Saturation - Chapter 2
written by Jane Davitt & WesleysGirl





Spike wasn't sure why they were both staring at him all the time; he was human, yeah, but he hadn't grown another head, and he didn't look any different. And yeah, he knew what he'd looked like before. No reflection didn't mean he hadn't seen himself on the security tapes at Wolfram & Hart or had photographs taken. When he stared into a mirror, he saw himself staring back. Spike. William the Bloody. Useless, destiny-grabbing waste of space. Take your pick.

None of them seemed to fit him now. He was new. New body, nearly-new soul, new life.

Short, measured-in-decades-not-centuries new life, but even so.

Didn't feel that way, though. He still felt connected to all he'd been and done. Connected and distanced at the same time, so that being around Angel was unbearable, because when Angel looked at him all he saw was what Spike had been, not what he'd become.

Angel hadn't been about to give him a chance to prove he'd changed, and Angel sure as hell wasn't going to be someone who cared when Spike got belly-ache from eating too much junk food after forgetting to eat for hours, or someone who'd listen and smile when Spike tried to explain what spicy noodles really tasted like. Spike still hadn't forgotten the look on Angel's face when he'd walked in and found Spike trying to get the lid off a jar. It'd felt bloody welded on, it was that tight, and the arrogant bastard had taken it from him in silence, not even smirking, and opened it using a thumb and one finger.

Angel'd smirked when Spike punched him, though. Smirked and swayed out of the way of the next one -- and the one after that -- moving with lazy speed, arms crossed over his chest...

And now Spike was here with these two, and it was more of the same. Staring at him as if he was a freak.

He spotted his suitcase in the corner. He supposed he should brush his teeth now before they rotted and fell out or something, but he was too tired to care. Let them.

Spike dropped the towel, kicking it out of the way, and walked past Giles and Xander to the bed.

Stupid buggers were still gawping at him.

Typical.

"Maybe this is something no one thought to tell you," Harris said, his eyes darting away when Spike looked at him. Well, eye. It was obvious he'd got himself a glass one, and Spike couldn't help but think there was some kind of vulnerability there just screaming out to be exploited. "But people... regular people, humans, which is a group you apparently newly belong to, don't just walk around with no clothes on."

Spike smirked and crouched down facing them, opening his suitcase and digging around slowly in search of the soft brushed cotton trousers he knew were in there somewhere. He took his time, aware that he was making them uncomfortable and liking it. "Might be human, but I'm never gonna be 'regular,'" he said, standing up and pulling on the trousers before giving his balls a good scratch.

"I think that's a given," Giles said, sounding more amused than Spike had expected. Took a lot to make Giles lose it, although Spike knew a couple of sure-fire ways, starting with folding down corners on pages and definitely involving mugs of blood left unwashed and forgotten for days. He was fairly sure Giles would get just as pissy about abandoned coffee mugs, so that would still work.

Not that Harris was much better from what he remembered. Lad had lived like a slob in the basement, and from what Spike had seen later it didn't seem like Anya had trained him out of it. What he'd seen of the house looked tidy enough; lived-in, but tidy -- but he'd bet his last dollar -- pound -- that Harris' room was a pig sty.

"If there's nothing else you need, we'll leave you to get some sleep," Giles said. "Help yourself to breakfast if you find yourself waking up at some ungodly hour; I know it can be hard to adjust to the time difference at first."

He'd help himself to anything that suited him, pretty much, not that Spike would say that out loud. Oh, he wouldn't steal anything outright, probably -- the soul saw to that -- but he was a guest, wasn't he?

A bloody exhausted guest. Not that he hadn't got tired as a vampire, but the differences kept surprising him. He'd thought food still tasted fine as a vamp, but the first thing he'd eaten as a human, a bag of potato chips, had been something close to a religious experience. He'd had a bunch of stuff delivered right after, on Angel's tab, of course, and eaten the lot of it to the point where he'd felt ill, but he just hadn't been able to stop himself.

Giles and Harris buggered off to the kitchen, closing the door behind them, and Spike crawled into bed, pulling the covers up over him and burying his face in the pillows. He fell into a deep, almost drugged sleep immediately, the sound of his own breathing comforting and disturbing at the same time.

When he woke, it was pitch-black -- and he still wasn't used to darkness. Nothing was dark when you were a vampire. He'd been in places where he couldn't see much, but he could always see something. This moment of disorientation and thick, palpable black pressing down on him always made his heart leap and thud painfully. Which didn't help to calm him down either.

Not like he was going to go out and buy a sodding nightlight, though, was it?

Spike rolled onto his back and glanced around, vague shapes starting to appear as his eyes adjusted. England. Giles' house. Right. Desk over there, with a computer on -- had to be Harris' and he probably drove Giles mad playing games on it. Bookshelves everywhere -- no change there.

A creak and then another had him staring up at the ceiling. Sounded as if he was under one of their bedrooms and they were toddling off to bed. He wondered who it was making all the racket. They both snored sometimes, if memory served, but Xander was the one who thrashed around most. God, he hoped he was under Giles' room, or he'd never get back to sleep.

For a minute or so, there was silence, so Spike closed his eyes again, but then he heard another creak and what might have been a moan. He frowned. Was Giles sick? Another moan, louder, this one sounding more like Harris, and then the creaks found a rhythm that Spike would have recognized anywhere.

He was so surprised that, at first, his brain tried to come up with other explanations. A whore's car had broken down outside and she'd knocked on their door then offered to have sex with Harris as a way of saying thanks for their help. Harris was jerking off alone, or maybe shagging some kind of blow up doll on his squeaky bed. There had to be a reasonable explanation for what Spike was hearing.

The sounds increased -- more moaning, two men's voices -- and Spike couldn't deny it anymore. Giles and Harris were shagging. Each other. Spike's hand was resting over his own erect cock, and when Giles groaned and the head of the bed hit the wall with a muffled thud, Spike shrugged and slid his hand under the waistband of his trousers. Might as well have a wank, since they were putting on a show.

And that was all he had been doing lately. Oh, he'd gone out and got laid, first chance he'd got, but it'd been some stupid tart he'd picked up in a bar who'd giggled more than Harmony, which he hadn't thought was possible, and it'd been less fun than he'd expected.

She'd thought the same, if her sudden silence afterwards was anything to go by, and he'd left without bothering to explain that no, he didn't usually shoot his load in under a minute, but this was the first time he'd fucked anyone as a human -- ever -- because that really wouldn't have gone down well.

But his hand, his dick; they were old friends, human, vampire, souled or not, and the way his cock was aching and hard against his palm it was appreciating the background music as much as he was.

He didn't give a toss what had got those two in bed with each other -- desperation, most likely, because no one else would have them -- but he had to admit he was getting off on the idea, if only because it was so very fucking wrong and that still appealed to him.

Harris had lost weight since Spike had seen him last, and put on some muscle. The T-shirt he'd been wearing, short-sleeved and tight enough to cling, had shown it off, too. Good enough to eat.

Spike shuddered, pumping his cock with fast, hard jerks thinking about Giles doing just that as Harris moaned and whimpered, just like he was doing now. God, he could hear everything! Inconsiderate gits.

Not that he was complaining, but they weren't even trying to keep quiet.

"Xander -- God, yes - Xander-"

He hadn't known Giles could sound like that. Husky. Desperate. Thud, thud, fucking thud. Christ, they were going at it like bunnies on crack.

"Fuck, yeah," Spike muttered, his fist moving faster, the slick sound of his foreskin moving over the head of his cock making his balls tighten up. Above him, the space between dull thuds had stretched out, but the sounds themselves were louder, like Giles was really giving it to Harris, deep, hard thrusts. He heard a muffled cry that might have been Harris then Giles' answering groan, all creaking and thumping sounds stopping. Spike could picture the look on Giles' face as he came, emptying himself into Harris' body, imagined that body tightening around his own cock. Spike didn't try to muffle his own cry when he came, letting the hoarse shout escape him as his cock throbbed in his hand, surprising him with the intensity of it. In the room above him, there was a moment of utter silence.

Then someone -- had to be Giles -- began to laugh softly, and there was a hissed babble of words from Harris that died away as if Giles had kissed him to shut him up, which was something Spike had never tried, because it was more entertaining to wind him up than soothe him, but which seemed to be working.

He lay back, messy and relaxed, enjoying the afterglow, and listened to them move around, the short rush of water in a basin, flush of a toilet -- and then they settled back down and that was that.

Spike stripped off the trousers he was wearing and used them to dry his hand and stomach before dropping them onto the floor. He preferred sleeping naked anyway, even if it did seem to bother Harris for some reason.

Harris, who'd stared at him when he'd walked in from the shower, dark eyes wide.

Spike was grinning when he fell asleep. Lad could stare all he wanted as long as he wasn't thinking 'freak' when he did it.

Sunshine was pouring into the room through the one small window when Spike woke up again. He remembered who he was, yawned, stretched, and sat up, listening to the sounds of Harris and Giles talking in the kitchen. They'd have to go to work today, presumably, which he hoped meant he'd be able to do a little bit of snooping around, figuring out what they'd been up these past months. In the meantime, he thought he'd have a bit of fun. He pulled on a clean pair of trousers and briefly considered going out bare-chested just to see if he could get a rise out of Harris -- phrase with a whole new meaning, that -- but decided it was too cold. Another thing he could do once they'd gone off for the day -- find the thermostat and turn up the heat.

In his stocking feet, Spike padded out to the kitchen, where Giles was making toast and Harris was pouring coffee. "Quite the domestic pair, aren't you?" he asked. "Who's the missus?"

Harris gave him a look that was a little bit more irritated than Spike had been expecting. "You're in our house," he said bluntly. "You don't get to make cracks like that."

"Not if you want to stay in it, anyway," Giles said without turning around. "Good morning, Spike. Sleep well?"

The toast popped up, and Giles added it to a stack keeping warm under a napkin in a basket. He carried it over and put it down on the table next to butter, marmalade and –

"Is that homemade raspberry jam?" Spike asked, passing up the chance to get in a dig about the noises in the night. He sat down and flipped a piece of toast onto his plate -- well, a plate anyway. Might as well be his. He was company, wasn't he? -- and slathered it thickly with butter and jam. "God, it's been years since I had this."

He bit into the toast, the taste of the jam bursting across his tongue, fresh and sweet, and yeah, he might have moaned a little. He hadn't been able to really taste his food in over a hundred years, so he figured he was entitled.

Harris set a cup of coffee down at Spike's elbow, hard enough that a little bit sloshed out onto the table. "So how long are we going to have the pleasure of your company?" Xander asked.

Spike looked up at him. "Trying to kick me out?"

"Actually, yeah." Harris sat down.

"Three's a crowd, eh? Don't worry; I can turn a blind eye as well as you can, Harris."

Harris flinched, not enough to be noticeable unless you were looking, but Spike was looking. Looking at the flush rising up under his skin, the way his lips tightened and thinned... and then he was looking at the table, because Giles' hand had closed around the back of his neck and forced his head down.

"Hey! Get off!" Spike protested.

"Then behave."

Giles let go of him, with a dismissive smack across the back of his head that stung his pride as much as anything, and sat down. "If we're done with the pleasantries, I suggest we get a move on. I need to be at work soon. Spike, I'm obviously going to be looking into this prophecy of yours, but I don't think I want your all-too-familiar face at the Council headquarters just yet. You can spend the day with Xander."

Spike and Harris looked up in horror at the same time. "What?" they both said.

"You heard me," Giles said, sipping at his coffee implacably.

"Oh, no," Harris said. "Look, Giles, it's one thing to have him staying here, but there's no way he's coming to work with me. He'll probably burn the place down!"

"I fail to see how that's any worse than what he might do if we leave him here alone," Giles said, looking at Harris.

The most frustrating thing was that Spike really didn't have anyplace else to go. He had no money, and it wasn't like he could just take whatever he needed from the corner shop and walk away without needing to worry about someone calling the cops or, worse, pulling out a gun and shooting him.

"Do I have to?" Harris asked.

"What are you, five?" Spike said, disgusted by the whiny tone in Harris' voice and still stinging from Giles' reprimand. "Didn't know you were such a pervert, Giles."

Giles took one more sip of his coffee, and then set it down. "Get out."

"What?" Spike blinked at him. Giles sounded bored, not angry, but he'd got a look about him that was making the skin crawl on the back of Spike's neck, the way it did just before a fight started, the way it did when he was walking along and something was stalking him, two steps back in the bushes.

"You heard me. Get your things and get out. Go crawling back to Angel, or step under a bus. I really don't care. I don't want you here, and I fail to see why we should have to endure your pathetic attempts to prove you're still capable of inflicting damage on others." Giles got up and went to stand behind Harris' chair, resting his hand on the boy's shoulder for a moment, and then nodding at the door. "Out."

Fuck.

Part of Spike was tempted to just do as Giles said, to step out the front door with his suitcase and not look back. Then he remembered all the things he needed now, really needed, like food and a place to live, and he backed down. A little. "Look, it's fine. I'll go to work with Harris. No worries."

"That's no longer an option you have, I'm afraid," Giles said.

Harris was staring at Spike as if he was working out the most painful place to punch him, and Giles was looking as if he already knew and was about two seconds away from demonstrating.

"I'm sorry," Spike said.

He was close to wishing he'd stayed dust, he really was. Neither of them reacted. He'd just groveled and they didn't care.

"Look, I said I was fucking sorry!" He closed his eyes to shut out the sight of Harris starting to smirk and took a deep breath before opening them again. "You don't pop back into life wearing Armani and clutching a platinum card, you know. Try stark-naked and penniless, because when I got back to my place three days later, it'd been trashed and everything I owned was gone. Angel's still got the bank account, Angel's still got enough to get by with -- me, I'm skint." He rubbed his finger through a smear of jam on the table. "Bastard bought my plane ticket and gave me enough to cover the cab fare here. I don't have anything left. Fake ID, birth certificate, passport, yeah... needed them to get in here, and he arranged that, but all the rest of it I don't have. I don't exist. I'm not in the fucking system."

His voice was getting louder now, and they were staring at him again. He stood up and realized he was shaking. "You want to throw me out because I've still got a big mouth? Go ahead. I'm getting used to it. But don't fool yourself I've got a nice, bright future out there waiting for me. I've got nothing. I've got no one." He managed a sneer. "Thanks for the warm welcome to the human race. Appreciate it."

Spike actually got as far as the doorway before Harris' voice stopped him. "No, wait," Harris said. Then, softer, to Giles, "We can't just throw him out."

"We most certainly can," Giles said, as Spike turned around to hear the verdict. "He's behaving like a spoilt child, and I won't tolerate it. Not when it's directed at you."

"He said he was sorry," Harris pointed out. "I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not that I want him here But just kicking him out when he doesn't have anywhere to go, that's not right, either." The conflict was clear on Harris' face, the bloody do-gooder at war with his instincts which, very rightly, told him that Spike didn't like him much and probably never would.

Giles didn't look conflicted exactly, but he hesitated and glanced between Spike, who was trying to look pitiful and not needing to try all that hard, and Harris, who was probably secretly hoping Giles would do his dirty work for him and insist that Spike leave.

"Oh, very well," Giles snapped at last, walking over to the doorway. "He can stay." He gave Spike an unfriendly look as he passed him. "Temporarily. If you behave. Are we clear on that point?"

Spike nodded. "Thanks," he said to Harris, grudgingly.

"You can thank me by staying out of my way and finding someplace else to live as soon as possible," Harris said, but he wasn't looking at Spike with seething hatred anymore, so that was something.

*****


Spike watched Xander open up his shop, noting the proprietary look he gave the place as he walked in. Xander turned the sign on the door to read 'open' with a casual flick of his wrist and said, "This is it."

It didn't look like much to Spike at first, but when Xander turned on the lights and he saw the carefully positioned pieces of wooden furniture, placed so that the spotlights overhead picked out the glossy sheen of the wood grain or an intricate piece of carving, he gave it a silent, grudging approval. Xander had carved too many stakes for Spike to feel comfortable about complimenting him on his woodworking skills, though.

He glanced around, spotting a door behind the counter that he guessed led to the workshop.

"Nice place," he said, just to prove he could be polite if he wanted to be. "So do you have someone out here dealing with the customers while you whittle away in the back then?"

"There aren't that many customers," Xander said. "If there are, I just stop what I'm doing. Or sometimes I've got something I can do out here -- polishing, for one." He looked at Spike thoughtfully. "That's something you could do, maybe."

Spike tried to sound neutral. "Polish the furniture? How long's that really gonna take?"

"Oh, don't worry, there's plenty of other stuff, too," Xander said. He went behind the counter and opened the door to the back. "Come on." Spike followed, only to be handed a broom the minute he walked through the doorway. "Here you go," Xander said cheerfully, pointing to the thick layers of sawdust on the floor. "There's a dustpan and a trash bin in the corner."

Polite left the building. "I don't know what Giles had in mind when he said we had to spend the day joined at the hip, but somehow I don't see me cleaning up after you in this life or the next, okay?" Spike cleared his throat as Xander started to frown. "No offense. I just -" He stuck out his hand, trying to get Xander to take back the broom. "Human, yes, skivvy, no."

Xander, surprisingly, seemed to understand. "Look, I sweep up after me all the time. I also clean the bathroom. It's only stupid, meaningless work if you decide it is." He gestured around at tools Spike couldn't even begin to guess the names of. "Besides, what else are you going to do, start making armoires?"

"No, but –" Spike rolled his eyes, feeling depression settle over him like the dust on every surface. And this was what Angel had wanted back? This tedium interrupted by boredom? He was welcome to it. "Look, I get paid, right? Because I'm not doing this for nothing." He decided that needed rephrasing as well, judging by Xander's sharp intake of breath. "I want to pay my way," he said virtuously. Yeah, that sounded better. "Not going to sponge off you two. So I need a job."

For a minute Xander just looked at him, then he nodded. "Yeah, okay. But only if you're actually helpful. No sitting around on your ass all day complaining that you're bored, and then expecting a paycheck."

As it turned out, Xander was able to find all sorts of things for Spike to do, most of them just as boring as Spike had feared, but he managed to make it through the first part of the day by reminding himself that this was a job, that he was getting paid and that the first thing he was going to do with his money was go out and get stinking drunk.

"So, is it weird?" Xander asked, looking up from whatever he was doing to a chair as Spike sorted a pile of wood scraps into two other piles. "You know, the whole breathing, eating, bleeding thing?"

"Don't know about the bleeding yet, but I don't see that being much different," Spike replied. "The rest of it -- yeah. Takes a bit of getting used to. It's worse when I think about it." He tossed a useable-sized chunk onto the left-hand pile and straightened up. "I nearly passed out early on because I started to try to breathe instead of just letting it happen." He gave a short laugh. "Angel thought that was bloody hysterical. Go on: you can have a laugh too if you like."

Again, Xander surprised him, not even looking up from his work and just offering, "Nah. I almost fell down a couple of flights of stairs right after the eye thing -- I'm not sure why. I mean, the doctor said it wouldn't throw off my depth perception by that much, but I guess it was enough."

"Shouldn't have said that earlier," Spike said, feeling a tiny pang of shame. "About turning a blind eye. Won't say sorry, though, because I'm making a rule about only saying that once a day." He picked up another piece of wood and turned it in his hand, studying the grain. "What made you get rid of the patch then?"

"Giles, mostly." Xander said it casually, but it was the sort of thing that had a lot of power behind it. Spike was good at that -- ferreting out the important bits of the conversation and holding onto them. Never knew when you might be in need of some ammunition. "He thought it'd be better for me, I don't know, looking more normal. Blending in." He shrugged with one shoulder, glancing up at Spike. "He was right. He usually is."

"Can't say as I agree with that," Spike said a little dryly. "Or have you forgotten him trying to get me staked not so long ago? And blending in is what you do when you're weak." He ran his finger around a knot in the wood, deep enough to be a flaw. "Never saw me trying to be one of the crowd, did you?"

"Oh yeah? So that whole summer when Buffy was dead, you were just hanging out with us because you thought we were so cool?" Xander glanced up from what he was doing, his gaze knowing. Made Spike want to smack him.

"I was keeping an eye on you lot," Spike said sharply. "With the Slayer gone and nothing but that bloody robot in between you and the monsters -- yeah, you'd have been dead inside a month without me." He slammed the wood down on top of the discard pile hard enough to send the stacked pieces flying. "You needed me," he said, wanting it to be true now as much as he had back then.

"I'm not saying we didn't," Xander said, putting down one tool and picking up a smaller one. "I'm just saying that maybe you needed us, too."

Spike let his silence answer that one. Why bother trying to lie, and why put himself through the humiliation of agreeing with what they both knew was true? "Never mind the history lesson," he said, shoving the scattered pieces of wood together again. "I'm more interested in what's going on now. You and Giles, for one thing. Have to say I didn't see that one coming." He glanced over at Xander, trying to gauge his expression. "Been going on long then, you and him?"

Xander didn't look up from what he was doing, but he answered easily enough, though Spike thought he could hear a tension underneath it all. "A while. I was just supposed to stay with him for a few days when I got back from Africa, but then... you know. Stuff happened."

Spike couldn't help grinning. "Stuff. Yeah. That's one way of putting it, I suppose. What, you tripped one day and his bed just happened to break your fall?" He shook his head. "Doesn't sound likely. And if you don't mind me saying so, it doesn't look good either, old Giles taking advantage of you like that."

"Please. Like I'd really believe you were worried about me being taken advantage of." Xander stood and Spike looked up at him in alarm, but Xander wasn't even looking in his direction, just moving to get some other thing that Spike didn't know the name of. "And he's not old. He's younger than you."

"Not anymore," Spike said smugly. "Got a birth certificate to prove it." He glanced over at where Xander had been working and tutted when he saw the fresh layer of shavings on the floor. "I just swept that bit an hour ago! Do you mind? Put down some bloody paper or something."

Xander snorted. "It'd take more time to put down paper than it will to sweep. Don't worry, it won't kill you." He settled back down to his work. "Speaking of which, you are aware what cigarette smoke does to human lungs, right?"

"Mine are a month old; think I'm safe for a while yet," Spike said with genuine indifference. It'd been a shock taking that first drag and coughing like a twelve-year old, but it hadn't taken him long to get used to smoking again, and it wasn't something he planned to give up. Pleasures of the flesh.... yeah, well now that he was flesh he planned on enjoying them all. "So spare me the lecture, or I'll return the favor and point out that shagging someone with as many miles on the clock as Rupert has might not be the best idea you've ever had." He lifted his eyebrow, unable to resist needling Xander just a little bit more. Call it payback for waking him up like that. "Well? You being all nice and safe, Xander? Hope so."

"That's not the kind of question you ask your boss," Xander pointed out. "But even if it was, it's none of your business." Spike could tell he'd struck a nerve.

"It is when you're going at it like you were last night," Spike said. "You always that loud, or did you get off on having an audience?" He widened his eyes at Xander. "And did you wear him out for the week or am I gonna need earplugs tonight as well?"

Something inside him was screaming at him to shut up, but after weeks of being on the receiving end of Angel's increasingly savage digs it felt good to be the one doing the hurting.

And Xander always did label his buttons so very nice and clearly.

"We thought you were asleep," Xander said, finally pushed over the edge from irritated into angry and not making any effort to hide it. "Look. I know it comes naturally to you to act like an asshole, but I can't work like this. Go out front and, I don't know..." He looked around, got up and went over to grab something off a shelf, then stomped toward Spike and thrust a bottle and a rag into his hands. "Wash the windows. You think you can manage that without breaking anything?"

"Depends on if I care enough to try," Spike said, refusing to take as much as a step backwards. Not for Harris. No fucking way was he backing down from him. "But as I wouldn't put it past you to dock my wages for breakages, I'll see what I can do." He studied the cleaning supplies distastefully, but began to walk towards the door, avoiding a patch of sunlight automatically. Just before he left the room, he turned and grinned at Xander, his bad temper fading a little now he'd got Xander to crack. "Don't feel you two have to keep your hands to yourself just because I'm around though." He squeezed the trigger on the bottle of glass cleaner, sending a fine spray into the air. "Better than cable porn."

"Go," Xander said sharply, following after Spike. "Clean. Be quiet." And, as soon as Spike had stepped out into the front room, Xander closed the door to the back one in his face.

"Fine," Spike muttered. Then, with enough force that Xander would be able to hear him, "What if I want to be loud? Do I get docked for that, too?" There was no reply.

Spike sighed and went outside, taking advantage of his time in the fresh air to smoke. He did a half-arsed job cleaning the glass, grinning as he noted the streaks left behind when he was done, and then he moved inside and finished the job, going as slowly as humanly possible.

The day dragged by with Xander finding jobs to do that kept him and Spike as far apart as possible, even eating his lunch on his own. Spike counted that as a victory of sorts, but it also meant he was bored. Sitting at the counter reading a week-old paper and waiting for someone to walk in wasn't his idea of fun. Even less fun when no one did. Xander seemed to have plenty of work, but he didn't exactly have people beating down the door to get at his tables and chairs.

About an hour before closing, when Spike was half-asleep in his chair, he heard the chirp of a phone. Wasn't the shop one; that was beside him, so it had to be Xander's cell phone. Spike slipped over to the connecting door and listened in.

Xander sounded relieved when he spoke. "Hi," he said. "Yeah... ha ha, very funny. I hope that was a joke... How do you think?" A longer pause. "Okay, yeah, that pretty much sums it up... Yeah, I know. And I kind of might have said I'd pay him." Spike could imagine the reaction to that one, even if his human senses meant he couldn't actually hear it. "Because it's my business and I get to decide, that's why," Xander said, his voice sharp. He sighed. "I know. I know. Sorry." Even more softly, "Me, too. See you later. Bye."

Spike rolled his eyes. So Giles didn't like the idea of him being on the payroll, did he? And was that Xander getting a bit restive at the end there? Spike didn't feel much sympathy. Teach him to hook up with someone who remembered him as a snot-nosed kid and probably still thought of him that way deep-down.

He pushed open the door and gave Xander a friendly smile, noting that he was looking a bit flushed. "Giles checking up on you, is he? Making sure we're both still alive and kicking?"

"Fuck off," Xander muttered, and then glanced up at Spike when he didn't leave. "What, do you need a hearing aid? Get out of here." He stood up abruptly, digging in his pocket and taking out his wallet, thumbing through the notes and pulling out a few. "Here. Go waste it on whatever you're going to waste it on. I assume you can find your way back to the house on your own."

Taken aback, Spike reached out and took the money, folding it one-handed and tucking it into his back pocket. He'd felt a momentary surge of -- not panic, no; concern, maybe -- at Xander's first words, but it looked as if he hadn't pushed him far enough to get kicked out altogether.

"Right. I'll be off then."

He hesitated, but Xander had already turned his back on him as if he'd ceased to exist.

It took three doubles of whiskey at the first pub he found that wasn't full of old men or suits to dull the resentment that rejection had left behind.


Read: Chapter 3