Disclaimer: The boys don't belong to me... and they never will. Saddly.
Summary: Xander is changing and no one knows why. Separating himself from the Scoobies and trying to find out who he really is he finds something that he never would have expected...
Note: I want to say a big, a really big thank you to whichclothes who helped me as my muse and my beta! And thanks to warpedminded for creating the banner!
Three days had passed since Xander had that disturbing dream.
He and Spike had sat almost three hours talking and drinking beer. He told the vampire about his experience but he left out the part where he looked at his own vampiric self. That would have given Spike only new material for a discussion. When they had become friends and got to know each other Xander had asked the vampire if he would turn him if he could.
“Without a second thought,” had Spike said his blue eyes shining with honesty.
Even though Xander had freaked a little at that thought he was still kind of pleased to know that his friend wanted to keep him around. Nights where spent talking and sharing stories – one better or worse than the one before. It was a small wonder that Xander found the confidence to tell Spike of the hell that had been his life up until he found the job at the constructing firm.
That time Spike had really shown what a great friend he could be if he put his heart in it. When Xander told him the first experiences - voice shaky and unsure, eyes firmly glued to the floor - he hadn't laughed. In fact he had been sitting on the bed a bottle of Jack in his hand and had listened. With time moving on Xander gained more confidence in sharing his history. Spike never mocked him. He let him cry, rage and laugh without any interruption. It made Xander feel good to finally let all his emotions run free without having to fear that he would be ridiculed. The vampire didn't pity him; he showed some scary kind of empathy which Xander explained with his own set of violence and abuse in his early years.
This time it hadn't been that much different. Spike had sat down facing him the worried look never leaving his eyes. He had listened, asked a few questions and then left it behind. It was nearing dawn when Xander finished his speech and he invited Spike to stay for the day. Since he had three bedrooms in total that left two of those for the vampire to chose from.
“You know, Spike,” Xander started when he pulled the cover from the bed and placed it on the chair next to the wardrobe.
“What?” came the muffled reply from the bathroom.
“I've been thinking for some time now...”
“Oh, don't overuse those braincells!” teased the blond when he stepped into the room wearing Xander's second bathrobe. The deep red colour made his skin shimmer and his hair looked even lighter.
“Hey! Stop that, I know how to use my braincells, thank you very much, Spike,” Xander laughed and hurled a pillow at the blond vampire who caught the flying object and threw it right back.
And just like that he ended up having a pillow-fight with a one-hundred and twenty-something year old vampire in a red bathrobe.
Xander chuckled softly when both of them were lying on the bed panting.
“What's so funny, Xan?” Spike asked and sat up again.
“This whole situation, you know.” With a barely hidden yawn he had sat up, too and rubbed his eyes.
“What do you mean by that?” The blond was a little confused which always made a soft warmth spread out in Xander's chest. Spike always looked so young when he was clearly trying to figure things out.
“Well,” he started, leaning back on his elbows and looking at the ceiling.
“Look at how we are acting now. We are friends, right?”
Spike nodded still not getting what Xander meant.
“And now compare that to the first few years we knew each other.”
Understanding dawned on the vampires face and he snorted.
“Yeah, figures that this is damn funny. From wanting to kill each other to a bloody pillow-fight. We're such girls, aren't we?”
The hidden insult lacked the heat that would have been there if they had been sitting at a Scooby meeting. But as it was they were contently lying and sitting next to each other.
“Hey Xan,” Spike's voice woke Xander.
“Hey, sorry, guess I dozed off.” he mumbled and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand.
“'S okay, you looked dead on your feet already. So off to bed with you so I can get in mine.” Spike grinned and attempted to shove him off the bed. Xander laughed and stood up.
He made his way over to the door and when he turned to look at Spike the vampire was curled up under the thick blanket with just his mop of bleached curls and blue eyes peeping out.
“You know,” Xander said standing in the open doorway ready to leave.
“This really could be your bed, your room.”
Spike sat up abruptly.
“Are you implying that I-I...... move in here?..... Live with you again?”
Blue eyes as wide as saucers and curls sticking up in every direction Spike looked adorable.
“Why not? We're used to each other, we're friends and I have the space.”
Spike remained silent.
“Sleep over it and take your time before you answer. Good night.
When Xander went to bed that night he felt oddly at peace, knowing that Spike was tucked safely into bed in the next room. Ever since the vampire had lived with him in his parents’ basement he had resented the thought of Spike moving back into the crypt. Still the vampire had insisted that he move back there. That had been a few months ago and Xander found that he didn't like that even one bit. So once he had enough money saved to move out of the basement he started looking for an apartment he could afford and that had enough room for two people. The one he finally decided to take had been a recommendation from his boss who was impressed with Xander's skills and who wanted to make sure he wouldn't lose such a good employee.
Xander had the small impression that his boss made some arrangements. The apartment wasn't as expensive as it should have been. Still he took it and was now quite happy about his decision.
The next morning – or rather afternoon – woke Xander with the beloved smell of freshly brewed coffee. He stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom. Going through his morning routine he used the toilet and took a long hot shower. After he had towelled himself dry Xander shaved and brushed his teeth before tried to comb through the forest that was his hair. Even though the loved it longer it was always a fight to get his hair to look like he wanted it to be.
After twenty more minutes Xander finally emerged from the bathroom and went to the open kitchen. There he found Spike leaning against the counter a large cup in his hand filled to the brim with the black liquid. Next to the vampire sat another cup and Xander smiled.
“Thanks,” he said and took a long gulp from the hot liquid moaning a little.
“That is what I call a really good coffee!” he grinned when he looked at Spike who just smiled somewhat shyly at him and combed a hand through his hair but remained quiet.
Xander made himself a sandwich and then settled down at the large dining table to eat. Spike joined him all the while toying with the mug in his hand.
Ten minutes passed until Xander got a little frustrated with the silence of the vampire.
“What's the matter, Spike? You're awfully quiet,” he asked not even trying to hide his concern. Spike took a long sip from his now cold coffee, winced but still swallowed it. He was trying to buy time, something Xander had quite the experience with.
Finally blue eyes were turned into his direction and he nearly gasped at the open uncertainty that settled in the expressive face.
“Did you really mean it?” Spike asked, his voice low and a little breathless.
At first he wasn't sure what he blond meant but then it clicked.
“You mean about inviting you to move in again?”
A single nod and Spike's gaze dropped onto the table surface again.
“I wouldn't have said it if I don't mean it, okay? I really would like you to come here and move in with me. I have the space and I think you need a safe place to stay, don't you?” His words were spoken softly without any pressure just a slight encouragement.
The blond vampire stood up and started pacing. It was a habit that annoyed Xander but he kept his mouth shut this time. He knew how to handle Spike and he knew that if he would start bickering now the vampire would see it as a sign of dishonesty. Then he would refuse to move in with him.
Finally Spike settled down again and looked at Xander. His blue eyes betrayed the calm expression on his face. The vampire was still wary but at least now he seemed to really consider the possibility of having a safe place to stay for the day and a nice, soft bed to snuggle into after a long night of fighting the nasties.
“Okay, I'll do it.”
That little talk was the reason why Xander, after three hours of patrol, found himself in front of Spike's crypt waiting for the vampire to gather his belongings. He knew that it wasn't much, a few clothes and some little knick-knacks he kept as reminders of some experiences or people he had met.
'And, of course, from his time with Drusilla,' Xander thought and a soft smile grazed his lips. Whoever said that demons couldn't love had never met Spike. The dedication he had shown while taking care of his crazy Sire and the complete agony when she had left him were a sure sign of utter devotion and love. Even back then when he had hated everything demon-y he found the care and patience Spike had shown with Dru admirable.
“Hey, Xan, you in there?” a soft knock on his forehead brought Xander back to the present.
“Hm, oh yeah, sorry I was a little lost in memories.”
“Looked like they were some nice memories.” He noticed that Spike tried to sound indifferent but Xander could easily tell that the vampire was curious. He was carefully avoiding any eye-contact and tried to be as casual as always. A soft chuckle escaped Xander and grabbed the duffel-bag from Spike. They started to walk towards the street where the car was parked.
“Well, some were and some weren't,” Xander started and looked over at Spike.
“I thought about how you used to take care of Dru and how that helped change my mind about you. I mean, at first I just thought you were a heartless bastard who didn't care about anyone other than himself. You sure acted like one. But then I saw how you were around Drusilla and how much love you had for her. Remember at that time I thought demons couldn't love. Now imagine my wonder when I found out that vampires were able to feel and to feel love at that! It got me thinking for a while but I stopped when I couldn't find an explanation for it. Then you got the chip, and man, I'm still sorry about that, and you had to rely on us to take some kind of care of you. When I think about it now, we really took you for granted and I don't know why I was okay with the way Buffy treated you back then. Hell, even I treated you badly and still you became my friend. You really have to have a great heart to forgive me and the rest of us. I'm glad that you are still on our side.”
A quick glance at Spike showed him that his words had quite the impact. The vampire’s cheeks were tinged pink with the stolen blood and he studied the ground under his feed with enormous interest. Xander chuckled and threw his arm around Spike's shoulders. They walked in silence for a few minutes before Spike started talking.
“You know, back then, when I got the chip... I was desperate and hungry and the fact that I couldn't defend myself scared the hell out of me. But what hurt the most was the loneliness. The only thing I ever wanted was to belong to someone. Seeing your little Scooby family made me jealous and I tried everything to break that up. I mean, I thought: If I can't have that, then why should the bloody Slayer have something like that? But later when I spent more and more time with you lot I somehow got the feeling that even if it was on the farthest outskirts of you little group... that I somehow belonged to you, you know.”
Xander didn't answer. He knew if he waited a little longer Spike would continue. The vampire always needed time to come out of his shell, to let the mask fall down. Right now he searched his duster for his cigarettes and when he found them he took one out but didn't light it up. Again Xander wondered how much consideration the vampire could show. He knew that the human didn't like the smoke and he made sure to keep the smoking down when he was near him.
“And after I got my bloody soul I hoped that I could really belong to you, you know,” Spike went on talking.
“But Buffy didn't want that. She wanted me out of her life and I can understand that. Hell, I would have killed me if I had tried to rape me...” The vampire came to an abrupt halt in his speech and Xander knew why. Spike was remembering his time with Angelus and Darla.
“Hey now, none of that.” he said quietly while tugging the vampire into a one-armed hug.
“That is in the past. You're living in the now.” Xander tried to keep his voice soothing and low while he brought the vampire back from his trip down memory lane. It didn't happen often but when it did Spike always came to him for comfort. He never went to one of the other Scoobies or even Dawn, even though he loved and trusted her.
Xander could feel the coldness of Spike’s body even through the clothes and he knew that one of the vampire’s creature comforts was warmth. Especially the warmth of the human body. He discovered that fact when he and Spike returned from patrol one night. The vampire was hurt pretty bad and Xander had to patch him up again. After placing his – at that time unwanted – house-guest in his bed he had collapsed on top of the sheets and slept. The next morning he found the vampire plastered on his chest with his head under the mortal’s chin. When Spike woke he denied everything even though he still was lying very close to Xander. It became a relatively frequent situation because everytime the vampire was badly injured or deeply upset he would seek the warmth and strength of the mortal in his sleep.
It were moments like this that reminded Xander of how much the vampire had lost during his long life and how much he really hid behind his 'Spike' façade.
“You know,” Spike's voice brought him back on the cemetery and to the vampire who now tried to disentangled himself a little.
“I still miss him, sometimes. I mean, Peaches is the king of brooding but he can be a decent guy if he wants to be. Small wonder Buffy fell for him.”
Xander nodded and resumed the walking that had been interrupted by the sudden need to comfort the vampire. He still kept his arm around Spike, showing the other one that he wasn't alone.
“If you want to visit him, tell me and I'll see if I can take some days off. I think I have some overtime I could take....” he stopped dead when he heard Spike's disbelieving gasp.
“What? You don't think I would keep you away from Deadboy if you needed to see him? Or rather that I could keep you away?” Xander laughed at the shocked face of the smaller man.
“Okay, who are you and what have you done to Xander!?” Spike was seriously confused, that much was clear to Xander. And he found it hilarious to say the least.
“Hey I'm still me!” he defended himself giggling.
“But what are friends for if they don't help each other? And if you want to visit Angel, then I'm sure we can arrange something.”
Spike looked like he had seen a ghost. His eyes were wide and he did a good imitation of a fish.
“You...you'd do that? For me?” he squeaked breathless.
“Sure why not?”
They had reached the car by now and Xander threw the bag onto the back seat of his car.
Suddenly he jerked around and started looking into the shadows.
Xander was sure he had heard something.
“Xan? What's the matter?” Spike asked looking around the area like there was someone hiding.
“I don't know but I thought I heard something.” Xander mumbled and closed his eyes for a moment to concentrate on the sound which surrounded them. He tuned out his own heartbeat and breathing. It was more or less silent. Here and there a mouse would run through the bushes or scurry over the surface of a headstone.
For a moment Xander wasn't sure if his senses hadn't played a trick on him but then he could hear the noise again. Very soft, carefully placed footsteps. There had to be three or four of them. As far as he could hear they were closing in on them from three different sides. Xander concentrated a little harder and could make out the faint beating of a heart. It had to be the one of the nearest.
“Spike, get in the car,” Xander said as calmly as possible. He may have wondered why the vampire wasn't hearing anything but it wasn't his top priority at the moment. The first point on that list was to get the chipped vampire into his apartment and away from the cemetery. He somehow knew that those four humans who were silently approaching them weren't coming for a nice midnight chat.
“What?” Spike demanded while coming around to look at his human companion.
“Spike, please, get in the car! Right now!” Xander's voice was hard and didn't leave any room for argument. He still hadn't opened his eyes but he heard the vampire as he climbed into the car and slammed the door shut. Only then did he move to open his eyes and walk to the driver’s side.
Before he got into the car Xander threw one last look around the cemetery. There was nothing to see but still he was sure that he had heard right. Four heartbeats and four sets of nearly silent footfalls. He wasn't sure but he could only think of a certain group of people who would come to a cemetery at night.
“Fuck!” he swore quietly when he got into the car. Putting his seatbelt on Xander started the car and drove away from the entrance. When he looked into the rear-view mirror he saw two people emerge from the shadows. They were carrying guns and masks.
“Look out of the rear window and tell me what you see,” he demanded from Spike. The vampire turned in his seat and Xander could see him tense up from the corner of his eye.
“Oh shit. Don't tell me...” Spike didn't finish his sentence instead he returned to his former position and stared out of the window.
He was panting, a clear sign that he was upset and scared.
“I knew I heard something.” murmured Xander while he drove the car through the empty streets of Sunnydale at night, always making sure that they weren't followed.
Two hours later Xander steered the car into the parking lot of his apartment. He was exhausted and by the slouched position of Spike, so was the vampire.
Turning off the engine he unbuckled and placed his hand on top of Spike's. Blues eyes turned to look at him and he could see the fear lurking behind the proud mask that had settled back onto the paled face.
“Let's go inside.” Xander said and squeezed the cold hand he held once. Climbing out of the car he felt like an old man. His shoulders and back hurt from being tense the whole time. His head was pounding to the rhythm of his heart.
He waited until Spike had retrieved his bag from the back seat before he locked the car and started walking towards his apartment. The blond followed him silently and stayed very close to him.
Once they were inside Xander forced himself to relax a little. Then he locked the door and activated the alarm system while Spike silently headed towards the room he had stayed in three days ago. When everything was settled and they were as safe as they could be Xander headed for the shower. It took him more than thirty minutes of hot water to loosen up his tense muscles. But after the tension left him tiredness came and claimed his body. His limbs felt like they were made from lead when he towelled himself dry.
Finally finished with his routine Xander left the bathroom and headed towards Spike's room. The vampire was already curled under the covers and seemed to be asleep but he knew that sleep was far from the vampire’s mind in that moment. Wordlessly he climbed into the bed and waited for a moment. Spike turned around and looked at him with saddened and frightened eyes. Opening his arms Xander offered the only comfort he could give.
When the cool body settled against his he embraced the smaller frame and vowed deep in his mind that he would protect the vampire. Not because his inner White Knight told him to, not because he was a Scooby and Spike was helpless. He would protect the vampire because he was his friend and had lately become a part of his family.
When Xander threw one last look on the blond head nestled into his chest he didn't know that his brown eyes weren't brown any more. They had changed into a deep, rich gold.