Cigarette Ends
by Tesla

Nothing but cigarette ends left in the ash-tray, nothing but plastic tubs of cold pig's blood in the mini-fridge, and Spike was planning a stealth attack to steal Jessica Harris' cigs.

What kind of demented parents stuck their kid down here in the basement and didn't seem at all perturbed by the pale Brit punk that had taken up residence? Not that Spike cared, he was just intellectually curious. Got most of his questions answered by being stuck here with Harris, he had. Why the kid was so aggressively funny; covering up a volcano of rage and hurt at the world, and if he couldn't go out and kill things with the Slayer, kid'd blow up.

Jessica would give him a smoke if he asked. This was just a day when he bloody well didn't feel like playing nice. Oh, yeah, he could trot out the good manners, be a little undead gent, but he could wait out the nicotine fit for a while longer before doing that.

Harris didn't even unclench in his sleep. Could be the working some crap job, and slaying by night, but Harris fell into bed like a toppled tombstone and didn't make a sound. He had started out by forgetting to tie up Spike, and then he just left it off, altogether.

Didn't really matter. Harris was useless and Spike was toothless. And when the upstairs was pacified, the downstairs slept the sleep of the dead, so Spike may as well contribute to the domestic tranquility. He felt the same way he had when Harris had told him that he wasn't worth kicking. When he had to wear Harris' clothes.

Funny how things could be so utterly crap, but he still wanted to exist.

Maybe it was the old urge to just persist, wait a year or sixteen and see if things got better. He had waited, hadn't he, and old Angelus had turned into a fluffy pouf; waited while Spike's spine healed and he could get out of the chair and leave the old man to the untender mercies of the Slayer. Waited, and he got out of the government lab. If he just waited, he'd get over this black dog feeling and maybe see a way to get the chip out. Couldn't give up, you had to muddle through the best you could and wait for your moment.

Sometimes the moments took a damned long time in coming.

He opened the dryer door and stuffed the laundry into a basket and hauled it upstairs.


"I think he's going to try to stake himself again," Xander said. "We need to take him out and let him kill something big."

"He's not a dog, Xander," Buffy said. "Evil vampire thing?"

"No, he's our attack dog," Xander said. "And I'm the one who is supposed to house and feed and generally take care of the pit bull, so I say we should exercise him. Use his pit-bullish-ness."

"He's just plotting something," Buffy said, absently, hefting a new cross-bow. "Isn't this sweet? The crank is so easy to work, my mom could use it." She held it out to Xander.

"Yeah, it is," Xander said admiringly. "Well, all right. Maybe he'll work off that excess---"he almost said, "brood" but caught himself, "- -funk in helping me with the pipes."

Buffy lowered the cross-bow, and stared at him. "I hope that's not bagpipes, because that would be really scary."

"Basement pipes." Xander fidgeted. "So, can I bring him out, on patrol?"

"Better not, Riley said he and his group are doing a sweep. In fact, I'm staying in, tonight."


Spike was still strong, and he liked working with tools, oddly enough. "So you just were pretending you didn't know anything, before, huh?" Xander asked, holding the pipe ends steady while Spike tightened them. "Didn't want to give away that you were a workingman, back in the day?"

Spike blinked at him. "Yeah," he said drily. "Plumber's assistant. Also dug tunnels round half of Sunnydale looking for that damn ring, and then the pouf smashed it."

"After all that, Angel broke the magic ring?" Xander asked, flabbergasted. "Jeeze, he's weird."

"Been tellin' folks that for years, " Spike grunted. "What the Slayer saw in the fat arsed bastard, I'll never know."

Xander stepped down. "We don't talk enough, Spike," he said. "I can listen forever to someone else who hates Angel."

"Yeah?" Spike said. "He's a freakin' traitor to the bloodline. Killed his own sire. Best time of my life was watchin' someone stick hot pokers into his fat belly."

"Fat, really, or just fat metaphorically?" Xander asked, getting a beer out of the fridge.

"Layer of fat under the skin. Well-fed git."

"What did he do?" Xander said. "Here, have a beer. Did he scream or was he all stoic?"

"Screamed like merry hell," Spike said, becoming animated. "Cursed an' swore somethin' fierce. You were paid back for him holdin' you out to me as bait, believe me." He twisted the top off the beer and gave Xander an almost friendly grin. "Good clean fun for all. Well, maybe not for Angel."

"Would've paid to see that," Xander conceded. He looked up at the ceiling. "Huh. The parents are oddly quiet tonight."

"They called out for liquor and cigarettes," Spike said neutrally. "Your mum sent me out to the curb with the money." He sat down on the sofa, and felt for the remote in the folds of the comforter. "They're probably quiet for the night."

Xander sat down and took the remote from Spike's resistless hand. "Sounds about right," he said.

"No patrol tonight?" Spike asked, taking a cigarette from the coffee table and straightening it.

"Nah," Xander said. "Big sweep by the soldier boys, so we're all staying in."

"Damn. Could've used a little violence, tonight." He fiddled with the cigarette until Xander, with a shrug, slid the Bic lighter across the coffee table to him. So, Spike dug out his pint of good bourbon he'd filched from the liquor delivery guy. All in the feeling of good fellowship, right?

It was the hellmouth conspiring against Xander, that the porn channel unscrambled just as he was feeling mellow and warm and remembering, belatedly, that he actually could have gone to see Anya. Suddenly, there was girl-on-girl action on the television screen, and he and Spike were afraid to blink for fear of missing it.

Xander was just thinking that he'd like to have someone else's hand on his cock, when there was, and somehow he had his hand in Spike's open zipper, Spike so very not cold, but warm, warm and silky, and they got each other off.

There was no kissing, that first time.

Xander wouldn't admit to himself that he was thinking in terms of first times.


Spike didn't talk to Xander about what they were doing with each other, late at night. He didn't want to piss off the guy, didn't want it to end. Spike needed it too badly. The first time was just jerking each other off to the porn; the next time was almost as fast, but Spike at least got his jeans off and got to get in bed with Xander. The third time, they kissed for the first time, and Spike had forgotten had good it all was, sex with a warm body. "Warm body," the living used that phrase carelessly, but Spike wasn't careless about Xander's warm body. Warmth all over, warm hand on Spike's cock, warm wet tongue in Spike's mouth, breath on his face and neck. The kid still didn't give away much, even in sleep, even with a vampire in bed with him. And, oh, yeah, Spike made it worthwhile for Xander to let him stay on the sofa-bed, instead of in the orange recliner.

It made things bearable, for a while. He could forget that he was living on pig's blood and too weak to end his laughable existence.

Know your enemy, Angelus used to say. Watch your perimeter, he'd say, when getting ready to launch an attack on a nest of demons. It was why Spike was such a good fighter, until he was chipped, at least.

The only prey he had was a houseful of Harrises, right now, and he couldn't do anything to them but get to know them.

The old man was an old blow-hard and functioning alcoholic; the mother was addicted to her "nerve prescription" and the liquor was just a chaser. There was plenty of room, still, upstairs; no real reason to shove the son out.

Until Spike really, really listened. Then, by hearing the pattern of footsteps, he figured that Tony was sleeping in Xander's old bedroom. Watching a little porn, sounded like; that solved the mystery of why the pay-per-view suddenly unscrambled. And also solved the mystery of the wife's pill problem. Well, part of it.

One afternoon, Spike was settling in to watch Passions, when he heard an odd buzzing. It was annoying, so during the commercial, he tracked it to the smoke detector upstairs. "Yo, Jess," he called, through the door. "What's burning?"

"What?" Mrs. Harris called, faintly.

Shrugging to himself, Spike went through the kitchen door, and found the kitchen wastebin smoldering. He upended it into the sink and hosed the rubbish.

Above his head, the smoke detector gave a final, feeble squawk, and died.

"Tony needs to change those batteries, I told him and told him," Jessica called. "Is something burning?"

"Took care o' it," he told her. "You dumped the ashtray in the bin with a live ash."

"Thanks, Spike," she said, standing in the kitchen doorway. "Listen, Spike. Are you going to move with Xander somewhere, like San Francisco? I mean, I'd pay you if you, did or something. Anything."

Spike's human brain thought, What the fuck? and his demon just rolled about, keening with glee. "Pay me, huh? You want to clear out the basement that badly?" He put on the expression he used to wear when Angelus was telling one of his boring instructional stories. "Tell me about it, love."

Turned out that the Harrises were in college, and had to quit when Jessica turned up pregnant. Tony had been a football player, and Jessica's family was well off. In fact, her family first insisted that she marry, then tied up her share of the family money to go to Xander,who was named for the grandfather with all the cash. Every anniversary made the couple resent each other more, and, apparently, the kid. Old Tone, seemed to be nicking money from his work, too; so, all around, the parents had so many things in their own lives that they weren't even noticing that their son was out flinging himself at beasties in company with the Slayer.

"Can you put the new batteries in?" Jessica asked, digging in a kitchen drawer.

"Sure," Spike said smoothly. The kid's boom box needed new batteries.

Divide and conquer, the old grand-sire used to say, but it wasn't even necessary, here; the Harrises despised each other and their son. So, that answered one of Spike's questions: why they didn't care about the punk downstairs---they were hoping he'd rid them of Xander.

Didn't know why he was interested, except there was nothing else to focus his energy upon. Fuck or fight, and there was nothing to fight, these times. Spike had to make himself be interested in something, or darker thoughts intervened: lost sires, lost loves, lost families, and the urge to let himself collapse into a pile of dust and be lost, forever, too.

So he continued to take an interest in the Harrises. Especially the moist and delicious one.


The funny thing was, Xander thought, that he was starting to be interested in Spike, care that he had dark moods, that, asleep, he had an unhappy look. If Xander woke up in the night, though, Spike would usually awaken, too, and would promptly put hand or mouth to Xander's cock. Spike seemed to be determined to keep Xander quiet and post-coitally asleep whenever possible.

Which was all good fun, as Fangless had said, but it was getting to be that it was taking a lot of effort to not think about Spike, so, thinking about him occurred. Thinking about the fine lines around Spike's eyes and mouth, that could so easily be smile lines. Spike smiled as if he hadn't meant to, as if a smile was surprised out of him by something Xander said.

Spike had odd scars, too, just under the surface of his skin, now that Xander had a finger-tip acquaintance with Spike's chest and back. Gorings by demon tusks, Xander supposed, or maybe scars from when Spike was human. The idea that someone had put a belt across human Spike's back gave Xander a curious feeling of comradeship, and that was wrong, wrong, wrong, and there was nothing that was right about Spike silently lifting the comforter of Xander's sofa-bed and sliding in between the sheets.

That moment before Spike's cool finger-tips touched Xander was the most exciting moment Xander had ever had in his admittedly action- packed life.


It was amazing what a bloke could find out, by being at all stealthy. Torn up invitations from the Lavelle family in the dustbin, receipts for hotel rooms in the dad's wallet, wads of cash in the mom's; pathetically small pay-stubs in Xander's. It was easy to nick a few bills here and there, along with the odd cigarette and can of beer.

Even more interesting were the insurance papers hidden in each bedroom; they each had insurance on the other, and looked as though they'd each done a bit of jigger-pokery with the signatures. Bits of torn paper stuck on the underside of the hall toilet seat, looking as though someone was flushing evidence; bits of conversation taking place at one end of the house with the other spouse in the den with Who Wants to Be A Millionaire blaring.

Seemed like this family wasn't going to be on COPS, but American Justice. Spike had better be good and careful he wasn't tied to the orange chair when the hired hit-man came through with the shot-gun. So it behooved him to keep the boy happy.

The boy was happy. Boy had scars on his back, like the ones Spike had from the wallopin' with the holy-water-soaked cane. Of course, that was Angelus' idea of foreplay....Spike lost himself in pleasurable memories of the Angelus 1.0, that was. Scars were too old for the demon girl to have done it.

Spike speculated what else went on, in these cosy little subdivisions atop the Hellmouth. Demon bars that sold O Pos, Angelus larking about sketching his victims, the old Master being trapped below Main Street for a hundred years: that was business as usual for in the vampire life. The idea that all these SUV-driving yuppies in Sunny D were merrily beating their kids, spouse-swapping, and plotting to kill each other was just neat. No wonder they never noticed all the mysterious deaths and disappearances; it was mother's milk to them.

"Ever wonder what the Hellmouth does to the average gent?" he asked Xander, one night when the Scooby Gang let Spike come along to kill a particularly large ugly. "How it influences them, even though they're in denial?"

"No," Xander said, shortly.

"I've often wondered," the Watcher surprised him by saying. "If it has such an effect on the demonic world, then it stands to reason that we are all affected in some manner."

"Insomnia if nothing else," Willow said, thoughtfully.

"Divorce rates, sky-high," Giles said. "But not so much petty crime, I would think."

"Too right," Spike said. "Happy meals on legs, that's what the night- beasties regard the usual car thieves and drug dealers. They're being tidily eaten and your cops chalk it up to gangs doing for each other."

No one really had anything to say in reply to that.

Spike and Xander paired off for their walk back to the basement. "All these nice little houses," Spike said, as if to himself. "All sorts of badness."

Xander's shoulders twitched. "I know you can hear my folks," he said, not looking at Spike.

"Not hard to do, old son. Not who I was talkin' about. When I was first here, you and the little red witch, and the Slayer, runnin' about every night, the Bronze full of tasty goodness, kids still parking up at the hills----and no one carin' if one or two or three kids didn't come home. Sort of like crack, innit? The parents lose the ability or interest in parentin'."

Xander worried at the cuticle of his thumbnail. "You think it's the Hellmouth?"

"Yeah. Got nothin' else to do all day but think about this hole."

"Thought you spent the day watching soaps and eating all my Doritos."

As they walked across the Harris lawn, Xander looked at the house windows. They were dark, with the faint blue outline of the televisions through the blinds. Once they were in the basement, Spike could smell the cigarette smoke through the floorboards, and he rubbed his thumb and fingertips against each other.

He was in bed with Xander, the next night, his hand on the boy's belly, when his nose itched. He looked up, and saw puffs of smoke rolling along the bottom edge of the upstairs door. In a flash, Spike was out of bed and in his jeans and boots, and pulled his tee-shirt on inside out. He listened for a moment, upstairs.

Fire was busily crackling.

"Xander, get up, get up," Spike yelled, and pulled on his duster. He jammed his spare shirt in his pocket, as the boy sat up. "Fire, damn it, move your arse!"

"My mom and dad!" Xander yelled, and made a leap for the stairs.

Spike caught him, wrapping him in the quilt. "It's too late," he said. "It's too late, come on," and while he couldn't hurt Xander he could wrap him in the quilt and drag him down and out. And Spike had cut it pretty damned close, but then he didn't have to breath.

Didn't like fires much, and sure didn't want a burning house collapsing on him.

Funny how the boy immediately believed him and let him hustle him out. Someone had already called the firetrucks, and the neighbors were huddled in little knots, in their dressing gowns and slippers.

Xander stared at the windows, now brightly lit, smoke leaking from every secret leak and crack. Tears were running down his face.

"How did you know?" he asked Spike.

"Was gettin' up," Spike said, lying easily. He shrugged on his coat. "Smelled it when I sat up and got my pants." He tucked the trailing edge of the quilt up over Xander's arm. "No heartbeats in there, anywhere, when I was shakin' you," he said. "Hear me, kid? They most likely smothered to death in their sleep."

Xander started shaking, and Spike slung an arm around his shoulders.


Spike was getting that itchy feeling on his skin that said daybreak was coming. The firemen and the police were still taking statements. Their ID's were lost in the fire, Spike told them. Yes, they had a place to stay. Yes, that was the family car on the street.

"Where's that?" Xander said dully, watching Spike rip into the steering column of Tony Harris' car.

"My old crypt. Checked it out, last time we went by. Harm cleared out and didn't take anything. Still has a bed, chair, shower and such." The car started. "I'm open for suggestions, but the Slayer's probably with Soldier Boy, and the witches---"

"That's fine," Xander said, slumped in the seat. "I don't care."

Spike had lied, of course. He'd been readying it for a while, in case his arrangement with the boy went sour.

"You could have left me," Xander said, presently. "You could have just cleared out."

"Suppose so," Spike said. He edged the car along the ruts of the cemetery road, close to his old crypt. "Didn't."

Xander didn't say anything else. He folowed Spike in a zombie-like fashion, not blinking as Spike lifted the slab and switched on the stolen electricity to the lower crypt, just wrapping the quilt around him and going down the ladder. Spike let the trap-door slam above them, and went about, lighting Harmony's silly scented candles. He dropped his coat on a peg, and noticed that Xander was standing in the middle of the rug, just staring at nothing.

Spike pulled and pushed him to the bed, and sat down, himself, shedding his boots. "C'mon," he said, gruffly.

"I always knew she'd burn the house down," Xander said in an odd voice, and then began crying.

Spike didn't know if he was angrier at himself or at the kid, his face and throat felt tight either way. He pulled the kid to him and tried to rub some warmth in him by friction, and that's how they fucked the first time, Xander's face still wet, his ridiculous long lashes clumped together with tears, and the shudder of his sobs turned seamlessly into shudders of sensation, his legs around Spike's waist, his arms around Spike's neck, so impossibly tight.

Spike had forgotten how brilliant it was, being inside the living.


Xander felt guilty. He'd been granted all his secret, dirtiest wishes, all in the same night, but he'd never wanted to be an orphan. He'd just wanted to be rid of Tony and Jessica and their quarrels and the old memories and scars. He never knew that he wanted them dead, gone, the whole House of Pain burned to ashes. Until his wishes came true, that is. No parents and orgasms so good that Xander forgot who he was and where he was and that he would have two gravestones to remember not to walk on, next time he ran through a cemetery.

Uncle Rory came through and Xander didn't have to worry about any of that stuff; he walked through it all and came back to his vampire every night.

The thing that no one could believe was that Spike had pulled him out of the fire and refused to let him go in, that Spike had taken care of Xander and that Xander was staying with the undead. In his crypt. Xander had to finally admit to Willow that Spike was not Xander's enemy, but his boyfriend.

"Your boyfriend?" Willow repeated, her face slack with disbelief. "Your boyfriend? I'm sorry, Xander, it's not that you're coming out, 'cause, uh, I've always wondered, a bit, but that it's Spike."

"Remember how Angel was to Buffy? All with the right-by-your-side and the slaying demons and the, uh, smooching? Only there's no soulless rampage because of the chip." There was cuddling and holding when Xander had nightmares; there was sex and more sex and---"What do you mean, you wondered? I didn't know I liked guys until Spike."

"Never mind that," Willow said diplomatically. "Hey, I know Spike's harmless, and he's kinda helpful and puts on that sarcastic act because he's embarrassed. But you've always hated him."

"He saved me, Will. He could have taken off, and he didn't. He's taken care of me ever since."

"Nobody's arguing," Willow said. "Giles has been sayin' that Spike could be really helpful."

"Yeah," Xander said. Spike was already helping, because all of Xander's friends were more interested in their sudden couple-ness, than why Xander didn't seem to mind being an orphan. Xander didn't want to think about it, either.

That's where everything stayed, Xander being the only living resident in a crypt,and may have stayed for a while, until uncle Rory came and found Xander at the Espresso Pump and said that both his folks had had insurance policies with double indemnity, and that it was all Xander's.

"You can go to the university, then," his vampire said, flipping through a magazine and tossing it into a garbage sack. "Buy yourself a new guitar and Star Wars action figures and have a normal life." They were cleaning up the crypt, which was no surprise, since Spike was the tidiest creature of the night Xander had known.

"This is Sunnydale," Xander said. "What's normal? Where else is a guy happy his parents are dead?"

Spike was right there, touching his hair and his face. "A guy who had bad parents," Spike said intensely. "Parents who never deserved to have a kid."

Xander dropped his head on Spike's shoulder. "You understand, don't you? You---you had parents like that, didn't you? That's why you know."

Spike hesitated. "Yeah," he said. "That's why."


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