orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
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Nothing the Same, Book 2, Chapter 1

Nothing the Same, Book 2
Chapter:  1/?
Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapter will carry specific warnings.
Feedback & concrit: yes, please
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on. 
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same. Life goes on for Spike & Xander.

Short, capsule summary of Nothing the Same, for those who want a reminder.

Chapter One

 

With Angelus banished to hell and Acathla defeated, Spike and Xander hadn’t left the mansion in a week. They’d barely gotten out of bed, only occasionally surfacing to eat something and make love on the kitchen table. They’d spent hours every day exploring each other’s bodies and afterwards, breathless and sated, had spent further hours just cuddling before falling asleep in each other’s arms, only to wake and start the cycle all over again. Xander had been a willing and enthusiastic pupil, learning the joys of what Spike had once termed “friction”.

Yep, that’s how his life should have gone last week, no question. Leaning back against the white fiberglass, the wind blowing steadily against his closed eyelids as he lifted his face to the sun, Xander indulged in a little wishful thinking about the sex-capades he should have been indulging in over the past week. At least his fantasy life had some material to work with now and he let his mind drift, as lassitude filled his body as it lapped up the brilliant sunshine. The noise of the engines and the slap of water against the bow created a weird pocket of noisy silence around him as the crew opened up the engines and headed back to the marina.

No way had he actually spent the week attending classes, taking final exams, visiting the hospital, and studying. No way. That was some other crazed person imitating the Eveready Bunny.

It was his own fault. He was the one who had jerked awake first thing in the morning after his first, and unbelievably, so far only night with Spike and scrambled out of Angel’s over-sized bed muttering profanities under his breath as he hastily yanked his pants on, only to discover they were Spike’s jeans that he’d grabbed by mistake and that was why he had been hopping around the bedroom, still half asleep, trying to pull on a pair of jeans that were way too tight.

Spike had woken immediately in the annoying way he had of being alert and ready for trouble an instant after being sound asleep. He propped himself up on one elbow, eyebrow raised in amused question as he watched the Xander floor show. “Problem, pet?”

Xander sat down on the floor and tugged the recalcitrant jeans off. Not bothering to stand, he rolled over and grabbed his own pants, beginning to pull them on as he answered. “I’ve got a math final!”

“It’s Sunday, luv.”

“I know, I’ve only got today to study and I haven’t even looked at the book in a week.”

Xander got to his feet, still fastening his pants and leaned over the bed for a quick, thorough kiss. “I’m sorry, Spike.” Although seriously tempted, he evaded Spike’s staying hands which were trying to wander into interesting areas. “I’ve got to go pick up my books. I’ll be back in about an hour.” Snagging his shirt off the floor, he ran out the door, leaving Spike staring after him in bemusement, before he flopped resignedly back down on the bed and pulled the covers over his head, hoarding Xander’s scent inside the cocooned bedding.

That was where he’d gone wrong, Xander decided. Instead of staying in bed for a long day of practical how-to lessons in pleasing your lover, he’d spent the morning at Angel’s desk studying. Spike had gone back to sleep and Xander’s only break from serious math cramming came in the afternoon when he’d gone to see Giles at the hospital.

The week had gone downhill from there.

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

Spike woke up in late afternoon, mildly disgruntled to find himself still alone. He emerged from his cocoon of blankets, the warmth and scent of his boy having long ago leached out of the fabrics, and lay still, listening hard.

Xander was upstairs. Spike swung his feet to the floor and stretched languorously. Cats had nothing on vampires when it came to full-body stretches, giving each muscle group its due attention in turn. He snagged the pants Xander had unsuccessfully tried to put on earlier and made a mental note to buy Xander more clothes. His boy had returned to wearing his thrift store rejects, saving the clothes Spike had bought him for special occasions. Spike suspected Xander was uncomfortable wearing the new clothes. Their fit and style made the boy stand out and Xander had gotten far too comfortable lurking in the background. It hadn’t been worth bothering with while impending doom was hanging over their heads but he had plenty of time now to ensure that Xander had clothes worthy of a Claimed human.

Padding upstairs on silent bare feet, Spike found Xander in Angelus’ study, reading intently. Papers with scrawled equations lay scattered on and around the desk and Xander was muttering over a problem that was clearly eluding him. Surprisingly, there were several demon texts stacked on the desk as well. Spike picked one up idly.

“Encyclopedia Demonicae?” he asked curiously.

Xander groaned. “Don’t remind me. I’m supposed to memorize the entire cryntok group by tomorrow.”

“Crynt’k,” Spike corrected absently, using the glottal stop. “High school branching out?” he asked as he leafed through the book.

“Giles,” Xander said gloomily.

“Tell him to get stuffed,” Spike suggested helpfully.

“I do want to learn about demons, I just don’t want to do it this week.”

“Still thinking ‘get stuffed’ covers it, pet. Do it in your own time.”

Xander screwed up his face. “I can’t. He’s so bored and so depressed, it’s the first time I’ve seen him looking forward to anything. They aren’t letting him out of the hospital for another couple of days, so I’m going to see him every afternoon after school and he’s going to quiz me on a new family of demons.”

Spike frowned but Xander shook his head. “It’s ok, Spike. It’s just a problem this week. Like I said, I want to learn about demons and, even though he works there, Giles isn’t really clued in to what’s happening at school. He doesn’t teach any classes and I don’t think he even realizes it’s finals week.”

“Don’t want him using you to cure his boredom.” Spike considered visiting the Watcher and explaining things to him.

“No. You are not intimidating someone who’s already in the hospital because Angelus tortured him.” Xander’s gaze was stern but his lips were twitching. Spike glared. Annoying git wasn’t supposed to be able to read his mind like that. As usual, Xander wasn’t impressed with his glare.

Giving up on intimidating either Xander or the Watcher, at least for now, Spike executed a tactical retreat to the kitchen for blood. Warming the last two packets, he considered his options for the evening.

He needed to begin showing himself around town, letting everyone know he was in control again and that he’d been the victor in the power struggle with Angelus. He wanted to find a new place to live as soon as possible - someplace that was a proper vampire lair, not his Sire’s pretentious, king-of-the-dungheap monstrosity, deliberately chosen, despite its unsuitableness for vampires, to show Spike up. Spike snorted as the microwave dinged. Typical Angelus, he’d always been one to overdo things. Spiting his own bloody face was all it was, living in a place like this. No tunnel access and bloody great windows everywhere you turned. No telly, either.

Firmly squashing his conflicted thoughts about Angelus, Spike poured the blood into a mug and carried it back to the study, where he perched on the edge of the desk. Xander continued studying, putting out one hand absently to caress Spike’s thigh as he read.

“How’s it going?” Spike asked. He didn’t really care, except it was obviously important to Xander.

“Sorry, Spike, it’s going to be another couple of hours.” Xander looked up apologetically. “Would you rather I went back home?” he asked, hesitantly.

“Don’t talk daft. Want you with me,” Spike reassured him immediately, leaning over to kiss him. Xander’s lips were warm on his, their tongues dueling as they explored each other’s mouths. Xander didn’t flinch or draw back even though Spike knew his mouth tasted of blood. Xander finally withdrew reluctantly. “Math,” he sighed.

“Thought American teens weren’t supposed to be interested in school,” Spike grumbled mildly, capturing Xander’s withdrawing hand and twining their fingers together.

“Don’t want to be dating a stereotype do you?” Xander lifted their joined hands and kissed Spike’s palm before turning resolutely back to his book.

Sighing, Spike sipped his blood, toying with Xander’s fingers with his free hand and let his thoughts drift to the problem of where to live. He needed a Court that would be suitable for both himself and Xander and that was going to be tricky. Humans and vampires had very different ideas about what was suitable living space. While plumbing and electricity were nice - Spike had always appreciated the modern convenience of unlimited hot water for bathing - they weren’t necessary for vampires. Humans, on the other hand, needed lots of plumbing and such-like to keep them happy.

Collecting minions was a problem that would solve itself. Fledges were attracted to vampire courts like ants to sugar. Companionship, security and the nearly universal desire to be near the center of power would bring Spike more useless minions than he wanted or could possibly use. The problem would be attracting potential lieutenants - older vampires with enough strength and sense to be useful allies. Spike gave a mental shrug. Once he’d found a suitable place to set up his Court, the Hellmouth had a way of drawing demons towards it. Practically a bloody tourist destination for demons. As acknowledged Master of the Hellmouth, vampires would come to him and he could pick and choose.

“Gonna have to go out tonight, pet.”

Xander looked up. “Huh?”

“Gotta spread the word that Angelus is gone and I’m back in control.”

Xander looked suspicious. “Spread the word how?”

“Stop by the local bars mostly.”

“Is this going to involve a lot of fighting off challengers?”

Spike shook his head. “Too soon for that. Anyone with ideas along those lines is going to wait to see who steps up first. A vampire who succeeds in killing their Sire is either lucky, good and sneaky. Challengers will want someone else to test which one I am first.”

“I take it the fact that you didn’t actually kill Angel isn’t going to be mentioned?” Xander asked dryly.

“Ruins a good story if you put too many details in,” Spike answered flippantly. “If the Slayer wanted her bragging rights, she should have stayed in town.”

“Can I help? You know, be your Greek Chorus of awed admiration or something?”

Spike shook his head. “Sorry, luv. Better if I do this on my own.”

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

Spike had kissed him again and wandered off, saying he was going back to bed and Xander reluctantly turned back to his math text.

He was incredibly relieved that Spike didn’t want him to leave. This was the longest they had ever spent together at one time and Xander had been worried about overstaying his welcome. Xander knew he was too sensitive about things like that. It hadn’t helped that when he’d gone home to get books and some extra clothes, his parents obviously hadn’t even noticed that he hadn’t been home for several nights. His father had just told him to be quiet and hadn’t even looked up from the television when Xander started to explain where he’d been. His mother had still been in bed when he’d knocked quietly on the bedroom door, pulling the covers over her head and saying she was sick when he tried to talk to her. Years of experience with his mother being “sick” in the morning told Xander it would be hours before she was ready to talk to anyone.

Sighing, he’d retreated to his own room and quietly packed several days worth of clothes. He carefully folded the clothes Spike had bought him and put them in as well, in case the vampire decided they should go out one night. Leaving a note on the kitchen table, saying that he was going to spend a couple of nights with a friend, Xander left his parents house, as unnoticed in leaving as he had been on entering.

Returning to the mansion, Xander settled himself in the study, unloading his school books and dropping the bag of clothes on the couch to be put away when Spike woke up. He sat down to struggle with math, still his worst subject. It was still fairly early, he’d go see Giles at the hospital when his brain started to fry and he needed a break. With luck, Willow would visit Giles in the morning and they would miss each other.

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

Spike entered the bar as conspicuously as possible, striding through the door, his duster flaring dramatically behind him, and stalking toward the bar. He snarled at a couple of inoffensive Mimtoi demons that he chose to take offense at, sending them scurrying away from their seats at the bar.

Perching one hip on the stool, Spike lit a cigarette and barked an order for whiskey. The bartender, who’d seen enough dominance displays to know when to be silent and respectful, quickly poured him a double shot and moved away to the far end of the bar where he studiously began polishing glasses, hoping Spike wasn’t planning on starting a fight inside.

Looking around arrogantly as he drained the glass in one swallow, Spike wondered who would be the first to approach him. Without looking, he sent the now-empty glass hurtling through the air towards the bartender, who plucked it out of mid-air with inhumanely quick reflexes. “Another.”

He drank the second glass more leisurely, pausing between sips to smoke. He’d stopped smoking around Xander, worried about his boy’s lungs, and the taste of nicotine and alcohol was a familiar pleasure after several days abstinence. Turning, he looked enquiringly at the fawning minion who approached nervously. Spike looked over the woman’s shoulder and saw her companions whispering together with the nearly silent whispers of preternatural hearing. He didn’t have to be able to hear them to know that she had been drafted by the others as either the least likely to be killed or just the most expendable in their little group.

“Master Spike,” she began, with a subservient dip of her head. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Sir. Would you mind if I asked you a question?”

“Depends on the question, don’t it?” Spike let her wonder which questions were acceptable and which weren’t as he deliberately looked away from her, demonstrating how little worry he had about turning his back on an enemy. A fledge this new couldn’t take him with a crossbow and surprise on her side. His lips tightened as he remembered how the Slayer had blown just such an opportunity on Angelus, leading to his Sire’s re-souling and exile to a hell dimension.

“There has been talk that you and Master Angelus have both been recruiting minions.” It was obvious she was trying her best to be diplomatic as she tried to figure out the current pecking order in town. Spike didn’t react, continuing to stare at the far wall and smoke silently, waiting to see what she would say next. There were a dozen vampires in the bar and a handful of other demons all watching and listening avidly, even the ones who were pretending they weren’t.

“It’s been several days since anything has been heard from either one of you,” the fledgling went on when it became apparent that Spike wasn’t going to say anything.

Spike swung his gaze slowly back to her face. “Asking if there was trouble between us?” he asked mildly.

She relaxed at his quiet manner. “Yes, and we were wondering…” she nodded towards her companions, all of whom became suddenly very interested in their drinks.

Spike was up off the bar stool and had a fistful of her blonde hair before she could turn back. Smaller than him and too stupid to live, she made the beginner’s mistake of reaching up with both hands and trying to free herself form his grip. Spike yanked her head down, controlling her easily as he smashed his foot into her knee, breaking it with an audible crack.

“Wondering? Wondering if I couldn’t take him? Wondering perhaps, if I couldn’t snap his legs like twigs?”

She screamed in pain as her leg buckled uselessly underneath her and Spike dropped his hair hold, letting her fall towards the ground, only to grab her forearm with both hands. The snapping sound echoed loudly in the now-silent bar.

“Or maybe you were wondering whether I was still Master in this town.”

Pinning her head to the ground with one foot, Spike looked across the smoky room at her companions, who had risen to their feet but otherwise remained frozen, staring at him in shock. With one swift movement, he threw a stake at the closest one, dusting him before he could move.

Looking down at the crippled minion under his foot, he bent over to haul her up, ignoring her moans. Snapping her neck, he dropped her again and nudged her contemptuously with his foot. “Do you think she’s still wondering about who’s Master of the Hellmouth?” he asked the room at large.

Silence answered him and Spike grinned to himself.

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

Xander spent finals week deliberately avoiding Willow. Even though Spike had fully recovered, Xander wasn’t ready to forgive her after she had so nearly gotten Spike killed. Fortunately, it was fairly easy to avoid her during a week that was about tests and studying. For their joint classes, he simply arrived as early as possible and ensconced himself in the back of the room, pretending to be buried in last second reading as she entered. Willow was always alone - Buffy hadn’t returned and no-one had heard from her as far as Xander knew. Xander kept his head down and ignored Willow’s pinched, tired look and hopeful glances.

He was guiltily relieved that he didn’t see Oz around. They didn’t have any classes together but he didn’t see Oz and Willow hanging out between classes either. He still needed to have the promised talk with Oz about the re-souling spell and he so didn’t have the time or energy for that with finals happening. He really didn’t want his fresh estrangement from Willow to effect his friendship with Oz but he was so busy and tired that he was worried that he’d accidentally screw things up with Oz by saying something stupid. Luckily, either Oz was pulling one of his disappearing acts again or… Actually, Oz pretty much had to be on one of his band-related trips because the idea that Oz was holed up somewhere studying was just impossible to believe. Not Mister Learn-by-Osmosis.

Wondering if Oz had figured out a system for getting the school to let him take tests on his own schedule and wishing he could work out something similar, Xander repressed a sigh as he was handed yet another test paper. Only two more tests and he was done. Thank god, Giles’ quizzes didn’t effect his grades.

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

“Hey, check it out, you’ve got fingers again,” Xander exclaimed as he entered the hospital room.

Giles glanced down at his hands. “Fortunately, I have always had fingers, although I must agree, at times I wondered whether they were still there under the bandages.” His eyes were haunted as he stared at his now-visible fingers. The heavy, concealing bandages that had shrouded his hands since the surgeons had painstakingly re-built the shattered bones had been replaced with lighter ones. The splints on each individual finger were now visible and, in some ways, the damage looked worse, now that you could actually see how thoroughly Angelus had destroyed Giles’ hands. The physical injuries were healing but the exposing of the torture inflicted wounds was obviously giving Giles too much to think about.

“So, when are you getting out of this place?” Xander asked brightly, hoping to distract Giles from his dark thoughts.

“There is some talk about letting me go to a rehab center,” Giles said without a trace of excitement or anticipation in his voice.

“Rehab? Like physical therapy? Are you ready for that?”

“It’s more a question of not being able to do for myself at home yet,” Giles answered with obvious frustration. Five days in the hospital had done nothing for his temper but he seemed surprisingly depressed at the prospect of being released.

“Is something wrong - besides the obvious?” Xander had gotten to know the librarian pretty well over the last few days. He had continued to visit Giles daily, reading to him, talking to him, trying to keep Giles’ spirits up as his injuries slowly healed.

“Joyce Summers stopped by. She received a post card from Buffy, saying she was sorry but that she needed some time to deal with things.”

“No mention of when she was coming back?” Xander guessed.

“No. The postmark was from Los Angeles.” Giles lifted his hands in frustration. “It will be weeks before I can drive. I still can’t even use a telephone without assistance. I’m her Watcher, I should be doing something to find her and I am stuck here in hospital like a useless berk.”

“You kind of saved the world, Giles. You’re entitled to a little healing time.”

“What?”

Wondering at Giles’ surprise, Xander’s eyebrows went up. “Well, yeah. I mean, if you had told Angelus how to wake Acathla, Buffy and Spike wouldn’t have gotten there in time to do anything except enjoy a one-way ticket to hell.”

Giles looked at him blankly for a moment, then smiled. “Thank you, Xander. That is a very kind view of my role.”

“I’m just saying: give yourself some credit. If I’d helped saved the world, I’d still be bragging about it months later.” He grinned. “Ok, make that years.”

He was relieved to see the librarian smile. Giles had had a difficult, frustrating week and too often was grim and silent, or worse, apathetic. Xander had been shaken the day he had arrived at the hospital to find Giles watching a soap opera. “Think of it like a half-way house for prisoners,” he suggested. “You’d be out of this place and getting ready to go back home.”

Giles looked slightly less gloomy and Xander swung his backpack onto the bed. “I got the books you asked for.”

He no longer had to read to Giles. The librarian could turn the pages for himself now, though sometimes he had to ask for help with pages that were especially fragile, or tended to stick together. Xander brought the books the librarian asked for and read with Giles, taking notes for him and changing and labeling the tapes in the tape recorder Giles was using to make notes on. Giles had a new research topic every day and Xander willingly searched for whatever Giles asked for. He was pretty sure the librarian was just keeping himself busy but that was fine.

Towards the end of the visit, Giles announced he’d decided to go to the rehab center. He didn’t have enough insurance to cover a live-in nurse at his home and he turned down Xander’s tentative offer to stay with him and help him, pointing out dryly that he wasn’t sure their relationship would survive the more intimate assistance needed.

Xander had digested that and then turned beet red as he realized that Giles must still need assistance in the bathroom. He so didn’t want to think about the librarian that way. He bit back his automatic joking response - ok, the first three things he started to stay - and ended up just saying with a small grin that the school board would probably agree with that assessment. Secretly, he was deeply relieved that Giles had turned down his offer. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to help, but he couldn’t stand the thought of losing what little Spike time he had currently.

Still, it was good to see the librarian becoming a bit more like his old self. Hopefully a rehab center would have more for Giles to do than lie in bed and read and watch tv.

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

Spike stared thoughtfully at the old building. The Depression had hit Sunnydale hard and a number of small manufacturing companies had gone bust and their factories had remained boarded up ever since. This one had clearly been run by a frugal soul - there were small, spartan living quarters on the third floor for the workers, which would be perfect for minions, and a large comfortable suite near the back of the second floor which would serve for himself and Xander. It had a separate entrance, which would allow both himself and Xander to come and go without having to walk through the rest of the building. The remainder of the second floor was set up as offices, large enough to house his lieutenants who could be trusted in relatively close proximity to Xander. The ground floor was a single open room, presently cluttered with remnants of the old manufacturing equipment. The rusting metal could easily be removed by minions, leaving a space for the formal court and the minions to hang out.

He’d been looking for a new lair for several nights now and this was the most suitable place that he’d found. He’d rejected numerous others because of their location: either they were in areas too dangerous for a human to walk through even during the day or too close to residential housing where minions might be tempted to hunt. Hunting too close to home inevitably brought attention to the lair and even in Sunnydale that was a bad idea. Other possibilities had had a good location but unsuitable facilities - no separate rooms, multiple skylights, or no working plumbing.

Making up his mind, Spike turned and walked away. Tomorrow night, he’d begin recruiting a couple of minions he’d had an eye one that were a little older and one at least had shown glimmers of more intelligence than many fledgings showed in their first decade. He’d set them to work cleaning the building and making it ready for Spike and Xander to move in.

Probably time he talked to Xander about living with him permanently.

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

Xander hoped their diurnal/nocturnal issues this week weren’t a portent of things to come. Spike was as busy and pre-occupied as Xander, only Spike was busy at different times, leaving every night somewhere around the time that Xander collapsed, exhausted, into their mutual, but all too rarely shared, bed. Xander woke each morning to find Spike snuggled against him. The temptation to stay wrapped in the strong arms, to wake his sleeping lover with kisses that moved down his body to interesting places was nearly overwhelming and Xander frequently regretted the days when finals had meant little to him and he’d been happy to coast along in blissful slacker-dom, content with D’s for grades.

Those days were gone. It had become a secret source of pride to Xander that he was doing well in his classes, one he wasn’t willing to give up. He would never admit it to anyone but he got a warm glow of accomplishment every time he received an A on a test. For much of his life, he’d been the stupid one in the group. Willow had always been way smarter than him. Jesse had been as intellectually lazy as Xander and they had had a lot of fun finding ways to get Willow to do their work for them. Willow had tried to make them study at first but had caved in years ago to their pleading eyes and coaxing smiles. In hindsight, Xander knew that they’d taken advantage of Willow’s own need for approval and acceptance, using it to con her into giving them way more help than they should have gotten.

It had been a shock last year to find that he could study and learn on his own when he needed to. In his entire life, no-one, not even himself, had ever accused him of being smart. It had been as much a surprise to Xander as it was to all his teachers when he started doing well in his classes. He still didn’t contribute much to class discussions but he did the homework and actually studied, a weird out-growth of his vampire research and the desperate loneliness of much of the past year. Pre-Spike loneliness, he thought with a smile.

Even with their different hours, he wasn’t lonely now. The week had been frustratingly busy for both of them but neither could adjust their hours to the other’s free time right now. Fortunately, school was out at the end of the week and then Xander could become more nocturnal.

They did have the early evenings together, Xander had worked out a system of rewarding himself for each chapter read, each equation mastered, with a little nookie time. He was finding he could even concentrate on math, snuggled up against Spike on Angel’s leather couch, if he knew that as soon as he had the problem figured out, he got tongue action as a reward.

Fortunately, Spike was able to help with his extra-curricular studies. In addition to his regular finals, Giles was quizzing him on the various categories of demons he had Xander studying. He’d continued to visit the Watcher at the hospital daily and still couldn’t bring himself to tell Giles that he had too much going on to continue with the course in Introduction to Demons 101 that they had planned, back when Xander didn’t have final exams and an available partner to explore gay sex with.

Sadly, it was all too obvious that Giles had seized on the planned course of study as a distraction from the mind-numbing boredom of being stuck in first the hospital and then the rehab center while his injuries slowly healed. Hating the hospital himself, Xander had hidden his reluctance and brought the books Giles asked for from the library. He really was enjoying learning more about the unbelievable variety of demons in the world, he just wished he could postpone it a week or two until finals were over. But every time he saw Giles staring vacantly out the window, his eyes haunted; every time he saw the humiliation on Giles’ face when he had to ask for help with routine tasks, Xander’s time-management issues seemed awfully petty.

He’d found that he could keep Giles focused and interested by bouncing some of Spike’s information off him. Spike often read over Xander’s shoulder as they snuggled together on the couch, frequently scoffing at what the authors were saying. He would ridicule some of the theories and frequently filled in gaps in the books from his own experiences. Giles was fascinated with Spike’s contributions, regardless of whether he agreed or disagreed with them, and frequently sent Xander home with a list of questions for the vampire. Xander wasn’t sure but he suspected that Spike enjoyed dictating answers, despite his grumblings about “helping the enemy”. Spike had been the youngest in his vampire family. Xander suspected that, like himself, Spike was secretly enjoying not being considered the stupid one in the group. For all Xander knew, Spike was actually considered young and inexperienced in the demon world but he had way more knowledge than even Giles did about demons and Giles was the smartest person Xander had ever met.

Walking home from the hospital Friday afternoon, Xander wondered when he’d begun to use the word “home” in association with the mansion. He’d been staying there since the night Spike was injured, but it was Angelus’ house and they were moving out shortly anyway. With a start, Xander realized that it had become “home” because Spike was there.

He didn’t think he’d ever forget how happy it made him when Spike asked him to move in with him. It had been clear from Spike’s descriptions and the hint of anxiety in his voice that Spike had spent a long time trying to find a place to live that would be right for Xander as well. Spike was taking him to see it this weekend but Xander didn’t care what it looked like. It was a home that Spike had picked out for them. That was all Xander needed to know about it.

It was with a huge sense of relief that he handed in his last test paper. It was Friday, it was the last day of school, and he was seriously ready to party. Ok, that was a lie. He wanted to sleep for a week, but he’d be ready for the party then.

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

Lying on the white deck of the boat, Xander briefly thought of how great it would be to share this with Spike. He could almost feel the lean muscular form pressed against his own, feel the soft, cool skin wrapped around him as the wind cooled the bright sunlight. Could almost feel the arab-style robes enveloping the vampire from head to foot. He sighed. Sunbathing was not something he would ever be able to share with his lover.

Cordelia had been surprisingly cooperative, she had not only volunteered her father’s yacht but also provided a couple of the Chase family’s gardeners to help them shift the Acathla. Apparently, a hospitalized Giles trumped Cordelia’s social schedule. Xander hadn’t asked, and wasn’t sure he wanted to know, what she had told the three guys who sweated to shift the heavy stone figure first onto the boat, then over the side into the ocean. From the fact that one of them kept making the sign of the cross every time he looked at the ugly statue, Xander wasn’t sure if Cordelia had made up some whopper of a story or actually told them the truth - either could have produced that reaction.

It had been anti-climactic, watching the stone demon tumble over the side of the boat and drop like, well, a stone out of sight in the dark blue water two miles off-shore. Giles had asked him to go with them and give him a report, saying that Cordelia felt procuring the boat and the helpers was sufficient assistance. Which, to be fair, it probably was. Xander had never been out on a large boat, or anything bigger than a canoe, and had agreed eagerly even though it meant missing another day with Spike. He’d rationalized the trip by reminding himself that it really did need to be done and he could stay up late with Spike when he got home, since he didn’t have to worry about school anymore.

He’d thoroughly enjoyed the trip, despite the fact that the three men Cordelia sent regarded him suspiciously the entire time and barely spoke to him. Hopefully, Cordelia hadn’t told them it was his statue they were disposing of in such a flagrantly questionable manner. He’d simply done his best to stay out of their way and tried to look like someone who would never have a demon statue in his livingroom that needed to be disposed of.

It didn’t matter. Life on the Hellmouth had certainly taught him to relish the good times since bad things could be lurking around the corner, sometimes all too literally. He’d been out to sea on a yacht and tomorrow, he and Spike were moving in together, officially. Life was good.

Sitting in the bow of the boat, eyes closed, sun beating down, the wind blowing the heat away, Xander relaxed into the rhythmic rise and fall and let the thoughts be swept away on the breeze, simply basking in an experience he might never know again.

TBC

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