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"Hold on!" Wil called out, sounding far away.
"Wil? Is that you?" Alexander asked cautiously, noticing that Wil's voice sounded deeper and not quite his own.
The door opened and Alexander found himself looking at Wil's throat.
Slowly, he looked up until he was looking into Wil's clear blue eyes.
"Come on in Pop. We'll be ready to go in a minute. I guess we took too long in the shower." Wil said quickly as he stepped away from the door.
Alexander blinked with surprise as the fact finally registered that Wil was dripping wet and covered only by a towel draped around his waist.
"Pop?" Wil prompted, looking at Alexander with concern.
"What?" Alexander asked absently as he stared at his son.
"Will you come in and close the door? It's not all the way dark yet." Wil asked slowly, not understanding his father's mood.
Alexander blinked, then blinked again.
"Is something wrong?" Wil asked as he took a step closer to Alexander.
"No... It's just... you've grown again." Alexander said in a disbelieving voice.
"Yeah. I do that a lot." Wil said, then turned toward the bathroom and said in a louder voice, "It's okay. It's Pop."
Alexander finally seemed to get over the shock of seeing his son looking like a young adult as he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.
"I'll be dressed in a mo." Wil said quickly as he retreated into the bathroom.
Alexander stared at the bathroom door for a moment, then Wil's earlier words registered.
"You and Spike were showering together?" Alexander asked cautiously.
Spike stepped out of the bathroom wearing only a towel loosely knotted at the hip.
"Yeah mate. I s'pose we need to have us a talk about that." Spike said uncomfortably as he walked past the bed and picked up the faded blue jeans that were draped over the arm of a chair at the far side of the room.
"Spike, you and Wil aren't... he's just a child." Alexander stammered with a devastated look.
"No I'm not." Wil said in a firm voice as he walked out of the bathroom.
Alexander was about to respond when he saw what Wil was wearing.
He was bare-chested and the sweat pants that he had been wearing comfortably just that morning looked as though they had been painted onto his body. The legs of the pants barely made it half-way down his calves and the tightly stretched fabric left nothing to the imagination.
"Do you think that I could borrow something of Dad's? I can't go out wearing this." Wil said as he emphasized his words by spreading his arms and presenting himself to his father.
"Yeah." Alexander said absently, then turned his attention back to Spike and asked, "How could you?"
Before Spike could answer, Wil quickly said, "Spike didn't do anything wrong. Everything that happened was because I wanted it to."
Alexander turned his worried gaze back to his son and he seemed to be on the verge of tears.
"Do you remember what puberty was like for you?" Wil asked his father seriously.
Alexander blinked back his tears, then reluctantly nodded.
"I hit puberty at about seven o'clock this morning... and I hit it hard." Wil said frankly.
Spike snorted his agreement, then fought to restrain his reaction to see what Alexander was going to do next.
"But he's your father..." Alexander sputtered.
"No." Wil said firmly. "He's not."
Silence filled the room.
Alexander finally forced himself to look Wil in the eyes and found absolute seriousness looking back at him.
"Pop. I think because you were raised as a human, you're looking at this from their point of view." Wil said slowly.
"I'm a demon. I'm not human. I can't ever be human... not even for you." Wil finished with regret.
"I don't want you to be human. But you're so young. It's too soon for you to become involved like this." Alexander said in an anguished whisper.
"Maybe that's how it was for you, but I needed to do this. Spike and I are bonded. He is my mate... forever." Wil said as he stared his father in the eyes.
"That's right. Forever." Spike said as he walked to Wil's side.
Alexander blinked back his tears again, then looked from Spike to Wil, trying to absorb the enormity of the situation.
"I think I understand why you feel like you feel, but look at me." Wil said imploringly.
Alexander looked at Wil, looking every bit of eighteen years old.
"Not only my body grew up." Wil said in a whisper.
Alexander took in a slow breath, then reluctantly nodded.
Wil let out a gust of breath in relief, feeling that the crisis had been averted.
"Forever?" Alexander asked in a small voice.
"Forever." Wil and Spike responded in unison.
* * * * *
"Thanks for the loan of the clothes Dad... although I feel like a bloody ponce dressed up in a button down shirt." Wil said as he and Spike walked toward the car.
"William?" Wesley asked with a look of obvious surprise in his eyes.
"Pop said that he already told you that I'd grown up." Wil said, then looked at Alexander with question.
"Yes. Although he seemed to be more focused on other of your recent developments." Wesley said cautiously.
//Looking good Wil!// Dawn said as she emerged from the car in a hazy green mist, never fully taking form.
"Thanks Dawn." Wil said shyly.
"Yes William. Well done." Wesley said, now back to his usual proper tone.
"Thanks Dad." Wil said, then ran to Wesley to give him a firm hug.
"Unless anyone needs anything, I think it's time for us to be on our way." Alexander said frankly.
"Are you really okay with... you know, me and Wil?" Spike asked Alexander cautiously.
"Yeah Spike. But on the way back to Angel's, we need to have a nice long talk about your plans for the future." Alexander said frankly.
"As long as you don't forget the 'nice' part." Wil said as he released Wesley from the hug, then turned to look Alexander in the eyes.
"Nice. I promise." Alexander said gently.
Wil gave a single nod, then looked at Spike with a smile.
"If we were to leave immediately, we should be able to complete the drive to Los Angeles before daybreak." Wesley said quietly to the group.
"That's right. Everyone get in. We're burning moonlight." Alexander said with a glimmer of his youthful humor that had been noticeably absent.
"Did you get the vampire snacks?" Wil asked as he moved to Spike's side.
"We got vampire snacks, human snacks... and if the convenience store sold 'key' snacks, we'd have those too." Alexander said with cheer as he automatically moved to the passenger side of the car.
"I also took the liberty of purchasing these." Wesley said as he presented a pack of cigarettes to Spike.
"Ta mate. Right decent." Spike said to Wesley with appreciation.
* * * * *
"I think it's time that we discussed your plans for the future." Alexander said as he turned in his seat to find Wil and Spike snuggled together.
"We will if you will." Wil answered immediately.
"Please Wil, I'm being serious." Alexander said in a fatherly tone.
"So am I." Wil said frankly. "How is our situation different from yours?"
"Well I..." Alexander began to say, but trailed off.
"Wesley..." He began, then faltered again.
"Round one goes to you mate." Spike said with a chuckle as he snuggled Wil a little bit closer.
"I believe Alexander and I should find some way to formalize our relationship." Wesley said, surprising everyone else in the car.
After a long moment of silence, Alexander slowly asked, "You want to marry me?"
"In a manner of speaking." Wesley said carefully.
"What *exactly* does that mean?" Alexander asked as he shifted himself slightly so that he was facing Wesley fully.
Wesley glanced at Alexander for a moment, then turned his attention back to the road as he said, "It occurs to me that, for our family to enjoy anything resembling a sense of normalcy, it will be necessary for us to live our lives among the demon community."
"Normalcy?" Alexander asked cautiously.
"Thus far we have been living in a gray area that exists between the demon and human communities. We have tastes of both, but dwell in neither." Wesley said seriously.
Alexander slowly nodded that he understood what Wesley was saying.
"William asked about our plans for the future. The future I envision for us includes friends... Neighbors..."
"Community." Alexander said as he nodded again.
"Acknowledging the fact that the majority of our family are demons, it seems most reasonable for us to make a place for ourselves in the demon community." Wesley said frankly.
"It sounds like you've been giving this a lot of thought." Alexander said softly.
"Yes. In a sense." Wesley said carefully. "Shortly after William was born, I began to consider what future might lay before him. When the time came for you to make decisions, I wanted to be able to offer sound and well thought out reasoning."
"Yeah. That sounds like you Dad." Wil said with a delighted giggle.
Alexander smiled at the comment, then said, "So if we're not going to get married, what are we going to do?"
"As I understand the customs of the demon community, you must claim me so that we will be seen as bonded." Wesley said frankly.
"How do I do that?" Alexander asked cautiously.
"My knowledge of such things is extremely limited. Perhaps Lorn or Angel would be able to advise us on that." Wesley said in a slightly apologetic voice.
"I think we should talk to the Shamenka about it. I have the feeling that she would not only know what needs to be done, but I think that she's respected enough in the demon community, that if she said that we were married, no one would go against her." Alexander said thoughtfully.
"Yes. I should have considered that possibility." Wesley said distantly.
"If you're sure you want to do it, I can set it up when we get home." Alexander said seriously.
"Yes Alexander. I am completely sure." Wesley said and betrayed a small smile.
"So guys, do you have any idea of what you want to do?" Alexander asked as he looked into the back seat.
"Doing it the demon way could be a problem for us." Wil said with a hesitant look at Spike.
"Why is that?" Alexander asked with concern.
"It's just... it might be better if we tried to live with humans." Wil said, looking like he really didn't want to talk about it.
"What Wil is trying not to say is that in the demon community, I'm going to be seen as his property." Spike said with regret.
Wil looked at Alexander and nodded.
"Property? Why would that be?" Alexander asked with concern.
"Because the demon community operates on the philosophy of dominance or submission. The stronger member of the couple is considered the owner of the weaker." Wesley said in a toneless voice as he kept his attention focused on the road before him.
"So does that mean?..." Alexander hesitantly asked as his mind tried to assimilate the new concept.
"Since you are the stronger of us, you would be seen as the dominant and I would be seen as your consort." Wesley said quietly.
"Maybe all of us should find a way to live in the human world." Alexander said distantly.
"No." Wesley said immediately. "How happy could we be together when you have to hide who and what you truly are?"
"But how happy could you be living in a community that looks at you as my property?" Alexander countered.
"It isn't like that mate." Spike said from the back seat.
At Alexander's inquiring look, Spike continued, "This isn't like slavery or anything like that. All it does is says that the stronger one of you speaks for you both. That and you'd be responsible for protecting Wesley."
"Think about it Pop. That's why master vampires are masters. They're the strongest. You have to do as the master says, but while you're a member of his house, you're under his protection." Wil said seriously.
"Angel is a master vampire and you have been living in his house, under his protection, since you arrived in Los Angeles." Wesley said quietly.
After a moment, Alexander said, "I never considered it like that."
"Of course you didn't Pop. You're still thinking like a human." Wil said with a giggle.
"I'll have to work on that." Alexander said with a smile at his son.
"Does that mean that you would still be willing to formalize our relationship?" Wesley asked cautiously.
"As long as you don't have a problem with it... yeah. I would really like to." Alexander said to Wesley peacefully.
"Kewl." Wil said with a delighted giggle.
"But what about you guys?" Alexander asked with concern as he turned in his seat to look at Wil and Spike.
"It's different for us." Wil said with regret.
"Why?" Alexander asked with concern at his son's tone.
"Because I'm stronger than Spike." Wil said frankly.
"And?" Alexander prompted, not understanding the source of their problem.
"And even though we love each other, Spike couldn't be happy living as my consort. He needs to be dominant." Wil said with regret at saying the words.
"Spike?" Alexander asked cautiously.
"I'd give it a good go and try... but we both know that I couldn't last long being submissive... I'm just not wired that way." Spike said with pain.
"Could you, perhaps, become stronger?" Wesley asked carefully.
"Maybe. But it would probably take a decade or two." Spike said thoughtfully.
"Why so long?" Alexander asked curiously.
"Because the reason I'm so weak is because the bloody arse hole, Danforth Giles, kept me starved of blood for years. He only gave me enough to keep me from turning to dust, but never enough to build up any strength." Spike said quietly. "Building any real strength takes years of feeding."
"So what are you going to do?" Alexander asked cautiously.
"We're going to stay together." Wil said firmly as he looked Spike in the eyes. "You are mine. Forever."
"Forever." Spike confirmed.
"We'll figure out the rest." Wil said as he finally turned to look at his father again.
"That's right mate." Spike said as he pulled Wil to snuggle against him. "We'll make it work."
"What about you Dawn? Have you thought about your plans for the future?" Alexander asked as he turned to face the glove compartment of the car.
//I think I'm going to go back to Cleveland and see what I can do about the hellmouth now that I have full access to my power.// Dawn said frankly.
"Yeah. You could probably be a lot of help to them." Alexander said thoughtfully.
"Just please be careful Miss Summers. You are very dear to all of us." Wesley said in an uncharacteristic tender voice.
//Thanks Wesley. I will. I just think that in my true form as a key, I should be able to help Buffy and the others figure out how to close the hellmouth without destroying half the city.// Dawn said, and her commitment to the quest could be heard in her mind/voice.
After a moment of consideration, Alexander said, "This could mean that it's finally over. *All* the hellmouths could be closed. The world could be completely safe from extra-dimensional invasion."
//That's right. And if we can manage that... well, then maybe I can find someone and settle down like you guys are doing.// Dawn said more quietly.
"Do you have anyone in mind?" Alexander asked with a tender smile directed at the glove box.
//No. Not yet. But if I could find someone like Tara... I loved her so much.// Dawn said as her emotions carried under the words. //I miss her.//
"We all do Dawnie." Alexander said, remembering the beautiful, wonderful person that Tara had been.
After a long moment of silence, Wil's voice came from the back seat, "Dad, would you mind pulling over for a few minutes. I'm thinking Spike is a little past ready for a cigarette."
"Yes. It's still quite a distance to the next rest area. I think we would all benefit from a minute or two to stretch our legs." Wesley said as he guided the car off the road.
* * * * *
The conversation turned to lighter subjects as they continued on their drive toward Los Angeles.
When they finally arrived, the group stiffly emerged from the car, all very ready for a long day of rest.
"I could really go for a nice warm cup of blood before bed. How about you?" Wil asked as he automatically picked up the ice chest to bring it inside.
"That sounds good." Spike said as he looked at the Hyperion Hotel nervously.
"Don't worry Spike. This is a safe place." Alexander said assuringly.
Spike nodded that he heard, but didn't look any less nervous.
"If it'll make you feel better, we'll talk to great-grandpa Angel before we go to bed." Wil said cheerfully.
"S'pose it's best to get it over with." Spike said frankly.
"Well, I need a shower. We'll be down to the kitchen in a few minutes." Alexander said as the group walked into the lobby.
"Take your time. Get Dad to wash your back." Wil said with a smile, then added, "And maybe your front."
Alexander chuckled and said, "We may just do that."
Editor's Notes: It is nice to see a new chapter in this story. I can hardly wait for more, as is always the case, I'm afraid. The funny thing is that it wouldn't surprise me in the least if there is another one very soon. Grin.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher