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Pairing: Spike/Xander eventually. Slight mention of X/OFC.
Rating: R for now, mostly for language, will warn if a chapter goes beyond that.
Summary: Set after Not Fade Away. Iím going with one premise I saw that claimed one possibility for ATS season 6 would have been a post-apocalyptic LA. I am adding my own mix of characters though. Most of them you know, but also with a couple of original ones.
Warnings: Slash, eventually; the boys are taking their sweet time getting there though. Hopefully this comes across as romantic and not just slow!
Romance and Adventure. Possible death of non-leading character(s) - never ever the boys!
Fair amount of violence, I will try and warn if a specific chapter has anything extreme.
Feedback/Concrit: Yes, please. You can also email se_maj54@yahoo.com. If you want me to finish this please let me know what you think, Iím much very afraid that it sucks and no one will want to read it. This is new territory for me, so Iíve been very chicken about showing people. I know my writing needs help, feel free to make suggestions, but I would also love to hear what you think of the plot as it progresses.
Disclaimer: Not mine, not for money. Just borrowing Jossí world for a bit.
Betas: In no particular order: Altyronsmaker, laazikaat , lit_gal , lunabee34 and anybody else Iíve subjected this to. I hope I havenít forgotten anyone. Thanks to all of these wonderful folks. Each one found different areas to make suggestions on, which I thought was neat and educational. Iím trying to learn from all of their suggestions but Iím obviously having some trouble with my descriptions and I seem to be afraid of commas and periods! (Thanks lunabee!). All mistakes are mine, despite the best efforts of these terrific betas.
Notes: I STILL donít understand or remember the whole passive descriptive stuff yet (two of my betas mentioned it). Hey, itís been 20 years since Iíve done any creative writing, youíll have to bear with me! Being a graphic designer/web designer Iím used to pictures, not words. Just be thankful itís not math weíre doing here, that would be even more painful for yíall Ė Iím what I call Math-ticapped. Hopefully, my writing is alright compared to that.

Summary: Set after Not Fade Away. Iím going with one premise I saw that claimed one possibility for ATS season 6 would have been a post-apocalyptic LA. I am adding my own mix of characters though. Most of them you know, but also with a couple of original ones. Spike, Xander, Illyria, Dawn and a few OCs are stuck in an apocalyptic LA, Post "Not Fade Away." Spike and Xander start a relationship while trying to create order in the chaos. They have to deal with Angelus and others who want to rule what's left of the city.







Aftermath

by
Imaginary Images












Chapter One
Welcome to Hell.




Sounds of fighting could be heard coming from all directions throughout the darkened city, never seeming to stop entirely. As happens with war, there were just brief lulls now and then, enough to tease, but not enough to comfort. Mostly in ruins, some buildings still burned. The makeshift walls and fences surrounding the city were made up of pieces of concrete, stretches of barbed wire and even overturned vehicles, whatever had been handy. The wall had been assembled hastily and without much thought except to prevent what was inside from getting out and there was a constant Military presence around the perimeter. When night fell, most of the city was cloaked in darkness. On some street corners there were barrels containing burning scraps of wood. Small groups of survivors huddled around these, for companionship as much as the illusion of safety the congregations offered.

Deep within the city, on a street strewn with litter, stood an old abandoned warehouse. At the back of the building, mostly out of sight behind the piles of crates and cars was a fire escape, with a small door at the top of the ladder. This was the only visible access. Partially collapsed hallways filled with debris had to be negotiated with care. However, the path to one door was relatively clear. It led down to the basement, which in turn led to a very secluded and dark, sub-basement.

This building was without power, like much of the city, but there was a small glow that came from the last room at the end of the hallway in the sub basement. The light came from a small lantern sitting on a rickety wooden table. Besides the table, two chairs and the lantern, the only other thing in the room was someone sleeping on a cot in the corner. Only a military quality buzz cut was visible above a dirty and torn blanket. The person was sleeping fitfully, mumbling and shaking, obviously having a nightmare.

A figure was dragging along a semi-conscious young woman, and made its way purposefully through the upper hallways of the building, moving stiff armed and straight legged, with only the long flowing hair softening the rigid demeanor. The captive looked like any of the nameless survivors currently hiding and trying to survive in the city--dirty, unkempt and hungry. Too soon the girl was dragged into the basement hideaway.

Her captor spoke loudly, not caring that the person in the cot was asleep. "The shell insists that you need to eat to heal. If it were not for the feelings this shell is forcing me to consider and that on occasion you amuse me, Iíd have terminated you when I found you. You are barely worthy to be a pet and certainly not worth this effort."

Startled, the figure in the bed clumsily rolled over and stated with a smirk, "Thanks for thí support Blue. I always knew you really cared."

Spikeís swollen face was a mass of bruises, those lovely shades of yellow and green that fading bruises can turn. The attempt to shuffle to a seated position resulted in a groan even as his arms flailed and his back twisted into unnatural and obviously painful positions.

Holding the girl by the back of the neck with one hand, Illyria used her free hand to haul Spike up by the arm until he was leaning against the wall.

"Oi!" Watch it, Blue! That frigginí hurts!" Spike spat out, wincing as he tried unsuccessfully to lean against the wall for support and look nonchalant while also holding his battered ribs. His voice was raspy; even his throat was covered in a mass of old bruises.

"Eat." Illyria shoved the girl at him, who was starting to become aware of her surroundings. Once the initial pain from Illyriaís helping hand had receded, Spike reached for the girl but hesitated, sniffing the air. His face twisted in confusion, and then he grabbed the captive girl by the arms. He gave her a shake to get the hair out of her eyes just as they looked at each other, stunnedÖ

"Bit?!"

"Spike?!"







Chapter Two







"Bloody Hell, Bit. What are you doing in LA?" Livid at the thought of Dawn living in this hellhole, Spike ignored the pain as she hugged the stuffing out of him.

"Oh, Spike, is it really you? What are you doing here? You ass, why didnít you tell anyone you were alive? How are you alive anyway?" She pulled back and put her hands on her hips, "And were you going to eat me?!" She ended with a shriek.

Spike winced at the familiar but often missed shrieking. "Uh, well see, luv, itís like thisÖ" Spike hesitated. How the hell will I explain this? With one hand, he fiddled with the edge of the blanket.

"Yes, he was. I brought you for him." Illyria helpfully supplied.

"NO, I was not. Well, maybe a little. Bit, with no butchers open around here, thereís no where to get blood except straight from the tap. Iíve had to do a bit of nibbliní on the populace. Iím not killing anyone, I swear. Blueís been dumping them back out on the street. Most probably donít even remember what happened." Spike hung his head down and mumbled something else.

"What did you say?" Dawn replied in her sternest ĎIím Buffy, Iím BOSS.í voice.

"Iím sorry, Bit. I should have told you I was back." Spike actually looked ashamed.

"YES, you should have, but Iím sure it had something to do with Buffy. Everything has to do with her." This said with more than a little bitterness. "I havenít forgiven you, yet buster. We will talk more about this later." Dawn once again reverted to the hugging.

"Oi, Stop! Like I keep telling Blue, that frigginí hurts!" He pulled away from her.

"Youíre really hurt bad, arenít you?" Without even pausing for breath, she continued, "and whatís with the big Smurf over there?" Dawn looked over at Illyria who stared right back, head tilted.

Spike winced when he tried to laugh, and it came out as more of a bark. "That is Illyria, formerly known as Fred. She saved me, is still trying to save me apparently, in her own odd way."

"Wait, wait, you have to wait for the others to tell your story. Xander is going to beÖwell, not excited, but heís going to want to hear this!" This was said while literally bouncing on her feet.

"Does she ever stop that?" Illyria asked Spike. "Itís most off-putting."

"No, she doesnít. Get used to it. Wait Ďtil you meet Xander, he can be even more off-putting." Spike raised an eyebrow and tilted his head. "Harris, heís here? Who else? And whose brilliant idea was it for you to come here, of all the bloody places on the planet? Iíll rip him a new one for putting you in danger!" Getting ready to go on a rant he took a deep breath to startÖ

Familiar with him, Dawn interrupted and successfully redirected. "Spike, how much do you know about whatís going on here?"

"Well, I was out of it for awhile, but I bloody know the world went to Hell. We caused it, but we were also trying to save it, and it looks like we failed. Other than that I donít know much." Spike looked downtrodden.

"No, Spike, the world is fine. Well, itís mostly fine. LA is a big mess, obviously, and Cleveland is acting up, and well there are some issues in Rome but otherwise the worst of it seems to be localized here. Which is not what we thought when we started this mission." This all said in one long breath. Boy, I didnít realize I how much I missed their ability to talk nonstop. "The news is calling it an Ďisolated terrorist incident.í We got stuck on the inside and havenít been able to get out."

"So what in Hell are you doing here anyway?" Spike stared right at Dawn.

"I swear, Spike, we were just checking out the perimeter. We were only supposed to observe. Faith and Wood have their hands full in Cleveland. That Hellmouth is way more unstable than the one in Sunnydale ever was. Buffy, Willow, Giles and some others are checking out some weirdness in Rome, something to do with some whacked out wizard."

"Harris bloody well fucked up didnít he?" Spike needed to blame someone after all. He also didnít really want to think about Buffy and the almighty Immortal just now.

"NO, Spike. If anyone screwed up it was me, I wanted to get a little closer, see if we could see anything on the inside. How was I to know that there would be a breakout happening right near our location? We got stuck between the military and a gang of demons. When it was all over, we were inside enemy lines instead of outside, and two of our people were dead!" Dawn looked distressed. "We got caught on the wrong side when it was over. Buffy is going to be so pissed at me, she made me swear we wouldnít get within a mile of the border."

"Dead? Who?" Spike took her hand and tried to calm her down.

"Two of the slayers. Xander and I had six with us when we started. Weíre down to three now. Maureen got killed last week by some demons while we were scavenging for food." Spike nodded even though he had no idea who Maureen was, he just assumed she was a slayer. "We got sloppy, Spike. We didnít realize it was a trap. We should have listened to Xander, but we didnít. He warned us he thought it was a trap, but we just didnít listen." If it was possible to look any more depressed Dawn accomplished it. Tears started running down her cheeks.

"Harris running the show then? Bit. How long have you been here?" Spike asked quietly, trying to distract her.

Dawn responded with a snuffle, "About two weeks. Buffy finally trusted me to do a real job, to check to see how bad it really was, what with LA being the new area 51 and everyone worrying about demons sneaking out to feed on the localsÖ"

Proud that sheíd actually been entrusted with a job she temporarily perked up. "It was supposed to be strictly a reconnaissance mission. The DAMN Council didnít care that there are people in HERE, starving, dying! Theyíre only worried about things getting OUT!" She was outraged at the supposed callousness of the Council.

"Bit, thatís called "acceptable losses" by both the military AND the Council. Whereís Harris and the rest of your group? Are they ok?" Spike looked up, surprising himself that heíd even asked about Xander. Heíd given Illyria strict orders not to hurt anybody, but he suspected that she got carried away sometimes while hunting for him. He didnít add that Dawn and her group now probably were counted as acceptable losses to the very same group that had sent them here.

"Theyíre all safe for now, but I bet Xander is pulling his hair out looking for me."

Spike looked at Dawn. "What about Buffy? Wonít her and Giles be worried about you?"

"Thatís the other thing, Spike. Communications in and out of here are completely shut down. Giles thinks itís a mix of technology and magic. Besides, Giles, Buffy and the rest were heading into some remote areas themselves, she said we might not hear from them for a month or two, weíre on our own here." Dawn stared at Spike with a hopeful look. "Can we bring Xander and the rest here? Can we? This place is so much better than where weíve been hiding out. Weíve all been stuck in a tiny one room basement of some crappy house for the past week." She looked around the dingy room like it was the Ritz then back at Spike with a pretty please pout.

"I know Iím going to regret this, but bloody hell, yes. Just donít pout at me. Take Illyria with you, bring them all back here, and then weíll sort out whatís what, ok? Weíve got the room, Illyria tells me that thereís plenty of rooms down here. Maybe Harris can make himself useful and get some running water down here for you. I think weíre going to be here awhile."

Ignoring everything else, Dawn and Illyria both started talking at onceÖ

"I donít need a babysitter!"

"How dare you give me orders!"

"Both of you. JUST. SHUT. UP. Firstly, Bit, you do need someone watching out for you or you wouldnít have ended up here! Secondly, Illyria, would you please escort her? It isnít like I can bloody well do it myself now, is it?"

Illyria tried to interject. "It is not advisable to bring anyone else here. Currently itís safe and secluded. The more who know about this place the higher the risk of discovery."

"I know, but theyíre not just some strangers, Blue, theyíre my friends, least Dawn is my friend. Xander and the rest come as part of the package. Iím sure Fred understands the friends concept, even if you donít." Spike tried appealing to the bits of Fred he swore he could feel in Illyria on occasion. Then he leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes and repeated, "Please?"

Illyria AND Dawn looked at each other and both raised an eyebrow in amazement. Dawn mouthed to Illyria, "He said please?" Both were wondering if heíd lost his mind.

---------------------


snacking on people, not killing themÖ" Dawn was in mid sentence and sounded like sheíd already stated this a time or three as Spike woke about an hour later. Several footsteps could be heard coming down the hallway towards him.

"Címon. Do you really believe that?" Xander sounded incredulous, just as he walked into the room to see Spike stretched out in the cot.

A female voice out in the hall said, "Well, heís a vamp; should be frigginí dust."

"Christ!" exclaimed Xander. He was behind Illyria but stopped short and just stared at Spike from the doorway, effectively blocking everyone elseís view.

"Not even close, ducks. Glad to see you too." Spike once again tried to sit up. Illyria marched over and reached down to attempt her usual rough-handed help.

"Iíll do it." Xander sounded subdued and a little shocked at Spikeís appearance but headed over towards the cot. "Illyria, will you show the girls around while Dawn and I talk to Spike for awhile? Weíll make the rest of the introductions in a little bit."

Illyria looked at Xander with her usual expressionless face but ranted. "I do not listen to a lower being like you. Itís demeaning enough that I listen to the VAMPIRE."

"Uh, sorry?" Xander looked to Spike for help.

"Blue, would you just leave us alone for a bit? We go back a long way and need to catch up. Probably bore you to tears anyway."

Xanderís eye never left Spike while he spoke. "Besides, the three slayers donít look very impressed to see William the Bloody and we need to all work together here." He effectively dismissed Illyria by ignoring her, who then stomped out of the room. "Sorry for not believing your story, bleachie, err, I guess I canít call you that anymore though, huh? Old habits die hard I guess." Xander babbled by way of apology.

"But we should be here for this!" The blonde haired Slayer spouted.

"Charly, please. Weíll talk later, sweetie, ok? The three of us really need to catch up." Xander finally turned from Spike and pleaded with the one that appeared to be the self-appointed leader of the three slayers.

With a gruff, "You bet your ass we will." She stomped out after the other two girls.

Xander called after the girls, "Iíd just stay out of Illyriaís way for now."

Xander just rolled his eye when Spike raised an eyebrow in question at the endearment heíd directed at Charly.

Spike took a good look at Harris. He was a lot trimmer and much more fit than in his Sunnydale days. Black eye patch in place, his hair was cut short, chopped, like heíd done it himself without aid of a mirror. He was also grubby, just like Dawn. Both Xander and Dawn were wearing dirty t-shirts, fatigues and work boots. Still, dirty or not, Spike thought he looked good, he also pleased to see a familiar face. Africa must have done him good.

Xander gently helped Spike sit up while Dawn sat in one of the chairs at the table. She idly picked at some dried crud on the front of her t-shirt while listening to the conversation. When Spike looked like he was going to slide back down the wall, so Xander simply sat down next to him to keep him from falling over.

"Christ, Spike, what happened to you, besides dying and coming back? You look like you got run over by a truck. You look worse than when Glory got a hold of you."

"Not far off, Harris. Short story for the bits you missed. Died, which you know. Came back out of that bloody amulet a ghost, which you probably didnít know. Spent a while trying to haunt Captain Forehead, and then one day I spontaneously become a real vamp again, soul intact, mind you. Decided to stick around and help Angel out. Figured it was the right thing to do. Even told him so, not that he cared. The fight against evil went from bad to worse and we ended up fighting this demon army that the Senior Partners at Wolfram and Hart sent after us.

Brood Boy decided he wanted to fight the Dragon, which I might add, was a bloody bad idea, and I told him so. I tried to help him, pinch a little glory for myself as it were, but it grabbed me and flew straight up in the air before dropping me like stone. Thatís when I was run over by a demon about the size of a Semi. Thatís the last I remember until I woke up here. Blue said I was out of it about a week. Sheís helping me, but Iím not healing very fast. Not enough blood of any quality I sípose. Bloody Hell, I canít even walk right now. Two of our group didnít make it." He looked sad when he added the last part.

Either the length of the story or what it contained looked like it was making Spike antsy. He glanced at the table, on which sat a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Realizing what he was looking at, Dawn tossed them over; she was sniffling and upset at his story. She hesitated a moment but then went to sit by Spikeís other side. Dawn took his hand when he finished lighting up his cigarette and softly rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb. Spike looked at her gratefully, glad for the show of support. With a small pat on Spikeís leg even Xander offered some comfort as the immediate vicinity filled with the swirling smoke from Spikeís cigarette. All three of them watched it for a while in the flickering light of the lantern as they collected their thoughts.

Xander broke the silence first with a quiet question. "What happened to Angel?" He barely stopped himself from adding that Buffy wanted to know. Not sure what Spikeís mental state was as far as Buffy was concerned, he certainly didnít tell Spike that was why theyíd been sent to LA in the first place. Heíd had his concerns about bringing Dawn along but Giles and Buffy were both distracted by the situations in London and Rome. Better to keep that tidbit quiet for now. I donít think heíd understand the difference between checking up on Angelís evil status and simply checking up on Angel.

"Well, it took us awhile to actually get through the hordes of demons to get to the dragon, but once we did it went straight for him. I think itís the Senior Partnersí flippiní pet, their attack dog or somethiní. I think that was their plan all along. The Senior Partners didnít really care about the rest of us. ItÖ" Spike wasnít sure how to explain the next part. Christ, how do I say this out loud? He took a long angry drag on the cigarette to stall. With an exhalation of smoke he finally said, "It just reached into his chest with a claw and ripped his SOUL right the Hell out! I bloody saw it leave his body!" Spike was obviously shaken by the memory. "Thatís when the dragon came for me. I thoughtÖ" His voice faded out, his hands shaking. He clenched his eyes shut.

"You thought it was going to take your soul too didnít you?" Dawn asked him softly, holding his hand tighter.

Blunt as ever, but in hushed tones, Xander asked, "Did it?"

"NO, it did not take my bloody soul. It just dropped me from the sky like I was so much trash. Despite what some people say, skydiving is NOT like flying. I donít recommend it. I guess my soul just wasnít something it wanted." The words ĎWasnít worth anythingí were left unsaid but hung there in the air anyway. Spike tried to act like it didnít matter either way, giving a gruff shrug before he took another drag on the cigarette.

"Just making sure." Xander mumbled as the smoke from Spikeís cigarette drifted around their heads. He started picking at some fuzz on the nasty blanket that covered Spikeís lap and legs while the silence dragged on.

They had to fight for quite a bit to get to the Dragon, cutting a swath through the demons on the way to reach it. Angel and Spike fought side by side until they reached the Dragon. It was at least 15 feet tall. Just as they reached the monster, it simply swatted Spike out of the way with a huge wing. When Spike hit the ground 20 feet away, he rolled over and watched as the Dragon reached straight into Angelís chest with claws bigger than his head. Angel was frozen, head and arms thrown back, a silent scream lodged in his throat. His face was frozen, either in terror or pain, Spike couldnít tell which. Spike, locked in place by the shock of what he was watching, saw a bright white light start to emit from Angelís chest and shoot straight into the Dragon. The entire area lit up from the light streaming out of him. Within moments it started to fade. As it did, Angel relaxed and went limp. Finished, the Dragon simply let go and Angel crumpled to the ground and lay still.

The Dragon then turned and looked straight at Spike before letting out a huge roar.

"Oh shit." Too late, Spike scrambled to get up and run, but the Dragon was on him in less than a heartbeat. Mighty claws simply picked him up as it took off into the air. He could feel one collar bone snap right away from the force of the beastís grip. The Dragon flew straight up into the sky. Too busy writhing in pain to pay close attention, Spike wasnít sure how far up they flew. All he knew was that it was well above the tallest building in the area. Suddenly, with a mighty screech, the Dragon turned and started to fly south as if summoned. Then it simply let Spike go. As he was falling, Spike only knew that he didnít want to land feet first and have his legs driven up into his brain. He forced himself to try to tumble. When he landed, he hit body first on top of several of the demons fighting below, killing them instantly. While landing on them broke his fall somewhat, it also broke his back. He lay there semi-conscious until the biggest demon heíd ever seen headed straight towards him. Spike had seen its shadow on the wall of a building when theyíd first noticed the hordes heading their way. Bigger than the Dragon, it was built like some gigantic mutant Viking. His last coherent thought before he passed out was that he was glad he couldnít feel his body because that thing was about to step right on him.

When he eventually woke, he was in this room being tended to by Illyria. She had cleaned him up, straightened his broken limbs and removed his torn and bloodied clothing. His duster was history, thrown away with the rest of his ruined clothes. When she saw that he was awake, briefly sounding very Fred-like, Illyria asked, "How can I help you?" Illyria paused and then added, "I forbid you to die, vampire."

With a great deal of effort, Spike was finally able to whisper one word. "Blood."


Dawnís next comment shocked him out of his memories. "I guess that explains the rumors."

Spike looked at her and nodded. "Yeah, Bit. If theyíre the same as Iíve heard, Angelus is now running amok, has great bloody plans to rule LA or some such rot, and a simple curse ainít putting that soul back this time."




Chapter Three







Introductions were finally made. The slayers werenít quite sure what to make of Illyria, who spent a great deal of time looking at them all with disdain while standing in the corner.

"Youíve all met Illyria. Everybody, meet Spike. Yes, this is THE William the Bloody, but reformed, souled and currently non-mobile. He saved us when Sunnydale went down, though Iím sure youíve all heard that story a hundred times." Xander was acting as host during the introductions. Spike was sitting there looking smug, well as smug as someone naked under a blanket and as beat up as he was could manage.

"Spike, this is Charly." She was blonde and fairly "Buffyesque," although she was a bit rougher looking than Buffy. Her personality was all Faith though, very abrupt, controlling and confident. She looked to be about 22 years old. "Charly is a crack shot with a cross brow, she gets her sights on something, she gets it."

Charly didnít hesitate to make her opinion known. "I still donít see why we have to hide out with him and whatever she is." She nodded towards Illyria.

Illyria cocked her head to one side obviously considering the slayer. "I am a God; I have held universes in my hand and crushed the insignificant that dare defy me." Illyria paused to consider the girl more closely, her disdain and revulsion all too clear, "Just like you."

"Charly, think of this as a Brave New World or something. We have to do what we have to do to survive. Besides, Spike is my friend." Dawn tried to reason with her.

"Whatever, just donít expect me to baby sit him." Charly then promptly walked out of the room.

"Nice to meet you too, Ducks." Spike called after her.

"OK then, this is going well." Xander shook his head. "Next up. Spike this is Di. Sheís a bit of a Pyro, VERY good with explosives. Di, say hello to Spike."

"Iím pleased to meet you, uh, Mr. Spike." Di was brunette, mousy and quiet but with a little fire. She was about the same age as Dawn. "And it was only a little fire in the lab."

"Wonít be necessary to call me that, Spike will do." Spike was grinning at Diís effort to be nice as if she were trying to make up for the rudeness of the other slayer.

Laughing hard Xander added, "Yeah, but you burnt off Gilesí eyebrows!. And last, but by no means least, Spike, this is Margot." Xander urged Margot forward who gamely stuck out her hand so Spike could shake it. "Margot is a whiz at hand to hand combat, show her a move once and sheís got it, she kicked my ass enough!"

"Hi there, Spike. Sorry to hear you got busted up so bad. Hopefully, youíll be on your feet soon." Margot was very dark skinned, probably Hispanic, with straight black hair. She was slightly chunky, a little older than Dawn with a very friendly demeanor although she seemed nervous.

"Thanks, pet. Iím sure I will be, and then I can be of more use around here besides just being part of the decor. Weíll have to spar a little when Iím better, kicking HIS arse aint saying much!"

-------------------


The group decided to bed down as it was almost dawn. Everyone was exhausted, especially Spike. They decided Dawn and Illyria would take the room right across from Spike, with the rest of the girls in the room next to it. This way Dawn was completely surrounded and protected. Spike was adamant she be kept safe no matter what. Dawn bristled some at that but Spike suspected that she secretly enjoyed the attention anyway.

"Iím sleeping where?" Xander wasnít too sure about having to sleep in the same room as Spike yet again.

"Look, Xander, I love you, but you snore!" Dawn said with a smile, making everybody laugh, even Charly, who had come back in the room to stand off to one side, pouting. "Besides it isnít like you two havenít shared a room before. Plus, no one should be alone. Safety in numbers remember, you say it often enough."

"Fine, but if he eats me in my sleep." Xander mumbled, turned red when he realized his double entendre then hauled one of the smelly little mattresses they had found in the next building into the corner farthest away from Spike.

"Thatís right; stay over there. I donít want to bloody listen to you snore either!" Spike petulantly rearranged his own bedding around himself and attempted to roll over to face the wall with as much attitude as he could muster. It involved some straining and grunting, but accomplished nothing so he eventually gave up. His dramatic dismissal of them all was also spoiled by the slight flash of bare white ass he gave everybody in his aborted effort to roll over. He ended up just gripping the blanket up tightly under his chin with both hands. Pouting, he closed his eyes as if that would make them all go away.

Later that night, Xander woke to hear Spike crying and mumbling. The lantern, still barely lit, sat on the table. Spike's thrashing arms took on an eerie presence in the dim light, ghosting over the sheets as though warding off invading creatures. He was obviously in the depths of nightmares.

After several minutes of Spike's upset, Xander got up and walked over to Spike's cot. "Spike? Come on, buddy, you're having a nightmare." He tried to wake the shaking vampire with his whispering, but the cool body underneath the blanket took no notice. Finally, Xander reached down to shake him awake. Startled when Spike grabbed his arm, Xander thought he'd pissed him off, but realized that wasn't the case when Spike simply held his hand and pulled him down, hanging on tight. Xander just barely managed not to fall right on top of the sleeping vampire.

Afraid he'd really startle Spike if he woke him now, Xander hesitated, not sure what to do. Though Spike held tightly to his hand and wouldn't let go, he did seem to calm. Seeing the comfort Spike took in him, Xander slouched down and fell asleep next to him, his hand still clasped in the much cooler one. When he drifted off to sleep, he thought 'Oh boy, this'll be fun when he wakes up!'

A few hours later, Spike literally pushed Xander out of bed. "What the bloody hell are you doing in my bed!"

Jumping off the floor where he had landed on his ass, Xander got right in Spikeís face menacingly, actually causing Spike to flinch back. "I knew youíd be ungrateful, you undead freak! For your information, you were having a nightmare, and I couldnít wake you up." He backed off and stood facing Spike, legs apart, arms crossed, looking pissed.

"So what? You decided to settle in for a little grope and a tickle?! Your Slayer girlie not giviní it to you often enough?"

"NO, when I tried to wake you, you grabbed ME!" Both men were yelling at each other.

"Well, I see you two slept well!" Dawn was standing in the doorway, hands on her hips, looking highly displeased. "If you two are over your little spat, weíve got things that need figuring out besides who hogs the covers or has cold feet." She stared at both, just daring them to challenge her.

Spike looked at Xander. "Mate, when did she get so scary?"

"No idea, but sheís like Buffy; kind of bossy, though, isnít she?" The tension broke a little, and they both relaxed but couldnít resist a few more jabs.

"Yeah, well, youíre still an undeadÖungratefulÖdead guy."

"Bloody unoriginal poof."

Dawn just stood there shaking her head at them.

-------------------

Everyone was sitting around in a circle, having gathered chairs from other rooms, except Illyria who chose to stand and stare into the corner. Looking straight at Spike, Xander voiced an idea. "I know this may sound weird, but I have an idea on how to get you up and running again." He hesitated before continuing.

Spike, willing to try anything, pushed. "Well, spit it out."

Xander looked nervous even bringing up his idea. "Um, well, I know that Slayersí blood is pretty powerful stuff, right?"

The room erupted with Charly leading the charge. "No way that Iím letting a vamp have one dropÖ."

"What about the risk of infection?" Di tried to be not take a side.

"Would it put us under his control or anything?" Margot wondered.

Dawn, however, overrode everyoneís objections quickly. "I think itís a great idea. We need Spike in top form. We can ALL help him, and I know heíd never hurt any of us." Dawn held her wrist out to Spike to show them all what a good idea she thought it was.

"Bit, no soddiní way Iím feediní on you." Spike looked shocked that Dawn would even offer.

"Shut up, Spike, you donít get a say. This will help you heal faster. Donít you want to feel better? Besides we really need you." The slayers looked at Dawn like sheíd lost her head, or possibly as if sheíd grown another.

Spike nodded at her in acceptance, realizing he wasnít going to win that argument. He couldnít resist needling Xander, though, "What about you Harris? Since this is your bloody idea? You willing to open up a vein for poor defenseless Spikey? Didnít you used to say you were a nummy treat?"

"Yes. I mean, NO, Iím not your nummy treat, but the more of us who share, the less you need to take from any one of us." Both Xander and Spike looked at each other, surprised. Xander was surprised at his own proclamation that yes, he was willing to open up a vein for Spike. He honestly hadnít really thought that far ahead. In fact heíd kind of only been thinking about the Slayersí blood up until Dawn offered hers as well. Spike was just gobsmacked that Xander was willing to help him out in such an intimate way. It seemed Xander had really changed.

"Well, then, I guess thatís settled." Spike looked smug.

"BUTÖ" Charly hadnít quite given up.

Di, ever the peacemaker, worked at trying to convince her, "Charly, I understand what theyíre saying. The more of us that are able to fight, the better chance we have of getting out of here. I donít theyíd do this if there was a chance it would hurt any of us."

Dawn added, "Charly, Spike is an excellent fighter, he knows both Angel AND Angelus, who Iím sure weíre going to run into sooner or later. Trust me when I say heís scarier than anything ELSE weíd every run into out there. Weíre going to need him if we want to survive this, let alone get OUT of here at some point."

"Well, just donít make it a habit, buster." She looked at Spike with obvious distaste, but conceded the issue.

Illyria had remained quiet during the entire exchange but finally stepped forward.

"I offer mine as well. The blood of a god shall do far more than the blood of lower beings." From the expression of disgust, Spike suspected that the former god disliked his weaknessÖeither that or she disliked her own need to help him in his weakness. In recent weeks he had seen increasing flares of Fredness with her gentle desire to nurture. "You continue to amuse me. I would like the chance to stomp you down again. You are nothing if not determined half-breed. Always willing to come back for more, even when itís hopeless. That was rewarding when so few things in this world interest me." Spike cringed, remembering being tossed around like a rag doll by her.

Dawn went first, offering her wrist up to show the other girls that Spike wouldnít hurt them. He shifted into his vamp face with a small shake of his head and then drank gently and briefly from each of the girls without comment, except when he got to Illyria. "Flippin Ada, Blue, what Ďya got for blood? Itís making me feelÖ I dunno, kind of strange. Slayerís blood is killer but thatís some weird and powerful stuff youíre carrying around there."

"I assumed it was mostly the blood that the lowly shell was made from but MY essence is there as well." She looked uncomfortable at having shared that.

Finally, Spike turned towards Xander. Seeing that it didnít appear to hurt anyone else, Xander gamely held out his wrist. Spike gently took his wrist in his hand and bit down, looking up at Xander at the same time. Xander silently mouthed an "OH" at the feeling. It certainly wasnít at all what he had expected. Whoa, thatís different, feels kinda nice actually. Holy horndog. Shifting his feet he looked a little uncomfortable. He fiddled with the edge of his shirt in his lap with his other hand. Spike looked up at him with a knowing smirk as he drank, gently holding Xanderís wrist with both of his hands.

Many of his bruises visibly faded some right away. Spike already seemed much perkier and healthier.





Chapter Four







It was decided that the women would all go out scavenging for supplies and check out the immediate vicinity while Xander would stay behind with Spike and see what he could do to rig up some functional bathroom facilities.

After administering strict warnings that they all stick together while outside and stay safe, Xander wandered around the building gathering up some likely tools and some odd items that could be useful. He ended up with a few pipes, a garden hose, an old metal grate and several tools. He had quite a bit to choose from; the building was a treasure trove of debris and leftover items. It appeared that when the building had been abandoned it had emptied quickly with little thought for what was left behind.

There were menís and ladiesí bathrooms right next to Spikeís room. Xander ignored the one farthest away as the ceiling had partially collapsed. The ladiesí room consisted of 3 sinks and 3 stalls and looked to be in decent shape. Xander quickly discovered that one toilet and one sink only need a little coaxing to start working. There was no hot water, and the water pressure sucked, but they had running water. Whoo and Hoo! His next project - creating a functional shower. He SOOO wanted to be able to take a shower. He was busy busting the toilet out of the larger handicapped stall in the corner in preparation for placing the metal grate on the floor over the hole to use as a drain, when he heard Spike in his cot yelling.

"Iím bored! Talk to me Harris!" Spikeís voice echoed all over the sub-basement.

Xander stomped back into the next room. "Hey, I donít think Angelus heard you up in North Hollywood or wherever he is, you stupid, and apparently senile, vampire."

"But Iím bored! Blue leaves me in here for hours on end with no one to talk to."

"Gee, I wonder why?" Xander tried to mumble to himself.

"I heard that, you git."

"Fine." Xander leaned over, and scooped Spike up. As the blanket fell to the floor, he remembered with a blush that Spike had absolutely NO clothes on under that little blanket. He quickly plopped Spike into one of the chairs, grabbed the blanket and threw it at Spikeís lap. He then dragged the chair, pulling it backward into the bathroom and placed Spike in front of the sink. "Clean yourself or something. Youíre filthy and kinda smelly." Xander then went back to work and tried to ignore the naked vampire.

"Yeah, I know. I hate it; I hate being dirty. But Illyria doesnít seem to have too many skills when it comes to taking care of someone, and I bloody well couldnít walk in here and take a bath now could I? Did you know thatís why she cut off my hair? Said it was easier than trying to clean the blood, dirt and ichor out of it! She Cut. Off. My. Hair!" Spike was very indignant that someone had dared touch his hair.

"Didnít think vamps went in much for cleanliness. Besides, the Billy Idol look needed to go, Spike. It looks fine the way it is now." Xander was still a little flushed and embarrassed from having seen all the naked Spike parts.

Spike sounded shocked. "Have I ever gone around looking all filthy, like I just climbed out of my grave?"

Properly chastened Xander mumbled, "Well, I guess not. From what I heard, when Illyria was Fred, she spent 5 years in some alternate dimension living in a cave. Between being a "cow" living in a cave and a Primordial God-King who probably didnít care about such piddly things as personal hygiene, it's no wonder you're filthy. Iím not surprised she didnít know what to do for you. Whyíd she save you anyway? Iím getting the impression that to her weíre all just something she needs to scrape off the bottom of her shoe, like dog poop."

Spike sounded very subdued, "True, she did spend a long time gone, but Fred definitely knew how to bath, she was a sweet one, I miss her." He smiled, remembering the shower during that mess with Pavayne. "As for Blue, not exactly sure, I seem to AMUSE her. Plus, I SEE Fred in her a lot, I swear sheís there, just under the surface no matter what Percy said about her soul being destroyed."

Xander peeked out of his stall to see Spike, still totally naked, giving himself a "whore bath" in the sink with a nasty old chunk of soap and a not so clean rag. Satisfied the fidgety vampire would be occupied for a little while at least, he went back to work. While working, Xander started talking. He figured he could say what was on his mind easier if he didnít actually have to look Spike in the eye while saying it. Kneeling in a bathroom stall, the similarities and irony of feeling like he was at Confessional werenít lost on Xander as he asked, "Spike, do you remember the night Wood tried to kill you?"

"Yeah, how could I forget that, the stupid bugger. What of it?" Spike sounded a little preoccupied with his bathing.

"Well, before that when we shackled you to the wall and set that spell on you to find the trigger, something happened. I mean to me. I had a moment, I guess." Xander could feel that he was going to start babbling and tried to control himself. He only wanted to say this once.

"What do you mean, a moment?" Spike still sounded like he was only half listening, which was more than ok with Xander.

"Well, I just had this realization, about you. I guess you could call it an epiphany. That you had changed. I finally got it, ya know? You werenít what you once were. I mean, have you made up for 100 years of death and mayhem? Probably not. But maybe, just maybe, you could start over. Youíd already practically given your life for Dawn, for all of us. I thought at first it was all about Buffy, but after Buffy died, still you were there, when you could have and should have just left. You stayed, taking care of Dawn, helping us all. You ended up dying for REAL a short time later, though I guess not quite as permanently as we thought." Xander just knew he was babbling now and tried to stop. "I guess what Iím trying to say is that I respect you, Spike, and I realize Iíve acted like an ass around you a lot. Iím sorry."

This declaration was met with silence. Finishing the last touches on the shower setup, he waited to see if Spike was simply thinking of some smart-ass comment to cut him down for trying to be honest. After a minute, when he didnít even get a snotty response, Xander walked out of the stall. The words were already pouring out of his mouth. "You know, Iím trying to say something important here, you donít need to just ignore meÖ" The words simply stalled when he saw Spike sitting in his chair, roughly yanking on his penis and mumbling to himself. "Come on, ya bloody bastard, work!"

"Whoa, buddy. We need to get you some pants!" Xander jumped back, shrieking in what he hoped was a manly way.

"Look at it! Itís broken!" Spike was in a near panic, pointing at his flaccid penis before starting to yank on it even harder than before. Címon, think about beautiful women, Dru? Buffy? Shit, itís not working!

"Iím NOT going to look at it!" Xander covered his good eye, then covered the patched side just to be safe. "Spike, what the hell are you doing? You canít even walk. You can hardly sit up. Of course, thatís probably not working right now either!" He vaguely gestured at Spikeís nether regions then hurriedly covered his face again. "And would you just STOP that. Youíre going to hurt yourself or somethingÖand itís just, well, itís gross!" Xander stood there looking VERY uncomfortable. He knew he also looked rather silly with his hands over his face, but he just didnít care. He just knew heíd be having nightmares about this.

Spike stopped touching himself as directed, his penis looking a tad red and sore. "That blood your lot fed me helped a lot. I feel a lot stronger already. Even my toes are kinda tingly. Havenít felt them since I hit the ground. I just thought maybeÖmaybeÖitís just been laying there for so longÖ" He looked forlornly back down at his penis again.

Standing there with his hands over his face, Xander mumbled, "So you thought you needed to take Ďer out for a spin?! Good God, Spike."

Spike, ever petulant, snapped back with, "Oh, like you never wanked your willy."

"First, weíre not talking about myÖwilly. In fact, you and I will never talk about my willy, and secondly, thatís SO not what I meant. I just meantÖum, you could hurt yourself without realizing it ifÖif you canít actually feel it when youíre doing that, and why are you worried about that right now anyway?! We have much more important things to worry about than whether you can get it up or not." Xander finally dropped his hands from his face and looked mortified to even be discussing it.

"I repeat, we need to get you some pants, my friend." In an effort to get over how uncomfortable this was making him, Xander changed tactics, "Just what I need, for the vamp to go blind."

In a total panic, Spike did his own manly shrieking. "WHAT, donít I have enough problems right now? What the bloody hell are you on about anyway?"

"Spike, relax. Itís just a joke about jerking offÖYOUÖyou and yourÖbitsÖare making me uncomfortable."

"Oh, well, donít scare a bloke like that just because youíre uncomfortable with a little wanking and whatís wrong with my dangly bits anyway?"

"Iím not uncomfortable with masturbation. In fact, Iím quite comfortable with it, had loads of practice, afterall. And God, I canít believe Iím telling you that. Iím just not comfortable talking about you jerking off, let alone watching you do it, and Iím definitely not commenting on your dangly bits!"

With a smirk firmly in place, Spike once again had to tease, "So, youíre telling me you donít like watching other blokes?"

"UhÖoh, just never mind, Spike. Letís just stop this conversation right now, pretend it never happened and get you out of here; the girls should be back soon."

Spike smirked again, noticing how Xander never answered the question.

Xander nervously patted Spike on his least bruised shoulder and then quickly reached down and grabbed the blanket. He tucked it around Spike, his flaccid penis and the chair then dragged him back to the other room. The entire way back Xander was glad that it seemed Spike hadn't heard his confession afterall, as he mumbled to himself about how the girls better be bringing not-so-fangless here some god damn pants.








Chapter Five







The girls had gone east on their scavenger trip and found an area that hadnít been hit that hard by looters and just had minimal structural damage. The neighborhood seemed to be mostly inhabited by one particular breed of demon that didnít seem to care much about human creature comforts or even human necessities. None of the women recognized the type, but since the demons seemed to be ignoring them, they didnít think much of it at the time. The girls werenít approached at all. Most of the populace slipped into hiding when they came near and left them alone. They found a small corner grocery that still had plenty of canned goods and bottled water. Farther down the street they lucked out even more when they found an abandoned sporting goods store. Even though the storefront had been burnt out, they found an untouched storeroom in the back. Because the front of the building had collapsed, the doorway had been hidden from view. Behind the building, an abandoned tracker trailer was backed right up to the loading dock, effectively blocking the entrance. Illyria had made quick work of the truck, allowing them access to the untouched storeroom.

Shortly after Xander had gotten Spike back into the main room, the girls returned with their spoils. Excited about their finds, everybody was talking at once, showing off sleeping bags, camping stoves, lanterns and an entire dolly full of bottled water. So distracted by what the girls had found, Xander forgot to mention that they now had a workable bathroom.

In the storeroom of the sporting goods store, they really lucked out. It contained tons of supplies. Dawn insisted that Xander needed to go check it out on the next trip to see if anything else was salvageable. Theyíd grabbed what they could, but she felt that Xander would probably see important stuff that they had overlooked.

Still bouncing with excitement, Dawn looked to Xander for advice. "There are even guns and what looks like grenades! Do you think we should bring them back here?"

Xander had his priorities though. "Ok, ok, first things first. Before we even talk about weapons, somebody please tell me that they got the naked vampire-guy some pants!"

"Whatís the matter Xander, Spike showing off again?" Dawn teased while Charly just glared at both Xander and Spike. Spike sensed some definite jealousy there. I wonder what her story is?

"Well, um, no. The guy just needs some pants, is all." Xander blushed. "Iím sure heíd rather not sit around all day naked."

"Actually, Harris, got no problem at all sittiní around naked all day with all these beautiful women to wait on me."

"Yeah, but not-so-fangless, it seems Iím the one stuck as your waiter." Xander tried to act put out.

Looking rather smug Spike replied, "Donít actually mind a strappiní fellow like yourself waitiní on me either."

Xander tried unsuccessfully to give as good as he got. "I suppose itís not a terrible hardship, you always wereÖumÖcompactandmuscular." His face was a very bright shade of red while he tried to tease back. Jiminy Crickets, what the hell am I doing?

Dawn laughed while Charly sounded pissed, bitching to herself as she stormed out. "Whatís wrong with those two?"

"Weíre just goofing around, Charly." Xander started to go after her, but Dawn was able to distract him.

"Donít mind her. She just doesnít understand you two. Besides, I got Spike some clothes, and then you have to go back with us to see if thereís anything else we can snag."

Spike noticed Dawnís innate ability to distract Xander. He swore it looked like she was trying to keep the oddly matched pair apart.

"I guess Iím stuck helping Spike then." Xander looked a little embarrassed.

"Weíll take all the water and other stuff and store it in an empty room. Once Spike gets dressed, weíll tell you all about it!" Then Dawn bounced out of the room with all the other girls behind her.

"I will be on the roof. I have no use for your petty conversations; they bore me and are insignificant." With that, Illyria strode out of the room.

Xander observed, "I guess she doesnít understand us, either."

"Guess not, mate. Sheís an odd one. Weíre all just roaches to her anyway. I think she only sticks around because we distract her from the fact that sheís not the Almighty One she once was. Now give over those pants." Xander handed Spike a pair of black track pants and a t-shirt Dawn had given him. "Alrighty then, I think I can manage the shirt, but the pantsÖ" He trailed off, realizing that he was going to need Xander to help him. "I bloody hate this."

Xander stood and thought for a second. "Yeah, I know. Here." He knelt down and put the pants on Spikeís legs up as high as his knees, trying not to look at Spikeís parts while he did so. Spike was able to wiggle his toes on his left foot a little bit, but other than that he wasnít much help. "Now, put your hands around my neck, and when I stand up, Iíll pull you up and hitch up your pants. Think thatíll work?"

"Are you hitting on me, Harris?" Spike asked with his patented smirk. I have to rely on the Donut Boy? Ok, maybe heís nicer than he used to be, but still, somebody just dust me.

"Get over yourself, Spike." Xander leaned down so Spike could reach his neck, grabbed the edge of Spikeís pants and then stood up. It was a little awkward, but Spike managed to hang on, and Xander hitched the pants up without catching any of Spikeís bits in the process.

"Well look at that. Standing and dressed. Whoo bloody hoo." Spike was actually hanging from Xander like he was embracing him, with his arms wrapped around Xanderís neck. His legs just dangled there.

Spike looked deep into XanderĎs eyes. "My, my, Harris. Arenít you nice and lean?" ***

"Spike, donít be an ass." Xander was looking very uncomfortable.

Spike batted his eyelashes and said, "But I havenít held anybody close in soooo long, Xaaaannnnderrr. Donít you love me anymore?" Spike almost purred the words before crossing his eyes.

Xander laughed, then grabbed Spike by the waist and dropped him back down into his chair. "Youíre an idiot!"

Spike wished him and Buffy had been able to do that, he'd never really had that with anybody. The closest he'd come to friendly banter in a very long time was probably Clem, and that wasn't even like this. Would be nice to think of Xander as my friend. Ahh, don't kid yourself, mate. He'll probably never get over hating you.

A minute later, Dawn knocked to be sure everyone was dressed and then came back in the room and threw a bag on the table. In a rush she gushed, "I almost forgot! We got soap, shampoo and cigarettes for Spike!"

While Spike tried to snag the carton of cigarettes, Xander jumped up and grabbed the bag yelling, "And I forgot! weíve got running water!" He ran out, undressing as he went, leaving a trail of dirty clothes in his wake.

Of course, Dawn started to run after him to check out the running water situation, but was back in just under a second yelling. "Xanderís ass. I saw ass of Xander. Oh, God!"

Spike asked with a bemused expression, "Whatís wrong with Harrisí arse, Bit?"

"Nothing, but heís like my brother; itís just not right." Her face was an alarming shade of red.

"Címon, Bit. Donít tell me you never hankered after his arse. You can tell ole Spikey."

"WellÖI did have a crush on him for a long time, before, well, moving onÖOk, I admit it. Itís actually a very nice ass!" She finally giggled.

Spike nodded at her. "Iím sure it is, Bit. Iím sure it is." The entire time this conversation was going on Charly stood off to the side with her arms crossed and a dour look on her face.

Xander declared the shower fully operational when he reappeared several minutes later, with water dripping from his clean hair. Much bickering followed, all over who got to try out the new shower next. Eventually, the slayers and Dawn all got their first shower in almost two weeks, before getting ready to head back to the sporting goods store for another supply run.

Dawn wanted to stay behind and keep Spike company. Illyria also stayed behind, choosing instead to keep watch on the roof. Xander took the three slayers with him. As usual, his luck stayed true to form, and while the demons they had encountered earlier didnít care about the girls, they did take a particular interest in Xander.

*** Just had to share this note...That exact line got used on my hubby while he stood at the URINAL in a bar bathroom one time! Slashy, N'est pas? I couldn't NOT use it. :)








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