A delicious aroma tickled Spikes nose, coaxing him gradually awake. He yawned and opened his eyes, then grinned.
Xander had just walked into the room and was standing beside the bed holding a tray containing, by the smell of it, a bowl of Weetabix, a plate of buttered toast with marmalade, a hot cup of tea cream and sugar on the side and another warm mug of blood. Not your everyday brekkie in bed, but Spike was pretty damned pleased. Xander had obviously been up for some time he was dressed in sweats and a loose t-shirt and his hair smelled freshly washed, but was dry.
Awww, you shouldntve, Pet, Spike purred, scooting back and pushing pillows behind his back to prop himself up. Not that Im complaining, mind.
Xander grinned, avoiding Spikes eyes as he set the tray on Spikes lap.
I just wanted to, um, thank you for last night, Xander said quietly.
What, for the rubdown or for flattening your mattress? Spike chuckled, stalling.
Xander shook his head, but he still didnt meet Spikes gaze.
You know, he said, almost inaudibly.
Ah. Spike patted the side of the bed; reluctantly Xander sat down. Have bad dreams often, Pet?
Xander shrugged uncomfortably.
That mustve been a doozy, Spike said quietly. You were crying in your sleep. Tears an all.
Xander looked as though hed rather be anywhere but here, but he said nothing, twisting the covers between his fingers.
Not the first time, then. Figures.
Spike deliberately turned to his breakfast, gulping down the blood before it could cool.
Dru used to do that sometimes, he said casually. Cry in her sleep. Sometimes shed pull at her hair, too, hard enough to pull some out. Sometimes shed scratch at herself, hard enough to bleed. I spect it was from some of the things Angelus did to her round the time he turned her. Glad I wasnt around back then. Course He chuckled ruefully. He wasnt all that sweet after I came along, either.
Xander glanced up at Spike with an unreadable expression.
Did he ever hurt you? he asked hesitantly.
Hurt me? Lots of times, Spike said, shrugging. What, hurt as in rape? Hmmm. He shrugged again. Dont know as that word really applies to a vampire an his Childe. Its different. Hard to explain. Even times you might not really want it, you wouldnt say no even if you could. Got to remember, Pet, Angelus was my Sire twice over cause he was Drus Sire, and cause she wasnt usually in no fit state to take care of me, teach me whats what, so he pretty much took over the job. Gave me his blood, too, time and again, so he mights well have been the one to turn me. And a master vampire can do what he pleases with his Childer or his minions.
Xander eagerly seized on a change of subject.
Thats something I wanted to ask you, he said. I mean, what makes a master vampire? And whats the difference between a Childe and a a minion?
Spike started in on his toast.
Hmm. Answers the same, Pet, he said. If a vampires powerful enough to make and control Childer, hes a master vampire. Any vampire can make minions. Theyre lackeys, expendable troops, errand boys, you name it. Drain a mortal, give him just a bit of your blood right before he dies, then hell rise up a minion. Hell dig his way out of the grave, and the vampire who made him can keep him, or leave him to fend for himself. Theyre not all that strong, minions, generally dont last all that long. They get fried in the daylight or run afoul of a Slayer or whatnot, or other minions stake em just to be rid of the competition for their masters favor.
Childer are different. Theyre made special, Spike reflected. When theyre drained, theyre given more of the masters blood, and generally after theyre turned hell give em more from time to time. Makes them lots more powerful, which is why it takes a master to control Childer. Most often they arent left to be buried and rise on their own; the masterll just keep em in his lair until they wake. The master cares for em, teaches em, keeps em around for fucking and companionship until eventually he either gets tired of em and stakes em or kicks em out, or when they get strong enough to make Childer of their own, they set out on their own, or they fight it out with their Sire for power and one or the other gets dusted. Dont often see two master vampires together for long; they dont like to share power. Dru was an exception, like I said, for Angelus and for me, too.
So Xander frowned. Could a master kind of, well, promote a minion to a Childe if he gave it more of his blood?
Could. Spike shrugged. Doesnt happen much. Minions are infantry, so to speak. Mostly a vampire isnt too picky about who he turns for minions. Childer, though, theyre chosen cause the master wants them specially for that. Childer were often turned Consorts, too, but Spike didnt want to get into that with Xander, especially right now. Wouldnt do to have Xander wondering about Spikes motivations in having him here. Especially since Spike wasnt all that sure of his motivations himself. Time for his own change of subject.
Not that I dont appreciate the whole breakfast-in-bed bit, Pet, Spike said, sipping his tea, but whats the idea waking me up while its still He glanced at the clock. God, noon! the middle of the night, vampire wise?
Oh. Uh. Xander looked embarrassed. I, uh, called Willow, see? To thank her for helping me move in, and for that liniment. And she asked if I wanted to have lunch. So anyway, shes going to ditch her afternoon classes, borrow Giles car and pick me up, and pick up some takeout, and were gonna go back to her dorm room and, you know, talk. Anyway, I didnt want you to wake up and just find me gone.
Oh. Spike stifled his irritation. Of course, hed known the whelp wasnt going to stay here with him shut away from the world forever, but hed hoped for at least a few more days. Well, have fun, then, Pet.
And theres a meeting at Giles tonight, Xander continued, looking at Spike apologetically. Willow and I could just come by and pick you up on the way there?
Oh, bloody wonderful. Sounds more than lunch sounds like the whole afternoon. Followed by an ever-so-riveting Scooby meeting hosted by this years winner of the poker-up-the-arse awards.
Right, then, he said resignedly. I suppose if I must.
Um. Well. Xander swallowed, looking at the floor now. They said I didnt have to bring you. But, um, wouldyoumind? he blurted out. I mean, I know you hate those meetings butIdfeelbetterif
Well, now isnt that interesting, Spike thought, suddenly interested. The fact that Xander wanted him along for what, immoral support? was very interesting indeed.
Sure, Pet, he said, more cheerfully. Glad to.
Xander looked so utterly relieved that Spike felt another bewildering pang of that anxiety/pleasure. He made a mental decision hed been putting off.
Had anything for pain this afternoon? he asked casually, setting the tray aside and getting out of bed.
Uh, no. Xander shook his head. They make me so sleepy
Well, then, well just give you half, eh? Spike said cheerfully. Sitting around a dorm room all afternoon and sitting around Giles all evenings going to be hard on all those bruises. And better put some shoes on if youre going out.
Spike broke one of the pain pills in two, then went to the kitchen, remembering that Willow had bought Xander yeah, there. A big bottle of spicy V-8, probably a Willow addition since Xander never consumed anything that healthy. Spike poured a small glass, then glanced into the living room, satisfying himself that Xander was still in the bedroom, putting on his shoes.
Casually, Spike bit into his thumb, hard, letting a small quantity of his blood drip into the glass as much as he thought he could get away with taste-wise. He stirred the V-8 thoroughly, then carried glass and broken pill in to Xander.
There you go, Pet, he said, handing them over. Xander swallowed the pill and took a sip of V-8 to wash it down, then licked his lips and drained the glass, tapping the bottom to get as much out as possible.
Willows always trying to make me drink that stuff, Xander chuckled, handing Spike the glass back. Its good, though. Im surprised. Just dont decide to start reusing the nice glass empties, okay? Id hate to get it mixed up with your bottles.
s a deal, Pet, he said cheerfully, taking the glass back to the kitchen. He plunked himself down in front of the telly with his bowl of Weetabix when Xander left, never minding that theyd gone soggy. He chuckled to himself. In this case, at least, what Xander didnt know wouldnt hurt him.
Those first few drops of blood exchanged the night Spike had brought Xander home, that had forged a bond between them an almost insignificant, tenuous bond, but a bond nonetheless. The additional blood Spike had given the mortal tonight was enough to give him a healing boost, work on the bruises and the cracked bones. If Spike could manage a few additional doses, Xander would be back to fighting trim in no time. Hed have to be careful, though. He didnt want the Slayer or the others remarking on Xanders healing speed, and if Xander ingested enough of Spikes blood, the effects would go beyond accelerated healing and might even set off Buffys slayer-sense. But every drop of blood shared between Spike and Xander drew them closer together, and to a point, at least, that was the idea.
Spike smirked and settled back comfortably on the sofa, ready to doze the afternoon away. Matters were progressing swimmingly. Hed rescued Xander and got him settled securely in Spikes lair. The lad was grateful and obviously attracted to Spike, too, and sooner or later teenage hormones were going to win out over whatever was holding the mortal back. The Scooby gang werent going to interfere; rather, they supported Xanders change of habitat, and for Xanders sake, at least, were prepared to treat Spike with some increased measure of tolerance. So there was nothing preventing Spike from protecting Xander, courting him, steering the lad toward the inevitable Spikes bed. From all indications, Xander wanted to be there as much as Spike wanted him there.
Spike didnt question the tenderness and affection he felt for the boy, disturbingly like the tenderness hed felt for Dru . . . yet somehow different, and he didnt particularly want to examine that difference either. He wanted to protect and fuck the boy, that was all, and he had one and was fast headed toward the other, and that was good enough for William the Bloody.
Spike smiled at the blackout curtains, checked his watch, and turned on the telly. Passions would be on soon, and hed have time for a nice nap after.
Spike woke, as was his habit, about an hour before sundown. He took a nice leisurely bath, heated another cup of blood and picked out his clothes for the evening black jeans and a t-shirt, nothing fancy, because he had the suspicion there might be action in the plan if, as he thought, the meeting at Giles was over some evil doings in Sunnyhell. Hed just finished up and slipped the last knife into his boot when he heard a knock on the door; he opened it, surprised to see Xander standing there.
Blimey, Pet, you could just let yourself in, Spike scolded. Youre not a vampire, dont need an invitation. Sides, its your place too, now.
Xander smiled sheepishly.
I locked the door after me when I left, he explained. I couldnt get back in.
Oh. Spike rummaged through the drawer of the desk beside the door, coming up with the spare key. There you go, solves that problem.
Xander stared at the key as if Spike had handed him a sack of gold.
You youre giving me a key? To your place?
Hearings gone wonky, Pet, he said. Our place, didnt I just say? So. Off to Giles?
Uh. Xander was still blinking at the key. At last he slid it onto his keychain with an expression of wonder still on his face. Uh, yeah. If youre ready to go.
Pet, I was born ready, Spike smirked.
Hed worried just a bit about what Xander might have told Willow about him, or rather them, but the red-haired witch seemed no different than usual chatting amiably, trying to draw shy Tara out about her day in school, bemoaning the fact that theyd all have to walk home after the meeting since Giles would undoubtedly want his car back.
We could stop and pick up my car, Xander offered. Its better than nothing. Maybe.
Didnt know you had a car, Pet, Spike said, raising his eyebrows. When hed stayed in Xanders basement apartment, Xander had occasionally had the use of his uncle Rorys car while said uncles license was suspended for drunk driving, but Spike had heard nothing about Xander having a car of his own.
My uncle wrecked his convertible, Xander said abashedly. It was never really the same after that, so he sold it to me for, like, practically nothing, since his license was revoked altogether anyway. It runs most of the time.
Where is it? Spike asked suspiciously. From the miserable expression on Xanders face, he guessed before Xander answered quietly, At my I mean, my parents house. Not right in front, but across the street.
Right. Give over the keys, Spike said, holding out his hand and taking the keys firmly. Drop me off half a block or so down, will you, Red, and Ill fetch it on over.
Really? Xander said, such relief in his tone that Spike felt himself wince inside.
Well, cant have your mum and dad seeing the state youre in and calling the police, Spike said, faking a bored tone, although he reached over surreptitiously and squeezed Xanders hand. They hear how you got pounded, then Im hauled down to the station to give a statement. Dont fancy trying to explain little things like my lack of proper ID, or why Ive got to be out of the bloody station before sunrise.
Willow giggled and even Tara smiled; Xander gave Spike a slightly anxious look, as if the insecure whelp actually believed Spike was only thinking of himself, and Spike was forced to give Xander another hand-squeeze and a wink to boot, secure in the knowledge that if Willow was looking in the rearview mirror she couldnt see a damned thing. Xander smiled then, relaxing.
Willow dropped Spike off at the end of Xanders street, and Spike took advantage of the shadows to make his way stealthily to Xanders car. The car didnt look too horribly banged up apparently Xander had hammered out some of the worst dents but it ran with a nasty money sound that meant it was probably on its last legs, so to speak. Well, hed have a look at it. Hed had motorcycles from time to time, loved the damned things, and hed learned a good bit of mechanics mostly by trial and error. Meanwhile, at least the rattletrap would probably get him to Giles and get them home afterwards without them having to risk walking down Sunnydales streets after dark. Xander was just starting to heal up; he certainly didnt need Spikes good work undone by a run-in with one of Sunnydales darkside inhabitants. And while Spike was ready, willing and able to defend the whelp and the witches against any of the Dales nonhuman nasties, he was the only real fighter of the four of them; worse, if they ran into the bloody Initiative, Xander was just barmy enough to jump right in to keep Spike from being recaptured.
The car made it to Giles house and cut out with what Spike optimistically told himself was not a death rattle. The others were already there, of course, but Xander was dawdling in the doorway, and Spike felt a little frisson of pleasure at the way the mortals eyes brightened at his arrival.
Xander, for heavens sake, close the door, Giles called from inside. Youre letting in the mosquitoes.
Sorry, I was uh watching out for the pizzas, Xander said abashedly. He stepped aside to let Spike in. Spikes here.
Speaking of bloodsucking pests, Buffy muttered loudly enough for everyone to hear.
Nice to see you too, Pet, Spike said cheerfully. After the look Xander had given him, practically nothing could bother him. He handed the car keys over to Xander.
Willow shoved Buffy out of the recliner so Xander could sit there, although Spike grinned to himself to see Xander moving with much less pain this evening; the bruising on his face was visibly less, too. Buffy apparently noticed it too.
Youre looking better already, she said suspiciously. Want to tell us about your miracle cure?
Xander grinned happily, squeezing Willows hand.
Its this fantastic liniment Wills and Tara whipped up for me, he said. Ive got to hand it to you two. That stuffs incredible.
Spike smirked. Buffy scowled at him and opened her mouth as if to retort, but Spike interrupted.
Whats this, then? he said, poking at a plaster cast of a nasty-looking three-taloned foot.
Subject of tonights meeting, Willow said, sighing. Multi-legged, as-yet-unidentified nasty that jumped out of a bush and ate a couple of teenagers making out in the park. As if anybody in their right minds makes out in Sunnydales park after dark. She grimaced. It left parts. Yucky parts.
Spike grinned rather smugly, then raised his eyebrow, cocking his head.
Pizzas here, he said, frowning at the rapidity of the delivery. What, you couldnt wait for us before you ordered it?
Buffy smiled sweetly.
Just thought wed order ahead, she said. She collected money from Giles and answered the door, bringing the boxes to the table. Three extra large, family size order of garlic bread. She glanced slyly at Spike. Oops, my bad, she added insincerely.
Spike fought down a snarl, his good mood eroding. He could smell the garlic from here. He could also smell the pizzas one cheese, two vegetarian. No supreme or meat lovers for the vampire, or that Hawaiian crap that Xander liked. Funny, now that he thought about it, how many times Scooby refreshments had fallen into a similar pattern.
Buffy, Dawns the only one who eats plain cheese, Willow said, wrinkling her brow, and Spike and Xander dont like vegetarian. I thought we were going to get
Mustve made a mistake, Buffy said cheerfully. Oh, well. Sorry. Youll have to try it our way for a change.
Its okay, Xander said, his resigned expression telling Spike just how often this sort of thing had happened before. Spike, dont worry, Ill call and order something with meat on it for
Got a better idea, Spike said, looking Buffy straight in the eye. Got any blood, Giles?
The Watcher looked relieved at the prospect of heading the conflict off.
Yes, I was going to give you a few packets tonight.
Then how about this, Pet? Spike said, leaning over the table, putting both hands on top of the pizza boxes. How bout I take a couple packets of that blood and just drizzle it over those pizzas and you can try it my way for a change?
Glaring at Spike, Buffy deliberately grabbed a piece of garlic bread from the bag and bit into it.
Maybe youd like an appetizer first, she said, blowing in his face.
Spike had the good sense and quick reflexes not to breathe the garlic fumes in he didnt need to breathe, after all, other than to talk or smoke but garlic vapors bathed his face and eyes in liquid fire, as if hed been sprayed with acid. Roaring with pain and temporarily blinded, he stumbled backward, tripping over the coffee table and falling. He tried to regain his feet, howling with rage now, hell-bent on ripping the Slayers face off, but instantly a warm, heavy body landed on top of his and icy cold liquid doused his face, making him sputter indignantly as he struggled against the restraining weight.
Its me, its me, dont move, Xander said right in his ear, and instantly, confused and angry and still hurting, Spike went still. He didnt want to set off the chip, but more, he didnt want to hurt Xander. Just stay still, relax, if you go after her youll set off the chip and then youll really be hurting, Xander continued without pausing. Then, louder, Willow, get me a soapy wet washcloth and a plain wet washcloth, okay? Hurry. And some water in a glass. Damn it, Buffy, what the fuck were you thinking?
He threatened my pizza, Buffy protested.
Ill threaten more than that, princess, Spike snarled, struggling against Xanders weight again. The mortal only clung more tightly, his body rubbing against Spikes intoxicatingly, and the distraction was enough to stop him moving again. Cold liquid was running through his hair and into his ears, and he finally identified the smell Xanders coke, which the mortal had apparently flung in his face. Annoying, but good thinking; the soft drink had stopped the burning from the garlic fumes.
Oh, yeah? You and what Initiative microchip, oh fangless wonder? Buffy said smugly.
Really, Buffy, that was quite uncalled for, Giles said firmly. Ah, Willow, give me those, please. No, Xander, stay where you are, if you will. Im going to rinse his eyes, and he may not like it.
Im not a bleedin dog thatll turn and bite, Spike snarled, realizing that he was showing fangs even as he spoke. He held still as water ran over his eyes, and a soft dry cloth cautiously blotted up the excess.
Can you see? Giles asked with at least a trace of sympathy. Spike blinked, and blinked again. He could see somewhat although the images were badly blurred. Definitely a few extra broken bones for Her Buffyness, oh yes indeed.
Some, Spike said grudgingly. He glared in Buffys general direction. Good enough.
Oh, gee, so not intimidated here, came Buffys smug reply, and just when Spike thought he might manage to retract his fangs.
Um Giles retreated slightly. I think this alcohol might work better than soap to get any garlic residue off your skin, but it might sting a bit and er
Ill do it, Xander said, taking the gauze pad from Giles. Hold still, okay? Ill try to be careful.
Spike closed his mouth and held still. It stung more than a bit on what were probably open sores, but right now anything that wasnt garlic felt bloody good. Xander swabbed his face off carefully, then went over it again with the warm soapy washcloth, then the clean washcloth. At last Spike pushed Xander aside gently and sat up.
Thanks, Pet, he said, trying to sound casual. Got a towel? Dont fancy coke running down the back of my neck.
Oh. Xander handed him a towel; Spike only had the blurriest glance of the whelp, but he could almost hear the sheepish smile. Sorry about that.
Dont be, Spike said, shrugging. Helped a lot. Quick thinking, there.
You look awful, Willow said, her tone concerned. Buffy, how could you do that?
He threatened my pizza, Buffy repeated. And he got in my face. These actions have consequences.
You rather provoked him, Giles chided gently.
Excuse me? Buffy said smugly. You chained him in the bathtub for drinking blood out of your favorite mug, and Im provoking him cause he doesnt like what I got on the pizza?
Xander opened his mouth to say something, probably in Spikes defense, and Spike intervened hastily, laying a hand on Xanders arm.
Never mind, Pet, he said loftily. Guess I can see Her Blondnesss got no use for vampiric strength, brilliant night vision, or a centurys worth of expertise in fighting unnatural critters, so Ill just collect my packets of Miss Piggy and slink back to my lair.
Ill go with you, Xander said immediately.
Huh? Spike blinked, wishing to hell his vision would clear enough to see Xanders expression. Hed counted on Xander wanting to stay here and do the talk it to death thing with the Scoobies, where hed be in danger of nothing more lethal than Buffys taste in pizza.
You cant drive if you cant see, Xander said practically.
I was planning on walking, so you could drive the girls home, Spike replied quickly.
Well, you cant walk if you cant see, either, Xander argued. He fished the keys out of his pocket and handed them to Willow. Besides, if they dont need your help, they sure dont need mine, since I dont have vampiric strength or night vision or a centurys worth of experience. So Ill walk you back.
There was really no protest Spike could make to that without arguing suspiciously in front of the others, so he sighed, waited through Willow and Giles perfunctory protests, accepted the mini-cooler of blood packs Giles handed him, and followed Xander out the door.
I wanted you to stay, Spike grumbled as they walked away from the house.
Yeah, I kinda got the message, Xander said wryly, grabbing Spikes arm and carefully steering him around what turned out to be a big hole in the sidewalk. Which means youre up to something, which means no way am I letting you go off alone.
Well . . . Spike shrugged. Could be I planned to walk home through the park.
Xander stopped, pulling Spike to a stop with him.
As in, he said slowly, park where necking teenagers were just disassembled by three-toed nasties park?
Thats the one, Spike acknowledged with a grin. Itll properly put a bug up the Slayers butt if poor little chiphead Spike settles the monster without her, wont it?
Uh, Spike? Xander said even more slowly. Were you faking? Your eyes, I mean.
Not faking, but it doesnt matter, he said. Vorgosts are actually pretty slow.
You know what that thing is? Xander said hesitantly. And you didnt tell anyone?
Like they was asking, he retorted. Like theyd even listen if I did, ey?
Well point, Xander acknowledged, trailing along when Spike started walking again. So . . . you think youre okay to take this thing on when you can hardly see?
Spike snorted again.
I can handle it, he said shortly.
Well, then, since there obviously isnt much danger, it cant hurt for me to go with you, Xander said triumphantly.
Spike sighed irritably.
Pet, danger or no, all it takes is one good slap against a tree and those ribs are going to feel a whole lot worse, he said. He stumbled, and Xander grabbed his elbow again, steadying him.
Um, Spike, dont know how to tell you this, but if you cant handle a broken sidewalk alone, what makes you think you can fight anything? Xander said hesitantly.
Spike rolled his eyes.
Wont matter so much when Im on the hunt, he groused, but he had a strong suspicion that this wasnt an argument he was going to win.
Fine. Then Ill just be a spectator, Xander said firmly. Until and unless you need me to do more than uh spectate.
Spike sighed again, obscurely pleased.
Right, then, he said resignedly. He crooked his elbow outward invitingly. May I invite you, good sir, for a moonlight walk in the park? A bit of brisk exercise of an evening?
Why, good sir, Xander grinned, looping his arm through Spikes, I wouldnt miss it for the world. Vorgosts of Sunnydale, beware!
Have no fear, Spike and Xander are here! Spike quipped, suddenly strangely happy. Come on, Pet, I fancy a spot of dinner. Something on the lively side.
Yeah, but were calling out for pizza for me, Xander said, wrinkling his nose. Seeing as I just walked out on my dinner.
Veggie pizza with the Slayer or Meat Lovers Special with me? he prompted. And Id love to give you a bit of my meat, Pet. Or have some of yours, whichever.
Hawaiian, Xander bargained.
Meat Lovers with extra ham?
If youre adding friggin pineapple, Pet, Im adding blood. Got it?
Ulp. All right, no pineapple.