Disclaimer: They still ain't mine! Do we have a union? I need to complain about this...
Spike peered around the basement, smoking a cigarette as he searched. He ignored Xander, who had limped down the steps a few minutes earlier.
Xander collapsed into a chair, wincing as he inadvertently put pressure on an especially painful bruise. He watched the vampire's actions, closing his eyes briefly in relief. The last two weeks had proved to be a challenge. There was no way he wanted the vampire to find out about- He cut that thought off sharply, then glared at Spike. "You own nothing. This shouldn't be taking so long."
Spike rolled his eyes. "Hang on. Let a fella get organized." Spike couldn't believe what an annoying little git Xander was being. Like he wanted to be stuck in this dank basement or something.
He snorted. Then again, the boy was a right demon magnet Couldn't manage to go an entire night without getting himself knocked about by some nasty or another. Spike would enjoy that a lot more, though, if it would happen when he was actually around. He smirked, contemplating going demon-fishing with Xander as live bait.
The thought barely had time to form when Spike cringed at the slight tingle in his brain. He cursed the microchip profusely. It wasn't like he was planning on hurting him. Well, not really. He sighed and shook his head. Spotting a radio, he bent to pick it up.
Xander sat up straight. "Hey, that's my radio!"
Spike stared at him with a 'duh' look on his face. "And you're what? Shocked and disappointed? I'm evil!"
Xander gritted his teeth. "Not that I care, but where are you planning on moving?"
"I don't know. Maybe a crypt. Some place, you know, dark and dank." He looked around. "But not as dark and dank as this."
"It's not that bad!" At least not when - Xander firmly fixed his wandering attention back on Spike, determined not to think about that.
"I've known corpses with a fresher smell. In fact, I've been one." He flicked his cigarette on the floor.
"That's it! Let's go!" Xander stood carefully, then marched over to Spike, trying not to jar his injuries too much.
Spike noticed his stiff movements, wondering in annoyance why the boy couldn't ever tangle with a demon when he was actually with him. It really was inconsiderate. He backed away. "Hold up!" Darting across the basement, he unplugged a lamp, and picked it up with his empty hand..
Xander narrowed his eyes. Very calmly, he ground out, "That's my lamp." He snatched it away, replacing it in its former position.
Spike smirked and rolled his eyes. "Oi, I thought a housewarming gift was traditional!"
"That's among friends," Xander explained sarcastically. "With bitter enemies, I don't give them my lamp."
The vampire shrugged in resignation. "Eh, I'm not gonna have electricity anyway. Crypts tend to be lacking those finer luxuries."
"Aw, no fridge to keep your blood fresh?" Xander asked in mock sympathy.
Spike paused at that. "No." He considered. "Maybe I should just get a hotel room or something. I need fresh blood. If I had a few bob for a room with an honor bar-"
That was the last straw for Xander "Out! Before I get the Slayer over here to kick your ass out!"
Spike sighed and picked up his duster. "Don't know why she didn't come. Say good-bye, shed a few tears." If he was particularly lucky, she might manage to trip down the stairs, land in a bloody heap and possibly break her neck.
Xander couldn't resist. "Well, she has an appointment with somebody who's actually still scary!"
"That hurt, mate. It truly did. I am deeply wounded." He hid his reaction under the sarcasm, not wanting to admit to the pang of hurt. It was all that damned chip's fault! When he got the thing out, he'd show Xander and pathetic 'Scooby' friends scary!
"Out!" Xander ushered the vampire out quickly, slamming the door shut behind him and leaning against it. He heaved a thankful sigh. Then his eyes popped open. "Hey! My radio!"
Buffy dropped onto a sofa, moaning. "Geez, you'd think the bad guys would take a night off here and there! But noooo. It's all 'Gotta kill the Slayer'...'Gotta wreak havoc on the population'...'Gotta take over the world!' Gimme a break already!"
"Well, yes, I suppose things have been a little...hectic this past week. But I-I'm sure it will calm down. Eventually." Giles cleared his throat and removed his glasses, polishing them absently.
Xander snorted as he took a chair for himself. "Hey, I know! Why don't we just ask the nasty demons real nicely if they'd cut us all some slack so the Slayer can get a well-deserved rest. I'm sure they'd be all understanding about it. Not!"
Willow cast a disapproving glance his way. "Ok, so we're all a little worn out." She ignored Buffy's muttered exclamation of "A little!" "We shouldn't take it out on each other. I mean, what if something big is going on? We need to figure it out before it gets really bad."
Tara, seated next to her on the other couch, brushed her hair behind her ear. Ducking her head shyly, she slipped her hand into Willow's, squeezing lightly. "May-maybe we should do some re-research tomorrow. After we get some-some rest."
"I would tend to agree with that course of action. We can all get a good night's sleep, and start fresh in the morning." Giles nodded decisively, rubbing his hands together. "Right, then." He stood, staring pointedly at his charges.
Buffy rolled her eyes, but pulled herself up. "Ok, I can take a hint." She glanced around the room. "Anyone need an escort home?"
Willow and Tara shook their heads as they stood. "Nah. We got it covered.," Willow assured her.
Xander looked up at the clock on the wall, cringing when he noticed how late it was. At the strange look he received, he swallowed, then forced out a laugh. "Hey, this is me here! I can fend for myself." He gave Buffy one of his patented 'goofy grins' that seemed to work so well. Buffy shrugged and turned to leave. Xander tried not to get upset at how easily he was dismissed, focusing instead on the positive side. It was always good to be able to throw of suspicion. Too much attention was most definitely of the bad.
Saying his good-byes, Xander hurried to the door, pausing briefly by Giles to comment, "Gotta say G-man, subtleness was lacking there. You losing your touch?" Buffy and Willow snickered, and even Tara grinned briefly. Oh yeah, he was definitely the master at redirecting attention.
Giles sighed. "I've asked you not to call me that, Xander. And I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Hey, whatever. Later guys." With another grin to ally any lingering suspicions, he left.
Xander stood outside his house, hands thrust in his pockets as he chewed his lip. There were no lights on. They were probably just asleep. Still, the darkness itself evoked a sense of dread. Bed things tended to hide in the dark. And not just vampires and other assorted demons...
Which didn't exactly explain why he was still lingering outside in plain sight of said demons.
He knew he was stalling. A sense of dread was tugging at him, and he briefly considered simply turning around and going...
Yes, well, that was the kicker. Going where?
He stared for a moment more, then took a deep breath. Creeping softly up to the door, he pushed it open gently. He stepped inside, the door closing behind him with a muted 'click'.
Nothing. Ok, so far so good. Moving as quickly and quietly as he could, Xander reached the basement door. Once inside, he breathed a sigh of relief. Made it.
Flicking the light switch on, he walked down the stairs, pulling his shirt off over his head. Reaching the bottom, he tossed the shirt towards a pile of laundry, then headed for the bathroom.
He stared in panic at the large man sitting on his bed.
He backed up, eyes wide, breath shortening to harsh panting. "Um, Dad. Hey."
His father stood and stalked over to him. Before Xander could react, a hand lashed out and belted him across the face. The force of the blow knocked him off his feet, and he landed on floor at his father's feet.
"What the Hell are you thinking, coming in this late? Waking your mother and me up with your infernal racket. Fucking worthless bastard!" He drew back a foot and kicked Xander, who curled up in a fetal ball. He sneered at his cringing son, taking another swig from the bottle clutched in his other hand. He kicked again, drawing forth a grunt of pain that made him grin in satisfaction.
It was not a nice grin.
Xander whimpered softly. It was happening again. He'd hoped desperately that it was over, clung fervently to the idea that he was too old. That he could defend himself now. That he wasn't a child any more.
The man walked a circle around his son, kicking intermittently as he alternated drinking from the rapidly emptying bottle and 'lecturing'. "Stupid piece of shit." Pause for a drink. Kick. "Should have gotten rid of ya when you were a brat." Kick. Lengthy swallow. Kick again. "Must've been outta my mind to keep ya around." Another drink, kicking at the same time for variation. "Not worth this hassle." He tilted the empty bottle toward his mouth, snarling when nothing came out. Furious, he flung the bottle on the floor, shattering it.
He bent and hauled Xander up by the throat, laughing cruelly as the boy struggled for breath. "Aw, poor baby. What's the matter, cat got your tongue?" He squeezed tighter, enjoying Xander's struggles as the boy's hands clawed at his own in an attempt to free himself.
With a final punch to the stomach that drove the air from lungs already deprived of oxygen, he tossed his son to the floor, earning himself a harsh cry as bare skin met broken glass. He drunkenly weaved his way to the stairs, stumbling up them. Nonchalantly, he tossed a final remark over his shoulder. "Don't forget, boy. Rent's due at the end of the week." The door slammed shut.
Xander squeezed his eyes shut, refusing to let the tears fall. He waited a few minutes to make sure his father wasn't planning on returning, then gingerly picked himself up. He took a deep breath, then began coughing harshly, jolting his bruised ribs painfully. He felt a warmth along his side, and looked down.
Ok, that much blood was definitely not of the good. Xander haltingly made his way to his bathroom, hand cupped over the wound, blood running out through his fingers. He got the first-aid kit out of its handy little storage place in the cabinet over the sink. Turning on the warm water, he wet a washcloth and dabbed at his side.
His breath hissed out as the fabric caught on the glass still embedded there. He gritted his teeth, then prodded with his fingers, finding the jagged sliver and carefully pulling it out. More blood immediately flowed, and Xander quickly pressed the washcloth over the cut. A few minutes of pressure, and he cautiously lifted the now-red cloth away. Still a trickle of blood oozing out of the two-inch gash, but no gushing. That was a good sign. Gushing was bad, a trickle was...not so bad.
With an ease and quickness that spoke of great familiarity with the procedure, Xander removed a square of gauze and some cloth tape along with some antibiotic cream. He gave the wound a cursory washing before bandaging it. He then took stock of his remaining injuries.
Bruises. Lots and lots of pretty new bruises. Well, there really wasn't much he could do about them. He looked in the mirror, flinching a bit at the sight. And yeah, he might not be the most dashing guy under the best of circumstances, but the swollen cheek and black eye were really not helping matters.
He sighed and pressed another wet washcloth against his mouth, where his teeth had split the skin of his bottom lip. Once he cleaned that bit of blood up, he put the cloth down, sighing.
He fingered the welts around his neck. How to hide those? Turtlenecks weren't exactly the rage here in Sunnydale. He didn't think he could quite pull of wearing a scarf, either.
Well, he'd have to wing it if anyone asked. At least this time his father hadn't-
He smothered the thought before it could even finish forming. He was not going to think about that.
Xander limped out of the bathroom, sitting on his bed in order to slowly peel off his pants. Mission accomplished, he moved to turn off the light and lay down. Very...carefully.
Yeah, this was going to be a really restful night. Xander just hoped he felt better in time for the Scooby get-together the next day. Research. Yay. Ok, not the most fun, but the gang needed him.
Right. Even he wasn't buying that one.
He tossed in his bed, trying to find a semi-comfortable position. Finally giving it up, he closed his eyes and groaned. They probably wouldn't miss him if he played hooky.
Spike hurried into his crypt just as the first rays of dawn broke over the cemetery. He slammed the door shut behind him, then walked over to the tomb. He stood there, patting down his pockets and pulling out a few wallets and some watches. Tossing them onto the tomb, he sat and began to pick through his spoils.
Several watches were discarded as junk, and Spike flung them over his shoulder where they hit the wall with a clatter. Only one had any promise, and Spike pushed the sleeve of his duster up, strapping the Rolex on and tilting his head to admire it from an angle.
He then picked up the wallet belonging to the former owner of his new watch. After removing the cash, curling a lip at the meager offering, he began leafing through assorted photos and papers. Nothing good.
Spike examined the quality of the leather wallet, then set it down. He quickly searched the rest of the wallets, his 'cash' and 'hock for a few quid' piles remaining pitifully small while the garbage pile behind him grew. Finished, he glared in frustration.
This was pathetic. Didn't people carry actual money around with them any more? This was barely enough to keep him fed for a few days. He snarled at the thought of having to pay - pay! - for blood.
Spike shoved his goodies into a pocket and lay down, glaring up at the ceiling.
His stomach churned unpleasantly and Spike groaned and pulled a ratty blanket over him as he turned onto his side.
He wondered if the Watcher had any blood left. And maybe some Weetabix. He perked up a bit.
Yeah, that was a plan. Drop in, mooch off the Watcher, maybe get a chance to ogle his Nummy for a bit.
Hang on...his Nummy?
Spike lurched up, spluttering. Oh no. He did not just think of Xander as his Nummy.
He was going insane. That was the only explanation. Probably from lack of a decent meal. He pounded his head against the stone under him, snarling.
He was not going to think about that pathetic little demon-magnet for one more second. Demon-magnet? Demons, as in things he was still capable of rending into tiny, lifeless chunks of quivering meat?
Spike stilled. His eyes glowed yellow and he smiled, baring his fangs. Oh, yeah. Someone was going to have fun tonight.
Spike closed his eyes, still grinning.
Xander woke with a groan. He sat up slowly, stiff muscles screaming in protest. Without thinking, he reached up to rub the sleep from his eyes. As a hand came into contact with the swollen flesh of his bruised eye, he yelped in pain. "Shit!"
He covered his mouth as the echoes died down, staring in horror at the door at the top of the steps. After a few panicky moments, when no one appeared there, he sighed with relief. "Ok. You're...Ok. Just...relax."
He got up stiffly, took a deep breath, then began the painful trek to the bathroom. After using the toilet, he moved toward the tub, getting ready for a nice long soak. Happening to catch a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he turned toward it.
Bruises had darkened overnight, shading most of his chest in an interesting clash of blue, green, and purple. One eye was swollen almost shut, and his lip was puffed up where the cut was. The shape of fingerprints was clearly discernible in the welts around his neck.
Yes, staying home was definitely the plan for today.
He sighed, then filled the tub with hot water, removing the bandage on his side before stepping carefully in, immersing himself in the soothing heat. He closed his eyes, relaxing as gentle waves lapped at his skin.
Xander lay there until the water cooled too much to be comfortable any longer. Regretfully, he shifted forward and pulled out the plug, then got out of the tub, grabbing a towel to dry himself with. He tossed the damp towel on the counter, then reached for the first-aid kit that was still out. Swiftly, he re-bandaged the reddened gash and rubbed some ointment into the worst of the bruises.
Leaving the bathroom, he headed for the microwave, where he heated some tea, adding honey to it. Carrying the drink back to his bed, he sat and sipped at the sweet liquid. A weak smile flickered across the boy's face as the ache in his throat eased a bit. He soon finished the drink, and set the cup on the bedside table, next to the phone.
He had to call the gang.
Right. No problem. He could do this.
He stared at the phone.
He drummed his fingers on his thigh.
He stared at the phone some more.
He - "Oh for crying out loud," he hissed at himself in frustration. "Just do it!"
Reluctantly, Xander picked up the phone and dialed Giles' number.
"Hey, um, Buffy? It's Xander." "Uh-huh." "Um, so like, is everyone there already?" "Yeah, I did notice I wasn't there. That's why I called actually." "Yeah, see, there's this-" "Uh-huh." "Actually, I'm not feeling all that well, so-" "No, I wasn't out drinking, I-" "I see." "Well, do you think you-" "Right." "So, anyway, I'm not going to be able to make it today, and-" "Oh, really? That's...very interesting. Look, could you just tell Giles and the rest that-" "I-" "You-" At the soft click, he pulled the receiver away from his ear. "Yeah, bye," he said in a whisper, hanging up the phone sadly.
He lay down, pulling a blanket up over his bare skin and rolling onto his least injured side. He hugged his pillow close, curling around it. As he fell back into a fitful slumber, he was unaware of the few tears which had escaped from behind tightly shut eyelids to gather in a moist patch on the pillowcase.
Spike stood outside Giles' door. Before he could reconsider, he knocked firmly. It opened to reveal an extremely annoyed Watcher.
"What are you doing here?"
Spike smirked, shouldering his way past the man and leaning insolently against a wall. "What, can't a bloke pay a visit to his chums?"
Giles snorted. "Alright, what do you want?"
"I am offended. Truly. To think that you hold such a low opinion of me." He made his lip quiver, and even managed to get a tear to pool up in his eye.
Giles took one look at his expression of wounded innocence and rolled his eyes. "Please. Do you really think I'm going to buy that?"
Spike shrugged. "Was worth a shot, wasn't it?" He shoved away from the wall and wandered into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator. Sticking his head inside, he rummaged around, ignoring the Watcher's indignant protests. With a crow of triumph, he emerged, victoriously holding up a packet of blood.
"Make yourself at home, why don't you?"
"Thanks, I will." He found a mug and poured the blood into it, then stuck it into the microwave. While he waited for it to heat up, he pulled open a cabinet and took out the box of Weetabix.
Giles walked over and snatched it away. "That's my Weetabix, thank you."
Spike snatched the box back. "Your point? 'Sides, bet you and your bunch could use a little inside track on what's going down tonight."
"You know what's happening?" Giles perked up, allowing the vampire to get his meal together.
Mouth full of blood-soaked cereal, Spike mumbled, "Yeah, sure, doesn't everyone?"
Giles gritted his teeth together, then spun around, striding back into the den.
Spike snickered, finishing his meal leisurely. He set the mug down on the counter, and sauntered out. Five heads turned as one to stare at him. He frowned, counting. There was the Watcher, Slutty, her boy-toy, and the witches.
Where was his Num-Xander?
He mentally smacked himself for what he'd almost thought. Sitting on the arm of a chair, he glanced around nonchalantly. "So, where's the whelp?" At the blank looks he received, he clarified, "Xander?"
Buffy shrugged unconcernedly. "Why do you care?"
Spike snorted. "Hey, he makes good demon bait. I'm all for that...gives me somethin' to do."
Willow frowned at him. "Actually, he called earlier today. Said he wasn't feeling well, or something."
Oh. He sighed. "Pity. Less fun for me. Ah well."
Riley stalked over to where Spike had made himself comfortable. Glaring down at him, he snarled, "Well? Giles says you have information about the increase in hostile activity the last few nights."
"You've eaten, now tell us!" Giles snapped.
Spike shrugged casually. "Well, you know...I lied."
Within seconds, Buffy moved in front of him, grabbed his shirt, and thrust an extremely pointy stake against his chest. "What do you mean, 'lied'? Are you saying you don't know what's going on?"
Spike looked down. "You're stretching my shirt." He looked back up at her, eyebrow raised.
With a snarl of frustration, she pushed him away. "You know, I am so ready to stake you. You have no idea." She paced around the room.
Riley grabbed Spike, pulling him upright. "I suggest you tell us what you know. You don't want me to get rough with you."
Spike went into game face, yellow eyes glittering with rage.
Riley scoffed. "What? You're going to hurt me? I'm terrified, really. Now talk!"
Spike briefly entertained the thought of roasting the commando alive. A nice spit through his arse to skewer him, maybe a slash across the stomach to spill his intestines, lovely smell of flesh sizzling, skin all - he winced at the throbbing pain in his skull as the chip gave him a warning jolt.
"Um, maybe if you pu-put him down...h-he could t-t-talk better." Willow beamed at Tara encouragingly for her input.
Riley dropped Spike into the chair, but continued to stand over him, arms crossed.
"Oh, for-! Alright, fine. There's nothing going on. Happy?"
Giles assumed a stern, disapproving look. "What do you mean, 'nothing'?"
Spike groaned. "What d'you think I mean? Nothing! As in, not a thing. No demonic gatherings, no evil rituals, no over-ambitious vampire trying to take over the Hellmouth. N o t h i n g. Want it a bit slower?"
Willow shook her head, confused. "Wait a sec. If nothing big is happening, what's with all the activity we've been seeing lately? It can't be coincidence."
Buffy nodded. "I agree. I think you're hiding something. Not that that surprises me." She sneered at the vampire. "You'd do anything to get a free meal...especially since you can't your meals anywhere else!"
"Hey! I came here to help, I'll have you know!" Spike turned a deaf ear to the derisive snorts that met that comment. "Look, you've got a surplus of demons, I'm looking for a spot of violence. Work with me here!"
Riley backed up a step. "So, you're saying you came here so you could have a chance to pound on a few baddies?"
"Well, that and a free feed. And who said anythin' about poundin'? I wanna rip 'em to shreds! Get some nice blood and gore, maybe a few innards."
Willow went to Buffy's side and murmured in her ear, "Might as well take him along. We could use an extra pair of hands, and it's not like it matters if he gets hurt."
Buffy scowled, but gave in. "Fine. You can come with us." She motioned to her boyfriend, who left the vampire to help the Slayer get her equipment packed.
Spike just watched as the small group prepared for patrol. It wasn't exactly the evening he'd planned, but it might not turn out too bad.
He ignored the little voice in his head that urged him to ditch to Slayer and company and go see Xander. He wanted violence!
Maybe he should drop by later, though. Just to take him back his radio. It did need new batteries after all.
"Hello? Spike? You in there?" Buffy waved a hand in front of his face.
His eyes focused on her. "What!"
"Hey, can it! I do not need your attitude. This week has sucked enough already. Let's go!"
Spike snarled, but followed the Slayer and her friends out.
Spike couldn't believe he was doing this.
He watched the house, clutching a radio under one arm, and using his other hand to flick a cigarette onto the lawn. He shook his head, then headed around to the back yard and knocked on the rear basement door.
After a couple of minutes, he heard footsteps, and the door cracked open about an inch. A dark eye peered out. "What?" came a scratchy whisper.
Spike grinned. "Gonna let me in? Got somethin' for you."
A heavy sigh. "Go away, Spike. It's three in the morning, and I'm really not in the mood."
He held up the radio. "Brought this back. Thought you might want it."
The door opened a bit farther, and a hand reached out. "So? Give it."
"Aw, let a vamp in, wouldja? Offer me a snack maybe; it's only polite."
"Fuck polite!" came the snarl. "Just give me back my radio and fuck off!"
Spike clicked his tongue. "Tut tut. Such language!" He held the radio out temptingly.
Another sigh, then the door opened. Xander stepped into the moonlight. "Well? Give it here."
Spike stared at him in shock. In the faint light, he could make out a dark patch around the boy's neck, and his face looked swollen and bruised. "What happened to you, mate?"
Xander shrugged. "Tough time patrolling with Buffy earlier. It happens. I'll live." With that terse reply, he again held his hand out, waiting expectantly. "You're not coming in. Might as well forget about it."
Spike couldn't believe. The boy was actually lying to him! While he was vaguely willing to accept that Xander had been injured patrolling, he knew for a fact that it hadn't been with Buffy. And wasn't he supposed to be sick? Why would he have been out patrolling anyway? It didn't make sense.
Spike knew only one thing, though. Something had hurt his Nummy, and he was going to kill it.
Spike calmed himself. Ok, so the whelp was lying to him. Not his problem. It's not like he cared, anyway.
As he continued to just stand there, Xander reached out and grabbed the radio. He then went back inside, and Spike tried to follow.
The door slammed shut in his face. Spike stared at it. He seemed to be doing that a lot tonight. Something stranger then usual was going on with Xander, and he wanted to know what.
Only to satisfy his curiosity, though. Spike refused to acknowledge the feeling in his stomach at the thought of someone hurting the boy. He hurried away, headed back to his crypt to indulge in some deep thinking.
(I'm actually not posting the rest of this here because it becomes NC-17 in a bit. You can find the full story at my site: kaylafic(dot)livejournal(dot)com)