It was only an hour before dawn, and Spike wasn’t home yet. Xander couldn’t stop pacing. Well, pacing and looking out the window at the sky that was already showing signs of the coming daybreak. Okay, he was also staring at the street outside their gate, as if he could will Spike to show up. He dropped the heavy curtain back down over the window, and went back to pacing.
Xander didn’t know what to do. Spike was barely back to full strength, and now he was out playing keep away with the sun. If anything happened to him, Xander wasn’t sure they had enough money to buy more human blood. They’d used up most of their bankroll buying enough blood to help Spike heal from his fight with Puffy Spike. They were pretty close to broke. That had resulted a long discussion concerning what was considered healthy human food when Kendra and Tara were here last. They’d been appalled by the contents of the kitchen.
Like he was going to buy vegetables when his vampire was wounded, scoffed Xander. Okay, so he didn’t buy vegetables ever. But even if he did, he wasn’t going to worry about that crap when Spike’s body still had holes that hadn’t closed over yet. Of course, a couple of days of lounging around, doing nothing but drinking blood had done wonders for Spike. He’d been champing at the bit, eager to be out and about far before Xander thought he was well enough.
Tara had come over and taken a closer look at the loot they’d found in the lair that Xander and Spike had been uncomfortable dealing with, even after they had the magic revealing/neutralizing trinkets Tara had recommended to Xander. She hadn’t needed much in the way of spells and things while she was upstairs. She’d recognized the magic on most of the objects and had set aside those that would need more work.
But downstairs in the basements, she’d spent a lot of time sorting through the treasure they’d found in various safes and hidey holes, moving slowly to make sure she didn’t miss anything dangerous. She’d used up a lot of sage in her efforts to cleanse the taint of evil out of those levels. But the results had been worth the annoyance to Spike’s delicate nasal passages, and if he could get the fences to agree with his estimates, they might even have enough money for some sort of a vehicle.
A car or truck would be most welcome. They lived at the very edge of town, and spent over an hour walking to Giles’ apartment every day. A car would help Xander feel less isolated, and would definitely boost his spirits. He wasn’t sure if it was his wild emotional swings or just their current circumstances, but he could definitely use some good news, right now.
That was why Spike was out tonight: his fence wouldn’t deal with a human, so Xander had stayed home. He hated thinking that Spike was out there by himself with no backup. Xander’d stayed up late, thinking Spike would show up before he went to sleep, but finally he couldn’t keep his eyes open, and gave in to the call of the bed. He’d woken after just a couple of hours of sleep, surprised at the lateness, or well - earliness of the hour. He didn’t know what had woken him, but he couldn’t go back to sleep. Finally he got up, and that was when he realized there was no Spike in the house.
He had to do something soon. Spike could be lying on the side of the road, wounded and unable to call for help. He could be fighting for his life down at the docks. Maybe Puffy Spike and his minions had tracked him down and were right this minute holding a stake over his heart! He could be tied to the top of the clock tower waiting for dawn to break. Or maybe he’d been fighting with Fyarls who’d used their really gross mucous to turn him into a Spike statue, and when the sun came up, there’d be nothing but a Spike-shaped chunk of hardened mucus with a few ashes in the middle.
Xander’s heart skipped a beat as he remembered the multi-headed hydra-thing they’d dealt with last year. It had clamped its jaws shut on Spike’s thigh, and whipped its head from side to side, ripping a huge chunk of vampire flesh right out of his body. Of course it had spit it right back out again two seconds later. Obviously, vampire flesh wasn’t as tasty as it had thought it would be. That wasn’t the point, though. Spike needed him, and he was standing here doing nothing!
He raced to his bedroom, throwing on whatever clothes he could find in his frenzy. He struggled with the zipper of his jeans, leaving his shirt unbuttoned rather than fighting to try and get the buttons in the stupid holes where they belonged. Panic tore through him. What would happen if he never saw Spike again? There were so many things Xander wanted to say to him. Things he wanted to do with him – to him. Okay, not going there. But still. He needed Spike. All the sources here and at home said he had to have a squire. What would he do if Spike were gone?
His bootlace snapped in his hands, and he pulled off his boots, screaming anxious fury at the ceiling. He had to leave. Now! He looked around the room, dazed, his heart racing, panting heavily. He didn’t have time to find his other boots; he’d just have to go barefoot. What the hell did he need shoes for, anyway?
He grabbed a jacket off the back of his chair, his hands brushing cool links and a rush of calm, relaxing strength flooded through him, bringing Xander’s panicked flight to a halt. He grabbed Buddy with both hands, holding him close against his chest, and let the soothing peace pour over him. He collapsed into the chair. That had been a close call. He’d almost run out into the dark without a weapon, without shoes! These mood swings had to be taken care of soon.
Buddy reminded him that there was still the matter of a missing vampire to deal with. Xander agreed, they needed to find Spike. But they’d do it in a calm, orderly fashion. Now that he was no longer lost in fear flight, he knew exactly where his second pair of boots was, and finished dressing, making sure to include Buddy underneath his buttoned up shirt. He stopped at the weapon’s chest, and pulled out an axe, and after the flash of an image from Buddy, one of the swords they’d found up on the second floor. Giles had practically drooled over them, so they must be good. Add in a couple of stakes in his back pockets and the knife he carried in his boot, and he was ready to go.
Xander opened the front door to find a fight already in progress. Spike was surrounded on all sides by close to a dozen vamps. He was doing his best to keep any of them from closing on him, spinning and kicking and whirling around, brandishing, of all things, a large branch of some sort, still sporting a few leaves that waved proudly in the breeze Spike created. Xander felt a surge of anger flood him, but before it overwhelmed him and he ran blind into the fight, Buddy’s strong presence washed over him again, and together they wrestled that wild deluge of emotion, channeling it to work for him, rather than overwhelm him.
He felt alive – powerful and in control, and he leapt off the stairs and through the open gate, out onto the street. He’d already dusted two vamps before they realized he was there, but then the advantage of surprise was gone. Two vamps charged him at once, and he let them get close enough together that his axe would strike both, then he took one’s head off and did some real damage to the second when she tried to hide behind the first, only to discover that dust didn’t really stop an axe blade very well.
He shouted over the sound of her cry, pulling the blade out of her shoulder as she buckled to her knees.
“Behind you, Spike!”
This particular axe was not designed for throwing, but the distance wasn’t too great, and although he couldn’t get the best aim, he was able to stick the blade far enough into the back of the vamp to distract him from sneaking up on Spike. The vamp stumbled forward with a scream, and Spike whirled in his direction just in time to see Xander pull the sword out of its scabbard and swing it around in an arc, beheading the vamp that had lunged in the direction of the axe.
Xander wasn’t sure if the vamp was looking to protect his friend, Sneaky Vamp, or if he was just aiming for a convenient weapon, but in either case, he was dust before he’d gotten there. Sneaky Vamp landed face first on the street, and Spike threw his branch at the one that was coming up on his left side, did a nicely choreographed leap over Sneaky, landing on his other side in a much better position to grab the axe handle. He pulled the axe out of the vampire’s back, ‘causing him to scream again.
“Thanks, mate.” Spike didn’t stop to chat, swirling off in a swoop of black leather coat in the direction of the vamp he’d thrown the branch at earlier. Buddy warned Xander in time to twist to the side, avoiding the knife of the vamp who’d come up on his right, as Xander took off the head of the vamp he’d put an axe into the shoulder of earlier. She’d struggled back to her feet, but although she didn’t look too dangerous at the moment, he’d thought she’d be even less dangerous if she was dust.
Knife Vamp looked surprised that his sneak attack hadn’t succeeded, but that didn’t stop him for long. He reversed his grip on the knife, and before Xander realized what he was doing, the knife was flying in his direction. Xander didn’t have time to get entirely out of the way, since another vamp had already closed on him from the other direction, distracting him long enough for the blade to get close to Xander’s heart. Fortunately, he had Buddy on his side, and the blade skidded along the chain mail and planted itself in his upper arm. It was painful, making him shout, but didn’t do a lot of damage, since the blade had already lost most of its momentum when it had been deflected by the chain mail. Xander pulled it out of his arm, and let it drop to the street.
Distraction Vamp took advantage of Xander’s wound, and tried to get close enough to plant his fangs in Xander’s jugular, since he was already inside the range of his sword. He grabbed Xander’s sword arm and leaned forward, toward his neck, but Xander gave him the Hardheaded Head Butt of Doom (Patent Pending), and shoved him into the path of Knife Vamp, who had produced another knife and was closing in on Xander from the other side. Distraction Vamp stumbled backwards into Knife Vamp, a look of surprise on his face, and Xander used the momentary lull to step back, which put his sword in range of both vamps.
He stuck the blade through them both, getting Distraction Vamp in the heart, which wouldn’t stop him, of course, but could definitely put him off his game, and since the blade had been aiming up, when it left Distraction Vamp it went right into Knife Vamp’s neck. It didn’t hit anything vital, mores the pity, but it did enough damage to make him break off the fight and retreat. He didn’t get far; Spike’s axe took his head off after he’d stumbled only a step away, the sweep of the blade moving on to take out Distraction Vamp, too.
“Nicely done, Spike.” Xander looked around, but other than a lot of dust, there was no sign that any vampires had ever been there. Aside from Spike, of course, who was bleeding slightly along the hairline, and sporting a couple of bruises that had already started swelling along his jaw. Xander sheathed his sword. Spike glanced up at the sky, which was definitely taking on a brighter hue, and Xander realized exactly how late it was.
“You’re bleeding.” Spike reached for his arm, but Xander grabbed his hand, instead, and started pulling him into the house.
“Yeah, okay, maybe I am, but you’re about to become toast, and that trumps a knife graze any day. Let’s get you inside, and then you can help me fix this up while you tell me what the hell you were doing coming home at this time of the morning!”
“Sorry,” Spike answered, snippily. “Didn’t realize I had a curfew.”
“Well, you do.” Xander didn’t give him any leeway. “It’s called sunrise, mister, and you’re about to miss it!” He shoved Spike in the door, then pushed in after him, slamming the door behind him.
“Oi! Stop manhandling me!” Spike set his axe down against the wall, and crossed his arms, the perfect picture of stubborn.
The adrenaline rush fell from Xander all at once, and he found himself on the verge of crying. Damned evil hormonal surges.
“Sorry, Spike,” he apologized, suddenly exhausted. “I woke up and you weren’t home, and then I had an evil demon panic attack, and there were vamps outside the door, and I just realized they must have been waiting there all night to ambush you, and then you’re all snippy about it and I have a hole in my arm and it hurts.”
Okay, maybe he wasn’t going to cry, but he was definitely pouting. He went to cross his arms, but one of them was bleeding, and he just wasn’t in the mood for this. Besides, that vamp had ruined his jacket, and he’d liked that jacket.
“Dammit, I don’t have enough clothes to go throwing away a perfectly good jacket.”
Spike relented. “C’mon Herc, let’s get you in the loo so we can clean up that cut and see if you need stitches.” He guided Xander in the direction of the bathroom, where they kept the first aid kit. “And don’t worry about the jacket. We’re rich. I’ll buy you another. If you like, I can buy you a dozen, all right?”
“We’re rich? When did that happen?”
“I knew that Plautect sorcerer must have had money shoved away somewhere. I mean, look at this place, it’s huge. Well, it looks like we found it. So it’s all ours now.”
Xander didn’t quite trust the gleam in Spike’s eyes, but he was too tired to deal with that right now, so he shoved that into the back of his mind for later examination, and let Spike lead him into the bathroom, and tend to his arm.