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When the impromptu celebration over the sell of Giles’
book died down, Gunn put a hand on Xander’s arm.
“Do you have a little time? It would be good to get some
more paperwork out of the way.”
Xander hesitated. Even with all the fun and good news, his
mind was still on Anthony and he wanted to talk to Spike some more. He looked to
Spike could see the tension in Xander’s eye and the way
he held himself. “Will it take long?” he asked.
“Half an hour. Plus, I think we can set up the bank
accounts so Xander can easily get his back pay once the council gets its ass in
“Back pay?” Xander asked. “Why would I get back
Gunn grinned. “Well, you’ve been doing undercover
research for us for five years, haven’t you? Now, if that isn’t enough, we
can sue the council, the government of Africa, and the manager of the hotel
where you were staying.”
Xander could only gape. Spike chuckled. “I told you
Charlie boy is the best. Let’s give the man his time, then we can continue our
discussion of astronauts and cavemen.”
“Man, you did not dig that up again!” Gunn said as he
sat down at his computer.
Two hours later, Xander’s head was reeling with
passwords, a probable lump sum to be deposited in the next week, and the amount
Spike transferred into his account from the sell of the jewels. He walked to the
kitchen in a daze and sat at the table.
Midra looked him over and cast a disapproving eye toward
the office. “That man of mine has no sense of scale. You should have smacked
him in the head and walked out an hour ago.”
Xander just stared at the flowers in the center of the
table. Spike leaned back in a chair and laced his fingers behind his head.
“He’s just won the lottery. You have to forgive his manners.”
Midra chuckled. “That’s all right. I can bring any man
back from the brink.”
Spike cast a leering eye along her body. “I bet you
Midra shook her head. “You’re good for a woman’s ego,
Mr. Spike. Watch this,” she said as she lifted the lid on a pot. Rich aromas
of beef and vegetables filled the room.
Xander’s head lifted and he snapped back to reality.
“Lunch?” he asked hopefully.
“Very shortly, yes. I told you I could bring him back.”
“Food’s always been his weakness. If we wanted him to
play bait, we just dropped candy bars along the trail.”
“Hey! None of the Scoobies did that!” Xander glowered
“Did I say ‘we?’ I meant to say I.”
Xander shook his head at the twinkle in Spike’s blue
eyes. “What’s this about astronauts and cavemen?”
“Oh, no.” Midra muttered and added a pinch of something
to her soup.
“In a fight between astronauts and cavemen, who would
“What arena?” Xander asked. “What weapons?”
“Star Trek scenario. Habitable planet, unfamiliar to both
parties. Found materials. Minimal clothing.”
“Cavemen,” Xander said without hesitation.
“I knew it!” Spike cried in triumph. “You just tipped
the house balance.”
A lively and friendly discussion continued through lunch.
Everyone had a point of view they felt strongly about. Talk switched to Giles
and his book and other matters.
Xander’s mood stayed light, but Spike began to notice
longer silences between his statements. “Hey, Xan. It’s a pretty day, how
about the ride I promised you in the Jag?”
“Great!” Xander said, jumping at the chance to escape
the chatter of his friends. He loved them all very much, but he still wasn’t
used to crowd scenes. “ Let me go put some shoes on in case you take me
somewhere civilized.” He quickly got up and dashed from the table.
“What got into him?” Willow asked. “Is he that
excited about your car?”
“As happy as he is to be here, you lot get to be a bit
much now and then,” Spike said as he got up and put his hands deep in his
pockets. “Why do you think I vanish all the time?”
“Because you are at heart a homicidal sociopath?” Gunn
said with a grin.
Spike clapped a hand to his chest. “You wound me to the
core. How can I stay around people who know me so well?”
Xander stampeded down the stairs and stood in the doorway.
“well? Are you ready to go?”
“I’ll meet you in the garage. I’m taking the
“Take your jacket,” Midra called after Xander. “In
case he keeps you out late.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Xander called, and grabbed his new
leather jacket from beside the door.
Xander blinked in the bright sunshine and made a mental
note to buy some sunglasses. He opened the door of the garage to discover Spike
settling a long black coat over his shoulders. Xander smiled at this garment
he’d been missing on the vampire, then realized it wasn’t the familiar
battered trench coat. This one was a trimmer cut and more modern in its design.
“Where’s your old coat, Spike? I’ve missed seeing it.”
“It got blown up in Rome.”
“Oh? Sounds very James Bond.”
“It was. I’ll tell you about it some day. Is there
anywhere you want to go?”
“I do want to get Dawn something for her birthday. I have
an idea, but I think it will have to be made and there’s no time.”
“Like what?” Spike asked as they climbed in the little
“I know just the place. There’s one rule when riding
“Don’t puke on the upholstery?” Xander grinned.
“Okay, two rules.” Spike said as he put on his
sunglasses. “Don’t roll the windows down or you’ll find yourself in a
dusty car with no one in control.”
Spike took off with a controlled fish-tailing out of the
garage and sped down the long driveway. He laughed with glee as Xander clutched
the handle above the door. However, once out in traffic, Spike proved himself to
be a sure and capable driver.
“Giles doesn’t look as bad as I thought he would,”
“It was bad enough to knock him off his feet for a couple
of months and make him take stock in his life. He’s not got it bad, really. He
lives at the family home with some friendly relative or another and they’ve
got enough money to get by.”
“Giles comes from money?”
“How do you think he stayed unemployed for so long after
the school blew up? How do you think he bought the Magic Box, mate?”
“I never thought about it.”
“Don’t worry too much about Rupert. Now that you’re
back, he’ll be much happier.”
Xander studied Spike but could see to trace of sarcasm.
“He cares that much?” he asked.
Spike scoffed. “They all do. I missed the worst of it,
but that was the biggest bad news everyone shared when they went to catch me up
on events.” Spike glanced over at his passenger who was staring out the
window. “Brought me down, too,” Spike confessed.
“I always pegged you for the one to outlive us all.
Unless I’m mistaken, you’re the only one who hasn’t been dead or evil then
brought back to the light side of the force.”
“Did you just make a Star Wars reference,
“Bollocks,” Spike muttered. “I’ve been spending too
much time with Gunn and Oz lately.”
Xander looked out at the bright day and the passing sights.
Soon, his mind drifted to places long packed away.
Xander tore his attention from the new Dan Brown novel
Anthony had given him an hour before. He was sitting on the pile of pillows and
blankets that had grown over the last year beside Anthony’s chair. At first,
he had sat at he table, but when he would up spending a lot of time crossing to
Anthony’s chair to show him passages, he started sitting in the floor. Anthony
managed to have soft things brought in an attempt to block out the cold stone
floor. Xander sometimes joked that he felt like a favored pet sitting at his
The vampire was holding his own book with one finger in
it as a marker. Xander had no idea how long he’d been the subject of study,
but that, too was something he’d grown used to. They had fallen into a
routine. Several evenings a week, Xander would be taken to Anthony’s cell and
they would talk together or just sit comfortably and read. More often than not,
Anthony would find his companion more interesting than his book and he would
just watch Xander. It wasn’t uncommon for their books to be abandoned in favor
of conversation. “Yes, Anthony?” Xander marked his place and set his book
“It has come to my attention that you are hiring
pleasers yet not having sex with them.”
Xander blushed and looked away. He spent most of his
time naked or almost so and they’d discussed the topic of sex before. Still,
Anthony’s direct manner caught him off guard at times. “Is that a problem? I
thought we could do whatever we wanted with them.”
“You can. I just wondered if anything was wrong?”
Xander glared at him. His constantly suppressed
frustrations bubbled up. “You mean apart from having been forced to live in a
stinking cave away from family and friends for over a year with no hope for
escape or love? You mean other than I have to hire someone just to hug me? Why,
no, Anthony. My life is great!”
Anthony’s dark eyes narrowed and Xander swallowed. As
good as their arrangement was, Xander still feared this powerful vampire and
respected him. Once Anthony had ripped the head off one of the lesser demons who
worked the tunnels for spilling something on Anthony’s boots. He braced for
attack, but Anthony just sighed, passed a hand over his face, and put his book
aside. “I know your pain, Xander,” he said quietly. “I envy you that you
can hire a pretty one to warm your bed. I cannot.”
“Why not? You wouldn’t even have to pay for it.”
“Imagine if I did that. How long would it be before
others started testing me for weakness? As it is, they question my keeping and
fair treatment of you.”
“If you need to rough me up sometime, I understand,”
Xander said quietly, feeling for his companion.
The brown eyes warmed. “You would do that for me,
Xander shrugged. “I’m used to being beat
“I don’t want to harm you Xander.” Anthony
regarded him levelly. “I would like to ask if I can join you in your pet
“You look so comfortable down there, and I sit there
when I am alone sometimes.” Anthony didn’t share that he liked the scent of
his adopted human.
“Um. Sure. I don’t mind at all.”
Anthony gifted him with one of his rare smiles, picked
up his book and gracefully sunk down beside him on the floor.
Over the next couple of visits, they sat close together
until one evening Xander gave in to the impulse to put his head in Anthony’s
“What’s this about?” Anthony asked, looking down
“Well, if I’m going to be a pet, I may as well get
my ears scratched.”
“If that is your line of logic, I, too, must be a pet
because I am spending so much time on your level.”
“I see your point. How about this; next time, I’ll
“Agreed.” Anthony picked up his book with one hand
and ran his hand through Xander’s lengthening hair.
It wasn’t long before they were holding one another,
with a casual arm around the other as they leaned together. Sometimes Anthony
liked to pull Xander back to rest against his chest and read over his shoulder.
Then one evening Anthony claimed their first kiss.
They had been sitting together in the miss-matched nest
of pillows and blankets when Anthony abruptly put aside his book, took
Xander’s from his hand and cupped one long-fingered hand around his face.
“Xander. I want this,” he said quietly and kissed him firmly. A year before,
Xander would have freaked at having the lips of a tall, strong man pressed to
his own. Now it felt right and natural.
After an immeasurable time, Anthony pulled away.
“Oh,” Xander said, making his eye focus again on the warm brown face before
him. “That was… quite nice.”
“So you would not object to more?” The rumble of
Anthony’s deep voice thrilled him.
“More? More kisses?” Anthony nodded, the gems in his
hair swinging. “No. I cannot honestly say I would object to more kisses.”
Spike glanced over at Xander where he stared vacantly out
the window. Spike watched his reflection in the window as his fingers gently
traced the fullness of his lower lip, then dropped to grasp the pearl which
never left his throat. When a tear slipped from his eye, Spike decided to derail
his train of thought. He parked the car and turned off the motor.
“We’re here,” Spike said, cutting into Xander’s
Xander blinked and looked around. They were parked on a sheltered driveway by a row of shops. The sun glinted off the ocean not too far away. Xander sniffed and rubbed his face. “Sorry, I… I must have dozed off. Where’s here?”
On to Chapter 24
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