Life is Change

BY : trudyw
Category: BtVS Crossovers > Misc - Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 7852
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Sentinel, I make no money from the writing of this story.

Authors Note : Here's the next chapter and the start of the road trip. Please read and review.

Thank you Cinder1013 again for your review.

Chapter 7

Tara looked around the Magic Box at her friends, Buffy was sitting on the counter drumming her heels on the wooden panelling, Giles was pacing in front of the store windows, he'd cleaned his glasses so many times by now that she wouldn't be surprised if the prescription had changed from all the rubbing. And Willow had already checked the directions she'd printed out for Spike and Xander a dozen times at least, now she was trying to read some more of Blair's dissertation to see if she could pick up some last minute tips for her friend before he set off. She must have read that last page at least 6-7 times and hadn't yet seemed to realise she was holding it upside down.

Yes it was fair to say that pretty much everyone in the room was showing signs of stress, in fact only Dawn, who sat quietly reading at the central table, and Tara herself seemed reasonably calm. They'd agreed to meet up here after closing, that was 90 minutes ago now and still no sign of Spike or Xander. Tara was just debating with herself who was going to suffer a stroke first when Giles abruptly stopped his pacing and muttered to himself "about time" walking quickly over to the door and pulling it open to admit Xander and Spike.

Willow jumped up from her seat and rushed over to Xander, "where have you been? What happened?" she confronted her friend.

"Sorry Wills," Xander apologised, "I had a little excitement when I went shopping this afternoon."

"What exactly constitutes 'a little excitement'?" asked Giles noticing that Spike seemed unusually subdued, not taking part in the conversation, just hovering protectively over Xander.

"It was nothing, don't freak out, someone tried to mug me in the car park outside Walmart."

"You were mugged!"

"Oh my"

"Are you hurt?"

"What happened?"

"Who was it!" Even Buffy hopped down off the counter at Xander's announcement. "No-one messes with my friends."

"I'm fine, something scared him off, but he left this great big knife behind when he ran, I couldn't just leave it in the parking lot for kids to find so I took it to the cops."

"And that's what took you so long?" Dawn asked, how long could it take to hand in a knife after all.

"Well yeah, first I had to convince them it wasn't some kind of prank, then they had all sorts of questions that they needed me to answer. You know Sunnydale's finest, they aren't exactly the sharpest knives in the block if you know what I mean.

Spike inwardly cringed at this point, next would come the recital of his not-so-mini breakdown when Xander got back to the apartment, the real reason they were so late. But Xander wasn't saying anything more, he was going to leave it there and let Sunnydale PD take the blame. He felt anew the wonder that this young man was his friend, that as much as Spike might die to protect Xander, Xander was equally ready to protect Spike, even from a pissed off Slayer and Wiccan.

"So," Xander continued rubbing his hands together briskly, "We're all packed and ready to go, do you have some directions for us Willow?"

Willow however wasn't to be put off so easily. "Hang on a minute there buster, what do you mean something scared him off?"

"I don't know, honest, I thought I heard something growling behind me but by the time the guy had run off and I turned around to see what had scared him there was nothing there. It was freaky."

"Hmm," Willow looked thoughtful for a moment before apparently deciding to let it go for now. "OK, well I'll keep reading and if I find out anything I'll give you a ring to let you know. In the meantime here are your directions. I've divided the trip up into three sections, you can stop overnight at Vacaville and Eugene, I've included details of a few motels around those towns that look reasonably cheap and well kept. I haven't booked anything because I didn't know exactly how far you'd get each day. Today's the 15th, I've booked you into the Super 8 in Federal Way from the 18th for one week. It's not far from Cascade, hopefully you won't be close enough to trigger Jim Ellison's territorial imperative, but Spike should be able to get there easy enough to try to talk them into seeing you." As Willow finished speaking she shoved a sheaf of computer print outs into Xander's arms.

He quickly leafed through it all seeing route information, gas station locations, motels, road works, all manner of information that would make the trip run so much smoother.

"Thanks Wills, this will be a great help." Xander handed off the paper to Spike and pulled his oldest friend in for a hug. Releasing the flushed red-head he found Dawn and Tara waiting in turn for their good-bye hugs too which he was only too pleased to deliver. Turning at last to Giles Xander held out his hand to the older man but was surprised when the Englishman pulled him into a hug too before thrusting a large wad of cash into his hand.

"Giles no, this is too much!" exclaimed Xander.

"Take it, please, let me help." Giles was so earnest that Xander could do nothing but nod and briefly hug the older man in return muttering, "I'll bring back the change."

Buffy still stood back by the counter during the good-byes and after a wistful glance in her direction Xander started towards the door. Suddenly a blonde missile barreled into him and he found himself with an armful of sniffling slayer. He only remained on his feet thanks to Spike's quick support.

After a moment Buffy pulled away, "I'm sorry Xander, I really hope Blair can help you." And she pulled back to stand with Willow, Tara and Dawn as they waved goodbye whilst Xander and Spike left the shop and climbed into Xander's car for the long drive to Cascade.

Spike was driving as they left Sunnydale heading North for Cascade. At first Xander simply enjoyed the peace of the night-time drive but after a while he turned to Spike who had been very quiet ever since they'd left the apartment. Swiftly Xander decided that they needed to get whatever was bothering him cleared up as soon as possible. As little as Spike wanted to spend three days in the car with Xander on a sugar high, did Xander want to spend three days in the car with a silent and moody vampire.

"What's up Spike?" He asked casually.

"Spike?" Xander had to ask again before the vampire realised he was being spoken to.

"Sorry, what did you say?"

"I was asking what's up, you've been really quiet ever since we left the apartment." Xander clarified his question.

"Sorry, I was just thinking," and his words trailed off again in thought. Xander was really beginning to worry now, while Spike didn't babble on like Willow or Xander himself regularly did, it wasn't normally as hard as this to get a straight answer out of the vampire, this was like pulling teeth.

"It's just, back there, you didn't tell them the real reason we were so late."

"Huh?" Xander wasn't quite sure where this was going, it certainly wasn't anything he'd expected to hear.

"You didn't tell them about my little freak-out back at the apartment, we'd have been on time if I hadn't flipped out like that."

"Ah that, you mean over-protective guide meets over-protective vampire in a battle to ensure the safety of their Sentinel?" Xander summed it all up quite nicely he thought. Spike just shot him a quick grin, trust Xander to try to pass everything off as a joke, but Spike really wanted to know why he hadn't said anything more to his friends.

"Yeah that, why didn't you tell them all the gory details, I'm sure they'd love to hear about the big bad in a crazy panic over the health of a Scooby."

"It was none of their business." Xander answered shortly, he felt somewhat hurt that apparently Spike still didn't trust him enough to believe that he wouldn't use his concern to get cheap laughs from the others. Especially after all they had been through together since the whole Sentinel thing came to light.

They were now about an hour into the trip and the situation was reversed from that at the outset. Now Xander sat staring tense and unseeing out of the window wondering just where he had gone wrong and how he could prove to Spike that they were in this together and he would die before allowing anyone to hurt his guide.

Spike immediately realised he'd said something to upset Xander, he'd been an intelligent man after all and being turned hadn't changed that. Thinking back over the last few minutes of the conversation he quickly came to the realisation that he was an idiot. After all that had passed between them the last few days, both in words and actions, he'd jumped to the immediate conclusion that Xander would throw him to the wolves for a quick laugh from his friends. This new Sentinel Xander wasn't like that, thinking about it he wasn't sure he ever had been. Of course he used humour as a shield, always had done, but he was never cruel about it, certainly not with those he cared about and Spike was quickly coming to the belief that Xander cared about him. He wasn't sure if it was just a Sentinel Guide thing or if it could be something more, still he'd give it time and see where it all led in the end. For now he needed to apologise and clear the air.

"I'm sorry."

"What for?" Xander's response was short, his tone harsh.

"For thinking, even for a moment that you might use me for a cheap laugh or to try to get in good with the Scoobies again."

"I'm just trying to figure out what I can possibly do to convince you that I genuinely want us to be friends. Even putting aside the Sentinel Guide thing, I like spending time with you."

If Spike's heart were still beating then he knew it would have sped up at that last admission from Xander. Still he clenched down hard on the elation bubbling up inside of him. Friendship was the name of the game for now and he had to focus on getting that right before anything else could follow.

"I really am sorry. I don't know why I even thought that, it's just that sometimes I get... I don't know..." Spike's voice trailed off.

Xander clamped his facial muscles into neutrality, fighting to stop the grin that wanted to spread across his features. He was getting pretty good at reading between the lines when it came to vamp speak. He was pretty sure that Spike had been this close to admitting to insecurities. He'd struggled so much with his own that it was hard to imagine someone as strong and confident as Spike having the same issues.

Finally Xander felt he could speak without the grin being too obvious in his tone. "It's OK, I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have taken offence like that. I think we're actually doing pretty well so far, we just need to keep talking."

Spike nodded and with tranquillity restored to both men they continued their drive north through the depth of the California night.

It was several hours later while Xander was finishing up an early morning snack of sandwiches and juice that Spike pointed out the road sign. They were about half an hour from Vacaville, it was time to think about where they were going to stop for the day. Pulling out the sheaf of papers provided by Willow he shuffled through them for a few minutes before pulling out one sheet.

"How about the Motel 6? It's reasonably cheap, the reviews are good and it's not far from the Interstate" he finally suggested.

"Sounds good, where is it?"

"We need to take exit 56, left on Orange Drive and then right on Lawrence Drive."

"OK, that sounds fairly straight forward, this car of yours is comfortable enough but I don't know about you but I could definitely do with a chance to stretch my legs."

Xander was suddenly hit with a feeling of intense guilt as he realised that Spike had been sat behind the wheel for the last 7 hours without a break. "Are you alright, I never thought, we could have stopped for a break half way here, let you get the kinks out of your spine."

"And what would you know about my kinks?" Spike asked with a sly look causing Xander's mouth to drop open in shock followed swiftly by a sidelong glance at the laughing vampire.

Xander Hmmphed in mock protest but inside he felt good that they'd gotten past the tenseness of the early drive and seemed to be settling back into the easy-going camaraderie that they'd developed since Spike had found him in that cemetery less than a week ago.

It wasn't much later that they were climbing out of the car in the Motel 6 parking lot and Xander heard the audible crack as Spike placed both thumbs in the small of his back and stretched.

"Better?" He asked, Spike nodded and Xander continued "I'll head in and get us a room if you want to stretch your legs out here for a minute."

Spike was just getting the last of the bags out of the car as Xander came back with the key to a twin room. "This way," he called "do you want me to carry anything?"

"Nah," Spike shook his head and settling the bags over his shoulders, one cooler in each hand he followed Xander towards the room.

As they got to room 115 on the ground floor Xander swiped the keycard and pushed open the door to a spacious room with two double beds, a small kitchenette and a door off to the side which presumably led to a bathroom. Moving into the room Xander checked the door and verified that it was indeed a small bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink. Spike dropped the bags between the beds and headed into the kitchen area to start stashing their food in the small fridge.

"Do you want to take the shower first?" Xander asked, Spike just grabbed up his bag and headed for the small bathroom. Xander left alone in the room started searching through one of the remaining bags. Eventually he pulled out several large pieces of blackout cloth and a large roll of double sided tape. Soon he was busy taping the cloth tightly over the windows with two of the largest pieces serving as curtains over the main door and the bathroom door. Just as Xander was surveying his work, determining that the room was completely light proof, Spike opened the door and stepped into the enveloping fabric.

"What the hell!"

"Oops, sorry." Xander rushed forward to help Spike extricate himself from the curtain.

"Wow, is this all for me?" he asked, staring around the completely blacked out room.

"Well, I didn't want to take any chances, hotel curtains are not made of the thickest cloth you know." Xander looked defiant as if expecting an argument from Spike.

"Thanks."

The simple reply left Xander confounded and he just picked up his own bag and made his way into the bathroom throwing a quick "you're welcome" over his shoulder as the curtain swished down behind him.

When Xander returned he found Spike sprawled fast asleep across one of the beds, reluctant to disturb the sleeping vampire he crawled under the covers of the other bed and flicking off the light was soon sleeping soundly.

It was several hours later when Xander awoke to the familiar feeling of Spike lying against his back.

"Missed the warmth did you?" he teased as he opened his eyes, only to realise that Spike was still sleeping on the other bed. Xander's eyes opened wide at the sight of the vampire, he could definitely feel the heavy weight of someone lying behind him on the bed. Just as he thought this couldn't get any worse he saw a shape rear up on the far side of Spike's bed and suddenly he was looking into the eyes of a huge white tiger as it hopped up onto the bed to lie down behind Spike. Terrified Xander started to slowly turn his head wanting to see what was behind him, but also desperately trying not to frighten whatever it was. He quickly found himself face to face with a large spotted hyena. As he stared in shock the animal yawned widely showing off several very dangerous looking teeth and giving Xander a blast of highly unpleasant hyena breath. Unable to control himself any longer Xander scrabbled quickly off the bed landing in a heap on the floor with a yelp.

Xander lay very still waiting for one of the predators on the beds above to leap on him. When nothing happened immediately he breathed a massive sigh of relief, he'd been dreaming after all. Thinking how glad he was that Spike was still asleep and hadn't seen him making a fool of himself he sat up only to see that the massive hyena was still laid out on his bed and appeared to be smirking at him. Well he thought, I guess that's why they call it a laughing hyena.

Deciding that if the hyena hadn't attacked by now it probably wouldn't, at least not immediately, he slowly turned to check the other bed and saw that the white tiger was still there peering curiously at him over Spike's sleeping form. Reaching up slowly so as not to alarm the wild animals currently infesting their hotel room he gently tugged on Spike's forearm, trying to wake the sleeping vampire.

Spike's only reaction was to briefly shake off the annoying grip on his arm and settle back to sleep. Trying again Xander shook a little harder hissing "Spike, wake up!" This time some of his urgency must have gotten through and Spike's eyes popped open. A confused expression crossed the vampire's face as he focussed on Xander sat on the floor between the two beds.

"What are you doing down there?" he asked as he propped himself up on one elbow, running the other hand through his already sleep mussed hair.

"Slowly turn around and look behind you." Xander instructed.

Spike suddenly seemed to realise that although he was speaking to the only other legitimate inmate of the room there was indeed a warm heavy presence behind him. Instinctively he whipped his head around, ignoring Xander's advice to go slow, and found himself face to face with a tiger. One rather high pitched yelp and a mad scramble later found Spike on the floor with Xander as they both stared up at the rather large shaggy head of the tiger on Spike's bed.

"What! where did that come from?" Spike spluttered angrily.

"Just take a look on my bed." Xander advised him.

Tearing his eyes away from the massive tiger on his own bed he turned to see another animal occupying the other bed.

"Is that..?" he was very confused by this point.

"Yes, it's a hyena." Xander confirmed. "I don't know what's going on but so far they seem perfectly happy to just lie there and hog the beds."

At Xander's words the hyena heaved itself to it's feet causing the bed springs to creak ominously and turning around hopped down off the foot of the bed and moved across to hop back up beside the tiger on the other bed.

Exchanging a puzzled look with Xander Spike spoke first, "it almost looks like it understood you."

"Do you think it's offering us the other bed?"

"Looks like it."

Very cautiously the two men climbed slowly to their feet, keeping an eye on the animals at all times, and settled themselves on the now empty bed.

"This is weird." Xander broke the silence, wary of falling asleep with two large carnivores in the room.

"Ya think." Spike shot back at him. Now that the adrenaline rush caused by the initial shock of finding himself nose to nose with a predator just as dangerous as he was himself was beginning to fade Spike was beginning to add two and two together.

"You said that you heard growling when the mugger turned and ran yesterday?"

"Yeah." Xander sounded questioning, unsure where this was leading.

"What if it was these two?"

"Or even just one of them. Wow, that would explain his change of heart. But why didn't anyone else see anything?"

"Maybe they're not entirely..." Spike paused for a moment "corporeal."

"They sure smell..." Xander paused too "corporeal."

"Willow looked like she had an idea what the growling might have been. So maybe it's Sentinel related. Is there anything in what you've read so far of that dissertation that might explain any of this?"

Xander was quiet as he thought for a minute. "Maybe, I haven't read the section yet but when I skimmed the content list there was a chapter on spirit guides." Xander's voice trailed off and they both stared in wonder across at the animals snuggled together on the opposite bed, their posture almost exactly mimicking that of Spike and Xander.

"Wow." Both men breathed the word in perfect synchronicity.

As they watched they could almost believe that a look of satisfaction crossed the faces of the two predators sharing their hotel room, pleased that their humans had worked it out. Slowly the two animals settled in to sleep and not long after the human and vampire followed them.

Author's Note : there you go, chapter seven, Please read and review.



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