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Chapter 12

Xander shook his head in fondness at Spike’s casual acceptance and followed the vampire. Spike patted a picnic bench on the porch of a closed bar and grill. Xander sat facing the ocean and Spike went around to the front of the building. Xander was puzzled until he heard the jingle of change and the whir-thump of a vending machine.

“You carry change?” Xander asked as he took the icy bottle of water Spike held out.

“Collect calls are a bitch.”

“Why not just mug the machine, Mr. Big Bad?” Xander called up an old joke.

“Why bother? Besides, I know the couple who own the place. Nice folks.”

Spike sat in silent companionship beside Xander as he drank. They watched the ocean play with a child’s sand bucket, pushing it up and down the beach. Finally Xander sighed. “I was so damn scared that day, Spike.”

“Riots are horrible, I know. The Boxer Rebellion is a good example. ‘Course at the time it was all fun to me.”

“Not helping Spike.”

“Sorry, mate. Bit ‘o my bad humor. But, yeah. Seen riots and mobs. Humans in a  collective bad mood are worse than most vamps I know. Want to talk abut it?”

Xander took another big drink. “There was a lady in a stall who I had just talked to and bought a scarf from. She was smart and funny and a good salesman. It was her booth I hid in. She was dead when I jumped in there, and still holding the scarf she’d tried to sell me. Yet all I could think about was keeping myself alive.”

Spike had seen thousands of corpses in his existence and well knew the stark contract of life and death. “The madness of crowds.” Spike quoted, lacking anything else to say.

“What’s that?”

“A book I read when human. ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds.’ It’s all about how people go daft when acting in mass.”

“When I was a kid, I was playing in the waves and one caught me wrong. It tumbled me and flipped me underwater. I had sand in my shorts and my hair. It was like that. The riot. I was trapped in a big power I couldn’t fight, moving me and shoving me. It was years before I’d go more than waist deep in the ocean, and I don’t like crowds any more.”

“I don’t either. Used ta love them. No better place to grab a bit of blood or dosh. Did you know I was at Woodstock?”

Xander shook his head. “It looks miserable from the pictures.”

“Nah. There was an energy there, a passionate feeling.” Spike waved his hands as if trying to capture an elusive feeling with words, then let them drop back on his knees. “Bugger that, we were all stoned to the gills.”

Xander chuckled. “Why don’t you like crowds any more?”

“Too many people, pushing, making noise… And I’ve got this soul now, don’t I? Takes the fun out of it.”

Xander studied Spike’s sharp profile. “Do you regret it, Spike? Getting the soul?”

Spike took a deep breath and blew it out in a puff. “Once in a while. To be honest, yeah. Life is fun when you don’t have morals.”

“I watched some men give up their souls, Spike.”


“It’s like some of them were waiting to let go of civilization. They got a license to kill and enjoyed using it.”

Spike met Xander’s eye levelly. “The humans you killed. What about them?”

“The ones I faced in death matches? Two of them were evil, no doubts. Three, I never met. The first man. He had a soul, Spike. I could tell. He wasn’t one who fought for bloodlust. He was like me. It was his first time in the death ring and he was just trying to stay alive.” Spike could see the pain Xander carried.  “And I had to kill him.”

“You’ve got yours firmly in place,” Spike observed.

“Do I, Spike?” he asked distantly, looking away.

Spike saw him drifting into self doubt; took hold of his shoulder, gripping it firmly in comfort. Xander turned to look at him. “Hell, yeah, you do. I don’t know how you did it, but you remain a good man, Xander.”

“I have killed, lied and stolen… Even used enslaved people for sex.”

Spike’s features hardened. “Did you kill for fun? For sport?” Xander shook his head, a little horrified at the thought. “Did you only lie and steal out of need?” Xander nodded. “The people you fucked, did you abuse them or take them roughly? Leave bruises and blood?” Xander shook his head violently. “No. I bet you were gentle and said thank you every time.” He pushed Xander’s shoulder away, dismissing the notion that Xander was in any way evil. “No. You were and are a damn good man, Xander Harris. The fact you’re agonizing over it proves it. The people in that house know this, too.”

Xander nodded, knowing it was true. “I… know more that will help the cause.”

“Let it out as you need to mate. There’s no hurry.”

“Yes there is! Those people. I never knew most of their names. They were… Left handed man who fought well with a staff, or Sarah who liked having her hair brushed, or… Man who gave up while fighting so I had to kill him.” Xander dropped his head. “Seeing their faces like that…”

“I’m going to have a word with Charlie about springing that on you.” Spike said with steel in his words. ”It was hard, but think about it. Now their people will know. Questions will be answered. It’s better to be able to lay someone to rest than to wait with the faint hope year after year that they will turn up. ‘Cause in that time you just know they’re being kept from you, imprisoned. Otherwise, they’d come home.”

Xander looked at Spike who was now clutching is hands tightly together, and wondering at the determination in his voice. “You know this, don’t you?’ Xander ventured. Spike nodded. “Who?” Spike shook his head and stared out to sea. “Tell me?” Xander coaxed.

Spike looked back to Xander and saw the true caring and concern there. He had not talked about this in years. One time he’d shared with Buffy after her father missed another family birthday, but Spike knew now she’d not listened. She had not cared about him, only herself.  “My father. He was a merchant. When I was twelve he went to Egypt and never came back.”

“I’m sorry.” Xander had never heard Spike speak about his past, and the Watcher’s journals knew very little.

Spike didn’t notice the softening of his accent and the properness of his own speech. “Back then, communication was slow. It would be months and months between letters and we had no way of getting letters to him. The last one was on linen paper from a fancy hotel and he had put in a scrap of papyrus with a few glyphs on it. It was magical to me. He said he’d found a contact who could supply fine fabrics and that he’d start working his way back to England with the shipment. He said he would arrive in the spring. We never heard another word from him.”

Xander put his hand on Spike’s back, mirroring Spike earlier gesture. “That’s rough. Did you contact the company he worked for?”

Spike scoffed. “Company? He worked for himself. I had an uncle who tried to investigate it, but the best lead he ever got was a report from the hotel who claimed he left without paying his bill and demanded payment from Uncle. My mum and I were left alone. We had money, but only just enough.” Spike thought of the pains of being less than upper class and being scorned for having only one servant. “Once in a while, we’d reread the letters he’d sent us.”

“Oh.” Xander patted Spike’s back and let his hand drop.

Spike shook off his gloom. “So it’s good to know.”

Xander’s eyes narrowed and he chewed on the side of a nail. “My dad is dead. It just struck me. My dad is dead.”

“I heard about that.” Spike braced himself for a melt down.

“I… I can’t be too sad. Is that bad of me, Spike?”

Spike shrugged. “I don’t think so. I know you weren’t close.”

“No. We weren’t. They packed up and left Sunnydale without telling me where they’d gone. It was just because I called Aunt Susie that I found out they were safely away and where they were. I… I talked to Mom once after the Hellmouth closed and all she could talk about was collecting insurance and buying new furniture. She didn’t even ask where I was.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“I… I think I let go of them right then. I always knew Dad’s drinking would be the death of him somehow.”

“But you know for sure and that makes a big difference,” Spike said.

“It does. I see that.” Xander looked again for the bucket and found it sitting still.

“After I was vamped, we went to Egypt. Drusilla wanted to eat an archeologist or some damn fool thing. Even though my pop would have been an old, old man if he were alive, I still found myself watching for him.” Spike laughed. “We did got he the hotel where he last stayed and created some merry mayhem with the staff.”

He noticed Xander didn’t join in his joke.

“There’ll be a trial, Spike. The men I killed. They’ll want to know why and how. I’ll be sent to jail and I can never spend another day in a cell.”

Spike snorted. “Horse shit.” Xander turned a surprised eye to him. “Gunn is a legal god. Wolfram and Hart opened his brain and poured in every nuance of the law. He will take care of everything.”

“He’s got my confession on tape!”

“I’d bet good money the information is being transcribed and the tape blanked as we speak.”

“But shouldn’t I, Spike? Shouldn’t I pay for my sins?”

“Sounds to me like you have been. And don’t expect your friends to judge you. We all have our evils, our regrets. Remember Willow and Warren? Giles and Ben? They love you, Xander, never doubt that.”

“Wow. We really do have a high body count between us.” Xander absently drained the bottle and started twisting the cap on and off as he looked at it from this angle. “I did try to do any good I could. When I could.  Fortunately, my... owner was a bit more fair than others.”

“I don’t doubt that, white hat.”

Xander barked a laugh. “I’d think about that. When I was alone and had no one to talk to, I’d pretend we were all sitting around the table in the library or Magic Box and I’d look at whatever was bothering me from all sides. It’s a wonder I didn’t go multiple personality.”

“That work for you?”

“Yeah. At first I’d ask myself  ‘what would Buffy do?’ then realized the answer was often that she’d call a Scooby meeting. If she couldn't kill it right off, that is.” Xander warmed to his theory and switched to rolling the bottle between his palms and occasionally waving it for emphasis. “Not everyone was at every meeting. It would change.”

“Why was that?”

“Not every problem’s the same, is it? Giles was always the voice of reason. I’d look at the facts I was given and try to remember anything I might know that would help. Willow would be the comforter and the one to make me look out for myself. Buffy would help me be merciless when I had to. Oz would help me stay calm.” Xander suddenly became aware of how much he was revealing and blushed.

Spike gave him an arched brow and smiled. “You were lucky to have such friends.”

“Yeah.” Xander scowled at the bottle he was playing with and tossed it in a neat arch into a trash can. “You were there too, sometimes,” he said quietly.

“Yeah? What use did you have of a Big Bad in that brain of yours?”

Xander looked at the beach and was disappointed to find the bucket half buried in the sand and unable to dance about. “When I was fighting, or learning to fight, I’d try to remember your style.”

“Like you could ever have style like mine,” Spike play scoffed.

“No. I could never fight like a vampire. But you do have confidence, Spike. You lead with your bluster and balls and I admire that.”

Spike tilted his head and met Xander’s steady gaze. He had always acted like everyone should admire him, but found himself surprised and very flattered when he learned someone really did. “Really, Xander?”

“Really.” Xander looked away, ducking his head. “And some nights when I was alone… I would imagine we were watching TV or you were tied to the chair nearby and snarking at me.”

“Like me tied to the chair, did you?”

“It was a way to explain why you weren’t…” Xander trailed off, regretting he didn’t have the bottle to fiddle with.

Spike wanted to snark and tease, say something about joining him in bed, but held back. “Why I wasn’t making noise in the kitchen and keeping you awake?”

“Yeah… Like you’d do to annoy me.”

They sat quietly together, watching the surf as the moon rose higher. Finally Xander sighed and scrubbed his hand over his face. “Thank you, Spike. you’ve put things in perspective.”

Spike shrugged. “Just doing my job.”

Xander searched out the bucket and could only see the handle flipping back and forth in the tide. “I love the ocean. I can control my dreams, did you know that?”


“Yeah. I learned how to keep sane. I like to dream I can breathe under water. I love to dive deep and look up at the sunlight shining through the water. I love how the water feels rushing over my naked body as I swim.”

“Oh, yeah. That rocks.”

“You’ve dreamed that?”

“Done it, Mate. Only without the sunlight.”

“Oh.” They sat and listened to the ocean pound for a while. “Damn.”


“I’m jealous of a vampire.”

“Hey, there’s a lot to be jealous of.”

“I know, long life, strength, yadda, yadda.”

“I mean, in me there’s a lot to be jealous of. Everyone wants to be the Spike.”

Xander snickered. “Yeah, right.”

“’s true!”

Xander smiled and it turned into a yawn. “Can we go back and see if Gunn left us any cookies?”


Xander hopped off the table and instead of heading to the road as Spike expected, he went down to the beach. He dug the kid’s bucket out of the sand, rinsed it off, and set it on the steps that climbed the dune.

Spike smiled at the big hearted man who even rescued toys.

On to Chapter 13

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