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:This chapter is a small filler, since my story runs a way with me. You could say that it wrote itself.^^
It was half past twelve when Xander steered the car onto the highway and headed towards L.A. Spike sat beside him silently staring out of the window. He hadn't talked since Tara had shown up shortly after Xander's arrival.
The young witch had been upset but tried to stay calm.
“How do you know where I live?” was Xander's first question after they had sat down at the dining table. Tara blushed slightly and took a sip of the tea he had made her.
“I was walking home when I saw your car parked here,” she answered quietly without stuttering.
“You were going home alone!?” Spike inquired, anger clear in his voice.
“Why wasn't Red with you? Or the Slayer? Or the bloody Watcher?” Xander could see the rage slowly boiling up. He placed a hand on Spike's arm and looked back at Tara.
“I would like to know that, too, but you tell us in your own time,” he said softly. Again he felt the soft tingling at the edge of his mind. It wasn't as strong as it had been when he had faced Buffy but it was there.
Tara nodded and carefully brushed her hair behind her ear before she looked up.
“When Willow and I arrived at the Magic Box Buffy was arguing with Giles. We didn't know what it was about since she kept on yelling why he wouldn't explain it to her. Giles... I don't know... he looked mad.” She stared into her tea and took a deep breath.
“I've seen Giles angry but I've never seen him so mad. It was like he wasn't Giles anymore... he was more like... Ripper, I guess.” Tara took a nervous sip of the tea and didn't see the alarmed look in Xander's eyes nor the frown on Spike's.
“Anyway, when they noticed us Buffy started talking to Willow. She said something about you, Xander. She told us that you a-attacked her the night she and Spike were out on p-patrol.” Tara was upset, the stutter a definite indicator for it. Xander sighed deeply and rubbed a hand over his eyes.
“I haven't attacked her. Not in that sense anyway.” He looked over at Spike and after a firm nod told her the story from that night. He even went so far as to tell her about the meeting with Buffy before the two witches came into the shop.
“I can't believe...” Tara whispered brokenly. She clutched her mug in both hands as if it was the only anchor she had.
“Willow,” she hesitated for a moment giving Spike a long look.
“Willow thinks that you cast a spell on Xander. She is determined to remove it with everything she's got. Buffy tries to help her. I-I tried to help Giles bring them away from that idea b-but they wouldn't listen.”
“That's why you went off alone?” Spike asked softly showing once more that he cared about the shy girl. Tara shook her head.
“No, at least not then. W-When the whole argument settled a little Willow tried to get to the forbidden books in the back of the shop. But Giles must have been expecting it because there was a shield around those shelves. W-Willow got angry but luckily she didn't use her magic. Buffy was demanding to know why Giles tried to keep them from helping you. That's when he really scared me.” Tara shuddered and looked into the swirling liquid.
“Why did he scare you, Tara?” Xander asked softly and hoped that Giles hadn't let Ripper lose.
“H-His a-aura darkened, like under the influence of dark magic. I-It never did that before even when he was angry. W-Willow and B-Buffy didn't notice, well, they can't now, can they? They don't have that ability but I-I do a-a-and I saw...” Tara stopped and took a deep breath.
Xander kept silent and even Spike didn't say anything. All three of them stared onto the table.
Finally Tara cleared her throat and looked back at Xander.
“When Willow and I decided to go home he had calmed down again and his aura was back to its usual dark blue. Anyway, Willow and I left the shop shortly after Buffy went to do some patrolling. She had been on the edge for the whole time and I heard her mumble something about finding you, Spike, and making you pay for enthralling Xander.”
A soft growl escaped Xander and both Spike and Tara stared at him.
“Sorry, don't know what is happening to me lately.” he mumbled and stood up to go over to the sink. Leaning against the cool metal he took a few deep breaths to get himself back under control.
“Okay, I'm calm again,” turning around and crossing his arms in front of him Xander took a closer look at his friends. Spike looked tired; he was tense and Tara didn't look that much better.
“Go on, Tara, I know that you're not finished yet.”
The young witch nodded and sighed.
“When Willow and I walked home together she started telling me about how she wanted to create a spell that would destroy the shield Giles put around the shelves in the back. She was talking about finding a spell that would free you of the thrall and kill Spike at the same time. She said that she wanted to help Buffy. I couldn't agree with her... I mean, I love her, but I'm sure that she is wrong. Wrong about everything at the moment. You two are friends and more than that. I-I got into an argument with Willow. She said that I should help her not you. She asked me if I was cheating on her with one of you. She even said that it could be both of you. I-I felt so upset with her words and I... I just ran. I left her standing there.” Tara fell silent again. Tears were gathering in her eyes. Xander could see them sparkle in the dim light.
“What did you say, Tara?” Spike whispered and Xander could detect the anger underneath the indifference that had settled back around the vampire.
“I'm sorry!” Tara whispered and started sobbing. Spike, who still sat next to her, gathered the upset witch into his arms and hugged her close. Xander, who was still leaning against the sink, caught the wandering gaze of the blue eyes and answered the unspoken question in them with a short nod.
“Tara,” he started calmly, even though he didn't feel calm at all, and pushed himself away from the counter. The young woman turned to look at him with red eyes.
“You can stay here, if you want. Spike and I are going away for a while and we would like to be sure that you are safe. It would be good to set up a few magical wards to keep away the unwanted visitors. And I don't just mean Willow and Buffy. We will deal with everything when we are back but for right now we need to get away from here.”
A soft smile appeared on Tara's lips and the tension deceased a bit.
“Thank you, Xander. I will make sure that the wards are strong enough to keep everything evil out of here.” Her words were spoken softly and Xander could see the age old knowledge in her eyes. Knowledge that was even older than any of them.
“Oi! And how am I supposed to get back in here? I'm evil, too!” Spike said but there was no real anger behind it. Just good natured banter.
“Well, then I will have to make an exception, right?” Tara chuckled shakily.
Xander looked at them and couldn't fight off the amazement he felt when he saw how comfortable Tara and Spike felt with each other. It was like watching a couple of old friends who met again after a long time. The easy talk between them, the serious discussions he had observed and the friendly banter that went on between them when they thought no one would notice.
Sometimes he felt like he was watching sister and brother not witch and vampire.
He blinked and found himself staring into two sets of curious eyes.
“Huh? Sorry, I guess I zoned out a bit. What's the matter?” he asked looking from one to the other.
“I just said that it would be better if I go now and get my stuff. I hope that I don't meet Willow on the way. That wouldn't go well, I guess.” Tara lowered her gaze to the floor and shuffled her feet a bit.
Xander smiled and went to get the spare key he was keeping in his nightstand.
“You know, Tara, I could bring you home and then take you back here, if you like. That way you wouldn't be alone and don't have to carry all the heavy stuff,” Xander offered when he gave her the key, together with a slip of paper where he had written down the number of his second cellphone, both of them standing at the door. But Tara just shook her head and smiled at him.
“Don't worry about me, Xander. Just get Spike and yourself out of here as soon as you can. I'm going to be okay.” Reaching up she pulled him down into a fierce hug.
“Keep him safe Xander,” she whispered in his ear.
“I know that he is as important to you as you are to him.”
When she released him again Xander stared down at her with surprised eyes.
“How?” he started just to be interrupted by her.
“Your aura, Xan, it shows more than just the feeling and health of your body and mind.” With those words she bypassed him and vanished into the dark night.
Xander remained standing in the doorway staring out into the darkness until a pair of cold arms wrapped around him.
“She's strong, isn't she?” Spike asked his voice muffled from where he pressed his face against the mortal's back. Xander nodded and turned around.
“She is very strong, even though she isn't really showing her true power,” he said quietly. The grip around him loosened and the vampire took a step back.
“So, I guess I should start packing then,” a questioning look from blue eyes followed and Xander couldn't do anything else but nod.
It didn't take them long to get their suitcases packed.
Spike was the first to finish packing since he didn't really have much clothing at all and Xander was used to doing some quick packing from his time when he had to flee from the basement because his parents were yelling at each other again.
Spike's voice brought Xander back to the present. He looked over and saw the blond vampire staring at him.
Curious as always, he thought fondly.
“What's up, Spike? Did I miss the exit?”
“No, but you seemed a little too lost in your thoughts and I don't want to end up crashing into a truck or another car for that matter.” A casual answer but the underlying anxiety was definitely there. Xander ducked his head and smiled a little sheepishly.
“Sorry,” he said and turned his attention back onto the street. Silence settled over them again.
Twenty minutes later Spike started fidgeting with his lighter. He kept opening and closing it. Xander sighed and looked over again. It was annoying but he was glad that Spike refrained from smoking in his car. That was one rule they always argued about in the first weeks of their getting to know each other.
“What is it, Spike?” he asked knowing that the vampire would try to dodge this talk.
“Nothing,” came the expected answer. Sometimes the blond was so predictable.
“If it was nothing then you wouldn't be playing with your lighter, Spike. Something's making you nervous and I would like to know what it is so I'm maybe able to help you.”
The silence stretched for a long time but eventually Spike sighed and threw him a dirty look.
“Okay, I am nervous about meeting the poof! Happy now?”
“Not really, no.” Xander replied setting the direction indicator and overtaking a slower car.
“Why are you nervous?”
Spike groaned and threw his head against the headrest of his seat.
“What are we playing? Twenty questions?”
Xander suppressed the habit of rolling his eyes at his friend’s defensive behaviour.
“No, we are not playing anything, Spike. I just want to know why you are nervous about meeting with Deadboy, that's all. Is it so hard to understand that I care about you? So tell me, Spike, why are you nervous? Are you afraid that he's going to throw you out the moment you step into the building?”
Spike's sudden interest in the floor of the car was answer enough for Xander. Taking a hand from the steering wheel he reached over and took hold of the vampire's slender one. Spike didn't try to take his hand away. In fact he turned it and intertwined their fingers with each other.
“Angelus never really showed interest in me. First there was Darla, then Drusilla... when she turned me and he took over as my Sire because she wasn't able to he always made sure that I know what a burden I was and that he didn't have to do it. Only Dru kept him from staking me. After he disappeared with Darla and all I had left was Dru I thought that she was all I needed. Obviously I needed her more than she needed me even with her being loony.”
Spike hesitated before he continued talking.
“Then he got his soul and staked Darla and I somehow hoped that we could be together again. But we couldn't. He was chasing the Slayer and I was planning on killing her. Yeah, well and you know the rest, don't you?”
Xander squeezed Spike's hand in understanding.
“You're still worried that he won't accept you back in the family. But even if he doesn't do it, you will have a family, me and Tara. If that is enough for the moment.”
A soft squeeze was the only answer since the vampire refused to look at him or say something.
“And if Deadboy says something that isn't quite polite I'm going to have a chat with him and I think I can make it through that helmet of gel he calls his hair.”
Spike snorted and then started laughing.
That's better, Xander thought and grinned to himself. He always felt better when Spike wasn't depressed or sad. And jokes at Angel's expense were a good way to get him back to laughing.
I really hope that Angel behaves himself. If he hurts Spike he's in for a real talk. No one hurts him without answering to me. Not the Slayer and surely not his god damn Sire.
“Hey,” a soft tug at his hand returned his attention to the vampire next to him.
“Stop the growling, pet. One might think you were a vampire.”
Spike's words floored Xander instantly. He remembered the dream he had and how he was looking into his own gameface. A shiver ran through him and he tightened his grip on the steering wheel but was careful not to do it on Spike's hand.
The rest of the ride towards L.A was spent in silence but this time it was rather comfortable for both. Spike had turned the radio on and searched for a while until he settled on a station that played a variety of old classics.
Neither of them thought about releasing the hold of their joined hands. Xander felt calmer than he had thought. The cool hand, now a little warmer thanks to his own body heat, anchored his thoughts a little. Even though he didn't really like the idea of visiting Deadboy he knew that it would be important for Spike. The older vampire was only sane family member that his blond friend had.
Well, I really doubt that he is sane but at least he isn't as loony as Drusilla, he thought while he followed the road before setting the indicator light and leaving the highway.
Driving through the streets of L.A was nothing compared to the streets of good old Sunnyhell. Instead of keeping your eyes open for straying vampires you had to be careful to not run over the drunken tourists or students who were coming back home from a party.
They should be in bed. It IS a school night after all,. Xander groused internally. He knew from experience that it would be really hard to get up in the morning... and that without drinking.
It took them nearly one hour to get through the crowded streets and to the Hyperion. When they reached the hotel Xander took a few deep breaths before he turned off the engine. Even though Spike remained silent it was easy to tell that he was nervous. The trembling in his hand betrayed the calm expression on his face. The blue eyes showed an uncertainty that Xander would have loved to wipe away.
“Come on, time to shock Deadboy,” Xander said softly and disentangled his hand. Spike nodded and climbed out of the car with the mortal on his heels. Shortly before they reached the entrance of the hotel the vampire straightened his shoulders even more and his usual swagger returned in full force. Xander smiled and pushed the door open.
Their arrival was met with four sets of widened eyes and one shocked question.
“What the hell are YOU doing here!?”