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!
The next few days passed in a blur for Xander and Spike.
Both had settled into a quiet routine during the week. When Xander got up in he morning he found the coffee waiting for him. When he came home in the evening he would prepare something to eat for himself and heat up some blood for Spike – he made sure that it was always human – before he went to wake the vampire. Then they would eat and talk. Sometimes they'd settle in front of the TV and watch for a while before they would head out to the usual Scooby meeting.
It was one of the evenings where Xander wished he could have stayed home from the beginning. The sky had been cloudy the whole day and in the late afternoon it had started to rain like the second flood was happening. Beside him in the car sat a sour looking vampire. Spike hated the rain nearly as much as he hated the sun. Xander remembered the day when it had poured buckets and the blond had been caught by it. He had looked like a bleached-blond drowned rat and had raged about it for over two hours until Xander couldn't hold it anymore and laughed. At first Spike had sulked but after a few minutes of listening to the contagious laughter he had submitted to it and burst out laughing, too.
“Hey now,” Xander said when Spike grumbled silently.
“It's not so bad. It could be worse. It could be snowing!”
“Snowing!?” Spike snorted.
“Snow in Sunnydale?!” The vampire was quiet for a moment.
“Though, we do live on a Hell-mouth so nearly everything is possible... even bloody snow!” Spike grinned his trademark grin and Xander felt like the sun suddenly shoved the clouds away. He was glad that the sour mood was banished from the car even if it wouldn't last long in to the shop.
They reached the Magic Box a few minutes later and dashed from the car through the open door. Tara, who had been standing next to it, blushed but chuckled a little when she heard Spike curse like a sailor. She had taken a slight liking to the blond vampire, as far as Xander knew. It was nice to know that the vampire wasn't hated by everyone. Even if it was just him and Tara.
“Hey ladies!” Xander yelled as a greeting before he nodded in Giles’s direction.
“What's tonight's plan and who or what is the nasty of the week?”
The surprised look on Spike's face told him that his friend noticed the fake happiness that coloured his voice. He gave a small shrug since no one else seemed to have noticed or cared about it.
“Well, it looks like it will be a calm night,” Giles said and again Xander could hear Ripper underneath the calm voice. He sounded somewhat annoyed.
“That is great, isn't it? Then you won't be needing us, will you?” He knew it would be ignored but Xander felt like he should mention it anyway.
“Well, I'll take Fangless and do a quick patrol,” Buffy said putting on a raincoat and placing her stakes in the pockets. She walked towards the door and grabbed Spike by his duster.
“Hey!” the vampire tried to break free but it was fruitless. The blonde Slayer had him and if he tried to remove her hand from his coat he would have hurt her and therefore caused himself a serious migraine.
“Get those bloody hands of me! I can walk on my own, you know!”
“Sure, Spiky, just come on. The rain is waiting for us!” For Xander's liking Buffy sounded definitely too happy about getting the blond vampire in the rain. He caught himself walking towards her as if to remove her hand himself.
“Come, Kitty, it's nice and wet outside,” her voice was edged with sarcasm and Xander found himself growling sub-vocally.
“Buffy, Spike, just get going. The faster you do your patrol the sooner you're back to dry,” Giles sounded a little angry. His voice had changed for a slight moment. It became deeper and more commanding. Xander turned towards him and took a good look at the Watcher's eyes. They still seemed normal.
“Be careful,” he managed to say before Spike got dragged out of the door. His cursing faded the farther away Buffy dragged him until it was silent again.
Willow came over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“You know, Buffy will be careful. She's used to patrolling.” He soothing voice itched on his skin.
He nodded silently but when she went back to her books he mumbled: “I didn't mean Buffy!”
Tara, who chose that moment to pass him, shot him a knowing look.
Xander caught her eyes for a second and they shared a look of hidden understanding. They both shared a mask but he knew Tara's was carefully kept in place because she didn't want to lose Willow and be alone again.
“Hey Xander,” Willow called from the other side of the room.
“What can I do for you, Wills?” he asked back to his Zeppo-mask. Xander hated to stay behind that mask but he knew that his friends wouldn't understand him if changed or worse they would ignore him even more. Willow and Buffy had changed over time. Ever since his childhood friend discovered her magical ability she wouldn't do anything other than trying to spell something or find newer and more complicated spells. Even Tara had noticed it but she loved Willow and kept to herself for fear that she might lose the redhead.
And Buffy, well, she was another story altogether. Xander still considered her a friend but lately she had thrown more insults at Spike than he had in his best form. She was getting more viscous in her hunting and that made him uncomfortable.
“Could you look at those shelves in the back? I think they are broken or something. They creaked dangerously when I took the book out a short while ago,” Willow said, her eyes already glued to the page in front of her. Xander rolled his eyes and threw a look at Giles. The librarian answered his gaze without blinking once. The shiver that raced down his spine told him that the man in front of him wasn't showing everything. That he, too, was hiding something from them. Something not entirely white.
“Sure, Wills, I'll look at them,” he sighed and turned to watch Tara. The shy witch gave him a small smile. It looked apologetic.
“Oh, and while you're at it could you control the windows, too? I thought it was draughty back there.” Xander's jaw clenched and he had to fight hard to keep his temper at bay.
“Sure,” he answered and stomped into the back.
“What's the matter with him?” He could hear Willow's wondering question.
“I guess he feels useless,” Tara answered shyly. Under other circumstances Xander would have loathed those words but Tara never said something to hurt another one. She just observed.
“Why should he feel useless? I mean okay, he isn't the best fighter or terribly gifted with translating demonic texts but he... he always makes sure that we're not hungry while researching!”
Xander felt the control of his temper slip more and more.
That's the only use I have, right? Never-mind how often I throw myself into the battle to keep you safe! he thought angrily.
“What about his loyalty? Isn't that a gift for us?” Tara asked sadly.
“Not really, and why shouldn't he be loyal to us? We're his only friends, aren't we?” Willow's words stung deeply, nevertheless they were true.
Xander took a few deep breaths and tried to calm himself down again. It wouldn't be useful to get angry and yell at his friend for he knew he would feel bad in the end. He always felt bad when his temper broke free.
Just then did it occur to him that he shouldn't have been able to hear that discussion in the first place. There was quite some space between him and the two witches. Plus all those bookshelves he had passed walking into the back. A normal human shouldn't have been able to hear more than soft murmuring.
Xander felt himself reminded of his dream and how he had been able to hear the howling of the wind even though it was nearly inaudible. Shaking his head as if to clear it he walked even further in the back and started looking at the shelves. Some of them clearly needed repairing.
Sighing deeply – a habit he started to do more often than not – he made his way into the storeroom to grab the tools he had placed there in case he would need them.
The only weapons I'm good with, he thought sarcastically and with more force than necessary he emptied the first shelf.
By the time he finished the last shelf Xander had calmed noticeably. Working with his hands always calmed him because then he knew he had everything under control. After putting the books back into their places he turned around and collected his tools. A look at his watch told him that he had worked at those shelves for a little over an hour.
Buffy and Spike should be back already, he thought and decided to try if he could hear them talk like he did with Willow and Tara. Closing his eyes he concentrated hard. When he heard Willow talk about some spell he focused on that direction and listened carefully.
He was able to hear their heartbeats and that shocked him but what really disturbed him was that the fourth heartbeat, Buffy's, was missing. Shouldn't they be back? One hour should have been enough to make a quick patrol since most demons kept to themselves while it rained like that.
Clearly concerned for Spike's well-being, more than the Slayer's actually, he strode back into the front and took a look. No bleached blond vampire and no blonde Slayer. That didn't bode well.
“Hey, shouldn't Buffy and Spike be back already?” he asked Giles who was busy polishing his glasses. He threw a glance at Xander and then at his watch.
“They should be back shortly,” he answered and put his glasses back on.
“Maybe they found something more dangerous than a few fledges.” Ripper was back, Xander could hear him easily. He still wondered why it seemed to be only him who could hear the dark side of the Watcher.
“Yeah, maybe,” Xander mumbled and walked over to the window. Even though it was dark outside and the rain should have made seeing impossible he could easily make out the other houses and cars on the street.
It made him nervous. First his enhanced hearing and now his sight? Xander thought back to his dream, especially to the end where he had seen himself as a vampire. Had it been some kind of prophetic dream? Was he supposed to become a vampire? And if he was, who was supposed to turn him? Spike? Or Deadboy?
He shuddered at the thought of being Angel’s Childe. And even if he would be turned he somehow knew that neither one would be his Sire. It was like there was something ingrained into his mind that assured him that neither one would turn him and still he knew his dream had some meaning at least for him.
Xander's grip on the windowsill tightened until his knuckles stood out white against his darker tanned skin.
Finally he let go of it and moved his hands to loosen the muscles. Then he grabbed a few stakes and his jacket which he had thrown onto the counter.
“I'm going to look for them,” he said and walked over to the door.
“Xander, wait! You can't go alone! You might get attacked!” Willow yelled from behind him.
Oh, really? And I'm not able to defend myself? Xander thought bitterly.
No, I can't defend myself, can I? Not while I'm distracted worrying about you!
“I shall join you then.” Giles stepped next to him and the dark vibes coming from him sent shivers down the younger man's spine.
“Sure,” Xander shrugged and stepped out into the rain.
Now that there wasn't any glass in front of his eyes he could see even more of his surroundings. It was like looking into some kind of aquarium. You know that there was water but you could see everything clearly.
Taking a deep breath he smelled the rain and the soaked earth. It was a heady sent and he could practically feel the life. But he also smelled the exhaust fumes and the decay and death. It didn't made him feel sick, though, because he knew it belonged to the circle of life.
“Then off we go,” Xander grinned but he knew the Watcher could see right through his mask.
Still he kept silent about it, for which the younger one was quite grateful.
They walked in silence for about half an hour when Xander felt something stir inside him. It was an odd feeling, a soft tingling that rose from his stomach to his chest and nestled itself near his heart. Then he could hear it. It was the soft sound of flesh hitting flesh and the broken moans of hurt. He could identify the voice easily.
“That's Spike!” he roared and rushed forward ignoring Giles' warning. The only thing on his mind at that moment was the vampire. Every other thought was pushed aside and as if instinct took over his body Xander concentrated on listening to the noise. It directed him through the wet streets of Sunnydale. He didn't look around, he just ran, following instincts he never knew he possessed.
Please Spike, hold on! I'm coming! I'll get you! His thoughts were rushing, pictures playing behind his eyes. Pictures of Spike being hurt, of the vampire laying on the ground while someone or something placed a stake over his silent heart and pushed it in. Pictures of Spike turning into dust.
Xander rushed through another back alley when he came to a sudden halt.
He just faintly recognized Giles stopping behind him. The scene in front of him froze him in place and for a long moment he felt void of any emotion. There was nothing but silence inside him. His mind was blank when he tried to understand what was happening in front of his eyes.
Spike was curled up on the ground his arms protectively held over his head.
Five men stood around him taking turns kicking the helpless vampire.
Why isn't he defending himself? Xander thought, confused, while he looked at the scene in front of him. Like it was the most natural thing to do for him he took a sniff in the air and gasped. He could smell stale beer, sweat and the coppery scent of blood. Together with the seven different heartbeats he was terrified to understand that those bastards were humans. Human beings like himself. Human beings against who Spike was defenceless.
Something snapped inside Xander and he roared into action. Catapulting himself against the man closest to him he threw him to the ground and knocked him out. The others were shocked into stupor for a second before they came at him all at once.
Dodging the attack of the second man Xander brought his fist up and crashed it into the face of the third. He heard the satisfying crunch of a breaking nose. While the man howled in pain Xander brought his right leg up and kick him in the gut. Grunting, the man collapsed onto the ground. As soon as that one was out of the fight there was another attacking Xander with a pole. Xander dodged the blow aimed at his head and rushed forward crushing his shoulder into the man's sternum. It gave a sickening crack but that didn't stop the raging youth. He was mad with worry over the vampire who was still lying on the ground whimpering. Grabbing the pole he turned and glared at the remaining two men. They didn't move, just stared at their fallen companions.
“I would go if I were you,” Xander growled menacingly. The men's heads shot up and they reared back in sudden panic. It felt good to see those bastards trembling with fear.
“Take that garbage that is you friends and get the hell out of my sight before I change my mind and kill you all.” Even though Xander knew that it was the rage speaking from him he had no doubt that he would be able to do what he had said. No one hurt the vampire without answering to him.
The two men tried to get their companions back onto their feet and then stumbled away. As soon as the men were out of his sight Xander turned around and fell to his knees.
“Spike!” he whispered brokenly. The vampire was still whimpering in pain. His blond hair was tinged pink with blood and his clothes were torn. With gentle hands Xander pried the protecting hands away from Spike's head. He kept on talking to the vampire, his voice low and soothing as if he was talking to a hurt animal.
“It's me, Xander, come on, Spike, look at me, please,” he whispered while he tried to check out the worst injuries. It looked like the worst thing was a long gash in his neck that bled heavily.
A sudden shout caught Xander's attention and he turned to make sure that the men weren't coming back. What he saw made his rage boil again.
Buffy leaned casually against the wall of an empty house and seemed unimpressed with Giles yelling at her.
“I'll be right back, Spike, don't worry,” he assured the vampire when he sensed the tension caused by the yelling. Standing up Xander slowly made his way over to the Slayer who looked at him with a curious gaze. Giles was still yelling at her and Xander could bodily feel the struggle of the older man to keep Ripper in check. Even though the librarian would never admit it he felt some kind of kinship to the vampire and not just because they were both British.
“Hello, Buffy,” Xander's greeted with an eerily calm voice when he reached them.
“Isn't it a nice night?” His eyes never left hers and he struggled to keep himself from attacking the girl.
“Yeah, a little wet and cool but nice. Calm, not much to slay tonight,” she answered coldly.
“So you decided to enjoy yourself watching Spike getting hurt and maybe even killed?” Still Xander's voice was calm. Too calm, considering his inner turmoil. One side of him wanted to rip the Slayer to shreds for standing there looking at the men killing Spike. The other side begged to get back to the vampire and take care of the Slayer later, slowly and painfully.
“Wasn't much I could do, was there?” she asked and Xander let out a small laugh.
“No, there really was nothing you could have done, right? Except maybe helping him?” The last words were growled and he had to fight to keep himself from lashing out and punching Buffy.
“They were human,” was her answer as if that was the answer to all of his questions.
“Oh, and if it had been demons you wouldn't have stood there watching them ripping Spike apart!?” It wasn't really a question it was an accusation and a statement.
“I would have killed them then... eventually,” her eyes were cold but Xander could see the underlying confusion there.
“Why does it bother you anyway? I thought you hated him as much as we all do?”
“Buffy, don't speak for all of us!” Giles said from the sideline before Xander could answer. The blonde girl whirled around and stared at the Watcher.
“What? Are you telling me that you don't hate him?” She was shocked but caught herself quickly.
“I'm only saying that you can't just speak for all of us if you say something like this.” Giles' voice was edgy and the darkness of Ripper which lay underneath it got stronger with every moment passing. Xander was impressed with the restraint the man was showing. Had it been him he would have let his other side loose by now.
“And Buffy,” he brought her attention back to himself.
“I can tell you that I certainly DON'T hate Spike.” Her eyes widened as he finally understood his words.
“But Xander! You can't tell me that you suddenly LIKE him! He’s evil, he’s a demon and he’s tried to kill you more than once!” She was yelling now, all her cool demeanour gone.
“What! Are you telling me I can't make my own choices? Are you implying that you are the one who decides with whom I'm friends with and who I like? Do you want to tell me that just because you are the Slayer you have control over me and over my life?” Xander's voice rose until he, too, was yelling.
“Apparently I have to if you're not able to see the difference between a monster and a human! Spike is a monster who will kill you the moment he’s de-chipped!”
Hot rage was rushing like fire through his veins and he felt his sight narrow down until the only thing he saw was Buffy's angry face. He tuned out every other sound; her breathing and fast heartbeat being the only noises left.
“Buffy, you can't and you won't lead my life for me. You won't tell me who I have to like and who I have to hate. Yes, Spike is a demon and I know that he has tried to kill me several times but you know what? That is in the past and it stays there. Since he’s had that godforsaken chip in his head he’s saved our asses more times than I care to count and I mean yours, too, Buffy! He even went out and won his soul back just to show you he had changed! He just wants to belong to us!”
“He will never belong to us! We use him because he knows a few things and he can fight relatively decently. Soul or no soul he is a monster and he will stay a monster! A vampire can't change and if he drags you into his world I will stake him!” She lifted the stake and smiled viciously.
“You know what? I will save us the drama and do it now!” She made a motion to step past Xander but he wasn't having any of it. With speed and strength he didn't know he had he grabbed Buffy's arm and pushed back against the wall.
“And what about Angel, huh?” he asked sarcastically.
“Is he different or what? Are you blind when it comes to him? Angel has killed more humans than Sunnydale has inhabitants and yet he has a soul and has changed! How is that different from Spike? And did you USE Angel, too?” Xander demanded to know.
“Don't you dare bring Angel into this! He is a completely different story!” Buffy hissed and he just laughed darkly.
“Oh, I can see that now. I wonder what Riley will say to that!” a cruel smile crept over Xander's lips.
“Don't you dare...!” Buffy made a move to get to him but Giles interfered and pulled her back harshly.
“Buffy, don't!” the man growled quietly. Then he turned to Xander.
“I think it would be better for you if you didn't come back to the shop for a while. Things will stay heated if you two collide every evening and with Spike,” Giles trailed off his eyes focused on something behind Xander's back.
It was then that he heard the soft whimpering again. New anger rose to the surface.
“Stay away from him if you know what is good for you!” The threat wasn't lost on the Slayer.
“Are you threatening me?” she sneered at him.
Xander smiled at her but his eyes were burning.
“I'm giving you a warning, Slayer, a warning and a promise! Take her back, Giles, before I forget myself!”
With those parting words he turned around and made his way over to Spike who had made it up to his knees holding his stomach. When he heard the hard steps towards he cringed back and started whimpering louder.
“Shh, Spike, it's me, Xander,” he crooned in a soft voice. The vampire looked up hesitantly. His cheeks were tear-streaked and his blue eyes were wide with fear.
“Xander?” his voice broke and something in Xander did, too. He fell to his knees and pulled the hurting vampire into his arms, carefully avoiding the bruises. Spike tried to get even closer not caring about his wounds just seeking the warmth of the human. He was shivering and Xander realised that it was still raining and they were both soaked through.
“Can you stand up?” he asked when he was sure that Spike wouldn't bolt out of fear. The vampire nodded silently. With a little help from Xander he managed to stand up. He was shaking and the youth knew it wasn't just from the cold.
“Come on, we need to get you home and dry. I'll heat you some blood and we'll snuggle up on the couch watching those episodes of Passions we recorded, what do you say?” Xander hated that series but at that moment he didn't care as long as Spike was okay.
“Yeah,” came the whispered reply. Carefully placing one of Spike's arms around his shoulders and his own around the slim waist he took as much weight from the vampire as he could manage. A last quick glance assured him that Giles had taken Buffy away from the scene.
Good, he thought not knowing what he would have done if she had said one more thing.
The way home took them more than two hours since both decided to leave the car at the shop. Xander would head over there and get it when no one else was there except maybe Giles. The librarian had looked like he wanted to slap Buffy or do something else.
Once they were inside Xander brought the shivering vampire into the bathroom and ran him a hot bath. Peeling the soaked clothes off without hurting Spike further was a hard task and more than once he had to stop to give his friend a break.
When Spike was safely settled into the tub Xander went to his own room to towel himself dry and put on some warmer clothes. Then he rushed into the kitchen to heat the blood for the injured vampire and a large cup of hot chocolate for himself. The microwave dinged the exact moment when Spike emerged from the bathroom clad in grey sweatpants from Xander and a black turtle-neck sweater both a little too large for him. His hair was curly and again Xander was really, really glad that the vampire trusted him enough to be himself when they were alone.
Taking the cup of blood from Xander, Spike followed him into the living area. They didn't talk in such situations because actions sometimes spoke louder than words. Xander settled onto the sofa and waited a moment for Spike to crawl up to him. It was a habit that the vampire would lie with this head on the human’s chest listening to the calm heartbeat while Xander ran his hand through the drying hair.
Once they had settled into their usual position Xander took the remote and turned on the TV. He kept petting the vampire while thinking about the recent events. Something had snapped inside him when he had seen Spike lying helplessly on the floor. His attack was, even though he just came to realise it, controlled. Not once had he felt the need to flee or to call for help. He had felt superior to those men. Like he was another being protecting one of its own. What made him wonder though was Spike's reaction. The vampire usually jumped back to his feet pretty quickly after being attacked but he was a mess after this one. He knew he should talk to him about it but that would have to wait until Spike was healed.
Xander looked down at the vampire in his arms, considering him. He felt like Spike belonged to his family and if he was one thing he was loyal.
And I will do anything to make sure that he stays safe. Even if I have to fight the Slayer for that!
He was lost in his thoughts on how he would make Buffy suffer if she so much as breathed in the vampire’s direction that he didn't notice the curious gaze from Spike that was glued to his once again golden eyes.