“What do you want?”
Okay, so maybe lurking outside Spike’s crypt at sunset the day after the vampire had tried to betray them to Adam lacked a little subtlety, but Xander was also a bit desperate.
“Company,” Xander admitted. Yeah, that wasn’t going to go over well.
“So go bug the bints,” Spike snapped. But he didn’t move away from the crypt doorway.
“Dont’ really want to….” No, after last night… A shudder ran down Xander’s spine at the thought of being around the others after what happened last night. Another followed at the thought of being alone. There were a lot of maybes in tonight’s plan, but he had to vary the pattern without ending up alone.
Spike frowned, lighting a cigarette as he leaned against the stone doorway. “You gonna explain that, mate?”
“Not really,” Xander said with a shrug. “But I have Apocalypse Now and Die Hard on tape. And Dad’s friend rewired things so he’s getting the premium channels. I haven’t managed to tap in from the basement, but the Predator marathon on HBO doesn’t start until midnight, so the parents should have passed out by then.”
“You’re offering movies—”
“With lots of blood and violence.”
“Violent movies? For what?”
Company, Xander thought. A monster on my side to drive the other monsters away. Especially if he fell asleep. “We all had a shitty time yesterday. And I don’t want to sleep tonight. I’ll be watching movies anyway, and I thought you might enjoy joining me.”
Spike studied him, sucking contemplatively on his cigarette. “Would have thought you had to be awake for work tomorrow. Use to complain enough about needing your beauty sleep.”
Xander laughed, tilting his head back and really letting it all out. “I’ve been fired from six menial jobs this month, and quit the last one to take down Adam. I can wait a few days before picking up the next.”
Spike raised a pointed, scarred eyebrow.
Shrugging, Xander added, “Besides, I’ve got an application in with the construction company that’s building that new housing development behind Restfield.” And since he’d given in and mentioned that application to his grandfather, he figured he had the job in the bag.
“How you gonna pay rent until then? Your dad never seemed inclined to let anything slide.”
Oh, he couldn’t resist countering Spike’s smirk with one of his own. “Advance on my trust fund.”
“Your what?” Spike’s voice hit an impressive squeak and he actually dropped his cigarette, though he covered the last by quickly stubbing it out with his boot.
Laughing, Xander turned towards home through the gathering dusk. He didn’t need to share about the extra cash he had leftover from his grandfather, or the few hundred Uncle Jonathan had passed over for a summer’s work on the farm. He had enough to keep him going, but bitching at Spike had been so much fun he hadn’t bothered to resist. “You coming or not?” he called over his shoulder.
A moment of silence followed, then Xander heard the soft thud of boots catching up.
“Anything to drink?”
“Three pints of human,” Xander tempted. “And a fifth of Jack.” Which he had bought instead of stealing it from his father. Local liqueur store would accept much crappier fake IDs than the one Xander had.
“We can grab some beer from the gas station on the way,” Spike said, as if it were a given. “None of that piss you American’s call beer, though.”
“You paying?” Xander asked, covering his walled with his hand as he knew just how good Spike could be at pickpocketing.
“You invited me,” Spike snarled.
“I already provided drinks for guests.” And a lot more expensive than some beer. Human was a bitch to get in Sunny D. “Call it a host gift.” See, he’d picked up some of that etiquette stuff people talked about.
Out of the corner of his eye, Xander saw Spike slip a finger into a jeans’ pocket so tight the faint bulge of a few bills could be seen under the fabric.
“Chocolate, Mom shoved some fruit rollups at me. Probably a few things we could raid from the kitchen.”
“You get the beer, I’ll grab some better munchies.”
That was a much better deal than Xander expected. Spike was… compromising.
“And some smokes.”
“Fine, but no smoking in the living room.” The place was a pit and smelled of damn near everything else, but Dad would notice the addition of cigarette smoke because it was the one addiction he abhored.
“What about in the basement?”
Xander shrugged, and pulled open the door of the small gas station store that was on the way between Spike’s cemetery and the Harris homestead. The boy behind the bullet proof glass panel looked up with wide eyes, and winced when he spotted Spoke.
“Not like I expect to live past thirty in this line of work. Bring on the lung cancer.”
Normal patterns for a weekday, admittedly not always followed, indicated Dad should have stumbled up to bed by eleven and passed out in a drunken stupor well before midnight. Therefore, at eleven thirty, when he could still hear the noises of people up in the living room, Xander eyed the ceiling and frowned. In fact, rather than getting quieter, it was getting quite a bit noisier, and not in the way that meant someone turned the TV up.
A loud crash carrying the overtones of glass and flesh finally drove him to his feet.
“Fuck,” Xander cried out, bolting up the stairs and through the door to the kitchen. Though the doorway to the kitchen, he could see his dad in the middle of the living room, standing over what looked like the TV smashed into the floor. On top of something else.
“What the fuck, Dad?” Xander bellowed, running into the room, praying he was imagining things.
But no, the thing under the TV was his mom, Jessica Harris in all her bleeding and bruised glory.
“You stopped. Swore you wouldn’t.” Xander dropped to his knees at his mom’s side, checking her neck for a pulse and thanking every positive god he could think of that the TV hadn’t landed on her head. But the glass of the screen was broken, and hadn’t Willow mentioned vacuum tubes had a lot of nasty chemicals in them?
“I wouldn’t if I were you.”
Spike voice rang out just as Xander assured himself his mother was breathing, her heart was beating, at least for now. Looking up, he realized his father was advancing. The bastard hadn’t tried anything with either of them since the Hyena Incident. What could have set him off this badly?
“Get out,” Spike growled,s talking forward, every inch the big bad. “Touch the boy and I’ll rip your head off.”
Dad didn’t know Spike couldn’t back up the threat, and took three steps back.
“Get out,” Spike repeated.
“Get the fuck out of this house,” Xander yelled. “I know who pays the mortgage when you’re too drunk to work, and I will get that help pulled.”
His dad’s eyes widened in shock.
Not bothering to speak again, Xander snarled at the bastard and bolted for the phone. As he dialed 911, he heard Spoke snarl as well, and the rapid thundering of feet exiting the house. The roar of a car peeling away came moments later.
“Don’t know about broken bones, but I smell blood on her breath,” Spike said as Sander explained why he needed an ambulance, so he mentioned concerns of internal bleeding.
While the emergency dispatcher was assuring him help was on the way, Xander covered the mouthpiece. “Downstairs, grab my cell phone and the folder of papers in the drawer next to the couch.” He’d had plans for this for too long to let shock slow him down.
Surprisingly, Spike vanished downstairs without complaint. Xander stumbled to the end of the phone cord and knelt beside his mother, holding her hand and asking the dispatcher if he should move the TV.
When Spike reappeared, Xander hung up on the dispatcher and called Willow. Then Buffy, and Anya. No one answered. So he left messages.
“Ambulance is coming,” Spoke said, his voice oddly gentle.
“Call….” He’d missed someone. Damn it. He held the phone out to Spike and frowned.
“Joyce?” Spike suggested, taking the phone.
“And Giles.” Yes, that was who he missed. Xander traded the phone for his cell phone. While Spike explained to Joyce, as best he could, what was happening, Xander called his grandfather.
“I’ll be on the next flight out,” William said as soon as Xander got out the words “Mom” and “hospital”. “Use the emergency credit card if they start talking about money.”
William sounded as scared as Xander, and he caved.
“Call my cell with updates. I’ll check as soon as I land.”
By now, Xander was standing next to the front door while the EMTs argued over the best way to move the TV so they could transport his mom.
“Joyce will meet you at the hospital.” Spike’s voice startled him, soft breaths across Xander’s ear indicating how close the vampire was standing. The folder of papers he’d sent Spike for slipped into his hand. “Giles is looking for Buffy. He’ll be along too.”
“Thanks,” Xander said, his voice barely above a whisper, his eyes fixed on his mom.
“Who was that on the phone?”
“Mom’s father.” The words slipped out before he remembered he hadn’t told his friends about his family in Kansas. Well, that secret would be out soon enough.
They let him stay with his mom while she stabilized for surgery. So he was there when her eyes blinked open, wincing at the florescent overhead lights of the Sunnydale ER.
“It’s okay,” he whispered, holding her hand tight and shading her eyes with his free hand. “You’re at the hospital.”
“Don’t speak. You’re…” Shit, what should he say? “You’re gonna be okay.”
Her green eyes were full of pain, and pain killers, but she looked up at him and smiled a lopsided smile past the bruises.
“You look so like him.”
“Shhh, Mom. Just rest.” He never liked hearing how much he looked like his father.
Her head shook slowly from side to side. He tried to stop her as they weren’t sure about a concussion and there was no way she needed her brains scrambled any more, but she just smiled again.
“Not him, not that bastard. Your father.”
Xander frowned. “What? No, Mom, it can wait. You need to conserve your strength.”
“He was so handsome, with those warm brown eyes.” She tried to lift her free arm, and hissed when the probable broken bones within told her not to do that. “I never told Tony about those weeks with Marcelle.”
But she didn’t reply, slipping back into unconsciousness with a soft sigh.
It was well past dawn when William arrived. Xander had been huddled in the waiting room for hours, Joyce always at his side and sometimes one or another of his friends. Anya kept trying to lurk helpfully, but her lack of understanding of human social cues led to more snappishness from everyone than comfort.
He stood as soon as he spotted his grandfather in the doorway, but froze after that move. William was less inhibited and strode straight over, wrapping Xander up in a hug. And he held him even as damp tears trickled down to wet Xander’s shirt.
Finally, William stepped back. “How is she?” he asked softly. “You haven’t called since before I landed.”
“We don’t…” Xander took a deep breath. “She’s out of surgery. There were broken bones, internal bleeding. They took out her spleen and gallbladder. She’s… she stable for now. They’ll let us see her soon.”
“Thank God you were there, son.”
A tear trickled down Xander’s cheek, but he couldn’t seem to let go further even as his heart threatened to tear in two. “I was downstairs… I should have realized sooner. I… I’m sorry. I should have realized—”
William pulled him back into a hug. “Hush. You didn’t know. You couldn’t know. And you were in time.”
When they had both calmed down a bit, and Xander was allowed to step back, William said, “I don’t want you going back there.”
“What?” Xander didn’t want to go back, but … where else would he go?
“Use the card, get a hotel room until we find a good apartment. I don’t want you where he can get at you.”
Both men jerked when Spike’s broad vowels cut through their private conversation.
“Sorry to startle you.”
“And who are you, young man?” William asked, taking in the shocking appearance of Spike in all his punk rock glory. Xander was just surprised the vampire was still around.
“William. I’m a friend of Xander’s. We were watching movies when….” Spike gestured at the doors the doctors came through from time to time. “Realized pretty quick Xander shouldn’t be there when the bastard decided to come home. Rupert and I slipped back and collected all his things. Mrs. Summers said he can store everything at her house for now, and use the guest room.”
“Please, I’d like Xander to stay with me,” Joyce chimed in, and William’s hard expression softened a little. “He’s been a good friend to my daughter, Buffy.”
“I”m sorry,” William said, offering a hand. “William Clark. Thank you for staying with my grandson. I assume the rest of you are his friends.”
“Joyce Summers, and this is my daughter Buffy.” She place a hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “And these are Willow and Tara, and Anya. Rupert Giles, and you met… William.” The pause was small, but significant to everyone familiar with Spike. He never went by his human name anymore.
“Thank you all for being here,” William said. “I can’t thank you enough for the support you’ve offered this night. Xander has spoken very highly of all of you.”
Xander was impressed that his grandfather rolled that off without hesitation, even nodding to Spike, who Xander had never mentioned to his family. Well, Clark knew a little, but not his grandfather.
“Xander, I’ll stay here for the day, make sure everything is set,” William said.
With a start, Xander remembered the file he’d had Spike get. Reaching over to the seat he’d been warming all night, he grabbed it and offered it to his grandfather. “Mom’s medical stuff, IDs, info on Dad… Um, my medical stuff though that’s not relevant.”
“Perfect. Thank you.” William pulled him into another hug. “You did good, son. I’ll watch your mother now. You get some rest.”
And tired as he was, Xander couldn’t protest as Joyce guided him out of the hospital in a cluster of girls.
Curled in the middle of the large guest bed at the Summer’s house, Xander didn’t have much room to move. The girls had all come with and were curled up around him, though only Anya was pressed against him. Giles and Joyce were downstairs somewhere. The only one who hadn’t joined the caravan to the Summer’s home was Spike, and who knows where the vampire had gotten to.
“She’s going to be fine,” Willow said for the twentieth time, at least. “You said she woke up before the surgery.”
“That’s a good sign,” Tara chimed in over her girlfriend’s sister.
“See, mother’s are very resilient.” Anya’s words were firm, but her words were always firm. She didn’t seem to know how else to express herself.
“Did she speak?” Buffy asked softly from the foot of the bed. “Your mother.”
Xander felt the shock sinking in further. He hadn’t thought about her words since… except every other minute through the whole surgery. But he didn’t know what to think.
“She said I look like him,” Xander whispered.
“Your father?” Anya said with disgust. “I can get him cursed, if you want. Boils are popular. Though maybe you’d prefer if his dick fell off.”
“Not Tony,” Xander said, his eyes meeting Willow’s for the first time since they’d all curled up. “Marcelle.”