Pairing: S/X, established relationship
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapters will carry specific warnings.
Feedback & concrit: yes, please
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Primarily season 5, but anything from Season 1 on.
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same , Books 1 - 3
Previous parts here
“This is great, Giles.” Xander looked around the now finished training room again. Even though he’d helped set it up, he couldn’t help being impressed. Giles had added finishing touches that Xander wouldn’t have thought of: symbols painted on the walls and floor, which gave a cool touch to the utilitarian space, even the weapons hanging on the wall had been arranged in a way that made them look like a lethal work of art. “Buffy’s going to love it.”
“I hope that you will make use of it as well, Xander.”
Xander looked over at him in surprise. “What?”
“The space is large enough for several people to train at the same time and you’ve worked too hard not to reap the rewards.” Giles frowned uncertainly for a minute. “If you’re interested of course. Are you still training with Spike?”
“Yeah, when we get the chance.” Which wasn’t as often as Spike thought they should and Xander found himself looking around the room with fresh eyes. The mansion didn’t have more than the basics - pretty much just floor mats and weapons. Spike would appreciate the pieces of equipment Giles had acquired, including the practice dummy which Dawn had dressed in clothes that looked suspiciously like some of Xander’s old wardrobe from freshman year.
He liked the idea of being able to use the room. It would allow them to vary their training routine a bit and he and Spike could work out together more frequently if they didn’t have to traipse all the way out to Angel’s mansion to train. He bit back a grin, picturing Giles’ reaction if he were to find Xander and Spike going at it on the floor in here after a workout session, as frequently happened at the mansion. Well, they could still use the mansion when they wanted nookie after a workout.
“I’m glad to hear that. You are too involved to Hellmouth activities not to be prepared for anything.”
Xander gave him a rueful smile. “That’s pretty much what Spike figures.” Not that he minded the training sessions. Knowing how to defend himself had lead to him losing a lot of his geekiness and done a lot to make high school more bearable. Being able to take down Jack O’Toole, the school psycho, without breaking a sweat had given him some serious cool points he’d been lacking for most of his life.
“And I admit, asking Spike to spar with Buffy on occasion had crossed my mind.” Giles looked a trifle sheepish, like he thought he was being sneaky.
“Spike will probably love it.” Xander assured him.
“Oh, my god. Giles.” Buffy’s soft exclamation caused them both to turn.
She’d stopped short in the doorway, and remained there, speechless with shock as she examined the completed space. She’d been busy all week, prepping for a couple of tests, and hadn’t come by the shop at all to see the progress that had been made. Giles had gone above and beyond, Xander thought fondly, pouring his heart into the training space, still touched that Buffy had asked him to start acting as her Watcher again, neglecting even the shop up front as he’d worked to finish the back room for Buffy. The shop still needed the finishing touches that Giles had lavished on the back room, but there was another week before the scheduled grand opening, so there was plenty of time.
Buffy completed her long survey and gave Giles a beaming smile. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Her voice was almost trembling with emotion and Xander was glad for Giles’ sake that Buffy obviously appreciated his efforts. Looking around again, he felt a renewed surge of pleasure on his own behalf that Giles wasn’t holding the room exclusively for his Slayer’s use and was going to allow Spike and Xander to use it as well.
“It’s just a start,” Giles began dismissively. “You need a proper space to train, so…”
Buffy interrupted him. “I love it,” she said emphatically and Giles smiled at her.
Riley, who’d followed Buffy in, had been fidgeting impatiently as Buffy admired the room. “So come on,” he said, bouncing on his toes a little. “Let’s test this puppy out. Think you can take me?”
He threw a fake punch at her, which she dodged absently, her attention still on the room. She walked further inside, trailing her hand over the vaulting horse and the exercise bike.
“What’s the matter, afraid of a little competition?”
Safely behind him, Xander rolled his eyes. Why did Riley feel like he had to be the focus of Buffy’s attention every second? Sometimes Xander wondered just how insecure Riley was about their relationship.
Buffy and Giles were still talking quietly, Buffy exclaiming over the various items in the room and Giles responding with embarrassed pleasure. Not wanting Riley to spoil hers and Giles’ moment, Xander clapped a hand on his shoulder.
“Just going to have to live with it, guy. We always lose out to a good piece of training equipment.”
He’d meant it as a joke but Riley winced and his jaw tightened in a way that said he’d taken Xander literally and didn’t like it.
“Oh, I don’t know, pet. Take you over the gym any day.” Spike appeared in the doorway, having come in through the tunnels, and his grin was pure malice. Xander sighed quietly, knowing how much Spike loved to twist the knife in Riley. “’Course, sometimes I just take you in the gym.”
Spike slid a possessive arm around Xander’s waist and Xander leaned into him. He didn’t know what to say to make Riley feel better but, admittedly, he didn’t feel like putting that much effort into it. Riley gave Spike a disgusted look and moved to stand next to Buffy, who inadvertently added fuel to the fire by ignoring him, still concentrating on Giles.
“Thank you guys so much. You’re like my fairy godmother and Santa Claus and Q all wrapped up into one.” She looked at both him and Giles as she said it and Xander grinned, glad she was so happy, although he couldn’t help wondering how Q fit into the mix. Buffy must have seen his puzzlement because she shook her head, looking amused.
“Q from Bond, not Star Trek,” she clarified. “I’m gonna go change.”
Riley looked frustrated as she left the room to get her workout clothes before turning to throw a punch at the punching bag. Xander shared a troubled look with Giles but neither said anything. He couldn’t help wondering what Riley expected. Buffy slept with him most nights and had recently started patrolling with him again, what did he want? They were together a lot more frequently than most couples, including him and Spike. But somehow, it never seemed to be enough for Riley.
Thinking about that - that the possessive demon was more able to give his lover slack than Riley, Xander gave Spike a quick, one-armed hug, unbelievably grateful for Spike’s willingness to give him the space he had needed. He looked at Spike and saw he was smirking at Riley. Xander eyed him suspiciously, wondering what his lover was up to. Something was giving Spike a great deal of malicious pleasure at Riley’s expense and Xander just hoped it wasn’t the obvious signs of friction between Buffy and Riley.
Friction wasn’t really the right word. The two of them were just… out of sync somehow. That was the only way Xander could think to describe it. Riley was trying too hard, like the boys in high school who’d tried to impress Queen C. It was weird that someone with Riley’s background would be that insecure - didn’t he realize how hard Buffy was trying and how much she wanted their relationship to work?
Shaking his head, Xander steered his vampire out of the training room. Buffy and Riley would work out together and maybe Riley would stop feeling ignored. In the meantime, Spike and he would help Giles up front, which would be Spike’s penance for his undoubtedly evil thoughts about Riley.
Not that he was going to tell Spike that.
“So mom looks at me and says: ‘who are you?’, then she just drops to the floor.”
“Dawn,” Buffy said warningly as she passed through on the way to the living room.
“What? Now that we know she’s ok, it was kind of exciting.” Dawn called after her. She looked back at Spike where he leaned against the wall, watching in amusement as Xander quietly took the handful of cutlery she was gesturing absentmindedly with out of her hands and began laying them out on the table. “I’ve never called 911 before, have you?”
“Before my time, Niblet,” Spike told her, choosing to forget the time he’d called 911 for the Watcher last year. It was something vampires simply didn’t do. “Didn’t even have telephones yet.”
“Really? Wow. How did you keep in touch with people?” Dawn kept right on talking without waiting for an answer. “Anyway, the ambulance guys wouldn’t let me go with them so I was stuck here and I couldn’t get anyone on the phone.”
“Sorry about that, Dawn,” Xander said. “They were doing some explosives work on the site and they made us all shut off our cell phones just in case. I forgot to turn mine back on, so I didn’t get your message until after work.” He finished setting the last of the silverware around the table and went to fetch something from the kitchen.
“I know, you told me that already. Anyway, I finally got ahold of Riley and he took me to the hospital.” She lowered her voice a little, which surprised Spike. Dawn usually had as little tact as he did himself. “I always kind of thought he was a doofus, you know, because he’s so hung up on Buffy.”
Spike smirked, enjoying Dawn’s low opinion of soldier boy, then frowned as she continued.
“But he was pretty cool. He took me out for ice cream while Buffy and mom were waiting for the test results and kept telling me mom was going to be fine. It really helped.”
Fortunately, Xander reappeared with a handful of napkins and saved him from having to say anything.
“Riley’s pretty dependable about that sort of thing,” Xander told her. “Hey, the water in the big pot is boiling. You’re supposed to do something with that, right?”
“Oh! Right. The vegetables. I’m on it.”
Dawn disappeared into the kitchen and Xander gave him a smirk and a quick kiss. “You don’t have to look like someone slipped you pig’s blood instead of human.” he said under his breath. “Riley is good about ordinary stuff like that. It’s just with demon stuff that the stick up his butt shows.”
“Got that right,” Spike agreed, slipping his fingers through the belt loops on Xander’s jeans and tugging him closer.
“Spike!” Xander hissed. “We don’t make out in front of Dawn.”
“Slayer’s always complainin’ about how her little sister needs to grow up, be good for her to see us in action,” Spike argued persuasively.
“Forget Buffy, Joyce will kill us.”
“Oh, yeah.” Spike reluctantly released his hold and Xander was innocently putting napkins around the table when Dawn reappeared.
“Dinner in ten minutes.” She threw a worried look over her shoulder at the stove. “I think. This is a lot easier when mom does it.”
“It’s good practice for you, Dawn Patrol,” Xander told her cheerfully.
“I’m 15. By the time I need to cook, stoves will be obsolete.”
“Somehow, I doubt that,” Buffy said dryly, returning from the living room just in time to hear that prediction. “Everything ok in the kitchen?”
Despite her trip to the hospital on Friday, Joyce had insisted on having them over for Sunday dinner as planned, saying she felt just fine and wasn’t going to miss their company because of a silly dizzy spell. Spike and Xander had agreed to come over, wanting to see for themselves that she was alright, but only on the strict condition that Joyce was not allowed to do anything. Buffy had backed them up, even after realizing that she was going to have to cook dinner for them all.
Joyce had argued that she was perfectly capable of cooking dinner and Xander had been the one to find a diplomatic solution, telling Joyce that it would be good practice for Buffy and Dawn to cook a big meal with Joyce supervising but not doing any of the work. That had made Joyce laugh and she’d admitted that her first dinner party had been a disaster.
Arriving at the house tonight, Joyce had seemed fine and it hadn’t taken long to persuade her to give them all a blow by blow description of that long ago dinner party. She’d kept all of them laughing as Buffy and Dawn had traveled back and forth between living room and kitchen and Joyce and Xander hogged the cheese and crackers that Buffy had triumphantly produced as an appetizer.
Joining in the laughter, Spike had felt the anxiety he had been trying to ignore since he heard Joyce was in the hospital slip away from him.
Spike sat on the back porch, smoking a cigarette and contentedly listening to the sound of Xander and Dawn joking and splashing as they did the dishes together. Joyce still seemed fine, nothing but a small bandage on her forehead to show she’d been in the hospital at all. Hearing her now, scolding the dishwashing crew for getting more water on the floor than in the sink, Spike grinned.
Joyce was more mother to Xander than his own had ever been and it would devastate him if anything ever happened to her. The bungalow on Revelo Drive had become the home Xander had never known, Joyce and Dawn had practically adopted Xander as son and older brother respectively and even the Slayer had gradually come around to welcoming Xander into her family.
The back door opened quietly and Buffy stepped outside, wrapping a sweater around herself and taking a deep breath of the night air. She made a face at the smell of his cigarette and Spike was feeling mellow enough that he obligingly pinched the butt out and flicked it away.
He was a little surprised when Buffy came and sat down beside him on the top step, her shoulder almost brushing his.
“Thanks for keeping Dawn occupied tonight,” she said quietly, after a minute. “It was kind of nice to have a few minutes with mom by myself.” Spike lifted his scarred eyebrow at her and she made a face. “I know, I’m a bad sister, but sometimes she just drives me crazy.”
“Xander doesn’t mind,” he said dismissively, not willing to admit he loved Dawn as much as Xander did. “Think he always kind of wished he had a brother or sister.”
“He can have Dawn,” Buffy offered immediately. “Thank God Riley took her off my hands at the hospital or I probably would have strangled her just to get five minutes of quiet.”
“Joyce tellin’ the truth? The doctors didn’t find anythin’ wrong?”
“Yeah, they think she just had low blood sugar or something. All their tests came back negative. So, big scare but nothing actually wrong.” Buffy looked as relieved as Spike felt.
He struggled with himself for a minute, hating that he felt any sense of obligation at all. Bloody hell, he thought, fucking sentiment was turning him into as big a poofter as his Sire. Next thing you knew he was going to be helping little old ladies cross the sodding street. He sighed inaudibly and gave in to the sudden charitable impulse.
“Soldier boy needs a look-see by a doctor, Slayer,” he said, trying to make up for his namby-pamby sentiment by saying it as harshly as possible.
“What do you mean?” The non-sequitor caught her off guard and she gave him a puzzled look.
“Mean his heart’s all wonky. Goin’ to kill him before long if somethin’ isn’t done,” he told her bluntly.
She stared at him, shocked. “What…? How do you know?”
He gave her an impatient look. “I’m a vampire. Humans are our prey. Never liked hunting the sick myself - no challenge to them. Wouldn’t hunt your boy now because of it.” He snorted when she just looked blank. “Can hear it in his chest, Slayer. His heart’s about to explode it’s working so hard.” He shrugged, not really caring if she believed him or not. He’d be just as happy if the soldier died, but she’d be miserable and that would make Dawn and Xander both feel bad for her.
“His heartbeat’s been off since the first time I met him. Not surprising given all the drugs and shite they pumped into him. But recently, it’s getting worse. A little faster, a little more stressed every time I’ve been in the same room with him.”
The Slayer looked like things she hadn’t understood before were suddenly adding up in a whole new way and she looked scared and furious and grimly determined all at once. “And you’re mentioning this only now?” she snapped, getting to her feet.
“Don’t like him, Slayer. Wouldn’t lift a finger for his sake, even if he dropped in front of me. But he came through for Dawn and your mum, so I figure I owe him somethin’.”
Buffy gave him an unreadable look, then headed for the kitchen door. She stopped with her hand on the knob and looked back at him. “Thanks for telling me, Spike, although next time don’t wait so long.”
“Don’t count on a next time. Not like I’m soldier boy’s guardian angel, or anythin’.” Spike told her.
Buffy shook her head but didn’t say anything else, opening the door and heading straight for the phone. Spike could hear her beginning to dial as he lit another cigarette. Captain America would find himself in a hospital bed before long, he suspected.
Fishing around in his tool belt, Xander cursed the tendency of his cell phone to migrate to the least accessible spots. He could swear he always put it in the same small pocket but somehow it never seemed to stay put. He was pretty sure it was a side effect of the Hellmouth. He made a small triumphant sound as his searching fingers closed on the small bit of plastic and he hauled it out, flipping it open and answering just before the call went to voice mail.
“Hi, Xander, it’s me.”
“Hey, Buffy, what’s up?” Xander shifted the tool belt back over his shoulder where he was carrying it on the walk home, glad that Buffy had gotten better about calling him after work instead of during the middle of the day.
“I’m wondering if you can help me with something.” Buffy’s voice sounded oddly hesitant.
“It’s Riley, I’m hoping maybe you can talk some sense into him.”
“Umm… About what?” Xander asked after a short, taken-aback moment. It wasn’t like Buffy didn’t know that he and Riley weren’t exactly friends. For Buffy’s sake, they tried to be polite, but it was still pretty obvious that he thought Riley was an insecure, demon-phobic moron and Riley thought Xander was almost a demon himself, between being Spike’s Claimed and having way too many friends who weren’t human.
“They’re something wrong with him and he’s refusing to go see a doctor.” Buffy’s worry and exasperation came through clearly over the phone and Xander frowned.
“What do you mean there’s something wrong with him?” he asked, wondering if it was ingrown toenails or some Hellmouthy symptom that a doctor wouldn’t be able to do anything about.
“Didn’t Spike tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“Spike told me after dinner on Sunday that Riley’s having heart problems. Riley just says his heart isn’t like a normal human’s anymore and is refusing to get himself checked out.”
“Spike told you?” Xander’s eyebrows shot up. Not that Spike wasn’t always listening to Xander’s body and taking completely unfair advantage of what his heart and lungs were telling him about what Xander was feeling both physically and emotionally. It was why he didn’t play poker with Spike anymore. He much preferred to play with Jose who seemed to feel that taking advantage of his ability to sense the other guy’s pulse rate and eye dilation was ungentlemanly - a lesson Xander wished Spike would take to heart. No, Spike could just go play poker with the crazy kitten-fetish demons when he got the urge.
Not that living with Mr. Diagnostician didn’t have its advantages, he’d been infinitely reassured when Spike had told him on the way home Sunday night that he couldn’t sense anything wrong with Joyce. It wasn’t foolproof by any means, but it was nice to know there wasn’t anything obvious the doctors had missed.
He realized that Buffy was talking again, and pulled his wandering thoughts back in line, listening as she described the conversation with Spike on Sunday night.
“Anyway, I’ve been trying to get him to go to a doctor since then and he’s flat out refusing. I thought maybe you could try. You seem to get the whole macho guy thing, and right now, I’m thinking of knocking him unconscious and dragging him bodily into a doctor’s office, but I’m pretty sure that would be bad.”
“Probably,” Xander agreed, rolling his eyes since she couldn’t see him. “But I’m not sure he’d listen to me either.”
“Frankly, I’m getting desperate. I even thought of asking Spike to tell him not to go to a doctor, but Riley’s got too much psych background to be fooled by reverse psychology.”
“Not to mention everything else that could go wrong in a Spike-Riley conversation,” Xander said absently, thinking hard.
“Yeah, there’s that.”
“Buffy, he’s officially liaison between the remnants of the Initiative stationed at the army base and the town, right?”
“Right. Not that there’s all that much liaisoning going on but he does write reports once a week.”
“Why don’t you approach his commanding officer? They can just order him to see a doctor.”
From the slight pause, Buffy was thinking that over. “That sounds good, but I don’t know how to get in contact with them, other than sending a letter and who knows how long that could take. Riley’s told me that sometimes he wonders if anyone is even reading his reports anymore since things have been so quiet.”
“Then talk to Sgt. Morgan. He can’t order Riley around, because Riley outranks him, but I bet he knows who can.”
“That’s a good idea,” Buffy’s voice brightened. “I’ll do that right now. Thanks, Xander. I really appreciate it.”
Buffy hung up and Xander slid his cell into his pocket and resumed his walk home. He suspected he’d just figured out why Spike had been looking at Riley so weirdly and wondered if he should say something to Spike.
No point, he decided. Spike and Riley hated each other and random acts of kindness towards enemies simply weren’t something that Spike did. He wondered briefly why Spike had said anything to Buffy in the first place, but decided that it was just a sign of the fact that Buffy and Spike were getting to be better friends. Spike would be embarrassed and defensive if he said anything, so he’d just keep his mouth shut.
*A/N - Bits of dialog borrowed from the episode ‘Out of My Mind’