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You know they're doin' it
Kitten's Claws 3/? 
21st-Sep-2012 06:48 pm
Title: The Kitten’s Claws
Author: jujukittychick
Fandom: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer
Cast: Xander, Spike/Dru
Warnings: pre-slash/threesome (depending on how you look at it lol), mild to moderate anti-Scoobies (they range from the realm of completely oblivious to unintentionally hurtfully)
Rating: R
Disclaimer: I do not own anything except the computer I'm typing this on and am making no money. Buffy belongs to its respective creators and owners who *are* making money off them. I'm just doing this for my own fun and entertainment; in general, if you recognize something, I don't own it.
Beta: NONE! Any mistakes are my own
Spoilers: I’m going with most of the pre-Dawn series, however I’m playing fast and light with events so they may or may not have happened in the order they’re mentioned.
A/N: My story is definitely influenced by the relationship Xander, Spike and Dru have in kahuna_burger’s story Not Ripe Yet. If you like mine, you should definitely go read hers- it’s absolutely wonderful and lovely and makes me want to cuddle all of them to pieces. Oh, and my “messy eating” quote, was also from Not Ripe Yet, go figure lol

Summary: “The White Knight and the Dark Damsel In Distress.“ Or, the long awaited meeting of Xander, Dru and Spike!

Chapter 2 Chapter 4

Chapter 3


Xander was trailing behind Buffy, Willow, and Giles, listening absently as the Watcher critiqued their performance- complimenting Buffy on her technique in taking out the slimy demon with way too many arms and Willow on her budding spell work. Nobody said anything to or about him and he was once again, as was happening more and more recently, wondering why he even bothered to come along.

It was as he was drifting further away from the small group that he happened to hear the faint sound of malicious laughter and, oh yeah, he knew that sound all too well; every bad guy and demon that came through town, not to mention school bully, laughed that way… usually right before they hit him. Stopping, he turned towards the direction he thought the sound had come from, just catching a glimpse of a dark haired girl being followed by several guys who were laughing and shoving each other the way the jocks at school tended to do before the group disappeared into the gates of one of the cemeteries. “Hey guys? Guys? Buffy? Giles?” Not wanting to look away from the cemetery entrance for long, he glanced back only to see that the others had kept walking, apparently not noticing that he’d stopped, and were now a full block ahead of him and not slowing down.

If he had known he’d one day look back on the moment as one that changed the course of his life, much as him first stumbling into the new blonde girl at school had… well, he’d probably still make the same decision.

Glancing between the cemetery and the fading laughter he could just hear and his friends disappearing into the distance, he came to a decision. Patting his pockets, making sure his stakes and holy water were still in place, he jogged down the sidewalk to the cemetery entrance, peeking in carefully, just in case, before venturing inside. The streetlights might as well have been stars with as much light as they shed into the dark field, shadows gathering around and spilling ominously from crypts and mausoleums and giant weeping angel statues scattered across the manicured lawn.

Following the road and the sound of laughter, he jogged as quietly as possibly, glad that he’d learned to control his breathing from the swimming fiasco. As the laughter grew louder, he pulled a stake from his pocket, holding it at the ready as he moved quickly from shadow to shadow, trying his best to sneak up on the group stalking the, apparently, oblivious girl.

Realizing that the group had slowed down, Xander found a large monument to duck behind, yet another crying angel, and didn’t that just make him feel oh so optimistic. Fingers flexing around the stake in his hand, he got a good look at the three goons stalking the girl, their laughter and crude comments floating back to him as well as some kind of nursery rhyme in a lilting female voice. Great, not only vamps, but an escapee from a mental ward as well from the sounds of it. Taking a deep breath to fortify himself, Xander ran out from behind the statue, yelling angrily, or at least noisily, ‘cause you know, it might help to get someone else’s (read Buffy and Giles’) attention, stake clutched in his hand…and promptly tripped over a fallen chunk of tombstone hidden in the over grown grass and tumbled straight into the closest vamp, sending both of them crashing into the others.

Amid loud cursing and yelling and glancing blows as the four tried to disentangle themselves from each other, all with the same lilting nursery rhyme being sung in the background, Xander suddenly came to the realization that the three were not actually in fact vampires at all, and were actually former high school bullies who definitely seemed to recognize him… or at least his general normally cowardly, geeky type. The situation taking on a whole new dynamic, Xander did what years of target practice taught him, he scrambled back out of the way and pressed himself against the nearest solid object he could find so none of them could catch him from behind. Glancing upwards, he realized it was the same crying angel and wondered absently if they were tears of laughter at how much he’d managed to botch up things this time.

As the three pulled themselves off the ground, their attention seemed to be pulled between going after their ineffectual attacker or going after their oblivious prey. It was just as Xander was standing, doing a cursory body check to see if anything was damaged too much, and realized the sharp stinging in his thighs when one of the goons noticed too.

“Oh look, brave little man wet himself! Who exactly are you trying to impress, loser? Or is this your loony girlfriend you’re trying to protect.”

“Wet myself? Huh?” Glancing down quickly, Xander saw the growing wet spot on his jeans, courtesy of the several broken bottles of holy water that had been in his pockets, and also explaining all the little stinging spots in his thigh too. “Well, fuck. I’m never gonna hear the end of this one.” Looking back up at them, he realized that for once, he truly wasn’t scared of the three much larger guys looking to beat him into a pulp. Maybe it was just their location and all of his past experiences there, but suddenly, they really weren’t all that scary in the grand scheme of things.

Standing up straighter, he moved towards the girl who was now spinning in a circle, laughing at whatever was in her head, his back to her as he refused to take his eyes off the goons now out to get both of them. “You know, it takes a real man to go after a girl against her will, an even bigger one to go after one that’s obviously not all here. What happened? Your sister decided you weren’t good enough for her?”

Backing up until he bumped into the spinning figure, knocking her off balance, he couldn’t help but laugh at the dazed look on the guys’ faces. “Wow, even the vamps aren’t that slow. It’s an incest joke, morons… then again, maybe not so much of a joke.” Watching as the three turned an ugly shade of red in their anger and started stalking towards them, Xander turned to look at the girl who he could feel holding loosely to the back of his shirt. “Hey, I don’t know where you came from, but we really need to start running about now. Oh, shit! Dru?! Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck!” Caught between the two groups, Xander didn’t know which way to turn, but Dru’s absent gaze didn’t bode well for either of them.

“Hello, Kitten. Aren’t the stars lovely? Miss Edith said we needed to come listen to them sing tonight, that we’d find a special present. I’ve always wanted a kitten, but Daddy kept eating all the ones I found.”

Xander’s eyes grew wide at that lovely image, even as part of him couldn’t wait to mention that little fact to Deadboy later…if there was a later. Xander’s gaze darted between the three guys getting closer and starting to fan out to surround the two of them and the, apparently, crazier than normal vamp that was now clutching his arm like they were out for an evening stroll.

“Um, Dru…um, Princess?” And he really hoped Spike didn’t take offense to him calling her that, but it seemed to work for the bleached menace when he was trying to get her to do something. “Um, these men here are kinda not happy with us, and kinda want to hurt us and probably do really bad things to you in particular.” Swallowing, he looked heavenward, wondering how his life had come to this. “Dru? Where’s Spike and the other vamps? He doesn’t let you go out by yourself.” He was actually *hoping* for vamps to be around! What kind of Scoobie was he?

He watched as Dru pouted… honest to God, pouted!... and stomped her foot delicately. “Spike has been a naughty boy and wouldn’t let Miss Edith and me out to play, so Mummy had to put him to bed.”

“Please tell me you meant that literally and you didn’t dust him? Fuck, I can’t believe I’m about to do this.” Taking a deep breath, he yelled as loud as he could. “If any vamps are listening, Dru’s about to be attacked in Shady Grove cemetery!”

Dru stomped her foot again and pushed Xander away, conveniently for them, if not for Xander’s back and head, knocking him into one of their would-be attackers and sending them crashing to the ground. “No! Bad, Kitten! Mummy will have to punish you for calling the dogs. Now Mummy won’t be able to listen to the singing.”

Xander groaned and rubbed the back of his head, not caring in the least as he ground the palm of his hand into the guy’s gut as he pushed himself up. Of course, considering the guy had apparently been knocked unconscious by the rock he hit his head on, Xander didn’t think he cared much at the moment either. Getting an idea, still not believing what he was doing, he held his hand out to Dru, gaze darting to the surprised faces of the other two goons who were apparently debating on the wisdom of their actions. “Dru, Princess, why don’t you come with me? I know a nice safe place where you can listen to the stars sing all you want and the dogs won’t stop you, okay?”

Seeing her hesitate, he risked reaching out and grabbing her arm, tugging her back behind him and out from in front of the two remaining goons. He felt what he was pretty sure was supposed to be a dainty kick to the back of his leg that managed to almost knock him off his feet and continued to push her back towards the safety of the crying angel statue… oh yeah, definitely tears of laughter tonight.

“Hey, look what we have here, a couple of nice tasty meatheads picking on our Mistress. What do you think boys, snack time?” A non-descript brunette man stalked closer to the group, his features shifting with his last words so he looked at the two now terrified goons with golden eyes.

“No!” Xander really wanted to hit his head against something, except it obviously wasn’t working for him so far tonight. “No, you can’t eat them! They didn’t know who they were attacking! Wait, that doesn’t sound right.” The small pack of vamps that had arrived, looked curiously at Xander as he looked between them and the goons, absently holding Dru behind him with his arms as she swayed from side to side.

“You! You’re one of the Slayer’s pets.”

“Not a pet!”

“Hush, Kitten, you mustn’t provoke the dogs, they bite.”

“Yeah, no kidding, Dru. And not helping, by the way.” He shook his head as he could hear her mock growl at the other vamps, though the sound of her teeth clicking together right after so close to his throat did give him chills and have him standing very very still for a moment.

The lead vamp tilted his head curiously as he looked at the odd picture Xander and Dru made. “You really don’t expect us not to eat them? Even if we let them go, they’d just go after some human girl.”

“Then knock them out and take them to the jail with a note pinned to their chests, but I can’t just let you kill them. You understand that right?” Xander was actually surprised that not only was he having a conversation with a vamp in general, but about the ethics of killing slimeball humans in particular.”

“Who do I look like, Spiderman? And what are you doing holding our Mistress against her will anyway?”

“Actually, without the fangs and grr and stuff, you could probably pass as Peter Parker. And, really? How could I hold Dru against her will. Human, remember? But I was protecting her from the goon squad over there, the human ones, not your guys, ‘cause she seems to be a little more…umm… lost?... than normal. Now? I’m thinking she’s good hostage material until Spike gets here and I can negotiate.”

“Wait a minute, pet…”

Not a pet!”

“Yeah, whatever you say, Kitten.”

“I hate you right now.”

The vampire smirked. “So, you were saying, you were protecting Mistress Dru from humans?”

“Well it’s not like I realized it was her at first. I thought they were vamps and she was a human. What were you, a lawyer?”

“Paralegal working on my degree. But what about when you realized it was her and not some helpless human? You still protected her and even called for help? You one of those weird death chasing humans wanting to get turned?”

“What? No! Not even! And that explains a lot actually, I didn’t think they kept your type alive though, too much competition. And in case you didn’t notice, she still is helpless. Ow! Dru, quit kicking me. I’m sorry, you’re not helpless, but those men wanted to do dirty things to you and I don’t think even your Daddy would forgive me for letting them do that.”

“Got that right. It’s dear old Daddy’s job, that is.”

“Thank God, Spike! And I never thought I would ever say that, and can I just say eww about Deadboy. That falls into the TMI category, and I do hope you mean Angelus and not Angel, ‘cause if Angel is doing that stuff, then I kinda think we oughta let Buffy and the others know so she can go dust him… Actually, can we just tell her anyway?” Xander grinned broadly at the thought of the mayhem that little tidbit of information would cause, unknowingly gaining an appreciative look from Spike.

Spike strode calmly into the middle of the group, taking in the situation with a sweep of his bright blue gaze. “Right then. So let me see if I understand what’s going on. You lot,” pointing at the humans who were too terrified to run after watching the creatures surround them and listening to the, quite frankly, disturbing conversation, “decided to take advantage of my Dark Plum over there, right?”

As Spike growled as the two still conscious humans refused to answer, Xander spoke up. “You have to dumb it down for them, Spike, they’re more clueless than your normal cannon fodder you throw at us.” Rolling his eyes, he looked at the two goons. “He means you were planning on attacking and raping the girl behind me, right? And I’d answer honestly; they can smell a lie… literally.” Watching the two flinch at his words he sneered, once more unknowingly gaining several appreciative looks from the surrounding vampires. “What? You don’t like the word ‘rape?’ In case you weren’t sure, it’s what having sex with someone without their consent is called. Morons.” Muttering, he looked up at the starry sky. “Ought to let them eat the losers just to take them out of the gene pool.”

The brunette vampire looked at Spike with a broad grin tilting his lips. “I like this one, can we keep him?”

Not a pet, Spidey”

“Just call me Jer.”

Spike looked between the two males dumbstruck for a moment at the utter absurdity of the situation before turning his attention back to the two humans. “Right then, I trust the whelp here...can’t believe I just said that… so what t’ do with you three. Eh, grab ‘em all and take ‘em back t’ the lair; we’ll figure out what t’ do with ‘em later.” Watching Xander bristle and start to step forward, he sighed. “And don’ hurt ‘em… overly much… for now. That sit alright with you and your Slayerette morals?”

“Not really, but I’m guessing it’s the most I can actually ask for.”

Spike rolled his eyes and lit up a cigarette, hopping up to pace along the roof of a mausoleum where he could keep an eye on everyone. “Now for the next part. You, one of the Slayer’s minions… “

“What, no objection to ‘minion’?”

“Like it better than ‘pet’.” Xander shrugged at Jer’s question.

“Bloody ‘ell, It’s like being surrounded by children… oh wait, you still are one. But even so, you decided to save my Mistress here, knowing who she is and what she’s done? Knowing she could turn on you at any time?”

Glancing over his shoulder at the swaying, humming vampire, Xander gave Spike a doubtful look. “Not thinking she’s all on Earth at the moment to worry about it. And yeah, she still shouldn’t have something like that happen to her against her will. Can’t say some wouldn’t think she deserves it from some of the stories I’ve heard, but I’d like to think those ‘Slayerette morals’ make me a little more knowledgeable about what’s fundamentally right and wrong. Rape’s never right.”

Spike gave him a considering look before hopping effortlessly back down to the ground and striding over to him, long, slim fingers darting out to grasp Xander’s chin in order to tilt his head from side to side, looking him over for something only the vamp knew. “How come you’re not scared of me? Even when Peaches pretended t’ give you t’ me back at the school, you were fighting… ‘course from the sounds of it, that coulda just been ‘cause of Peaches himself.”

“Honestly, I’ve seen scarier.”

“Oi!”

Xander spoke quickly as Spike’s features quickly shifted. “Not that I don’t respect the threat that you are, but physically, I’ve seen bigger, slimier, grosser, uglier demons than a Billy Idol lookalike. It’s like going to the zoo and seeing the tigers, yeah they’re pretty and everything, but you still know they’d rather just eat you, it’s nothing personal, it’s just the way they are. I mean, except for the whole ‘must kill the Slayer’ thing, you’re pretty much just doing what comes naturally to your kind, not like the ones that want to end the world or conquer it or whatever”

Spike looked back as he heard Jer snickering. “Oi, what’s got into you now?”

“I think he just called you pretty.”

If Spike wasn’t holding his head still, Xander knew he’d probably try to knock it against something. “Really, Jer? All of that and that’s what you get out of it. You guys just had to turn a lawyer didn’t you?”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Not one of mine, they’re from before our time here; we jus’ inherited the lot of them. Figured I’d put them to use and have them watch over Dru when I was… indisposed. Fat lotta good that did.” Spike turned glowing gold eyes on the group of vampires and Xander watched as they all flinched and started backing away.

“Actually, before you go all evil vampire Master and dust them all, you might want to keep that one. He seems to be smarter than most of them.” Xander pointed to the one called Jer, once again doubting his sanity as he was now trying to save yet another vampire. Buffy and Giles would be so ashamed of him if they knew…which they never would if he had anything to do with it.

This time it was Jer staring in shock at Xander, not believing the young human was sticking up for him and, unbeknownst to Xander, earning the young vampire’s loyalty.

Spike was speechless, the whole night had been one big clusterfuck as far as he was concerned, what with the pack of demons he’d been trying to negotiate with, Dru’s disappearance, and now the mess with the Slayer’s pet saving his Mistress… he needed a drink.

“Bugger it all! Right then, you lot escort my Dark Princess back to the lair, the whelp and I are going to have a little conversation.”

“No! Naughty boys don’t get to play with the Kitten, you play too rough and he’ll be broken, he hasn’t gotten his claws yet.”

Feeling decidedly awkward standing between the two Master vamps, and deciding to ignore Jer’s not quite subtle snickering, Xander started inching his way to the side only to have one of Dru’s pale, dainty hands latch onto his arm and tether him to her side.

“Ah, Princess, as much of a treat as I’m sure he is, I’m not going to hurt your… Kitten. Just need to talk to the whelp is all. Owe him a boon, don’t I, for saving you.”

Once again wondering how his life had spun so out of control in the course of an hour or so, Xander turned to look down at the vulnerable looking female and gently patted the hand clutching his arm. “It’s okay, Dru. It’s late and you should get back home… I’m sure Miss Edith is tired after all the excitement. Spike and I just want to have a talk. I promise we won’t… play.”

Dru looked suspiciously between the two males and pouted, stamping her foot again. “But I don’t want to go with the dogs, they’re loud and chew the furniture.”

Xander had to bite back a laugh at the image of Jer gnawing on the leg of a couch that went through his mind, though from the faint grumbling he heard from that direction, knew he must not have hid his expression well enough. “Yes, but Spike is training them, and they’ll be good guard dogs and make sure you get home safe so you and Miss Edith can rest.”

She pouted again and huffed, but released Xander’s arm, much to his relief as he began trying to shake the numb tingles out of his fingers, and walked gracefully over to Jer, staring up at the taller vamp for a long moment, studying him. “Good dog! An alpha of the pack, you are, you shall guard my Kitten for me until he gets his claws.”

Looking between Spike and Xander and the terrifying female before him, Jer nodded carefully. “Um…yes, Mistress.”

“Good. Miss Edith wants her bed, those horrible men scared her.” And, latching onto his hand, began to lead Jer and the others from the cemetery, leaving Spike and Xander staring after them.

The silence lingered, only the sound of the wind in the trees and Xander’s soft breathing breaking the stillness.

“You’re good with her. Not many people even try to understand her, much less talk to her like you did.”

Spike didn’t look at him as he spoke, so Xander had no real idea of what was expected of him, but decided honesty would probably definitely be the best policy this time. “Yeah, well, my grandma… before she died she lived with us and she got pretty bad, Alzheimers or dementia or something, and sometimes she’d be just fine, but others… she was a little girl again and living in a world of her own. My parents…well, let’s just say they don’t have a whole lot of patience for sick people or kids.”

Spike looked at the boy next to him, such an odd combination of strength and vulnerability, so determined to do what was right he would even save somebody who’d actively tried to hurt him before. The demons in town had it right, he really was the Slayer’s White Knight, and he wondered if the silly chit even knew what a prize she had in her grasp. “I owe you. You saved my Sire, something you had every right not to do, but you did it anyway. From today forward, you’re safe from the Aurelius clan. Your friends are on their own, but you have my protection as acting head of the Aurelius line since Peaches gave it up and Dru’s not capable. If you are ever in trouble, need protection… from anything,” no, he hadn’t missed the comment about the whelp’s parents or the way the boy had unconsciously rubbed at his chest as if it hurt, “you can come to me and I’ll do my best to help.”

Xander stared at him in shock. He couldn’t have heard that right. “But… but what about Buffy and the slaying and… and… How would I even find you?”

“The fledglings are free game, survival of the fittest and all that, plus none of my folks should be making any. We’ve got too much to deal with than babysitting fledglings what with all the demons trying to take over the Hellmouth now that the Annoying One’s out of the way. As for reaching me? Seems Dru’s picked out your guard dog in your lawyer friend. Not much we can do during day light, but you’ll have one of us as a guard come nightfall.”

“But… but Buffy! She’ll try to kill them…and, and I can’t just have a pet vampire following me around all the time.”

Spike cuffed him gently upside the head. “Really, not like they’d be right with you, move faster than you lot, remember? He just has t’ keep ya in eyesight. Now come on, let’s get you home so I can get back to check on Dru, make sure she didn’t decide to put down her dogs.”

It wasn’t until he’d seen the boy enter his house to the yelling of two drunken voices and had started on his way back to the lair that Spike wondered where the Slayer and the rest of the whelp’s friends had been through the whole ordeal.

.oOo.


The three sat staring at him, once again the looks seemed to vary from outright disbelief to “are you out of your ever loving mind?!” Yeah, he was kind of getting used to that at this point. When Giles lifted a shaky hand to grab his now-empty tumbler of Scotch, staring into its empty depths in shock, Xander decided it was time for him to leave.

“So yeah, that’s how all that went down. And you guys obviously need some time to think about things, preferably without me within shouting or hitting distance, so I’ll just let myself out. I’d like to say it’s been fun, but… yeah, it really hasn’t.”

He’d pushed to his feet without using his arms, just like he’d been taught, and his hand had just touched the doorknob when Giles called out to him. Sighing, he let his head fall heavily against the door in front of him. So close. “Yeah, Giles?”

“Xander, perhaps… perhaps one of us should go with you.”

He snorted, in surprise? Humor? Shock? He wasn’t really sure, but he rolled his head enough to look back over his shoulder at the three who were now standing, nervously shuffling as if unsure whether to go after him or not. “Don’t worry about it; I’m sure I’ve got an escort waiting across the street. You can even stand on the doorstep and see me off, dad.” Okay, so his foul mood was showing back up, it was…a glance at the clock on the wall showed it to be way too damn early in the morning after the night he’d had to really care.

“Xander, that’s not nice. We’re just… we’re worried about you.”

Xander turned his head the other way to look back at Willow. “Willow, it’s four o’clock in the morning, I have been kidnapped, tortured, and interrogated on top of having had a full day of school and patrolling. This is me being nice right now.”

Opening the door when nothing else was said to that, he stepped out into the not quite dark night, a thought hitting him suddenly and he looked back into the warmly lit room, Giles standing behind the girls with a hand on each of their shoulders in a show of comfort, the girls with their arms crossed protectively across their chests. It was very homey, fit to be on a card about warm and fuzzy families… he wondered if he’d ever be a part of that again. Shaking his head, realizing how tired he truly was, he remembered what he had stopped for. “Oh yeah, don’t be surprised if I’m not at school tomorrow. I’m going to go sleep for like a day and try not to move. I’ll… I’ll call you guys tomorrow night… let you know I’m okay.”

Giles gave him a sad look, Willow looked sad and guilty and like she was about to start crying, Buffy looked… suspicion was not a good look to have turned on yourself he realized. Guess he couldn’t blame her, really; if anything was a conflict of interest, it was the situation he was in now.

He was at the bottom of the steps when he heard the door close. Looking back, he saw Giles standing at the door, indeed seeing him off. The older man seemed to hesitate, as if looking for the right words, something Xander never thought he’d ever see.

“Xander, I… I am sorry, for everything. I understand all too well about not being able to forgive at the moment, and I can accept that. But please know, if you need any help… of any kind, you need only ask. The situation you’re in right now… it is not an easy one, and things are going to be difficult for you with… the girls for a while, I’m sure.” They both understood that to mean Buffy in particular; Willow would break down in a day or two and beg forgiveness through a plate full of cookie-goodness for her actions.

Through that cottony blanket that was surrounding his emotions, Xander felt a little warmth creep through. It meant something that Giles would make the effort like he was; he was closer to a father figure for Xander than his own sperm donor. “Thanks, G-man. I’ll call you tomorrow…well tonight I guess.”

Xander watched Giles nod, a sad look making the man look older than his years, as if he’d seen and done too much and was being asked to endure more… then again, that wasn’t so far off the mark was it. Yeah, he definitely needed sleep, he was getting depressing. Shaking his head, to clear it once more, he looked out into the night, calling a little louder than was appropriate this time in the morning. “Hey, fang face, stop playing creepy stalker dude and come out. I need my babysitter.”

A dark figure stepped out from behind a shade tree, and made its way under a street lamp, hands tucked into jean pockets and wearing a band t-shirt supporting some 80’s group, the absolutely ordinary looking man looked completely harmless, like some office worker…probably because that‘s what he had been up until the past year or so. “You know we hate that, right?”

Xander laughed tiredly and started across the street, looking both ways for cars ‘cause all he needed at that point was to be hit by a ton of metal. “Yeah, Jer, I know, but if you weren’t one of Spike’s, you’d also try to attack me for it too.”

“Good point. Evening, Watcher,” Jer called and tipped his head politely to the now surprised looking man on the steps before giving Xander a wicked grin no doubt picked up from Spike. “No sense in not being polite, who knows, maybe he’ll remember me next time we run across each other and give me a second to escape.”

Once again Xander was left feeling unsure in his feelings on the subject so simply shoved it in his “deal with it later” box and nodded absently, setting off down the sidewalk.

Jer looked at his young charge as they walked, noticing the awkward way he carried himself as well as the jacket that looked suspiciously like the one his Master was missing though it smelled an awfully lot like the boy at the moment. Weird, but he knew better than to comment on that whole situation. “So uh, where we headed, kid?”

“Home.”

“Home? Um, isn’t your house back the other way?” Jer stopped, turning halfway as he looked back behind them.

Xander didn’t even stop walking. “Not my home tonight, Jer.”

“Ah, gotcha. No problem.” Casting the teen curious looks, Jer nonetheless managed to keep his questions to himself, realizing as the boy walked under streetlight after streetlight how utterly worn out he looked. He’d offer to carry him and get them there in a fraction of the time, but knew it wouldn’t be well received. He remembered being that age after all and it looked like the teen had had enough blows to the body if not the ego for one evening.

Stopping outside the warehouse, Xander knocked on the metal door, too tired to so much as fidget as they waited for a response. Turning to look at his escort, he offered a tired smile. “You don’t have to wait, I’m safe enough here and it’s getting late.” He looked up at the sky, the moon far in the horizon and the stars barely managing to peek out, the sky an odd cartoon-like blue, not quite dark and not quite light. The sun would be rising in an hour or so, and with it the business people and students off to live their ordinary lives, oblivious to the entire different world ready to literally eat them alive playing out right under their noses. Right… sleep, no more depressing thoughts.

Lost as he was in his sleep-deprived thoughts, he thought he heard the squeak of metal hinges and soft voices. A gentle, cool touch to his bare shoulder brought him back to the present and he turned around to look a little down into Spike‘s eyes; it always amazed him that he was bigger, taller than the vampire, he seemed to have so much presence for such a compact build.

The touch suddenly appeared at his cheek, cupping it, thumb brushing softly over his cheekbone. He was starting to lose time, not good.

“Hey, pet, you okay? Why aren’t you home or with the Watcher?”

“Needed to return your jacket… get some sleep… rest…” Xander felt his voice start to shake and his eyes burn with unwanted tears. How could he tell the Master vampire that he just wanted somebody to take care of him, if only for a little bit. That he and his own Master…Mistress?… took better care of him than his own so called friends. Swallowing hard, he couldn’t hold that too-knowing blue gaze, and glanced down to look at the safer view of pale skin covering strong shoulders. “Can I…Can I stay here tonight… today? Just for a little while?”

Spike looked at the teen in front of him, the dejection and pain damn near leaking off of him and wondered how the boy’s “friends” could let him get to this point. But, their loss; he and his Princess knew a good thing when they saw it and you couldn’t buy loyalty and caring the likes of which the boy gave freely. Stepping back from the teen, he opened the warehouse door, a hand settling at the base of his bare back, not liking the chill he felt there. They couldn’t even give him a shirt to wear or help him put on the coat he was clutching to him like a life preserver? Shaking his head, he urged Xander forward into the darkened warehouse. “Of course, luv. You can stay as long as you’d like. Me and Dru’ll take care of ya.”

Xander looked into the prettiest blue eyes he’d ever seen, on anyone, and then into the cavernous warehouse lit only by scattered candles and dim lamps to see Dru swaying from side to side in her old fashioned night gown, Miss Edith clutched against her with one arm, the other outstretched welcomingly, looking for all the world like a little girl waiting to be tucked into bed. He could hear the other vampires rustling around in the background, finding places to bunk down for the night, either separately or with others. This would never be on a greeting card as a picture of a happy, cozy family group, but at that moment, it was just what he needed.
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