Note: I don't know the first names of Xander's parents, so they're Henry and June, as far as I'm concerned.
Not All the Monsters Are Under The Bed
June Harris tried the door to the basement, and frowned when she found it locked. What was the boy doing locking his door? He had no business wanting privacy while he was still living at home. She knocked. There was no immediate response, but she knew he was down there--she'd heard him come in over half an hour ago, making enough noise for two people, as usual.
She leaned her ear against the door panel, listening closely. Well, as closely as she could, given her half-buzzed state. There was noise down there. It sounded like... moaning? He must be watching one of those awful horror movies. But then, he didn't really seem to like them--not like she'd assumed most teenagers did. He'd once said something about having enough of that shit in his life without using it for entertainment. She listened more closely.
Were those grunts? Her face flamed. He must be watching one of those filthy porno tapes. She'd completely forgotten the fact that he didn't have a VCR anymore--his father had pawned the second hand one that Xander had bought with his scanty salary from his part time after school job at the Magic Box. When the boy had griped, Henry had given him a fat lip, telling him that HE was the one who should complain, since he'd only gotten a measly twenty for it.
Anyway, the matter was too urgent for June to worry about her son's viewing habits. She knocked again, harder this time. The noises stopped, and she heard a muffled exclamation that might have been a swear. She called, "Xander Harris, don't you dare swear at me! If your Dad finds out, he'll skin your butt for sure. Get up here--I need to talk to you." There was another pause, and she rapped again. "Now!"
He heard someone ascending the stairs. There was a click, and she stepped back as the door swung open. Xander stood in the doorway, his hand on the knob, as if ready to jerk the door shut. He was shirtless, and his sleek, dark hair was ruffled, as if he'd been running his hands through it, or scrubbing it in a pillow. It was only nine o' clock. Had he gone to bed this early? "What is it, Mom?"
June thought vaguely that she couldn't remember the last time Xander had sounded happy to see her. *Must've been years ago. I think it was way back when he was little, and he had nightmares. I'd go into his room to shut him up, before Henry woke up and knocked us both around.* "I need some money."
He frowned. "Why?"
Her temper flared. "That's none of your business, is it? Your father and I have sheltered, fed, and clothed you all your life, Xander, and if I need a tiny bit of financial help now and then, the least you can do to show your gratitude is to help out." He just stared at her. She stared back, stubbornly. But she was remembering the quality of all the necessities they'd provided their son.
Shelter? Always the smallest room in the house, never re-painted, never decorated, and once he'd gone through a winter with cardboard over a broken window that Henry had never had the inclination to fix. Food? That was her responsibility, and she remembered the times he'd eaten cold cereal (often dry, because she'd forgotten to buy milk) when she just hadn't been up to cooking. She remembered watching him trying to make a peanut butter sandwich to take to school when he was in second grade, and yelling at him when he used too much jelly. And clothes. She'd once heard Xander say that he wished he had an older brother, because then he'd have probably gotten a hand-me-down now and then. Up until he'd gotten his job and began buying a few items of clothing himself, his pants had always been an inch or two too short, his shirts stretching tautly across broadening shoulders.
Her indignation was slipping away. She said limply, "Your father's going to be home soon, and there's no food in the house. I want to order a pizza for him."
Xander was studying her. "Didn't I see him give you a twenty this morning?"
Her eyes shifted. "I... I had to pay a bill." His nose wrinkled slightly. She saw the skeptical look in his eyes, and knew that he smelled the liquor on her breath. "Please, Xander. He's stopped off at a bar, and you know how he is when..."
"Yeah," he interrupted. "I'm familiar with that mood--intimately. Hold on."
He went back down the stairs. She thought she heard him muttering to himself. She started down after him. When she was halfway down the stairs, she heard a frantic scrabbling sound. "Xander, what...?"
"I said to hold on!"
She came the rest of the way down. "I just thought I'd save you a trip back up." He was standing by his bed, holding his wallet. The bed was rumpled. She came closer. "Are you all right, Xander?" She reached up to put her hand on his forehead, and felt a twinge of something close to pain when he twitched back out of reach. "Are you sick?"
"Only metaphorically, Mom." He pulled a bill out of his wallet and offered it to her.
She glanced around the dark basement, noting the silent television. "I thought you were watching TV. What was that noise I heard down here?"
"You sounded like you were talking to someone. You weren't talking to yourself, were you?"
He stared at her. "No, Mom--that would be crazy. I'm messed up, but I'm not crazy."
She tried a tentative smile. "Were you talking to the monsters under the bed?" His eyes flew wide open, and she thought she heard a choking sound. "I was just remembering how afraid you were of the monsters under the bed when you were little."
"Yeah, well, I'm grown up now, Mom, and I'm not afraid of the monster under the bed anymore. You'd better go order that pizza now. If it's on its way when he gets home, he probably won't be too pissed--not if there's still a couple of beers in the fridge?" He made it a question.
She nodded. June had learned a long time ago how hazardous it was to take Henry's last beer. She could resist--usually. She went back up the stairs, Xander following close behind. In the kitchen, she turned to him. "Thank you." After a moment's hesitation, she reached up and put a hand on her tall son's shoulder, stood on tiptoe, and dropped a dry peck on his cheek. "I'll pay you back. I promise."
Xander sighed. His voice was flat as he said, "Sure, Mom." He watched as she dialed the phone and began to order the pizza, then stepped back onto the stairs, shutting and locking the door. He started back down.
He could see his bed when he was halfway down the stairs. There was the sound of quiet swearing, and fingers curved around the bottom of the bed frame. There was a grunt, and the bed lifted a couple of inches and a pale, naked body wiggled out from under it. Spike sat up as the bed thumped back down, then leaned back against it. "Bloody hell, whelp, I'd have suffocated if I had to breathe."
"Pretty convenient that you don't, then, isn't it?" Xander sat on the edge of the bed. "That was pretty fast, Spike."
"Yeah, I hope you appreciate it. I don't usually bother with that 'hiding under the bed' shit when I'm shagging someone and the spouse comes home." He smirked. "Or in this case, Mum. Usually I just lay back, and if they're cute enough, ask if they want to join in."
"Well, I appreciate the discretion this time." Xander rubbed his face. "I really don't need to deal with that kind of crap. They're talking possible layoffs, and Dad's been in an even more foul mood than usual lately." Spike reached up. One cool finger traced around a fading lavender bruise on the boy's ribs. He lifted his eyebrow in question, and Xander shrugged, looking away. For just a split second Spike's game face came out, his eyes glowing gold and fangs bared. When Xander looked back at him, though, he looked human again. "I've gotten pretty good at avoiding him. One more year and I can get out of here." He sighed gustily. "Mood's kinda spoiled."
Spike moved up to sit on the bed with him. "Hell, ducks, I'm in no hurry. We've got hours. How about a bit of snuggling, eh?" He lay back on the bed and pulled Xander down beside him, wrapping him in his arms.
Xander settled against him, but muttered, "You're so fucking cold."
Spike chuckled. "You know how to change that."
"I'll suffer. I don't feel like going up to the kitchen for orange juice and a cookie after making a donation." He scratched lightly, thoughtfully, at Spike's belly. "Not till after Dad goes to bed, anyway."
Spike stroked the human's soft, dark hair. "What was your Mum nattering on about monsters? I thought she was on to me there for a tic."
"I used to have bad dreams when I was a kid." He laughed shortly. "What do I mean 'used to'? Still bad dreams, just changed around a little. I used to think there were monsters under my bed--actually a very valid worry when you live on the Hellmouth. Of course Mom and Dad are among the willfully oblivious, so they thought I was just paranoid, or neurotic, or as Dad liked to say a 'fucking pansy ass coward'. I used to wake up crying, and Mom would come into my room." He shrugged. "I knew it was mostly just so I wouldn't wake up Dad, 'cause he'd whip both our asses if I made him miss any sleep. Anyway, I'd tell her about the monsters under the bed, and she'd tell me there were no monsters. She wanted me to look and see for myself, but I never would, and she didn't try to force me, because then I'd get loud."
Spike laughed, and pinched Xander's hip. "Well, sometimes there is a monster under the bed. There was this time, eh?"
"Yeah," Xander agreed, rubbing his face against the smooth, cool skin of Spike's chest.
There were raised voices upstairs. They couldn't hear everything, but some of the words drifted down. "...no fucking dinner on..." "...ordered it. It'll be here in..." "...man deserves better'n this! You better not have drunk all..." "No, here! Just sit down and..." smash "I told you not to leave empties sitting around! You want the delivery guy to spread it all over town that you're a lush and..."
Xander had been gazing up toward the basement door, the one thin barrier between him and what was going on in the house that was supposed to be his home. He lowered his head again, and whispered, "What's under the bed isn't always a monster, and not all the monsters are under the bed."