Life is Change

BY : trudyw
Category: BtVS Crossovers > Misc - Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 7945
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Sentinel, I make no money from the writing of this story.

Authors Note : Thank you Just Ducky and Lydia Monroe for your reviews, reviews make me a very happy writer.  At the moment they're both planning on holding off on taking the relationship any further than friendship until after they return to Sunnydale, of course we all know what happens to the best laid plans!

Chapter Nine

Once they had themselves under control again Spike and Xander packed up the room and prepared to leave. Waiting only for nightfall they left as quickly as possible, anxious in case the local police chief changed his mind and decided to keep them in town.

Half a mile later they were pulling back onto the I-5, heading north once more on the last night of their road trip.  They'd been driving in comfortable silence for about 30 minutes when Xander finally voiced the question that he'd been dying to ask

"So, did I really do OK back there?"

It hurt Spike to realise just how starved for praise Xander was, it seemed like every time he did something wrong Buffy, Willow or Giles were only too happy to leap down his throat, but when he did good it passed them by.  So now a simple throw away compliment had the boy treasuring it for hours.

"You did better than OK, there were four of them, high on lord knows what, and you kept your calm and took them out one at a time."  He stopped talking for a moment, giving the compliment time to sink in before adding.  "Of course you might want to be careful with the smart mouth.  It worked out well this time but you risk distracting yourself instead of the bad guys."

Xander mulled over Spike's words.  "I only took out 3 of them, your tiger got the last one, and I had help from the hyena for the first guy."

"True enough, but the first guy was the one with the gun, no-one's going to hold it against you that you had a little help dealing with him given you were only armed with a mace."

"Maybe, but you heard what that cop said, they were on PCP, aggression through the roof, judgement and coordination through the floor.  They weren't that hard to beat."

"That's as may be, but I stand by what I said, you did good, you stayed calm and did what needed to be done.  Still if you want to train more when we get back to Sunnydale then I'd be happy to help you with that."

Xander jumped at the offer, "you'd really help me train?  Thanks man, I'll hold you to that."

Spike just shook his head, "sure kid, as soon as we get home.  Gotta keep my Sentinel in one piece, it's in the Guide handbook."

"Hold on a minute, you get a handbook, that's so not fair."

"Them's the breaks kid."

Xander just laughed and they lapsed back into quiet for the next few miles.

Xander finally broke the silence, "do you really think that the tiger is chipped?"

Spike was about to answer when Xander spoke up again.

"We should really give them names, it sounds off to keep talking about the tiger, and the hyena, they might well have saved our lives tonight, the least we can do is give them names."

"What did you have in mind?"  Spike asked.  "I'm not using some cheesy Tiger name, Rajah or Sultan."

"Oh, and I was planning on calling the hyena Fido!"  Xander injected a large amount of sorrow into his voice, struggling to keep a straight face.

Spike turned to him in shock until he saw the laughter bubbling under that Xander was trying very hard to suppress.  "Fido huh?  I was thinking he looked more of a Spot."

"She."  Xander corrected Spike with a grin.  "She's definitely the alpha female.  What about Lex?"

"It's nice, short for anything" Spike ended on a questioning tone.

"Yeah, Alexander, well as far as I can figure it she is a representation of my inner animal so it seemed appropriate."  Xander answered in a tentative tone, almost as if he was expecting to be laughed at.

"Cool."  Was Spike's only response anything more and he wouldn't have been able to hold back the diatribe against those who had ground his boy's self confidence into the dirt for so many years.

Eventually Spike felt that he was calm enough to speak rationally.  "I'm thinking Trevor."

"Huh?" 

"Trevor the tiger, what do you think?"  Spike clarified.

After a moment of silence Spike took a quick look over to the passenger seat to see that Xander was looking somewhat confused.  His face was so open that Spike could practically read the question whirling around inside Xander's head, 'Is he seriously planning to name a magnificent white tiger Trevor?'

Enjoying the friendly banter he continued "it's either that or Tony."

As soon as the name left his lips he knew he'd made a mistake, Xander suddenly froze, the feel of comfortable banter between friends disappeared and the temperature in the car seemed to drop several degrees.  Not sure where he'd gone wrong Spike tried to explain.  "You know Tony the Tiger, Frosties?"  This time he saw Xander physically flinch at the name Tony. 

It was then that Spike made the connection, Tony was Xander's father's name.  Spike hated to think what the man must have done to cause such a reaction simply to the sound of his name.  Another item added to the list to be dealt with on their return to Sunnydale.  Spike considered trying to change the subject to something less fraught, but given his success or lack thereof over the last couple of days he decided to simply answer Xander's question from earlier in the conversation.

"Going back to your original question, yes it definitely looked like Trevor was reacting to the chip firing."

"OK, that's bad," Xander was quiet for a few moments, obviously thinking things through.  "What about if we could get your chip out, do you think that would also get rid of Trevor's chip?"

Spike was stunned to silence, he knew that he and Xander had been getting along really well just lately but suddenly here was Buffy's White Knight talking about getting his chip out as calmly as he might have commented on the weather.

"Moot point innit, already tried everything I could think of, it can't be done."  Spike's distress showed through in the lapse back to his tough guy London street rat accent.

Xander realised he was treading on dangerous ground but pressed on, "how long ago was that, 2 - 3 years? Technology moves forward, at a lightening pace sometimes, maybe new techniques have been developed that could help."

If Spike had been stunned before he was truly going into shock now.  He'd written off Xander's initial question as simply musing about the possibilities in the full knowledge that it was impossible, but now it seemed that he'd actually thought about this and was truly proposing that they should try to get the chip removed.  Suddenly a wave of anger surged through him, there had been no talk of trying to get the chip out when it was only Spike suffering but now that the tiger was in pain, not even a real animal but a spirit guide, Xander was all for removing it. He pulled sharply over onto the verge and threw the door open, climbed out and slammed it shut before striding round to the back of the car and reaching into his duster pocket for cigarettes and a lighter.

Shocked Xander sat still in the passenger seat, it was obvious that Spike was very angry, only Xander wasn't quite sure why.  Then he remembered the whole reason that they were on this trip in the first place.  Sentinel senses.  Watching Spike in the rear view mirror Xander carefully envisioned the dial he had used before to turn down his hearing, this time he very gently turned it in the opposite direction.  With his gaze fixed firmly on Spikes mouth he could see the vampire muttering to himself, keeping his eyes locked on those lips he strained to hear the words muttered so quietly as he gingerly edged the dial further up.  He started to hear the sound of muttered words, but still not loud enough to understand.  Checking the road ahead and behind to make sure that there were no vehicles headed in their direction he turned the dial a little further and now he could hear Spike's words.

"Bloody Scoobies, Spike's in pain, no problem, let him deal, but a poxy animal is hurting and it's all 'Oh we must get that nasty chip out' it's not even real, it's a bloody spirit for pities sake."  Xander was inclined to take offence at the high sing-song tone in which Spike apparently tried to mimic a Scooby, presumably Xander since he was the only Scooby for hundreds of miles.  Listening closely to Spike's tone of voice Xander realised that under all the anger Spike was truly hurt.  Thinking of nothing else other than the need to speak to Spike and to fix this Xander pushed open his car door and stepped out calling softly, "Spike."

Spike was hurting inside but he was also still in the grip of an intense rage, spinning to face Xander he yelled "No, get back in the car!" and slammed his hand down hard on the trunk to make a satisfyingly loud bang.

Unfortunately for Xander he had not thought to turn the dials back down to a more normal position, the sudden noise of Spike's yell and the slam of the vampire's hand on the trunk of the car hit him like a sledgehammer.  Confronted with a very angry guide the Sentinel was lost, he flinched back from the noise, reeling against the side of the car.  Deep Sentinel instincts were suddenly yelling up from his very core 'No Guide, we've made him angry, No Guide, he'll leave, No Guide.'  Just the idea of losing his guide was enough to send all his senses off the chart, his hearing which had tried to shut down at the sudden loud noise now flared up again.  The breeze through the leaves of nearby trees sounded like a hurricane, small animals rustling in the undergrowth became as loud as a major earthquake.  His other senses all reacted too, the light of distant street lights reached the incandescence of ground zero of a nuclear blast as they seared into his eyes, his clothes felt like sandpaper over every inch of his skin, taste and smell similarly over-reacted and he ended up on his knees, his stomach evicting everything he'd eaten in the last few hours.

Spike stared in horror, his anger fled as he saw his Sentinel basically collapse, vomiting on the side of the road.  His first instinct was to run to Xander and try to help, to take him in his arms and help him stand, but as soon as he touched his Sentinel Xander cried out in pain and flinched away from him again.  Stepping back he realised that this was more serious than any other episode he'd witnessed so far, deciding to try the same approach as he had used the only other time he had seen Xander looking anywhere near this bad he crouched down and pitching his voice as low as he could possibly make it he spoke Xander's name.  "Xander" even as quiet as he had spoken Xander still flinched at the sound.  From the way Xander was trying to cover his ears and keep his eyes tight shut, all the while gagging and retching and trying to move as little as possible to prevent his clothes rubbing against his sensitive skin it appeared that all the senses were completely out of control. 

Spike was lost, all he'd read so far talked about identifying the sense causing the problem and using the others to pull the Sentinel back and give him back his control, but what did he do when all the senses were flipping out.  He decided to try to reduce the sensory overload, there was little he could do at the moment about hearing, sight, touch or smell but maybe he could help with taste a little.  Moving quietly round to the drivers side he opened the door of the car and reached in for the bottle of water that the boy had been drinking earlier.  Pushing the door gently to he left it partially open, not daring to risk the noise of shutting it fully and headed back to Xander's side.  Twisting off the cap of the bottle Spike offered it silently to his Sentinel but Xander was too deeply lost in his own misery to realise that help was available if he could only reach out and take it.

Seeing that this wasn't working Spike poured a little of the water out onto his own hand before reaching out to touch Xander's lips with his damp fingers.  The change was instantaneous, Xander stilled, his eyes remained closed and every muscle in his body strained with the tension thrumming though him, he still seemed more animal than human but at least he appeared to be in a lot less distress than he had been a moment ago.  Spike re-wetted his fingers and reached forward to touch them to Xander's lips again.  This time the lips opened and Spike found himself with Xander suckling gently on his fingertips. 

Xander was lost deep in the heart of the Sentinel, trapped in misery both physical, as his body rebelled against him, and mental at the perceived loss of his guide.  Suddenly he felt a touch at his mouth, the taste of his guide, the smell of his guide.  The guide hadn't left, maybe he wasn't alone after all.  The touch had been fleeting but it was enough to quell the Sentinel's panic.  Then after a wait that felt like a lifetime the touch came again.  This time the Sentinel had time to anticipate the touch through the smell of guide becoming stronger as the hand approached his face.  He opened his mouth and gently lipped the fingers as they brushed his skin, filling himself with the taste of guide, the smell of guide.

Spike's first instinct was to pull his hand away but he mastered that impulse and waited.  For several minutes they crouched there at the side of the road, sheltered from the view of passing motorists by the body of the car as Spike watched the tension slowly drain out of Xander's body.  Finally he decided it would be safe to try another sense and he reached out with his free hand to gently touch his Sentinel on the shoulder.  This time Xander did not flinch, instead he relaxed into the touch, seemingly content to have the hand remain there, a firm but gentle pressure tying him more firmly back to his guide.  Once he was sure that the hand would not be rejected Spike tried speaking to his Sentinel.  "Xander."  He called out softly. "Are you in there luv?" he asked and then settled back again to await a reaction.

A slight frown appeared on Xander's brow as he seemed to regain the capacity for rational thought.  He pulled back from the fingers at his mouth and Spike let his hand drop.  Finally Xander opened his eyes and stared into the crystalline blue eyes of his guide.  "Spike." 

"Yes Luv."  Spike sighed with relief, his anger long forgotten.

"You were angry."  Xander questioned, still feeling a little disoriented in the wake of the attack.

"I was, I'm sorry, I should never have shouted at you like that."

"You were angry."  Xander stated, no longer a question, Xander was sure of his facts now.  "You were right to be angry."

Spike had been on the verge of apologising again when Xander's words surprised him into momentary silence.

"What do you mean Pet?"  He asked.

"We should have helped you do something about the chip years ago."  Xander sounded exhausted and Spike realised that they were still crouched by the side of the road.

"Hold that thought, yeah."  he said as he stood and helped Xander to his feet and into the car.  Moving back around to the driver's door he climbed in behind the wheel and turned to face Xander.    

"I'm really sorry Spike."  Xander started speaking before Spike had a chance to say anything.  "We should have looked into getting the chip out a long time ago.  The only purpose it serves now is to prevent you from defending yourself from humans.

"Hang on a minute there mate, are you saying you think I'm SAFE!  I'm still the Big Bad here you know."  After Xander's earlier collapse Spike did his best to remain calm, not wanting to set off another attack, but the way he spat the word Safe made it clear to Xander just how pissed off the vampire was.

"No, I'm not saying you're safe, you're definitely still the Big Bad, but you're not evil.  You know how much it would hurt Dawn if you started chowing down on the local population, you'd never put her through that kind of pain."  Xander tried to explain his thoughts without angering Spike further.

"Hey, I'm still a soulless monster here, remember, can't be trusted, can't ever be trusted."  The hurt behind Spike's words came through so clearly that Xander hung his head in shame as he heard the mean and hurtful things he'd said over the years parroted back to him by the man he'd begun to consider a friend.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" Xander muttered, barely audible as he felt himself drowning in a sea of his own shame.  "I should never have said those things to you, after all I've seen I should have known, there are Death Row's all over the country populated by humans with souls, there are human rights atrocities committed every day all over the world by humans with souls, having a soul is no guarantee that a being is good, and not having a soul doesn't guarantee evil.  I saw you after Glorificus had you tortured trying to get the key's location, I saw you thrown from the tower trying to defend Dawn and I saw you cry when Buffy fell.  You may be the Big Bad but you are a good man and you are one of the strongest people I've ever met.  Who else could have survived that chip? Do you think Angelus would have survived if he'd been chipped instead of cursed with a soul?  He'd have got himself zapped into a vegetable inside a week, Darla, Dru, I've never met anyone with your strength, your self control.  You grow and learn and adapt."  Xander's voice faded away as he seemed to run out of steam.  He looked up from where his gaze had been fixed on his knees and looked tentatively across to Spike to see the other man staring back at him, mouth hanging open in shock.

Spike just continued to stare, he had no idea what to say in response to Xander's diatribe, he wanted to protest being called a good man, but he found that it felt right to him that Xander should think of him that way.  Just when Xander was beginning to think that he had broken the vampire for good Spike finally managed to speak.  "You look like crap, kip for a bit.  I'll wake you when we get to the hotel."  It took Xander a moment to follow what Spike had said, it seemed so disconnected from what had gone before.  However the uncharacteristic gruffness of pent-up emotion in Spike's voice did not escape his notice and he simply nodded his head carefully and closed his eyes for a nap.  After all he might look like crap but he felt so much worse than that.

It was some two hours later that Spike pulled in to the parking lot of the Super 8 in Federal Way, Xander was still asleep in the passenger seat and Spike was loath to wake him until absolutely necessary.  He pulled into a parking space immediately outside of reception and rummaged through the sheaf of paperwork supplied by Willow for the booking details.  Finding the pages he needed he got out of the car, pushing the door closed as quietly as possible and headed inside to get them checked in, turning to check on Xander frequently.  He soon had the room key in hand and drove round to their room finally having to wake Xander once he had the luggage all unloaded from the car and stacked inside the door of their home away from home for the next week.

Xander woke slowly, he was still groggy as Spike helped him out of the car and into the hotel room, the attack earlier had really taken it out of him and Spike made himself a mental note that they needed to talk about it later.  He'd never seen Xander that badly affected by his senses, at least not since the aftermath he'd witnessed in the cemetery back when all this began.  He carefully settled Xander into the bed furthest from the door, gently removing jacket, belt and boots.  He quietly light-proofed the room then stripped himself for sleep, switched off the light and crawled in behind the sleeping man on the bed.

He'd not thought too much about what Xander had said, up until now he'd been able to push that away with concerns about getting Xander to the hotel and worry about what had caused him to react so badly by the side of the road, but now lying in a comfortable bed with Xander sleeping safely in his arms, now his mind wandered back over everything Xander had said.  Spike felt a warm glow curling through his stomach as he dwelt on Xander's words.  Truth and sincerity had shone from Xander as he spoke and Spike found it impossible to believe that he had been anything other than completely honest in what he'd said. 

If Xander believed all that he had said then Spike could do nothing less than give full consideration to his words.  Whenever he'd dreamed about getting rid of the chip his thoughts had always turned to the epic killing spree he'd indulge in.  Now though he truly thought about it, could he do that to Dawn, to Giles, to Xander?  Dawn had grown to be like a daughter to him, could he really face her with blood on his hands.  Giles treated him with the quiet respect of a colleague, acknowledging his extensive knowledge of demons and their languages, could he bear to see that respect replaced with contempt if he gave in to his baser nature.  Then there was Xander, Xander who treated him as a friend and as an equal, Xander who believed that Spike was a good man at heart, Xander who Spike might well be falling in love with.

Whoa! Where had that thought come from?  Still now was the time for total honesty so Spike took that thought and turned it around in his mind, examining it from all angles and he could find no fault with it.  Well, if that wasn't a turn up for the books, the question now was what he was going to do about it.  Ruminating on that thought Spike finally drifted off to sleep as outside their room the sun rose above the horizon.

Spike was pulled rudely out of sleep as a sharp elbow slammed into his abdomen.  He suddenly found himself with an armful of struggling Sentinel as Xander fought to free himself from the monsters haunting his nightmares.  Trying to restrain Xander without injuring him Spike rolled over to pin his Sentinel beneath him.  The larger man fought hard but eventually Spike had his arms pinned beside his head, "Xander, wake up pet."  He called out trying to break through whatever demons stalked Xander in his sleep.  "Wake up Xander, it's just a nightmare."  Finally he seemed to get through and Xander's struggles slowed.  Eventually Xander lay still and opened his eyes, "is there a reason you're sitting on me?" he asked. 

Realising he was still sat on top of Xander, pinning his hands and legs beneath him, Spike quickly released his grip and slid off the younger man to sit on the bed beside him.  "You were having a nightmare, I woke up to an elbow to the gut, was just trying to keep you still long enough to wake you up."  He explained rubbing a hand over his abused abdomen.

"Sorry," Xander muttered, shifting up to sit against the headboard of the bed.

"Don't worry about it, just a love tap."  Spike joked without thinking.  "Are you OK, that was a bad attack earlier."

"I'm fine, it was my own fault, it was a stupid thing to do."

Spike just looked confused, "What do you mean, how was it your fault?"

"When you got out of the car," Xander paused knowing that Spike was going to be very angry with him, and rightly so.  "I was trying to hear what you were muttering to yourself.

"And?"  Spike was beginning to get an inkling of what might have happened.

"I turned up the dials."  Xander admitted unable to meet Spike's eyes.

"You forgot to turn them down again when you got out of the car."  Spike stated, sure now what had happened.

Xander simply nodded, intently studying the coverlet across his lap.

Spike ruthlessly suppressed his initial impulse to read Xander the riot act for pulling such a stupid stunt.  It was obvious that Xander knew just how stupid it had been.  Spike doubted he'd do anything like it again any time soon, judging by his subdued air he was still suffering the after effects.  "And that's why I don't want you messing with the dials on your own.  At least not until we've had a chance to practice with them together."  Xander looked up at Spike's words, surprised by the restraint shown by the other man.

"Sorry."  He apologised again.

"No problem, do you think you can sleep again now?"  Spike asked, it had been an emotionally charged night and Spike knew he'd need more sleep before confronting Jim Ellison that evening, but if Xander couldn't sleep then he'd stay awake with him and help him work through the nightmare.

Xander snuggled back down under the covers, "stay with me" his only response.

Spike smiled, "always" and crawling back under into the bed he wrapped himself around his Sentinel's broad back and settled down to sleep.

It was mid-afternoon by the time Xander awoke again.  Feeling the emptiness of the bed behind him he bolted upright, heart pounding as he stared around the room looking for his guide.  Immediately he saw Spike sprawled on the couch over the other side of the room and his heart rate immediately began to slow back to a more normal speed.

"Ah-ha the dead wake."  Spike commented putting aside the papers he'd been reading and standing to move to the kitchenette area.  "You hungry?"  He asked.

"Look who's talking."  Groused Xander scrubbing his hands through his hair trying to wake himself up.

"Food!"  Spike tried again waving a wrapped twinkie in the air.

"Please," Xander almost begged stumbling across the room to grab the offered treat from the vampires hand.  Stripping off the wrapper he stuffed it all into his mouth at once before turning and stumbling off in another direction heading for the bathroom muttering "gotta pee."

Half an hour later Xander was showered, dressed and looking much more awake as he rummaged through the small fridge in the room looking for something to eat.  "I need real food."  Xander wailed plaintively pushing aside the curling sandwiches left from his pre-road trip shopping expedition.

"Why don't you see if anyone delivers?"  Spike suggested gesturing to a pile of takeout menus beside the phone on the kitchen counter.  "Or if you can wait a couple of hours until the sun goes down we can go out for a walk, try to find a diner, get you a decent meal before I head off to see Jim and Blair."

"Take-away" Xander decided leafing through the pile, "the sooner you can leave tonight the sooner you can be back."

"Are you sure you'll be alright here on your own while I’m gone?" Spike asked concern clear in his tone.  "I can stay here tonight and go to see them tomorrow."

Xander looked tempted for a moment but them he seemed to shake it off, "No, this is what we're here for.  If you can talk some sense into Ellison then hopefully we can both meet up with them tomorrow."

"If you're sure." 

"I'm sure," and Xander brandished a pizza menu at Spike, "you want anything?"

"Nah" Spike waved him off.

Xander ordered a Deluxe feast from the local Domino's, ordering a large as he knew Spike would end up sharing no matter what he'd said to the contrary.

"Do you know how you're going to approach Ellison tonight?" He asked Spike as he settled down to await delivery of his dinner.

"I'm hoping I can catch Ellison when they are both at the apartment.  I think he'll be easier to talk to if he knows that Blair is safe."  Xander nodded agreeing with Spike's reasoning.

"What are you going to say to him?"  Xander asked

"I'm hoping that the Sentinel in him will recognise me as a guide, that should be enough to get me a few minutes of his time.  After that we'll see where the conversation takes us."

"You mean you'll make it up as you go along?"  Xander clarified.

"Pretty much, yeah."  Spike confirmed and Xander just shook his head and chuckled before heading off to answer the door.  It was only as he opened the door to see the surprised pizza delivery boy approaching that he realised he'd reacted to the smell of the pizza and not a knock at the door. 

Some time later the pizza had been eaten, darkness had fallen and Xander was trying to persuade Spike that it was safe to leave him alone in the hotel room for an hour or two in order to go and speak to Jim Ellison and hopefully Blair Sandburg.

"Spike, just go.  You have your mobile, I have my phone, check in with me every hour if you must.  I'll be fine."  Xander tried one more time to convince Spike that he'd be OK left on his own for the evening.

"OK OK I'll go, but you call me if your senses start to play up, anything at all and I'll turn right around and come back.  And don't touch those dials whilst I'm gone."  Spike finally allowed Xander to usher him out of the room still ensuring that he got the last word in, "I'll call in every 30 minutes."

Xander watched Spike get into his car and drive away before closing the door and throwing himself down onto one of the beds with the TV remote control in his hand.  There was nothing to do now but worry about what would happen when one big bad over protective vampire guide met one big bad over protective ex-ranger Sentinel.  Oh how Xander wished he could be a fly on the wall for that one.

As Spike drove away from the hotel he gave himself a quick mental shake-up.  Who'd believe that he could be this concerned over the welfare of one of the scoobies, particularly this one, the most annoying of the lot in many people's eyes.  Still Xander was a big boy now, perfectly capable of taking care of himself.  "Yes, you just keep telling yourself that."  Spike muttered to himself as he headed into Cascade as quickly as he could without risking getting pulled over.

30 minutes later Spike was already pulling out his phone and dialling as he drew into an empty parking space outside 852 Prospect.  "Everything OK?" He asked as soon as Xander answered the phone, thankful that at least he hadn't zoned yet, so far so good.

"Everything's fine, stop worrying, I've found a Bollywood triple bill, it won't be the same without Buff and Will but it's better than staring at the ceiling.  Go do your stuff and get back here in one piece."  Spike had no idea what a Bollywood triple bill might be but at least Xander sounded fine.  Heaving a sigh of relief Spike put away his phone and headed into the building.  The lift was out of order but he could do with working off some of the nervous energy that was thrumming through his body so he took off up the stairs three at a time quickly finding himself at the door of Jim Ellison's loft apartment.

Listening intently Spike could hear the sounds of two people moving about in the apartment as he raised his hand to rap briskly.  Inside he heard someone calling out as they headed to the door which was yanked open and he found himself face to face with a young man in his early to mid thirties with long curly hair brandishing a wooden spoon which appeared to be coated in some kind of tomato sauce, "I'm guessing you're not Det. Jim Ellison" he commented with a wry grin.

"Nope, Blair Sandburg, Jim's my partner, come on in."  The young man introduced himself, standing back to allow Spike to enter and turning to call out to someone else in the apartment.  "Jim, it's for you."  Turning back he saw Spike still outside "come in, I gotta go..." and his voice trailed off as he gestured with the spoon towards what was apparently the kitchen.

Spike flinched at the casual invitation to enter, even if he wasn't aware of vampires and the other things that go bump in the night, there were plenty of other reasons not to invite in every Tom, Dick and Harry who turned up on your doorstep.  He stepped just inside the door and saw a taller, older man whose close cropped hair screamed military approaching him.  He waited until the man, presumably Jim, reached him before holding out his hand and introducing himself.  "Hi, sorry to bother you at home, my name is Spike, a friend of mine is experiencing trouble with his senses, we're pretty certain he's a Sentinel and that I'm his guide, I know you've had trouble in the past but we'd really appreciate any help you and Mr Sandburg can give us."

Jim looked stunned by the torrent of words and Spike realised that the Xander / Willow babble was apparently contagious.  He'd have to keep an eye on that, he might have occasionally watched in awe as they double teamed Giles with enough babble you'd have thought they were the unbreathing undead, however it was not a skill he had any desire to emulate.

Jim finally seemed to make sense of what he'd heard and he was not pleased if the vein throbbing in his temple and the clenched jaw was anything to go by.

"That phone call last week."  He started "that was you?"

"That would have been Willow, she was quite upset after, said you were a very rude man."

"Well I'm sorry but you've had a wasted trip, that whole Sentinel thing was a sham. Like I told your friend Willow, get this guy into rehab we can't help."  Jim pulled open the door and gestured as if to usher Spike out.

Spike was getting really tired of being manoeuvred through doors today and stood his ground.  "I know what you told Willow and I know it's bull, I know you're scared and trying to protect Blair and I know why but last night I had to watch while my friend vomited and shook and cringed away from every sight or sound or touch because I didn't know he'd turned up his hearing and I shouted at him.  We need help and you and Mr Sandburg are the only ones who can give that help, now I'm trying to respect your concerns here by speaking to you first, please, don't turn us away."  Spike tried to keep his voice down but it seemed that the man in the kitchen had heard enough to know that something was up as he poked his head around the corner looking concerned.  "Is everything OK Jim?" he asked.

"Everything's fine Chief, I just need to pop outside and have a word with this .. gentleman." 

The hesitation was brief but Blair had obviously picked up on it and stepped closer, wooden spoon still in hand.  "Is it the case?"

"No, nothing like that, I'll be five minutes, ten tops"  Jim spoke reassuringly and Spike could clearly see the caring between the two men.  "Go on Chief" Jim nodded towards the kitchen, "I think I smell burning" and with a muttered obscenity the younger man darted back into the kitchen to check on his master work.

Turning back to Spike Jim motioned to the door once again, "you heard that, you've got ten minutes."  This time Spike did not protest and headed out of the door.  Together the two men headed down the stairs and out the door onto the street.  As they stopped outside the door of the apartment building Spike checked his watch and realised it was coming up on 30 minutes since his last check in.

"Give me a minute, yeah" and he waved his phone at the detective before dialling Xander and praying that he would pick up.  The phone rang twice and Spike was starting to reach for his keys when Xander answered the call, "Sorry man, dropped the phone, how's it going there?" 

"It's fine, I'm with Det. Ellison now, I should be back there in under an hour."

"OK.  Good.  See you soon."  And Xander rang off apparently still engrossed in whatever weird show he was watching on the tv.

Reassured that Xander was doing fine Spike put away his phone only to see Ellison staring at him with a strange look on his face, "Bollywood?"  The one word made into a question by the inflection of his voice.

Spike looked at his phone in confusion before remembering that he was talking to another Sentinel, this one fully mature and in control of his senses, of course he'd heard the TV in the background of the telephone call.  "Yeah, he said something about finding a Bollywood triple bill, I've no idea what that means but he seemed happy about it."

"You worry about him don't you."  Jim stated.

Spike could see that a corner had been turned in the conversation, "I do, he's handling all this pretty well but last night was really bad."

Jim nodded, he'd obviously made a decision, "you get back to him, bring him to the loft tomorrow evening about the same time and we'll have dinner and talk, Blair's a very good cook."

Grateful that they were going to help Spike shook Jim's hand and headed to Xander's car for the trip back to Federal Way.  As he walked across the parking lot he'd have sworn he heard the other man muttering "I thought Blessed Protector was a strictly Sentinel role."

A/N : There you are, another 6500 words, now if that's not worth 5 or 10 words of a reveiw in reply I don't know what is.  Please review NOW!



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