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Chapter 37

Spike was enjoying Xander’s laughter at his stories of drunken blues singers when they stepped into Jen’s quiet shop. When Xander suddenly stopped, his mirth evaporating, Spike snapped to protector mode and put himself between Xander and the interior of the shop.

Jen stood behind the counter and was saying something to a couple of customers. The woman was about Spike’s height, but nicely curvy, and the man was tall and thin, with a straight back and almost knobby joints. When he turned his head to talk to his companion, Spike could see his profile with a classic nose and sharp chin. Reading no danger from the couple who stood with their arms around one another, Spike glanced at Xander. He stood very still, but his heart galloped and he stared at the man, his face expressionless.

“I’ll be right with you,” called Jen and returned her attention to the couple. The man turned and smiled at them before whispering something to the woman. Spike caught the words “pretty men.” She, too, glanced back and smiled in a friendly way. Money was exchanged and they left through the front door, completely absorbed in one anther and not sparing another glance at the newcomers.

“What’s wrong?” Spike asked quietly.

“That guy.”

“You know him?”

“He…” Xander closed his eye and made himself relax. “He was built so much like Anthony. Tall and thin and… the nose… damn it.”

“It’s not a common body type,” Spike said and laid a comforting hand on Xander’s shoulder.

Xander shook his head and then shook himself, shedding the bad mood. “Sorry. It caught me off guard.”

“No problem, Xander.”

Spike turned his attention back to Jen who had busied herself putting away a tray of jewelry, letting the men pull themselves together.

She smiled at them, her short pony tail bobbing as she nodded at Xander. “You need something.”

“Um, yeah. My special order. The thing…”

Jen placed a canvas bag which clicked and shifted on the counter between them. “No, you need something from in here.”

Puzzled, Xander looked to Spike who nodded. She’d never given him any reason to not trust her. In fact, he’d seen her little positive nudges and influences on more than one occasion. Spike kept meaning to sit down with Willow and talk about their possibly magical neighbor, but, like the runes on Xander’s bracelet, he always forgot once he left the shop.

Xander started to open the top and peer in, but Jen stopped him. “Reach in and find what’s right. Don’t look.”

Xander gave an uncomfortable laugh. “It won’t bite me, will it?”

Jen just crossed her arms and grinned impishly. “It might be you need a good biting, but you won’t find it in there.”

Spike met her twinkling eyes and raised his scarred brow. “Go on, Xander,” Spike said to his hesitant companion who was so focused on the bag he’d missed the exchange. “I’ve not known her to be wrong.”

“It’s just that the last time I stuck my hand in a bag without looking I came out with a handful of dingo dung.”

“No dung. I promise.” Xander sighed and reached in. When he started to pull his hand out right away, Jen stopped him. “Take a minute, feel around, find what you need.”

Trusting, Xander nodded, took a deep breath, and felt around. After a minute of chewing his lip and producing a clatter and jingle of unseen objects, he stopped and all tension left his body. Confidently, he pulled his closed hand out of the bag.

“Hold it out on your palm, let me see,” Jen said. Spike leaned in to see as well. Nestled perfectly in the palm of Xander’s broad hand was a smooth stone. It was a kind of warped, flat oval that invited you to explore it. The bright lights over the counter illuminated the clear quartz, revealing a single plane of foggy white within it, like a sheet of paper in ice. Suspended above it were thin black lines like scratchings from an ink pin.

Jen looked from the stone to Xander as he tilted it on is palm, caressing it with his thumb. “Quartz with tourmaline,” she said. “You have a long story to tell. When it’s told, give the stone back to water.” She folded Xander’s hand over his prize, hiding it away.

He smiled crookedly at her. “That’s what I need?”

“One of the things, yes. Now, about your special order.” Spike watched as Xander slipped the stone into his pocket as if he’d always carried it.

Jen presented a small green jewelry box to Xander. Carefully, he opened it. “It’s beautiful, exactly what I pictured.”

“She’ll love it, Xander,” Spike said, admiring the fine metal work and glittering jewel.

“It’s not… hokey?” Xander worried.

“Not in the least.” Spike turned his attention to Jen as Xander studied the necklace. “You know you’re invited to the party, yeah?”

“I’d love to come, but I’ve got a show in the city.”

“Selling more paintings?”

“Hope to. Hey, will you take a package to Dawn for me?”

“Sure will,” Spike smiled.

“Let me get it.”

Xander closed the box, set it on the counter, and turned his wrist band. “I feel like I wanted to ask her about something, but I can’t remember what.”

Spike smiled. “This place has that effect. It’s harmless.” He’d noticed that Xander only wore the left wrist band, the one with the glyphs of home and Spike on it, and remembered the symbol she’d added, but just shrugged.

Xander pulled the stone out of his pocket and studied it. “It’s so pretty. I wonder where it came from.”

“Argentina,” Spike answered absently.

“You know about gemstones?”

“No, it’s written on a card here.” Spike pointed to a three inch orb of the same material in the show case. Absently, he ran his fingers through a bowl of little charms.

“Smart ass,” Xander murmured and leaned over to look in the case.

“You have to be observant, Xander. Bloody hell!” Spike jerked his had from the bowl, making it tip over and spill across the counter.

Xander sprang spike’s side. “What happened?”

Spike frowned and shook out his hand. “It’s a sodding pagan shop. Shouldn’t be crosses hiding in the pretties. Dangerous, that.”

“Let me see.” Xander took Spike’s hand and looked at it. “I don’t see anything.”

“Right there!” Spike pointed to a half inch red mark on the side of his index finger.

“Poor baby.”

Jen came out of the back room. “It’s nice to see two pretty men holding hands.”

Xander let go of Spike’s hand and started scooping up the charms. “He… hurt himself on something in the bowl.”

“Funny, there shouldn’t be anything sharp in there.” She plucked out a two inch cross of polished wood. “Unless it was this.” She tossed it to Spike who jumped back with hands raised like someone who has dropped a knife.

“Very funny,” Spike said.

Confused, Xander picked up the cross and put it back in the bowl. “You know he’s…”

“Nosferatu? Sure.”

“I hate that word,” Spike muttered.

“Undead?” Jen said.

“Creature of the night?” Xander added.

“Vampyrrrrre.” Jen said in a fake European accent.

“Should be pushing up the daisies.”

“He has shuffled off the mortal coil,” Jen quoted.

“He is an Ex-human!” Xander cried.

“Bloody hell.” Spike shook his head and went to the far corner of the shop.

“Well preserved, though,” Jen said.

“When he bathes, you can’t tell he’s dead at all.”

They laughed at Spike who sneered comically back at the good natured ribbing. “Ha, bloody ha.”

“So, let’s settle your bill,” Jen said.

Spike rejoined them, but refrained from playing with anything on the counter. 

Xander paid the bill and picked up his packages. “I’ll make sure Dawn gets her gift.”

“Thank you.”

“Any other tidbits for us, Jen?” Spike asked.

She studied them both in turn. “It’s good to have reached a plateau. Just don’t be afraid to climb on up when the time is right.”

Xander gave a puzzled frown. “Hiking advice?”

“Life advice. And, Xander, remember that the heaviest luggage is that you carry on your heart.”

Xander was still puzzling over Jen’s words when they buckled in the car. “What is she, Spike? A witch?”

“I’m not sure. I keep meaning to ask Willow about her, but I always forget.”

“But you think she’s harmless?”

“I’ve seen lots of little good things she’s done around here. What music you want on the way back?”

“Something light. Pop, maybe.”

They talked about the upcoming party for a little while, then a comfortable silence fell between them. Spike let the thirty year old music wash over him, not really listening, until the chorus of one song

“Gonna take a lot to drag me away from you,” sang Toto. “There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do. I bless the rains down in Africa.”

Spike reached to turn it off, but Xander stopped him. He took glances at Xander as he mouthed some of the lyrics and fingered the quartz.

Finally, the song ended to be followed by the electronic instrumental theme to a buddy cop movie from the ‘80’s.

“I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become. I miss the rains down in Africa,” Xander quoted quietly. 

“I think they say ‘bless the rains,’” Spike corrected.

“I’ve never heard it that way. Doesn’t matter, I don’t bless or miss them.”

Spike didn’t know what to reply to that, so he said nothing, letting Xander find his own space.

“My back pack arrived today,” Xander said after the song had changed to a song about turning Japanese.

“Yeah?” He immediately connected it with Jen’s baggage remarks, but figured Xander had already forgotten them.

“Will you go through it with me?”

“I can’t think of anything I’d like to do better. Oh, wait, that would be fun. And so would… hummm… I can think of a lot of things I’d like to do better, but Natalie Portman  won’t return my calls.” Spike grinned at Xander who sighed at him. “Of course I will, Xander.”


A half an hour later, the two were settled on the floor in Xander’s room with the box before them. After ten minutes, Spike nudged Xander. “Are you asleep over there?”

“I… I spent a year living out of my backpack, the only constant I had was what’s in that pack. Giles kept it all this time. The first… months probably, I would entertain myself by inventorying what was in there, and… wishing for the simple comforts. Now…”

“You can’t remember what’s in it?”


“Well, then it’s all new! Shall I do the honors?” Spike pulled out his pocket knife and opened it.

“No. Let me.”  Xander took the sharp blade and carefully slit open the neatly applied tape. 

On top of everything was a crisp white envelope with Xander’s name written in a familiar hand. He sat back and opened it. This was where he found Giles’ hand writing. It was a little more wobbly than of old, but still careful and elegant.

“Dear Xander,

I acquired all your belongings from the hotel where you were staying shortly after your disappearance. I sorted through it looking for clues to your whereabouts and possible bad magicks. Finding none, I removed all perishables and sealed it away. Any paperwork I mailed to your mother.

I am so very happy to be able to return it to you. Bless you Xander, and welcome back to the states.

I hope the opportunity arises for me to visit you soon.

Stay safe, and give my love to all,


Next came several neatly wrapped items, labeled with the names of their friends. Spike raised up to his knees. “Oo, oo! Where’s mine?”

Xander pulled out a small box and passed it to him. “Is it always such a big deal when Giles sends a package?”

“Bloody right!” Spike said, running a thumbnail under the tape and opening the little box.

Xander set aside the other packages and pulled out a wad of crumbled newspapers. A memory of long ago enjoying the exotic newspapers that Magic Box shipments were always wrapped in surfaced. It vanished when the blue back pack was revealed.

Spike started to offer Xander one of the sweets from his box, but the smile faded when he saw Xander’s expression. He put the candy aside and joined Xander in looking down into the box. “That’s one of those zipper bags they sell on TV, innit?”

“Keeps things fresh,” Xander said absently, quoting an infomercial they’d both stared at.

“Well? We can always do this later.” Spike asked after a few minutes.

“No. You open it.”

On to Chapter 38

"Africa" by Toto

I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers 
Of some quiet conversation
She's coming in 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars 
That guide me towards salvation
I stopped an old man along the way
Hoping to find some long forgotten words 
Or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say  
Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you
It's gonna take a lot 
To drag me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men 
Or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time 
To do the things we never had
The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless 
Longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what's right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises 
Like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what's deep inside 
Frightened of this thing that I've become
It's gonna take a lot 
To drag me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men 
Or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time 
To do the things we never had
Hurry boy, she's waiting there for you
It's gonna take a lot 
To drag me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men 
Or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
I bless the rains down in Africa
I bless the rains down in Africa
I bless the rains down in Africa
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do 
The things we never had 



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