yanagi_wa (yanagi_wa) wrote in bloodclaim,
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{fic} Ulterior Motives 28

Next chapter will be in about ten days, Millie willing. (Muses can be so tempermental) *g*


Title: Ulterior Motives

Chapter: 28/?

Word count: 8796

Rating: Mature

Disclaimer: Except for the few original characters, all characters in this story are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, who have kindly allowed me to play with them. These fan fictions were written for fun, not profit. However, this story does belong to me. Please don’t snitch it.

Warnings: Probably a little of everything. Fighting, Spanking, Bondage, Blood, Gore, Bad Language,

Parings: Spike/Xander

Beta: aayesha_r

All chapters here
This link leads to my website.


~~

Spike glared at the vampire in front of him, “An' you're standin' there mouthin' off, because?”

The young-looking, ancient vampire stuttered a bit. “Be-because it's tradition. That's the way we've done it for... several decades. Why should we change now?”

Spike folded his arms over his chest, raised one hand to his chin, tapped it with his forefinger then shrugged. “Because I say so, you git. And I'm High Master of California. If I say jump, you jump and hope it's high enough. Got me?”

The vamp gave up. “Yes, High Master, I understand.”

“An' the next idiot who questions my authority will wind up chained in a small dark cell for a month... with no food.” Spike glared around then amended, “Unless they'll starve to death; then, they'll be on their species' equivalent of bread and water.” He looked directly at Giles, who was taking notes on the proceedings. Giles finished writing, glanced at Spike, and wondered if he should signal the end of this session. He decided not to.

“Now, I'm sick of this. You all listen up good. I don't intend to spend my valuable time arguin' with you. You're like a bunch of old ladies. This is my court. I don't care how you used to do things. This is the way you'll do them now. If I say a thing, I don't expect a bunch of argument that starts with, “But Master, that's not how we do things.” If you don't have a good reason not to change something, shut up.”

Giles grinned behind one hand. Things were really looking up. Spike was taking firm control of his court. He'd managed to convince everybeing that he wasn't going to just kill someone for the fun of it. There would be a reason behind it. Some reasons, Giles wasn't sure he understood, but they would be in line with demon logic. Spike's violence always had a purpose; he had known that for years. Just sometimes his purposes were so obscure that they seemed random.

Spike glared around the court again. “I have human advisors, and that's that. We're going to be dealing a lot more with the humans than you're used to. Deal with it. Now, if none of you idiots have anything useful to say, court is over.” He waited exactly fifty human heart beats, the traditional amount of time to wait for an objection; no one said anything so Spike headed for the door. Everyone bowed as he passed, and he nodded to a few beings here or there. He walked out the door, slammed it, and left everyone in the room trembling slightly. The force of his fury was mind boggling. A few of the smarter individuals hoped that finding the human named Xander might calm him; otherwise, no one knew what he was capable of doing in his displeasure. He was Master, and his pleasure was their life, or death.

Giles packed up his notes and pen and headed for the door, too. He was stopped by the Castellan. “I'm sorry to be impertinent, but do you have a moment?”

Giles nodded. “Certainly. How can I help you?”

“We've borne his... ire for more than a week now. How vicious is he liable to get?”

“Spike? Very, if he's pushed hard enough. Everyone has heard him say that he won't just kill or punish for the fun of it. I've never heard of him giving his word and breaking it. But... he's very much on edge just now. So... who knows what he might take exception to? He despises being argued with. And when he says something, well… I’d just take it as law and be done with it. He has his ideas of how court is to be run and, as it is his court, I'd be very careful of contravening his word. I know of two, maybe three, beings who can get away with arguing with him. I'm one, Xander's another, then Timmins, and...that's about it. Tara won't, nor will Bud. So, now you have it.”

The Castellan nodded. “I see. So... he'll ignore my advice?”

“No, he won't ignore it, if it's properly offered. He'll consider nearly everything he's told. He just may not take your advice. He'll make up his own mind. Anything else?”

“No. Thank you. I have much to consider. Excuse me.” The Castellan walked away. Giles watched him for a moment hoping the vampire had decided to be a help instead of a hindrance.

~~

Xander woke with a pounding head and a vague all over body ache. He managed to drag himself out of bed, into the shower, and in the general direction of the kitchen. The coffee maker was on auto so he poured himself a cup with a trembling hand and stuffed some bread into the toaster. When it popped, he slathered it with peanut butter and scarfed it down in three bites. He had to gulp coffee to keep from choking on the sticky mass.

His jog to work left him much more breathless than it should have, and he sat down in the back room for a moment. He knew the protections in both his torc and his beads were wearing thin. He was feeling the urge to return to Spike more and more strongly. He was having trouble keeping food down, and he was thirsty all the time. He ached, and his hands were starting to palsy. He wondered if he could find Spike then decided to just give up. Spike would find him sooner or later.

He limped his way through an unexpected double-shift that day and hoped that no one would notice. His hope was in vain. Mamacita noticed his lethargy and called him on it.

“Xander, come here. You are not well. What is it?” She pressed her palm to his forehead.

“I'm not sick. I think the spells are wearing out. I just feel... I'm not sure how to describe it. Like I've got the flu, only not really. I ache all over. I can't eat; my stomach keeps turning. My endurance is way down. I'm just, in general, a mess.”

“Papa has said that he will put a pre-petition in with the Master of the City for your protection. If he comes through, your... lover will not be able to bother you. We're not powerful people, but we might be able to help you.”

Xander turned pale. “You know the Master of the City? Please tell me Papa hasn't sent in that petition yet.”

Angelina shook her head. “He's still trying to compose it. Why?”

Xander took a deep breath and sighed. “If he sends that petition in, then I'm sunk. He'll tell Spike and then he'll find me and then he'll ...” Xander took another breath, staving off a spate of babble that was sure to either frighten or confuse Angelina, or both. “Just don't. Ok?”

“I'll talk to him right away. You go have something nice to eat. Get some of that caramella. Shoo!”

Xander went into the kitchen and settled at the tiny table near the back door. It was cooler there, and all the employees used it for their breaks. One of the kitchen helpers brought Xander a bowl of the caramel-flavored custard and a cup of coffee. All the help knew that Xander was ill in some way; they couldn't help from it. They all brought him treats or made him special foods, trying to tempt him to eat. It worked most of the time. This time, Xander just poked at the custard and worried.

What was going to happen to him when Spike finally caught up to him? He would, Xander was sure of that, he just wasn't sure when. With a shake of his head, he cast off his worries and ate his treat. He didn't really want it, but it was a shame to waste it, and he did need the nourishment.

~~

Mr. and Mrs. Pena had a little discussion about what to do about Xander. They decided that sending in the petition to the Master of Las Vegas to approve and forward to the Master of California was still a good idea. Little did they know how good an idea it really was. Xander was nearing the end of his endurance; the spell was working on him, and he was near a real breakdown. Spike was frantic and rapidly reaching the breaking point. Giles and Timmins were worrying more and more. Tara was exhausting herself. Bud was just disgusted.

Spike was pacing his office when Bud came in. Spike looked up then his shoulders slumped.

“No word?”

Bud shook his head. “No, Las Vegas is huge. Searching the Strip alone is such a huge task that it would take literally years. The outlying areas... it's just going to be luck. Pure and simple.”

Spike started to say something, changed his mind, and asked carefully, “Glinda-witch come up with anything?”

“No, she's tired out. Magic is like... um... not sure what. It's just that, well, the best analogy I can come up with is money. You spend until it's gone; then, you have to save up before you can spend again. She's broke. She has tried every finder spell she knows... nada. Except that he's in Vegas. The bounty hunters are all stumped, too. I was thinking, maybe the Master of Las Vegas could come up with some help. And, just so you know, I'd like to know how the hell I wound up in charge of this dog and pony show.”

“Cause I trust ya not to pull something stupid. Like tryin' ta hold 'im hostage, or for ransom. An' ya like Glinda; you'll see that she doesn't hurt herself tryin' ta find 'im. Wish... but...” Spike trailed off.

Bud just sighed and remarked, “Yeah, wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which one fills up first. I'll talk to the Master of Vegas. See ya.”

Spike watched the demon walk out the door.

It didn't take Bud long to speak to the Master of Vegas. He wasn't very well pleased with the results. The vampire wasn't interested in helping; in fact, he announced that if Master Spike couldn't keep his hands on his property, he deserved to lose it. Bud just shrugged, remarked mildly that Spike was in a 'mood', and went back to report to Spike.

Spike listened to Bud's report and snarled, “An' why do we keep him around? Giles?”

Giles checked a small book he extracted from his pocket. “Well, according to my notes, he's the one who keeps the casinos in line, organizes the demonic entertainments and, in general, keeps the human tourists and the 'other' tourists from killing each other. We don't really need him at all. I think ...” His sarcastic tone said more than his expression, which was bland.

“I think that would be a perfect job to keep Xander occupied, with your help.” Spike rode over Giles firmly. “You advise him, he provides the muscle, backed by my authority. Yeah?”

Giles just sighed and nodded; it wasn't like he'd thought of it first. Spike was proving that he respected Xander more than any of the Scooby Gang ever had. It shamed him more than he wanted to admit.

“I know that Xander is capable of handling a job like that, with proper training. Which, I'm sure, you'll provide. Convincing Xander of it is another thing entirely.”

Spike snorted. “Don't have to convince him of anything. I'll just tell him he's to do it, and he will. Simple. As soon as we find the prat.”

Giles rubbed his face at that. “I know. I'm truly worried about him. What if... well, what ifing isn't going to get us anywhere. Is there any news at all?” Giles turned a hopeful look at Bud.

The demon sighed and shook his head. “Not a squeak. I've got a couple of ideas, but I need to sort of work on them. Give me a day or two.” He held up a hand. “I know! But it's all I got.”

~~

Bud's 'day or two' turned out to be a week. By now Xander had been missing for just under three weeks. Spike was turning from frantic to hysterical, in a calmly homicidal fashion. The Master of Vegas was no help at all. Spike had a feeling that something was going on with him, and he intended to find out what.

He sent Giles to talk to the master vampire.

~~

“Master Spike has sent me to see if you have any further information on Xander Harris. Would it be alright with you if I talked to your secretary?” Giles kept his voice carefully neutral. He didn't like this vampire and could feel that all he really wanted to do was cause trouble. Why, he wasn't sure, but he was sure it was true.

“Help yourself, human, if my secretary doesn't eat you first.” The High Master waved his hand in dismissal. Giles turned and left the court, finding the secretary waiting right outside the door.

“Are you going to try to eat me?”

“No, I value my skin a lot more than I value a meal. Come with me. And I hope you will tell Master Spike that I was cooperative.”

Giles smirked to himself. “I'll be sure to do exactly that. It would be even more to your advantage if you have something that is actually helpful.

“I think I do. Here. It's a pre petition. The actual petition hasn't been submitted yet. I like to have these if possible; it saves a lot of trouble. Some submissions just aren't to the Master’s taste. So there are pre-petitions; reviewing them saves my master from receiving something he knows that he won't approve and send on... just read it.”

Giles read the short document. It was a request for help with some bruja’s friend. But the symptoms were exactly what Xander would be suffering from by now. He raised one eyebrow and reread the paper. It had to be Xander; thankfully, he wasn't in dire straits, yet.

“I'd like to take this with me, and if there's an address, I'd like that, too.”

The secretary wrote the address on the bottom of the page and handed it back to Giles. “Since this is a pre-petition, you can have it. Here, please?”

“I'll be sure to tell him that you were as helpful as you could be. I think he'll probably be here soon. How long have you had this?”

“A couple of days. The Pena's are good people. They don't want anything much to do with the court. The lady is not very strong and of no use to the court, but she knows people. If you know what I mean.”

“And why wasn't it handed on?” Giles tucked the information the nervously babbling vampire gave him away for further consideration at another time.

“I wanted to give it to you at once, the boy sounds exactly like the description, but he wouldn't let me. He said that Master Spike would do just like the other, Angelus, did and disappear soon. We didn't need to fawn on him. But... I've heard things. Master Spike is really William the Bloody, right?” Giles just nodded. “He... he. I...” The vampire gulped and trembled. “I just hope that he realizes that I did my best. I'm between a rock and a hard place.”

“I'll tell him that you did your best. You managed to get this into my hands. Thank you. If you're really worried, why don't you just make yourself scarce for a few days? Take a sabbatical.”

“I believe I'll do just that. I might take a few files home with me to study in detail. If you know what I mean.” The vampire started tucking files into a huge briefcase. He squeezed it shut and just walked out, leaving a hastily scribbled note in the middle of his desk.

Giles took his information to Spike and waited for the blow up. It didn't come, and Giles trembled in his shoes. Spike was so angry that he just stood there for a moment.

“I need Ripper. Come, get Bud and Timmins. We'll go and have a bit of a talk with the ex-Master of Las Vegas. Before we go find Xander. I don' wanna be distracted from 'im by dealing with that git later”

Giles gave Spike a truly feral grin, rolled his tongue across his lower lip, and turned for the door. He turned back, remarked, “I'll just change clothing, shall I?”, and he left.

It didn't take him long to gather Bud and Timmins, tell Tara what they were going to do, and get to the garage. He nearly howled his approval when he saw the motorcycles: Harleys, mint-condition, 1979 Fat Bobs to be exact. Huge, black, menacing and elegant.

Spike nodded. “Who can drive, and who needs to ride?”

Bud mounted one bike and grinned before donning his full face helmet. Timmins got on behind him. Giles mounted another of the bikes. Spike blinked for a moment. The Watcher was in full Ripper mode. He was wearing well-worn jeans, square-toed biker boots, a flannel shirt over a t-shirt, and a scuffed and worn leather jacket. Spike raised an eyebrow then nodded his approval.

They mounted and roared way.

They rode the two miles from the Luxor underground garage to the Palms, turning heads all the way.

They pulled up to the door of the underground entrance to the residence of the Master of Las Vegas. It was more a palace, but was called, as all city masters' homes were, the Residence. Spike looked around with interest, decided the place was common, and demanded to see the master.

The first rank of minions knew better than to argue with someone who felt as powerful as Spike did, so they let the group through. Timmins just sniffed in disgust. Spike had to take another look at his usually very well-dressed valet. Timmins didn't look anything like himself. He was dressed in canvas trousers with a double fly, like a sailor's, heavy boots, a dark brown denim shirt, and a canvas duster. He and Bud seemed to have put their heads together to decide what they wanted to wear.

The second rank of fledges and minions started to argue, took a good look at Spike, and caved in, too, waiving them through to the next rank.

The third rank of interference was made up of mostly upper rank fledges, most of them nearing minor master status.

This group did try to keep Spike from violating the conventions of the court, but a feral snarl and two vampires in game face, and a demon and human with fierce glares, backed them off after a short confrontation.

Spike stomped up to the fourth and final group of guards. This group was all minor masters, but they didn't hold up the group for long. Giles was the first one to demand entrance; he was refused with every evidence of contempt.

“Fine then. I'll just open the way.” Giles pulled a stake out of his sleeve and staked the door guard. Spike followed up with a stake of his own. Bud danced back from a sword thrust, and Timmins just ripped the head right off the last guard.

“Careful. There's only three of them. That's not enough for a person like him.” No one needed to question who 'he' was. Nor was Spike wrong. The group that emerged from the double doors behind the first three of the inner circle was made up of low level masters, or high level fledges, depending on how you wanted to look at it.

They surrounded Spike and the other three interlopers and stood, waiting.

“I'm High Master William the Bloody. I want to talk to the Master of Las Vegas. And what the hell is the prat's name?”

“Grover Goodness.”

Spike blinked, Bud snickered, and Giles frankly laughed. Poor Timmins just sighed. The vampire door guard glared, but not for long. Spike poked him in the chest with one finger. “I want to see Grover. Now! Lead off.”

The leader of the group glowered at Spike who glowered back. It seemed that Spike's glower outweighed the other vampire's, as he turned and stalked away. They followed.

They entered a large ornate room. Spike looked around, turned to Giles, and remarked, “Bad taste. I ought to dust him just for this.” He gestured around the gaudy room in contempt.

Giles shrugged. “Give him a chance.”

Bud just backed them up, keeping an eye on 'the locals'.

Master Goodness didn't have the sense God gave a goose, as Timmins would say later. He started out on the wrong foot.

“I am the Master here. Who did you say you were supposed to be?”

Spike sauntered towards him, smirking. “Actually, I'm the master here. William the Bloody, aka Spike. High Master of the Domain of California. If you want all my titles, you'll have to ask Timmins.” Timmins wisely kept his mouth shut.

Spike watched his subordinate to see what he would do now. How he managed to dig his grave even deeper was beyond stupid.

“You're no one here. You don't have any authority over me. I don't care what you say.” He puffed himself up to look larger and more important. He thought, since Spike was smaller than he, that he could overawe him this way. Unfortunately for him, Spike was a childe of Angelus; all the act did was annoy Spike even more.

“Cute. Blow up like a fugu, see if I care. Now, get to the point. You got something I want; hand it over.”

Master Goodness got a cunning look in his eye. “And what do I get if I do?”

Spike figuratively threw his hands in the air. “Your life. If I'm feelin' charitable after I see it.”

Giles touched Spike on the shoulder. “It's a petition. We're looking for the name Xander Harris. If you like, I'll go find it myself.”

The sneer he got made him boil. Spike just sneered back.

“No, Watcher, he'll produce it like a good little minion. Or I'll stake him myself.”

Bud grinned at Timmins; that had probably done the trick. If the Master of Las Vegas didn't lose his temper now, he'd probably survive; if he lost it, he’d lose his life, too.

He lost it. His roar of rage hadn't quit echoing when he charged Spike. Spike danced out of the way like a bull fighter from a bull. Spike gave him a simple push from behind; this propelled him right toward the stake Bud was holding. Giles helpfully tripped him.

Timmins shook his head sadly. “Master Spike? I am not cleaning that mess up.”

Spike just shrugged. “Isn't that what he had minions for? Find me my papers. And round up all the newbies, I want 'em brought up proper. Timmins, see to that. All fledges and minions are to pledge fealty to me at my next court... or else.”

No one bothered to ask what 'or else' meant; no one really wanted to know. Spike's orders were obeyed at once. He smirked as he watched the minions scramble around.

“This court is closed. I'm master here and don't you forget it. Giles, you said the clerk or whatever had taken off?” Giles nodded. “You got the address he gave you, right?” Giles nodded again. “Then what's the hold up? Now that we got things under control here.”

“Nothing. I'm just following you. Xander's address better check out though, or I'll be seriously annoyed.”

Giles thought for a second then shrugged, a very Ripperish shrug. “Don't think the man lied to me; he was too anxious for me to tell you that he'd done his best. Let's go, I want to find Xander.”

~~

Xander was leaning against the alley wall when he heard the cycles roar up. He felt so bad, weak and trembling, head aching, that he didn't even look up.

He heard the talking in the kitchen, but the voices were so soft that he didn't understand them. He felt something let loose inside him. He sighed sadly. Spike was very near.

“Pet? Xander?” Xander turned to see Spike standing in the door of the kitchen. He started slightly; he'd hoped for a bit more time, but it was what it was. He dropped to his knees in the dirty alleyway and waited.

Spike was shocked at Xander's appearance. He looked like he hadn't eaten in weeks, but he worked in a restaurant so he knew that wasn't true. He started to go to Xander and found that he was prevented by several men who inserted themselves between him and 'his'.

“Sorry, hesse, you don't get to bother him. You messed up when you came here.”

Spike looked from one man to another. They were all human and had no idea what they were messing with. “Giles, talk to them.” Spike stepped back, even though everything in him said to fight. He wasn't going to gain any points with Xander by hurting people who were only trying to protect him.

Giles stepped forward and nodded to the men. “Do you want this in Spanish or English?” There were some snarls but they all said 'English' and went back to glowering. “Very well, down and dirty. This is Master Spike; if you don't know what I mean by that then we're all in trouble.” But it seemed that all of them did know; they looked at each other uncomfortably, but stood their ground. “Good. Xander is his thrall, and before you all get your ire up, Master Spike didn't do it. But that doesn't make any difference; the fact remains. Xander ran away because Spike did something extremely stupid. Now he has to make amends and get Xander back home. Go on about your business!”

Mr. Pena joined the group, looking extremely fierce. “We'll do no such thing. I saw. No one should treat another so. You can remove the curse! Do so and leave him in peace.”

Giles looked over his shoulder at Spike. “No go, now what?”

Spike stepped forward and sighed. “Ok. I did wrong. And Xander took off, no matter the cost... to either of us. I got ta take him home, or he'll just keep getting worse and worse. I can't take the curse off; I didn't put it on. The witch who put it on him is extremely powerful and... stupid. She made a mistake, and we're stuck with the results. Let me talk to Xander. Ok?”

While all this had been going on, Xander had just stayed kneeling. He was too tired and ill to do more. When he heard Giles say that Spike admitted he'd made a mistake, he felt a rush of warmth; maybe things could be put right. Maybe.

The whole group looked at each other, but before anyone could say much Senora Pena showed up. Angelina pointed to two of the nearby men. “You two get him into the kitchen, and no arguments. The alley is too dirty for all this. Go! Shoo!” She turned on Spike with what Xander had called 'The Deadly Glare of Offended Motherhood'. She shook a finger in Spike's face. “And what were you thinking; I'd like to know, Mr. Temper!”

Spike just gave her a rather shamefaced look. “Wasn't thinkin', now was I? Now I got ta make it up ta 'im, don't I?”

“And how are you going to do that?” She folded her arms across her chest and pinned him with a stern look. Spike actually remembered that look from his own, long ago, childhood.

“Don't know yet. First, I'm gonna take him back to the mansion under the Luxor and get him well. Then, we'll see. I'm gonna take the advice of Giles and Timmins on that. They're two of my advisors. Bud is Xander's bodyguard.” Spike pointed to Bud, who grinned hesitantly and gave her a vague wave.

The woman frowned at Bud for a moment then, obviously recognizing something about him, nodded once. She turned back to Spike. “Bodyguard? Humpf! I'm gonna take a good look at you. You stand still.”

Spike just raised an eyebrow and obeyed. Angelina looked him up and down then stared into his eyes for a moment. She stepped back. “OK, you love him. You were bad to him, though. What's to keep you from doing it again?”

“Me. I want him. Not some scared thrall. I... he's... damn it!” Spike ran a hand through his hair, glaring.

“Good, good. You take him. But remember, he has a place here. Now, the Master of California don't know me, but I know the Master of the City. He owes me. Not much, but maybe enough. Remember that.”

Spike just smiled at her. “I'll remember. If you petition the Master of California... that's me. I'll grant you anything within my power. Now... I've got to see to my boy. I'll be taking him home.”

“I think you must. I just hope you realize what a treasure you have. If he needs me, call me. And you be good to him, or you'll answer to me. Understand?”

Spike could have been insulted; instead, he chose to be amused. “Yes, I understand. I'll let him keep in touch. I promise. Now... can I take him back to my mansion and have him tended?”

Angelina gave him a look, glanced around at the men behind her, then nodded. Spike endured the looks from them all for a moment then turned and entered the kitchen.

He went to Xander immediately. He looked like hell and was just standing in the middle of a rather busy kitchen. Giles was standing near him, trying to persuade him to come into the banquet room for some privacy. Spike just took Xander by the hand and led him into the room.

“Now, Xander?” Xander raised his head, blinked a bit owlishly then just waited. “Pet, it’s hurting you to stay here, but I don't want to force you to do something. Will you come home with me?”

Xander sighed. “Yeah. I'm tired, I hurt all over. I can't eat, or sleep. Can I say good-bye to people?”

Spike smiled sadly. Trust Xander to think of others before himself. “Yeah, pet, we'll go by your digs and pick up your stuff. Say good-bye to who ever ya need to. When ya feel better we'll come back for a visit. Ok?”

Xander smiled a little hesitantly then said, softly, “That'd be nice. Can I say good-bye to the Pena's now?” Spike just nodded.

Xander went to the door, walking like a tired old man. He hadn't opened it when there was a soft knock. Xander just opened the door to see Senora Pena standing outside with a small bag in her hand.

“Xander, good. Here, take this. There's a medicinal tea and some candy. You going with him?”

“You knew I would, or you wouldn't have packed this. Thanks. I think... I really think things are going to be ok. I'll call you in a day or two. Ok?”

“Sure, pequino, you call. You going by your place?”

Spike wrapped an arm around Xander, who was swaying dangerously. “Yeah, we'll drop by his digs and get his stuff. Say bye to whomever, all that. Thanks for the tea. I've got a healer on call, just waiting for me to find him. His name's Santo Azor. Know him?”

Senora Pena nodded, a happy expression blooming on her face. “Oh, yes, I know Santo. He's the best in Vegas. Glad to see that you'll let humans work for you. He's always had trouble before because he's not a demon.”

Spike waved his hand. “Don't care. Human, demon, hybrid. I'll have the best, or I'll know the reason why. We better get going. We're on bikes, and I need to get Xander to his digs and on to the mansion before he falls over.”

Mamacita kissed Xander on the forehead, just like he'd seen her do with her own children. It made him feel better about leaving. He knew that Spike would let him keep in contact with the kindly couple; he'd promised, and Xander was going to trust that promise. He sighed, hugged her, and turned to see Mr. Pena waiting for his turn. He held out his hand; Xander took it, pressed it gently, and said another soft 'Good-bye'. Spike guided him to the door before he broke down.

Giles had spoken to the couple and several of the busboys and servers then followed, tucking a small book back into his pocket.

“I have all the names and addresses, phone numbers, anything Xander might need to keep in contact. I'm ready.” Giles eyed Xander with concern; he was drooping visibly already. “He going to make it, or should we head for home?”

Xander shook his head, pushing himself up from where he was practically lying on Spike. “No! I need to go by my place first. I... I'll be ok. Just... let's not take too long.”

Spike nodded to Giles, who just shrugged and mounted his bike. Bud let Timmins get settled then they were off again.

This time it didn't take more than four or five minutes to get where they were going. Giles seemed to know exactly where to go from just the address Xander gave him; shows what you can do with a map and a good memory.

~~

Xander leaned against Spike's back and just relaxed. He felt a great deal better just being near Spike. And he was starving. He was so hungry, his stomach grumbled loudly.

He realized Spike had heard it when he stiffened. Xander muttered, “Don't even, Spike, I haven't been hungry since I left. Except for once or twice. I'll get something nice to eat once I'm done getting my stuff and saying good-bye.” He knew Spike had heard him, even over the rumbling of the Harleys.

That same rumble warned Mr. Jones that something was up. It was very unusual for motorcycles to park at the apartment complex so he went out to see what was happening.

The sight that met his eyes was unusual in the extreme. He knew gangs, and this one was dangerous, no matter the size. He was just getting ready to call the cops when he realized that Xander was one of the bikers.

Xander glanced around then relaxed; they were standing under the stairs to the second level. He gazed out into the darkness for a moment then turned to Mr. Jones.

“Hey. Some friends found me. I... um... came to get my stuff. I'm going to live with them now.” Xander kicked at a small stone on the breezeway. “So... um... guess I'll go pack. See ya?”

Mr. Jones just nodded and watched Xander descend the stairs. When he was out of sight, Mr. Jones turned to Giles, who looked more like the leader than Spike did, at least to Mr. Jones.

“Ok, what's really going on here? When that boy came here, he was obviously running. Now he's just going with you?”

Giles nodded. It didn't take him long to explain everything to Mr. Jones in a way he could understand. He put it all down to a lover's quarrel, and Xander being ill. “So, you see, Xander's not well. As if you couldn't tell already. But he doesn't want to admit it. We'll take him home with us and take care of him. He'll give you a call in a few days. Here's my card. If you want to talk to him before he calls you, call that number. I'll see what I can do.” Mr. Jones took the card, turning it in work-calloused fingers.

“You see that he calls me no later than Wednesday next week. If you don't, I'll come lookin'. That boy has a good heart, an' I won't see him hurt. Got me?”

Giles nodded. “Indeed I do. Believe me, I'll see that he's taken care of.”

Mr. Jones looked Giles up then down. “I believe you. No one lies with that look in their eye.” Mr. Jones settled to lean against the wall until Xander came back up the stairs. “Don't know what to do with you, boy. I just get used to havin' you around an' off you go. And the big boss owes you a bunch of money. I'll see what I can do towards getting' it for you.”

Xander fidgeted for a moment. “Don't bother. Someone's going to show up, needing a hand; give it to them. I'm taken care of. I don't really need the money now.... um... sorry about taking off like this, but... see,..” Xander gave Mr. Jones a pleading look.

“Don't fret. It'll be fine. I'll do what you say. I know a guy, someone I trust to help me. I'll see if he won't come. You go on now. Go with them. I can see that they all care about you. You're a lucky guy.” Mr. Jones swept the group with a look that said he'd better be right. Giles just raised an eyebrow, Spike sniffed, and both Timmins and Bud nodded.

Xander shook hands with Mr. Jones, promised to keep in touch, and handed over his key to the tool room. Then he gave his small bag and his weapon to a waiting Timmins. Timmins took the bag and weapon, mounted behind Bud and settled. He was going to give Young Master Xander a large piece of his mind the minute he had a chance.

Spike gently tugged Xander back to the bike, got him settled, and headed for home.

~~

When they got to the mansion they were greeted by the door guards who wanted to smell Xander. Xander eyed them for a second then just submitted. Spike kept a close eye on them, but none of them tried anything.

“All right, pet?” Spike slipped an arm around Xander's waist and helped him in the door.

“Fine, fine. Just really tired. Can I sleep before we fight?” Xander gave Spike ‘The Puppy Dog Eyes of Doom’. Spike crumbled at once, not that he hadn't planned it that way anyway.

“Sure, pet. We'll get you into a nice bed and let you sleep until you wake up. You'll be hungry by then, for sure.”

Xander sighed. “I'm starved now. Maybe I should eat first? I don't know. I'm too tired to make up my mind.” He sagged slightly and swerved towards a chair.

“Nu-uh, no chair. Just a few more steps, and we'll be in your quarters. Not that you'll need them for long. Just until you're feelin' more the thing.”

Xander patted Spike's hand. “I love it when you get all Victorian.”

Spike just picked Xander up and carried him into the bed room. It was a rather strange sight as Xander was at least five inches taller than he.

Timmins had nipped in behind Spike and turned down the bed for them. Spike settled Xander on the sheets in an instant. Timmins started unbuttoning Xander's jeans while Spike got his boots off. Then they switched places, and Spike pulled Xander's jeans and shorts off while Timmins worked on his t-shirt. Xander just lay quiescent while they worked, lifting his legs for Spike then sitting up for Timmins.

He sighed in relief when they finished. He still ached, and all he really wanted was sleep if he couldn't have food, and it didn't look like any was in his immediate future.

“I'll be right back with something for the Young Master to eat. I don't want to feed him anything too heavy just yet. If he sleeps on a heavy meal, he's sure to have nightmares.”

Spike just nodded, stripped off his clothing, and climbed into bed with Xander. Xander unconsciously snuggled up to him and started to drift off. His growling stomach woke him up again.

Timmins came in the door just as Xander was going to complain. “Here you go. Chicken and dumplings , with carrots and peas. A bit of apple crumble and some herbal tea. Eat slowly, or you'll be sick.”

Xander just swallowed, his mouth suddenly full of saliva. “Looks so good. Thanks.” He settled in to eat his food, savoring every bit. Mamacita was a good cook, and the food at the restaurant was excellent, too. But there was nothing like 'home' cooking.

Spike watched him, smiling gently. “That's it, pet. Eat up. Get better quick.”

Xander eyed Spike over a spoonful of apples. “Why are you suddenly calling me 'pet'? You never did before. What are you up to? Or do I really want to know?”

Spike gently guided the spoon to Xander's lips. “Eat. I'm callin' ya pet now because I want to. Always did, but I was afraid of scarin' ya off. Now, we both know you're not goin' anywhere.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “Ok, I get it. And, you know? I kinda like it. I'm sorry I ran, but...”

Spike just pressed one finger to Xander's lips. “Hush, pet. We'll argue this all out when you're feeling better. The Healer will be here in a while. Sleep until he gets here. I'll have him check out that tea that Mrs. Pena gave you. I don't want you takin' anything until we're sure what it is.”

“Ok, I don't think she'd give me anything that'd hurt me, but better safe than sorry.”

Spike agreed, whispering softly. “Yeah, should have thought of that earlier.”

~~

Xander slept, woke, bathed and shaved, then slept some more. When he woke again, it was evening, or Vampire morning, he wasn't sure which. He didn't much care, either; he was hungry.

“Timmins!” Timmins stuck his head in the door. “I'm hungry. Where's Spike? Is he really, really mad, or just sort of mad, or somewhere in between? And where am I? Or should I even ask?”

Timmins just smiled. “I'm glad to see that you're feeling better. I'll get you something to eat in a moment. And I'll tell Master Spike that you're awake.”

Spike was actually waiting in the kitchen area for Timmins to tell him Xander was up. He was determined to make sure that Xander rested and ate before they had any sort of confrontation. He was going to do this right.

Timmins finished making up Xander's tray and handed it to Spike. Spike headed for Xander's room with Timmins trailing behind. Timmins opened the door for Spike and shut it behind him; going back to the kitchen seemed like the best idea. He'd keep an ear out, just in case.

Spike took the tray to Xander, helped him sit up, and settled on the bed beside him. “Here ya go, pet. Bacon, eggs, toast, jelly, juice, coffee, ya want anything else, ask for it.”

Xander gazed sadly at Spike. “Your accent's gone all bad boy again. Why?”

Spike blinked, shrugged and grumbled, “Have no idea how worried I've been. Accent goes all weird on me when I'm not thinking.”

“Well, I like both, but I really think you need to make up your mind, or use your Oxford accent at court and the pseudo-Cockney one for casual. And can I please have my food?”

Spike laughed and settled the tray more comfortably over Xander's legs. Xander picked up a fork and started eating. He moaned in pleasure and mumbled around a mouthful of eggs. “Nothin' like Timmins' cooking. His eggs are... mmmmmm”

Spike watched as Xander hungrily devoured the food on his tray and settled back with his coffee. He'd used the orange juice to wash down the toast.

“How do you feel now?”

Xander sighed. “Better. Not good, but lots better. I'll be good in a couple of days.”

Spike rubbed his face. “Pet, we need to have a real talk.”

Xander made a face. “Later, ok? I just want to enjoy feeling decent for a bit. Please?” He kept his eyes on his coffee.

“Alright, pet. Later. I'll be havin' the healer to ya soon. He was supposed to be here by now, but a... I forget, but some female is havin' trouble delivering a litter. He'll be here as soon as he's able. And you'll do what he says, yeah?”

“I promise.” Xander finished his coffee and settled back, leaning against the pillows with a sigh. “I... Spike, I know we have to talk, and I know what about, but could we just ignore it for a bit?”

Spike took Xander's hand in his; it felt frail somehow so he just stroked the talented fingers gently. “Sure. I got some stuff ta say, and I know you'll be upset so we'll just hold it until you feel like dealing. Sleepy again?”

Xander shifted restlessly. “Not really. And I'm comfortable, just not really sleepy.”

Timmins just walked in with a small TV/DVD set and put it down on the side table, then moved the table to the foot of the bed. “There. I have the new Indiana Jones movie. I'm sure you'd like to see that.”

Timmins inserted the DVD and turned on the unit. Xander gave him a grin and settled back to watch; Spike just sighed and resigned himself.

~~

Spike breathed a sigh of relief. Xander had fallen asleep during the final credits of the movie. Spike ran a hand through Xander's soft hair; it was really getting long, and his warlocks were ragged. Spike decided to take them out; removing the beads wouldn't do Xander any harm now.

As he worked, Spike admired Xander. He'd thinned down a bit, losing more weight than he could really afford, but they'd make up for that quickly. Timmins was already planning the menu for the next few weeks.

Xander sighed softly, asleep.

Spike murmured, more to himself than Xander, “Good. Rest, pet. I'll redo your locks when I'm done brushing out your hair. It's a bit tangled here and there.” He started to run his fingers through Xander's hair more purposefully. When he was sure Xander wasn't going to wake up, he brushed the long chocolate locks until they were silky and smooth. He re-braided the warlocks, putting the beads back in. He smiled at the effect. Xander had earned his warlocks ten times over.

Xander slept on, and on. Timmins had to reassure Spike several times that the healer was on his way, and that Xander was just recovering from the effects of their separation. Spike still paced the kitchen restlessly until the healer arrived.

When he met the man a short while later, Spike was in a bit of a state.

“Healer Azor. Glad you're finally here. Xander's asleep. Do ya wanna wake 'im? Or do ya wanna ask me questions first?”

“Call me Santo. Healer Azor is my mother. I'll just take a look at... Xander?” Spike nodded. “If he's suffering from what I think he is; there's not much to worry about. He'll be fine in a few days.”

Spike led the way to Xander.

All Xander had done was roll over onto his back. Healer Azor looked at him, waved a bundle of herbs over him, changed the herbs for a hazel twig, with which he touched him on the forehead. “Hmmmm, not in bad shape at all. The spell kicked in with a vengeance, but his protections worked fairly well. He's a bit dehydrated, too thin, and his nerves are a mess. I'll give you a prescription for some tea, and I want him to eat a well-balanced diet, heavy on protein. Lots of fresh stuff. And, ice cream. Tempt him with his favorite dishes. And no punishment until he's better.” He scribbled on a small pad, tore off the sheet of paper and handed it to Spike. “Here is the prescription; you can get it made up at any herbalists shop. Or have someone in your court make it up, if you trust them better.”

Spike took the paper and handed it to Timmins. “Giles? Or someone else.”

Timmins didn't even glance at it. “Mr. Giles, definitely. He'll be terribly insulted if you hand it off to someone else. He'll probably have Miss Tara help him, just so she'll feel useful. She's feeling like she let you down.”

Spike shook his head. “I'll have a talk with her later. Get this made up now. I'll be wanting it as soon as I'm done here.”

He turned back to talk to Healer Azor. It didn't take the healer long to get Spike's measure. He finally left, sure that Spike was going to take proper care of Xander.

Spike had shaken hands with the healer and gone in search of Timmins and Giles. He found Giles and Tara instead.

Giles was smelling a bottle of something green with a doubtful look on his face. Tara was laughing at him.

“It's fine, Mr. Giles, I bought it two weeks ago.” She turned at the slight scuffing noise of Spike's boot against the floor. “Oh, hi, we're working on Xander's tea. Is he going to be Ok?”

Spike nodded. “Yeah, he's just worn out from resisting the curse. He's a stubborn one. Is that his tea? Or are you working on something else?” His expression told them that he was teasing.

Tara gave him a swat on the shoulder. “You! Of course it's his tea. Smell.” She stuck the bottle under his nose. “Fresh?”

Spike snorted, trying to get the alfalfa smell out of his sinuses. “Fresh? Bloody hell. Smells like new mown hay.”

Giles took the unstoppered bottle and poured some of the contents into the pan of a scale. He checked the weight and dumped it into a large bowl. “I'm almost done. He's to have a cup of this, exactly six ounces of fresh, boiling water poured over one table spoon of herbs in a ceramic brewer. I believe you have one?” Spike just nodded. “Every four hours until the physician orders otherwise.”

Spike sighed. “Oh, and that's going to be so much fun. Bet it tastes as foul as it smells.”

Giles just nodded. “You know it. But Xander is fairly good about taking medicine.”

“Doesn't make any difference. Hate ta tell him he has to have it. I know he hates it.”

Tara smiled, handed Spike a brown paper bag and told him, “Here, give him one of these if he takes it without complaining. He likes Lindt chocolates.”

Spike opened the bag and eyed the candy. “You sure?”

She snickered. “He snitched Willow's once. She wasn't really happy.”

~~

Spike took Xander's first cup of tea to him. He shook Xander gently by the shoulder, waking him. “Oi! Up, pet. Got a goodie for ya.”

Xander rubbed his eyes and sat up. Spike felt his heart lighten, Xander looked so much better. The dark circles under his eyes had faded and his pallor was receding into his usual tan. “I'm up.” He perked up even more as Spike's words penetrated his weary brain. “Goodie? Twinkies?”

“No, but I'll send out for some. After you drink your tea.” Spike handed Xander the cup.

Xander smelled the tea a bit doubtfully. After a good whiff, he made a face. “Spike, this stinks. I suppose it's good for me.” He took an experimental sip. “Oh, bleh! That's awful. It tastes like it smells. Please, don't make me drink it.” He gave Spike a pitiful look.

“Don't give me that look. You have to drink it. The doctor said.”

Xander sighed and gulped the tea in several distasteful swallows. “Is this part of my punishment?”

Spike settled beside Xander before saying, “Oh, there's a punishment coming up. You can bet on it. We'll talk about it later, yeah?”

Xander just sighed, accepted the chocolates Spike handed him, and leaned against him. “Yeah. I know.”
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