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Away From the Numbers

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It's nothing unusual for Spike to run after a group of people screaming to see if something toothy and nasty is trying to do in a few humans before midnight.

It's typical, really, to find there's a demon that's backed a gaggle of shrieking teenagers against a brick wall, its fangs dripping viscous purple fluid as it bears down on them.

Teenagers, Spike muses as he flings the one caught in the demons jaws to the side for his friends to collect and jams an elbow in what looks to be the demon's only soft spot along what passes for a throat: always getting in the way of baddies, aren't they?

Most of the kids run, shouting and stumbling, as Spike oofs when he's smashed against the brick wall where they were cowering -- again, as per usual. Teenagers always run as soon as they can, ungrateful lot they are. But as it gets them out of harm's way, Spike supposes he can't complain much if they don't stick around to buy him a whiskey and a pack of smokes after.

Of course, after might be a while coming if the demon he's grappling with keeps putting up a fight, Spike thinks sourly as he gets a face full of fetid agonized breath when he breaks the demon's third arm.

It's only when he hears a determined yell behind him that he realizes one of the idiots has stayed behind after all, flung himself into the fray to try and help. Bloody little help he is, obviously, except as a very temporary distraction; Spike's soon rolling along the ground as the demon bats him away in irritation and focuses on this new sure bet of a victim.

And now he's going to have to walk or stumble some scared boy home to mummy and daddy after he's swept up and closed the shop, Spike realizes with growing annoyance when he hears a cry of pain from the kid.

He sighs and heaves himself up to his feet all at once before flying forward in game face, in a fairly tricky combat move it's a shame no one fuckable's around to see. The boy doing his level best to get himself killed in the demon's huge jaws closing around his middle isn't any sort of contender even if he looks, in the breaks between the screaming, like an attractive little sod, big eyes and wavy brown hair and fit body. However young he himself might look, though, Spike's been more than done with the high-school and college crowd for years now. Too much drama and angst and finding themselves; he'd overdosed on that sort of thing back in Sunnydale.

Finally Spike manages to extract the boy and shove him out of the way so he can launch a proper attack at the foul-breathed creature still roaring for a fight. At least the thing hasn't come with any back-up, he consoles himself as he leaps onto one of its legs and wrenches hard, getting it to thunder to the ground.

It's still a puzzle how to finish the thing off or get it to run, though Spike takes assessment as he drives a steel-toed boot into its carcass, aiming between the heavy scales covering the flesh. At least, it's going to be a job and a half to end it without some back-up of his own, and the scrawny teenager lying panting and moaning a few feet away isn't the sort Spike would count on his side even in a fair fight.

"Christ, Toby -- what part of 'be home by midnight' do you just not get, huh?"

There's a newcomer on the scene: before Spike can get bent out of shape at another human arriving to double his protect-and-rescue caseload, he sees the latest recruit haul back a two-by-for and let it fly once, twice, thrice at the growling demon who's just barely noticed they're now a party of four. The thing quivers on its feet, sways, and Spike only just manages to scramble off before it collapses with a sickening thud that actually shakes the ground around them. At the opening, Spike gets both arms around the thing's neck, braces himself against the ground, and twists as hard as he can until he hears that crack of a broken whatever-passes-for-a-spine in this sort of creature.

"Ow," the kid on the ground complains, and his da, for only such would announce his entry to a horrifying scene of demonic mayhem with complaints about curfew, hefts him up, his son's skinny arm clinging to broad shoulders for support.

The dad's got his back to Spike, standing surprisingly loose-limbed despite having just knocked out a snarling behemoth with a bit of wood. He's got the same dark wavy hair as the son he's just helped up, but he's all grown-up stance and confidence to the kid's scrawny pained posture.

"Sprained wrist, huh?" the man announces after some pokes and prods while the boy gives a whine that's more petulance than pain. "Maybe a cracked rib or two?"

Obviously the kid opens his mouth to answer, because the dad suddenly snaps, "You're not even getting half a chance to bullshit your way through this one, Tob. Forget the damn curfew, because right now we're going to have a little chat about that pesky tendency of yours to make the worst decisions ever about anything that goes bump in the night."

Spike slowly rises to his feet, because despite the unfamiliar self-assurance radiating from the man a few meters away, there's far more familiar about him: his solid frame; that voice, even deepened as it has become by age; the speech patterns Spike well remembers rolling his eyes at round about twenty-five years or so ago. He takes a step closer, and then another, enough to see the casual sling of an eye-patch across temple and forehead, how the once easily-recognizable brown hair is now shot through with grey, how the clothes and the hair and the everything are no longer cobbled-together hand-me-downs posturing at manhood but instead are now the real deal.

"Now," Xander Harris tells his son patiently even as he adjusts him gently in his arms as easily as if this Toby were eight years old instead of more like eighteen. "What do we do when something scary tries to chomp on us or kill us dead?"

"We run like hell," Toby says sullenly in response to the prompt. Spike reflects this sounds like a family motto, is in fact probably embroidered somewhere on a hideous green velvet keepsake pillow in the Harris family home: When Trouble's Afoot, We Run Like Hell.

"Except I had to help, dad, jeez!" Toby adds, full of resentment and accusation. "What, am I supposed to just trot home to finish up my chem problem set and let the other guy get smooshed to death? Because if I am, you're like the worst example on the west coast -- you always get in the middle when something like this happens!"

"Look, buddy, until you're eighteen -- scratch that, twenty-one -- scratch that, until you're forty-five -- you have to do what I say. But daddies get to do whatever they want," Xander says patiently.

An odd gleam goes off in Toby's wide eyes. "So if I were a dad, I'd get to do whatever --"

"Yeah, so not happening with those multiple workshops on safe sex and young adult responsibility I've dragged you to, champ," Xander interrupts without a lick of sympathy when Toby winces and actually covers his ears at the word 'sex' coming from his father's mouth.

"Of which I've been to, like a thousand. He's been a total freak about that stuff, especially since he started dating guys," Toby turns to tell Spike in a perfect show of unrepentant adolescent indiscretion. Then it's back to his dad to keep up the litany of complaints: "Never mind that there's no way anyone's going to sleep with me if I've seriously got to be home by midnight on weekends like a total loser!"

Obviously reminded they've got company by Toby's jibber-jabber, Xander turns, still supporting his son. Spike actually swallows. It's an echo of what a very human sort of youthful trepidation tastes like in his mouth, because Xander looks truly stern and formidable, as though he's about to ream out one of Toby's little friends for getting caught up in the melee.

Then Xander pauses, blinks. But the slack-jawed reaction Spike's expecting based on the boy Xander was years ago never comes. Instead, Xander stills for a moment and laughs out loud. "Of all the goddamn -- Spike? What the hell are you doing in town, you complete bastard?"

Spike's barely registered Toby's huff of annoyance signaling he's getting dragged along for the ride before Xander fucking Harris has clapped Spike around the shoulders in a weirdly protective bear-hug, as if Spike is one of Toby's little miscreant friends after all.