yanagi_wa (yanagi_wa) wrote in bloodclaim,
yanagi_wa
yanagi_wa
bloodclaim

Ulterior motives 19

Title: Ulterior Motives

Chapter: 19

Word count: 8,531

Rating: Mature

Warnings: Probably a little of everything. Fighting, spanking, mild bondage, blood, gore, bad language, and any other thing I can come up with.

Parings: S/X

Summary: Willow casts a friendship spell on Xander. Her magic goes awry, as usual. Neither Spike nor Xander gets what she expects.

icon courtesy of purpledoda


Unbetaed as my beta is doing NaNo. All mistakes are mine alone. Sorry.


Xander groaned, he ached all over. Krav Magaw was hard. Master Bruce had told Spike that he thought the lessons would be good for Xander. Yakov Ptomkin was known to him but only slightly. They had all three met to discuss what would happen. Spike had explained his expectations and Master Bruce had admitted that he was more than a bit afraid that Master Spike would intercede in Xander’s behalf and destroy the Master/Student bond they’d developed.

Spike eyed Master Bruce for a moment. “Well, I wondered what was holding you back. I thought it was just that you were afraid of damaging Xander.”

Master Bruce shook his head. “I was trained much more harshly, when I was just a boy, than I’ve trained Xander. I was afraid that you’d ... I’m not sure what.”

Spike just nodded. It was right that Master Bruce should be afraid of offending or insulting him but he wanted Xander properly trained. If it took some minor physical damage to do it, well it could be healed away with masters’ blood and demon healing.

Yakov spoke up, interrupting with, “I don’t care about Master Vampires or any of that. I’ll train the boy. He has real potential. But you don’t tell me how to treat my students. If you mix in, I leave. Understood?”

Spike just shrugged. “I understand. So ... this is the way it is. No lasting damage. You can hit him if you need to. He won’t object. Boy has no idea that some people consider it wrong. Just be careful of his hands. He’s a carpenter and a damn good one. An’ he’s learnin’ to play guitar. Ok?”

Yakov nodded. “I got you. You want Master Bruce should sit in? I don’t mind. You sit in too.”

Spike settled behind his desk. “Deal. I’ll get a contract going and ... check or cash for your first payment.”

Yakov stood to leave. “Gold will do. See you in two days.”

Yakov had left then and returned in two days.

Now Xander was learning that Krav Magaw was not only deadly but really damn hard.

And Yakov wasn’t taking it easy on him either, Xander realized. He expected certain things and he knew how to get them. Mostly by just letting Xander exhaust himself by doing it wrong several times then showing him again how to do it right. Xander sighed and stood up again.

“Ok. Ready if you are.”

Yakov nodded to the young man. He was very impressed. He’d seen men older than Xander actually cry, in frustration, pain and anger. This one just got up and tried again. Yakov even admitted that he was very hard to impress.

“I’m always ready. Now, have you figured out what you’re doing wrong?”

Xander shook his head. “Not a clue. I can’t seem to get set, or find a center. It’s pissin’ me off.”

“Do not get mad. You get mad. You lose. It’s all about velocity. In Krav Magaw you ... explode. You don’t plan. You act. Set moves don’t get you anywhere in street fighting. This isn’t about form or religion. Not that there’s anything wrong with all that. It’s just that this is about survival. Pure, simple, not easy.”

Xander thought about it for a moment then said he was ready to try again. This time he just watched Yakov for a moment. When Yakov just looked back, he gave a small smile. Yakov attacked and Xander gave a funny kei, it sounded more like ‘yoush’ than a real kei, but it did the job. Yakov’s punch was straight forward and full force. Xander swung his hands in a horizontal arch that slapped the punch aside, but instead of trying to bring his hands back to strike, he continued in a pivot that brought his foot up in a twisting kick that caught Yakov in the shoulder. This knocked him off balance and Xander followed that up with a stomp that would have cracked the man’s sternum if it had connected. Yakov rolled away, managed to get to his feet and grabbed Xander from behind. This wasn’t as good an idea as it seemed as Xander eeled out of the grip and ran.

Yakov laughed and called Xander back. “Very good. You run. Why?”

Xander shrugged. “I can’t beat you yet. So, I ran. At least if it was real, I’d still be alive to be embarrassed.”

Yakov nodded. “Good, good. You got balls, kid. You’re gonna be great.”

Xander sighed and looked at Spike. He wondered what Spike thought of him running. He didn’t really feel that it was something to be embarrassed about. It would keep him alive long enough to do something better the next time. He said so to Yakov who nodded. “That’s right. But when I’m done with you, you’ll be killing bad things right and left.”

Spike sauntered over. “Been killin’ bad things since he was sixteen. Without a stitch of trainin’. How’s he doin’ really?”

Yakov shrugged his massive shoulders and smiled. “He’s good. Really good. He got training in something?”

“Swords. You wanna watch him work out with Master Bruce? He’s better than good.”

Yakov thought about it for a moment. “Ya, I’d like. I can see what kind of moves he’s got. Swords?”

“Better than guns against most demons.”

“Hmmm.”

.

Xander took his sword from Master Bruce. This was going to be hard as he wasn’t quite sure exactly what Yakov was looking for.

“Xander, just do what you do. I think he’s looking for dedication more that moves. Ok?”

Xander smiled a bit nervously at Master Bruce. “Ok. Just go out, do my thing. Got it.”

So Xander went out to the middle of the room and went through his more difficult kata. Yakov just watched without comment. Then he asked Xander to show him what he could do with a gladius. Xander worked his way through a demonstration of gladius work and Yakov motioned him in.

Xander took the towel and bottle of water that Spike handed him. He settled on the floor near Spike’s feet with Master Bruce at his side. Yakov sat down on the bench on the other side of it from Spike.

“He’s good. Really good. You need to get him a better gladius, or a really good combat knife. I’m going to start in a different place than I thought I would. He’s got a core of steel, that one. I won’t insult him by treating him like a novice.”

Spike couldn’t help his self-satisfied smirk. His boy was coming alone fine.

Xander cleared his throat softly. “Sitting right here. Very much with the embarrassment. I’m not that good. Buffy’s much better.”

Yakov raised an eyebrow. “Buffy?”

Spike shrugged. “Slayer.”

Yakov nodded in sudden understanding. “Ah! Comparing himself to a slayer. Pffft!” Yakov waved a hand. “When Master Bruce and I are done with him, he’ll eat her for breakfast.”

Xander gazed at Yakov like he’d lost his mind. “She’s a slayer. I can’t beat her.”

“Bah! Slayers are all reaction, no action. You attack, she defends and hopes to get in a killing blow. I’ve heard that this one is more capable of making a plan than most. And her watcher is better. That doesn’t change my mind a bit.”

Xander turned his head to look at Spike. “So, me beat a slayer. Or you?”

Spike preened a bit. “Don’t know about that, pet. But you’re comin’ along great. Keep at it. Mr. Ptomkin knows what he’s talkin’ about. So,” Spike slapped both hands on his thighs. “Mr. Ptomkin, come to my office with me and I’ll get your gold for you. Krugerands do?”

Yakov just nodded and followed Spike out the door.

.

Xander had to smile. He knew he’d done well on Mr Ptomkin’s tests. He’d already learned several new moves. He was, admittedly, rather proud of himself. He also hurt, all over.

He stripped off his gi and tossed it in the general direction of the laundry basket. Strolling through the bedroom, naked, Xander raked a hand through his hair. It was getting really long in the back but every time Xander talked about cutting it Spike actually growled. He shrugged and hunted for a piece of string.

“Would you like some hair ties? I bought some, just in case.” Timmins stepped into the room with a hand full of elastics.

Xander took the one Timmins handed to him and pulled his hair back. Snapping the elastic around the short pony tail, Xander turned to the filled bath tub and eased into it.

Xander’s moan made Timmins laugh.

“Ass, don’t laugh. That Krav Magaw stuff is harder than it looks.”

Timmins just snorted. “I’m sure, Young Master. But then I’m a vampire so it doesn’t make that much difference to me.”

“Yeah, what with the superhuman strength and speed, as well as the healing and ...” Xander trailed off with a sigh. Timmins just got out the lineament the healer made for them.

“However, you do have an advantage over normal humans.”

“Yeah, what’s that? Oh, knowledgeable one?”

Timmins blessed Xander with a tiny smirk. “Master’s Blood. You’ve been taking it for quite sometime now. You’ll notice, if you think, that you heal more quickly than other humans. And you’re getting stronger and faster too.” He watched as Xander thought about that then got an arrested expression on his face as he was struck by some of the ramifications of that. “Oh, don’t worry. You’re still completely human. Master Spike won’t turn you. But his blood will protect you from all sorts of things. Infection, illness, aging. Although you’ll still age, just not as fast.”

Xander settled back in the tub, running the wash cloth over his chest absently.

“Oi, Pet! Come out an’ get yur back rub. Got things to do later.” Spike’s cheerful voice brought Xander back to himself. He quickly finished his wash and splashed his way out of the tub.

“Damn! Sorry, Timmins, didn’t mean to make such a mess.”

Timmins just shrugged. “Your master’s voice. Go on, I don’t mind.” Timmins shooed Xander into the bedroom with a wave of his hand and a smile.

Xander went on into the bedroom and settled on the bed. Spike climbed onto the bed and straddled Xander’s thighs. He began by checking that the oil was properly warm. It was, so he poured some onto Xander’s back and began his work.

“Spike?”

“Yeah, pet?”

“What do you get out of this?”

“what? The massage?”

“Yeah. That. What are you getting out of it, beside a woodie?”

Spike didn’t bother to ease his erection away from Xander’s leg. “Well, pet, I get to touch you without you freakin’ out on me. And you’re getting used to the idea that I can touch ya without hurtin’ ya. So ... it’s all good, innin’t it?”

Xander thought about that for a second. “Ok. Makes sense. But, I gotta tell ya, I’m more than used to that. And I’m sorta starting to think you don’t want me.”

Spike nearly bit his tongue. “Excuse me? I’m not sure I heard ya right.”

Xander sighed. “Mom drowned all her stupid kids, contrary to popular belief. I know you want more from me than a ‘kiss and a cuddle’. And the bondage stuff? So not subtle. So are we going to fuck or are you going to mess around forever?”

Spike settled back on Xander’s calves and laughed. “Yeah, pet, we’re gonna fuck. Sooner or later. Not right this minute but real soon. I was waitin’ until I was sure you wouldn’t be frightened, or disgusted.”

Xander wriggled his butt under Spike. “I’m not frightened. Even a month ago, I probably would have been terrified. But I know you’re not going to hurt me, that way.” Spike cleared his throat, getting ready to say something, Xander didn’t let him go on. “Oh, please. That’s completely different from a punishment and I know it better than you do. You can relax about that. So I’m not frightened or disgusted. Timmins explained all that to me. And I found a bunch of stuff on the internet. I think I’m bi, I love who I love. I don’t love you ... not yet. But I like you a lot. More than I’ve ever like anyone except Jessie. Or Willow. And the thought of making love, having sex, knockin’ boots. Whatever. Eeeeuuuwww! can you just say incest? No, not happenin’ yuck! And I’m babbling, aren’t I?”

Spike laughed softly. “A bit, pet. I’m not in a great rush, we’ve got plenty of time. I want you used to the idea, relaxed with it. So ... just a massage and a bit of a touch? Ok? Tell me if you don’t like it. Or it feels bad.”

Xander just relaxed and let Spike touch him.

First all Spike did was complete Xander’s massage. As Xander relaxed completely, Spike oiled his finger until it nearly dripped. Then he gently ran it over Xander’s tailbone. Xander didn’t stiffen or shift away so Spike eased his finger farther down. When he finally touched Xander where he really wanted to he didn’t do more than massage Xander’s anus until he grumbled slightly. Spike removed his finger slowly, letting Xander know that he would stop if Xander wanted him to.

“That was nice. I kinda liked it. Is that all you’re going to do?”

Spike’s respect for Xander increased ten fold. “Unless you want more? Don’t do it if you don’t feel like it.”

Xander considered carefully. “Maybe show me what comes next? I have no idea what to do.”

“Just relax, pet. I’ll do it all. Next, this.” Spike re oiled his finger and gently pressed against Xander’s ‘rose’ easing the very tip of it in, little more than just separating the muscle. “How’s that? Hurt?”

Xander sighed. His shoulders relaxed completely. “Doesn’t hurt. Doesn’t feel any worse than a really small plug. I’ve taken bigger, lots bigger.”

Spike snickered softly. “Nearly had a heart attack when I saw what ya’d done to yourself. Idiot. But this is different. It’s me, not a plug.”

Xander moved, pushing back against Spike’s hand. “Yeah, softer, not as cold. Feels ... nice. Push in a bit more.”

Spike did, just up to the first knuckle, then waited for Xander’s reaction. All Xander did was sigh again. Spike eased in a bit more then wriggled his finger a bit.

“How’s that, pet?”

“Now that feels ... odd. Hold still for a bit?”

Spike gritted his teeth, he was going to have to have a proper wank after this. “Ok, but I think this is all for now. I can’t take much more.”

Xander grunted as Spike slowly pulled his finger out. “Not bad. Didn’t hurt, in fact, I kinda liked it. More?”

Spike shook his head. “Not just yet, luv. Let ya think about it, yeah? Now, there’s a message for ya. Your secretary took several, best see to ‘em. I’m gonna take a shower. Scat!”

Xander rolled over and pulled Spike down onto his chest. “Ok, I’m all oily, but Timmins can give me a toweling off. You shower, have a ... what do you call it? Oh, yeah, a wank. And ... Spike?” Spike just raised his eyebrow. “Thanks ... for not rushing me. Kiss?”

Spike leaned down to oblige, not trying to hide his condition below the belt. Xander kissed back with careful concentration. Then Spike pried himself off Xander and sauntered into the bathroom, whistling softly.

Xander stared after him for a moment then muttered, “Ulterior motives? I think.” He gently touched himself trying to recapture the feeling of Spike touching him. He sighed and gave up. Calling Timmins, he got the oil wiped off and Timmins handed him some clothing.

.

After dressing, Xander went to his office to get his messages. He read through them with difficulty but didn’t say anything to his secretary. Sylvia tried hard and couldn’t help it that she really didn’t understand that Xander really wanted the messages left on his machine. He decided to have another talk with her later.

“I have an appointment with Tara at the Espresso Pump in ...” Xander glanced at his watch. “Twenty-five minutes. Tell Spike, ok? I have to leave now or I’ll be late.” Xander hurried out calling to Bud as he went.

Bud met him in the garage where Xander was having an argument with Arnold.

“Look, just get my truck. I got to get going or I’m going to be late.”

“I’m not giving you a vehicle until I know Master Spike said it was ok.” Arnold’s cross armed stubborn look made Bud cringe.

Xander just looked at him for a moment. “Get my truck, now.”

“Not until I know you have permission. I’ll send Frankie to ask.”

Xander gave a huff of expiration. “Him? He’s only half there. It’ll take him forever. Just get the damn truck. If I have to get it myself, you’re not going to be happy.”


“Not gettin’ that truck, I said.”

Xander just shrugged. “Ok. Be that way. Bud?” Bud started to react but all he had to do was catch Arnold as he collapsed. Xander had pulled a huge knife from somewhere in his clothing and stabbed Arnold in the belly. He’d refrained from cutting his guts out, just stabbing in and jerking the blade back out. He handed the knife to Bud. “Clean that, will ya?”

Xander glanced around, found his truck and headed for it, keys in hand. Bud followed after, wiping the knife on a chunk of t-shirt he’d cut off Arnold.

“Ruthless much?”

Xander looked at Bud for a second. “Sure thing. I’m Spike’s. No one else has the right to refuse me anything unless it’s a direct order from Spike. And I don’t like that little shit. Never have. So, ruthless? Yeah. Never said I was a nice guy, just a white hat. And I’m gettin’ over that. Besides, vampire, won’t die?”

Bud handed over the knife, Xander put it away and drove out the roll up door. Headed for the Espresso Pump and his meeting with Tara.

.

Tara looked up happily when Xander sat down in the chair opposite her. She had been reading from a leather bound book, a small frown on her face.

Xander took the book from her, glanced at the title and set it aside. “That’s all bullshit. You want a good book on the subject of fertility spells try Ushod’s Fruitfulness. Much better and in Greek. If ... call Giles, I think he has a copy. Oh, and hello.”

Tara had to smile at Xander. “Hello to you too. I already ordered. The coffee should be here soon. I wanted to talk to you without all the ... craziness. Thanks for coming.”

Xander shrugged. “Welcome. So ... Willow driving you to distraction with her whining? Or am I out of line?”

“Not out of line and yes, she is. She’s just not taking this as well as she should. She won’t even admit that it was her fault. She’s all for blaming everyone but herself. So ... I don’t know what to do.” Tara picked at the hem of her blouse for a moment then stilled her hands as the waiter came with the coffee.

Xander thanked the man and put a twenty on his tray, telling him to keep the change. He smiled, took the money off the tray and stuffed it into his apron. He made the change in front of Xander, showed him the five dollars and asked, “You sure? It’s a fiver.”

Xander snorted. “Sure. And when this cup is empty I want another, with whipped cream. Thanks.”

Tara looked startled. “I thought I got it right. That’s what you drank the other day. I’m sorry.”

Xander shook his head. “This is exactly right. Exactly what I had before. It’s just that I like whipped cream but I didn’t have time to mess with it. I had to get into that room fairly quickly so that Buffy didn’t piss Spike off too much. Sorry I jumped to the wrong conclusion. Buffy isn’t really going to be a problem, is she? Unless she apologizes me to death.”

Tara shook her head. “No, she said that if Spike didn’t start something she wasn’t about to finish it. She’s just glad that Spike isn’t going to upset the status quo. Willow’s the problem, she’s trying to find a spell. A charm. A chant. Something to ease her guilt.”

Xander made a face. “That’s too bad. You know what Spike’s going to do if someone tried to take me away from him?” Tara shook her head then sipped at her coffee. “I’m not sure myself. But end of the world as we know it isn’t far wrong. He’ll tear up Sunnydale at the very least. So. What do we do? You have any idea?”

“That’s what I was doing with that book. There was something somewhere about consummation and a blood spell or something. I thought if I could find it and you and Spike could do the spell ... even if it isn’t really ... workable?” Tara wrinkled her brow in thought. “Well, you know what I mean. Maybe she’ll give up. Get her mind back on her college work and stop obsessing. What do you think?”

Xander sipped his coffee and thought. He reached over and picked up the book, flipping through it he found the spell Tara was thinking of.

“This one. The Right of Thing ... something unpronounceable. But it’s a binding spell. Exchange of blood and ... um ... I hate hand written spell books. These fuckers can’t spell any better than I can and I swear, scribe or not, they write worse. You see if you can’t figure it out.”

Xander passed the book to Tara and waited as she struggled with the spidery, scrawling handwriting. She finally frowned. “Well, argus? Argen .. Something. Damn. Oh, sorry.”

Xander waved his cup negligently. “Don’t worry about it. You should hear my Mom.”

Tara fired up a bit. “Don’t want to. She’s not a nice lady. Sorry for the insult to you.”

Xander put down his cup and pulled the book over to his side of the table again. “Well, let me see. I wish the lighting was better. The parchment is ... bad, poor quality. I can make better myself. And might I just say Yuck. Nasty process.” While he’d been speaking, Xander had been turning the book back and forth trying to get a better light on it. “Ok, finally. Be nice if the light was better. Or I had a strong source. No chance in here. Dim isn’t the word.”

Tara rummaged in the huge bag she always carried and produced a small halogen bulb flashlight. “How about this? Will this help?” She handed it to Xander who grinned at her and used it to highlight the word he was trying to read.

“Got it. Argenteum. Silver. We have to exchange blood, which we’ve already done. And money, done that too. There’s no chants or spells, just the exchanges. Think that’ll convince Willow?”

Tara bit at her lip. “I don’t know. I hope so. I’ll tell her I asked you about it.” Tara shrugged. “If she believes me.” Tara stuffed the book into her bag and picked up her coffee. “I’ll just have to try.”

Buffy startled them both by leaning into their lines of sight. “Hey! How’s everything? Xander, the ol’ ball and chain let you out?”

Xander took the remark in the spirit it was intended and shrugged. “Got an escort. He’s just over there.” Xander lifted his second cup in Bud’s direction. Bud just nodded back then returned to his paper. “Good guy. Works out with me sometimes. So, what’s the what?”

“Not what. Just ... bleh. I’ve been checking around and ... frankly, the council needs its butt kicked. Majorly. I’m not going into it until I’m really sure, but I think those old geezers need ... a mental enema. They’ve been telling Slayers that all demons are evil, with a capital E. Only mostly they’re not. I wonder ... never mind. It’s too depressing for words. Just ... take my word for it ... I’m going to be asking questions before I kill demons anymore. I mean, sure, there’s some that are just nasty, end the world types, but there’s others that just want to do a night’s work and go home to the mate and spawn. Vampires, on the other hand, are still fair game. Except for two exceptions. Unless my ex-honey goes all Angelusey on us then ...” Buffy looked at Xander’s face then Tara. “Never mind. I came to mend fences not whine. No more whiney girl. Just happy face Buffy. Now. Tell me what you’ve been up to ok?” Buffy put on her patented bright-and-shiny-girl face and settled in to listen to Xander.

Xander knew better than to try to get Buffy to talk about whatever was bothering her, until she was ready all they’d get was that too cheerful cheerleader smile and some bland excuse or other. Instead of worrying about it, he told Buffy and Tara about his orchidarium, gardens and woodworking. He also told about his training. Buffy was much more interested in the training than she was the gardens. Tara was more interested in the gardens. All in all they spent the next two hours listening to Xander prattle on about his doings.

Finally Xander glanced at his watch. “Look, I’d stay longer but I have a translation I need to work on and Spike is expecting me back soon. I better get on the stick and get out of here.”

Buffy stood. “You going to be all right? Do I need to have the shovel talk with Spike? Really, Xander, I’m not going to apologize any longer it’s getting worn out. But ... you need me, call. Ok?”

Xander smiled at Buffy. “Well, I won’t say it’s ok, cause it’s not. But ... I know that you’d have done something if you’d been paying attention. And that’s the best you’re ever going to get from me. Ok?”

Buffy nodded once. “It’ll have to be, won’t it?” She looked sad for a moment then brightened. “At least he doesn’t keep you from going out and seeing people. Um ... see you soon?”

“Remember, I’m learning Krav Magaw from Yakov Ptomkin. And may I just say ... ow!”

He waved to Buffy as she grabbed her purse and dashed off, calling over her shoulder. “Stay in touch. Bye.”

Xander turned to Tara who just shook her head and finished her coffee. “Well, blast of fresh air. Or something.”

“Or something.” Xander agreed. He finished the last of his second cup of coffee put the cup down and leaned back in his chair. “How’s Giles doing, really?”

“Not bad. He feels really sad about all this. He thinks ... well, knows, that he should have done something. He’s wallowing in guilt he won’t feel ... right until he makes amends. Something about balance?”

Xander bit at his lip for a moment. “Not sure where that’s coming from. Have to look into it.” He sighed. “I really meant it when I said that I needed to get going. So ... I’m outa here.” Xander stood up, tossed some money on the table and held out his arms. “Hug?” Tara slid into his arms, gave him a quick, firm hug and stepped back.

“Wow, some body you’re hiding under all that.”

Xander grinned. “What, a flannel shirt is all that? It’s chilly out. Besides, what are you doing admiring my physique, you got a girl friend. Bye.” Xander hurried off, worried that Spike would worry. Bud fell in beside him and they left. Neither one heard Tara say, “Maybe not for long.”


.

Spike met Xander at the door to their quarters.

“You’re almost late, pet. Come on. Guitar teachers’ going to be here any second. Want you dressed a bit better than that.”

Xander just snorted. “Want to show me off?”

“Of course. Worth showin’ off. Here.” Spike pointed to a pile of clothing on the bed. Xander just stripped off and changed. It wasn’t worth arguing about, besides, he liked dressing nice.

The clothing Spike had put out for him was a pair of linen trousers, a silk shirt and Gucci loafers without socks. Xander was pleasantly surprised to see that the trousers were very dark brown and the shirt was about two shades lighter. The loafers were that dark reddish brown called Ox-blood. Xander pulled them on without comment, content that Spike liked the way he looked.

Xander had to admit that he looked much nicer now that Spike was choosing his clothing. He’d never had money enough to worry about more than being decently covered. Willow had indulged her love of odd, bright things when she bought him birthday and Christmas presents. He wasn’t complaining. He’d been glad enough to get them. But now he realized how truly awful they’d really been. He smoothed a hand over his hip, checked his pocket for guitar picks and grabbed his guitar case. Spike was, by now, waiting in the main library to introduce him to his teacher.

Xander opened the library door and entered, carrying his case. One second later he was standing stock still, gazing at Giles, wondering ‘What the hell?’

Spike came toward him, collected his guitar case and led him to Giles. “Here’s your guitar teacher, pet. I’m going to be siting right here. Pay attention.”

Xander settled into the chair Giles pointed to. “Hello, Xander. I hope it’s all right with you that I took the job. I am competent to teach the instrument, you know. It’s one of the ways I made my living during my rebellious years. Ethan used to laugh his head off. I’m classically trained, but I favor folk and rock. You favor country, I think?”

Xander shrugged. “Only when I’m depressed. I like classical, jazz, folk and rock.” Giles gave Xander a sharp look. “Yeah, yeah, I know. Pick a style. But why? Why can’t I just pick songs I like?”

Giles shrugged, settling his guitar on his lap. “No reason I can see. I’m more in favor of you learning what you like. And there’s plenty of really good stuff out there that is simplistic enough for a beginner, but with enough challenge that an intermediate or advanced student can still use it. So ... you’ll just love this.”

Xander groaned, he knew that tone of voice. “Yeah, I bet. What is it?”

“Scales.”

Spike groaned, a hollow, haunted sound. “Fuck.”

Xander looked from Giles to Spike. “Ok, so? Scales. How is that any different from hours of kata? What do I do first?”

So Giles showed Xander how to play scales. Xander carefully went through the three beginner scales that Giles taught him. He didn’t protest, or argue, although he did remark with a grin, “Just scales? I don’t even get Twinkle? Oh, well.”

Giles, recognizing an olive branch when it was shoved in his face, just smiled back. “Twinkle next week, scales now.”

Giles had sat next to Xander and guided him through the scales, correcting him, gently repositioning his fingers. Spike looked on from over his paperwork.

Giles finally leaned back to watch Xander as he patently ran through the beginner scales again and again. Spike smiled as he watched. Xander was concentrating on his work with the single-minded fixation that he gave to any study he bent his mind to. Giles was watching in amazement as the, to him, usually feather-headed young man learned the finger positions and notation rapidly.

“Well, that was different. Xander, I’ve always said you just don’t apply yourself. That was ...” Giles blinked once as Xander stood up, put his guitar in it’s case and faced him.

“If you’re going to do that, we’re not continuing the lessons.” Xander turned to Spike. “I won’t be insulted in my own house. I always apply myself. I know eight demon languages and six ancient human languages. I can read and write them all. So I really don’t think that ‘you don’t apply yourself’ is the problem.” Giles opened his mouth but Xander cut him off. “Rupert, I really don’t care to discuss it. Stay, teach, pay a few earned compliments or go. End of story. Excuse me.”

Xander left the guitar in the library, as that was where he was going to practice, and stormed out of the room. He went into his garden to walk and think, leaving Giles sitting, open mouthed and astonished, in the library with Spike.

“Well, you great git, that was impossibly stupid. The boy knows more demon languages than you do. Ancient Sumerian, Hieroglyphics, hieratic, demotic, Greek, Latin, an’ I don’t know what all. And you open your gob and tell him he don’t apply himself? Where the hell is your head?”

Giles pulled off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I really don’t know. I’m usually not so ... heavy handed. Buffy’s driving me spare. Willow is ... experimenting with some rather dark magic and Buffy seems to think I ought to be able to stop her. I’m Buffy’s Watcher, not Willow’s keeper. Tara is worried too and that doesn’t make things much better, she’s always ... never mind. That’s no excuse for my managing to put my foot in it like this.”

Spike nodded. “That’s right. You’re gonna have to run him down and apologize. He won’t leave the house. I’ll have Timmins find him for you.”

.

But Timmins didn’t find Xander. He searched. He got Bud and Sylvia to search. Then he went back to Spike and told him Xander was no where to be found. Spike rubbed his face.

“Did you go to the station? He might be there, tending to the new plants.”

Timmins sent a minion to check. No Xander.

Spike was beside himself. Xander knew better than to leave the residence, didn’t he? He was sure that he’d told him not to leave without at least Bud with him. But if he wasn’t in the residence, where was he?

.

Xander wandered around the garden for a while. He checked the conditions of the beds, looking to see if they needed watering or weeding. He smelled his roses and listened to the stream babble. It didn’t help. He was still mad and probably would stay that way for a while. He needed to get out.

He went on to the station to look at the orchids and violets. They were in good shape. One of the new orchids was putting out a bud spike. Xander had to smile at that.

After spending a while with that, Xander went back to the garage bay that he’d turned into a workshop. He was still reconditioning the clavichord. It needed a few bits of inlay reglued and another coat of polish. He messed with that but couldn’t settle.

He had a translation in the office so he decided to go take a look at it. It had been delivered here by a rather confused demon. He’d handed it to Xander muttered something about William the Bloody and pets then left.

Xander looked the parchment over. It was in fair shape, nearly two hundred years old and not worth worrying about. He mumbled, “Love charm in Yiddish? What next?” and tossed it back down.

He paced around for a bit more then decided that he was going out. The minion who was searching for him missed him by about two minutes. He decided to go to the espresso pump for coffee. Completely forgetting that he wasn’t supposed to leave the residence without a bodyguard.

.

Xander took a short cut from the station down to the next level and then to the garage, through a door that was hidden behind a stack of barrels. He got his truck and just drove away.

He steered through traffic absently, paying more attention to his thoughts than to traffic. He couldn’t believe Giles. He finally decided to leave it up to fate. If Giles showed up for his next lesson, he’d let it slide. Unless Giles was stupid enough to start it all up again. Then – watch out.

He pulled into the parking lot at the end of the block from the Espresso Pump and parked as close to the street light as he could get. It wasn’t dark yet but he wasn’t sure when he was going to leave so he decided, better safe than sorry.

He locked his truck and headed into the coffee bar. He just wanted a cup of coffee and some time where he wasn’t doing something. Just a bit of time to goof off. He thought maybe he’d see someone he knew.

When he saw Buffy and Tara he called out to them. “Hey! Hi! Can I sit with you? Please?”

Buffy moved around the tall table a bit so that she, Tara and Xander were equidistant around the table. It gave them all enough elbow room that they didn’t feel crowded.

Tara smiled at him and asked, “Would you like something, or are you just here for the atmosphere?” which was a bit silly as the atmosphere was pseudo-industrial neo- something. Xander never had figured out exactly what the decor was supposed to be.

“Coffee, lots of it. I really want a double double espresso with a grain or two of sugar.”

Tara just got up to get it. Xander started to call after her but Buffy stopped him.

“She’s giving me a chance to talk to you. Ok?” Xander nodded. “I’m sorry I was such a shit. Really. I ... well, I was a bit jealous at first. Then we, Giles and I, got busy with that incursion. And can I just say, anticlimactic much? So ... I should have done something. I’m not quite sure exactly what, except maybe nag Giles until he looked at all the crap Spike left. But anyway, I’m really sorry.”

Xander sighed, he didn’t like keeping grudges, the baggage was way too heavy. Besides, Buffy was right. She was a slayer, she didn’t do magic and no amount of research would have helped her figure out what Willow had done.

“Never mind, Buff, you did what you could and that’s all you can do. Forgiven. Just do me a real favor and stay away from Spike as much as you can. He won’t do anything to me if you piss him off. But ... well, I don’t really want to find out what might happen if he loses a fight to you. Ok?”

Buffy nodded, sucking the last of her Mochachino frosty out of the glass. “Ok. Giles and the Council seem to have some sort of agreement with all the High Masters. We don’t stake you and you keep your people under control or something. Seems the Hellmouth is an exception to most of the rules of order. I’ve been told in no uncertain terms not to stake, annoy or other wise piss Spike off. Sucks, but there you are.”

“Well, thanks anyway. We good?” Xander gave Buffy an accessing look.

“Yeah, we’re good. And I said we’re not going over this again and here we are, tromping all over it. I guess I’ll keep apologizing until I don’t feel so guilty.” Xander just waved a hand then grabbed his coffee again. Buffy glared at her watch like it’d done something wrong. “Shit! I gotta book. Homework, then patrol, then study group. Bye.”

Buffy slid out of the seat and waved to Tara, who was coming back with Xander’s coffee. Tara waved back and smiled watching Buffy scurry to the door and out. She looked like any other SoCal college freshman. Looks can be so deceiving.

Xander smiled at Tara and took the cup from her hand. He swallowed half in two quick gulps. Tara reached out as if to take the cup, crying out, “Xander, it’s hot!”

Xander put the cup down. “Don’t worry, Tara. Thanks, but I’ve got asbestos mouth. I can drink stuff so hot it’s nearly boiling.” He followed this with a gentle smile. “So what’s the what?”

Tara sighed softly. “I’m sorry about Willow. She doesn’t like change, and ... well, she’s ... I’m not sure. Just different. And I’m a bit scared. She keeps doing stuff. Stuff she shouldn’t. That spell she worked on you and Spike. She ... it wasn’t ... she didn’t just mess it up, she changed things around so much that by the time she got done it was a different spell entirely. And you’re the one to suffer for it. I ... “

Xander reached out and took her hands, keeping her from picking the hem out of her sleeve. “I know. This is the second time for you too. Wonder when ...” Xander sighed and continued. “The only two people here who really have anything to apologize for are Giles and Willow. Willow, she’ll get around to it sooner or later. Giles? I’m not too sure about. But ... Spike got him to agree to teach me guitar. Only he put his foot in it just now and I’m kinda mad at him. I left to cool off.” He took another sip of his coffee. “So apology accepted. And ... um ... there’s a blessing I want. If you’d do a blessing for luck in love, I’d really appreciate it. As long as you do it yourself, no Willow. Ok?”

Tara nodded. “Sure thing. Love, huh? And who’s the lucky ...” Tara looked at Xander, he was shaking his head slowly from side to side. “Oh, Spike? Well, that’s good, I guess?” Tara gave Xander a rather forlorn look. “Isn’t it?”

Xander shrugged. “Better than hating him. But I’m really not sure, I think I might. He’s really good to me. He takes care of me. And stuff. And he ... well, he said he’d punish me when I needed it. But not do me any harm. So far, he hasn’t. And I’m happy. So, so far it’s all good. And I’m babbling or something.”

Tara smiled into her cup. “Me too. But ... oh, well. And look at the time. I have to go. Willow and I have study group and the class is really hard so I need it. I better go. Bye.”

Tara got up, grabbed her bag and, after promising to do the blessing Xander wanted, hurried out.

Xander just sat, watching the people in the seating area. He didn’t want to go back to the residence yet, but he was bored with no one to talk to. Just like always, he’d been allowed to peek in the door, but not come in. He’d had ten minutes of attention, an apology that didn’t really do him any good and off they’d gone. He realized that his girls weren’t his anymore.

He finished the dregs of cold coffee and looked out the window. He’d been sitting here, sipping coffee and thinking for the last two hours. It was nearly dusk and he decided that he needed to get back home.

.

Spike was frantic, no one could find Xander. He was no where in the residence, they’d even searched the forbidden levels. He paced the library snarling at every being that came into the room.

Giles watched in sorrow. He was responsible for Xander’s flight and he regretted it. He hadn’t realized how much Xander had progressed until just now. He kept reminding himself that he was Buffy’s Watcher that was his duty. The rest of the children weren’t his responsibility. If they weren’t, why did he feel so guilty?

Spike snarled at the minion that came into the room. It hovered by the door until Spike noticed it then at his snarl it mumbled, “Arnold says that Master Xander has come back. He’s in the garage now. Do you ...” but the rest of the sentence went unuttered. Spike was out the door and headed for the garage.

Giles picked up his guitar case and decided that he’d be getting home. He didn’t want to be between Xander and Spike in their confrontation. He followed Spike to the garage where he’d parked his car.

He was vaguely aware of Spike in the back of the garage yelling at a young looking vampire, but he decided to stay out of it. He saw Xander standing there to. He looked a bit defiant but no more so that some of the times Giles had reprimanded him for some carelessness or other. Giles thought it wasn’t out of line of Spike to want to know where Xander was. Nor that he wanted Xander to take a demon body guard with him. He sighed, pushed his guitar case into the back seat and drove out through the open garage door.

.

Xander sighed, he knew he was in trouble the minuted he’d pulled into the garage. Arnold’s self-satisfied expression and snarky comments made it clearer.

“You’re not allowed to leave the garage until Master Spike gets here. He said. And I’m supposed to park your truck and give him the keys. So hand ‘em over.”

Xander just glared at him. “I’ll give Spike the keys myself. And I’ll park my truck myself. You stay away from it. Got me?”

Bud, standing nearby winced. This was not going well already. Arnold knew exactly what he was doing. He was getting Xander in as much trouble as possible. The snark and attitude were absolutely guaranteed to get Xander on his high horse.

So Xander stood by his truck for a moment then hopped in and moved it to its usual place in the garage, locked the door and pocketed the keys. He’d rather have parked it in the station but he wasn’t going to push his luck, Spike sounded mad enough as it was.

He was just getting ready to go look for Spike when he swept in coat tails flaring with the speed of his approach. Xander sighed, he was probably in for it no matter what he said. He decided to keep his mouth shut until he had a better idea of how pissed Spike was.

Arnold, however, had other ideas. “Master Spike, I told him that you wanted me to park the truck and he ... moved it himself. And he put the keys in his pocket, he was supposed to turn them over to me. And he didn’t. He’s going to embarrass you one of these days, just you wait.”

Spike eyed Arnold for a moment then just turned to Xander. “This true? I told him to park the truck and get the keys. Why didn’t you do what I said?”

Xander stiffened, Spike knew that Xander didn’t like Arnold and didn’t want him driving his precious truck. Now he was mad too.

“Because you didn’t tell me that. I don’t answer to minions. You said so. So I parked it and waited for you. You want the keys?” Xander took the keyring out of his pocket and extended it to Spike. “Here they are. I’d appreciate it if you’d make it clear to that toad that he’s not to drive it.”

Spike made a big mistake, he handed the keys to Arnold and told him to lock them up in the key safe. He didn’t tell Arnold not to drive it. Arnold gave Xander a smug look over Spike’s shoulder.

Spike snarled, “I told you never to leave without at least Bud with you. Now come on. You’re in for a punishment and I’m not ...” Spike turned to see that Xander was still standing right where he’d been.

“Not until you tell that little sneak not to drive my truck. I don’t need this on top of everything else.”

Spike reached out to grab Xander. Xander used a circular withdrawal to shake off Spike’s hand. Spike stepped back and snarled, “you better do what I say. I don’t care what you need. You’ll do as I say and stay safe or else.”

“Or else what?” Xander shouted, “cause I really want to know.”

“I’ll belt you til you can’t sit. That’s what.”

Xander froze then snarled, “You better never. You lay a belt on me and I’ll be gone so fast you’ll feel the breeze. Hear me?”

Spike blinked once then said in a flat cold voice. “You can’t. The curse will punish you worse than I will. You’ll never be at peace until you come back to me. I’m not sure what the punishment will be like but I don’t think you’ll like it much. In fact, we’ll just see what the punishment will be.”

Xander scoffed at that. “Can’t be away from you? I’ve been miles away from you and nothing happened. I was ...”

Spike interrupted Xander. “Working. With my permission, I might add. We’ll just see what happens if you’re away from me without my permission. You’ll learn your lesson now, instead of later. Take him!”

Xander tried to fight and did a considerable amount of damage, but in the end he was taken and bound. One fledge started to smack him but Spike staked him from behind before he could do more than raise his hand.

“My boy! I punish him, not you. You wankers even look like you’re going to give him what for an’ I’ll stake you too. Got me?” Heads nodded vigorously. “Bring him.”

So they did, they dragged him down a flight of stairs and into a room. It was small and half a floor down from the garage proper. It was probably meant as a break room but it was empty and cold.

Spike dragged Xander over to the wall and grabbed a chain that dangled from a ring. He jerked Xander around and chained his wrists together behind his back. Then he wrapped the other end of the chain around Xander’s neck. He used heavy locks but he only pulled the chains tight enough that Xander wouldn’t forget they were there. Then he ripped Xander’s clothing off.

Xander didn’t say anything. He knew he’d pushed it too far this time. But he wasn’t allowing anyone, not even Spike to take a belt to him like his father had. Not happening. So now he was in a mess. He turned his head away and refused to look at Spike.

Spike snarled, “you think you can resist the call of the curse. Fine, have it your way. Resist.”

He stomped to the stairs and started up, half way he turned to look back. If Xander would only apologize. But Xander still wouldn’t look at him, wouldn’t see the wistful look Spike cast his way.

Spike went up the stairs and snarled at Arnold. “If you so much as look at my boy’s truck I’ll dust you. Got me?”

Arnold nodded. Every demon, vampire and human in the residence trembled. No one wanted to deal with Spike in a temper. And his was as foul as it could get.





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