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“Boy, am I ever! Did I see Fruit Loops?” Xander knelt
down and pulled a couple of bottles of juice and one of milk from the mini
Spike shook his head and followed Xander to the table. He
sat back and watched, amused, as the man tore into a tiny brightly colored box
and upended it. “Sugar…” he sighed. Xander ate for five minutes before he
noticed Spike was just watching. “Aren’t you hungry?”
“I nipped down to my room for some O pos. while you
drained half the state’s water supply.”
“Oh.” He ate half of a ripe banana and looked around
the room for the first time with rested eye. He finished off the chocolate chip
muffin, tore into a ripe, fresh apple, and picked up the book Spike had lain
face-down on the table. On the cover, a muscular, long-haired man in a loin
cloth is running to the rescue of a half-clothed woman who is being menaced by
an ape. “Tarzan! You’re reading
Tarzan? What’s that supposed to mean?”
Spike grinned and shrugged. “It’s a classic, and I’ve
not read it in ages. Plus, well, being in the room with a naked, long-haired
muscle man who eats with both hands does inspire,” he chuckled.
Xander looked sideways at him. “So what was with all the
swishing on the ship?”
Spike sat up defensively. “Acting. And I’m damn good at
Xander smirked. “Sure, you just let out what comes
Spike glowered at him. “Bloody savage.”
“Poof!” Xander said with a puff of air to accent it,
Spike tried to hold his glower, but just could not. He
laughed and leaned back in his chair. “You are looking a little ragged.”
Xander fingered a waist-length lock that was now drying
across his back. He shook his head and delighted in the lack of weight from the
gems. Still, his look was extreme even for California. “I guess so.”
“I can trim your hair for you.”
“And he’s a hairdresser. What other secrets do you
have? Did I miss your and Angel’s wedding?”
“No," Spike snapped. "No wedding the
Xander clapped his hands in delight. “So I didn’t miss
it! Moonlight ceremony on the beach? Will anyone wear white?” he shrilled.
“Git,” Spike said fondly, happy to see the doughnut
boy’s humor had somehow survived.
“Why would I let you, of all people, trim my hair?”
“I kept Drusilla looking beautiful for over a hundred
years. And I do my own.”
“That explains so very much,” he said with a smile.
“Yeah, that would be good, but if you give me a mullet, I will very personally
kill you very slowly.”
“I don’t doubt that for an instant,” Spike said
seriously. “When you’re done murdering breakfast, we’ll get to it.”
Xander ate until only crumbs and cereal packets were left.
“I think I have an 8 o’clock appointment with Mr. Swishy?”
“Oh, yes, that was for the mullet and the bleaching, was
it not?” Spike said in his German accent, pulling the comb and scissors out of
his back pocket.
Spike laid out a spare bed sheet, and sat a chair on it
facing the full-length mirror. Xander surprised him when he turned it so he was
facing out of the window instead. Spike shrugged and starting combing out the
mass of hair. “You know,” he said after a while, “you are such an
interesting monster, and an interesting monster should have an interesting
“Burroughs and Bugs Bunny in one day. You’re one
literate guy, Spike.”
“I read a lot.” Spike said absently as he worked out a
Xander chewed on his lip before saying softly, “But I am
a monster now, Spike. I know how to kill, and I’m damn good at it.”
Spike paused briefly. “Do you enjoy it?”
It was a minute before Xander responded. “Sometimes. When
the cause is good, the enemy truly evil or…” he trailed off.
“Or the hunt is honest,” Spike finished.
“Yeah.” He allowed himself to relax again into
Spike’s admittedly skilled touch. “That’s what my proposition is about,
Spike. There’s so much I’ve done. So much I’ve seen, and what I’ve
become… I want to talk. I want to let it all out. Anyone else and I’d
horrify them, or… they’d pity me. I’ve not had anyone to talk to in...
Again a reference to loosing someone. Spike combed his hair
and let him have time to sort out his thoughts.
“I’ve done monstrous things and… I want to hire you,
“I’m no goods at counseling, mate.”
“Bullshit. I saw you that summer taking care of Dawn. You
held her together.”
“Only barely.” He picked up the scissors. “How long
to you want it?”
“To the middle of my back, if you can make it look
Spike fingered the now-flowing strands. He knew what a
badge of honor the length was. Xander had earned every inch. “It’s
beautiful, Xander, and the girls will say something, but I understand.” Xander
nodded once. “If I put in a few layers… not a mullet… I can make you look
Spike begin to cut. After the first few hunks fell to the
floor and Xander had relaxed again, Spike prompted him. “What’s it pay?”
“You saw the gems.”
“I mean, what will you pay me?”
“I meant to pay you, Spike, they’re all I have.”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“Where are they, anyway?” Xander asked, glancing at the
dresser where the used spell components lay.
“In a safe in my room.”
“Good. If you act as my councilor, sparring partner, gem
broker, and hairdresser,” Spike could hear the smile in that last, “I will
give you your choice of two of the gems.”
Spike paused in his cutting. “Xander… you do know what
they are worth, don’t you?”
“There’s a blue diamond in there that’s almost three
carats. Will that one buy me six months?”
Spike came around to face Xander. “That’s too much.”
Spike knelt and looked Xander in the eye. “Listen to me,
whelp. I’ll be all those things for you. But you won’t be my boss, or my
client, except where hair care is concerned, then I expect tips. I’m free to
take other jobs on your approval, and we’ll renegotiate the contract after the
year that gem will buy.”
Xander blinked. He’d not expected Spike to have thought
out this whole thing better then he had. “Er... what’s the catch?”
“You’ll take my advise and listen to me if I tell you
you’re doing something wrong, or there’s something you need to do. I’ve
been alive a hell of a lot longer than you, and I’ve been in situations…
bloody bad places. I’ve seen and done more than you’ll ever know.”
“In short, let you keep me from acting like the stubborn
ass I once was?”
“Basically, yeah. If you want, Charlie Gunn will draw us
up a contract, he’s right good with that.”
Xander looked into Spike’s honest eyes and saw again the
spark within. “Maybe. Hey, wait. If you’re not my employee, and I’m not
your client, why am I paying you?”
Spike grinned. “Because you feel you have to.” Spike
returned to behind Xander.
“When did you get so clever, Spike?”
“Always have been. You were just too busy hating me to
see it. Plus, it’s easier to pull things off when your enemy underestimates
Xander blew a raspberry. “Right. Loan sharks after your
ass, unrefrigerated demon eggs…”
Spike pulled Xander’s hair sharply. “Sorry, bit of a
Spike worked in silence as Xander watched the very green
trees swaying outside his window. The world had turned and the once-normal
seemed alien. And the once alien… “Hey Spike?”
“I didn’t always, you know,” Xander said softly.
“Didn’t always what? Have the ability to defend your
own sorry ass? Know that.”
“Oh.” Spike just combed Xander’s hair and made a few
“This is where you say you didn’t always hate me,
“Why the bloody hell would I say that?”
“Sheesh, Spike. I thought you read a lot. It always
happens in the books that two long-separated enemies get back together and, once
they finally talk, realize they
could have been close friends long ago.”
“I don’t read comic books, Spock.” Spike felt Xander
slump just a little and knew he’d taken it too far. “But. And I’ll only
say this once. I did and do respect you. The shit the Hellmouth flung at you,
you took with a grin. And now… Christ. You’ve been put through hell for five
fucking years, and you still can joke.” He put his hand on Xander’s
shoulder. “You’re a hell of a man, Xander Harris. I admire you.”
“Thanks,” Xander whispered.
“Plus,” Spike perked up, “you look damn good, if I
say so my self.”
Xander reached up and ran his rough hands through his hair.
Spike watched it catch on the heavy iron still welded around his wrists.
“Thanks! It feels great.”
“Aren’t you going to take a look?”
“Nah. I thrust you. Now,” Xander said, as he stood up
and shook his head like a dog. Bits of hair floated down through the sunlight to
the sheet. “I’m going to wash off the itchy hair bits.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Expect rolling blackouts. I’ll call the power company.”
He fully expected another long shower, but Xander was back
out before Spike had finished cleaning up the hair cutting scene.
Xander crossed to the window and looked down at the neatly
“Are you trying to give one of the girls an eye full?”
“Huh? No.” He looked down at himself and gave a short
laugh. “I’m so used to being naked. I don’t notice. Does it bother you?”
“Pfft. As if.” Spike continued to bundle the sheet as
Xander watched him, his eye distant. Xander’s hand wandered to the pearl.
“Anthony was taller than you, maybe an inch taller than
me.” Spike said nothing, but let Xander talk. “And he was skinny. Not like
you’re skinny. You’re… lean. He looked like you could break him with one
hand. But he was strong. God, he was strong. And he was a dark as you are pale.
He liked to wear these bright robes like chieftains wore. He said it made him
A knock sounded at the door, and Spike inwardly cursed.
“It’s Willow.” Xander dropped his reverie and headed for the door.
“Xander, what was I just saying about nudity and the girls?”
“Oops. Just a second!” he called.
“Um, no hurry,” Willow’s uncertain voice said.
Xander grabbed up the purple pants and pulled them on.
Spike picked up his book and retreated to the chair. Xander opened the door and
ushered his friend inside. “Good morning, Mrs. Osborne!”
Willow giggled. “I hope I’m not intruding, but I wanted
bring you your clothes. I washed them so they’re not as new and stiff. And I
wanted to make sure you had everything you needed… Did you get enough to
“I did, and I may be a bit ill from it,” Xander said as
he took the clothes.
“I know I am from watching,” Spike muttered.
“But, you enjoyed it,
right?” Willow asked, very much the uncertain kid Xander loved long
Willow looked him over. “Oh! Your hair is shorter! And…
it looks nice.”
“Spike cut it. I have this theory that he’s probably
also good at interior decorating. His crypt looked nice there at the end, after
“Hey!” Spike protested.
Willow noticed in the sheet that was now crumpled to one
side. “Is that one of my good sheets?”
“I found it in the cupboard,” Spike said defensively.
“Spike! You should have asked! I’ve got old ones for
such things,” she scolded as she picked it up, being careful to not spill the
“Oh, Doc Savage here will buy you another.”
Xander crossed his arms, unknowingly striking
a pose much like your typical pulp novel cover, and looked over at Spike.
“Doc Savage was bald.”
“You could be, too, mister,” Spike growled.
Willow laughed. “At least you two are playing nicely.”
“Willow,” Xander said as he took the sheet from her and
put it back on the floor. “Can you help me with something?”
She took his sudden mood change in stride. “Of course.
Anything I can.”
“I should have asked, but last night, I cast a spell.
It’s wasn’t polite…”
Willow laid a finger across his lips. “It’s allowed,
Xander. I allowed it. I felt your cleansing spell last night, and it makes me
happy you want to move on so soon. Whatever helps you heal.”
Xander wrapped his big arms around his tiny friend. Spike
watched, amused as she flushed and fought down a wave of arousal. He couldn’t
blame her. After all, she was being pressed to the romance novel cover version
of the boy she’d been madly in love with for several years. Spike was sure the
long soft hair draping her face didn’t help. “I love you, Willow,” he said
and let her go.
“You, too, Xander. I love you, too.”
They grinned at each other until Spike blew a raspberry,
“Should I leave the room, or can I stay and watch?”
“Spike!” Willow yelped, jumping back. “I’m not!
We’re… I’m married!"
“And this isn’t one of your Tarzan novels I’m
Xander laughed as Willow turned beet red.
“Ignore him, Wills. Look, ” Xander said, turning serious, “can you
help with the clean up?” He pointed to the spell components. “and make sure
the gems are clean? Spike has them."
“Of course, Xander. Anything. You, oh evil vampire, get to bring down the breakfast tray.” She stuck her tongue out at an amused Spike and left, taking the components and hair-covered sheet with her.
Once she’d left, with a promise from Xander that he’d
come down soon, Xander turned to Spike. “What was that about, Spike?”
“The get-a-room remark?”
“You’ve got a room, I just offered to leave.”
Xander sat on the bed near Spike and looked down at his
hands. “I’m a monster, Spike. I’ve been shaped and trained to kill. I’m
so muscle bound… Why would
anybody find that attractive?”
“Have you ever looked at the covers to romance novels?”
“Mom read them all the time.”
“That’s you, whelp. You could be the Fabio of the new millennia.”
“No. I don’t think that’s... that this is attractive.” He pointed to his own broad chest.
“Okay, then what is?” He couldn’t resist asking.
“Swimmers, bikers, athletes with clean, lean muscles.”
Spike wondered if Xander realized he’d just described
him. More likely, he was thinking about his lost Anthony. He took a risk.
Xander looked up sharply at Spike, but found no mockery.
Sadly, he let his eyes drop. So it was about the past. “Yeah. Weird, huh?
I’ve got a skinny guy kink.”
“Not so very. I’ve found that big men often like
littler, leaner… partners.” He waited a couple of beats to see if Xander
knew where he was going. “Did ya see how stick figure Dru is? And why do you
think Angelus allowed Drusilla to keep me?”
Xander had to allow his head to wrap around this before
meeting Spike’s eyes. “You mean he…?”
“And I, and we, yeah. Only once, shortly after I was
sired... But the rest of the time he loved to watch me with Drusilla. Angelus
was all the time watching me… And I liked to watch him. Even when I wasn’t
with Dru, I could feel his eyes on me, but the bastard wouldn’t touch me
again. He just said he’d done it ta prove who was top dog, that he didn’t
like ta fuck boys....Bastard. If he hadn’t ta been so uptight, we could’ve
had some grand times. Why else would I hate him so much?”
Xander shook his head. “I never would have guessed
“I called him poof often enough, didn’t I?”
Xander shrugged. “I mean about you.”
Spike steadily met his eye. “It’s all about the person,
not the body. Now get dressed before Willow comes up to drag you out of here.”
Xander thought about having heard the same thing in two
days from different people. He did not yet know what it meant.
In the living room, they encountered Midra and Gunn. She
immediately rose to her feet and bowed to Xander. She made a sign of respect and
spoke to him rapidly in her native dialect. Xander answered in the same tongue,
then broke into English. “Thank you, Midra. I appreciate it. Now I’m just
Xander, okay? I want to leave all that behind.”
“I understand. But also know that if you need anything of
that land, speak to me. I know it’s hard to shake.”
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Xander cracked a patented crooked smile and hugged her.
After they left, Gunn cocked an eyebrow at his lover.
“What was that about?”
“He is a strong, brave man, my love. In my culture you
respect such things and do not let them go unremarked.”
“Oh,” Gunn said, trying to tamp down his unreasonable
jealousy of the handsome, sound, strong man all the ladies were making over. He
didn’t get far into his brood before his lap was filled with lean, spicy
scented woman. His woman.
“You are a foolish man,” she said fondly and kissed his
lips. “You should be glad the tribe has gained such a warrior. Our forces have
been strengthened. And the pale one is strengthened by his being here, too.”
“Wha? Spike? What are you talking about?”
“He didn’t collect his money and run as he always does.
He came back here and waited.”
Gunn drew back and looked up at Midra. “Spike and Xander
are… nah. I mean, I know he stayed in Xander’s room…”
She smacked him playfully on the arm. “Your mind goes
there far to easily. They have connections they made years ago. In Sunnydale.
Since Angel pushed Spike away, he’s been without a focus, without grounding.
For all his strengths, Spike needs a balance. A yen to his yang.”
“I just hope no one starts yenning for my yang.” Gunn
muttered, playing up his implied role as homophobe when it really didn’t
bother him in the least.
“I’m the only one here gets access to that,” Midra declared and pushed up off his lap. “Now stay out from under foot. I’ve got work to do.”
On to Chapter 8
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