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Rules 6
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Part 6

A/N: I realize that there actually wasn’t much time between ‘Wild at Heart’ and ‘Pangs’, so I’m playing with the timeline a little, just think of the month of November as an extra week long. ; )

 

Xander was supposed to be researching but right now he was people watching, or more technically Scooby watching. He was trying to figure out the dynamics of the Scooby Gang. They were all gathered around Giles’ living room, even Spike, eating pizza and trying to figure out what Adam was and how to bring him and the Initiative down. Giles was in his favorite armchair flipping between three books at once, Spike was sprawled in another chair dipping pizza slices into his mug of blood and smirking as Buffy and Willow made ‘eww’ faces. Buffy and Riley were sitting together on the couch looking through several books but talking together under their breath. Willow and her friend Tara were crowded together at Giles’ desk working on Willow’s laptop.

 

Xander liked Tara and was glad that Willow had finally brought her into the group. Willow had shown up at his door one evening the week before bearing chocolate chip cookies and a nervous expression. They had spent the evening catching up and Willow had finally confessed that she and Tara were more than friends. Xander had of course teased Willow about watching her and Tara ‘do spells’, as was his duty as oldest friend. But secretly Xander was relieved that Willow had come to talk to him first. Xander was pretty sure that no one else knew, except Spike that is. When Xander had let slip during a pool game that Willow was now gay too Spike had given him the ‘well duh’ face. When Xander had demanded to know how Spike had known he just tapped his nose and quipped, “Vampire senses, pet.” The fact that Willow was still keeping her secret from Buffy and Giles bothered Xander. It wasn’t like them to keep secrets from each other.

 

Xander was watching the group tonight instead of researching to try to figure out just when the dynamics of the group had changed so much. Sure, several things were different. They had another magic user in the group, but Tara was shy and quiet and didn’t affect the group dynamics that much. Riley was hanging around regularly now, which put Xander and Spike on a bit of a defensive, since neither man trusted the soldier. But still Riley was knowledgeable about demons, a good fighter, and Willow and Giles seemed to trust him, so his presence shouldn’t have upset the group that much. Then there was the presence of Spike himself. In the few weeks since Spike and Xander’s weekend together the Master Vampire had mellowed some. He was still the snarky Big Bad but he was less likely to rise to Buffy’s quips or to try to bait Buffy into anger and more likely to lend a hand in researching and patrol. Xander still had to remind the Scoobies that part of the Initiative research included looking for a solution to Spike’s chip, but since Spike’s attitude change Willow had taken more of a liking to the blonde Vampire and so was likely to back Xander up when he had to remind Buffy and Giles to research the chip too.

 

Finally there was Xander himself. He had changed since coming back from his road trip, he knew that. He just had a hard time believing that standing up for himself and refusing to be the donut boy and comic relief could affect the group that much. Still, after weeks of wondering, Xander was finally ready to admit that somehow his role had been crucial to the group dynamics. Somehow the Slayer needed her Watcher, a Witch, and a Zeppo. The only problem was that Xander couldn’t be the Zeppo anymore. So Xander researched and thought and researched and thought some more, and finally something finally clicked in Xander’s brain and he began to smile.

 

Xander couldn’t implement his plan right away, a sex possessed frat party kept him and the gang a little distracted, then it took Xander a while to find the person he was looking for, but finally Xander was heading towards Giles’ place with a nervous young man in tow.

 

“Are…are you sure about this Xander? I mean, I’m just a normal guy, not a superhero like you all are. What help can I possibly be?” Jonathan bounced along beside Xander as they walked, his arms wrapped around a large box of donuts. In his bouncing Jonathan tripped over his own feet and Xander had to catch him to keep him and the donuts from biting the dust.

 

“Trust me Jonathan.” Xander steadied the boy on his feet. “You’ll be more help than you realize.”

 

Xander entered the apartment with Jonathan in tow. Willow smiled as he entered. “Hey Xander, hey…Jonathan?” Her smile faltered. Buffy frowned at the two men. “Jonathan? What’s he doing here?”

 

Xander smiled and patted Jonathan on the shoulder. “Well Buff, I was thinking that with Tara helping out now Willow’s focusing more on the magic side of things and less on the computer geek side of things. Luckily Jonathan here is a huge computer geek so I figured he could help us out with that side of things. We need all the help we can get with Adam and his pet commandos.”

 

Jonathan smiled bravely in the face of Buffy’s frown. “I um, I brought donuts.”

 

Xander smiled as the girls rallied at the offer of donuts then immediately put Jonathan to work. Xander headed over and sat down next to Spike, grabbing a book for himself. At the question in Spike’s eyes Xander just shook his head and mouthed ‘later’. The group settled into research mode and Xander smiled to himself as the atmosphere seemed more relaxed than it had in months. It looked like the Scooby gang had their Zeppo back.

 

Just as they were all getting ready to call it a night there was a knock at the door. Before they could all even wonder who it could be the door swung open and in walked Oz. “Um, hey everyone.”

 

Everyone immediately tensed as they waited to see what Willow would do. Xander hadn’t been in Sunnydale for the worst of the Willow/Oz breakup and aftermath, but he’d heard the stories. No one was sure what would happen. Oz just stood their, fidgeting slightly. Xander glanced at Willow and saw her trying to pull herself together. He also saw the crushed look that flitted over Tara’s face. Clearing his throat Xander stepped up to Oz and hugged him. “Oz, hey, long time no see. Did you just get back into town?”

 

Oz smiled slightly and hugged him back. “Yeah, just now. Thought I’d stop by and say hi.”

 

The next few minutes were pretty much chaos as Willow finally pulled herself together and greeted Oz, Tara left in a hurry and Buffy tried to balance being angry at the guy who had hurt her friend and being glad to see Oz again, back and safe. Xander managed to slip Oz a note with his address and phone number on it before he and Spike left. As much as Xander wanted to help smooth things over, no one could fix things except Oz and Willow themselves. The rest of the Scoobies would just have to see how things played out. Xander hoped for Tara’s sake that Willow was honest with Oz. Xander really liked Tara, she balanced out Willow’s flightiness and the feelings between the two women were obviously strong.

 

Xander and Spike walked slowly back to Xander’s apartment, neither saying much. Finally about a block from Xander’s place Spike tossed his cigarette aside and turned to face Xander. “All right pet, two questions. One, what’s with bringing the runt into the group? Two, what’s going on between you and dog boy?”

 

Xander sputtered slightly, “What do you mean, between me and Oz?”

 

Spike just gave Xander a knowing look and tapped his nose. Sighing, Xander began walking towards his apartment. “Both have to do with Rule Number Four. Come on up and I’ll tell you the story.”

 

~Early November~

 

Xander scrubbed at his eyes and tried to focus on the road. He had been in the car for about seven hours and still had at least three to go. The scenery wasn’t much, scrub forests and low rocky hills but mostly just road stretching on for miles and miles. He briefly contemplated pulling over and taking a nap, but a soft whimper from the back seat reminded him that time was of the essence so he took a swig of what was now ice-cold coffee and kept driving.

 

Xander had left Oregon and his brush with the hippie lifestyle behind and headed north, finally stopping in Seattle when his funds ran low. Tom had a friend, another demon who owned another bar, and Xander had been promised there would be some work for him there if he wanted it. The bar wasn’t much, it was nothing like Tom’s place, just your average little dive bar nestled among the warehouses and stadiums of South Seattle. Xander had been working there for about three weeks and had earned enough that he was starting to look at maps and contemplate where he wanted to go next.

 

That night had been a game night and the Seahawks had won so the bar was filled with lots of rowdy football fans. Usually Xander washed dishes, carried ice, swept floors and did whatever else Jim, the owner needed. But on game nights Xander filled in as an extra bouncer, mingling with the crowd and trying to spot trouble before it started.  The bar had a young werewolf who worked as a busboy. Barely nineteen, slight and delicate looking, not to mention painfully shy, Jace was often a target for teasing from the patrons. Mostly it was good-natured and all the regulars knew that Jace was under the protection of Jim and the other staff. Unfortunately that night things got too rowdy when some super macho sports fans took offense to Jace’s feminine appearance and Jace ended up in the middle of a fight he couldn’t win. Xander and the other bouncers tried to get to Jace in time but most of the bar was between them and then it was too late. By the time the bouncers had thrown out the four men Jace was a bloodied mess. Xander helped the others carry Jace back to the office where an angry and cursing Jim met them with a first aid kit.

 

They cleaned Jace up, splinted his broken arm and twisted ankle and bound his broken ribs but that was all they could do for him. Jace lay on the couch whimpering softly as Jim paced the length of the small office and tried to figure out what to do.

 

Xander sat near Jace, offering the boy what comfort he could. “Is there a hospital or clinic around here that deals with non-humans?”

 

Jim shrugged. “There’s an underground clinic or two for those who know where to find them, but they’ll just tell us the same thing I’ll tell you now. What Jace needs is to shift. The change helps the healing process.”

 

Xander glanced at the calendar. “But the full moon’s over a week away.”

 

Jim nodded. “Yeah, I know. Look, there’s this pack out in Montana, they’re kind of a stop off for young Were’s who don’t have a pack or teacher. They know just about everything there is to know about Were physiology, history and customs. Rumor is some of them even know how to change at will, instead of with the moon. Jace was saving up and planning on heading out there in a month or two, but maybe they can take him now. If we can get him there.”

 

Xander looked at the helpless form on the couch then looked back at his boss. “I can take him.”

 

So a phone call was made and Xander was given a couple hours to gather his things together and check out of his motel room then Jace was bundled up and tucked into the back seat of Xander’s car, as comfortable as they could make him. Jim handed Xander a cooler of food, a thermos of coffee, and a paper with hastily scribbled directions on them and Xander was off. Now here Xander was, somewhere in Northern Idaho with cold coffee, an unconscious werewolf, and directions that started out with: Get on I-90 and drive east for 10 hours; and ended with a complicated series of directions for navigating a bunch of unmarked forest service roads in Western Montana.

 

Xander pulled out of the forest and into a clearing dotted with cabins just as the moon was rising. Figures were moving around the clearing, illuminated by the moonlight and the light of a large bonfire in the center of the cabins. Xander pulled to a stop and climbed gratefully out of the car. He stretched and groaned and waited to be approached. He didn’t have long to wait, a couple of guys came jogging up to him before he’d even finished his stretch. “Hey, I’m Xander. From Seattle, Jim sent me.”

 

The guy in front nodded and held out his hand. “I’m Nathan. Thanks for getting here so quickly.”

 

They quickly got down to business, Nathan directing two other men to help a groggy Jace out of the car. Xander grabbed his keys and followed the men as they carried Jace through the campsite and to a particular cabin. Nathan turned to Xander while the other’s carried Jace inside. “He’ll be fine now, we’ll take care of him. Why don’t I get you a place to bunk down for the night? It’s a long drive to the nearest motel.”

 

Xander accepted gratefully. “Thanks, I’m beat.”

 

Nathan gave Xander a quick tour of the camp, pointing out where the latrines were and where he could get fresh water. Xander took everything in with wide eyes. There looked to be about thirty people living out here in a permanent campsite. As they walked Nathan talked about the pack, how they were kind of a school for young Were’s who didn’t have anyone to train them, about how people came from all over the United States to learn from them and how they never turned anyone away who honestly wanted to learn. “Society isn’t going to fight for us, so we have to fight for ourselves.” Nathan said as they walked through the moonlit meadow.  He and Nathan were standing by the bonfire, warming up from the chill Montana night air when Xander heard a familiar voice behind him. “Xander, is that you?”

 

Turning Xander found himself face to face with Oz. “Oz! Oh my god, is it really you? What are you doing here?”

 

He and Oz hugged and Xander found himself suddenly homesick for the first time in his trip. Oz pulled back and looked up at him. “What are you doing here in Montana Xander?”

 

Nathan spoke up. “Xander brought the injured boy over from Seattle. He’s going to spend the night since it’s so late.”

 

Oz grabbed Xander’s arm. “Xander and I are old friends. He can bunk with me tonight.”

 

Nathan nodded and bid them goodnight before striding off to see to other things. Xander turned back to Oz. “What are you doing here man?”

 

Oz grimaced. “It’s a long story. Let’s go back to my cabin and get warm.”

 

Xander followed Oz back to his cabin, which was very basic, just a square room with one window, a fireplace and a small bunk. They sat on the floor in front of the fire, close enough that their legs touched, and talked about the last couple of months. Xander told Oz about L.A., Oregon, and Seattle; Oz spoke about he and Willow starting college, about Veruca and realizing that he had to leave Sunnydale to learn to control the wolf.

 

If they scooted closer and closer together in front of the fire it was because they were the only familiar faces in a strange place. And if they stripped down and climbed into the small bed together it was only because there was no need for Xander to find his own bed when they were friends. If their kisses were deep and slow it was only because Oz tasted like California, like home and if the way their hands ran over each others bodies was more soothing than arousing it was because Oz was afraid and alone and Xander reminded him of everything Sunnydale. If as they tangled their bodies together, thrusting against each other as they brought each other to completion it was more about comfort than attraction, it was okay because they each understood what it was like to be so far from everything that said home and about the need for something familiar.

 

~Present Day~

 

Xander looked up from the empty bottle he had been playing with throughout his narrative. “The next morning I left and started driving South and I didn’t stop for more than a day’s rest until I got back to Sunnydale.”

 

Spike drained his beer. “Okay, so what was Rule Number Four?”

 

“Help those that can’t help themselves.”

 

“Hmm. So I get how that might have come out of taking that boy to Montana, but how does Rule Number Four tie into brining that Jonathan nerd into the group?”

 

“Well, see Jonathan went to High School with us, same class and everything, but he was always on the outskirts. He never had any real friends. During senior year he actually tried to kill himself, but Buffy stopped him. Then of course we all went back to ignoring him. Just a couple of weeks ago he did that spell where he was famous and everybody loved him, then after it was over Buffy gave him some speech about being yourself and not using magic to get friends, then of course we ignore him again. Think about it, Jonathan is so desperate for friends, so desperate to belong that he’ll resort to dangerous spells. That kind of desperation could very easily go bad, and that would be dangerous because unlike most people in this town Jonathan knows about Vampires and Demons, he knows about magic and he’s really smart. I’d rather that Buffy own up to her fancy speeches and start including other people than see someone like Jonathan go to the dark side, so to speak.” Xander grinned.

 

“So basically you’re telling me that what Angelus said about you was true.”

 

Xander was puzzled. “What did Angelus say about me?”

 

“That you were a white knight.”

 

Xander blushed. “No, not really. It’s all just self preservation really.”

 

Spike snorted. “Sure mate, you just keep telling yourself that.”

 

~!~

 

Spike eventually headed back to his crypt and Xander went to bed. When Xander got home from work the next day he was half hoping to find Oz waiting for him, or at least a note from the werewolf, instead he found Spike inside his apartment, looking troubled.

 

“Spike? Hey, what’s going on? You don’t look so good.”

 

Spike seemed fascinated with a spot on his jeans because he wouldn’t look Xander in the eye. “I um, had a visitor today.”

 

Xander sat down on the couch. “A visitor?”

 

“Yeah, tall, ugly, made up of lots of different parts…”

 

“Adam! Adam came to see you?”

 

“Yup, he wanted to make a deal.”

 

Unable to tolerate Spike’s fidgeting anymore, Xander grabbed Spike’s hands between both of his. “What sort of deal?”

 

“He wants me to help get the Slayer to him at a specific place and time, in exchange I get the chip out.”

 

“He knows how to get the chip out? Spike, that’s fantastic!”

 

Spike looked at him like he had grown another head. “What are you going on about mate? It’s not bloody fantastic, I made a deal with the devil to sell out your friends.”

 

Xander was thinking hard now, staring off into space and absently playing with Spike’s fingers. “Yeah, but then you came to me. We can totally use this to our advantage. If Adam doesn’t realize that we know, we can play him.”

 

“It’s worse Xan.”

 

“What?”

 

“Seems the soldier blokes captured your boyfriend, dog boy, earlier today. Adam, as a show of good faith told me how to get in a back way so we can break him out. It’s how I’m supposed to win your trust.”

 

Xander was up and off the couch in a flash, rummaging though his closet. “Xan, what are you doing?”

 

“Looking for my soldier gear from the last time Buffy and I broke into the base. We’ve got to get over to Giles’ place and get the rest of the gang.”

 

Spike wandered into the bedroom and stood in the doorway, watching as Xander threw some things into a small duffle bag. “Aren’t you mad at me pet? When does the yelling come in?”

 

Xander zipped up the duffle and walked over to Spike. “Spike, I’m not mad at you. You didn’t betray us and you didn’t betray me. In fact this is about the most useful things that’s happened in weeks. Oh, and another thing.” Xander pulled Spike in for a deep kiss. “Oz is not my boyfriend. One time thing, comfort, blah blah blah. If you’re actually jealous I’m gonna have to slap you upside the head for being so stupid.”

 

Spike followed Xander out of the apartment. “I’m not jealous.”

 

But Xander couldn’t help noticing that Spike looked secretly pleased.

 

~!~

 

They drove to Giles’ place and entered the apartment to chaos and panic. Xander stood in the doorway watching as Willow, Buffy, Giles and Jonathan frantically ran back and forth between the laptop and a pile of books, all talking at once as they tried to figure out how to rescue Oz.

 

“SHUT UP!” Xander yelled as loud as he could.

 

They all froze in place as they turned to look at Xander and Spike standing in the doorway. Then the babbling began again as they tried to tell Xander what had happened. “QUIET!”

 

Everyone froze again. Xander held up his hand. “I know that Oz has been taken by the Initiative. I have a plan to get him out. Now first, Spike has something important to tell you, so sit down and listen.”

 

Surprisingly everyone sat quietly. Spike quickly relayed his meeting with Adam.

 

Buffy glared at Spike. “So basically you’re telling us you sold us out.”

 

“No Buff, what Spike is telling us is that we now have an inside guy who can find out where Adam is and what all his plans are. Plus Spike can get us into the base to get Oz out.”

 

“How do we know we can trust him though?”

 

Xander sighed. “Because as soon as he could get away from Adam he came to see me, that’s why.”

 

Buffy scowled. “Just because you and the bleached menace have some sort of unnatural friendship going on…”

 

Surprisingly it was Giles who cut Buffy off. “Really Buffy. That is uncalled for. It is perfectly obvious that Spike is on our side.”

 

“Yeah Giles, but only so he can get his chip removed.”

“Of course he wants the chip out Buffy! It hurts him, it keeps him from being able to take care of himself. Wouldn’t you if you were in his place.”

 

Buffy glared at Xander. “It’s pretty weird that you of all people Xander want to set a mass murderer loose.”

 

“That’s not what this is about Buffy, and I’ve grown up a lot since High School, I see things differently now. Not everything is black and white.”

 

Willow’s voice was strained with worry, “Guys, can we please stop arguing and work on saving Oz?”

 

Xander grasped Willow’s hand. “Sorry Wills, of course.” He turned to the rest of the group. “Here’s my idea. Buffy, Spike and I can go in and get Oz…”

 

“I’m coming in too.” Willow interrupted.

 

Xander met his friend’s eyes and saw the determination there. “Okay, Willow too. Now Spike saw that Adam has a link into the Initiative’s computer system, he can see everything that’s going on. I’m hoping that he’s going to be too busy watching us to notice anything else. Jonathan,”

 

Jonathan looked surprised at being included. “Yeah?”

 

“I want you and Willow to hack into the Initiative’s system before we leave. Use magic if you have to. Then while we’re inside, Jonathan’s going to be here, downloading everything he can off of their computers. Especially look for anything regarding the behavior modification chips. Adam says he’s going to deactivate Spike’s chip but I don’t trust him. Giles can be our getaway driver, ‘cuz I’m thinking that we’re going to have to leave in a hurry and Oz probably won’t be up to running.”

 

Surprisingly everyone agreed to the plan and soon they were headed toward campus and the Initiative base. Xander tried not to snicker at Spike in the army uniform, but when Willow told Spike he looked like an evil olive he couldn’t hold back the laughter.

 

“Just you wait Harris, you’ll get yours.” Spike muttered as he helped Xander up from where he had fallen down laughing.

 

The whole operation was ridiculously easy and if Xander hadn’t already known that Adam wanted them to succeed he would have been suspicious. As they drove through the dark streets of Sunnydale and back towards Giles’ place Xander just hoped that Jonathan had been successful as well.

 

~~~

Rules of Life Part 7

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Rules of Life Part 5

 

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