Thanks to the lovely kitty_poker1 for her wonderful beta work on this fic so far. She's worked incredibly hard and we're pleased that she'll be sticking with us until the end!
Spike stretched in his chair, his arms reaching towards the ceiling until his back gave a satisfying crack. Not an hour before, he and Xander had been having some mind-blowing sex, and so they had been for the last four days. It had left Spike with a permanent smirk plastered all over his face and Xander with an everlasting blush.
Xander was a quick study and Spike was one hundred percent confident that there was to be some very dirty sex in their immediate futures. And, not that Spike was willing to admit it out loud – unless he was caught having a particularly soppy moment – Spike was enjoying all the stuff that came after the earth-moving sex: the cuddles, the petting, the sweet kissing and the nuzzling.
Spike smiled at the memory of Xander kissing him goodbye before he went out to meet Gunn. He touched a finger to his lips and remembered how tender it had felt, how soft.
Spike shook his head. He was the one who was soft. But that was okay. If soft meant happy then he was just fine with that. He had someone who loved him, someone he loved back just as much. He had a family who depended on him, and maybe that was a lot of pressure for some, but for him it was absolute bliss. It was a chance to show he was good, to show that he had changed and could make a difference.
There was a soft tap at the bedroom door and Spike looked over his shoulder and called, “Yep.”
The door opened and Cordelia’s face peered around it, her eyes closed. “Is it safe?” she asked.
Spike looked down at his bare chest and his barely-hanging-in-there loose fitting pyjama bottoms. “Just about.”
Cordelia opened her eyes and stepped into the room. “Do you ever wear all your clothes inside the house?” she asked. “You’re like a porn star.”
Spike grinned at her. “Cheers. Nice of you to say. And it is my bedtime, by the way. The sun is up and it’s time for all good little vamps to be tucked up.”
“Just don’t expect me to do the tucking.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, luv. Got my Xander to do that.”
Cordelia laughed. “And don’t you just look smug about it.”
“Got reason to be smug.”
“Yes, we know. We all have ears, you know? You two are like a couple of horny banshees. Really, it’s disgusting, Spike.”
“It’s hot, and you know it.”
Cordelia opened her mouth but Spike cut her off before she could deny it. “What do you want, anyway? Everything alright?”
“Yes, everything is fine. Or as fine as everything can be on a Hellmouth with a whole platoon of super-trained vamps waiting to turn us all into rations.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “Things are good, then?”
“Yeah, pretty much. I wondered what time Tara said she was getting in.”
“She didn’t. Might not even be here today.”
Cordelia nodded in thought. “Huh. Right. And you’re sure she didn’t say why she was coming back?”
Spike huffed a little. “I told you, she did say. Said she was coming back for a visit.”
Cordelia narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “But what does she mean exactly?”
“She means she’s coming for a bloody visit and you need to get your backside over to the Magic Box to give Wes and Angel a hand. They’d like to open some time this year, you know?”
“All, right, grumpy vamp. Jeeze, how does Xander put up with you?”
“Because he loves me.” That put the smile back on Spike’s face. He loves me. He might love me forever.
“Oh, give me strength. The two of you are sickening.”
Spike grinned and stuck his fingers up, and Cordelia left, muttering about damn vampires making her life difficult.
Truthfully, Spike was pretty sure Tara did have another reason for coming. Her email had been short and to the point, just stating that she was coming for a visit. But the email she’d sent previous to that had said she had something to tell, and Spike found it hard to believe that something was just that she was visiting. There was definitely something going on.
Spike also felt a little bit nervous. Before Tara had left with Willow and Giles for England, and the protection of the Coven, she and Spike had only really been acquaintances. Since then, they had emailed regularly and Tara had become like a best friend. Now that she was coming back, albeit only for a visit, Spike felt a tense sort of excitement. Tara was a good friend now but it was like he was about to meet her for the first time.
He wondered again when she might be arriving and decided to send her another email in case she hadn’t yet left. Spike tapped the space bar on the laptop to get rid of the Batman screen saver, quickly checked eBay to make sure he hadn’t been outbid on the sixteen inch Wolverine bust he was determined to get for Xander as a totally random surprise present, logged into his email account and pulled up the email Tara had sent two nights before.
SUBJECT: Guess What?
Hope you are well and having lots of hot sex. Xander’s a lucky guy. If I was a gay man, I would definitely choose you. :oD
Anyway, I expect to hear lots of details – I may be a lesbian but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the beauty of two hot guys together. ~drools~
The thing is, you’ll be able to tell me in person because I’m coming to visit. If it’s okay, I’d like to stay for a week or so. Things are very chaotic here and there is a lot happening, and I would love a break.
Phone me if there’s a problem otherwise I’ll see you in a few days time.
Spike had already replied to the email, and told Tara it was fine to come whenever she wanted for as long as she wanted, but he was growing increasingly concerned. He hit reply but paused with his hands hovering over the keyboard.
“Oh, bollocks,” he whispered to himself, and snatched up the phone instead, moving across the room to his night stand to pull out a small, battered, blue notebook that contained everything from recipes to phone numbers. He flicked through the pages and found Tara’s private line.
There was no answer. He flicked through the book again, and stopped at a number for Giles. Spike huffed to himself and dialled. Still no answer, so Spike flicked again and found a number for the actual Coven.
“Hello?” a female voice answered after a long delay.
“Hello, luv. I’m after Rupert Giles. Is he about?”
“I’m sorry, but Mr Giles isn’t here at the moment. May I ask who’s calling and take a message? ”
“It’s Spike. When will he be back?”
“I’m not sure. Did you say Spike?” The voice on the phone lightened. “Tara has told us a lot about you.”
“Yeah? It’s actually Tara I’m looking for.”
“She isn’t here either. I thought she’d contacted you. She’s on a plane as we speak, heading your way.”
Relieved, Spike smiled and sat down on the bed. “Right, that’s all I needed to know. She’s been alright? You lot been treating her right?”
“She’s fine, Spike, I assure you.”
Spike nodded worriedly. He wasn’t entirely satisfied and he wanted to know what was going on. “Where is Giles?” he asked. “I’d really like to speak to him.”
“I’m so sorry; I’d put you through if I could, but he’s in transit.”
“He’s already on the plane.”
“He’s coming here?!” Spike asked, panicking on behalf of Xander, who Spike was sure wouldn’t handle the news well.
The voice on the phone hesitated. “…No. Hasn’t Tara discussed this with you?”
“No, she bloody hasn’t. What the fuck is going on?”
“I’m sorry, I really can’t say anything else. It isn’t my place.”
“Hold on just a bloody minute-!”
“Spike, Tara will be landing there shortly. It would be best to talk to her about this, really. There’s nothing to be worried about.”
“That’s easy for you to say.”
“Actually, it isn’t. Look, Tara would be very unhappy to know that you’re worrying. She’ll be there soon and she’ll explain everything to you.”
Spike paused for thought. “This is about Willow, isn’t it?”
The voice on the phone spoke sadly. “Wait for Tara. It was nice to finally speak with you, Spike.”
The line disconnected, and Spike stared down at the phone in his palm. To tell Xander or not to tell Xander. Spike was a great believer in communication, but it wouldn’t do to upset Xander if there was no need. They all had enough to deal with without freaking out over a non-existent problems. Besides, it sounded as though Tara would be arriving at any moment so perhaps a few hours of waiting wouldn’t hurt.
Spike tossed the phone onto the chair, climbed under the covers and squeezed his eyes closed. He was still awake an hour later.
"You know, your...whatever Spike is, isn't bad. I mean, yeah, vampire. But he's not nearly as evil as I thought the dude would be. He's more annoying than evil, really."
Xander looked up from the instructions he was reading for installing the portable water tanks in the back of a pick-up truck. "Umm, thanks. And yeah, he's annoying, even I'll admit that. Spike lives, or unlives, to annoy. It's mostly Angel, though, and that makes it okay. It's like Wednesday and Pugsley trying to kill each other. It doesn't really count."
Gunn sounded awkward. Then again, he was currently under the new 4x4 they'd bought to turn into a battle wagon. Xander wasn't sure exactly what the other man was doing, but he was sure it was slightly illegal. Still, Xander knew how Gunn was always slightly wary of Spike, so maybe he was freaked out that he was beginning to like the blond vampire.
Maybe Gunn needed to talk about it? If anyone knew what it was like to be confused over hating vampires but finding himself being all comrades-in-arms with one, it was Xander. "Does it bother you? The fact that Spike is more interested in killing a bottle of Jack Daniels than young virgins? I mean, it used to freak me out. I didn't get how Buffy could hate Spike and yet trust him to protect her mom and Dawnie. Now, I get that he has this odd honour code. I mean, there were a couple of times back in high school when he had his hands on me, but he didn't even try to kill me. He wasn't after me, he wanted to fight The Slayer."
Xander could hear the clang of a tool hitting metal and then Gunn rolled out from under the car. "And wouldn't killing you have gotten him a fight with your friend, Buffy?"
Xander thought about it for a moment. "Yeah, but not really. The first time he didn't want me, it was Deadboy's idea of a trick. The other time he was upset about Dru dumping him. Spike's the type who would rather fight The Slayer. And I'm using capital letters here. He fought The Slayer in China while he was still a fledge and won, something that is almost impossible to do unless she was inexperienced or he got really lucky. I've read the Watchers' Journals, and that wasn't it. He beat her fair and square. Same with the one he faced in the 70's. He didn't even feed from that Slayer, which is like a big compliment since a Slayer's blood is like chocolate and cocaine and an aphrodisiac all rolled into one to vamps. I think Spike gets off on beating a Slayer one on one, you know? Vampire to Slayer. Most other vamps aren't like that."
"Is that why you hated Angel back then? Because Angelus went after you?"
Xander snorted and sat down on the ground so he could really talk to Gunn. He leaned against the tire of the truck, and tried not to think about how filthy he was getting. "I wish. First it was just the general jealousy thing, what with Angel being tall, dark and brooding. Of course Buffy would notice him more than short, brown and geeky. I didn't hate Angel with a blinding passion until I found out he was a vampire. And just because he had a soul, it was okay not to stake him. Yet I looked my best friend and, now that I'm admitting to myself that I like guys, first crush, in the eye and watched as the stake I held went through his heart and he turned to dust."
"My sister was vamped. It was freaky. She was there, and it was her. I don't care what Wes and Angel say about the demon wearing her face or all that shit, there was a little part of her there. She knew just what to say. She wanted me to join her, was going on about how great it was to be dead, how powerful she was now. I knew Alonna; hell, I'd raised her! She was all the family I had. It about killed me to dust her but she wouldn't have wanted to be a vamp."
Xander wasn't sure what to say to that. At one point he would have agreed, but now...
Instead Xander chose to change the subject. This was entirely too complicated a discussion to have before eleven in the morning. His brain didn't work that well until after lunch. "So you think this water tank is going to work?"
Gunn gave him an odd look but didn't ask. "It should if we can get enough water pressure behind it. I figure our girl Fred can jury rig something. She's got more brains than McGuyver ever thought about."
"And you like brains, don't you? So does Wes."
Xander grinned. "Don't lie. You and Wes are totally into each other, I know. Still, every once in a while I'll see one or the other looking and then you'll look at Wes or he'll look at you and then you'll both look at her."
Gunn snorted. "Meanwhile, the girl wouldn't notice either one of us unless we had some piece of equipment taped to our ass."
"Look, just point out that there are chemicals that are more stable when they have three elements or a tricycle is more stable than a bicycle or something." What Xander knew about physics could fill a Dixie cup. The three ounce bathroom cup size.
"Huh. I'll suggest that to Wes; it'll come out sounding better from him. I'll just try to corner the girl one night with a gallon of Neapolitan ice cream and point out how good chocolate goes with both vanilla and strawberry and how much fun it is to lick it off someone with an accent, and would she mind if I used her to compare a British accent to a Southern one."
Xander's jaw dropped as his brain stuttered and he tried to think of something to say. Gunn took one look at him and started laughing, falling off the creeper he'd been using to work underneath the car.
"Man! You should see your face! I wish I had a camera. God. That was too funny!"
Xander blushed. "Yeah, yeah. You're better than Chris Rock."
Gunn stopped laughing long enough to look at him. "Ain't that just like a white man. You want to give a brother a compliment and the only famous black man you can think of is Chris Rock."
Xander could feel himself flush and wondered if he'd stuck his foot in his mouth in a major way. As Gunn had pointed out more than once, there weren't a lot of black people in Sunnydale and he didn't want to cross some imaginary line. Some of his uncertainty must have shown on his face because Gunn was laughing again and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Chill, man, I'm just joking with you. You gotta relax; it's not as if there's a group of highly trained vampires after us or something."
Xander did as the other man instructed and relaxed and allowed himself to laugh. "Man, this is so weird. I am so not used to having a guy besides Spike around. For a while there I thought I was going to drown in oestrogen. Do you know how scary it would get around here? Forget vampires! I had two witches, a vampire slayer, an ex-demon and a teenager all on the same cycles for a while. I'd set aside money from each pay check to buy bags of chocolate and offered to help Giles in the storeroom for one week every month. We'd go in there, move a few boxes from one side of the room to the other and mainly hide. It was scary."
Gunn winced. "And I thought about being around Queen C once a month was bad. You win; you're much braver than I am." They looked at each other and laughed before Gunn re-positioned himself on the creeper to go back under the truck. "You know what, Xan? When all this is over we need to have a guys' night out. Beer, pizza, re-runs of Baywatch. That's the best part about liking both sexes, you know: you can watch the girls with the big titties and the guys with the Speedos and the big dicks. It's all good."
Before Xander had time to crawl away in embarrassment, there was the sound of someone clearing their throat. Xander and Gunn both spun around, Gunn gripping a wrench tightly in his hand.
A man stood at the mouth of the alley. He was older than middle aged but not elderly, not yet at least. He was wearing a brownish, nondescript suit and had a close cut beard. To Xander his body language screamed lawyer or possibly Child Protection Services.
This was so not good.
"Pardon me, but I'm looking for a Dawn Summers. I've been told I can find her at the Magic Box but the shop is, regretfully, closed."
"Get out." Xander stood and crossed his arms and tried to look intimidating. The man had a British accent and every warning bell went off in Xander's head. This was worse than not good. This was let Spike and Angel loose on the bastard levels of not good. "I'm Dawn's legal guardian and I'm telling you right now you have until sunset to be out of town before Dawn's other foster parent finds you. Now get back in your rented car, go to the nearest airport and go back to London and tell Quentin Travers he can go fuck himself."
The man gave an offended cough but Xander didn't care. "I do not think you understand. I've been sent by the Watchers' Council to be the new Slayer's Watcher. My name is Rodger Wyndam-Pryce."
Suddenly Gunn was stepping in front of Xander, and, while he hadn't known the man that long, it was obvious that Gunn was straining to keep himself from hitting this man. Then his last name penetrated Xander's brain and he groaned. This asshole was Wesley's dad.
"I don't think you understand what the man said. Pack up your stakes and shit, and get the fuck out of the 'Dale. I'm sure if the local cops don't give a shit about the kids that live here, they sure as hell ain't gonna give a shit for some British bastard if he disappears, especially since I doubt your people would want to draw attention to themselves. And unlike Xander here, I'm not giving you until sundown. Leave. Now."
Just then Xander knew that Fate liked to piss on the Scoobies, because the door to the Magic Box opened and Wes stepped out. He had his mouth open to say something to them but saw his father standing at the other end of the alley.
Both men stood there, looking at each other, and Xander exchanged glances with Gunn and they both walked to stand behind Wesley in a show of solidarity. Gunn's hand rested on Wes' shoulder but it was Wesley who finally broke the silence.