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!
Note 2: I'll be honest and say that I'm not that happy with this chapter but I hope you like it anyway. At least it got me to the place I wanted to get.^^
When Xander woke the next morning he felt like a train had hit him straight in the head. The pounding that he could almost feel behind his eyes came from his beating heart and he wished for a way to stop it. Just as long as his head needed to get back together. Taking a few deep breaths he fought his headache back and opened his eyes.
Groaning softly he lifted himself up on his elbows. Which somehow seemed to be quite difficult. A heavy weight on his chest made him look down. A small smile crept onto his lips and refused to go away.
Spike was still asleep and lying partly on Xander.
His head was placed more or less directly over the mortal’s heart and one arm thrown somewhat possessively over Xander's hip. He never had the intention to fall asleep on the sofa but once they had been comfortable tiredness had taken over. Neither Spike nor he himself were keen on loosing contact and so they stayed put until sleep had claimed then.
Looking over at the clock Xander sighed. He would have to be really fast if he wanted to arrive at work on time. Still he didn't want to rush Spike.
Slowly running his hand through the soft blond curls Xander shook the vampire gently.
“Ngh,” Spike grumbled sleepily and tried to move away from the intrusion.
“Wake up, sleepyhead. I have to get up and get ready for work,” Xander said laughing a little when the vampire tried to stay asleep. It was always the same with him.
“You can go to my bed if you need to, just make sure you keep the drapes shut.”
Groggily Spike moved his head and blinked up at Xander.
“Don't care about your bloody work. 'M comfortable here,” he mumbled and made an attempt to just go back to sleep.
Xander smiled the horror of the night forgotten for a moment.
“Who would have thought that William the Bloody likes to cuddle?” he grinned. A poking finger at his side threw him into a hysterical giggle fit. Spike was tickling him.
“Don't like to cuddle, just latch onto your warmth. Can't suck your blood so I have to take a substitute and the heat is the next best thing.”
For a moment Xander choked on his own breath. Did he really hear what he thought he had heard?
Looking down at the blond vampire it was obvious to him that he was still too tired to take notice of his own words or else there would have been some teasing because of the lack of a retort coming from the mortal.
“Take a hot bath when I'm out so you can heat up. But don't fall asleep in the tub, again, okay?”
A deep groan answered those words and Spike tried to hide his face against the fabric of Xander's shirt who was grinning.
“That was one time! One bloody time! How long are you going to tease me with that?” Spike whined. He refused to look at Xander.
“Well, you always got to tease me! You had and still have so much material while I have nearly none so I have to take what I can get!”
He only got another groan for an answer.
Five minutes passed while neither of them moved. Sighing deeply – because now he really would be late to work – Xander tried to remove Spike's arm from his hip and grinned when the vampire growled sleepily.
“Spike, move! I have to get to work!” Tiredness was slowly crawling back into his bones and he knew that if he didn't move right now he would certainly fall asleep again.
“Can't you call in sick or something like that? I'm too comfortable to move and you said that you have some overtime left anyway.”
He knew that Spike wanted to sound annoyed but he just sounded tired and a little defeated. With an resigned sigh Xander gave in and pushed gently at Spike's shoulder.
“Okay, I call in and say I'm taking the day off but for that you need to let me up.”
Grumbling low in his throat Spike moved and let him get up.
While he was standing upright Xander took care of his human needs fairly quickly before he wandered over to the phone to call his boss.
“Sunnydale Constructions, this is Lee-Ann Parker speaking.” a sweet female voice answered after the third ring.
“Lee? It's Xander. I need to talk to Steve. Is he in today?” Xander turned around and looked back at Spike, who was watching him with curious eyes. He had moved up on the sofa and leaned against the armrest, hands folded on his stomach. Blond curls stuck up in every direction and blue eyes were still sleepy. If it hadn't been for Spike's curiosity of the outcome he would be asleep again.
“Oh, hi Xan! Is something wrong?” Lee asked concerned. It was always the same. Ever since he started working there Lee-Ann had taken over the role of the mother hen. Being something over forty years old she had nearly everyone under her wing, including his boss.
“No, nothing’s wrong. I just need to talk to him, okay?” The calmness in his voice wasn't a fake one even though both Xander and Spike, knew that things were far from okay. They were decent at best and disastrous at their worst.
“Oh, okay. I’ll put you straight through.”
Again the phone rang for three times. It seemed to be a pattern.
“Michelson.” greeted a dark voice which sounded neither relaxed nor stressed.
“Steve? It's Xander.”
“Xander! What can I do for you? Did something happen?” And just like that his boss' voice got a 'I'm-glad-you-called-are-you-in-trouble?
“Nothing happened. I just need a day off. Today would be nice.” The last was said in a playful voice.
“Thank god. I thought I had to bail you out of jail or something. You're one of my best men and thanks to you we are way ahead of our timetable. Take the rest of the week off, too. Relax and do what you young folks do at your age. As long as you don't turn up hungover to your work!” Both men laughed at that even though Xander felt something cringe inside him. Having parents who were more drunk than sober on the good days made him careful with alcohol. A beer or two was okay and sometimes if he really needed it one whisky but not more. He didn't want to turn out like his parents.
“Okay, Steve, thanks. I'll see you on Monday then.” After listening to his boss telling him to be careful Xander hung up.
A big grin spread over Xander's face.
“Well, now we have five days which we can spend how we like!”
“Fine, now get your ass over here. I'm cold.”
Xander jerked awake three hours later.
Spike was writhing on his chest moaning quietly and tears were running down pale cheeks and soaking through Xander’s shirt. A jolt of protectiveness surged through the young man and he pulled the vampire tighter against his chest.
“Spike, wake up, you're dreaming,” Xander murmured while he ran his hands through the soft curls. The vampire in his arms whimpered and tried to get closer to him. He started sobbing things like: “no, please” and “don't leave me”. It broke Xander’s heart to hear the proud vampire cry like a frightened child. Holding him close Xander petted Spike and dropped light kisses onto the soft hair all the while crooning soothingly.
After a while Spike's sobs calmed down until all that was left was a slight hiccup.
“Spike?” Xander asked not sure if the vampire had gone back to sleep or was awake.
“Sorry, mate,” came the raspy answer and Spike tried to move away from him; he was clearly embarrassed. But Xander wasn't having any of that. He tightened his hold again and ran his hand up and down Spike's back until the vampire relaxed and settled back onto his chest.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he inquired softly.
Spike didn't answer right away. He just lay there listening to the steady beating of the mortal's heart. Xander knew that patience was important when dealing with a distressed vampire. He once had tried to push Spike into talking and had ended up worrying for three days in a row if the vampire had found shelter from the sun. At dawn of the fourth day the blond came back, sat down next to Xander and started talking. After that he had never again tried to force Spike to tell him what the matter was.
A heavy sigh brought him out of his thoughts. Spike had resettled himself so that his head now lay on Xander's shoulder while his hand was placed over the heart.
“It was nothing really bad, I guess. Buried memories that crept back up. About the time when... when I was left alone and had to fend for myself. You know that I don't really do loneliness. Makes me act like an idiot once I have some company.” The vampire fell silent again.
“You're not alone anymore,” Xander whispered and placed a soft kiss on Spike's forehead like it was the only thing to do.
“Why are you doing that?” the blond asked softly not moving from his spot.
The question caught him off guard.
“Why am I doing what?” came Xander's equally soft counter question after a moment’s hesitation.
“Why are you holding me? Why are you soothing me? Why do you take care of me? And why did you kiss me?” Now Spike leaned up and looked straight into his eyes.
Xander held his gaze and thought about it – really thought about it.
“I honestly don't know. I guess,” he hesitated and looked away for a second.
“I guess I'll do it because I think it is the right thing to do. I wished that my mother would have done it while I was a child. That she would have held me when I had a nightmare instead of yelling at me to be quiet. That she would have taken me into her arms and calmed me back down instead of slamming the doors and starting to fight with my father. She never did, you know, she never tried to sooth me when I was crying, when I was frightened by the darkness of the shadows. I was on my own from the day I was able to reach the fridge to get something to eat. It didn't really bother me since I never knew something else back then. But, when I realised that the way they treated me wasn't the way they were supposed to treat me I vowed that I would never act like they did. That if I ever had someone to take care of I would do anything to make them feel safe and protected.”
Xander fell silent and stared at the TV without really seeing it. His mind was rapidly showing him images of a time when all he had was a stuffed animal – a present from Willow – as his company and protection for the night. A little lion to fight of the beasts which lurked in the shady corners of his basement room. He still had that lion. It was safely tucked between the pillows of his bed.
A soft sound brought him back. Refocusing he recognized that Spike was trying to stand up.
“What's the matter?” he asked and moved to let the vampire get on his feet. A tinge of pain shot through his spine and tingled in his head. His back ached from lying on the sofa for so long and he knew it was time to stand up and move around if he didn't want to end up stiff for the rest of the day.
“Nothing. I'll just heat up some blood. All that talking made me thirsty,” the blond vampire replied and made his way into the kitchen area. Xander noticed the slightly slouch of Spike's shoulders.
He is still sad, he thought while watching his friend move towards the fridge.
Stretching his arms over his head Xander closed his eyes and listened.
He could hear the door of the fridge open and close again. A slight ripping, a plastic bag being opened. Then the sound of a viscid liquid getting poured into a mug and placed into the microwave. The odd humming of the kitchen tool while it worked on heating up the blood. When he heard the 'ding' indicating that the blood was heated he moved to join the vampire.
Spike leaned against the counter a thoughtful expression on his face. The way he held on to the mug in his hand made it seem like he needed it to anchor himself as if he was going to be swept away if he wasn’t careful. Xander knew that feeling just too well. Grabbing himself a bottle of orange juice he walked over to the window. It was safe for the vampire since the windows were looking north and the sun didn't reach them properly. There were a few rays falling into the room but those could be moved around easily. Still it gave Spike a little piece of humanity back – at least that was what the vampire had told him the first day they had been asleep on the sofa after a long night of bad horror movies and beer.
Xander watched the people while they were hurrying over the sidewalks either talking into their cellphones or talking to each other. It was a peaceful scene even though it was a little hectic. A normal day in a normal town. He was aware that Sunnydale had never been normal. It was just some wishful thinking by him and if he was honest with himself, really honest, he liked his life on the Hell-mouth.
Still there were days when he thought about how his life would have turned out if he would have been born in another town far away from Sunnydale.
Turning back Xander opened the bottle and took a long gulp before he looked at the clock and frowned. It was two o'clock in the afternoon.
“I think I better go and get my car. I don't want to run into anyone and it should be empty at the moment. Except for Giles maybe.” His voice was calm and steady still it had an underlying growl in it which made the vampire look up. But Spike just nodded and put his empty mug into the sink after rinsing it carefully.
“I guess I'll just climb into bed and try to sleep some more,” he said but didn't move. Leaning against the sink his shoulders were tense and Xander knew that Spike still wasn't okay. Even though his friend wore a mask of tough indifference he could always detect the emotions which were carefully hidden behind the growl and snarl.
“I'll take my cellphone with me. Call me if something is up, okay?” Xander wasn't exactly keen on leaving the vampire alone after a nightmare but he needed his car and now was the best time since Buffy and Willow were at the college or at the mall. Spike sighed but nodded and pushed back from the sink to follow him and lock the door again after he had left.
Taking a deep breath and sending a silent prayer to God Xander left the building and headed towards the Magic Box.
A deep scowl settled on Xander's face when he reached the Magic Box.
There – in front of the shop and leaning against the side of his car – was Buffy, arms crossed in front of her. She looked at him a sweet smile on her lips.
It made his skin itch. Nonetheless, if he wanted his car back he would have to face the devil – in this case the Slayer.
“Hey Xander,” Buffy greeted him lightly.
“Buffy.” The annoyance in his voice wasn't fake and Xander smiled internally when he saw her smile falter a bit.
“How are you today?” she asked him and it sounded like she was asking him if he was sane again.
“Fine, but why are you here and not in college?” Xander gritted his teeth to keep himself from snapping at her.
“I wanted to talk to you, tell you that I forgive you what you did last night and since you weren't at work I thought I'd wait for you here. Guess I thought right then, didn't I?” Buffy laughed.
A soft growl escaped Xander when he leaned against the hood of the car his eyes never leaving Buffy's face.
“I don't want to talk to you Buffy. I thought I made that clear enough last night? And you had no business at my work since you were supposed to be in college! As for the forgiving part,” Xander took a deep breath to calm down the urge to yell at her. His temper was rising quickly and he had to fight hard to stay in control. She was playing with fire and if she went on pushing she would end up burning herself in the process.
“I don't ask your forgiveness and frankly I don't need it. I did what I had to do. I say it again – leave us alone!”
“But why? Because of Fangless!?” she was losing her calm demeanour quickly now.
“What thoughts did that vampire put in your head, Xander? I don't know you anymore! You were yelling at me! You attacked me! All that because of SPIKE?” Buffy pushed herself away from the car and walked slowly towards him. She looked like was going to attack him.
Xander kept still his whole attention focused on keeping his temper in check. He didn't need to make a scene. Buffy was already taking care of that.
“Spike never put any thoughts into my head, Buffy, he is my friend. I yelled because you weren't listening and, it seems, you still won't hear me. And I didn't attack you. You tried to kill a friend of mine and I protected him. That's all. I don't know what else you want to talk about and honestly I don't care. Now please move away from my car and let me leave.” Xander's voice was eerily calm and he could see Buffy shiver slightly but then she caught herself and came to him.
“Oh Xander, don't you see that he is using you? What spell is it? What does he do to you to make you act like this? This isn't you, Xander! You're not that person! You should have let me stake him last night, then you would be free now!” She tried to grab his hand but Xander moved away from her. He started to laugh, a cold and cruel sound even to his own ears.
“You should listen to what you say, Buffy!” he said softly.
“Spike never used me. WE used him time and again and I think I'm right if I say we should let him rest. I'm not under a spell either. Buffy, to be really honest with you, I don't think that you ever knew me. You don't know anything about me but yet you keep on insisting that I'm not that person. So I'll ask you, Buffy, who am I? If not the man I am.”
Buffy stood there looking at him with wide eyes.
“I know who you are! You are Xander, the boy who makes us laugh! The boy who keeps the Magic Box in shape and us feeds when we're researching. You are Xander, our demon magnet,” she said as if she was speaking to a dense child.
“And that's where you're wrong, Buffy,” Xander answered calmly.
“First, I'm not a boy anymore. I'm a man. Second, the funny guy left the building a long time ago when I realised that you never really paid attention to me or my ideas even though some of them weren't that bad. Third, I'm repairing shelves and windows and all that because I can, okay. But did you really think I WANT to do that, all the time? Fourth, you are always sending me to get doughnuts because you think that I'm not smart enough to research with you, isn't that right? You all think that I'm not intelligent enough to help. And what is that with the demon magnet, huh? It was a botched up spell and nothing I could have prevented.”
Xander took a deep breath to steady his racing heart and to cool down the rage that had settled into his stomach. He wouldn't lose control with Buffy. He wouldn't attack her physically. If she lunged at him he would react and defend himself but he wouldn't initiate it. He needed to be calm or else he was bound to make decisions which were going to end very badly.
At the moment he stared at Buffy who was still trying to process the things he had said.
“Xander, why do you insist that he is your friend? A demon can't be the friend of a human, you know that!” Her voice was gentle now and he grinned internally. Clearly she was going to change tactics. The friendly tone was fake as was the smile she wore. It irked him to the core.
“A demon is unable to feel. They are monsters-”
“Shut up, Buffy,” he interrupted her harshly smiling at her surprised gasp.
“What did you say?” Now it was clearly fury that spoke out of her and Xander knew it wouldn't take long until she was going to snap.
“I said shut up, Buffy. You don't know anything about Spike. You may know about some other demons but you know nearly nothing about vampires like Spike and – yes, I know that I don't like him but he counts as one – Angel. Vampires, even those without a soul, are able to feel love and fear and pain and happiness. Don't judge them because of the fledges who don't have someone to take care of them.”
Buffy didn't answer him; she took another step forward her eyes blazing with anger and disbelief. Xander didn't back down. He straightened himself and stared at her. A soft tingling at the edge of his mind tried to catch his attention but he ignored it. It had been there for the whole conversation fuelling the fire of his anger again and again.
When Buffy stood right in front of him, her breasts nearly touching him, he leaned down a little and whispered in her ear:
“I say it only one more time, Buffy. Leave. Us. Alone. Or you will regret it.”
He saw the slap coming but he chose not to dodge it. That would made it seem like he was afraid of her when in fact he found the whole confrontation tiresome. The crack resounded in his ears but still it didn't hurt. Either she hadn't hit him with all her strength or something else had taken the pain away.
“Buffy!” a furious dark voice broke them out of their staring contest. Xander didn't look up. He knew that it was Giles, sounding more like Ripper than he had the last time.
“Giles! Do something, please! I think Spike cast a spell on Xander and made him think they were friends! But I know that it’s impossible!” Buffy whined and turned to her Watcher who was looking past her.
A small smile crept over Xander's lips when he returned the gaze evenly. That was Ripper looking at him not Giles and it was obvious that the Watcher saw something in his eyes that made him scowl. Still he didn't say something.
“Buffy, I'm sure that Xander is fine, now go inside. I think we need to talk about discipline and your education.” The tone didn't leave any room for discussion and when it looked like the Slayer wanted to argue Giles threw her a gaze that made her duck her head and scurry inside.
“Xander,” the Watcher said when they were alone on the street. His voice was calm but guarded.
“Ripper,” he acknowledged while walking to the driver's side. There was no visible reaction just a slight change in the eyes of the older man.
“You and Spike should stay somewhere else for a while. Not here in Sunnydale.”
Xander waited before he opened the door of his car. He thought about it for a moment.
“I guess that is a good idea,” he replied and smiled softly.
“I already have an idea where we can stay but I won't tell you.”
Giles nodded returning the small smile with one of his own.
“That would be better. I can't tell what I don't know.”
Another few moments passed before both men broke the eye-contact and Xander climbed into his car. He started the engine and raced away from the shop like a bat out of hell. Not once did he look into the rear view-mirror.
His insides were clenched tightly from suppressed anger. The tingling had subsided a little but it was still there trying to get into his main thoughts which were currently circling around the blond vampire who should be sleeping safely tucked into either his own bed or in Xander's.
Keeping his eyes on the streets and his mind as blank as it could get with his worries about Spike Xander drove through Sunnydale without a real destination.
Minutes passed, turned into hours and finally after four hours of driving Xander steered his car back to his apartment. He felt calm again the rage had cooled down until it vanished nearly completely. The sun was setting already and he knew that Spike would be up in a few minutes. Turning off the engine he climbed out of his car and locked it before he walked to the front door. Tiredness crept slowly through his veins and he felt like sleeping for a whole week. Keeping his temper in check always exhausted him.
The second his key slid into the lock the door was ripped open and Xander was engulfed by two slender but strong arms. A cool body pressed against his and he could feel the shiver running through the vampire. His heart ached and he felt like he had disappointed his friend.
“I'm sorry,” he whispered placing his arms around Spike and pressing him closer to his chest.
“I thought you had left,” equally whispered words that tore at his heart. Xander closed his eyes and tightened his embrace even more.
“I will never leave you, Spike, I promise,” he said, walking the vampire into the apartment and kicking the door shut behind them. Spike stayed silent but the shivers stopped almost immediately. Burying his face in the soft blond curls Xander felt oddly at peace with himself. He didn't know that he had felt out of place, emotional and physically, until he had Spike back in his arms. Deep inside he knew that something would happen and soon but at that moment he didn't care. All he cared about right now was the safety and happiness of his vampire.
Pushing Spike a little away he smiled softly at him his eyes gleaming mischievously.
“What do you say if we pay Deadboy a visit?”