Those of you who have read this more than once, know about the inconsistencies. To those of you who haven't, there are some. Most of them are double 'first times' or backtracking.

I'm in the process, very slow to be sure, of rewriting, where I can. If I can't fix it, I can't. I'm not going to do a massive rewrite, just clean up where I can.

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Betaed by Skippyscatt, kitty_poker1, and Aayesha_r

Warnings: none that I can think of. If you feel a need, let me know.

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"Dammit. Red, are you sure you know what you're doing? Wouldn't do to turn him into a shrimp or summat."

Willow turned to Spike and nodded eagerly. "It's just a simple spell. It's called 'enthralled', and all it'll do is make him like you. I'm in the process of translating it now. As soon as I find the right text. I mean, I know which spell I want... but... Please?"

She turned her puppy dog eyes on him, and Spike sighed. Of all the Slayerettes, he liked her the best. He hated Anya and didn't care for Riley much, never mind that he was shaggin' the Slayer. Rupert was acceptable as one, English, and two, a fair fighter in his own right. But the Xander-pup was annoying. He never shut up, stood still, or did anything other than trip over his own big feet. Spike couldn't say he disliked the boy, even though the wanker seemed to be on the 'stake Spike' team; he preferred not to notice him at all. But Red liked him, so there had to be something in him.

Spike decided to watch the boy more closely tonight to try to see what Red saw. Then he'd make a decision about that 'friendship' spell.

The evening proved to be eye opening and somewhat dismaying. It went something like:

Xander: "Hi. Hi. Hi. Um, what ya doin'?"

Giles: (tired look) "Not now, Xander, I'm busy."

Xander: (sad face) "Okay, sorry, sorry. Didn't mean to be a pest."

.

Xander: "Hey, Riley what cha' doin'? Can I help?"

Riley: "If you'd looked, you'd see I'm cleaning a sword, and no, you can't help. You'll only cut yourself."

Xander: (crestfallen again) "Well I wouldn't have cut myself in the first place if you hadn't yelled at me."

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Xander: "Tara, can I help you?"

Tara: "N-n-n-n-o-o. I-I-I'm O-o-o-k."

Xander: "Well, if you need me I'm right over here."

Tara: (nods head)

.

Buffy: "No jelly? Where's Xander?"

Xander: "Right here. Here I am. Just hangin' out. Yup, that's me, just hanging around boy."

Buffy (disgusted look): "Xander, you're babbling again. Go get some donuts."

Xander (crushed look): "Okay, yeah, that's me, donut gettin' man. On my way."

.

Willow: "Xander, do you need any money?"

Xander: "Yeah, I could use a few bucks. Had to pay rent."

Willow: "Ooh, Xander. They raised it again, didn't they?"

Xander: "Yeah. They want four hundred dollars a month now."

Willow: "Oh, Xander."

.

Spike snarled. Xander's parents made him pay rent for that shithole basement apartment. Rent he could see, but four hundred bucks a month? It wasn't worth a third that. Especially with them yelling overhead at all hours of the day and night. He hadn't spent nearly a month there without hearing some interesting things.

Spike followed Xander on his donut run and got an eyeful. The trip to Dunkin' Donuts was fairly short, even shorter if you drove. Xander didn't drive; he walked, counting money as he went.

He picked up every bottle and can he found, stuffing them in a trash bag he produced from one pocket, stopping at the recycling place, and heading for Dunkin' Donuts. He took a short cut down an alley and Spike winced.

Xander stayed in the shadows as much as he could; this was way more dangerous than anyone knew. There was a demon hangout between the donut shop and Giles' place, but if he got going early enough there were only some Darash demons there. They weren't really fighters, and if Xander didn't look at them, they ignored him.

"Crap." Xander muttered several more expletives under his breath. There was a demon he'd never seen before standing right in the middle of the alley. Xander feinted right then left. When the demon moved to intercept him, he danced away from the grasping hands and scurried for the mouth of the alley.

The demon tried to follow, but it's hard to run with a broken leg. Spike snarled in the demon's face and hurried after Xander. How the boy could have such good footwork and still stumble all over himself was beyond Spike, but he'd seen the same thing over and over. When he was alone he was completely different from when he was with the Scoobies. "Bloody stupid nickname."

So Spike followed Xander until he was sure that the boy was safe. Then he slipped into the sewers and went hunting; he'd check up on the boy again later.

Even though he couldn't feed off humans, he'd found that certain demon types were just as nourishing and tasty. And most of those were on the 'slay on sight' list. That made it twice as good. One, he got to feed. Two, he got his violence.

So why was he so out of sorts? He had everything he needed to be as happy as he could be, under the circumstances. But he still felt incomplete.

Being Spike, he stopped worrying about it and found dinner, with pocket money included.

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Xander managed to get donuts and return to the Magic Box without further incident, if you didn't count staking a newborn, which he didn't.

He put the box of donuts on the table and started into the back to make coffee.

Giles stopped him with a soft, "Here. I'm sorry I didn't notice sooner." He pressed some money into Xander's hand. Xander wished he could refuse it, but he didn't have that option.

"Thanks, G-man. Appreciate it. You find your demon yet?"

Giles sighed and took off his glasses. "No. Seems that Buffy missed something in her description. I sent her out on patrol. Alone, as Spike seems to have made himself scarce. For once."

Xander shrugged and headed into the back again. Giles followed him.

"Yeah. And where's a vampire when you really need one?"

Giles gave him a funny look then he remembered the reference and sighed. "On the other side of town."

Xander grinned at Giles. It made him smile whenever Giles remembered one of his movie references. Not that it happened that often.

Giles smiled back at him and reminded him that they still had to find the demon, and they needed coffee.

Xander sighed, "Ok, be there in a few. Can't make the coffee brew any faster than it is. Save me a cruller."

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When Xander got to the big round table in the back of the shop, Willow was devouring the last cruller. In fact, there wasn't a donut left. Xander just shrugged. "That's okay. I'll go get some more."

Riley sneered at Xander, muttered something about "pigging down" some on the way back, and tossed him a trail bar.

Xander accepted the bar with a soft grumble, wolfed it down, and stuck his nose in a book.

He stayed with the research for most of the evening, then he stretched, groaned, and announced, "That's all for me. I got a new job, and I have to be there at 7am. That's... fuck... six hours away."

Riley looked up then returned to his book. "That's okay. I can go by myself. I'm a big boy now." But Xander's anxious look belied his words. Spike hopped off the counter he'd been sitting on for the last hour. No research for Spike, no sir. Not going there.

"I'll walk that way a bit. Maybe you'll bait something fun out of the brush. Come on."

Xander started to say something then just followed Spike out the door.

They walked in silence until they reached the turnoff into Xander's subdivision. Then Spike turned to Xander and asked if he wanted company the rest of the way. Xander stumbled over his own feet, squawked loudly, and started babbling.

"Ack! Um, no. Don't think so. That is... I'll be fine... not that far. And... um... my dad. Well, never mind, I'll be okay. Thanks. I'm fine. Thanks. Um... I'll just be going now. Bye."

Spike bit his lip to keep from laughing. He was feeling funny about the boy. He tried so hard, and no one seemed to notice him. Sort of like the way they were ignoring Spike. It was benign neglect of the cruelest sort, because it wasn't meant to be anything bad. They were just careless.

Spike's laugh turned into a snarl, and he slouched away to kill something, just because.

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Xander slipped into his basement room *apartment, my ass* and flopped down on the bed. He was a hundred dollars short of his rent and, son or not, his dad had made it plain that he better keep up on the rent or he was out. On the street. Homeless. Xander wondered if that was such a bad thing.

He woke up the next morning to a blow to his ribs that made him roll over swearing.

"Fuck, what the hell is it now?"

"Get up, you little shit. You'll be late. You got rent to pay. If you lose this... aawww, why the fuck do I bother? You're useless. Piece of shit. If you don't pay, you don't stay."

Xander rolled off the bed, keeping it between himself and his father. Contrary to popular belief, he never just lay down and took it. The drunken fights weren't all between his mother and father. He rarely ever drank, but both parties didn't have to be tanked for it to be a drunken brawl.

He grumbled his way into the shower and listened with one ear to his father's tirade against lazy, stupid, hot water wasting kids. He dressed and left, snatching up his Uncle Rory's car keys. He'd been driving it off and on since his junior year so no one said anything when he just appropriated it permanently. After all, he was paying for it.

His job turned out to be even more onerous than usual. Cleaning deep fat fryers and collecting the oil was just nasty, and what the hell did they do with it, anyway?

He realized that he'd said that aloud when the driver of the tank truck started telling him what it was used for.

"Remind me not to wear lipstick ever again. Or use hand lotion, for that matter. Eeeewww! In a great big way."

The driver laughed. "Well, kid. At least you aren't doing it the way I used to have to. Fifty-five gallon barrels, and I had to roll them up the ramp into a flat bed instead of pumping it out of the fryer tank. Had one bust open on me more than once. They docked my pay and everything. Demons, what can you do?"

Xander nearly fell out of the truck.

"Demons? What? Where? Demons?" Xander freaked out. "I don't… I mean... oh, shit."

"Look, kid. I don't know about you, but I know there's demons, and no one will tell me different. If you want to stick your head in the sand and play ostrich, fine by me. I'll sign the register at your funeral."

Xander wisely kept his mouth shut and kept working.

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Friday, he got paid and went to the Scooby meeting. Which was a whole new level of upsetting.

When he'd found out that he was working for a demon, he'd nearly freaked out completely then he'd realized that the guy paid well and didn't pull some of the stunts other employers did. So he shut up, did his job, and did his best to ignore the situation.

Giles gave Xander a hard time that night so he spent most of the night in the stacks, putting books away. He finally realized that Giles was trying to keep him from finding out what they were up to. So he eavesdropped shamelessly, and he didn't like what he was hearing.

Giles was sending Buffy to clean out a 'nest' of demons. Unfortunately, he recognized the address as that of his new boss. A harmless demon, more interested in money than blood or guts, or whatever Giles was afraid he was interested in. Not that it would do him any good to tell them that. They never listened to him at the best of times.

So Xander cradled his bruised ribs and thought then he just walked up to the table and told them he was tired, had to work early the next morning, and was going home.

Spike watched all this with considerable interest and started scheming. He was sick of Sunnyhell and the way Giles and the Scoobies treated him, and Buffy was definitely getting on his nerves. She was slay-oriented to the point of self-centeredness. He liked Willow and even found the whelp to be 'interesting'. Something was going on with that boy, and he intended to find out what. Spike admitted to being a right mixer at times, and this was one of them

He was going to get revenge on the Slayer and her little group of sycophants. But this revenge had to be special. He had to think carefully; the Hellmouth tended to botch even the best of his plans.

So he followed Xander around while plans fermented in his mind.

Xander noticed Spike following him and waited around a corner.

"Ha! Gotcha!"

Spike jumped a foot. "Dammit, Droopy. You're gonna get yourself killed doin' that."

Xander just glowered at Spike. "Why are you following me? You never follow me. You're so busy trying to get... never mind. Forget I said that. Anyway, again, why are you following me?"

Spike glowered back at Xander. "I wanna know where you're going. That's why... so, where ya goin', pet."

Xander just turned around and headed for home again. He wasn't going to let Spike get to him.

"In case you suffered a spell of selective deafness, I'm going home. I'm tired, and I'm going to bed."

Spike noticed, not for the first time, that away from Giles and the girls Xander didn't babble. Spike added that to the list of things he wondered about.

"I heard. But you never go home this early. So, what gives? 'Cause, I gotta say, if you're gonna mix it up with Daddy, I wanna watch. See?"

Xander just opened the door and went in. Spike started to follow him, but slammed into the invisible barrier in the doorway. He gave Xander a hurt look, then swore as Xander slammed the door in his face, announcing, "I looked up the de-invite spells. It's easy. Fuck off."

Xander sat on the bed for a few moments, then stood up and climbed the stairs. His father wanted the rent put in his hand every month. So here he went, money in hand, to pay up, again.

"You're short. Stupid. I told ya there was an increase."

"You told me fifty dollars. There's fifty more dollars there."

Xander snatched the money out of his father's hand and counted.

"Fifty more a week. Piss brain."

Xander stared at his father for a second. He didn't make that much money in a month, he said so.

"Well, ya got 48 hours to get out, then. Can't pay, can't stay... Of course, if you'd cooperate with Benjy…"

Xander just stuffed his money in his pocket, gave his father the one finger salute and went back downstairs, followed by a string of curses.

He picked up the phone and made the call to his boss. He had thought the name was one of those unpronounceable Slovakian things; now he knew it was just a bastardization of the demon's real name.

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Willow tucked the book into her pack and worried at her lip. Giles was going to be pissed when he found out that she was in the locked case. Spike had picked the lock looking for something and never locked it again, so she was taking advantage of the oversight to find something to help Xander.

She had heard of Thrailan friendship spells. She was going to cast one for Xander. All she had to do was get the ingredients and set things up.

"Buffy! I need you to do something for me. I mean for Xander well, not for Xander in that he knows what I'm doing exactly, but you know that I love Xander. I don't want him to be lonely so he needs a friend not that we're not his friends, but he needs a friend with... with different equipment. I mean, well you know what I mean. You do, don't you?"

Buffy stared at Willow for a second while she translated Willow babble into regular English, or near enough.

"Okay, you want to cast a spell to get Xander a friend of the male persuasion. To... sort of... balance the equation. Not that Giles isn't his friend, but he's old. So... yeah, I'll help you. But we have to work it in between patrols. There's some kind of demon gathering. Giles is really worried about it. But I'm with the patrolling, and he's all researchy, so we're good. Just give me a heads up when you need me."

Buffy gathered weapons and backpack and headed home for the evening. Willow gathered up her stuff too. As they walked home, Buffy worried about Xander. She knew that something was wrong, but she couldn't figure out quite what. And Spike was acting weirder than usual, too.

Willow said goodbye at her door and watched Buffy as she trotted up the street, heading home by several short cuts guaranteed to scare up a fledge or demon.

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Xander knew he had to get out. His father was going to use this as an excuse to beat the hell out of him, and he was tired to the bone. He didn't know where he was going to go, but he was going. In the last six months, he'd had bruised ribs, a broken wrist, a sprained wrist, and a sprained ankle. And that was just from his dad. He couldn't take much more.

He sat down on the bed and thought. There was one place he knew he could go. And it wasn't Willow's, or Buffy's, or especially Giles'. There was a tunnel that ran the length of old Sunnydale that had a lot of decent places to hide out. He had a place there that he'd gone to for years. Just for a night or two, to heal up enough to fight off his father again. This time he was going there and staying, at least until he could save up enough to get a real place.

"Ya little fuck. Ya got two days to come up with rent. All in one chunk, in my hand, with an apology for being late. Hear me, pisswad?"

Xander gave the ceiling a burning look and yelled. "Yes, Daddy. I hear you, Daddy." 'Fuck you, Daddy', this last sotto voce and furious. Xander didn't lose his temper, ever, for any reason. But he was perilously close.

Spike lurked around for long enough to hear the exchange between Xander and his father, then went to his crypt and thought. Hard. When he finally made his decision, it was like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. His superiors weren't going to like this, but they weren't really superior, and he didn't care much if they liked it or not. He'd suffered enough to pay for twenty members of the Order, never mind three.

Heading to Willie's, he grumbled to himself all the way about being taken advantage of and putting an end to it. He knew exactly why he had done some of the things he had. But some other things had been a mystery to him until just lately. Revenge was sweet, very sweet.

"Willie, gimme the phone."

Willie gave Spike a look and started whining. "Spike, every time I let you make a call, it costs me a fortune. I mean, call New York on your own dollar, or hundred, whatever. Know what I mean?"

Spike just vamped and snarled at Willie, the sound like canvas tearing. "Gimme the damned phone, ya wanker. I'll make it good." Spike held out his hand and snapped his fingers. Willie gave him the phone.

Spike dialed from memory and waited for someone to pick up. "Yeah... Spike."

The entity on the other end told him to wait, but he snarled "I want to talk to the Master of the Order, now. I'm done here."

The Master of the Order of Taraka came on the line and Spike didn't give him time to open his mouth; instead he gave him a quick run down of everything that had happened to him in the last year and demanded to be relieved of his duties.

"I'm starvin'. That wanker, Giles, keeps me on a short ration and pig's blood to boot. Ya ever taste that shite? An' I'm tired. Drusilla just about did me in, what with her constant maundering about talkin' stars and dollies and whatnot. Not that I didn't love her. But it was a damn thankless job, nevertheless. An' that's that. You got two weeks to send someone else to keep the fledges down to a manageable level. And Buffy, that's another story entirely, and none of your fuckin' business. Just send someone. Now."

The Master mumbled; Spike snarled. The Master snarked, and Spike blew up. "Look, I'm not askin', I'm tellin'. I fucked up with the Trio, yeah. But I paid, an' paid, an' paid. I'm all paid up... Because I said so. You send anyone after me, I'll send them back in a dustbuster. So..."

The master decided not to press the matter; he was astonished that Spike had stayed around as long as he had. Spike was a Master Vampire and a very powerful one. Very few entities could make him do something he was determined not to do. So he capitulated quickly, telling Spike that the debt incurred by getting his Order mates killed was paid in full. Spike snarled, "Nice to know. Thanks ever so. Now, I need access to my funds, a cell, and an apartment."

The Master gave Spike an address and told him to be there any time after they hung up because things were in the works as they spoke.

Spike grunted, tossed the phone to Willie, and headed for the demon bank of Sunnydale.

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Xander pulled a duffel from the back of his closet and carefully packed his comic books into it. He also packed several small boxes of collectable items and Willow's old lap top. She'd given it to him when she got a new one, in hopes that it might help his grades.

He hefted the duffel onto one shoulder and headed for Sammy's Storage. Sammy hated his father and would let him store his stuff for a minimum fee. Not that he needed much space, but what he did have, he didn't want his old man to get his hands on.

Sammy was more than cooperative; he was ecstatic. "I'll wait a week before I start rubbing it in, okay?" Xander just shrugged.

He got back home just before midnight, and the first thing he smelled was bleach.

"Oh, hell, he so did not…" Xander sniffed again then headed for the pile of clothing waiting on the floor until he had the change to pay for washing it. "Damn him, he did. Now what? Xan-man, you're in it now. Think, think. Okay."

Xander shook out the empty duffel and rummaged in the back of the closet. He piled things on the couch. Then he went through his dresser drawers, adding to the pile.

When he was done, he had two pairs of jeans that really fit, a black 'rock till you puke' t-shirt, courtesy of Oz, a dark red t-shirt, a denim button down shirt, and enough socks and shorts to last a week. Everything else was ruined. He hadn't even bothered to go through the soaked, stinking pile of clothing.

Xander eyed the clothing piled on the dryer, then shrugged and scavenged it.

He added a pair of stone-colored dockers, a pair of black jeans, and two more denim shirts, one black, one blue, to the pile on the couch.

Then he eyed his broken sneakers; he needed new shoes badly. His father had bought two new pairs of shoes just yesterday. He knew they wore the same size as the old goat had taken his boots last month. So Xander helped himself. The new loafers and cross trainers were added to the pile. He also discovered the boots he'd bought, still in their box on a shelf. They went onto the growing pile.

Xander scanned the musty basement room carefully. He wanted to make sure that he had everything. He didn't want to have to come back for so much as a stick of gum. That was when he realized that if his boots were on a shelf down here, some of the other things that had been taken from him over the years could be here, too. He'd never risked looking before.

After a short search, Xander found the roll of jewelry that his grandmother had left to him and his grandfather's coin collection. All in a snazzy steel briefcase. He added that to the pile as well.

He packed the duffel and made sure that everything was gathered up and made his second trip to Sammy's place.

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He settled into the niche in the wall of the steam tunnel. It was about eight by eight, solid concrete, and cold. So he decided on one more trip back 'home'.

Spike saw him half way there and decided the bank could wait.

Xander ignored him.

Spike followed Xander. He was going to have the boy, somehow, some way.

Xander tried the key, the lock opened, but the door refused to do the same.

Spike walked up behind Xander. "Need help with that? Be glad to oblige, yeah?"

Xander stepped back a pace and slammed the flat of his foot into the door next to the lock. The door smacked into the wall and slammed back shut. Xander stood waiting for the door to make up its mind whether to be open or shut. When it settled, Xander pushed it open again and walked in.

Spike snarled; he couldn't follow, he was excluded again.

Xander turned, looked at Spike for a second. "Come in, Spike."

Spike blinked then entered. He looked around. It was as dank and depressing as he remembered.

"Ya move out? 'Bout time."

Xander just mumbled something and gathered up sheets, blankets, and sleeping bag.

"I'm leaving again. Make yourself at home… don't follow me."

Xander shoved by Spike and disappeared into the darkness of the back yard. Spike was so shocked that he stood gaping too long. By the time he got his wits about him and started to follow, Xander had disappeared.

"Well, fuck. Fucking hate Sunnyhell. Everything I plan in this place gets bolloxed up. Fuckin' Initiative. Fuckin' Slayer. Fuckin'... just fuckin' everything. I'll be glad to shake the dust of this unlivin' hell from my boots."

Spike lit a fag and sauntered off to meet the banker.

At the bank he was greeted with groveling and scraping. The demon who led him to the President's office bowed so low Spike thought he just might get rug burn on his nose.

"Master William, so glad to meet you. Right this way. The President is waiting for you."

Spike just grunted. He was tired and hungry. So hungry, in fact, that his stomach grumbled loudly.

"I'm sorry. I'll fetch you something nice, shall I?"

Spike settled into the chair he was offered and nodded regally. "Be nice. Got a bit side tracked and didn't eat."

The blood he was brought was fresh, warm, and sweet. He swallowed it in three gulps and handed the delicate cup back with a sigh.

"Excellent."

"Thank you, sir. The President will be here shortly. He's checking on arrangements for your new accommodations."

The President showed up just then and settled behind his desk. He placed several items on the polished surface and started to lecture Spike on his responsibilities, but Spike cut him off with a few well-turned phrases. He shut up and handed the items to Spike.

"Sorry, sorry. Didn't mean to offend. You're... you were turned very young."

Spike smirked. "Eighteen and a virgin. So, what 'ave I got?"

The man ticked the items off on his fingers. "You have a credit card and a check book. The red key is to the Mercedes, your cell is in the glove compartment, the blue key is to your apartment. Here are the address and entry code. The security system is top of the line. No windows. In fact, the living quarters are entirely underground. Very nice, though. Curtains on the walls give the illusion of windows. I think you'll like it."

"Thanks, mate. I'll be 'round again if I need anythin'. Oh, see about gettin' me a consistent blood supply, yeah?"

The man just nodded. "I've already seen to it. I didn't think a Master like you would lower himself to hunting like a common fledge. If you need anything, my number, my private one, is in the front of the check book."

Spike sauntered out the door, never noticing the man dabbing sweat off his upper lip with his pristine linen handkerchief.

The next four days went by in a blur for all the Scoobies.

Giles spent most of his time with his nose firmly in one book or another.

Buffy doubled up on her patrols; the fledges were thick and stupid. They seemed determined to throw themselves onto her stake.

Willow alternately helped Giles and worked on her translation of the friendship spell.

Xander lost his job because he missed the truck three days in a row. He couldn't seem to wake up without the sun shining into the room. He went to pick up his last check and found that the office was nearly empty. The only person there was the secretary.

"Here's your last check. There's a bonus and two weeks severance pay. The boss is decamping, and decided to let you have the money because he would have let you go. He just did it a day early. Don't know what's going on, don't want to know. See you around." She couldn't help but see Xander's upset.

"Look, kid. You're a good guy. Whatever you got going on, get over it. You're okay. You just need to get to work on time and all that. Once you were here, you did good. So... go out, get another job, and do it right. I know you can."

Xander shrugged. "I got a bad rep. My dad got me fired from two jobs. And I don't have an alarm, so I'm always late. I got blackballed from the construction jobs because my dad kept calling and making trouble with the bosses. Which, along with the being late, not such a good rep."

The lady nodded thoughtfully, then took a piece of paper and scribbled an address. "It's a cattle call. But if you go there, you're sure to get something. They pay the day workers cash on the barrel head. And if you don't screw up you'll kill that bad rep. Go give it a shot. What could you lose?"

Xander hoped that was what Giles called a rhetorical question. Because he sure wasn't going to answer it. She was a nice lady.

Xander didn't go to either of the Scooby meetings that Giles called. He didn't have the energy, or the inclination. The only two people who really noticed were Spike and, surprisingly, Riley.

.

Spike, meanwhile, was searching for Xander in his own way. In other words, he put his new minions to work looking for Xander, with simple instructions. "Don't eat him, don't even taste him. In fact, don't even think of tasting him. I find out you did, I'll pull your guts out and stuff 'em back in sideways. Just find the little wanker, yeah?"

They looked everywhere they could think of, but being low level minions, they didn't find him either.

Spike sat in his nice new digs and fumed. He wanted his revenge and he was going to get it. It all hinged on getting his hands on Xander. "Bloody hell, can't trust those wankers not t' muck up the job. Best get on with it an' do it meself."

Spike crushed his cigarette out in an ashtray on the table. It was still daylight, so he headed out to search the under-level himself.

He traveled the distance from one end of the main tunnel to the other, sniffing occasionally. He smelled Xander, but he couldn't pin him down. He decided that the friendship spell might not be such a bad idea; it might help him keep track of his new 'prey.'

.

Riley stopped in at the donut shop to see if he could catch Xander before he showed up at the Magic Box, but he just missed him. Instead he saw something that made him angry.

"Excuse me, ma'am. Where the dickens did you get such a mess of change? Looks like some kid busted his piggy bank."

The teller looked up with a sigh. "It's that Harris boy, again. He comes in here for donuts a lot, and half the time he's got a shit load of change. Those freeloading friends of his never pay him back, and he's no Cruxies (1) or whatever that king guy was."

Riley missed the reference completely so he ignored it.

"So, he comes in here and pays for two dozen donuts with small change. That's... weird."

The clerk looked disgusted. "No, honey, that's poverty. He has to pick up bottles and cans then cash them in. Only way a guy his age would have that kind of chump change. You wanna coffee or somethin'?"

Riley shook his head then poured on the Iowa farm boy charm. "Oh, no thank you, ma'am. I'll just take a juice and muffin."

Riley bit at his thumbnail and wondered if it was worth looking for Xander in any of his old haunts. He decided it wasn't and went back to the Magic Box to consult with Giles.

.

Xander finally went to a meeting the next night. It was Friday, and he didn't have to work so he decided to attend the weekly meeting. He wandered in with donuts he'd bought with change he'd scrounged in the usual way. Riley gave him a strange look and insisted on handing him $10 to "help out", for the first time ever.

Xander also noticed that Riley and Buffy seemed to be on the outs a bit. Buffy was in the training room beating the stuffing out of the heavy bag, literally.

He sighed and settled into a chair. "Okay, what's the what? And what kind of oogley-boogley are we researching this time?" Xander reached out and picked up a book written in an ancient symbolic demon language. He settled down to read, grumbling about the mustiness of the pages.

When Willow called him into the training room, he was glad to get away from the smell, shuffling of pages, and general grumpiness.

.

"Okay, Xander. You stand here, and Spike will stand there. It'll only take a sec." Willow scampered behind the large table which was covered with crucibles, mortars and attendant pestles, strange colored powders, and other magical paraphernalia.

"Um, Willow. You're sure? I mean, what… huh?... What? Wills, you promised no more mojo. You know it just doesn't seem to... well... aaawwww... . Wills, not the lip."

Xander gave up. When Willow pouted like that with the pouched out lip and the puppy eyes, he couldn't resist.

Spike shrugged. "So... we doin' this or what?"

So Willow worked her spell, the colored powders stank as they burned, and the whole thing was a failure. Or so they thought.

"Ohohoh... I forgot. Xander, you have to step inside the pentacle now. And Spike, you have to touch him. Go on… do it… please?"

So Xander stepped inside the pentacle and Spike took his hand. Spike didn't feel much, just a tingle, but Xander jumped out of the pentacle like he'd been goosed.

"Hey! So not liking the zap! Wills, this spell… what kind of spell is it? Like it'll help me to ask now. Stupid, stupid!"

Willow gave Xander a coy look. "It's a friendship spell. It'll just make Spike like you. You need a friend... of the male persuasion. Not that we're not friends... um... but we're girl friends. Not girlfriends, exactly, but friends who happen to be girls... and you need boy... I mean, friends who are guys... well, you know... and..."

Xander nodded and interrupted Willow in mid babble. "Okay... Wills, take a breath, I get it. Spike is now the Xan-man's new best friend. Thanks so much. Really likin' the thought of havin' the evil undead as a bosom buddy. NOT!" Xander took a deep breath so he wouldn't yell at Willow. She always meant well.

While they were arguing, Spike slipped around to the back of the table. He idly glanced at the notes Willow had made for her spell and blinked. This was the original spell, in Fornian. Damn! In fact, it was a Fornian thrall spell but it was mixed up with a Thrallian friendship spell.

Spike picked up the diagram of the pentacle and sighed. Fuck. He folded up the diagram and stuffed it into a pocket then he took Willow's notes, turned to a new page in the small spiral notebook, and made a list of every powder, herb, and fluid she'd used in the spell. Then he pocketed the book and pen.

He couldn't help but grin. Willow had just handed him the boy on a silver platter, with an apple in his mouth. All he had to do was set the hook and reel him in like a fish. He'd take his time. Do it right, and he'd have everything he wanted.

"With the smiling, and like a shark, I might add. What's up?"

Spike started right in. "I just don't get it. You're... different here. Ya' get all... stupid. An' when you're at work, you're all construction joe. You're... a chameleon. Changin' to suit the background. Or summat. What's your game?" Spike gave Xander a narrow-eyed look.

Xander resisted the first impulse he had, which was to punch Spike. Not really a good idea, punching a full Master Vampire was so not of the good. Instead he gritted his teeth, put on the goofy 'hail fellow well met' mask he usually wore and said he had no idea what Spike was talking about, insulted the Queen's English, and slammed out the back door.

Spike resisted the urge to follow him; from now on, he'd always know approximately where the boy was. There was other business at hand.

He hunted up Giles and asked for use of the copier. He knew better than to just use it. That was another insult to mark against their record. When Giles gave him permission after an assault of questions, Spike made copies of all Willow's notes and diagrams, gave them to Giles, and asked him to figure out exactly what she had done.

Giles glanced at the notes. "You haven't been casting spells out of Mim's." It was a statement, not a question.

Spike gave Giles an indignant look. "Wot, me? Got better sense than that, yeah? No, just wondered what was up with this spell. Take your time, but not too long. Don't expect the whelp would appreciate that." Spike sauntered casually away. Now that Giles had copies of the notes, he was off the hook.

(1) Croesus - Rich Greek king

For this story, the hierarchy for vampires is:

Newbie or newborn
minion: with a few levels, depending on function and intelligence
fledge
childe

Master/Consort
High Master

The hierarchy for humans is:

food
pet
Claimed /(fed a Master's blood and usually used for sex, but not necessarily exclusively)/
Companion /(fed a Master's blood and used for sex in an exclusive relationship)/
Consort: