orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
orchidluv
orchidluv
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Nothing the Same, Ch. 25

Title: Nothing the Same
Author: orchidluv
Chapter: 25/?
Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: NC-17
Warnings:  Explicit sex and violence
Feedback: yes, please
Concrit: any and all
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on. 
Summary: AU from The Harvest. Xander doesn't deal well with Jesse's death and everything changes from there.
Notes: Based on the plotbunny posted awhile back by wickedchocolate. I took the first part of the bunny only: Xander never got over Jesse’s death. After he dusted Jesse, he was never the same. Xander isolated himself from Willow and wanted nothing to do with Buffy.
previous parts here

PLEASE NOTE:  RATING AND WARNINGS HAVE CHANGED FOR THIS CHAPTER.  Remaining chapters will probably all be rated Adult.

Chapter 25

Spike had been watching the mansion for three nights now. Angelus’ few remaining minions were sticking close to the Court, sheltering under his Sire’s dubious protection. Spike couldn’t directly account for all the missing fledges - he’d taken out an even dozen the first two nights he’d hunted in place of the Slayer and he’d spread the word far and wide that anyone allying with Angelus was going to have a very short immortality. Checking the numbers still at the mansion, it looked like several fledges had simply opted out of the situation, fleeing the Hellmouth and the wrath of both Masters. Which suited Spike fine. He had lost the last of his minions either to the fire or to Angelus and he had no intention of replacing them - even without his promise to Xander, keeping any kind of a Court would only make Spike vulnerable right now.

Like Angelus and his bloody mansion. Spike had seriously considered just burning the place down, hopefully around Angelus’ ears. If he could have been sure he would catch Angelus inside, he would have. Serve the bastard right for getting Spike’s home burned down. Problem was, he couldn’t be sure it would kill Angelus. If it didn’t, Angelus would retaliate and since he didn’t know where Spike was staying - thank the Hellmouth for the multitude of vampire-friendly places to sleep the day; Spike was moving every night to ensure he wasn’t easy to find - Angelus would take his anger out on Xander or the little band of white hats. Most likely on Xander since Angelus had a good idea of what the boy meant to Spike. Angelus knew where Xander lived and would think nothing of burning the boy’s house down to get back at Spike.

No, burning the mansion was out. Not that Spike didn’t have a good time picturing his Sire trapped in the burning building as flames licked relentlessly towards his helpless body, Angelus screaming as his flesh ignited; but, more’s the pity, it wasn’t going to happen.

Angelus was playing it cautious, surrounding himself with minions at all times and rarely venturing outside. Given that Spike had been filling in for the Slayer these last three nights, it was unlikely that Angelus knew she was sick. Dusted minions didn’t return to say just who had staked them and Spike had been careful not to leave any witnesses.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy returned to school after being out sick for three days. It was still quicker than most of the kids who’d gotten sick, many of whom still weren’t back. Slayer healing apparently also worked for diseases and not just injuries. Willow had been keeping in touch with her progress and said she’d been encouraging Buffy to stay away until she felt 100%. According to Willow, Buffy was feeling guilty, saying she’d let down the Slayer tradition by getting sidelined by something as mundane as the flu.

Xander was pretty sure Buffy was actually feeling a sense of competition with Spike who was reporting to Giles every night about the number of minions he’d killed. Ok, Spike’s idea of a report tended to be something like: “Staked five last night. Ta, Watcher.” as he swept Xander out the door but it did sum up the previous night’s activities accurately. Apparently, twelve vampires in two nights was way over Buffy’s average. Xander couldn’t help feeling proud that his vampire was doing better than the Slayer, even if it was a deeply morbid competition over how many vampires they killed. He just kept reminding himself that Spike was killing Angelus’ minions - minions who were being turned for the sole purpose of killing Spike and the rest of them. That helped him keep perspective in this horrible little war. Now that Buffy was back, Xander hoped that things would be over soon. Angelus was one vampire he would gladly see staked. The sooner the better.

Sitting in the library after classes on Buffy’s first day back at school, Xander wondered if Spike shouldn’t take patrol again tonight. Buffy had seemed fully recovered but people were usually easily tired after being sick. He wasn’t sure who would take that as a bigger insult: Spike or Buffy, but he was depressingly certain that neither would be delighted if he made the suggestion.

Willow was sitting with him in the library after their last class, both reading the newspaper as Xander waited for Spike to arrive. Well, Xander had been reading. Willow was rattling on about what was in her sections, reading out loud the interesting bits until Xander had simply closed his section and listened to Willow’s recitation. Xander was pleased she was here at all. She was still uncomfortable around Spike but had stopped complaining about him since Spike was patrolling for Buffy and both Buffy and Giles had accepted that he was, at least temporarily, on their side.

Willow was reading about how badly the flu had hit the whole town. “It’s awful.” She looked up from the article, her face filled with horrified pity. “A whole bunch of kids in the children’s ward at the hospital died. I’m so glad Buffy didn’t go out on patrol the night she got sick. If she had, she might have gotten even sicker than she was.” She looked down for a second and then reluctantly added: “It wigged me out when Spike attacked her but I guess it did show her that she needed to rest.”

“I think Spike’s figured out that Buffy is kind of a show-don’t-tell person,” Xander replied. He knew Spike had enjoyed the little demonstration but then, so had Xander. Buffy needed to be smacked upside the head to knock some sense into her and watching Spike take her down in less than two seconds had been pure fun. “Where’s Oz?” he asked, changing the subject. Buffy was bound to show up any minute and talking about Spike still tended to set her off.

“He’s got a gig tonight in LA,” Willow answered. “He’ll be back tomorrow.”

Xander just nodded. It wasn’t unusual for Oz to vanish from classes for a day or two. Xander just wondered how on earth Oz was going to graduate given how often he missed school.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike spent the early part of every evening with Xander before going out hunting - he refused to call it patrolling, especially now that the Slayer was back on the job. Spike was still keeping his own eye on things, not trusting the Slayer to do the job right. She still seemed unwilling to really tackle Angelus and Spike was getting frustrated by the ongoing delays but Spike wasn’t ready to push too hard himself while Xander was still healing.

It was the best part of the day for Xander, snuggling with Spike on his bed, talking about nothing at all and trading slow, lazy kisses. If his parents were out when they got home, Spike came in with him, otherwise he simply waited till Xander closed the front door behind him then walked around and climbed in Xander’s window.

As far as Xander was concerned, Spike and his parents would meet over his dead body. Which probably wasn’t a good idea either - he could just see his dad saying something insulting at Xander’s funeral about how Xander was to blame for his own death and Spike attacking him. Nope, Spike and his parents should never meet, that was Xander’s plan and he was sticking to it.

He’d figured out some time ago that Spike had been badly scared by Xander’s injuries. He supposed it made sense, Spike had only just gotten over the loss of someone he loved and that had been another vampire; someone who healed quickly and had only a few vulnerabilities. Spike had lost Drusilla in spite of that and now he’d taken up with a human, someone he viewed as fragile under any circumstances. It had been really bad timing on Xander’s part to get injured just then. On the one hand, it was really sweet that Spike was being so protective and careful of Xander’s injuries, on the other hand, Xander was getting so frustrated he was lying awake at night planning ways to overpower Spike and jump his bones. Of course, he didn’t actually own handcuffs but a guy could dream.

Lying in Spike’s arms, Spike once again seemingly content with just watching tv and kissing, Xander decided enough was enough. Watching tv with Spike was great fun because Spike was right with Xander in talking to the screen, insulting the characters and giving advice and the kissing was great but he wanted more and Spike was just going to have to deal. Shifting casually so he was lying on his side next to Spike, Xander kissed him hungrily. Spike responded, turning his head and kissing him back and for a long minute, Xander forgot about plans and goals as he lost himself in the taste and feel of his vampire.

Eventually, Xander broke off and began moving downwards, nuzzling along Spike’s jaw and down his neck, pressing little kisses along the pale, cool flesh as Spike stroked his hair and arched his neck, giving Xander free rein. Reaching the neckline of Spike’s shirt, Xander wished that just this once Spike had worn something other than a tight t-shirt, something easy to remove subtly. Stymied for the moment, he nibbled his way back up to Spike’s lips. Who’d have thought it would take this kind of tactical planning to get past first base with your boyfriend? Spike buried his hands in Xander’s hair as their tongues played, exploring each other’s mouths as if they were still uncharted territory. Remembering his plan, Xander dropped his good hand down and tried to gently work Spike’s belt buckle open.

Spike’s lips turned up beneath his and he chuckled. He withdrew slightly, holding Xander’s head gently in both hands, and his eyes gleamed with laughter as he looked into Xander’s. “Someone’s being naughty.”

“I’m trying,” Xander said, exasperated. “A little help would be nice.” He gave Spike his best pleading look. “My ribs are fine, Spike.” Letting the belt buckle go, he rubbed his fingers teasingly along Spike’s crotch, feeling the beginnings of an erection, as he said earnestly: “I worry about you - out fighting every night with a raging hard-on. People might misunderstand.”

“Oi!” Spike said indignantly. He countered quickly, sliding his leg between Xander’s and rubbing sensuously against Xander’s own hardening cock. “Not the only one with that problem, brat.”

“So, why are we both wasting such promising material on separate showers?” Xander asked reasonably, his fingers busily unzipping Spike’s zipper, grateful Spike wasn’t wearing button-fly jeans. He’d never have gotten those off with only one hand.

Spike laughed and kissed him quickly and Xander felt Spike’s hands drop and begin skillfully unfastening his pants as he continued to work on Spike’s. Then Xander suddenly had a handful of another man’s cock for the first time in his life. For one second he froze, completely unsure of what to do, then Spike’s slender fingers touched his own erection and he groaned in pleasure at the feeling of those cool, strong digits closing around his penis and easing it out.

Spike’s grip slid teasingly along the length of his cock and then tightened slightly, enclosing his erection in a loose tunnel. Xander closed his eyes, arching into Spike’s touch, hips thrusting forward, feeling his cock sliding further into Spike’s hand. He tried to match Spike’s movements, beginning to slide his hand up and down the length of Spike’s cock. His eyes snapped open and he looked down between them in surprise as skin unexpectedly moved and stretched along the shaft. Fascinated, he realized that Spike was uncircumcised and his hand began on its own accord to explore the differences. He’d never seen an uncircumcised penis before. Not that he’d spent a lot of time looking at other guys’ dicks, but still, sex ed could have covered this better.

He looked up to see Spike smiling at him, matching laughter filled his own brown eyes and he looked down again. Gaining confidence at Spike’s obvious enjoyment of his touch, Xander began trying moves he knew he liked on himself, adding a slight twisting motion and rubbing his thumb over the head. Both of them began pumping harder, their hands falling into rhythm with each other’s movements. Watching their hands moving in concert, their matching erections jutting out of their unfastened pants, was the most erotic thing Xander had ever seen.

And then he forgot all about watching, eyes closing, his head arching back as arousal built between them. They were both rocking their hips, thrusting into each other’s fists, pleasure building, tension growing, until they came almost in unison, spattering semen across each other and the bedding as Xander bit his lip to stop himself from crying out.

Afterwards, they lay entwined for long minutes, sated, still gently holding each other’s spent cocks, Xander breathing hard in the aftermath of his orgasm and envying Spike’s lack of breath. He could almost sense Spike using his vampiric senses to check him over but he hadn’t felt a twinge from his ribs and hoped Spike would finally be reassured.

“Bloody hell!”

“Spike?” Alarmed by the vehemence in Spike’s voice, Xander slid back a little and propped himself up on one elbow to look over at the vampire.

Spike’s voice was filled with horror. “Damnit, I didn’t bring any spare clothes. These are a right mess now and every demon in town will be able to smell me a block away. There’s no other way, gonna have to wear something of yours long enough to get home.” He looked at Xander seriously. “I’d almost rather walk through town naked than wear your kit, mate. Next time, let’s get undressed first.”

Laughing, Xander smacked him on the shoulder. “Like there’s ever going to be a next time after that remark,” he threatened.

Spike looked unimpressed. Not surprisingly, given that Xander had just totally blown the hard-to-get card. He wished he could offer Spike a joint shower - he suspected showering with Spike would be full of naughty goodness - but his parents weren’t that oblivious and that would be seriously pushing his luck.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It had been ten days since he was injured and Xander was feeling good. Other than the cast on his arm, he was essentially recovered. The doctors had warned him not to get involved in any strenuous activity yet but normal bending and twisting no longer hurt at all.

Spike still wasn’t willing to resume their self-defense workouts, saying Xander’s ribs needed another week before Xander put that kind of strain on them but Xander had persuaded Giles to teach him to use a crossbow. Spike continued to walk Xander home from school every night, which was great under any circumstances because it meant he was seeing Spike daily but things had gotten seriously scary the night they were ambushed by four vampires on the way home from school.

Spike had sensed them just before they attacked. He’d stopped suddenly, cutting off Xander in mid-word with a warning gesture and stood listening hard, eyes scanning the surrounding area. Xander, heart pounding, had listened as well but couldn’t hear anything except the normal sounds of a residential neighborhood in the early evening. He’d stayed quiet, trusting Spike and reached for his cross and stake, pulling them out of his pocket and waiting tensely.

Spike snarled and vamped out, grabbing Xander’s arm. “Run,” was all he said and he took off, pulling Xander behind him as he headed off at an angle across the street. Xander had followed, running full tilt after him as Spike hauled him along by one arm. Xander heard shouts and running footsteps from three directions but didn’t dare look around, putting all his concentration into keeping up. Spike was aiming for something specific on the next block: a huge old tree with a trunk it would take three people to get their arms around. Reaching it, he pulled Xander in front of him, turning him so his back was to the tree. “Stay there,” he ordered and spun to face their attackers who had already caught up with them.

Spike swung as he turned, the stake he’d pulled out as he ran landing squarely in the center of the first vampire’s chest. Xander watched the snarling demon face disappear, the ends of Spike’s coat scattering the dust as Spike kept moving, meeting the remaining three vampires before they could close on the tree where Xander waited tensely, clutching his cross and stake.

Spike was everywhere, spinning, kicking, punching, always managing to stay between Xander and the other three vampires, moving with beautiful, deadly grace. He clearly outmatched the other vampires and Xander had felt like an idiot, standing with his back against a tree, a cross and stake held uselessly in his hands as he watched Spike easily taking out the four vampires on his own. He knew the vampires had been sent by Angelus and that terrified Xander. Spike broke the back of the fourth vampire with an audible crack and let her drop, turning immediately to check on Xander.

Xander was surprised when Spike didn’t follow through by staking the crippled vampire but Spike just said briefly that he was going to use her to send a message to Angelus. Xander didn’t like the sound of that but Spike hustled them quickly to Xander’s house, keeping a wary eye out for more attackers and Xander didn’t have a chance to ask any questions.

Arriving at his doorstep, Spike asked him for something to write on. Xander hesitantly opened up his backpack and rummaged inside. Handing over a pen and a pad of paper, he watched as Spike quickly scrawled a note before tearing off the page and handing him back the pad. Absently tucking it back inside his pack, he asked, “are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“It’s necessary, pet. Have to let the minions know that Angelus can’t get the job done.” Spike had relaxed once they reached Xander’s front porch but was still keeping most of his attention on the neighborhood.

Xander hadn’t been able to read what Spike had written, now he held out his hand for the note. Spike glanced at him sharply then reluctantly passed it over. Xander pursed his lips in a silent whistle as he read the taunting phrases. “This is going to piss him off, big time.”

“That’s the point, luv. Angelus reacts when he’s challenged, he doesn’t think. He makes mistakes.”

“Are you sure you want to escalate things this way?” Xander was troubled by the open challenge in Spike’s note.

“Already a war, Xander,” Spike said seriously. “Taking you once to use against me was the start of it.” Xander couldn’t help noticing the way Spike’s eyes lingered on Xander’s neck where Angelus had bitten him. “He’s trying to take you back. I need his minions to know that anyone who tries is dust.”

“Won’t that just make Angelus come after me himself?”

Spike cupped his face with both hands and looked at him steadily. “I’ll die before I let anything happen to you, luv.”

Xander grimaced. “I don’t want that to happen either.” He caught Spike’s hands in both of his and held them as they dropped from his face. “Spike, if you mark me, if you put your mark over Angelus’, will that help?”

Spike’s jaw clenched and he started to pull away but Xander tightened his grip, holding him so the two stayed face to face, Xander searching Spike’s eyes. “Don’t want to mark you as part of a pissing contest with Angelus,” Spike said finally.

“That’s not why I want it either. I hate having his mark on me but I’d want you to mark me even if Angelus never had. Your mark erasing his - just a bonus,” Xander said earnestly.

Spike relaxed and sighed. “Sit with me, luv.” He pulled Xander over to the front steps, sitting down on the top step and tugging Xander down to the step below so he was sitting between Spike’s legs. Xander leaned back into his vampire’s body as Spike wrapped his arms around Xander. He could almost feel the thoughts whirling in Spike’s head and just waited, enjoying the familiar strength of Spike’s arms around him.

“Tryin’ to work it out, Xander,” Spike finally said.

“I know, take as long as you need.”

After another long silence, Spike began talking. “Problem is, until Angelus’ mark fades, my mark won’t cover it completely.” Xander stirred and Spike kissed the top of his head. “Humans would only see the more recent mark but demons would be able to sense the older mark under mine - like you can smell the original smell under the air freshener you spray over it.” Xander nodded, understanding but not liking it.

“How long will it take for the original mark to fade?” he asked unhappily.

“Least a month, maybe six weeks. Until then, adding a second mark could scare off other demons who might not want to get between feuding Masters. Problem is, anyone really cocky might take it as a challenge. Second problem - Angelus would hear about it.”

Xander craned his neck to look up at Spike, who shrugged. “Demons gossip worse than old grannies ‘bout things like that,” he explained. “It would be a direct challenge, an in-your-face kind of thing Angelus couldn’t ignore. As it stands, he can pretend he didn’t mark you on purpose and that he doesn’t care about you. If another Master obliterates his mark, it’s saying Angelus is too weak to keep his own property. A mark means you’re his property in the demon world, luv, whether he wants you or not.” Xander shuddered and Spike’s arms tightened reassuringly. “Angelus wouldn’t be able to sit back and send his minions out anymore. He’d have to try and take you back personally.”

“Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Get him out into the open where you can fight him?”

“Slayer’s not ready yet. She’s using any old excuse she can find to put Angelus on the back burner.” Spike looked away and Xander could almost feel his frustration and shame. “I can’t guarantee I can take him alone, luv. ‘s why I went to your little band of do-gooders in the first place. Angelus has 150 years on me and he’s back to full strength. I can’t risk losing because if he wins, he’ll come after you. It’d be his way of pissing on my ashes.”

“Spike.” Xander turned in Spike’s arms, waiting until Spike reluctantly looked back at him and pulled Spike’s head down for a kiss. “I love you.” Letting go and anxiously watching Spike’s reaction, he smiled in relief as he saw the wonder in Spike’s blue eyes and the beginning of a smile. “I know you aren’t afraid for yourself - you’re protecting me. No-one’s ever done anything like that for me before. It means a lot to me. And I’m glad you’re being careful. I don’t want to lose you.”

Spike kissed him, ignoring their awkward position, his lips moving hungrily over Xander’s, his thumbs stroking tenderly over Xander’s cheeks. “Love you too, Xander,” he said, when the kiss ended. “Have for a long time. Would die for you gladly, if I could be sure of taking Angelus with me.”

“Well, don’t,” Xander said sharply. “Live for me. That’s a much better way to show you love me.”

“Plan to, pet. Plan to live a long time.”

“Good.” Xander slid his arms down until they settled around Spike’s waist. He rested his head against Spike’s thigh, feeling Spike’s hand stroking his hair. They stayed that way contentedly for a long time, and Xander was almost sure he heard Spike purring.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reluctantly tearing himself away from Xander, Spike waited until his boy was safely inside and went back to where the sole survivor of the four vampires still lay near the tree, whimpering in pain and unable to move with her snapped spine. Hefting her over his shoulder, ignoring her scream, he carried her to the mansion.

Stopping a short distance away, he fished out the pen and the note he’d written. He pinned it to the center of her back where she couldn’t reach it by the simple expedient of driving the pen through the note into her flesh, taking a vicious pleasure from her scream as he drove the pen in almost full-length. Gathering her up, he carried her the short distance to the edge of the mansion’s grounds and contemptuously tossed her helpless body where she was certain to be found by the guards Angelus kept around the grounds.

Watching from a distance, he was pleased to hear the fear in the guards’ voices as they found the crippled body and read the note. The two guards that found her dragged her to the front door and pushed her inside. They held a short whispered conference that Spike couldn’t hear then walked off the grounds, casting frightened looks behind them at the mansion. Satisfied, Spike watched them leave. It was obvious they had no intention of returning. Two more minions out of the picture.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Taking hand to hand lessons with Spike had been fun but right now, Xander wanted a weapon that would let him take out opponents a little farther away from him. He could have helped Spike when the four vampires attacked if he’d had one of Giles’ crossbows. Fear of getting Spike killed while trying to protect him had kept Xander near the tree more than anything else and it had both angered and embarrassed him to feel so helpless.

Giles had been surprisingly cooperative, nothing like the fuss he’d put up over his books, Xander thought with a reminiscent smile. He’d set up a target on the school’s deserted tennis court and let Xander practice for an hour before school each morning. After three days, Xander was getting pretty good at farther and farther distances. The cast made him clumsy and slower than he should be to re-load but he’d worked at it until he could get a new bolt into the crossbow fairly quickly. Willow and Oz had joined him at his urging and both had picked up the basics fairly quickly. Well, Willow had picked up the basics. Oz was deadly accurate from almost his first attempt and had progressed rapidly to the small, one handed model that was much harder to shoot accurately. Xander, stuck with the larger, less easy to hide version, envied him his quiet competence. Oz just joked that he wished learning to play the guitar had come half as easily to him. Oz was driving Willow back and forth from school and Xander was relieved to see him loading a couple of different crossbows into his van.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Xander! Did you hear what happened last night? About Ms. Frank getting shot?”

“Yeah, I heard it on the news last night. It’s crazy, I mean, George has worked here forever.” Xander had taken to watching the news and reading the paper religiously, looking for stories about local deaths, trying to keep track of what Angelus was doing.

“Walk to the library with us, we need to talk to Giles. We think it’s a ghost.” Willow was obviously excited by the possibility.

“A ghost? Shooting someone? I thought they said the janitor did it?”

“Possessed,” Oz explained succinctly.

Xander was still reeling from that tidbit as he fell into step with them, heading for the library. Willow supplied the details as they walked down the hall.

“That’s right, we didn’t get a chance to fill you in. A couple of really weird things happened yesterday and Giles thinks it’s a ghost.” Talking quickly, Willow told him that Buffy had interrupted a similar shooting the night before and that a history teacher had apparently involuntarily written something strange on the blackboard - Xander had heard some kids joking about that - and finished by describing how an arm reached out of her locker and grabbed her. “I don’t know what would have happened if Buffy hadn’t gotten it off me. Then when we opened the locker again, it was gone!” she finished enthusiastically.

“Were you hurt?” Xander was surprised by how unfreaked Willow was.

“No, but I don’t mind saying I was scared to death at the time. Now, it’s kind of cool.”

“Anyone would have been scared,” Oz said, putting his arm around her. Xander smiled at him, thinking again how good he was for Willow.

Entering the library, they found Buffy already talking to Giles about the shooting. She shot a surprised look at Xander but otherwise ignored him.

Giles simply glanced at them and nodded, finishing what he’d been saying. “The police, everybody, we searched high and low for the gun without finding it. I think it's very clear what's happening here. It’s Jenny.”

Surprisingly, Oz was the first to break the shocked silence. “You think she's the ghost?”

“Don't you see? She died here under tragic circumstances and now she's trapped.”

“But what about the gun?” Willow objected. “I mean, Angel didn't shoot Ms. Calendar.”

“The gun is insignificant.” Giles waved a hand dismissively. “It's the violence of the thing that matters.”

“I don't know.” Buffy said hesitantly. “The fights these couples keep having, it's sort of... specific.”

“She's right. It's a pattern that doesn't fit with the way Ms. Calendar died.” Willow’s brow was furrowed as she exchanged helpless glances with Buffy.

Giles was oblivious to their logic. “Yes, well, I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. In fact, I encourage you to always challenge me when you feel it's appropriate. You should never be cowed by authority. Except, of course, in this instance, when I am clearly right and you are clearly wrong.”

That seemed to end his willingness to discuss the matter. He disappeared into his office, closing the door and the four just looked at each other and trailed uncertainly out of the library. Xander found himself following the other three to the computer classroom, which had become Willow’s home away from home as she spent most of her time on the computer, preparing for class or just reading Ms. Calendar’s Wicca stuff that she’d gotten really excited about.

“That was odd,” was Oz’s comment.

“It’s totally freaky. I don't ever remember ever seeing Giles be this weird,” Willow agreed.

“He misses her. He can't think straight. Just…” she looked at Xander and Oz and didn’t finish.

Willow squeezed her hand supportively. “Why don’t I go on the net and see what I can come up with?”

They all perched on various surfaces and Willow had the answer in just a few minutes: a shooting at the school on the night of the Sadie Hawkins Dance in 1955. Xander asked Willow to print out the article for him while Buffy ran to fetch something she said they needed to see.

Reading the article, Xander could see the close parallels with the shooting last night and the one Buffy had apparently interrupted the night before, especially given the revival of the Sadie Hawkins Dance scheduled for that night. He folded the article up and stuck it in his pocket, then glanced at the clock. “Guys, I’m sorry but I’ve got something I have to do. I’ll meet you in the lunchroom and you can tell me what the plan of action is.”

He slipped out before Willow could protest and found an empty classroom. Re-reading the article, he wondered if it would be enough.

~~~~~~~

“Giles?”

Xander debated with himself, then simply opened the door to the librarian’s office. He waited until Giles looked at him, obviously irritated and spoke quickly before Giles could order him out. “I’m sorry, but this is important. It won’t take long.”

“What is it, Xander?” Giles asked impatiently.

“I didn’t like you when I first met you,” Xander began bluntly, opening the door all the way and standing in the opening. As he’d hoped, Giles was startled by the flat statement and began to actually pay attention, settling back in his chair and looking up at Xander curiously. “Mostly it was because I didn’t like what you were telling me and I couldn’t accept it. Things have changed since then and I’ve come to respect you, even if I don’t always agree with you.”

“Thank you, Xander,” Giles began, obviously puzzled, but Xander lifted a hand to stop him.

“I need to tell you something now and I need you to really listen to me and think about what I’m saying. Because it’s something you don’t want to hear.”

“Very well, what is it?”

“The ghost isn’t Miss Calendar. I know you want it to be her and I don’t blame you but none of the things that are happening fit. The repeated shootings, the fights the couples are having, none of them fit with how Miss Calendar died.”

He sighed as Giles looked away stubbornly. “Promise me you’ll at least consider other options.” He waited until Giles finally looked back at him and handed the librarian the article that Willow had printed out. Giles hesitated then reluctantly took it, glancing at the headline. Xander saw him start to read, saw his hands beginning to tremble and slipped away, closing the door quietly behind him and leaving the librarian to his bitter grief.

He hoped he’d done the right thing, worried that it might have been kinder to leave Giles to his wishful thinking. Not ready to see anyone just yet, Xander went outside and sat down under his usual tree in the commons, wondering when telling someone their lover wasn’t the ghost haunting the school had become a bad thing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Xander.”

Xander looked up, startled, at the sound of Giles’ voice. The librarian stood awkwardly, almost fidgeting, as if he wasn’t sure what he intended to say. “Willow told me I would likely find you here.” Sighing, he surprised Xander further by sitting down beside him on the grass. “Thank you. It cannot have been easy for you to come and talk to me and I wanted you to know that your effort was not in vain.” He looked out across the campus, removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes as if he was struggling to control tears. “You were quite right, all of you, it’s not Jenny doing these things. I’m afraid I was blinded by wishful thinking.”

Xander didn’t know how to respond. After a moment, he said hesitantly, “maybe it’s a good thing? I’d hate to think she wasn’t at peace.”

“Yes, that is how we should think of her.” After another long pause, the librarian’s shoulders straightened and he put his glasses back on. He looked over at Xander. “Shall we see about doing something about this ghost before someone gets hurt?”

Xander smiled and opened his mouth to answer when screaming interrupted him. Scrambling to their feet, both he and Giles stared as students came streaming out of the school, many screaming wildly and scattering in all directions. They exchanged a quick, worried glance and ran towards the source of the problem.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two hours later, Xander was still at the school. The school had been closed for the day and Animal Control was still rounding up the snakes that had appeared out of nowhere in the cafeteria. From the looks of things, Xander thought they might be there all night. The last of the ambulances had left - despite the panic, only two students had been bitten and neither by anything poisonous.

They’d held a meeting about what to do and Willow had proposed an exorcism based on a ritual she’d found on one of Ms. Calendar’s web sites. Giles had just shaken his head at the sight of it and told Willow that it was an old and discredited spell that tended to be ineffectual. He told her that there were much stronger spells they could use and now they were waiting for Animal Control to tell them the school was snake free so Giles could access his books.

Giles walked back to where Xander, Willow, Buffy and Oz were sitting on one of the picnic tables watching the Great Snake Round-Up, as Oz had dubbed it. Xander was relieved to see that Giles looked like his old self again, his grief once more tucked out of sight, although Xander had no doubt he still felt it. “They say it will be another couple of hours before they will allow me back inside the school. I suggest that all of you go home for the time being. Buffy, the ritual I would like to perform requires four people, would you, Willow and Oz be willing to return here tonight to assist me?”

All three nodded and Giles continued: “Good. Xander, when Spike arrives I will tell him you are at home and ask if he would mind patrolling tonight.” He hurried on before anyone could say anything, “I really feel that it would be safest if you did not participate in the exorcism. If you are involved, undoubtedly Spike will wish to stay with you. Because the spell is intended to affect non-living energy, the presence of a vampire, who are non-living themselves, can interfere.”

Xander shot him a suspicious look but Giles seemed sincere. He wondered if Spike had said something to Giles about keeping Xander out of trouble or if a vampire really would interfere the spell. Either way, he wasn’t really sorry to miss the exorcism, Buffy had been making a lot of really biting comments about how James, the dead guy, deserved to rot in hell for what he’d done and Xander was pretty tired of hearing it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* some dialogue borrowed from the episode: I Only Have Eyes For You

 

TBC

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