Nothing the Same, Book 2
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.
previous parts here
NOTE - this is really only the first half of the chapter but I'm not able to finish it right now, due to getting ready to go out of town for 2 weeks. So, I'm afraid the next bits won't be posted until 9/30, but I hope to have a couple of chapter ready by then. (Don't worry, it's not a cliffhanger.)
There was a sharp crack overhead as wood met wood in a neat parry and Spike immediately reversed his motion, spinning as he swung his quarterstaff around and down, only to be blocked again as Xander shifted his grip on his own quarterstaff and managed to get his pole between his body and Spike’s blow. Xander was panting, his sweat-soaked shirt clinging distractingly to his chest, his face intent as he worked grimly to prevent Spike’s weapon from landing.
Usually his boy was laughing and playful during their training sessions. Although Xander took the lessons seriously and was progressing well, he generally filled the lessons with joking comments on his own errors, mock taunts when he managed to knock Spike down and crowing in victory when he mastered a new move. Today, he was unusually silent and had even picked up the quarterstaff at the start of their session without the jokes about Robin Hood and Friar Tuck that had met Spike’s introduction of the weapon during their last two trainings.
His boy smelled nervous and Spike decided to call a halt to the session. After a hot shower, maybe Xander would relax enough to let him know what was on his mind.
“Spike, would you mind loaning me the money to buy a cell phone?”
Totting up his assets had brought home to Xander the depressing reality that he had no assets. He had a total of $8.37 in cash, one small box of personal stuff - comics and photos and other odds and ends - and that was it. Nothing he owned was worth selling, except maybe the clothes Spike had bought for him and that would be just… wrong. After a long internal struggle, he’d decided to ask Spike for a loan.
He had to have a phone to be able to contact potential customers. He couldn’t even post a bulletin in the supermarket without a phone number for people to respond to and he would much rather use Mr. Olsen’s referrals than solicit work from random strangers. A referral was far less likely to stiff him for the money after the job was done and way less likely to eat him. Despite his new knowledge of the lighter side of demons on the Hellmouth, Xander wasn’t about to stop being cautious.
He’d considered asking Giles to loan him money but he knew that Spike would feel betrayed if he ever found out and Giles might react weirdly - like he was afraid to ask Spike or Spike was controlling him or something. Asking Spike was embarrassing, asking Giles could lead to embarrassment and searching questions.
He’d met Spike at Angel’s mansion as he did at least four days a week for training. Sometimes, he’d return to the factory in the late afternoon and he and Spike would walk to the mansion together. Other days, like today when he was running late, he’d meet Spike at the mansion shortly after dusk. They were working on the quarterstaff this week. Spike seemed determined to familiarize Xander with a wide variety of weapons as part of his self-defense training. Xander still wasn’t sure about the quarterstaff. Sure, they looked cool in Robin Hood movies but he was dubious about their usefulness in an actual fight. They weren’t exactly inconspicuous or something you could hide under a coat as you walked home at night, so Xander didn’t think he’d be using one all that often. Spike insisted that you could use quarterstaff moves with almost any pole or pipe you found lying around and had blithely ignored Xander’s grumbling that there were hardly ever any five foot sticks lying around handily when you were in a life and death struggle.
Privately, Xander suspected that Spike was emphasizing weapons training so much because he wanted Xander not to have to rely on hand-to-hand in a real fight. Too many of the demons he might find himself in a fight with had superhuman strength and Spike thought it only made sense to be armed with something more than “a pointy bit of wood against something that can rip your head off while you’re still finding out that the middle of its chest isn’t a vulnerable spot.”
Spike had a point. The rules of sportsmanship didn’t really apply when the other guy entered the ring with all sorts of enhanced strength, speed and reflexes. Using weapons against unarmed humans would be wrong on so many levels, but demons didn’t really come unarmed for the most part. If it wasn’t six inch, razor sharp claws, it was blinding speed or paralyzing mucus or something equally fun and exciting. Humans who weren’t gifted with Slayer strength had to depend on weapons to close the armament gap.
Plus, Spike spent a lot of time teaching Xander how to avoid weapons, which was of the good in Xander’s book. He had far too much experience already in being shoved up against walls and trees. Surprisingly, learning to anticipate an opponent’s moves and avoid them was as hard as learning how to wield weapons properly but Spike was a good teacher. And, since a lot of their lessons ended up with them rolling around the mats in a different kind of heated exchange, well, bonus. Even without the sexy perks, Xander enjoyed the training sessions. It wasn’t just that he was pretty sure he would live longer with the skills Spike was teaching him. He felt different - more confident and like he wasn’t just a clumsy dork anymore. For the first time in his life, he felt like his body would do what he asked it too.
Today, though, he was too nervous about asking Spike for a loan and telling him about his plans to start working to enjoy their session. Money talks never went well, in his experience. His allowance had come to an abrupt end when he was ten after a blistering lecture from his father about what a useless drain on the family he was. He’d been too young then to realize that fifty cents a week wouldn’t actually have made a difference in the family finances and even though, now, he knew that his father had just been being his usual jerky self when he’d pulled that stunt, it had been years before Xander had been able to think back on that incident with anger instead of humiliation and guilt. Yeah, he knew Spike wasn’t going to be that way about a loan, it was still embarrassing to have to ask his boyfriend for money. On top of that, he knew Spike wasn’t going to like his plans for the rest of the summer. Spike had never said anything but Xander knew that Spike didn’t like it when he went out and about in the daytime where Spike couldn’t keep an eye on him. It was a good thing Xander found that attitude of his really sweet because Spike wasn’t nearly as good at hiding his possessiveness as he thought he was.
To Xander’s relief, Spike had cut the lesson a bit short today, sending him off to the shower to get cleaned up. He needed it, with his stomach churning nervously and his mind racing, practice had seemed much harder than usual. Toweling himself off after a decadently long shower, Xander decided to just come right out and ask Spike. Beating around the bush would just make things worse.
Xander’s quickly stammered question surprised Spike.
“Why d’you want one of them for? Annoying things. Just lead to people being able to reach you when you don’t want ‘em to.” Spike was sprawled comfortably on the couch he’d shoved out in to the courtyard when he’d first set up the mansion as a training site. The courtyard was a quiet oasis in the warm evenings and he and Xander often spent an hour or so after training talking and snogging on the couch. One of his newer minions knew about electrical systems and had arranged for the power to stay on in the mansion - which meant cold beer for Xander, a place to keep an emergency blood supply for Spike, and hot showers for both of them after a hard work out session.
Jose had proved his worth ten times over, taking over many of the boring administrative details of the Court. He screened the vampires who wanted to join the Court, weeding out the useless ones, and kept track of which minions had useful skills. When Spike had asked him to find someone disposable who could get the power running in a building so the authorities didn’t know, Jose had produced a large, recently turned, minion who had done a lot of construction work as a human. Spike had brought him to the mansion and he’d had the power up and running in a few hours. Spike had complimented him on his work before staking him. Not even Jose knew about the mansion and Spike intended to keep it that way. It was too convenient to give up and too potentially valuable as a bolt hole for Xander if it was ever needed.
“I’m working on a way to earn some money this summer, but I need a phone so customers can get a hold of me.”
“You don’t need to work, pet. How much money do you need?” Spike was mildly offended that Xander hadn’t come to him immediately if he felt he needed money but it was so apparent that Xander was embarrassed that Spike could only blame himself - he obviously should have explained to Xander before now that he just had to ask for anything he needed.
“Spike, I can’t let you keep supporting me without contributing anything.”
“Why not?” Spike was baffled. Why would Xander think Spike wouldn’t take care of him?
“Because I’m not a complete mooch.” Xander paused for a second. “Ok, right now I am but I don’t want to be.”
“You’re mine, pet, I take care of my own.”
“I know you do, Spike.” Xander gave him a quick, grateful smile. “But taking care of me doesn’t mean being financially responsible for my every need. Or at least it shouldn’t, not when I’m perfectly capable of earning money.”
Spike cocked his head to one side. “’course it does. You’re my Claimed. That means it’s my responsibility to pay for your kit and anythin’ else you need.” That should settle it, he thought comfortably, glad they had solved the problem so easily.
“Spike…” Xander seemed at a loss for words at Spike’s generosity and he smiled at his boy. He had to remember that Xander didn’t always understand things that went without saying in the demon world. “Spike, that’s… It’s incredibly nice of you to offer, but I can’t accept that.”
“Nothin’ to accept or reject, luv. ‘S just the way it is.” Spike frowned, not sure why Xander was having difficulty with the idea of Spike taking care of him. “Xander,” he said seriously, “I’ve Claimed you and you accepted my Claim. By Claiming you, I took you under my protection. You accepted my mark, which lets other demons know that you belong to me.” He fought back the growl that threatened to sound at the idea that Xander didn’t want his Claim any more. A Claim was permanent!
“Ok, how about we back up and try this again, because somewhere this conversation took a left turn off reality street.” Xander scrubbed his hands through the still-damp waves of his hair in frustration, still not sure how they had gotten to yellow-eyes and growling on the part of his lover. “I am totally down with being Claimed, so you can stop with the growling.” Trying to think how he could explain it to his touchy partner, he said hesitantly: “Spike, you’re teaching me self-defense. Why?”
Spike looked baffled. “Don’t want you to get hurt, luv. Thought we were agreed on that.”
“Hey, I’m big with the Xander-not-hurting,” Xander smiled, “but why doesn’t your mark automatically protect me from getting hurt?”
“Some demons are too stupid, or too arrogant, to honor a Claim mark,” Spike began stiffly and Xander sighed. He hadn’t meant to insult Spike. “Don’t want a repeat of what happened with Angelus,” Spike finished, looking angry at his Sire all over again.
“So, self defense is good because things can happen even with the mark,” Xander summed up. “You’re training me to protect myself even though it’s something most vampires don’t do for their Claimed humans, right?” At Spike’s puzzled nod, Xander finished triumphantly, “Well, me earning spending money is good too.”
Spike shook his head. “That doesn’t follow, pet. A Claimed human working to earn money is saying you think I won’t, or can’t, provide for you.”
“No,” Xander said emphatically. “It says that your Claimed wants to be a full partner and contribute to the relationship. I want to take care of you, Spike, the way you take care of me.” He looked earnestly at Spike, willing him to understand.
With the pleading brown eyes staring at him, Spike couldn’t outright reject the outrageous idea. The idea that his boy wanted to take care of him was unheard of, ridiculous… and bizarrely touching. It wasn’t a matter of trust. He could, and had, trusted Xander with his unlife. The idea that Xander would feel the need to be a strong independent being outside the Claim was so unusual that Spike couldn’t think of a single example of a Claimed human with a life separate from their vampire.
He smiled, noticing that Xander visibly relaxed as he did. This was clearly important to his boy and Spike had never been one to follow anyone’s rules but his own. No harm in letting the boy stretch his wings a bit and it would be good for Xander’s still tentative self-confidence to think he was making his own way in the world, even if it was just a summer job. No harm in giving it a try.
“So, pet,” he said teasingly. “Where are you taking me after you get your first paycheck?”
Xander’s brilliant smile was reward enough for his flexibility.