putting things together, and…

Okay. The girl who lived with the… vampire, and why hadn’t he figured that out earlier, what with the freaky teeth and stuff, but never mind… this Dawn knew what the blond was, and that had to mean the guy he’d been in on trying to kill knew, too… and the little blonde girl was apparently some sort of warrior or something. She fought against vampires, but strangely, not against the one who was going to kill him, and Rocko was pretty sure her attitude had something to do with Dawn and the Harris kid, but he supposed it didn’t really matter.

“Uh, boss,” he finally said, still eyeing the girls dubiously, “I think…”

Spike snorted, giving Bailey a dark stare even while he answered his… minion, he supposed. “When I want you ta think, mate, I’ll let you know. ‘til then, you can keep your yap shut!”

The worst part for Spike was that this was clearly not the first time his Bit and Bailey had gone out a-roaming together. Bailey had been entirely too calm when she’d sensed him for it to be her maiden voyage.

Part of him was proud of Dawn for taking responsibility and trying to help her friend, but the rest of him was… worried and frightened and scared and completely bloody shattered!

What if something had happened to his Nibblet on one of their outings? What if she and her Slayer had died?

Would anyone have even known or thought to find out who she was, because Spike knew for damned sure that Dawn didn’t carry ID…

Or would he and Xander have gotten a call one morning from DeeDee, saying that she’d gone to wake the girls and they’d just been… gone?

Either option was unacceptable. His Bit was his Bit, damn it! And regardless of whether Bailey was a Slayer or not, they shouldn’t be out patrolling without him and Xander, and the girl didn’t have a bloody Watcher to tell her as much, and…

Spike groaned.

“Right, then,” he growled, one hand moving as fast as only a master vampire’s could, snatching the ruler from Bailey’s grip and hurling it deep into the alley, “I’m hailin’ you two a taxi an’ you’re goin’ home. Not,” he added, meeting Dawn’s guilty gaze, “ta Kent’s, mind you. You’re goin’ ta our place, Nibblet. Then you’re goin’ ta call Bailey’s Mum an’ tell her you chits snuck out. Make up a reason an’ me an’ Xan will back you up. After that, you go ta sleep.”

He added a glare at Bailey for good measure. “Tomorrow, we’ll sit down and talk about alla this, yah? Figure out what you know an’ what you need ta know. After that…” Spike shrugged a little bit sheepishly at Dawn. “Guess it’s goin’ ta be you, me an’ my bloke actin’ as Watchers an’ backup for our girl, here. Havin’ family an’ friends worked for big sis, so I’m guessin’ it’s goin’ ta work for Bailey, too. Got it, snack-packs?”

Spike could feel the human’s eyes on him after he put the girls into the cab for home. “What?” he demanded angrily, his relief at finding the girls and his earlier worry coming out as irritability. “Fine! Tell me how you woulda handled things differently, mate! Always good ta hear a dead man’s thoughts, though my Dark Princess had the patent on that, back in th’ day.”

Rocko sighed and shook his head. “It’s nothing. Just… can we get this shit done already?”

And Spike found himself having to force a chuckle. “Never met a human so ready an’ willin’ ta die, mate. Thought you lot had that whole self-preservation thing down pat.”

Another sigh from the big man had Spike frowning. “What?” he demanded, this time letting his tone make it clear that the question was an order, rather than anything else.

The human shrugged slowly before answering.

“I never knew there were… things like you, okay? I mean, every once in a while someone with my unit would come back with a story about seeing something… weird… but I never believed it. But now I know better and…”

Rocko shrugged, his heavy shoulders rising almost to his ears with the effort. “I just wish I’d known sooner. That it was all real.” His eyes closed for a second and then he shrugged again. “If I’d known… well, I guess it doesn’t matter, right? I made my choices and now I have one last job to do. So… let’s do it, okay?”

His tongue crept out to wet his lips a few moments later, as he followed the bleached blond along the cracked sidewalk. “Uh, if you don’t mind… I’d really rather you just killed me, okay? No… coming back like you. If the stories are true, I mean. I might not be a good man, but I’d really rather not go to hell. Uh, no offense.”

Spike snorted, amused by the guy despite himself. “What makes you think you’re headed anywhere else, mate?”

Of course, that was when Rocko told him about the rest of the plans his former co-workers had had for both Bit and beloved, and…

Oh, this Harris fucker was going down… only Spike was starting to think that a quick death was too good for him.

He was still thinking that when he walked into the bar, and when he saw the shadowy form lurking in the far corner and felt the odd but familiar sensation of something ruffling at the edges of his mind, he… grinned.

Oh, this was just too perfect.

“Wait here,” he ordered his human minion as he tossed a few tens at the barkeep. “I’ll be back.”

Rocko sighed and shook his head, but… the vampire was the boss, and with any luck at all, maybe he’d decide to keep him around.

Either way, Rocko won.

He’d know the shitwad died before him… or he’d know the shitwad died years before him.

Yeah… either way, he’d win.

“Club soda with lime,” he announced to the bartender’s expectant look, “and keep ‘em coming.”

He was working, after all, and he had a feeling that the vampire would frown upon drunken muscle… unlike the guy who’d hired him to kill the Harris kid, and just look at how that had turned out.





Part Thirty-Four

Spike managed to keep himself from wiping his hand on his jeans as he strolled nonchalantly away from the small table and his meeting with the redheaded female. Besides, he reminded himself, he’d had worse things than Sucaba-halfling ooze on his skin before… many a time.

The important thing was that he and the female had a deal, assuming he was able to come through on his part of it.

Fortunately, he’d spelled that out while they’d been negotiating terms because the last thing he wanted or needed was to be oath-bound to fulfill his promises in some way other than what he and the female had agreed on.

“With me, git,” he ordered, not even looking to see whether Rocko followed him. The human would, and Spike was sure of it. Oddly enough, the man seemed to have a sense of honor, his obvious death-wish aside.

Rocko wasn’t entirely sure of what had happened in the thirty-seven minutes his new ‘boss’ had spent with the redhead in the back of the bar, but the vampire had come out of it in a remarkably improved mood, judging by the small bit of satisfaction he could hear under the growling tone of voice.

“So what’s the plan?” he asked carefully, not sure of whether the blond would welcome questions from him or not.

Spike smirked as the door shut behind them and finally let himself wipe his hand. “Plan is,” he said smugly, “so much better than just killin’ th’ prat now. Goin’ ta be a right good time. You know… not for him, but I’m likely ta have me a good laugh every time I even think about it.” He let out one dark chuckle before becoming suddenly serious again. “Question is, can you get th’ fucktard ta meet with us tomorrow night?”

The easy answer would have been ‘yes’, and Rocko almost gave it, but then he heard the vampire’s words more clearly.

“Oh, no. Hell no! Look, I don’t know what you’re up to, okay, but he knows what you look like, got it? He described you, described the girl and the kid. Wanted us to know who we were looking for.” Rocko shook his head. “You want to do a simple termination, then yeah, I can get him there. He’ll be dead before he even realizes you’re anywhere around. But you’re up to something deeper and I doubt even this guy’s ever been drunk enough that he wouldn’t notice you during that.”

A snort. “Understand this, mate. Met th’ bloke once, at my boy’s wedding. Doubt he got a good enough look—at all three of me he was seein’—ta know me on sight. He for bloody damn sure doesn’t have a picture because with as cheap as his whole bloody clan was—aside from my Xan, o’ course—there’s no chance he dropped the dosh on a digi-cam, yah?” Spike’s eyes narrowed. “Or are you tryin’ ta weasel outta our deal, mate? Thinkin’ twice about what you agreed ta?”

And even without the other face he knew the blond could wear, Rocko suddenly felt little claws of fear pricking up and down his spine. “No. N-no, boss. This guy… he needs to be gone. Whatever it is you’re up to, I’m on board, okay? All I’m saying is… if he sees you and realizes who you are, he’s gonna spook. He’ll disappear so deep that even I might have trouble finding him.” He frowned slightly. “Problem is, cowards like him…? They always talk themselves back up; especially when they think there’s something in it for them. So however deep he disappeared, he’d be back one day, and the next time… he might get lucky.”

By which Spike was sure the human meant ‘might find another crew, only this one probably won’t have even one person on it who sees something wrong with killing an innocent bloke an’ raping a little girl’, and unfortunately… the soul agreed. Still…

“Made a deal with that Sucaba-bitch back there. Can’t not be there for th’ end.” Spike stared hard into the human’s eyes. “An’ that means… you need ta find a way ta make it happen, pillock. Now, come on.”

And while Rocko kind of wondered where exactly they were going at four in the morning, he also figured it was safer not to ask. Besides… the vampire wouldn’t kill him yet. Spike had given his word, and for whatever crazy reason… Rocko trusted him to keep it.


~*~*~*~*~


“No… no, DeeDee,” Xander was saying yet again when Spike finally strolled into their apartment like nothing had happened at all, “I honestly don’t know how the girls knew there was something wrong when Dawn couldn’t reach us…” his eyes rolled as he paused, listening to the woman and mouthing ‘you are so in trouble’ at his lover.

“Really. I promise. I mean, we usually don’t answer the phone when we’re, um… but Will was out on assignment and I guess the carbon monoxide built up while I was sleeping, and… no, I swear. I’m fine. I’m just really glad they did somehow know.”

He barely held in one long-suffering sigh. “Well, if she used the signal, then I guess that explains it. Yeah… yeah, I’m glad they saved my life, too.”

Spike couldn’t help chuckling at the lie the girls—or more likely, Dawn—had chosen for Bailey’s mother. Then again, they were in enough trouble with him; he figured they were playing at damage control. ‘Sorry,” he mouthed back at his beloved, grin fading when the bloke frowned.

“I’m guessing they thought it’d take too long to wake you up or try to get Darian to drive them… yeah, it was really great that there was a taxi going by right when they needed one. Uh-huh. Yeah. Oh, definitely.” Another eye-roll. “Anyway, DeeDee, Will just walked in so I think I’d better… no, don’t worry, I already turned it off. Yeah. Uh, Kent loaned us his electric one until we can get this all taken care of, so… yeah. Yeah, first thing tomorrow. Unless… don’t you usually have an appointment at…” He laughed. “Too true. Roots wait for no woman. Or man, as Will’s told me at least a million times now. Okay. Yeah, we’ll bring her home tomorrow afternoon. And thanks, DeeDee… uh-huh, you sleep well too.”

He was nearly ready to kill something when he finally hung up the phone. In the figurative sense, of course, because there was no way he was going out to find something slay-able after the night he’d had.

Bad enough that he’d broken down after cross-claiming Spike, but then to be subjected to teenage girls ranting uncontrollably and having to back up their ridiculous story to DeeDee Scanlon… and then have Spike walk in like innocence personified when Xander knew nothing could be farther from the truth?

Well, that irked him.

And then he saw the entirely smug expression on his blond’s face and irked was an understatement.

“Well?” Xander demanded, “Care to tell me what the fuck has been going on while I’ve been not out ‘endangering’ myself with you?”

Spike felt one brow arching as he watched his love’s body language change completely from defensive to something he rather liked.

Long, tanned arms pulled closer to Xander’s torso and the blond couldn’t help the small purr at the back of his throat as those narrowed eyes speared his own. His bloke was bloody well stunning when he had his mad on, even when it was at him.

A cool tongue slipped out to wet dry lips, and the vampire couldn’t keep himself from enjoying the way those hungry, angry eyes dropped to watch the motion.

“Long story short, pet?” he answered, swallowing hard and licking his lips again, “Caught th’ chits out huntin’. Sent them here. Said we’d back them with whatever they said to Bailey’s Mum. Bit’s not ready ta be a Watcher in full. Not yet. Couldn’t let them go on like that, yah?”

Xander nearly growled. “Yeah, I get that part, Spike! What I want to know is who’s the ‘big, scary guy with all the muscles’ you were running around with! You sent the girls back here hours ago! I…” He glared harder, fingers clenching into fists at his sides. “So who the fuck is the guy!”

To Spike’s favor, it took him a good few moments to realize who Xander meant, but when he did, he… laughed. “Bloody hell! You’re jealous! Over some random dead man!”

Xander glared, his eyes sparking orange beneath lowered brows. “Of course I’m jealous, Spike! What are you, stupid? We… I did that to you earlier and then you ran out to do some so-called business, and next thing I know, Dawn and Bailey are here saying they ran into you and you caught them and oh, by the way, you were with some big, dark guy who’s built like Vin Diesel on a good day and then you don’t come home for hours after! And he’s dead? Another fucking vampire, and he can probably be all… blood-let-y with you without crying, and… why wouldn’t I be jealous!”

And when it was put like that, Spike figured his beloved had a point. It might—possibly—seem a little odd to a human, at that. Of course, that didn’t change the fact that he was… “So fuckin’ excited, luv… that you’re jealous.” He smirked and sauntered closer, his own fingers finally covering the clenched fists at Xander’s sides and squeezing as he leaned in just a little, letting his mouth find the side of his bloke’s neck and then the small scar from their first Claiming Night… the night his love had almost died.

Xander found himself frowning, his anger and jealousy not forgotten but pushed back for the moment because Spike—the same Spike who’d been more or less nuzzling him a moment earlier—was suddenly growling. Just like that, his hands opened, grasping tightly at long, slender fingers, and he pulled the slightly smaller male against him, breathing slow and steady, which always seemed to calm his vamp.

“What, Spike,” he whispered, “what’s wrong?”

He didn’t want to tell the truth. The demon didn’t want to tell the truth. But the bloody-be-blessed soul insisted upon it, which riled him no end.

“One of them,” Spike finally muttered, against most of his will. “One of them, Xander! One of th’ fuckwads what did for you on th’ street, even if he didn’t have a hand in it, an’… an’ you think I could ever bloody well want someone else? Claimed me, you did! Just like I did ta you, an’… this bloke, he’s goin’ ta help me. An’ he’s not a vamp, a’right? Called him dead because he’s goin’ ta be once this is finished, yah?”

Spike was suddenly glaring again, though this time at his lover.

“Put th’ prat up with Kent. Told him ta behave an’ such. An’ he will. Should have told you but I didn’t want you ta ask me not ta take care of it all because I can’t do it, Xan! Can’t leave that soddin’ prat alive an’ well when I know he’ll end up comin’ for you again!”

And that was a conversational quagmire that was likely to take ages to work through, Xander realized. Ages he didn’t have, so he’d focus on the important parts.

“So you’re not seeing some vampire behind my back. And whoever this guy is, he’s staying with Kent… and he’s the only one who didn’t try to kill me?” Somehow, he just wasn’t getting why Spike was so upset over any or all of those facts.

The vampire blinked. “Well… yah.”

A smile quirked the edges of Xander’s lips and he shook his head in amusement as the anger and most of the jealousy dissolved. “So come to bed, Spike… and show me how jealous I shouldn’t be, okay?” His eyes darted to the door of Dawn’s room and he blushed a little. “Um… quietly.”

For his part, Spike was glad for his bloke’s ability to cut through the bullshit. And Xander was right. Rocko hadn’t actually hurt his boy. Had made a conscious choice not to, in point of fact, which only made the blond more determined to live up to his end of the deal with the man.

They’d figure out how to make it all work, he swore… but that was for the next day.

For right then, he had something to prove to his Claimed, and prove it he would… until his poor human bloke couldn’t move without whimpering in the best possible way.


~*~*~*~*~


Darian Scanlon was a lot of things, but stupid wasn’t one of them.

Self-absorbed, sure, because he was a guy and twenty-one and finally had a girlfriend who liked him the way he was and didn’t want to change him, but stupid?

No.

He’d known there was something weird going on with his sister for the last… well, he wasn’t sure of how long it had been going on, but he’d definitely noticed when she’d gone from being all… quiet and borderline depressed with her face stuck in a book or earphones in while she listened to that quasi-goth suicide trash, to smiling and actually having more than one word to say at dinner.

He’d figured it was because she’d finally made a friend, and he couldn’t really be anything but happy for her over that. Hell, Dawn seemed like an okay kid, even if she did look older than sixteen.

It had only taken two nights of listening to the girls chatter away about whatever crap little girls squealed over to convince him that regardless of what Dawn looked like, she really was still a child, and when he was being honest with himself, he admitted that was a good thing.

Still, he wasn’t stupid.

He’d noticed the secretive, knowing glances the two girls kept exchanging when they thought nobody was watching… on the at-first rare occasion when he was home.

Originally, he’d thought that maybe the girls were gay, and that would actually explain why Bailey had seemed so different after she’d connected with Dawn, but… he was pretty sure that wasn’t it, now.

Hell, he was entirely sure that whatever the girls were into, it was nothing as innocent as a first love, be it same-sex or otherwise.

If Bailey and Dawn were sleeping together—and not in the sense of actually sleeping—he figured they wouldn’t have been sneaking out after Mom went to sleep and not coming back for hours. But that’s what they’d been doing, and much to Darian’s disgust, they always managed to lose him within five blocks, and without even trying, because he was absolutely certain that they had no idea he was even following them.

It was almost like they somehow sensed him subconsciously and just… avoided being watched.

So basically, he admitted to himself, and to his journal, he was worried and curious and kind of pissed off.

Even more so now, what with Bailey and Dawn calling so late and telling Mom some bullshit story about a gas heater and Dawn’s Uncle, and Darian knew it was a load of crap. One of his college friends lived in that building and he’d been really loud and annoying, what with bitching almost endlessly about how cold it had been the previous winter because the upgrading to central air and heat had taken longer than expected.

Justin had said it had been almost New Year’s before the new central system was up and running.

So Darian had his sister acting all… normal, all of a sudden, with a friend and everything. He had the bullshit story about the heater. He had the girls sneaking out late at night for hours on end. And he had the strange sensation that Bailey and Dawn somehow knew more than he did, which was obviously ridiculous.

No, Darian Scanlon wasn’t stupid… but he for damned sure felt like he was in the dark, and that… “Sucks,” he grumbled as he closed his journal and turned off the light.

He doubted he’d be getting any sleep, but he felt like he should try. And maybe when he woke up, he’d pay a little visit to Dawn’s Uncles and see whether they knew what was going on, because… he hated not knowing things but he was running into dead ends, no matter which way he looked.





Part Thirty-Five

Dawn couldn’t say that the ‘talk’ she and Bailey ended up having with Spike and Xander was anything like fun, because it hadn’t been.

In fact, it had possibly been the most embarrassing, blush-inducing scolding she’d endured since she was twelve and her Mom had taken her to task for trying to bake a cake—in a metal pan—in the microwave and had destroyed cake, pan, and microwave in a shower of sparks and arcs of electricity that had had more than one fire truck at their house.

And the most frightening.

Still, as much as she hated to admit it, Dawn knew they were right, and so did Bailey.

They really shouldn’t have been going out to patrol by themselves, and especially not in a city as big as Philadelphia where they could become victims of not just vampires or other random demons, but of just plain bad humans, as well.

Sure, there had been criminal types in Sunnydale; Dawn knew that much. But it was a question of quantity, as well as quality.

Of course, it had taken Spike’s friend Rocko to make that clear…and incidentally, terrify both her and her friend.

‘You’re a couple of pretty little girls,’ the still kind of scary man ground out, his voice rough like gravel. ‘Pretty enough—and young enough—to be more than attractive to a certain kind of guy, and believe me… there are more of those kind of guys around than you’ll ever want to know about. So, you want to wander around alone all night? Go for it. As long as you know that you’re going to end up raped… and dead fast, if you’re lucky.’

She’d found herself clutching Bailey’s hand tightly when the big man had gone on, his voice so matter-of-fact that it was more frightening than Spike’s most threatening tone ever was.

‘If you’re not lucky, you’ll have at least a few weeks of blood and pain and fear to look forward to before whatever pervert snatches you decides to share you with his friends. Because they always seem to find each other, y’know? After that, you’ll be wishing for death.’

Rocko had looked thoughtful for a moment. ‘Of course, you’ll probably be kept bound and gagged whenever they don’t have other uses for your mouths, and without even a pencil to end yourselves with, so… you’ll just have to hope to lose your looks or start looking older real fast so they’ll kill you and put you out of your misery.’

He’d shrugged, his face almost expressionless. ‘I get that you girls hunt demons. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. Seems like you have a calling, the both of you. Doesn’t mean you have to be stupid about it, though. Not when you’ve got a team willing to back you up. Spike’s a vampire. And Ale… uh. Xander, I mean. Xander seems to be human, but trust me. He’s big enough and built enough to have most of the human predators walking away to find easier prey.’

Rocko’d shrugged again, clearly having said his piece. ‘Up to you two, though. Can’t say it matters to me, either way.’

It was the fact that the last statement was so obviously true that had had Dawn shivering.

After growing up in Sunnydale as Buffy’s sister, she’d been a target many a time… and even more so with being the Key… but it hadn’t really struck her before that as far as her personal safety went, she wasn’t in Sunnydale anymore and Buffy wasn’t the Slayer, and… if something happened to her, it could be entirely random!

And if that were so, then… nobody would even know where to start looking for her.

She wouldn’t be held for ransom, or kept prisoner until her sister came to rescue her.

She would be… just another girl who some sick, perverted fucker stole away… and who was never seen again.

It was an eye-opening realization.

Dawn shivered again and curled up tighter under her blankets, only the comforting pressure of Bailey’s hand on her back letting her hold her sobs in, though she knew her friend was crying, too.

* * * * *

Xander was waiting.

Waiting and staring.

Waiting and staring and doing his damnedest not to throw himself at the big, muscled, and handsome, damn it, guy Spike wasn’t cheating on him with.

It was a hard thing to do, though. Hard to keep himself standing there, nearly vibrating with the need to gouge the guy’s eyes out… or maybe rip out his tongue for saying those things to Dawny and HayBails… but he figured that was Spike’s job. The fucking asshole was Spike’s not-lover, after all.

So Xander was waiting.

Waiting for his vampire to punish the cold-hearted bastard for scaring the girls like that… for scaring Xander like that. Hell, he might never let Dawn leave the apartment again. Or Bailey, even, unless her Mom or brother were there, too.

Problem was, he was still waiting, even with a full minute having passed since the girls had rushed from the couch to Dawny’s room, slamming the door behind them.

“Well?” he demanded, his glare at the human man narrowing, “Don’t you have anything to say to your… friend, Spike?”

Oh, bloody hell. He should have known his Claimed wouldn’t understand what was going on, but he’d just been so bloody relieved when Rocko’d jumped in. He was even more relieved now, though, because as harsh as the bloke’s words might have seemed…

“Yah… yah, luv. Thanks. Was just… gatherin’ m’thoughts, I was,” Spike finally sighed.

He moved the few feet to Xander’s side, then slipped behind him and wrapped his arms tightly around his love’s waist.

He gave Rocko a short nod over Xander’s shoulder and swallowed hard.

“Thanks, mate,” he said loudly, holding the man’s eyes with his own, letting his real gratitude show. “That was likely th’ only thing anyone coulda said that’d drive it home ta them, yah? An’… think they wouldn’t have believed it if’n it was me or my bloke what said it.”

“What?” Xander struggled, trying to pull away from his vampire, but those deceptively strong arms held him tight. “Spike, he just told Dawny that she was gonna get k-kidnapped a-and r-r-raped and…” He felt sick, just thinking about it.

Another sigh left Spike’s lips and he nodded to Rocko. “Go back ta Kent’s. Need ta have a talk with my Claimed, don’t I? I’ll call about that… thing we’re doing later. Might have an idea how ta manage it. Go.”

If Xander had been able to notice anything aside from his own fury with both Spike and Spike’s not-lover, he would have seen the understanding look the former-enemy gave his vampire. As it was, though, he was only managing not to scream because he knew the girls would hear him.

* * * * *

“Calm down, luv,” Spike murmured after dragging his boy through their bedroom and across it to their bath, his arms still tight around cotton-clad struggling flesh. “Bloody hell, pet! Please! Know you don’t understand, but you’re not in any state ta listen, yah?”

Unfortunately, it seemed those words were factually true because his love didn’t seem to be hearing him.

“Right, then,” he sighed. “Sorry ta do this, beloved, but… you’ll forgive me.” And with that, he hauled his bloke off of his feet, got them both into the tub and pressed his human against the tiled wall as he released him and turned the cold water on, full blast, so quickly that he was holding Xander immobile again before the boy realized he’d been let go.

His love’s high-pitched shriek almost made Spike laugh, but he actually knew better. Bad enough that Xander was already getting pissed off about the water. It would never do to make him that much more angry because Spike was getting amusement from his boy screaming louder and higher than Dawn ever had.

“Pet… pet… need you ta listen ta me, yah? Know you’re upset, I do. Would be m’self, luv, but… can’t be. Not when th’ minion was tellin’ them th’ truth neither of us had th’ stones ta say, yah…?”

He pressed himself hard against Xander’s wet, shaking body, sharing the cold and the uncomfortable sensation of icy needles spearing his skin.

Soft pink lips found their way to the jumping pulse in Xander’s neck and Spike sucked slowly but forcefully at the skin, suction working in time with his love’s heart beat.

It wasn’t fair, Xander thought, that Spike could derail his fury so quickly and easily, and yet there it was. His vamp just… latched on and started doing that thing and Xander couldn’t hold on to his righteous indignation for more than a second… except he was cold and wet and he didn’t want to calm down. Not when that fucking Rocko bastard had said those things to Dawny and HayBails, and…

“Harder,” he groaned, his hands gripping hard at slim hips, pulling Spike closer.

It was only when the blond pulled back and chuckled that Xander realized just how distracted he’d become.

“Fuck. That’s just… not fair, baby.”

Spike shrugged, though he was feeling incredibly smug about calming and arousing his boy all at once. “Still a demon, luv,” he smirked. “Never said I played fair, did I? B’sides… who says I’m playin’?”

A soft groan answered him and while Spike would have liked nothing better than to push aside the whole situation—along with Xander’s clothes—and just fuck his boy, they needed to talk. But not under cold water.

He stepped back reluctantly, then turned the water to warm. “Strip off, luv. Need ta talk, an’ since we’re already wet an’ such… might as well enjoy at least part of it, yah?”

Brown eyes blinked quickly, even as Xander felt fingers at his shirt, pulling and tugging. There was something wrong with the logic of what Spike had said, but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Of course, he’d never been good at thinking when Spike was peeling his… wet, cold, heavy clothes from his… “Hey! Stop it, Spike! Again with the not fair!”

The vampire smirked and shrugged, turning his hands to his own clothes. “Right, then. Stay cold an’ wet, luv. That’ll teach me.” He shook his head sadly as he slipped out of his soaked sweat pants and dragged the t-shirt over his head. “Meanwhile, I’ll be luxuriatin’ in loads of warm, bubbly water. That’s a lesson I’ll not soon be forgettin’.”

“Damn right,” Xander agreed grumpily before his brain caught up and made its presence known with a sharp “Hey!”.

* * * * *

Kent arched one brow at the big man outside his door, then sighed and stepped back, opening the door fully. “They can’t be tired of you already, Rocky…”

Rocko wasn’t entirely sure of why, and he hadn’t been sure ever since early that morning when Spike had dropped him off at this small redheaded man’s place, but… he knew he would have been nice to the guy even if the vampire hadn’t told him to.

Maybe it was because this Kent wasn’t like anyone Rocko had known before, what with being some sort of interior designer and so very friendly.

He couldn’t quite figure out how anyone could manage to live as long as the smaller guy had and still be so… not innocent, because Kent was clearly anything but that, but so…

Hell, Rocko didn’t know what. It was like Kent knew the world wasn’t perfect and could hurt him, but he either didn’t care or had made a conscious choice not to worry about it. And Kent wasn’t big or strong or muscled… and Rocko would bet that the other man didn’t know how to fight or own a firearm. Yet Kent was so confident that he was in control of his own world, and it was… fascinating.

Rocko pretty much figured that while Kent knew bad things could happen, he’d never had any of them happen to him, so maybe that explained it.

It didn’t stop him from being intrigued, though, which was just… disturbing.

He stepped inside and closed the door behind him, latching all the deadbolts before turning and shrugging.

“I think I might have upset them,” he admitted with a small, almost nonexistent smile. “The girl and her friend have been running around after midnight on their own. Spike and I caught them last night. I told them some of what could happen to them and Xander and the girls got kind of, uh…” He shrugged. “Sorry. Guess you’re stuck with me until they, uh… chill?”

Kent took a deep breath and let it go… then took another before shaking his head slowly. “Don’t be sorry, Rocky. I’m actually between commissions right now, and since Dawny’s, um… busy, I guess I’m glad to have the company.”

And also sorry to have it because he could really use some personal time alone, with just himself and his cock, but it would be rude to say so and his Momma had raised him right, even if the ‘manly’ side of things hadn’t taken so well.

“Sit, you big lug. I doubt they fed you during the forty minutes you were making everyone cry, so find something on the boob-tube and I’ll whip us up something to eat, hmmm?”

And the surprises continued, Rocko thought with baffled appreciation, because anyone else who’d said what this Kent guy had just said would have meant it as some sort of insult or chastisement, but Kent said it like it just… was. Like he wasn’t passing judgement. It was… he didn’t know what it was, but he kind of thought he liked it.

“I… yeah. Thanks, uh… Kent.”

He deliberately ignored that he was watching the slender man walk from the room. And he didn’t ask himself why he was staring at the guy’s ass.

In fact, Rocko pretended that he was still the same guy he’d been before the Harris kid became his job, because that Rocko had never seen a vampire who was very masculine—and almost pretty—who happened to be in love with another man. That Rocko had never had to question his own values, his own willingness to do anything for money.

Hell, that Rocko would never have been here, suddenly wondering whether the reason he’d never had a relationship that worked was because there was something within him that he’d been ignoring out of fear. Something that would have freaked him out as recently as a week and a half earlier and would limit the number of other guys who’d be willing to work with him in the future if they knew. If he had a future, which he didn’t.

And that was a reminder he’d needed, he realized. He wasn’t going to be around for too much longer, so what difference did it make if he was… well, something other than what he’d always thought?

None, he told himself, and the word was like a revelation.

It didn’t matter. Not now. And maybe it shouldn’t ever have mattered but he’d never really had the balls to think about it before. Now, though… well, now…

It still didn’t matter.

He was a walking dead man, as Spike called him, and he knew it.

He didn’t have anything like the time to make a major lifestyle change, and even if he did… how did guys go about it, anyway? It couldn’t be like it was for straight people; he knew that much.

Hell, a straight guy would go to a bar—as Rocko had done more than a few times—and scope the crowd. Find whatever girl appealed and take a shot. Either win or lose.

Okay, maybe not that different, from what he’d heard.

But that wasn’t even dating, and there was no chance he’d know how to do that with a guy.

It was different with women, he was sure.

You saw a girl you thought was hot. Talked to her enough to know she wasn’t a whore or just looking for a guy with a paycheck. Asked her out, and if it went well, did it again… and again… and next thing you knew, you had a girlfriend. Sex was always welcome, of course, but it was the companionship that mattered more… or it always had been for him, which—now that he thought about it—maybe wasn’t quite normal for a straight guy, and…

But he liked sex! He did!

He liked undressing women and touching their skin… he liked the way they felt against him, their slender bodies and small breasts… their round, fleshy bottoms rubbing against his cock for those long moments before he slid into their slick, secret depths…

“Oh, God…”

He figured he’d be a lot more upset if he weren’t going to die soon, but since he was, what was the point in curling in on himself and spending ages trying to come to terms with the sudden truth? And maybe, he thought, he was lucky in a way. After all, if he hadn’t known Spike was going to kill him soon, he’d probably be ignoring the way his eyes seemed to follow Kent without any direction from him.

Of course, it wasn’t likely that the redhead was single… or even remotely likely to be interested in a guy like him. Besides… Kent could do much better, even if he wasn’t seeing someone already.

Still, Rocko could look, couldn’t he?

And if he decided to ask the guy for some time alone in the shower, well… Kent didn’t need to know what he would be doing in there, did he? Or who he might be thinking about, assuming he had the nerve.

He wondered for a moment about why he hadn’t chosen Xander or Spike for his newly-gay attraction, but… they were together, and while Rocko might be any number of things that were less than good, he’d never poached; not even in his own head.

Besides, even though both of those guys were attractive, they just didn’t have that… whatever it was that Kent had. That… acceptance, Rocko thought.

Hell, he’d told Kent that he’d upset his friends, even the little girls, and Kent had just… offered to feed him!

Rocko swallowed hard.

Kent had manners. And a sort of tolerance that he’d never really known existed. And the guy was incredibly hot, too, as far as Rocko was concerned. For a guy.

And how fucked up was it that he’d not only just realized that he might be gay, but he’d also just met someone who made him want to find out for sure… and that same guy was way too good for him?

Well, pretty fucked up, Rocko figured… but also pretty appropriately fucked up.

He didn’t deserve someone of Kent’s caliber, even if there had been the slightest chance in Hell that the guy would have been interested. And single.

And that was… exactly what he deserved, Rocko admitted silently.

He sighed softly and flipped channels, not stopping until he found one of his favorite movies playing on the so-called ‘Classic Movie’ channel. “It was only the 80’s, for fuck’s sake. How does that make it a classic when this channel calls ‘Casablanca’ a classic, too?”

Kent laughed, shaking his head at the way the big man jumped.

“Couldn’t tell you, Rocky,” he answered as he strolled in from the kitchen, two plates of scrambled eggs with chorizo and hash browns in his hands. “Maybe because it’s twenty or so years old?”

Rocko snorted and stood, taking the plates from the smaller man’s hands and setting them on the coffee table. “By that reckoning, ‘Evil Dead’ is a classic, too. And this looks… really good. I… thanks, Kent. You didn’t have to…”

Kent grinned and headed back into the kitchen, emerging a moment later with cloth napkins and silverware.

“If you don’t think ‘Evil Dead’ is a classic, you need to get the hell out of my apartment, Rocky. Though I did like ‘Army of Darkness’ better. Oh, and can you tell me why we’re watching ‘Beaches’, of all things? I mean… hello? Depressing!” He smiled again. “It’s way too early for a sob-fest, but if you really want one, we’ll watch this and ‘Steel Magnolias’ later. Although I might end up crying on your shoulder. Consider yourself warned.”

Kent winked, then took the remote and flipped channels himself until he found some decent animation.

“Oh, good,” he muttered around a mouthful of eggs and sausage, “I love this one. ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ rocks!”

Rocko couldn’t manage to make himself speak. Even if he hadn’t been chewing, he’d have been silent, because…

Kent liked Evil Dead. And Army of Darkness.

Kent liked Beaches and Steel Magnolias.

And Kent liked animation.

Okay, maybe just Japan-imation, but maybe not, too, and…

And that was yet another nail in the coffin of Rocko’s straightness, he realized… or with regards to Kent, anyway.

Unfortunately, that didn’t change anything.

He was still going to die sooner than he’d suddenly like, and…

“Fuck.”




Unfinished




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