After showering and dressing,
Xander left the house and wandered around town for more than an hour before ending up outside the Magic Box. Shrugging to himself, Xander walked inside. "Hello? Anyone here?"
Buffy's blond head popped out
of the door to the training room. "Hey Xander!
How's it going?"
Xander wandered into the back
and slid down the wall to sit on the floor. "Hey Buff. What's up?"
Buffy eyed the dejected looking
man in front of her with a frown. Gracefully she folded herself down into a comfortable
position in front of Xander and tapped him on the knee. "Okay, spill."
Xander sighed. "Not much to spill. Just another fabulous day in the fucked
up life of Xander Harris."
At Buffy's glare, Xander relented. "Well, last night was Forrest's and my one month anniversary, and this morning we
Buffy opened and closed her mouth
several times before nodding. "Right. I
think you'd better tell me the whole story." She motioned to a large box. "I'm supposed to be taking inventory of these books that just came in, you can help
me while we talk."
So they sorted books and Xander
talked. He told Buffy everything leading up to that morning's events and gave
her a play by play of the fight that caused Forrest to walk out. When he was
finished, Buffy let out a deep breath, "Wow. Well, first off, don't worry about
the Initiative. I'll talk to Riley tonight, make sure Forrest doesn't do anything
Xander relaxed, "Thanks Buffy."
"Second, Forrest was totally in
the wrong. You're right; hes being an asshole.
He's been in Sunnydale long enough that he should know not all demons are bad.
But, Xan, you do realized you picked a Vampire friend over your human boyfriend, right?"
Xander flopped backwards onto
the training room mats and looked up at the ceiling. "I know. And what's even worse is that I don't care. I'd pick Spike
over Forrest in a second. Actually I'd pick Spike over anyone in a second. Buffy, oh gods, I think I'm in love with Spike."
Buffy reached over and squeezed
his hand. "Welcome to the club, sorry, but I left the 'In love with the Evil
Undead' club pin and membership packet at home.
Xander laughed weakly. "Doesn't this bother you? I mean, were talking about Spike
Buffy turned back to the box of
books, "Of course it bothers me Xander. But more in an 'I don't want to see you
get hurt way' than in a 'Spike is an evil monster' sort of way."
"Oh, well, thanks Buffy. Now I just have to deal with the whole, being in love with someone who is never going
to love me back thing."
Buffy glanced at him sideways,
"Xander, what makes you so sure that Spike doesn't care about you? I've seen
the way you two act together."
Xander blushed, "I know that Spike
is my friend and cares about me, it's that he's not ever going to want to be with me in that way."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Buffy...shit, okay, but you can
never say anything. Hear this and immediately forget it."
Xander took a deep breath. "Spike
had some...bad experiences in his past."
Buffy stared at him blankly. "Buffy! Bad experiences, around sex,
with another man!"
Buffy rolled her eyes at the brunette. "I understood what you meant the first time.
Listen to me Xander. I don't mean to make light of Spike's past, but do
you know how many people are raped every year?"
At Xander's shocked look, Buffy
quickly reassured him. "Not me, or anyone else in the group, as far as I know,
but Xander, its unfortunately pretty common, and even though its terrible and scarring, the majority of those people go on
to live happy, healthy lives, that include sex. Look, all 'Im saying is maybe,
if Spike loves you, his past won't always be an issue. It takes time and support,
but people heal, Xander. Even Vampires heal."
Xander just shook his head at
the blond slayer. "How did you get to be so smart?"
Buffy grinned, "Women's studies
class Willow talked me into. I'm all about the women's empowerment stuff now."
"Does that mean you're gonna trade
in your Riley for a Tara?"
Buffy rolled her eyes and smacked
Xander with a book. "Ow!" Xander
laughed and grabbed the book from her before she could hit him again. He glanced
down at the book he was holding and froze. "Huh."
Buffy scooted closer and glanced
at the book. "What?"
Xander read the title. "Blood, Sex, and Magic: the Rituals of the Vampire."
Xander and Buffy looked at each
other with huge eyes. "Do you think Giles knows he ordered this?" Buffy asked with an exaggerated whisper.
Xander shrugged. "Dunno. Do you think he'd get mad if we read it?"
Buffy nodded solemnly. "Yes. But it's research, and he's always telling us how important
Xander nodded, "Right then, we'd
better read it, it's for our own good."
Glancing guiltily over their
shoulders at the empty store, they lay down side by side on the mats and began reading through the book.
Hours later Xander lifted his
head and blew out a breath he didn't know hed been holding. "Wow, that was...kind
of squicky. But kind of..."
"Hot, too." Buffy finished for him. She glanced back down at the page
they had been reading. "I wonder if getting drained by a Vampire is always that
hot, or is it just turnings?"
Xander shrugged and turned to
the next chapter. "Probably just the turnings, that way the Childe's first memory
is of sexy type stuff, happy Childe, happy Sire. Huh, what's a Claim?"
Buffy looked down at the
page and read aloud. "When a Master Vampire wants to link a human or another
species of demon to himself without turning them, he claims them. The Master
exchanges blood with the claimant, which establishes a bond. One exchange of
blood creates a pet, or slave, under the Vampire's control but still retaining a semblance of free will. The more blood exchanged, the stronger the bond. When a Vampire
wishes to take a mate, a special bite is used, one that leaves a scar." At this
Buffy unconsciously touched her neck, and Xander tried to politely not notice.
Xander took up reading. "When taking a mate, the blood exchange is paired with sex. Repeated exchanges of sex and blood build a stronger bond. Other
Vampires and demons can sense the mark of a Master Vampire and few will risk a Master's anger by harming its mate. It has been rumored that long mated pairs gain a type of psychic bond, able to sense their mate at great
distances. The mate of the Vampire gains some of the Master's strength and speed,
while retaining their soul."
"Wow, crazy." Xander glanced over at Buffy, who was looking thoughtful. "Buffy? What's on your mind?" Before Buffy could
answer, the bell above the front door jingled and Giles voice echoed through the store.
"Hello, is anyone here?"
They jumped up and hurriedly dropped
the book back into the box with the others. Giles walked into the training room
just as they turned around, trying to wipe the guilty expressions off their faces. "Oh,
hello Xander. Buffy, did you finish the inventory on that book shipment?"
Xander quickly excused himself
and headed out the front door while Buffy and Giles discussed the book shipment. Glancing
up at the sky, Xander realized that it was almost dark so he hurried back to the apartment. Xander was sure that Spike was
still blaming himself for the breakup and Xander needed to let the Vampire know that Xander didn't feel that way. Letting himself in the front door, Xander glanced up and noticed several things had changed. For one, the apartment was clean, spotless actually. Second,
something smelled really good, and Xander suddenly realized he hadn't eaten all day.
His appetite was quickly squelched though when he noticed Spike sitting in the living room with a packed duffle bag
and two boxes, the Vampire looked positively dejected. "Spike! What's going on?"
The Vampire shrugged and looked
at the floor. "Figured I'd make it easy for you pet. Cleaned the place up nice, got dinner in the oven. I'll make
myself scarce and you can call Forrest and invite him over for a make-up dinner. I'm
sure if I'm out of the picture, he'll come round."
Shaking, Xander turned around,
locked the front door, dropped his keys on the table, tossed his coat aside and walked slowly up to Spike. He didn't stop until he was standing right in front of his roommate.
He grabbed Spike by the shoulders and pulled him up. Keping a firm grip
on Spike's shoulders, Xander looked the Vampire directly in the eyes. "No."
"No? Pet, I don't understand."
"What if I don't want to get back
together with Forrest?"
"Xander...look, I know you're
upset about him being all soldier boy, but you'll get over it. You two seemed
happy together, you belong together."
"And you belong here. Not in some crypt somewhere."
"Pet, Xan, I don't belong
here. I'm just getting in the way. If
I stick around I'll end up fucking up your life. You don't need me, you need
human friends, human boyfriends, not undead roommates who leave wet towels and bloody mugs all over the place and scare off
Xander shook Spike hard, anger,
despair and an almost overwhelming fear of being abandoned causing him to be more rough than he normally would be. "No! Shut up Spike!
You don't get to decide whats best for me, no one does. Damn it, I do need you here. Who else is gonna watch
bad kung fu movies with me and insult my clothing and patch me up after the latest demon beats on me? Who else doesn't mind that I come home covered in sawdust and track mud all over the floor? Who else know that pizza is one of the four major food groups and who in the hell else knows how to keep
me sane?" Xanders rant came to an end and he collapsed forward onto Spike's chest,
wrapping shaking arms around the blonde's waist and burying his head in Spike's shoulder.
"Forrest was nice and I liked him, but I didn't love him. I don't know
if I ever would have. You're my best friend Spike, I want you here, I need
you here. Please don't leave me Spike, please don't leave."
Shocked to his core, Spike wrapped
his arms gingerly around the shaking boy and held him close. His mind was whirling,
Xander wanted him around, him, not that bloody army git. Smiling softly,
Spike petted Xanders hair and tried to shush the shaking human who was squeezing him tightly.
"Xan, pet? I may not need to breath, but I do like my ribs intact."
Xander pulled back slightly, a
wary look on his face. "You're not gonna go anywhere?"
Spike shook his head. "No, not if you're sure you still want me as a roommate."
Xander nodded quickly. "Yes! Please stay."
Spike looked at Xander. The boy was pale and shaking, his eyes bright with unshed tears.
He looked like he would break at the slightest provocation. "Christ, Xan. You look like shit. You've had a hell
of a day and I just made it worse. Let's get you sitting down and get some food
into you, okay?"
The brunette nodded and meekly
followed Spike to the table, allowing himself to be seated. Spike went into the
kitchen and pulled the roast chicken and vegetables out of the oven, bringing it to a table that had already been set with
two place settings. Xander watched, slightly awed as Spike carved the chicken
and filled their plates. "Wow, you really went all out."
Spike snorted ruefully, "Yeah,
well, in my experience when you need to say 'sorry I was such an ass, please forgive me' it usually helps the groveling along
when you do something like this."
Xander eyed the plate that was
set in front of him. "You lied to the girls when you said you couldn't cook."
"Didn't say I couldn't cook, luv,
said I didn't normally need to." Spike watched happily as Xander inhaled the
food on his plate. Spike ate more sedately, enjoying the novelty of a freshly
cooked meal. He refused to tell the boy that he was actually a good cook, it
was just a skill he didn't need often. When Xander had cleaned his plate, Spike
refilled it without comment. They passed the rest of the evening in casual conversation,
neither mentioning the events of the day. By the time that Spike herded Xander
into his bedroom and forced the boy to go to bed, the only signs that anything had happened were Spikes bags sitting in the
living room and the fact that Xander hadn't strayed more than two feet from Spikes side all night. Spike watched sternly as Xander stripped down to boxers and climbed into a freshly made bed. Leaning over, Spike brushed Xander's bangs out of the boy's face and smiled softly. "Get some sleep, eh pet?"
Xander blinked sleepily, reaching
up and cupping Spike's cheek briefly. "You'll stay, right?"
"Said I would whelp."
"Good, don't want you to leave. Everyone leaves me. Couldn't stand it
if you left." With that, Xander's eyes drifted shut and the boy quickly fell
asleep. Spike quietly left and grabbed his bags, carrying them back to his own
room. He ignored the stinging in his eyes, telling himself half-heartedly it
was just dust left over from cleaning the apartment.
The next day the girls all came
over to watch movies and eat pizza, in a much quieter and subtler show of support than the Xander and Anya breakup party had
been. Spike noticed Buffy slip something to Xander and wandered over to investigate. The boy was holding a small round button. A
red heart on a white background, with E.U. in black letters centered in the heart. Buffy
was wearing one on her shirt as well. "What's this then? Why do you love the European Union?"
Xander looked like he was trying
to hold back laughter. Buffy just smirked.
"Nothing Spike, Xander and I just started a club, that's all, just stupid human teenager stuff."
Spike eyed them suspiciously but
figured it wasn't worth the trouble to pry it out of them at the moment. The
Vampire stalked off and Xander and Buffy grinned at each other before following him into the living room to start the movies.