out of the Curved 'Verse
Long Distance Support Group for Sidetracked Shaman
Xander fidgeted with the phone cord trying to get past the traditional small talk which was quickly turning into medium talk because he couldn't seem to change the topic from weather.
Changing a destiny in two easy steps
"Spike, um, any chance we could maybe talk?" Xander watched as Spike turned on the balcony, the garden light creating a glow around him.
"Sure, pet," he answered casually as he dropped the cigarette to the ground and crushed it under his foot. Xander leaned against the doorframe and tried to ignore the bugs that tap-danced circles in his stomach. Leaning back against the stone railing, Spike crossed his arms. And hey, Spike's hands were pretty much the same color as the marble. Xander chewed his lip as inappropriate thoughts of hard things ran through his brain like little bunny rabbits leaving dirty rabbit tracks behind. Very dirty.
"Talkin' usually involves words, pet," Spike said softly. "Whatever ya got to say, best say it now before I go out for a bit of violence."
"The words part… that's where I get a little sidetracked what with the not knowing what to say," Xander admitted. "Oh, I can come up with words, but they're a little of the jumbled sort."
"Bloody hell, pet, whatever you're goin' ta say, just say it," Spike said with a sigh, but the ripple of demon that flashed in his face ruined the 'cool and indifferent' act. Xander took a deep breath.
"I talked to Blair tonight," he burst out. Spike gave him a strange look. "I told him how the girls are doing the whole 'oh god, he's possessed again' thing and how you've taken up chain smoking worse than in your slayer-killing days, or your slayer-trying-to-kill days…um… 'trying-to-kill-the-slayer' days." Xander finally managed, and then he stopped and stared at the tiny cracks in the stone floor. He knew babble when he heard it, and *that* was babble.
"So, what's got you all turned around?" Spike asked, and the arms uncrossed as Spike leaned back against the stone, putting his palms flat against the marble. Xander studied the chipped black polish as he struggled to gather his thoughts… and his nerve.
"Um, well, Buffy and Willow doing the guilt and Giles with the glasses cleaning and me with the guilt, which is different from the Buffy and Willow guilt."
"Xander!" Spike stepped away from the railing, reaching up and resting a hand on Xander's arm where he hugged his own stomach. "Right, then. One word at a time, pet." Xander allowed Spike to guide him back into the bedroom and around a stack of CD's scattered across the floor. "First thing, why did you call the furry little shaman?" Spike asked as he pushed Xander to the bed and sat him on the edge.
The feel of Spike's hands on him again stirred needs in him, and Xander opened a corner of his mind. Blair said to trust himself, so Xander took a deep breath and watched the threads float across the room like when Willow had taught him to make the Cat's Cradle with yarn and his fingers. Faint golden threads—some brilliant, some copperish, others dull and faded—floated through the room: Slayers' trails.
The brilliant shining gold of Buffy and the lightening-white threads of Willow curled like wisps of smoke one second and then curled toward him the next. Xander could feel the pain and worry throbbing from them in his head and his muscles and his heart.
Now that he could consciously control that power in his mind, he could feel others' pain pressing in on him, which actually was less painful than when he'd felt other's evil. Xander shuddered at the memory of the pedophiles illness creeping over his brain until he wanted to vomit. Spike's hands tightened on his shoulders, pulling him back to the present where he sat on the bed with blue eyes studying him.
"The girls were big with the protest when I told them I had to ask you if I could practice my powers," Xander said as he stared down at the chipped black fingernails. Spike let go and backed off a half-step.
"Yeah, hacked Red off no end, I bet," Spike mused as he used a foot to snag a chair and pull it close enough for him to shove clothes off and sit. He pulled the chair up so that he sat facing Xander with his knees on either side of Xander's legs. "But those lot aren't used to seein' you as a shaman, and they'd go off and leave ya so lost in your own powers that some fledge would eat ya." Leaning forward, he rested his weight on Xander's thighs. "So, you called Blair 'bout that?"
Xander considered just agreeing. It wasn't technically a lie, and he could just keep walking the fence and trying to make everyone happy. Maybe that would be better than feeling Buffy and Willow and Giles wrap him in their disappointment and anger. But then that would mean continuing to endure the layers of pain and frustration from Spike. He sighed. Yeah, like it or not, time to get off the fence.
"I called Blair more about the general permission thing. I mean, Buffy calling me a girl is not exactly doing good things for the ego here," Xander admitted as he closed the door to his other sight. It was harder with Blair there to talk him through, but at least he could close himself off now instead of having others' feelings seep into him.
"She called ya a…" Spike stopped and shook his head. "Part of me may still love the girl, but some days she's as daft as Dru ever was. Xander?" Spike put a hand under Xander's chin, and Xander looked up at blue eyes that searched him. "Before we ever shagged, I told you that the demon has certain needs. Won't try to be somethin' I ain't. Tried that once; it didn't end well."
"Hey, and this is me not asking," Xander protested. He really wasn't asking for Spike to change, but he took a deep breath and tried to ignore an inner voice that sounded a lot like Giles… one that told him he was insane for saying what he was having trouble saying. "I talked to Blair, and Blair said that letting you… you know… it didn't actually make me girly," Xander whispered, and yeah, that didn't actually make sense. He tried to rephrase that without completely losing his manhood.
"Ya thought it made you a bint to let me take the lead?" Spike asked, and Xander breathed a sigh of relief at not having to say it himself. He just nodded.
"And the shaman told ya different then?" Spike asked.
"He told me that as long as you listened to what I really wanted and didn't do things that made me miserable that I should do what feels right," Xander admitted as he let his own hands move slightly so that his thumb brushed Spike's hands. "He said I had to trust my own powers to know who's right for me."
"And what feels right to you, pet?"
"You?" Xander said as he now stroked the side of Spike's hand with his thumb. Ever since Buffy had come back to Watcher HQ, Spike had retreated to his own rooms, and Xander missed the feeling of Spike curling around him at night. He missed waking up in the middle of some nightmare to find Spike's arms holding him so tightly that he couldn't get lost in his own fears.
"Pet, you asked me to give you some space."
"Too much space, Spike. I need a little less space," Xander paused, "a lot less space. I need a universe less of space."
"Oi, it's not like I want us sleeping apart. Bloody hate sleepin' alone, but I don't need you shriekin' in my ear if one of the girls walks in."
"I didn't shriek!" Xander objected as he sat up straight in indignation.
"You bloody near pierced my eardrum," Spike pointed out, but he said it with a laugh. Xander blushed as he remembered Willow walking in on them. Even with their, as Spike would call it, tackle covered, Willow had blushed to match her hair.
"It was a manly scream," Xander insisted with a blush of his own.
"Heard howler demons who didn't scream that loud," Spike said, and now he smiled so wide that small wrinkles appeared at the sides of his eyes.
"You're just a big old exaggerator," Xander accused his lover as he let his hands wander closer so that his fingers explored the back of Spike's hands.
"Pet," Spike said as he leaned back, pulling his hands free. "Not doin' this again. You know I want ya… bloody love feeling ya squirm under me, but you're pullin' yourself apart between trying to please the girls and Giles and Blair and me all at the same time. Ya can't keep doin' this. And ya can't ask this of me. You don't have the strength to fight the demon if I lose control, so it's got to be all or nothing."
"Funny thing," Xander admitted as he picked at a thumbnail nervously. "Blair pretty much told me the same thing."
"The little fuzz-ball might know somethin', him being a shaman and all," Spike pointed out, and suddenly the vamp had a serious expression.
"He said I had to pick, and as much as I don't want to pick because pickage is bad, I'm going to pick you," Xander managed to get the edge of a hang nail up so that he could pick at it. Spike's hand trapped his, holding him in place so that Xander looked up into Spike's eyes.
"Pet, I wish ya didn't have to pick, but you do. Trying to please everyone is ripping you apart, and the only way I know how to protect you is to make sure you focus on pleasing just me."
"You make it sound like I'm just shy of Dru," Xander snorted, but Spike's serious expression stopped him. "Hey, not even!"
"Bloody hell, you don't even see it, do ya?" Spike asked, and a strong hand reached up to cup the side of Xander's jaw. "Ever since you came back from Africa, it's like you're curling up inside. You spend hours sitting in front of the video games—"
"Oh yeah, like I'm the only one. You're still trying to beat my Simpson's score." Xander rolled his eyes as he tried to pull his hands free. He couldn't.
"Yeah, but you go from the video games to bed without even trying to talk to anyone." Spike sighed and then he shifted over so that he sat on the bed. Xander could feel something hard and uncomfortable rolling in his gut. "You talk like you've gone back ta being 15, and nothin' makes ya happy, not your woodworking or your friends or your bloody Star Trek videos."
"DVD's" Xander whispered.
"Bloody hell, not changing the topic," Spike said as he tightened his fingers on Xander's thighs.
"Subject change… like bed," Xander said hopefully. "Bed sounds good now," Xander offered as he tried to wiggled the fingers in the general direction of Spike's cock; however, Spike still held his hands.
"No distracting right now, pet," Spike said firmly. "Ever since Africa, you're bloody losing yourself."
"Right here. Got lost for a bit, but I hitchhiked back to Lamu."
"Enough," Spike slipped into gameface and grabbed both of Xander's wrists in one hand. Xander flinched as Spike's free hand went behind his head holding him in place so that he couldn't even turn his head away.
"You're mine, pet, right?"
Xander looked at Spike and could see the fear and the need in his face. Xander closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he pushed away the little Giles voice. Instead he focused on opening his mind. He touched the ties he shared with Spike and could feel the worry and the fear and the demon's brittle need to take and claim and hold.
"I'm yours," Xander agreed as he opened his eyes. Spike tightened his hold, and Xander let himself be pulled into Spike's lap. The awkward angle left him balancing on one of Spike's thighs and struggling to keep his balance
"If you're mine, that means you need to focus on just me," Spike said seriously, and Xander strained to keep himself from falling off the bed.
"Um, yeah," he agreed. The hand around his wrists tightened slightly.
"Pet, no hesitation. This has to be real. We're goin' to bloody walk downstairs and tell Buffy and Willow that you belong to me, that they don't have any more claim on you."
"You mean, I have to stop being friends with them?" Xander asked, and the knot that he always carried in his stomach grew so heavy that he felt nauseous. As he stopped struggling to stay on Spike's knee, he found himself sliding off the side. Spike used his hold on Xander's wrists and his legs to guide Xander to the floor where he found himself kneeling between Spike's legs as he looked up. Xander blushed as he wondered if the bedroom door was locked. Well, that and he hoped Willow had learned to knock.
"You can be friends, but ya do what I tell ya pet," Spike corrected him, and long fingers brushed curls out of Xander's face. "Love how you look when you're hard and needy and lettin' go of all that pain ya carry," Spike whispered, and Xander realized that he was hard. His jeans pressed against his cock until he felt like it was burning just from the pressure. He wiggled a little, but Spike continued to hold his hands captive so that Xander really couldn't do much about it.
"But you like how I look all happy and finished, too, right?" Xander asked as he looked up through his lashes while keeping his head bowed. When it came to getting off, he had no shame, especially after two weeks of the sock puppet of love. Well, the sock puppet of love and the hairbrush handle of love and that one time the phone cord of love.
"So, you ready to go down there and tell the girls that they need to stop playin' these games?"
"Now?" Xander yelped. Even he would call it a yelp. But given the circumstances, he felt it was yelp-worthy. He definitely did not want to have the conversation with his blood all draining south.
"Not givin' the demon free rein until I know you're sticking by your choice this time," Spike said as he continued to play with Xander's hair until Xander felt a little like a family dog, not that there was anything wrong with that. As Spike's fingers sent chills down his back, Xander leaned forward and let himself lean into Spike's legs. "You tried ta carry too much and you're strugglin' to keep your friends from knowin' that they came close to killing you."
Xander jerked back, but Spike closed a fist around Xander's hair, holding him in place.
"Hey, no dying, no near killing, and no near dying. I just get knocked around a bit by life. It's like my trademark. Buffy does the whole quipping when kicking thing, Willow does the ultimate cosmic good and evil thing, and I just..." Xander stopped. What did he do?
"I won't lose you because you won't look at yourself," Spike insisted, and Xander could feel a rising need to get away.
"Maybe this isn't such a good idea. Buffy may not stake you, but Kennedy is just looking for an excuse," Xander protested as he tried to stand. This conversation had somehow twisted out of shape, and Xander really didn't want to go there. Spike just hooked his ankles around Xander's thighs and held tight.
"Let go," Xander said as he struggled a little harder. Spike just tightened his hold and returned to petting Xander's hair. "Let. Go." Xander insisted as he struggled.
"No," Spike said with a calmness that made Xander want to hit him.
"Spike," Xander tried his best warning voice, and the legs around him tightened more, pressing him into the side of the bed and making his already sensitive cock twitch with interest. Damn traitorous body part.
"Whose are you pet?" Spike asked. Xander opened his mouth to deny anyone's ownership, but feeling Spike wrapped around him, he knew the truth. He could feel it in the need to let Spike hold him and in the fear that Spike would let go and in the threads that spun out from him and tangled with Spike until his shaman senses registered them as one body. He could feel it in a body that ached to lay under Spike and in the shame at knowing Willow and Buffy would never understand.
As his answer, he tilted his head to one side, offering Spike his blood and his submission. He didn't expect to get shoved away so hard that he found himself sitting on the floor stunned and looking up as Spike struggled to get his game face back under control. Shaking his head like a wet dog, Spike finally lost the sharp angles and looked down at him with blue eyes.
"Bloody hell, pet." Spike panted heavily as he curled a fist around the bedding.
"Spike?" Xander asked uncertainly.
"Right. Talk to the girls and then get back up here fast as we can. Just..." Spike paused, and his eyes flashed yellow again. "Just don't soddin' do that unless you're willing to deal with the consequences," Spike said through clenched teeth.
"Consequences are good," Xander said softly.
"Not unless you're goin' to follow through. I bite, and I won't let you walk away. My bloody demon won't let you walk away," Spike said as he stood, towering over Xander. "If ya can't face down Buffy and Willow, you aren't ready for that kind of commitment."
"I just..." Xander stopped. When Spike held down a hand, he took it and allowed Spike to pull him to his feet. "I just don't want to disappoint them," he admitted. "I don't want to disappoint you."
"Pet, remember Angel's face when ya tracked the demons through the bloody crowd? Remember how the great broody one almost swallowed his tongue when you told him you could feel Angelus creepin' around like an earthworm trying to find a way to the surface?"
Xander smiled at the memory.
"Mouthiest bastard I know, and ya never disappoint me," Spike promised as he pulled Xander into a one-armed hug. Xander allowed himself to lean into Spike, resting his forehead on Spike's shoulder.
"Bloody effin' hell. I'm goin' to pin you down on the bed and claim you right now if ya don't stop showin' me your neck.
"Kinda the point," Xander whispered, and that made Spike take a step backwards.
"Show me that ya understand, first. Ya can't serve them and me, pet," Spike said, and Xander sighed as he realized he wasn't getting out of facing the girls. However, he also had to admit that Spike had given him space, had trusted him to make his own choice, and Spike deserved a sign that Xander wouldn't chicken out and ask him to sleep in the other room to avoid a first class Willow guilt trip. As Xander glanced around the room, he also realized for the first time that Spike's most valued treasures were missing.
"You would have left," Xander suddenly accused the vampire, his guts tightening. He could feel the cords connecting them tighten and turn dark in Spike's silence.
"Yeah. Wouldn't have stuck around and watched you tryin' ta be what they wanted, even if it ripped you up. I warned you that I wouldn't deny my demon, and I won't do what I did ta Buffy."
Xander remembered his own anger when he learned that Spike had tried to rape Buffy. He still wished he'd been there, that he could have thrown himself between them and kept them from hurting each other so much. But now he understood that Spike had followed demon instincts. The difference was that Xander wouldn't reject the demon, and so he trusted the demon to not hurt him trying to keep from being rejected.
He watched the shimmering black thread of Spike's demon twist in the air between them. While Angelus' cord pulsed with malevolence and frustration, Spike's flowed with possessiveness that made the demon threads tangle with the blues and greens of William's soul and the browns and greens of Xander's. The demon wanted them both, it reached out, the sleek surface capturing threads and twisting around them.
Xander tilted his head and watched the dance. Angelus' cord had been weighed down under Angel's threads, the black gleaming in little slivers that flashed between the imprisoning lines. Spike's demonic cord twisted freely, more like a fish darting in the swirls created where Xander's soul touched Spike's. Xander could feel the danger sliding over his skin like an oil slick as the demon touched him, but the danger lay only in the demon's fears and needs, not in any anger or hatred.
Xander closed his eyes and let his inner sight focus on the waves created by the demon's presence.
"You wouldn't hurt me like that," Xander said confidently.
Spike didn't answer. Opening his eyes, Xander could see the doubt in Spike's face... he could see the fear.
Reaching up, Xander smiled. "I can see you, and you won't ever hurt me like that because I'm yours," Xander whispered. "I know I have to choose, and I choose you. No matter what Buffy or Willow or Giles say, I'm yours." Xander blinked away the shamanistic sight, but he could still feel the demon cords twisting around him, the very air rippling like a stone dropping into a silent pond. Xander stepped closer and tilted his head to the side.
"Yours," he whispered.
Xander felt sharp teeth bite into him as the dark thread sank into his skin, becoming a part of him, tying him to Spike forever.
No Place Like Home
Xander waited in the shadow of the house, watching the glowing end of Spike's cigarette. He could only see Buffy's outline—a lighter gray against the dark gray English night. She shifted and played with something in her hands, a stake maybe. Oh yeah, not really a good sign. Xander trusted her not to actually stake Spike, but threats?
"Right then, out with it," Spike finally demanded, his cigarette making a bright arc as he tossed it at the fountain.
"Spike, look, I just don't think this is a good idea," Buffy said, her voice firm.
"And would that be the rescue mission or me and Xand?"
Spike's direct question left Xander wishing he had stayed in the house with Willow and Kennedy and Giles and even Andrew all trying to convince him that he shouldn't go on the mission with Spike. He knew they felt that way because it interfered with their whole 'break up Spike and Xander' plan, but it didn't exactly leave him brimming with manly pride… or any pride. But now, he didn't dare risk moving with Buffy's body angled toward him, so he pressed his cheek to the warm brick and sent up a quick prayer that they would make a few threats and call it a night.
"What?" Buffy demanded. "Hey, I’m supporto-gal. Look at how supportive I am with not dragging him away."
"Bloody hell, what *is* your problem?"
"No problems here. I am problem-free gal *and* supporto-gal."
"And what about all that bollocks about not trustin' me to go after soldier boy? Not like I'm going to eat him what with the soul still attached, and Xander—the boy holds his own now that he isn't bumbling around with his shaman powers out of control and pullin' at him."
"I never said I didn't trust you." Buffy paused, "Okay, I sorta implied that, but you aren't big on the Riley love, and Xander's middle name is Lavelle, not competent-rescue guy."
Xander closed his eye as he fought back tears. Not manly, crying just because one of your best friends points out the truth, both with the Lavelle and the not competent parts.
"Bloody hell. You have a problem, just come out and say it. Xand has been soddin' brilliant ever since we got the shaman bit worked at, at least when you let him concentrate and don't get him wound up so tight his spring is ready to snap."
"Okay, and now you're the one who sounds like problem-boy with me." The Buffy shadow moved so that her hands braced on her waist.
"I do have a soddin' problem with how you've been actin' since we got back from Cascade."
"Oh, and I’m supposed to be thrilled with how you're acting?"
"Right—got to the problem then, haven't we? Boy told you that he picked me over you lot, and now, all of a sudden, you have time for him. I understand why Red is raisin' a fuss—after all, Xand was her best friend and her first crush, and she still thinks of the boy as hers, but I don't—"
"See, that's the problem," Buffy nearly shouted, her voice growing shrill enough that a bird flapped out of the tree nearest the fountain, startled or just looking for a quieter place to rest. "Xander isn't hers or yours, and you talk about him like he's some little toy to pass back and forth."
"Wot?" For a long moment, the crickets chirping and the fountain gurgling and the splashing waves in the stone basin filled Xander's ears: ears which burned red at Buffy's description.
"If I didn't still love ya, I'd knock you into next week for saying somethin' like that," Spike finally announced in a deadly soft voice. His bounce had disappeared so that his shadow stood as still as the statue of the fat cherubs that stood on either side of the arch leading to the garden path.
"Why? It's true," Buffy finally answered. She had angled her body, and Xander wondered if this was about to degenerate into an actual physical fight.
"I bloody love Xand, but he understands that means a demon loves him. Won't deny what I am to you or to him, and that means I see the boy as mine. You don't want to get between me and mine," Spike warned her in that same strangely calm voice.
"Is that how it was with us? Are you going to hurt him one of these days?" Buffy asked. Xander physically flinched, the brick scratching at his face, but Spike didn't move.
"I soddin' belonged to you, only you didn't want that. So, we all just moved on. Stay out of my business with Xander, slayer, or we will have a problem." Spike started to turn away, his yellow eyes flashing dimly in the night.
"Spike," Buffy called, her voice strangled with some emotion Xander couldn't identify. Spike froze.
The silence of the night drifted past the three of them—Buffy and Spike in the courtyard and Xander in his hiding place beside the house. Finally Spike answered. "Boy loves ya, I bloody love ya, but we won't stay here unless you lot get your heads screwed on straight. We'll go find Captain Cardboard, and when we come back, we'll either get some respect or we'll pack our shite and leave."
"You'd take him away from the only family he has left?" Buffy asked.
"You'd push him away, and I won't have ya hurtin' my boy," Spike answered before he disappeared, vampire speed removing him from the courtyard in the blink of a human eye.
Xander watched as Buffy nearly collapsed onto the rim of the fountain, her head sunk into her hands as her shoulders shook with sobs. He wanted to comfort her; that was his job in the group, to put people back together. However, comforting her meant giving her hope that he would choose her over Spike, and he couldn't do it. He quietly backed up, winding his way through the bushes at the side of the house before he reached the workshop door.
Moving quietly and quickly, he made his way to the bedroom he shared with Spike. Putting on a happy mask, he pushed open the door. Inside, Spike sat on the end of the bed with an unlit cigarette between his fingers.
"Hey, Spike," Xander smiled.
"Right, you get an earful?" Spike asked, looking up with eyes that pinned Xander to the floor.
"I…" Xander snapped his mouth shut. Okay, spying or lying, which would get him in more trouble.
"Never wanted you to bloody hear that rot. You're not some bauble I keep on a string to brass off the slayer, and you're bloody brilliant in a fight. When we visited Peaches, he was practically oozing envy when ya bird-dogged those Karell demons at the fair."
"She just…" Xander lost his words again. Funny, he normally had lots of words, not generally the right ones, but at least lots of them.
Spike reached out and grabbed Xander's hand, pulling him down to the bed where Spike wrapped strong arms around him. Xander felt something tighten around his heart and he took a deep breath as the pain he'd denied blossomed in his heart. "She doesn't want to know who I am now," Xander admitted, barely containing a sob.
"She can't face it, pet. She sees who ya are now, with all your pain and your strength, and she has to admit that she's a big part of it. Ya sacrificed a lot ta stay by her side," Spike used one finger to trace the edge of the eyepatch, and Xander shivered. "She loves ya, and that's why she can't face seein' how different ya are from the boy she first knew. She doesn't want ta think how different ya are because of her."
"Hey, perfectly capable of getting hurt without her. Lots of people I grew up with ended up demon chow without ever knowing the slayer," Xander pointed out. Spike's hands slowly traveled his body, unfastening a button here and scraping a fingernail over bare flesh there.
"Didn't say she was right, only said she was fightin' her own guilt, right or wrong. Just won't let her rip you apart while she does it," Spike said absent-mindedly as he popped open the last button and slowly pushed off Xander's first shirt.
"Just like home," Xander snorted. Spike stopped and put a hand under Xander's jaw and made him look up.
"Meanin'?" Spike asked as he looked into Xander's eye.
"Pet, you can tell me, or I can redden your arse until you tell me," Spike pointed out. Xander sighed even as his cock slowly pressed against his jeans harder and harder.
"Mom and Dad. They were so busy fighting with each other and the bill collectors and finally with the lawyers that they never really noticed me. When I broke my arm in the library, they didn't notice for nearly a week." Xander shrugged and tried to tilt his head back down, but Spike's fingers held his chin in place.
"Well, I bloody notice ya, pet. So, we find soldier-boy and then we make some decisions 'bout where we're goin' to make home."
"You'll make some decisions," Xander said quietly.
"Pet?" Spike asked.
"I can't leave them," Xander nearly whispered, hoping that Spike would understand what he meant.
"Not a problem. I'll make the decision for you. Ya don't need to protect yourself, pet, I'll do that bit for ya." Spike loosened his fingers, and Xander ducked his head as he fought with his own guilt. "After all, you're mine, aren't you?" Spike asked as he unbuttoned the top snap on Xander's jeans.
Strong hands pulled Xander up onto the bed so that he lay on his back while Spike crouched over him. "Seem to remember someone givin' himself to me, and as the alpha vampire, I have ta take care of my clan," Spike pointed out as he reached a hand under Xander's undershirt and pinched a nipple. Xander bucked up, grabbing at Spike's shoulders only to find a knee at his hip forcing him back down to the bed. Looking up at Spike's amused yellow eyes, Xander realized that as much as he loved his girls, this was home. Then Spike leaned down to demand a rough kiss, and Xander let himself slip into a place where he no longer thought at all.
"Spike?" Blair asked, standing in the open door to the loft in shock.
"Wot? You were expecting the Easter bunny?" Spike pushed past Blair into the loft.
"Geez, rude much?" Xander complained from the door. "Hey, nice to see you, Blair. Mind if we come in?"
"Sure, come on in," Blair offered. Xander walked in, and Spike had already sprawled over the couch, his legs crossed with one boot resting on top of his other knee.
"Hey, Jim," Xander offered as the sentinel came down the stairs from the loft.
"Xander," Jim said cautiously. Suddenly coming here didn't seem like such a good idea. Xander ducked his head and headed for the living room where he sat close enough to Spike for their hips to touch. A cool hand rested against his back, and Xander glanced over to blue eyes.
"Go on then, pet," Spike said. "Let's just get the bloody show on the road."
"Not much for small talk, are you?" Jim asked as he stood between the couch and the kitchen table. Blair went to sit on one of the chairs, and Jim reached out a hand and pulled Blair to his side without taking his eyes off Spike.
Spike only stared without answering, and Xander shifted nervously on the couch. This had seemed like such a great idea in England. It had even sounded pretty practical on the plane ride over. Now… now it just seemed stupid.
"We're just in the states to do, you know, work. Work is good. Anyway, this is obviously not a good time, so hey, nice to see you, and we'll just be…" Xander felt the babble pour out, helpless to stop it.
"Need your help," Spike interrupted him with sharp clipped words that he spit out unhappily. Xander watched while Jim's eyes went large and Blair, who had been subtly shifting to get past Jim, froze in place. Spike didn't elaborate, but strong fingers kneaded Xander's shoulder reassuringly. Xander took a deep breath. Right, these were their friends. Xander glanced up at Jim who had now narrowed his eyes as he glared at Spike. Okay, these were his friends who probably wished he'd picked someone other than Spike. Funny how all his friends felt that way.
"Major Finn, the guy who shared totally classified material when you chained me to the kitchen, um, yeah, he's kinda missing," Xander blurted in one long breath.
"Oh man, missing as in demons and vampires might have eaten him?" Blair asked. Jim's arm slipped around Blair's waist, and Jim pulled his guide to his body, not even trying for subtle.
"Um, maybe. Maybe he's just lost," Xander said. "He's in east Idaho and there are some really isolated areas out there. I'm hoping for lost."
"Special forces… lost... inside the United States," Jim answered dubiously.
"And saying it like that, I'm thinking not that likely," Xander said.
"Right, so like I said, need some help finding Captain Cardboard."
"Major," Xander corrected him. Spike looked over with one eyebrow up. "Not that it really matters since he's still lost. Or eaten. He might be eaten."
"And what might have done the eating?" Jim asked suspiciously.
"Probably kith-harn from what we got from one of the soldier boys who didn't get eaten. Not particularly dangerous, but tough and soldier boys found a nest," Spike shrugged as if it didn't matter to him that demons had eaten soldiers. Then again, it probably didn't actually matter to him.
"So let the soldiers clean up the mess," Jim suggested dryly.
"Oi, they did that alright. Hear about the trapped gas in the mine? The big explosion out in the boonies of Idaho?" Spike leaned back and sucked on his front teeth.
"Demons go boom," Xander nodded. "But what with the whole going boom thing, the army is calling it all good even though Riley is still on the missing list. He's good, Jim. He wouldn't go down to a bunch of kith-harn."
"Oh man, they left him out there." Blair's breathless horror pretty much summed it up. Xander liked Riley, but wouldn't normally be all volunteer-happy to go get him. However, the idea of being abandoned hit a pretty big nerve with Xander, even if his girls had never physically abandoned him.
"Gits aren't good about taking care of their own. Push comes to bloody shove, and they're no better than most demons—they'll leave the sick and wounded behind and save their own arses." Spike agreed. "Personally, don't give a rat's arse about Riley, but Buffy wants him back, and the boy's right. Riley's a bloody wanker, but he wouldn't go down easy. I'd lay odds that he's holed up somewhere waitin' for his people ta come get him."
"Only they aren't coming," Jim said bitterly. The sentinel walked to a chair and sat down heavily. Immediately, Blair followed, sitting on the arm of the chair and putting a comforting hand on Jim's back.
"Bastards. Oh man, they are just—" Blair couldn't come up with a word and shivered with disgust to finish his thought.
"Soddin' right on that one," Spike agreed.
"I'd wish some horrible disease on them, but after having a few rounds with the magical syphilis, I just try to avoid disease references. And magic. Magic and me are definitely unmixy," Xander added. Bonding was good, and if they could bond over hating the army, he was all for it. Nothing like a common enemy to make people do the forgiving and forgetting thing. Of course, right now Jim and Blair just both stared at him in shock. "And that was too much on the share-scale, wasn't it?" Xander asked.
Blair smiled, the type of smile a person makes when they're trying really hard to not smile. "Hey, as long as you aren't sharing the magical syphilis."
Xander flushed as he remembered Blair's hands rubbing over his body, thumbs pressing into his nipples before Blair reached down and sucked on the tight skin, and hey, mentioning syphilis to previous lovers, not of the good. "No way, we killed a couple of Indians, and it cleared right up… and that sounds really awful when I say it out loud. Did that sound awful?" Xander asked Blair.
"Slightly," Blair agreed.
"Ya killed an evil spirit tryin' ta work vengeance on the world. Not like you went out and slaughtered a few innocent squaws making their tortillas."
"Oh man, you have enough stereotypes in there to offend an entire tribe of Athabaskans," Blair cringed. "So, you two go and kill the demons and find Riley. What part do you need help with?" Blair asked. Jim continued to sit silently, his jaw popping and the vein along his neck doing a little pulsy thing that made Xander think of the Hulk right before he actually Hulked.
"Just the killing and the finding parts."
"Oi, I can kill 'em just fine as long as there are any left after the military prats blew up a big chunk of mountain. Just can't protect the boy during the day."
"Hey, I can protect myself, you know. I'm good with the running," Xander insisted as he crossed his arms.
"Wouldn't let Red or Kennedy or even the soddin' knobhead wander the woods alone after the sun came up. Since I need to dig into the earth ta avoid turnin' into dust and ash, I need someone to look after you.
"I have the manly screaming AND the running down," Xander objected. Spike looked at him blankly. "And hiding AND when pushed into a corner, I swing a deadly weed-eater," Xander pointed out. Spike rolled his eyes and then reached out and snagged Xander's neck. Xander didn't struggle against the pull that tucked him into Spike's side with most of his weight resting on Spike's chest. Even better, no one in the room tensed up or glared disapprovingly or made little grunting noises of unhappiness. Xander relaxed into the embrace. Maybe the girls just needed this latest apocalypse in England so they would focus on it and not their 'split up Xander and Spike' schemes.
"And you came to us because?" Jim asked.
Spike looked over at the sentinel, and the loft grew quiet. "Wouldn't trust just anyone ta protect the boy when I'm under the ground. Even fewer who I trust not to hurt him with their ideas 'bout who's right for the boy and the choices the boy's made."
Spike's words hung on the air as Jim looked right at them. Xander bit his lip, uncomfortable with the silence but unwilling to break it as Jim and Spike considered each other solemnly. The air grew still as Xander waited for an answer.
"I'll get the gear, Blair, you call Simon. Tell him we have some friends with an emergency," Jim said as he stood. Xander started breathing again without even noticing he'd stopped.
As Jim hurried upstairs and Blair got on the phone, Xander felt a little knot untie in his stomach. Closing his eye, he leaned his head over to rest on Spike's shoulder and let himself truly believe, for the first time in a long time, that everything was going to be okay.