Saturation - Chapter 11
written by Jane Davitt & WesleysGirl






Almost a week after the Angel incident, Xander got home from work to find Spike frowning at the papers he was translating at the kitchen table.

Spike looked up at him standing in the doorway to the kitchen and the frown deepened. "What?" he asked, like he was being unpleasantly interrupted by Xander's presence.

"Hi, honey, I'm home?" Xander suggested. "Bad day?"

"No. It'd just be nice if every once in a while I could have enough time to get something done," Spike said, looking back down at the papers in front of him.

"You could work in the study instead," Xander said. It wasn't the first time he'd pointed that out.

"Don't like the lighting in there," Spike muttered, rubbing at his forehead.

Xander went to get a glass, and poured some water from the jug in the refrigerator into it before taking it over and setting it down next to Spike. What with all those vampire years, Spike sometimes forgot to do those little necessary human things like eat and drink. "Did you have lunch?"

Spike's fingers moved down to rub at his eyes, knuckling them until Xander's began to water in sympathy. "Lunch? No. Yes. Fuck, I don't know! I'm not hungry anyway. Got this headache -" He gave Xander a glare, as if daring him to comment, and then stared fiercely at the papers through screwed-up eyes. "Look, let me get on with this, will you? Or I'll have Sarah on my back and God knows I don't need that."

Not liking the way Spike's lips were pressed thin with pain, Xander shook his head. "No. Look, take a break for a while and I promise after dinner we'll give you as much quiet as you need to finish, okay? But you're not gonna get anything done now anyway, not like this. You want some aspirin?"

He thought Spike was going to snap at him again and braced himself, but Spike just took a deep breath and then crumpled in on himself, giving Xander a tiny nod and wincing as if even that had been too much. Xander had had those spiked-bowling-ball-inside-the-skull headaches, himself, so he kept the rummaging through the cupboard for the bottle of aspirin as quiet as possible.

Spike swallowed the tablets with the water and carried on sipping at it as Xander watched him, leaning against the table and wondering how long Giles was going to be.

"Sorry," Spike said eventually, giving Xander a contrite smile. "Just been doing this all day and getting nowhere. Whatever stupid sod wrote this must've done it with his eyes shut. I keep staring at it and it's blurred -" He frowned. "Think maybe there's a spell on it, or something?"

"Honestly? No, I think you're trying too hard." Xander went over and sat down next to Spike, dragging Spike's chair a few inches across the floor until they couldn't get any closer, then he put his arms around Spike and pulled Spike's head to rest on his shoulder. "And I don't really mean this literally, but you don't have to kill yourself over this. It's not life or death stuff. If you're hurting, stop for a while." He spoke softly, not wanting to make Spike's headache worse.

Spike made a little sound that Xander decided to take as agreement.

"You want to go lie down for a while? I could come with."

"Don't know," Spike said. "Maybe. What time is it?" He lifted his head from Xander's shoulder and looked across at the clock on the far wall of the kitchen. Xander watched Spike frown as if he was concentrating, and then he pulled away, stood up and walked closer to the clock. "Five," he said with an air of discovery. "Giles'll be in soon and he'll want something to eat. I'll get the table cleared."

"I could do it," Xander offered, but he wasn't surprised when Spike shook his head and started to neaten up the papers himself. He knew what Giles was like, how everything had to be in a certain order, and it seemed like that was something that just came with the translating territory. He heard the front door open and close, and went to meet Giles in the hall. "Hey," he said, trying to sound less worried than he was.

Giles gave him one look and asked, "What's the matter?" which proved that either Giles read minds or Xander really shouldn't be surprised about the way he always lost at cards. He came a little closer, dropping a heavy briefcase on the floor, and gave Xander a searching look and a quick kiss. "Did something go wrong at work? That special order for the cabinet wasn't cancelled after the wood arrived, was it?"

Xander shook his head as much at himself as in answer to Giles' questions. "No -- work's fine. Spike has a headache. Again." Sure, the previous ones hadn't made him all cranky, but there'd been at least a couple of times when Spike'd had headaches, and what was that they said about three times not being a coincidence, or something? "What if..." Xander lowered his voice so Spike wouldn't hear. "What if there's something wrong? Like... I don't know, a brain tumor or something?"

He was waiting for Giles to scoff at him for jumping to conclusions, but an expression that matched his own passed over Giles' face. Before Xander could really start to panic, though, Giles patted his shoulder, his face smoothing out as if he'd realized that only one of them could go to pieces at a time. "That's a little unlikely, Xander," Giles said. "Don't borrow trouble." He walked into the kitchen, Xander following him, to where Spike was sitting at the table again, his head in his hands, and said quietly, "Spike?"

Spike lifted his head and tried to smile. "Yeah. Hi, Giles. Don't know what Xander's been saying, but it's just a headache."

"I'm sure it is," Giles said. "But that doesn't mean we can't try to find out what's causing them." His gaze went to the papers stacked up on the table. "Do you find it's worse after you've been reading?"

"I suppose so," Spike said after a moment's thought. "Bound to give anyone a headache though, with people writing with quill pens from cross-eyed birds." He gave the papers a contemptuous flick of his hand. "Letters keep going all fuzzy on me, that's all."

"Ah," Giles murmured, making it sound like 'eureka'. He turned his wrist and glanced at his watch. "Get your coat."

"Why?" Spike demanded.

"Because there's an optician's in the High Street that's open until six and it's -" Giles broke off and nodded at the clock on the wall. "What time is it, Spike?"

Xander watched as Spike's gaze went over to the clock, feeling stupid as it finally clicked. He could see the same sheepish expression on Spike's face that he was sure he was wearing himself. "Bloody hell," Spike muttered, sounding relieved. "You really think that's what it is? Was starting to wonder if I'd come back with my brain scrambled."

"There's nothing wrong with your brain," Xander said loyally, as Spike got up.

"No, just my eyes, apparently," Spike said.

"Well, we'll have to see what they say," Giles said comfortingly, resting his hand on Spike's shoulder for a moment. "You're obviously not seriously short-sighted, or you'd have realized before this that there was something wrong. It's just that you're still getting accustomed to having human senses rather than vampire ones."

"Suppose so," Spike muttered. "God, wouldn't you have thought when they gave me a new body, they'd have fixed my eyes?"

"Fixed them?" Xander asked.

Spike gave him a slightly surprised look. "Yeah; wore specs when I was human before, didn't I?"

Giles sighed. "What were you saying about there being nothing wrong with his brain, Xander?" he asked.

"I didn't know!" Xander said, at the same time Spike said, "Fuck off," to Giles in an I'm-irritated-but-let's-pretend-I'm-just-joking kind of way.

"Had better things to worry about," Spike continued, looking sullen. "Angel, for one. Never even gave it a thought."

"Well, perhaps you should have done," Giles said a little tersely, obviously not reacting well to Spike telling him to fuck off. "And I fail to see how pointless fretting about Angel takes precedence over your health."

"The way I am now? Fretting over Angel is fretting over my health," Spike said, holding his arms out at his sides. "He could have killed me, and I'm not stupid enough to think he'd feel guilty about it afterwards, either. And it's not like I wanted to stay there with him. Was never so bloody glad to get away from someone in my life. So don't blame me for..." Spike stopped and shrugged. "You know what? Forget it." He started toward Giles like he was intending to push past him and leave.

Xander sometimes forgot that, when he wanted to, Giles could move pretty fast for a man pushing fifty. Spike got level with Giles, jostling him as he stalked past with the faintest trace of a sneer on his face, and Giles' hand shot out. Suddenly, Spike wasn't moving anywhere, because Giles had a fistful of Spike's shirt.

"Forget it?" Giles said, in a voice Xander had heard him use before and still wasn't sure if it belonged in his nightmares, or the dreams he woke up from hard and whimpering. "I don't think so."

"Let go of me," Spike said. His face was inches away from Giles' and the pallor caused by his headache was lost in a flush that could've been anger.

"No," Giles said. "Any more requests?"

Xander didn't say anything, because this was obviously not the kind of situation you got in the middle of. Spike didn't say anything, either; just stood there, refusing to back down, refusing to look away from Giles' gaze. He was so tightly wound that Xander could see him trembling, and had to hope that it was with something other than anger toward Giles. The last thing Xander wanted was to see what would happen if Spike hit Giles, because he was pretty sure it would end up with someone bleeding on the floor, and he was pretty sure that someone would be Spike.

"Let go," Spike said again, finally, with maybe a touch less fury in his voice.

Giles moved his head slowly from side to side once and brought his free hand up to Spike's neck. In contrast to the tight grip he was maintaining on Spike's shirt -- and Xander was sure he'd heard the fabric tear slightly -- he exerted barely any pressure as his fingers circled Spike's throat, his thumb stroking along the corded muscle of Spike's neck with an assured, controlled touch.

"You've let us take over your life," Giles said, his voice calm. "Decided you couldn't cope in a dozen areas and expected us to handle everything. Perhaps we've been too eager to help you because we love you. Yes, I think we have." The thumb stopped moving. "But when it comes to ignoring something like this, you've gone too far. I can treat you like a child if you like, Spike, punish and reward you accordingly, but is that really what you want? Do you want us to take Angel's place? Do you?" Xander was swallowing dryly now, unable to look away. "And I'll let go of you when you apologize, Spike, to both of us."

Spike was silent for so long that Xander started to suspect the apology would never come, but after almost a minute there was the slightest relaxation of his shoulders, and then he muttered, unconvincingly "Sorry."

"Oh, that's not half good enough," Giles said, and for the first time in a long time, Xander saw him angry. "Try again, Spike. Make me believe you for a change."

Giles' hand slipped around and up, his spread fingers raking through Spike's hair, gripping onto the back of Spike's head.

"I'm waiting."

Two words and Xander was hard, responding to the tension in the air in a way he wouldn't have expected, given that he'd grown up in a house where raised voices and threats weren't a sign of anything but dissatisfaction and frustration.

Not that Giles was doing either of those...

Another very long pause, and then all the fight went out of Spike at once. Xander could almost see it in the shiver that ran through him, and his voice was almost inaudible as he said, "Sorry. I'm sorry." Spike tilted his head forward, letting his forehead come to rest on Giles' shoulder like he didn't have the strength to hold it up anymore, and it took a lot for Xander to stay where he was, to not go to them.

Giles had Spike in his arms at once, holding him close, his hands firm and gentle as they rested against Spike's back, his face showing a tenderness far more familiar than his anger, to Xander at least.

"Thank you," Giles said, almost under his breath, and it was as if it was for both of them, which was why Xander found himself going to them after all, slipping his arms around their waists. He got his first kiss not from Spike, who was still clinging to Giles, but from Giles, who kissed him with enough of that dark edginess still flavoring it to have Xander feeling that Spike's eye examination could wait until the morning, but Giles fucking both of them shouldn't wait for more than the time it took for them to get naked.

"M'sorry," Spike said again, lifting his head. It seemed to be mostly to Giles, which was okay with Xander, who wasn't totally sure what the apology was for anyway. There were little stress lines around Spike's eyes, and he was looking at Giles like Giles was bigger and scarier than Angel at his Angelus worst. Not like he was afraid of Giles, though. Well, not like that, at least. More like he thought he didn't deserve Giles' forgiveness or acceptance.

"I'm sorry, too," Giles said with a sigh. "I was worried, and then you, you just -- and you don't even know you're doing it most of the time, do you?"

"I know," Spike said. "Just don't know how to stop it." He turned to look at Xander, his expression troubled. "Not mad at me?"

"No. Confused, maybe, but not mad," Xander said, tightening his arm around Spike and leaning in for a quick kiss.

They stood like that for a moment longer, linked and close, before moving apart, exchanging somewhat self-conscious looks. Giles looked embarrassed, as if his reaction -- or over-reaction -- had startled him as much as it had Xander.

"I'll put the kettle on," Giles said, going over to fill it as if he was glad of the chance to do something normal and drama-free. "I don't think we'll make it to the optician's in time now, but they'll be open tomorrow, if that's all right, Spike?"

"Sure," Spike said, dragging back a chair and sitting down at the table again. He pressed his fingers against his forehead a little gingerly, but didn't seem to be in as much pain as before. "Another few hours won't matter, and now I know what's wrong, it feels better, somehow."

Xander went over and rubbed the small of Giles' back as Giles filled the kettle. Giles kept a lot of tension in his back when he was upset, and Xander had learned that touching him there was a pretty good indication of how he was doing. Giles turned and smiled at Xander reassuringly, so Xander went over to the table and sat down next to Spike. What he wanted to do was pull Spike into his lap and hold him like that, but he wasn't sure Spike would like that, and he wasn't sure where the instinct was coming from.

Giles finished getting the teapot ready, taking longer than normal, as if he was using it as an excuse to keep his back turned, and then joined them at the table. Without preamble, he said, "If I ever do that again, feel free to tell me I'm being a complete idiot. I certainly feel like one." He shook his head, giving Spike an apologetic look. "I know you're different now, and Lord knows the way I feel about you has changed for the better, but when you... challenge me like that, I react as I would've done when we first met, and that's so very unfair of me." He placed his hands on the table, his fingers loosely clasped, and stared down at them. "I suppose we all have different buttons. You've always been able to hit mine with a frightening accuracy."

"No," Spike said, shaking his head and reaching out a hand to cover one of Giles'. Xander was pretty sure he'd deliberately chosen the one with the slightly crooked fingers. You couldn't really tell by looking at them, but when you were touching them, you could feel where they weren't completely straight. Xander felt a surge of anger toward Angel -- for what he'd done to Giles, for what he was still doing to Spike. "I deserved it," Spike said. "Sometimes that's just... what I need. To get me to listen. Though I will say I appreciate that you didn't hit me, even though I probably deserved that, too." Spike was smiling a little bit, ruefully.

"Hit you?" Giles said, sounding a little disconcerted, curling his fingers around Spike's hand as he spoke. "Spike, I'd never -- I don't recall hitting you when you were a vampire, and being particularly annoying, so I'm hardly likely to start now you're human and we're in a relationship." Giles looked a little angry again, but Xander was pretty sure it wasn't Spike he was mad with. "You shouldn't be glad I didn't hit you; it shouldn't be something you'd expect from me." His fingers tightened around Spike's in an unspoken appeal. "I'm not Angel. I won't act like him, or treat you as he did."

Spike nodded, but he was looking down at the table now, not up at either of them. "Wouldn't blame you if you did, though." He put his other hand over his eyes and sighed. "Sorry. Bloody headache's making me maudlin."

"I think you're allowed," Xander said, rubbing the back of Spike's neck gently. "We'll get some food into you, and then you can lie down for a while."

Spike dropped his head even lower and made a soft sound of pleasure as Xander's fingers found a new spot to massage. "Feels good," he said. "Think it's helping."

"Is that a hint?" Xander said with a grin. He stood up, moving to stand behind Spike's chair and using both his hands to work at the tight muscles along the base of Spike's neck and over his shoulders. Giles glanced at them as he went to finish making the tea and smiled, the final lines of tension smoothing out of his face.

"So I'm getting sent to bed in disgrace, am I?" Spike said, as Giles put a mug of tea in front of them both, sounding plaintive and putting a quiver in his voice that had Xander snorting with disbelief.

"You say that as if you expect to be fed on dry bread and water, spanked thoroughly and locked in a dark cupboard for an hour." Giles said, raising his eyebrows and clearly trying hard not to grin. "Don't you want to rest for a while?"

"Want to go to bed," Spike said with a little more sincerity. "Don't want to go alone, though."

"I think we can arrange something," Xander said, patting Spike's shoulders and reaching over him for his mug of tea. It was just a little bit too hot, but it had been a long time since lunch and he was, he realized belatedly, starving. "But first, food. Someone," he told Giles, "couldn't remember if he'd had lunch or not."

Spike sat up a little bit straighter. "I did," he said.

"Actual food, or a package of chips?"

"Crisps," Spike corrected him.

"Is that a yes to the no actual food?" Xander asked.

"Yeah," Spike said. "It was just... I was in a groove. Didn't want to lose my place."

"Maybe I should start making you a sandwich before I leave in the morning," Xander said. "Or call and remind you to eat at lunchtime."

"You two should meet up for lunch at the shop," Giles said, rummaging in the fridge and emerging with a large steak. "It'd do you good to get some fresh air, Spike, and if you're there, Xander might actually stop working while he eats."

Xander thought about what used to happen when Giles joined him for lunch, which he hadn't done since Spike turned up, and felt a tingle start, low down, at the thought of Spike bent over the table in the back room.

"If we want something soon, I think we'd better skip the baked potatoes," Giles continued.

Xander realized that maybe Giles didn't always want to be the one doing all the practical stuff and went to help him. "There's stuff for salad," he said, patting Giles' hip to get him to move out of the way. "You do the steak and I'll wash lettuce." There were some mushrooms and peppers in the vegetable bin, too, so he took those out and set everything beside the sink.

"I could help," Spike offered, from his seat at the table.

"No, you couldn't," Xander said. "Stay there. Rest. Drink your tea."

Spike propped his chin on his hand and smiled at him. "Whatever you say, Xander. Whatever you say."

*****


"That's the last cup of coffee for you, young man, or you'll never get to sleep tonight," Spike said firmly, dumping the dregs from the pot down the drain.

"Since when did you become Giles?" Xander asked, frowning and drinking his coffee quickly like he was afraid Spike would take it away from him if he didn't. Which, from Spike's perspective, wasn't a stupid thing to be afraid of.

"Giles and I both know what you're like when you've had too much coffee." Spike went over to sit at the kitchen table, picking up his new eyeglasses and slipping them on surreptitiously. He'd had enough comments about the new specs and didn't want any more if he could avoid them, not that it was easy to wear the things without anyone noticing. "So. What's the plan for today?"

"Other than 'try not to lose my mind?'" Xander didn't look worried, though. "I have three orders that need to be done by the end of the week, so I'll be working hard. Hence the chemical stimulant." He gestured with his coffee mug.

Coming back into the kitchen with the file he'd gone upstairs to get, Giles frowned. "Tell me he hasn't had more than the one cup of coffee?"

"I could tell you that, Giles, but it would be a lie," Spike said. It came out sounding primmer than he'd expected it to, and he scowled in an attempt to earn back his bad-boy cred. "I have to deliver this to Sarah by two, then I've got some errands to run. Should be back in time to start dinner, though."

"Don't feel you have to rush back," Giles said as Spike began to sort through the papers in front of him. "By the sound of it, Xander and I won't be back until late; I've got a meeting set up for the afternoon, and if Appleby takes his usual fifteen minutes to introduce the topic you might not see me until midnight." He opened his briefcase and slipped the file inside, closing it with a decisive snap. "Right, I'm off. Have a good day, both of you." Spike straightened, expecting Giles to come over and kiss him goodbye, and found himself staring at a closing door.

"Got to go," Xander said, rinsing his cup and leaving it on the side. He did come over to the table, bending down to kiss Spike, but when Spike took a handful of Xander's T-shirt and tugged him closer, he stepped back. "Really got to go, Spike. There's a delivery of lumber due, and if I'm not there they'll either dump it on the sidewalk, in which case it'll be gone before they get back in the truck, or drive off and it'll be days before they schedule me in again."

"Fine," Spike said, trying not to sound grumpy. "On your bloody way then. Not like I'm not busy, too."

"Bye," Xander said, disappearing into the front hall and, from the sounds of it, struggling to put on his boots without sitting down, which always resulted in some cursing.

After the house was quiet, it didn't take Spike long to get lost in the translation he was finishing up. It took the whole morning and he didn't finish until just after one, which left him without enough time for lunch -- and it wasn't until then that he realized Xander'd never called to remind him to eat, which he'd been doing faithfully for the past week. Spike sighed, ignored his growling stomach, and tucked his new spectacles into the pocket of his T-shirt before packing up his stuff and heading out to meet Sarah.

He didn't even think about trying to pop in and see Giles while he was at the Council offices; he'd done that once before when Giles was in a meeting and learned his lesson. Sarah was pleased to see him, though, which was something, and she promised she'd have more work for him the next day.

Spike discovered on his way out that he only had a few pounds on him -- enough to get home, at least -- and that he'd left his bank card at the house. He distinctly remembered setting it on the phone table in the hall.

Without enough cash for lunch and no way to get more, Spike headed back to the house. He could get something to eat there, and then decide whether or not to go out again.

The house felt different, somehow, when he closed the front door behind him. Some sense of caution made him stand still in the hallway, looking around, but there was nothing there that shouldn't have been. Then he saw Xander's work jacket slung over the banister rail and relaxed. Xander must've come back early for some reason. Spike glanced into the kitchen and the living room, but they were empty. Moving quietly in case Xander was taking a nap, and feeling a stirring of concern in case the lad was ill again, Spike went upstairs.

He was halfway up the stairs when he heard Xander cry out, answered by a low murmur that brought another cry from Xander, as if it had been accompanied by an action. Spike felt nothing but bewilderment for an endless moment, but it wasn't because he didn't know what was going on. No. Easy enough to figure that out. Xander was getting fucked and he only ever sounded like that when Giles was the one doing it.

Breathing unevenly, his heart pounding, Spike forced himself to finish climbing the stairs. The bedroom door was half ajar and he pushed it open just enough to see them, just enough to make sure --

Giles and Xander were on the bed, naked, and even in his misery, Spike couldn't help responding to the sight of them. Xander was on his hands and knees, one of Giles' hands tangled in his hair, the other on his hip. Giles was bent over him, his hips moving in a controlled rhythm, thrusting inside Xander in deep, relentless strokes, his voice harsh and desperate as he said Xander's name, telling him he loved him -

Without saying a word, and before either of them could see him, Spike turned and went quietly back down the stairs. He felt... well, he didn't really feel anything. Empty, hollow, like his heart had suddenly stopped beating. Part of him wished it had.

They'd known he was going to be out. Thought he'd be gone a lot longer. Told him they both had busy days planned. Xander couldn't even be bothered to phone him and remind him it was lunch time. All of these thoughts echoed around inside Spike as he reached the foot of the stairs and stood in the hall, listening to Xander as he cried out in release, hearing as Giles came, too.

Giles and Xander didn't need him. He'd known that all along, but he'd let himself be fooled into thinking this was something it wasn't. Now, with the proof that they were sneaking around behind his back, lying to him...

His bank card was right where he'd left it, on the phone table. Spike picked it up and slipped it into his pocket. Then, on second thought, he took his spectacles -- the spectacles that Xander and Giles had taken him to get, that he'd never be able to look at or through without being reminded of them -- and set them on the table beside the telephone.

Spike didn't know where he was going to go.

That didn't stop him from shutting the door just a little bit too loudly on his way out.

*****


Giles sighed with contentment and pulled Xander into his arms. "Love you," he murmured again, realizing that since Spike had become part of their lives, he was saying that a good deal more and finding it easier every time. It was as if Spike, never particularly reticent about sharing his feelings, had rubbed off on both of them, he thought.

He felt a fleeting regret that Spike wasn't with them. Having his meeting cancelled because Appleby's cold had turned to bronchitis had left him with an empty desk, and he'd headed home, after finding out from Sarah that Spike had been and gone, hoping to find him there. He'd been so busy the last few days that he felt as if he'd hardly had time to speak to either of them, let alone do anything like this.

He kissed Xander's shoulder and felt Xander's breathing slow down a little. They'd arrived home at the same time, Xander forced to give up work for the day after a power cut that had affected the whole street and left him working in a windowless room with no lighting and no power tools. Xander had smiled, kissed him, said something about going to take a shower to take care of the sawdust clinging to his body, and Giles had nuzzled into Xander's neck, smelling warm skin and the familiar scent of wood and got hard between one breath and the next...

They'd started right there, moved to the shower, and ended up in bed. Which was, as far as Giles was concerned, the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

From downstairs, there was the unmistakable sound of the front door closing.

Xander turned slightly in Giles' arms and looked at him. "Did you hear that?"

Giles nodded and sat up. "Spike?" he called, and listened. There was no reply.

"Maybe he doesn't know we're here," Xander said, getting up and reaching for a pair of brushed cotton trousers that was on the chair beside the bed. Giles got up as well, putting on his robe in lieu of actual clothes because it was closer, and they went downstairs together.

"Spike?" Xander said, reaching the bottom of the stairs and looking around. There was still no answer, the ground floor as silent as if Giles and Xander were the only ones there.

"Perhaps he just came back in to grab something and didn't hear us," Giles suggested. "Well, he can't have heard us, can he, or he'd have joined us." He stared at the hall table, and then nodded to himself. "His bank card was on the table when we came in; I remember thinking he'd kick himself for forgetting it because he wanted to do some shopping; it's gone now." Giles shrugged. "He must have literally just put his head through the door, grabbed it and left. Damn; we could've all gone somewhere; it's not often we're all free on a weekday."

"He left his glasses," Xander said, frowning and reaching out to pick them up. "Well, maybe he thought he wouldn't need them. I don't think..." He paused. "How could he not have heard us? We weren't being all that quiet."

Giles chuckled. "We weren't being quiet at all," he said. He stared at the glasses Xander held and lost the desire to laugh. There was something a little worrying about them being abandoned on the table when Spike had been so pleased by the difference they made. His headaches had cleared up immediately, and he got the most endearing smile on his face when he looked at something and saw it clearly without having to squint.

"You don't suppose he felt awkward about interrupting us, do you?" Giles said, trying to put himself in Spike's place. "Although you'd think he'd have been so glad to find us here that he'd have just come straight up to join us." Giles gave Xander a questioning look. "I would have, I think," he said, frowning slightly. "Wouldn't you?"

"Yeah," Xander said. "But this is Spike we're talking about here. You don't think..." He looked very worried suddenly. "You don't think he felt left out?" The worried look intensified, if that was even possible. "Fuck. Giles, you don't think he thought we were sneaking around, do you? We weren't supposed to be here."

"I know," Giles said, "but how can it be sneaking around when it's us?" He reached out and rubbed his hand along Xander's bare arm reassuringly. "If he thought you were here with someone else -"

"Hey!"

"Well, exactly," Giles said, smiling at the absurdity of it. "But if he heard us, he must've known it was just you and me and -" He held out his hands helplessly. "What's wrong with us making love? It's not as if you and he don't..." Giles' voice trailed away. "Uh, you do, right?" he asked. "Or you have... at some point...?"

"Without you?" Xander asked, giving a little shake of his head. "No. I mean, I guess we could have, but we just.... didn't. It didn't seem... I don't know. And I didn't know how you'd feel about it."

"I'd have wished I was with you both, of course," Giles said, "but it wouldn't have bothered me at all. Why would it? I assumed with you both working so close together that -- well, I just assumed it had happened now and then. I didn't ask because -" He pushed his hand through his hair, flushing slightly. "Imagine it: 'Hello, Xander, Spike, have a good fuck at lunchtime today?' It would've been a little embarrassing, to say the least. And it's not as if it mattered." Giles stared at Xander. "You didn't mind what we just did, did you?" he asked, feeling completely lost and wondering what else he'd been missing, assuming everything was going well. "Didn't feel we were doing something wrong? Oh, Lord, Xander, I hope not!"

"Don't be stupid," Xander said, his tone making it clear that he was the one feeling that way. "We've always... since before Spike was here. It's just different, you know?" He was frowning. "So have you and Spike ever? When I wasn't home?"

"It isn't different," Giles protested. "If this is going to work, Spike can't feel that there's something special about you and me. And I don't see any reason at all for sex to be banned unless all three of us are there. I'm going away next month for a few days; do you and Spike plan on sleeping in separate rooms? Because I can't see you sharing a bed for three nights and doing no more than kiss each other goodnight!" Xander opened his mouth, and Giles guessed what he was about to say and added, "No. We haven't. But if I'd felt like it -- as I did with you just now -- I would have suggested it." He was starting to feel quite indignant now, he realized. "And if he'd said, 'No, I'm not in the mood,' I wouldn't have minded at all, but if he'd said we had to wait four hours for you to get home from work, I'd have been bloody stunned."

Xander looked indignant. "Wait; so now this is my fault? Look, Giles, I'm sorry if this -- the three of us -- isn't falling into whatever expectations you had for it, but it hasn't been that long, and I'd never even considered trying to do -- whatever this is -- before Spike showed up. I figured it would be a miracle if I could have an actual relationship with one person that didn't implode when I was least expecting it. And that when it did implode, it'd be mostly my fault. So yeah, okay, sure. If you want to pin the blame on me, go ahead."

"Your fault? When did I ever say it was your fault?" Giles demanded. "And what expectations? I don't have expectations! I have the two of you, which is more than I'd ever dreamed of, but I don't expect anything. Certainly not for it to all go swimmingly, given our track records, but making difficulties out of thin air like this -" He shook his head. "You couldn't have asked? Said something? It was easier to assume that I'd got all manner of rules about who did what to whom and where?" He heard his voice get louder and tried to calm down. This really wasn't helping.

"I didn't think you had rules," Xander said, sounding miserable and wrapping his arms around himself. He looked up. "Giles... what if I really did screw things up?"

All Giles' anger fled as he saw the shiver that passed over Xander, leaving nothing but concern. Stepping forward, he hugged Xander hard, brushing a kiss over his hair. "God, I'm so sorry, love," he murmured. "And of course you haven't. You haven't done anything wrong at all." Giles pulled back enough to be able to met Xander's eyes. "You do realize that we don't even know for sure that that's what happened?" he said, trying to smile. "We've invented this dire scenario, and it really could just be that he's gone off shopping and he'll be back soon. And when he does get back, we'll get this all sorted out, I promise."

Seven hours later, it was a promise that Giles was beginning to doubt his ability to keep. Spike hadn't turned up with armfuls of shopping. Hadn't turned up in time to start dinner. Hadn't turned up in time for dinner at all, though Giles and Xander had cooked a meal and sat at the table pretending to eat it until Xander had given up the pretense and put his plate in the refrigerator. Eventually, they'd moved into the living room and curled up on the couch together with the television on and both of them listening for the sound of Spike's key in the lock.

"He's not coming home," Xander said finally, when it was nearly midnight. He got up and went to the window, looking out, then turned back around and looked at Giles. "What are we going to do?"

"I don't know," Giles admitted, giving up hope himself. "He could just be in a pub somewhere; one of us could stay here and the other go around the ones he usually drinks at?"

"The pubs will be closing in a few minutes. Besides, he'd be unconscious by now if he's been drinking all this time," Xander said, then looked even more worried. "You don't think he could be at a hospital or something, do you? Should we start calling around?"

Giles drummed his fingers against the arm of the couch. "We could, but there's a simpler way. Unethical and a misuse of power, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it. Not if there's a chance Spike's in trouble." He met Xander's eyes and smiled faintly at the question in them. "Have you forgotten my day job?" he asked. "Head of one of the world's most powerful secret organizations? When it comes to finding people -- well, it's part of what we do, and we're damn good at it. I can track Spike across the globe if I have to, but I doubt it'll come to that. Mystical means or mundane, I can find him."

He stood up and went to make a phone call. It took fifteen minutes to get him an address.

"He checked into a cheap hotel near to Heathrow airport two hours ago," Giles reported, watching the relief on Xander's face change to panic at the implications.

"You don't think he's -- " Xander started, and Giles shook his head.

"The accounts he has access to don't have any credits to an airline as of just now," Giles said. "So if he's planning to leave the country, he hasn't got as far as buying a ticket yet."

Xander looked grim. "Let's get over there before he can."


Read: Chapter 12