Two tunnels diverged in a grimy subway.
And I, I don't know which one the demon went down.
- Xander Harris, with props to Robert Frost
He stood there at the junction for a frustrated moment, panting. There was no way to tell whether the demon had gone right or left, and the longer Xander hesitated, the further ahead it was going to get. Not to mention the fact that there'd be a rush hour train coming along this track any minute now. Xander did a quick eeny, meeny, stopped on moe for expediency's sake, and sprinted down the right-hand tunnel.
He skidded to a stop about two hundred feet in—a maintenance worker in grease-stained coveralls was standing at an open access panel, fiddling with a wrench. The guy turned around at the noise Xander made.
"Don't mind me, I was just—" Xander started, and then he saw who it was.
He looked different. He'd stopped bleaching his hair; he was wearing it in a stark buzz cut now. The coveralls were a new look for sure, but his face was the same. He hadn't aged, of course.
Xander's brain skittered around for a moment, denying the reality in front of him because it was just too fucking random. Then he got his mouth working. "Spike? What the hell are you doing here?"
Spike had looked startled too in the first instant of recognition, but now he just looked pissed off. "I work here. What the bloody hell are you doing here?"
"Chasing a demon." Xander gave himself a mental kick in the ass. Long-lost vampire or no long-lost vampire, the demon was still a priority. "Maybe you saw it? Eight limbs, hairy, carrying a snazzy blue duffel bag?"
"Haven't seen it." Spike slammed the access panel shut, dropped the wrench, and pulled a wicked-looking hunting knife out of his tool belt. "Been looking for it, though. Where'd you lose it?"
"Just where the track split," Xander pointed.
"Right, well, off we go. Mind the live rail." Spike gave Xander a sideways look as they started running down the track. "Gonna take it down with your bare hands, then?"
"I just got off a fucking airplane. They kinda frown on anything deadlier than a plastic fork."
"Take this." Spike pulled a second, slightly smaller knife out of his belt and passed it to Xander. "And for fuck's sake, come over to the side of the tunnel."
"What? Oh." Xander hopped over to the edge and pressed himself against the damp tunnel wall just in time to avoid the train he hadn't noticed. The whole tunnel shook as it roared past.
He looked over at Spike, pinned against the wall next to him. Spike was staring out at the train, his jaw set hard. He clearly wasn't happy about this crazy coincidental meeting in the London Underground after thirteen years of radio silence, but at least he wasn't being an asshole about it. So far.
Xander wasn't sure how he felt about it himself. He'd thought Spike was dust. Buffy and Angel always said they were sure Spike was still out there somewhere, probably drinking and gambling and getting lots of sex and generally having a whole lot more fun than the rest of them. Of course, Xander had never told them that before he pulled the disappearing act, Spike had been having sex with him.
He was glad Spike wasn't dust. But where the fuck had he been for the past thirteen years?
The moment the train was past them, Spike sprinted away. Xander felt sluggish in comparison as he pushed off from the tunnel wall and urged his legs back into motion. He was tired and jet-lagged and too damn old for this.
By the time Xander got back to the junction where he'd lost the demon in the first place, Spike was completely out of sight. Xander pressed his free hand against the stitch in his side and jogged down the left-hand tunnel, nursing the hope that by the time he managed to catch up, Spike would've already killed the demon.
This tunnel looked more run-down than the other one; the rails were tinged with rust, and bits of fallen mortar crunched under Xander's boots as he ran. The lights weren't in good repair either, and the further into the tunnel Xander went, the darker it got. So he heard the fight before he saw it: the thud and crunch of punches landing, the scuffle of loose grit underfoot, and finally a louder thump like a body hitting the wall.
Xander basically tripped over Spike. More like kicked him in the ribs and then fell on top of him, actually. He knew it was Spike and not the demon because Spike was not furry and had only the usual number of arms and legs, and also because he said "Bloody hell, Harris!" as Xander elbowed him in the head.
"Sorry!" Xander gasped. "Where's the demon?"
"Ran off," Spike said. "Not so fast this time, though—we'll catch it again."
"Are you all right?" By now Xander had managed to roll off of Spike. He reached out towards him—to give him a hand up, maybe, or at least to figure out where he was now in the dark—and his hand made contact with Spike's face. Xander's heart jumped and instead of jerking his hand back, he froze. The years fell away in a dizzying rush and suddenly Xander was remembering the last time he'd seen Spike before he disappeared. They'd met up in Nairobi, got a little bit drunk, and gone back to Xander's hotel room to fuck. Afterwards they'd lain together on the bed, tangled up in the sweaty sheets, too buzzed to sleep, and they'd talked—about how maybe this thing between them was turning into more than it had been, starting to be about more than just who they wanted to be with but couldn't be. They'd fucked maybe a dozen different times since the day of Buffy and Angel's wedding, but that night in Nairobi was the first time they kissed.
"I'm fine," Spike said, and Xander felt Spike's hand on his wrist, moving his hand away from Spike's face—but not roughly, and Spike didn't let go right away. "Bit of a knock on the head, is all. Think I broke one of the bastard's legs. Let's go."
They moved side-by-side in the darkness for a while. Xander wondered what Spike was thinking. Obviously he hadn't wanted to be found. Was it Xander he'd been avoiding all these years, or the Council, or what? At some point really soon they were going to have to talk about this.
After a few more minutes, the tunnel started brightening. Xander saw Spike crouch down and finger a bit of goop that was splashed on the track, saw him sniff his finger and wrinkle his nose. "We're close," he said.
Another thirty seconds' jogging, and there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Daylight. And not twenty feet from the tunnel's mouth, the eight-limbed, duffel-stealing demon was limping away from them.
"Bugger this," Spike muttered, and threw his knife. It whirled through the air and sank hilt-deep in the demon's back. The demon shrieked, dropped the duffel bag, and scuttled forward into the sunlight.
"Okay, my turn." Xander followed the demon out of the tunnel. It had already slowed down again, limping and wobbling along the weedy edge of the tracks. Still, it had seven unbroken limbs and lots of sharp teeth, not to mention seven more eyes than Xander had himself. Xander tightened his grip on his borrowed knife and wished he had a sword.
The demon turned just as Xander came up behind it swinging his knife. It knocked his hand with its upper left arm, deflecting the blade. Xander tried punching it in the face; the demon ducked, caught his legs with its lowest arms, and lunged in to bite him in the thigh. Xander gritted his teeth, grabbed the hilt of Spike's knife which was still sticking out of the demon's back, and twisted it. The demon yelped and jerked away. It took a lurching step backwards, and Xander was about to follow but his legs suddenly felt funny. One second they were tingling, like they were falling asleep. The next, they were totally numb. The demon limped slowly away, clearly not worried about pursuit, as Xander fell to his knees.
The bite. Must've been poison in the bite. Now Xander's arms were tingling. His fingers went numb and he dropped Spike's knife.
Spike was watching from the mouth of the tunnel, just fifty feet away. Fifty feet of bright, glorious sunshine. Xander couldn't feel his arms anymore, and now it was getting kind of hard to breathe. He saw Spike, in the mouth of the tunnel, pull a silver flask out of one of his coverall pockets and take a long drink. Well, here's to you, too, Xander thought to himself as he fell over sideways. Guess we won't have that talk after all.
And then Spike stepped out into the sunlight.
He jogged towards Xander, moving briskly but definitely not on fire. He knelt next to Xander's head and pulled a little plastic case out of one of his pockets. Gasping in short, shallow breaths, Xander watched Spike take a hypodermic needle and a yellow vial out of the case. He drew the contents of the vial into the needle and then injected it in Xander's neck.
Within seconds, it got easier to breathe. Moments later, his fingers started tingling again, this time with the bright, reassuring pain of sensation coming back. Xander gasped and clutched at the gravel. Spike just sat back on his heels and watched.
When the tingling started all over his body, Xander had to clench his teeth to stop himself from screaming. After a minute or so it passed, and he felt warm and limp and kind of euphoric. He looked over at Spike, who was still watching him with an expression that gave away absolutely nothing. Spike, who was sitting there with the afternoon sunlight streaming down on him.
"So you're human now, too?" Xander managed to say. His mind was reeling. "Is that why you disappeared?"
Spike snorted, and shifted into game face. "Like hell. Leave that for the poofter and his white picket fence." He let the demon features fade away again. "Do you think you can walk?"
Xander pushed the mystery of the sunlight-proof vampire to the back burner for the moment, and tried out his feet. He felt a little wobbly, but basically all right. "Yeah. Thanks for the save. You could've warned me about the bite, though."
"Thought you knew. You were the one hunting the thing. Didn't you lot always used to research demons before you went after them?"
"I wasn't hunting it, I was just trying to get my duffel bag back."
Spike stared at him. "You were going to take on a Garachna demon bare-handed because it stole your luggage?"
"Yeah, well, normally maybe I would've just let it go, but Dawn's wedding present is in there." Xander started walking back towards the tunnel, where the bag in question was lying abandoned on the tracks. He got a jolt of grim satisfaction from the way Spike momentarily froze. See, that's what happens when you disappear for thirteen years. People get on with their lives.
"The Bit's getting hitched, then. Well, good for her," Spike said, almost managing to sound nonchalant. "Anybody I would know?"
Xander grabbed the duffel and swung it over his shoulder. "No. She just met him eight fucking years ago. Spike, where have you been?"
"Around. Here, mostly. Where are you staying?"
"Uh, place called the Landmark. On Marylebone Road."
"Any other wedding guests staying there?"
"No. I, uh, booked late." There was an awkward pause, like Spike was expecting some kind of further explanation. And, well, fuck him. If he wasn't going to say why he'd disappeared for thirteen years, Xander didn't owe him any kind of explanation about how, at age thirty-nine, he still just didn't have his shit together.
"Right, well, I'll take you there. There's about a one in five chance you're going to need another shot of antivenom."
"And this handy statistic comes to us courtesy of, what, the Necromancer's Guide to Common Pharmaceuticals?"
"I've been hunting the Garachna for weeks. Keep finding its victims tucked away at the edges of the tracks. Usually they're just paralyzed, not dead—thing must've given you an extra dose."
"It was desperate—you'd hurt it pretty bad." Xander thought about it for a moment, thought about the people Spike had been finding. How scared they must have been. "Do you want to follow it and finish it off now?"
Spike shook his head. "You're in no state for hunting. I'll track it down tomorrow. It won't make it far from here."
Xander didn't feel especially inclined to argue. He looked down the dark tunnel. "Back the way we came?"
Spike shook his head. "Might as well go aboveground. Got the dosh for a cab?"
"Ha. Remember how our budget used to be a shoestring? Now we're tying our shoes with used dental floss."
"Right then, we'll take the bus."
Spike led the way back out into the daylight. A short way along there was a locked gate in the fence that lined the track; Spike opened it with a key card.
"So do you really work for the London Underground?" Xander asked. It wasn't the question he wanted to ask—it wasn't even on the top ten, really—but at least maybe he could finally get a straight answer out of Spike.
"Hard to believe, innit?" Spike said. He gave a tight smile. "Officially, I'm a mechanic. Unofficially, you can probably guess."
Once they were up on the street with other people around, Spike clammed up completely. Xander gave in to exhaustion and jet lag and possibly the toxic aftereffects of the demon's bite, and just kind of floated along. Nobody paid much attention to them, though Spike's dirty coveralls did get some sideways glances; Xander's dark jeans pretty much hid the bloodstain on his leg. They were just two tired guys making their way through the city. On the bus. In the daylight.
Spike hung back while Xander checked into the Landmark, and then followed him up to his room. Finally, when the door had closed behind them and Xander had thrown his duffel bag on the bed, he turned to Spike and said, "Okay, how did you do it?"
"What, this?" Spike stepped into a dusty, slanting sunbeam. "Parlor trick." He took a flask out of his pocket—Xander remembered now, he'd drunk from it right before coming out of the tunnel—and tossed it over to Xander.
Xander unscrewed the cap and sniffed, and almost gagged. It smelled like the alley in back of his New York apartment in a heat wave.
"Don't taste it," Spike warned him. "It'd kill a human."
"It makes you invulnerable to sunlight?" Xander said. "Nice. And by nice, I mean, holy shit, where did you get this and do any other vampires know about it?"
"There's a warlock up in Islington brews it for me," Spike said, taking the flask back. "Same bloke as makes the Garachna antivenom. He's all right—he doesn't sell to the soulless."
"Still." Xander shuddered. "Vampires in broad daylight—not a happy thought, present company excepted."
"It's not as bad as you think." Spike shook the flask, as if testing how much was left, and then slipped it into his pocket. "Any vampire who did get their hands on it wouldn't like the side-effects."
Unexpectedly, Xander felt a pang of worry. "What side-effects?"
Spike gave a quick little shrug. "It saps your strength away, and it hurts like hell."
"Oh." Xander almost moved toward Spike, and then didn't. "Are you all right?"
"I'm used to it." Spike looked out the window, squinting at the sun, and then twitched the curtains closed. "It'll wear off soon." He turned back to Xander. "It's been over an hour since you were bitten. If you haven't keeled over yet, you probably aren't going to. I should clean the bite for you, though."
"I can do it. I have a first aid kit in my bag."
"Take your trousers off, Harris."
Thirteen years. Spike didn't want to talk about it, obviously. Let's pretend like we just saw each other last week, like we just went out on a perfectly ordinary patrol, like Xander's hair isn't going grey and Buffy and Angel don't have five kids in an L.A. suburb with the oldest starting middle school this fall.
Xander took his pants off.
It wasn't much of a wound, really—just six puncture marks, already scabbed over. The skin around them was a little puffy. Spike took Xander into the bathroom, washed his leg, and then took a jar of ointment out of his apparently inexhaustible coveralls.
"The warlock in Islington again?" Xander guessed.
"Nah, this one's from Boots. Does the trick, though." He smeared the ointment over the bite marks, and then taped a bandage over the place. "Should be all right now."
"Well, thanks." Xander looked over at Spike. The word good-bye hovered unspoken in the air. "Want to come to the wedding tomorrow?"
Spike straightened up abruptly. "I wasn't here, Harris. You didn't see me." He brushed past Xander with a scowl and headed for the door.
"Wait! Oh hell no!" Xander jumped to his feet, lunged across the room and grabbed Spike's arm before he could reach for the doorknob. "What happened thirteen years ago, Spike? Why did you disappear? Was it me? Was it them?"
"It wasn't you," Spike muttered, trying to yank his arm out of Xander's grasp. And that was when Xander realized that he was holding onto the vampire by main force.
"Holy shit," Xander said, pressing Spike slowly up against the wall and watching the frustration in Spike's eyes as he was unable to get away, "That stuff really does fuck you up."
Spike's eyes glinted yellow—his face didn't change, but he was right on the edge. "Get your bloody hands off me, Harris."
Xander had him pinned now, and he was not inclined to let go. "I want to know why you left."
"It's no bloody mystery. I wanted out."
"No you didn't."
"There was a woman."
"Oh." Xander felt a bit like Spike had just punched him in the gut, which was—I mean come on, it was thirteen years ago and it's not like we were going steady or something.
Spike must've seen the look in Xander's eyes. Helpless against the wall, he smiled and went in for the kill. "Oh, bad luck Harris, have you been saving yourself for me all this time?"
"No! And fuck you, Spike. You weren't that good."
"That's not what you said in Nairobi..."
Xander became intensely aware, suddenly, that he wasn't wearing any pants. Just a ragged pair of boxer-briefs that he'd been meaning to get rid of as soon as he got around to doing some shopping, and was that Spike's hand gripping him through the thin cotton ... yes.
Xander breathed in, slowly, narrowing his eyes to slits and giving himself an extra three seconds to come to his senses, but his senses were all telling him that this was just like Nairobi actually, and fuck the four thousand miles and the thirteen years. So he kissed Spike.
Spike kissed him back. He tilted his head back against the wall and squeezed Xander's cock just a little bit harder, and somewhere in the back of Xander's brain a cynical imaginary bookie was laying 50% odds that this was all just a ruse on Spike's part to get Xander to let go of his arms so he could leave. Xander told the bookie to get lost, but he kept a good grip on Spike, just in case.
And then Spike's coveralls started playing "Blister in the Sun" by the Violent Femmes.
Xander stepped back in surprise, and Spike tilted his head to the side and just looked at him for a few seconds, breathing a little bit heavily, before pulling a cell phone out of his pocket. "Hello, Sunshine," he said in a perfectly casual tone. He listened for a moment while Xander took another step back. "Sorry, pet. I had a thing to do after work," Spike said. "Why don't you just go ahead and order from the curry place. I'll be home by seven." He turned the phone off and put it away, with his eyes locked on Xander's and his expression closed down, unreadable. "I need to go," he said. "I meant what I said earlier, Harris—don't tell anyone about this. You never fucking saw me."
Xander reached the door ahead of Spike and slammed his hand flat against it. "Not so fucking fast." He wasn't sure if he was angry because Spike had been playing him, or because he fell for it, or because he had no idea who Sunshine was but he was pretty sure she knew where Spike had been for the past thirteen years. "Do you have any—fuck, Spike—any idea what I felt like when you disappeared? I thought you were dead. After Anya, and Cordelia—" and then he couldn't say it, couldn't say the last part. I gave up. I stopped trying. I never had another lover because I was afraid they would die, too.
Spike's eyes flicked downward. "I didn't want to hurt you," he said roughly. "It wasn't about you."
"What was it about?"
Spike looked tired, Xander thought suddenly. Older, just like Xander. A trick of the fading light, maybe, or the weary way Spike leaned against the closed door now and turned back towards Xander. "Don't wanna talk about it now. Maybe tomorrow. Give me your mobile number?"
"How about you give me yours?"
"Don't press your luck."
Spike programmed Xander's number into his phone and then left without another word. For a long time after he left, Xander stood at the door of his hotel room, wondering if he'd ever see Spike again and trying to decide if he wanted to.
Xander was standing on the front steps of the church when his cell phone rang. The call originated from a blocked ID. "Spi-Spencer?" he answered it. Giles glanced over, vaguely curious. "My neighbor in New York," Xander quickly over-explained. "He's watering my dog. I mean plants."
"Very smooth, Harris," Spike said.
Xander eased himself a little way away from the group. "I can't talk now. Dawn and Kenny are about to come out of the church. I have to blow bubbles."
"You have to—? Never mind. Want to come out with me tonight and kill the Garachna?"
"What? I can't—the reception's tonight, the dinner and the dancing and—oh jeez, they're coming out now. You're making me miss the bubbles."
Spike was silent for a moment—Xander wondered if he'd hung up. Then he said, "Take a picture. Don't say anything to anyone, just take a picture and send it to me."
Xander thought Spike was being pretty demanding, considering the circumstances, but he held up his phone anyway and snapped a picture. He looked at it before he hit send. He'd caught Dawn in three-quarters profile, with the wind just catching her white veil and sending it billowing around her. Kenny was behind her from this angle, a tall, dark shadow with an elated smile matching hers. It was a good picture.
Spike couldn't have looked at it for very long. "He looks like a prat," he said.
Xander kind of thought he understood where Spike was coming from, but he had to defend Kenny. "He's very nice," he said. "And he can read Ancient Sumerian."
"No, a linguistics professor. He took it pretty well when Dawn told him about the whole magic thing, though."
"He better bloody well treat her right." Spike's voice sounded a little rough, now, like he was getting emotional. "So, you. Harris. Meet me outside of King's Cross at nine o'clock."
"But the reception—" Too late. Spike had hung up.
Xander made it to the main exit of King's Cross station at 9:17. He was still wearing his rented tux.
Spike was leaning against the outside wall, smoking a cigarette right under the "No Smoking Within 10m of Entrance" sign. He was wearing a long black leather coat that looked a lot like his old duster, except it was in better repair. "I thought you weren't going to show," he said.
"A man can only take so many Christina Aguilera remixes," Xander said.
Actually he'd been having fun at the party, and he'd seriously considered blowing Spike off. When it came down to it, though, he wasn't ready to take the chance that he'd never see Spike again.
"Follow me," Spike said.
It turned out to be a short walk to a black, late-model Toyota that Spike opened with an electronic key. The music turned on when the car did—Xander didn't recognize the band but it was too loud for him to even ask Spike what it was. He just sat in the passenger seat, slowly losing his hearing, while Spike drove them to a deserted-looking industrial zone. The silence when Spike turned the car off rang in Xander's ears.
Spike went around and opened the trunk. "Choose your weapon," he said, holding up a broadsword and a gleaming battleaxe.
"Um, the sword," Xander said.
Spike tossed it to him, hilt-first. "Here, take this, too," he said, pulling another object out of the trunk. It took Xander a moment to recognize the shape.
"A tazer?" he said. "We're taking a more compassionate approach to demon-fighting now?"
"That thing packs the punch of a lightning strike," Spike said, slamming the trunk shut. "It won't kill a Garachna, but it'll stun it for a second or two. There's only one charge, so don't waste it. And for bloody sure, make sure you don't hit me with it."
"Right." Xander checked the trigger mechanism, and then hooked it onto his belt. "Where's the demon?"
A short walk brought them to a fenced-off railway line, and although it looked different in the dark, Xander quickly realized that this was the same place they'd lost the demon yesterday. Spike opened the gate in the fence with his key-card, and then started down the edge of the tracks.
"Can you see its trail?" Xander asked.
"Bits of gore," Spike said, pointing. "There, and there."
Xander couldn't see a thing, but he figured Spike knew what he was doing. Vampire, and all that.
"So, does Sunshine know where you are tonight?" he asked as he followed Spike along.
Spike stopped just long enough to glare back at him. "If you're fishing for information, you can cut bait and go home right now."
"Congratulations, that metaphor was completely internally consistent." Xander tipped an imaginary hat in Spike's direction, and nearly tripped over a railway tie. "But come on. You just fucking vanished. I thought you were dead. Now you're living with some woman named Sunshine, you're working for the London Underground, and—why did you even ask me to come out with you if you aren't going to tell me anything?"
"Thought it would be nice to have some help with the demon," Spike said. "How are Buffy and Angel?"
"They're—hey! Why should I tell you anything?"
Spike didn't answer, just kept walking.
"Well, they're pretty happy. Busy, with all the kids."
"All the kids?"
"Five of them. Three girls and two boys."
"Bloody hell. Hope they're running Angel absolutely ragged."
"You could find out for yourself."
"Stop trying, Harris. I'm finished with the Council, and that's final." Spike halted, pointing his axe. "Here we are."
There was a door built into a mound of earth that stood at the edge of the tracks. The door was solid iron, but it was rusty and its lock was visibly busted. Spike kicked it in and led the charge.
The bunker-like concrete room was bigger than it looked from the outside. It had been stripped of whatever equipment it used to house, but it still had a working fluorescent light flickering behind a steel cage in the ceiling. The corners were piled high with flea-market detritus—the Garachna was a hoarder. It crouched next to one of its piles, wounded and growling at them.
"Oh look, a lava lamp," Spike said. "I used to have one of those back in the '70s." He scooped it up and tossed it at the demon's head. "Oops, it broke."
The distraction was enough for Xander to get close and stab at the demon with his sword. He cut it, but had to jump backwards when it came lunging at him with its teeth and claws bared. Spike swung his axe at the demon's back and hit it square with a crunch. The demon howled and fell at Xander's feet.
"That's it?" Xander said, nudging one of its limp arms with his toe.
"Looks like." Spike shrugged and yanked his axe free. "See anything I could clean this on?"
There was a blanket under a pile of teacups in the back corner of the bunker. Spike was just tugging it out when there was a horrible shriek from the door to the outside. Xander swung around and saw another demon of the same type outlined in the doorway.
"Shit!" Xander lifted his sword and half-tripped over an upended footstool. "There's another one."
Spike shifted into game face and rushed the demon with his axe. The Garachna caught the axe handle with its uppermost arms and grabbed at Spike with its middle arms. It did some kind of demon-aikido move, using Spike's momentum to fling him against the concrete wall. Spike hit with a crunch, and fell.
"Shit," Xander said again, with feeling. Spike didn't look like he was going to get back up. The demon hesitated, looking from Spike's body to Xander. That was enough time for Xander to remember the tazer. He grabbed it left-handed and zapped the demon. The air took on a crackle and a smell like burning. The demon shuddered, wild-eyed. Before it could recover, Xander plunged his sword deep into the middle of its chest. The Garachna gurgled and fell.
Xander figured he'd better get himself and Spike clear of the lair ASAP, in case there were any other demons headed their way. Spike was still crumpled where he'd fallen at the base of the wall, and there was a small pool of blood around his head. Xander went to take a closer look. When he lifted Spike's head and ran his fingers through the blood-matted hair, he found a broken place in the skull. Xander swore under his breath. Spike wasn't going to wake up any time soon.
Okay. Step 1: get back to Spike's car. Xander threw Spike over his shoulder, straightened up with a grunt, and headed back the way they'd come. He had to leave the weapons behind, so he fervently hoped that he wouldn't meet any more demons on the way to the car. How many Garachna could there be, anyway? This was London, not Sunnydale.
By the time he'd gone a couple hundred feet, his back felt sticky with Spike's blood. So much for the deposit on the tux. Xander wondered why he'd thought it would be fun to go demon-hunting with Spike. Demon-hunting wasn't fun. It was messy and scary and totally fucking dangerous, and that was why these days he left it to the Slayers.
Of course, if he hadn't come along, then maybe the Garachna would've dusted Spike. That would've sucked.
Or maybe Spike would've been more careful and not gotten his skull smashed against a wall in the first place. He had survived the last thirteen years without Xander, somehow.
The walk was a lot longer than Xander remembered, but he made it back to Spike's car without any additional violence. He had to drape Spike over the hood so he could rifle through his pockets for the car keys. When he finally dumped Spike into the front passenger seat and slammed the driver's side door shut behind himself, Xander felt a whole lot safer.
Next question: where to? Xander quickly discarded the idea of going back to his own hotel, since he'd have bring Spike through the lobby. It wasn't the classiest place around, but they'd still probably have questions about why a guest wanted to drag a beaten, bloody dead body up to his room.
Okay; Spike had a job and a car, so he probably had an apartment somewhere with a proper address, not just "third crypt from the left in the Shady Acres." This apartment, supposing it existed, probably also had a supply of blood that Xander could pour down Spike's throat. Clearly, that was where Xander needed to go.
His search through Spike's pockets had netted him nothing but a silver lighter, a nearly-empty pack of cigarettes, and the set of keys. There hadn't been a wallet or anything that might have an address. Staring at the dashboard of the car, though, gave Xander an idea. He turned on the car, brought the GPS online, and selected "Home" from the default menu. It pulled up a map with a red 'you are here' blob and a helpful dotted line heading off the map to the north-west. "Ha," Xander smirked. "Very stealthy."
It took about three quarters of an hour for Xander to trace that dotted line all the way to its end. Long before he got there, his head was throbbing with the stress of wondering when some police officer would pull him over and ask "What's with the dead body, mate?"—not to mention fighting all his driving-related instincts that kept telling him to stick to the right side of the road.
His destination, when he reached it, turned out to be a thirty-story apartment building. Which meant that Xander's vague plan of trying Spike's keys in every door was looking like a no-go. He parked as close as he could, sighed, and looked over at Spike. "If you could wake up now, that would be really helpful," he said. Spike didn't twitch.
Okay. Maybe there was something in the glove compartment. Xander opened it up, and—sweet success! There was a frayed black denim wallet lying on top of the pile of papers and user manuals. Xander opened it up and the first thing inside was Spike's driver's license, which had his full address printed on it. Xander glanced curiously at the name. Then he nearly dropped the card. "William Harris?" He stared at the name, and then at Spike. "What the fuck, Spike?"
Spike just lay there, looking dead.
"Okay. We'll talk later."
Xander waited until there wasn't anyone in sight on the street, and then lifted Spike out of the car. He carried him with one arm slung over Xander's shoulder, hoping that to a casual observer it would look like Xander was dragging his really drunk buddy home from a pub.
Spike's building had a security door, but it was propped open with a brick. Xander brought Spike as quickly as possible to the elevator, and counted his blessings when it arrived empty. It was a short ride to the 23rd floor, and soon Xander was turning Spike's key in a lock. The click of the deadbolt shifting was pretty much the happiest sound Xander had heard all night. He pushed the door open and—
—looked into the startled eyes of a young girl who'd been slouched sideways across an armchair on the far side of the room with a laptop on her knees.
"Sorry, wrong apartment!" Xander said quickly and slammed the door shut.
At which point he realized two things:
1) He'd already had Spike halfway across the threshold before he saw the girl, and that wouldn't have been possible if Spike didn't have an invite.
2) The key wouldn't have worked in the wrong door.
The door flung open again, and the girl looked wildly at him and Spike. "What happened to Spike!?" she demanded. She had a London accent, Xander noticed, and she sounded scared. She looked human—she was just a kid, with dark skin and East Indian features. Her schoolgirl-style outfit was aggressively pink and sparkly; even her hair was dyed electric pink.
"Who are you?" Xander blurted out.
"I live here," she retorted. "Who the hell are you?" Her gaze darted anxiously back to Spike every few seconds.
"I'm—I'm an old friend of Spike's." Xander had no idea who this kid was, or what she knew, but she seemed pretty worried about Spike. He shifted, trying to try to hide the extent of Spike's head injury from her. "He, um, fell, and I thought he should, um, get some rest."
"Okay." The girl stepped back from the door, and gave him a challenging sort of look. She seemed to be holding her breath until Xander stepped over the threshold. Then she ran over to the couch and started clearing off the assorted clothes, books and random girl-junk that covered its surface.
"Do you have an old blanket or something?" Xander suggested. "There's some blood."
He thought that maybe when she'd watched him cross the threshold, she'd been wondering if he was a vampire. He wasn't sure, though. He wasn't sure if she even knew that Spike was a vampire. If Spike was living with humans, maybe he was passing as human. He'd had that potion that let him walk in sunlight, after all.
The girl disappeared and came back with a duvet in her arms. It was lavender and had cartoonish fairies all over it. She spread it out over the couch. "Here," she said. "It's already got bloodstains."
She stood back and watched Xander lay Spike out on the couch. Spike was still wearing his long black leather coat and his boots; Xander considered trying to remove them but discarded the idea as too much trouble.
The girl came closer, and reached out towards Spike but didn't touch him. "You didn't take him to Casualty, did you?"
"No." She knew Spike was a vampire. Xander was ninety percent sure. She knew, and she didn't know if Xander knew, and she didn't want to tell him if he didn't know. "I figured he'd be better off at home. He, um, he heals pretty fast."
"Right." She looked at Xander. "Where do you know him from?"
She recognized the name. A bit of her wariness dropped away, and she said, "You know what he is, then. Right?"
One of them was going to have to say it. "I know he's a vampire."
The girl looked at least a little relieved. "Brilliant. So can you help him?"
"I think he just needs to heal for a while. It would help if he had some fresh blood." Xander felt a bit weird making the request, but the girl just skittered out of the room and came back a few seconds later holding a mason jar of red liquid. The glass was cold to the touch—the jar had obviously been in the fridge. Xander remembered that Spike liked his blood warmed up, but he wasn't about to ask the girl to microwave it for him. He figured cold blood was better than no blood. He unscrewed the lid, and then propped Spike's head up and tilted the jar against his lips. Spike shifted into demon face without opening his eyes, and gulped down the blood. Xander looked over at the kid to see how she was taking this; she still looked freaked out, but if anything the sight of Spike vamping out and gulping blood seemed to be reassuring her.
"Spike!? Are you okay?" she said.
"He's still unconscious," Xander told her. "The swallowing is just a reflex." It was the same unnatural reflex that allowed a vampire's victim to take a first drink of the sire's blood at the moment of death. Giles had explained it one time back in Sunnydale, when they'd had to do the same for Angel after a rough patrol. God, that was a long time ago.
Once Spike had drained the jar, Xander set it aside and stepped back. He looked at the girl and she looked at him. There was an awkward silence.
"So what happened to him, really?" the girl said.
"We got into a fight with a demon. It threw Spike against a wall."
"So why are you wearing a bloody tuxedo?"
"I was at a friend's wedding earlier."
"Oh. Okay." The girl frowned at Xander, like he was a puzzle she hadn't figured out just yet. The feeling was mutual.
"Where are your parents?" Xander asked.
"Dead," she said. She looked bit suspicious. "I thought you knew Spike? I'm Sunita."
"Sun— wait. Sunshine? You're Sunshine?"
The girl rolled her eyes. "Spike calls me that. And he's a vampire. It's very ironic."
Xander had forgotten all about Sunshine. He shouldn't have, but he had. And now it all came rushing back—the phone call, Spike's refusal to give any details—and Xander found himself teetering dangerously on the conclusion he'd originally jumped to. "Oh God," he said, "How old are you? Like, twelve?"
"I'm fourteen!" she replied with all the wounded pride of a very young teenager. "And what the fuck is it to you?"
"You shouldn't be—Jesus, you're way too young."
"Too young for what?" And then her eyes opened wide. "Oh my God, ew! Don't be disgusting! He's my father!"
"Wait, what? That's impossible."
Sunita glared at him. "What, are you fucking stupid? I'm adopted."
"Oh." Xander felt a really strong need to sit down, but his tux was still pretty bloody, so maybe that wasn't a good idea.
And then Spike moved. "Bloody hell," he moaned, cracking his eyes open. Sunita was on her knees beside him in an instant, throwing her arms around him.
"Spike!" she mumbled into his chest. "You're okay!"
"Right as rain, pet," Spike croaked. He opened his eyes a bit wider. "But how did I get home—" His gaze fixed on Xander. "Oh. You've met, then."
"Only sort of," Xander said.
Spike started to sit up, and then fell back with a groan. Sunita made a worried noise. Spike attempted a reassuring smile. "Nothing wrong with me that a hot shower and a bottle of aspirin won't fix. Be a doll, Sunshine, and fetch me some painkillers. And put on some water for tea."
"So," Xander said as soon as Sunita left the room, "that's Sunshine. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Same reason I left the Council in the first place," Spike said. "Look, you can't tell them. Not Buffy, not Giles—"
"Give me something to go on, Spike. I'm not going to keep your secrets if I don't even know what they are." Xander looked at the doorway where Sunita had gone. "Is she a Slayer?"
Spike sighed. "Christ I hope not. But she's Asha's daughter."
He said the name like it should mean something to Xander, but it didn't. "Asha? Who's that?"
Spike shot Xander a look that was equal parts incredulous and appalled. "She was a Slayer."
"Oh. Oh, God." Now Xander remembered. Asha had disappeared years ago, presumed dead. Just like Spike. Around the same time as Spike, actually. Only she had disappeared in India, her home country, and Spike had disappeared in Somalia. Nobody had ever suggested a connection. "I never met her. She was just a name to me."
Sunita came back into the room with an aspirin bottle and a glass of water. She handed them over to Spike, who proceeded to swallow a fistful of pills in one go. "I was just telling Xander here about your mum," he said to her.
Sunita gave a tight, fierce smile. "I look just like her, don't I?"
"The spitting image, pet. Only she wouldn't have been caught dead in that getup."
"You just wish you could wear pink," she said, and stuck out her tongue at him before leaving the room again.
"It makes my complexion look sallow," Spike explained to Xander, making a sad face.
Xander didn't think he was ready to get to the joking-around part yet. "But what happened to Asha? How did you get involved? You weren't even on the same continent."
"She asked me to come and help her with a situation, off-the-record. You'll remember she didn't much like the Council." He stopped himself, rolled his eyes. "Or maybe not, if you don't even remember her."
Xander gave an uncomfortable shrug. "It's coming back to me. I remember Giles talking about it—I remember Faith going to India to look for her. I don't remember her having a kid, though."
Spike shook his head. "She never told them. Never wanted Sunita to have anything to do with them. She made me promise—" He stopped, sighed. "That's why I disappeared, Harris. It wasn't you. I made a promise to a dying woman."
Sunita came back, carrying a tray with three steaming teacups. Xander took one when she offered it to him, but looked doubtfully from it to Spike, who'd just taken a cup in turn. "Seriously, tea?"
Spike arched an eyebrow at him. "Drink your fucking tea," he said. He and Sunita took simultaneous sips from their cups; Sunita slurped loudly, grinning.
Xander didn't like tea. But he wanted Spike to keep talking, so he took a sip. "Hey, is there whisky in this?"
"Like he'd drink it any other way," Sunita said.
Xander stared at Spike. "You let a fourteen-year-old drink whiskey?"
Spike snorted. "You really have turned into an old hen, haven't you?" Then he beckoned Sunita over. "Give it here, Sunshine." He sniffed at her cup, then handed it back to her. "Nothing but milk and sugar. Good girl."
Sunita sat cross-legged on the floor next to Spike and sipped at her tea. "Why don't you sit down?" she said to Xander.
Xander shrugged, put down his teacup, and pulled off his tuxedo jacket. The rest of his outfit was basically clean. He folded the jacket to contain the bloodstains, and then took a seat on the armchair where Sunita had been sitting when he'd first opened the door. Her laptop was still balanced on one of its broad arms; its case was covered with stickers, and something was written on its top in glitter pen. Property of— "Sunita Harris?" Xander read out loud. "Your name is Sunita Harris?"
"Yeah. What's it to you?" Sunita asked, looking puzzled.
Xander remembered the driver's license now. He'd wanted to ask Spike about that. The words What the hell, Spike? were on his tongue, but he wasn't sure of the ground here anymore.
Spike caught his eye, a warning glance. "Don't make it into more than it is. I just needed a name to give the authorities, is all. Something common. Inconspicuous. Harris sprang to mind."
Sunita looked around at Spike. "What are you talking about? Don't make what into more than it is?"
"Never mind, Sparkles. Just ancient history." He patted her shoulder. "Xander and I have some catching up to do. Why don't you go into your room, watch a video or something."
"I don't want to." Sunita leaned her head against Spike's shoulder. "Can I just stay and listen?"
"Not to this part."
Sunita pushed away from the couch with a stormy expression. "Well then you don't have to tell me fucking anything. I'm going over to Samantha's." She left the apartment, slamming the door behind her.
"Um, is everything all right?" Xander asked.
Spike shrugged. "Not really. She's scared from me coming home hurt. And she doesn't know what to make of you."
"Do you want me to go after her?"
"No need. Just hand me my mobile, would you?" The phone was lying on the floor; Xander handed it to Spike and watched him hit a speed-dial setting. "Hello, Gloria? It's Spike. Is Sunita there? ... Good. Just send her home when you get tired of her." He closed the phone, and gave Xander a wry smile. "Samantha lives just down the hall. She's Sunita's best mate, except for every other week when they hate each other."
"Okay, this is still weird. Angel and Buffy having kids, that was one thing. But you—"
"Bit different, innit?"
"Well yeah. I mean, for one thing, you're still a vampire. That's gotta be, um, weird for her."
Spike took a drink of the whisky tea before he replied, and when he spoke, he sounded kind of defensive. "Not really. I've raised her since she was a baby. I'm the only parent she remembers having."
Xander didn't want to press. It wasn't any of his business, really, and chances were Spike made a better father than, say, Tony Harris ever had. That didn't stop it from being a head trip, though. "I mean, I just can't picture you changing diapers."
Spike snorted. "Are you bloody kidding? I hired a woman to do that."
"Oh." Xander laughed. "Well, that makes more sense."
Spike gave a fleeting smile in return, but then went all serious. "Look, mate. You can't tell anyone about me. Like I said yesterday—this never happened, you never saw me. If Giles and the others find out about Sunita, they'd take her away."
"What?" Xander shook his head. "That wouldn't happen. I mean, why would they?"
Spike gave him a Look.
"You said she's not a Slayer," Xander noted. "So why'd they even be interested?"
"Bit weird for a vampire to be raising a kid. You said it yourself. I don't think Giles or Angel would limit their adjectives to 'weird.'"
"Or maybe they could help. I mean, we could. We all could. Me and Willow and Buffy and Dawn—it can't be easy for you. I mean, hell, I can't imagine taking care of a teenage girl all by myself, and I don't catch on fire if I go outdoors in the daytime."
"I've got that sorted," Spike reminded him.
"Right, the potion. Which still scares the hell out of me. Are you sure you can trust that warlock? They're a sketchy bunch, warlocks."
Spike grimaced and pushed himself up into a sitting position. "Shut it, Harris. We're done talking about this. I'm going to go and have a nice hot shower now so I'm not still covered with blood when Sparkles gets home. You—if you won't just leave, maybe you could clean up in here a bit. It's an absolute tip."
Xander rolled his eyes. "Well, it's good to know how you see my role in your life. Occasional fuck-buddy and housemaid in a pinch."
"You could just leave," Spike pointed out. He stood up and then put a hand to his head, swaying. "Oh, fuck," he added in an undertone.
Before he'd even thought about it, Xander was at Spike's side, propping him up. "You don't want me to leave," he said.
"Just a bit dizzy," Spike said, leaning his cool forehead against Xander's cheek and taking a deep breath. "It'll pass. Vampire, remember?"
"No, I mean—why'd you call me to go hunting with you?"
"Thought it'd be fun."
"You missed me."
"Got a pretty high opinion of yourself, these days, Harris?"
"Not really. But I kinda know a thing or two about being lonely."
Spike lifted his head. "Thought you were still tight with all the Scoobies."
Xander shrugged. "We're scattered. Buffy's in L.A., Willow and Kennedy are still in Sao Paulo, Dawn's in Westbury. I live in New York now. Takes a wedding to get us together these days." Or a funeral, he didn't add. It had been four years since Andrew's.
"Think I could maybe use some help getting clean," Spike said. "You up for it?"
The bathroom in Spike's apartment was kind of small and grungy, but the hot water pressure was great. The shower spray stung Xander's back as it rinsed away the dried blood and sweat.
Spike was standing in front of him, head bowed, hands on Xander's shoulders for stability. Xander was carefully massaging shampoo into Spike's hair around the place where his skull had broken. It felt solid again now; vampire healing was fucking amazing.
"That's a new scar," Spike said. "So's that one."
"Close your eyes," Xander said. "You'll get soap in them." The shampoo smelled like lilacs; Xander guessed it was Sunita's.
"Why New York?"
"It's a hell of a town." Xander stopped himself from shrugging. "Seriously? No memories there. And Giles wanted somebody on the ground in the Northeast." The blood was coming out of Spike's hair pretty easily. It helped that he kept his hair so short now. Xander wondered when he'd stopped bleaching it. "What about you? Why London? Seems like you could've stayed lost a lot easier in India."
"I came back so that Sunita could go to a proper British school," Spike said. "Thought London was big enough to hide us."
"It is," Xander said. "I won't tell anyone you're here." He wiped a bit of shampoo foam off Spike's face. "Okay, I think you're clean. You can rinse now."
Xander backed up so that Spike could move forward into the shower spray. Spike let the water sluice over him, washing away the soap and blood. His hands were still on Xander's shoulders.
"How are you feeling?" Xander asked. It wasn't an idle question. Standing naked in the shower with Spike, touching him, washing him, was getting Xander hella turned on. But if Spike was still too dizzy to stand on his own, 'honey, I have a headache' would probably be a bit of an understatement.
Spike answered with a gentle bite to Xander's neck. Blunt human teeth, not meant to hurt or draw blood—but it was a thing Spike did, a thing he'd always done during sex, and suddenly Xander's knees were so weak he was afraid he'd fall down and take Spike with him. "You do have a bed, right?" Xander gasped out.
They fell onto Spike's bed still sopping wet. Spike's room was small, with cardboard taped over the window and a tangle of dirty clothes on the floor. There was a bedside lamp, which Xander clicked on with one flailing hand as Spike pushed him up against the headboard. Then Spike's head was between Xander's legs, and Xander was cursing the new haircut that gave him nothing to hold onto. "Fuck, Spike! Oh, God!"
Spike was a tease. That was nothing new. He sucked Xander's dick until Xander's toes were curling, until Xander was moaning and seeing stars and just about to come, and then he withdrew. Sat up. Grinned at Xander. "Miss me much?"
"You have no idea," Xander said. He planted a hand in the middle of Spike's chest and gave him a shove. Spike let himself fall backwards, grinning his hungry, feral grin. Xander climbed on top of him and let his cock press against Spike's ass. "Lube?" he whispered in Spike's ear.
"Somewhere under the bed," Spike said.
Xander rolled his eye. "You have a bedside table. Right over there. It has a drawer. Look, right there. Wouldn't that be a handy place to keep the lube?"
"I wasn't exactly expecting you to stop by, now, was I?"
Spike didn't make a move to actually get the lube, so Xander sighed and crawled off the bed. His dick ached with anticipation. He got down on his knees and fished around under the bed. He felt Spike's hand on his ass, one finger teasing its way between his cheeks. "Stop it," he said irritably, "I'm trying to concentrate. Do you ever clean up under here?"
"What do you think?" Spike said.
"Not gonna answer that." Xander spotted a small bottle lying between a monkey wrench and a ceremonial dagger. "Got it!" He grabbed the bottle, checked the label, and stood up. "Okay, Spike. Now I'm pissed off. Get over here and bend over the side of the bed."
Spike raised an eyebrow. "It's like that, then." But he did as Xander asked. And Xander knew he wanted it this way; that's why he'd been such a brat about the lube. It had been thirteen years, but it all felt so familiar. And when Spike edged over to the side of the bed and put his feet on the floor, baring his ass for Xander, Xander felt a delicious thrill in giving him a couple of spanks before pressing his lubed-up cock between Spike's cheeks. Spike squirmed against the bed and cursed until Xander finally pushed inside and started to properly fuck him.
Xander came first. He wanted to hold on, to pound Spike into the bed until he shuddered and whimpered and promised never to vanish again—but it was Xander's first time having sex with an actual other person in thirteen years, and it felt too good.
Spike rolled over and grabbed Xander around the waist and pulled him onto the bed and held him tight. Spike's skin was still warm from the shower, and he smelled like Sunita's girly shampoo. Xander felt himself shaking. Considering how wonderful he felt it was weird to realize that he was crying. Spike kissed Xander's cheek, kissed his eyelid, kissed the scarred place where his other eye had been. "You're such a girl, Harris," he said, but he said it softly, not mocking. And then he looked up sharply. "Oh shite."
"What? I didn't hear any—" Xander cut himself off at the sound of the bedroom door latch clicking. Spike, meanwhile, had grabbed one of the tangled sheets and thrown it over the both of them so that a moment later when the door opened, they were covered. Sort of.
Sunita's eyes went wide. "Oh my God, Dad."
Spike threw a pillow at her. "Bloody hell girl, shut the door! Didn't I ever teach you to fucking knock?"
The door slammed shut.
"Spike, are you gay?!" Sunita yelled through the closed door. "That's why you never have any girlfriends, isn't it?!"
"You haven't had any girlfriends?" Xander repeated, looking at Spike.
Spike scowled, daring Xander to make anything of it. "Couldn't let anyone get that close," he explained quickly. "Too dangerous." Then he shouted back at the door, "I'm not gay! I'm a bloody vampire!"
"It's okay Spike! I'm not bothered or anything! Mr. Bradley is gay too and you know he's my favorite teacher ever!" Sunita called back through the door. "Just it seems like you could've told me!"
"I don't fucking believe this," Spike muttered. "Put on some clothes, Harris."
"What do you have that'll fit me?"
Spike was already pulling on a pair of jeans from the floor. "Here, try these." He tossed a crumpled heap of black cloth in Xander's direction. Xander shook it out; it was a pair of martial arts pants with a drawstring waist.
"Can I come in now?" Sunita asked. The door opened a crack.
"No!" Spike shouted, and threw the other pillow at the door. "Harris, put on a shirt."
"What did you just call Xander?" Sunita asked through the once-again-closed door.
Spike's eyes went wide. "Bollocks."
Xander pulled on a t-shirt. It felt like it was going to split at the shoulders. "Do your clothes all have to be so damn tight?" he complained. Then he realized what Sunita had just heard.
"Spike? Is Xander's name the same as ours?" Sunita asked. She sounded more confused about this than about the gay thing.
"He's an old friend, pet." Spike, fully clothed now, pressed his palms against the inside of the bedroom door—whether for support or just to keep it shut, Xander wasn't sure. "I took his name when I needed one for us. That's all."
"Is he going to be staying with us now?" Sunita asked.
Spike glanced back at Xander. Xander couldn't read anything out of his look. But he apparently decided Xander was sufficiently dressed, at least, because he opened the door.
"Samantha's mother's boyfriend bought her a Playstation Eight," Sunita announced.
Spike looked perplexed. "What's Gloria want with a Playstation?"
Sunita rolled her eyes. "No, he bought it for Samantha." She looked at Xander. "I'm just saying. If you're going to be my dad's boyfriend. There are standards."
Spike snorted. "Cheeky brat."
"Um, maybe I should go...." Xander had a whirling feeling, suddenly, of being in over his head and going down fast.
They hadn't seen each other in thirteen years. Xander was flying back to New York in eighteen hours. Spike had a daughter; Xander didn't even, in all honesty, have a houseplant.
"Yeah," Spike agreed quickly. "It's late. Past your bedtime, Sunshine."
"It's Saturday night!"
"Sunita, I want to talk to Xander. Alone." Spike paused. "Take your computer to bed with you, if you want."
"Really?" Sunita's eyes lit up. "All right!" She hurried away before Spike could change his mind.
Spike made a wry face. "She'll be up all night now."
"So, I guess I should change back into the tux." Xander said, glancing down at his borrowed clothes.
"It's covered with blood and gore," Spike pointed out.
"Oh, right." Xander hesitated. "I guess I can mail you back your clothes?"
Spike shrugged. "Keep 'em."
Xander looked at Spike. "Where do we go from here?"
Spike made a fist, pressed it against the wall. "You go back to New York and forget you ever saw me here," he said without meeting Xander's eye.
"God, Spike. I promise, I won't tell anybody about you. But I'm not going to pretend this never happened."
"Don't make things complicated, Harris."
"I'm not! I just want—I mean, let's stay in touch, okay?"
Spike frowned. "I'm not big on the epistolary format."
"I don't write letters. Twit."
"So pick up the fucking phone."
They glared at each other for a minute. Xander was pretty sure that what they were actually fighting about was not their preferred method of correspondence.
"I don't want Sunshine to get confused," Spike said.
"She seems pretty smart. I think she'll understand what's going on. Better than us, probably."
Spike dipped his head, apparently acknowledging the truth of that.
"Give me your phone number," Xander urged him. "I'll call you when I get back to New York. It'll be, um, tomorrow morning here. I think."
Spike still looked reluctant. Which was a little irrational, considering that Xander might not have his phone number but he did know where he lived.
"Okay, think about this," Xander said. "What would've happened to Sunita if I hadn't been there tonight to drag your unconscious ass out of the Garachna's lair?"
Spike prickled visibly. "I would've got out of there somehow. I've done just fine on my own for the past thirteen years, haven't I?"
"You've been lucky, Spike."
"Fuck off, Harris." Spike's eyes flashed yellow.
Xander realized that he was kind of accusing Spike of being an irresponsible parent. And maybe it was time to back down a little. "I'm sorry," Xander said. "I didn't mean to come here and start questioning how you're doing things. Look, I hardly know anything about kids, but I can tell you're doing a good job with Sunita. She looks pretty happy, and she obviously loves you. I'm just saying you need somebody in your life who actually knows what's going on. Somebody responsible enough to look after her if anything ever happens to you."
"And that's you?"
Hell no, a little voice deep inside Xander's head gibbered wildly. "Um, yeah, I guess so," Xander said. "Unless you have any better prospects?"
"Not really," Spike admitted after a long silence.
"I'm not offering to, like, move here," Xander clarified quickly. "We can take it slow. I mean, whatever it is. I'm not sure what it is. Except, maybe you should write me into your will or something? Do you have a will? I don't."
"Christ, Harris, slow down and take a breath."
Xander put a hand to his head. "Whoa, sorry. That got a little—Spike, I just found out yesterday that you're alive. I just found out two hours ago that you have a teenage daughter, and she has my last name, and—and you almost got killed and we had sex and I'm a little scared here, okay?"
Spike tilted his head, regarding Xander for a moment. Then he went and put his hands on Xander's shoulders, and leaned his forehead against Xander's. "Nothing to be scared of," he said quietly, and then kissed Xander gently on the lips. "I'm glad you found me. I wasn't, yesterday, but I am now."
Xander hugged Spike tight. "Me too." He kissed Spike again. "But I have to go. Willow and Kennedy are picking me up at my hotel at seven a.m. to take me to breakfast."
"And you won't breath a word of any of this to Red?"
"God, Spike I wouldn't even know where to start." From the look Spike gave him, that wasn't the most reassuring thing to say. "I mean, of course not! I promised, didn't I?" It wasn't going to be especially easy hiding something this big from Willow, but he could see how important it was to Spike. He'd do it.
"Give me your phone," Spike said. He took it and thumbed at the keypad. "All right, you've got my number."
"Okay," Xander said. "Talk to you soon."
It felt strange, walking away.
In the elevator, Xander opened his phone to pull up a London Underground map. He saw what Spike had entered; he'd listed his number as 'Spike and Sunshine.' Vampires and sunshine were generally unmixy things, but Spike had found more than one way to walk in the sun.
Xander had a feeling there were interesting times ahead.