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Chapter 9

Spike returned to the quiet house just after two in the morning. He listened and located everyone sleeping in their beds but Dawn and Xander. With his arms loaded with packages he made his way quietly up the stairs. He could hear the television in Xander’s room long before he reached the door, but it was low enough it would bother no one in the house.

He stopped outside the door and peeked through the crack. Xander sat cross-legged at  the foot of the bed. Dawn was stretched out beside him, face down in a pillow and very much asleep. Strangely, Xander’s hair was braided in many braids of varied sizes and styles. Spike noted the metal arm bands were gone and as he watched, Xander rubbed the pale area on one wrist. What made Spike smile was the way Xander was absently petting Dawn’s hair as if she were a cat. It was less than a minute before Xander’s eye flicked to him. With a distracted wave, Xander motioned Spike in and returned his attention to the movie.

Spike pushed the door open with his foot and moved to stand by Xander’s side of the bed. On the screen, Hellboy snagged a box of kittens while fighting off a snarling, multi-eyed, tentacled monster.  Spike watched the movie with him for a few minutes until Hellboy saved the kittens and Xander paused it.

"Hey, Spike. That’s quite a haul.” He said softly.

“Yeah, and it’s getting’ heavy, thanks for offerin’ to help.” Spike let all the packages fall with a rattle and a clatter. Dawn pushed herself up with an “eep.”

“Nice, Spike. Being mean to little girls.”

“I am evil,” Spike said just as Dawn said “I’m not a little girl,” and punched Xander’s arm.

Xander pouted and slumped. Dawn rubbed her eyes and looked at the pile of bags. “Oh! Shopping! And you didn’t take me with.”

“This is boring stuff, Pet. Man things.” Spike hung his coat by the door and flung himself down on the bed. “I can’t take looking at those purple pants any more.”

“You never say anything when Charles wears them,” Dawn said as she craned her neck toward the bounty.

“They go better with his skin tone.”

“Boots off the bed, dead head.” Xander said and shoved at Spike’s crossed ankles. “Willow will hold me responsible.”

Dawn hopped off the bed, ran around it and started digging in the bags. She tossed her finds up on the bed. “T-shirt, t-shirt, jeans, shorts, undies. Hey! How did you know Xander’s a boxers man?”

“Lived with him before, didn’t I? How do you know?”

Dawn made a face. “Laundry duty.”

“Sitting right here!” Xander protested, but was ignored.

“Shaving cream, toothpaste…” She came up with a small white box. “What’s this?”

Spike snatched at away. “None of your business. Quit digging.”

“Eh. It’s just boring anyway.” Dawn stood and stretched.

“Like I told you.” Spike tucked the box away behind him.

“Want to finish the movie?” Xander asked.

“Nah. I think I’ll go to bed.” She gave Xander a big hug. “It was great to talk to you. I missed you,” she said softly into his hair.

“You too, Dawn. So very much. Good night.”

“Night, Niblet.” Spike said as she turned to leave.

“Night, Spike. You two behave. Don’t turn up the TV or I’ll hear you. I’m right under you, you know.”

“I’ll try to keep myself from jumping on the bed while I’m at it.” Spike said dryly.

She made a face at him and left.

Xander looked thoughtfully at the vampire as he bent to unlace his boots. “Wot?”

Xander pointed at the pile of  personal products. “These are all my brands. You remembered.”

Spike shrugged. “I mooched enough of them didn’t I? Only the cheapest for Mr. Harris.”

“No, not the cheapest. The best I could afford when I had money.”

“Wanted you to be comfortable. Feel at home.” He nodded toward the bathroom.  “All the stuff in there was left by Angel or smells like flowers.”

“Angel’s stayed here?”

“Yeah. Ponce keeps a low profile these days. He’s got a werewolf of a girlfriend and has quit brooding quite so much now that he’s getting it regular.”

“Good.” Xander picked up a t-shirt and admired the soft fabric and dark blue color. “This is nice, Spike. I appreciate it.”

“Your money. I sold off a couple of the semi-precious stones to a jewelry maker I know. I… I didn’t think you should be forced out to the wide world of shopping until you wanted to go.”

“Thanks.” Xander put the products back in the bag and set it on the floor.

Spike settled back on the bed again. “This movie is better loud. Shoulda watched it in the theatre.”

“We were talking. She told me about her green hair, school, and this Michael guy. I look forward to meeting him.”

“He seems a nice enough fella.”

“She caught me up on the Summer’s slice of the world. She and Buffy.”

Spike nodded, picked up one of the t-shirts and started peeling the stickers off it. “Before you ask, we had it out a coupla years back. Buffy and me. We met up. Talked, shagged all night, broke some furniture, and parted on even terms.”

“Um. TMI, Spike.”

“Like you weren’t burning to know.”

Xander shrugged. “Yeah. I was. So you two can be in the same place without wanting to kill each other?”

“Or shag like mad.”

“Spike, please don’t say shag again.”

Spike chuckled. “Hit play, Whelp. I like this one. By the way, I like the new look.”

“Huh?” Xander hand flew to his hair. “Well, Willow was up here and we were talking about the foreign movie nights we’d have with Buffy. It was tradition to braid someone’s hair. Mine is longest, and I couldn’t say no to the girls.”

“It’s damn hard, innit?” Spike had allowed himself to be subjected to the same treatment, but damned if he’d own up to it.

Xander picked up the remote and settled against the headboard next to Spike. He hit play and started picking the tiny rubber bands out of a braid. It was not long before Spike had joined him in the unbraiding. They laughed at the movie and gave fighting advice to the heroes. By the time “Hellboy” was over, Xander’s hair was undone.

He turned off the TV. “What else did you get into tonight, Spike? It shouldn’t have taken you that long to shop.”

Spike looked him in the eye. “You want to know it all?”

“If you want to tell. I won’t pry.”

“I first went to the jeweler and sold the gems. Then I placed an order with her. I went hunting and fed. Then I went shopping. I had a few drinks, ate a blooming onion, danced with a pretty lady, then went to pick up my order.”

“That’s a full night.” Xander toyed with the pile of tiny bands.

“You aren’t going to ask what I ordered?”

“If I need to know, you’ll tell me.”

“Well, it’s for you.”

Xander perked up. “Something special for me?”

Spike fished the little white box out from behind him. “I don’t know if you’ll want them, but… here.”

Xander opened the box and took out two leather bracelets. They were a dark burgundy, as wide as the metal ones, and snapped closed. “Thanks.”

“I thought maybe, after wearing the metal so long, you may feel more comfortable with something on.”

Xander smiled at Spike. “Yeah. Yeah. These I can take off.”

“I hope the color is okay. It’s all she had on hand.”

“I like it. What are the symbols inside them?”

“They’re not enchanted, but Jen added the glyphs when I told her who it was for. We’ve been friends a long time and she knows some of what goes on.”

Xander opened a band and looked it over. “I don’t know all of these.”

“I don’t remember the order, but they’re family, freedom, health, and love. She said that goes on your right arm. The other one says safety, protection, power, and strength.”

Xander snapped one in place, then the other. “Thank you, Spike. I didn’t even think of something like this. I’d never tell the girls, but I have been noticing the absence of the bands.”

“Some of those we’ve rescued have torn fabric and wrapped their wrists.”

“Huh.” Xander felt suddenly uncomfortable. If anyone else had given him a present, he would have hugged them. “Um, that was a good movie.”

“It is. Wait until you see all of  ‘The Lord of the Rings.’”

“So I’ve been told. Hey, do you still want to spar tomorrow?”

Spike stood up. “Wouldn’t miss it. Meet me in the barn at noon.”

“It’s a date!”

Spike collected his coat and boots and left. Absently, Xander picked up the bag of clothes and went through it. He held them up and all looked to be the right size.

A bright yellow bag from a specialty store was tucked away in the bottom of one of the Wal-Mart bags. Curious, Xander opened it.

Out spilled a Hawaiian shirt so bright it made him blink. It had everything one could want in a garish pattern. Hula girls held sequined pineapples under palm trees beside blue woody station wagons with surf boards strapped to the top. Xander had to get Spike to take him shopping there.

On to Chapter 10

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