Sweeter Far Than Flowing Honey

There was a long, nerve-scraping squeal of tires locking and skidding on damp, oiled pavement - the jangling crump of metal compacting and glass shattering.  Spike hopped down from the cemetery wall and sauntered up the street - around the corner.  There had been a section of pavement removed and a trench dug to accommodate new pipes or conduits.   The trench was deep - half a car-length wide and bristling with re-bar.  Spike had piled the 'Detour' and 'Danger' and 'Men Working' signs up behind some bushes, half an hour before.  And then he'd waited, sitting in the shadow of an overgrown yew, hunger rippling in his belly like a snake.

There were three bodies in the car.   The driver was thrown half out of the side window, his arm hanging useless and crooked, face streaked with blood.  The front passenger was through the window screen and Spike chuckled as he jumped down into the trench. 

"Should always wear your seatbelt, love - didn't you learn?" he said, grinning down at the rag-doll body that lay crumpled, wedged between trench-wall and the tilting, mangled hood.  She was glassy-eyed and barely breathing and Spike changed - leaned down and put his mouth to the steadily bleeding furrow near her hairline.  Her skull moved under his lips as he pressed down, sucking up blood as fast as it would flow.  After a few minutes her heartbeat stuttered and stopped and Spike moved on to the driver, latching onto the gash torn across his chest and upper shoulder, taking what blood was left.   Taking from the unconscious - from wounds he didn't try to make - circumnavigated the chip quite nicely.

Nearly full now, he turned to the third passenger.  Another girl, crushed between the back seat and the driver's seat, her head at an unnatural angle.   Spike bit, groaning in ecstasy as the hot, vital blood poured down his throat.  He drained her swiftly, pressing on her chest to force the blood to move.  He pulled a shard of glass free of her hair - it had nicked her scalp - and imbedded it in her throat, obscuring the bite-marks.  The snake-twist of hunger was gone now, leaving only a warm rush of sparks as the blood worked through him, revitalizing him.  Magic in the blood, blood in the magic - endless loop of need and satiation.  

Feeling much better, Spike quickly stripped cash out of wallet and purses - took a diamond and gold ring off a lax and blood-stained hand.  The music in the car didn't interest him and there was nothing in the trunk.  Spike bounced up out of the trench - made sure he was blood-free - and then sauntered down the street, heading for his crypt.  Sunrise in a few hours and he had a bottle of Jack to kill.  If he was lucky he'd be so drunk that when the Slayer came to annoy him - as she did every single fucking day - she wouldn't be able to wake him.  Sirens wailed, blocks away, and he lit a cigarette and took a long, satisfying drag.  *Too late, too late.*




Spike was bored, bored, bored.  It was true, he did spend a lot of time finding new and inventive ways to feed but once he'd done that - he was bored again.   Sunnydale was too fucking small - too fucking provincial and he couldn't believe the ignorance that kept the Happy Meals out and about night after night, blithely ignoring the deaths that stalked them.  Spike smoked, discontented - watched the little girls shimmy and strut on the dance floor of the Bronze.   Doing their best to look older - wiser - more experienced than they were.  He'd had a few, up here on the catwalk.  Watching their mates as he took them from behind.  Had a few of the boys, too - sweet, virgin flesh that sweated and quivered and grasped at him with a desperate need.  But sex without blood was boring - without Dru was boring.  He missed her, but he was damned if he was going back to her like this.  Cut into and...interfered with.  Made less.   No, he wouldn't be going back to Dru until he was whole again and for that reason he had to stay in Sunnydale.   That and Spike had expensive habits, and Sunnydale was ripe for the picking.

Besides, the Slayer and her groupies provided a measure of protection and emergency cash if all else failed.  And they relieved the boredom in their own special, white-hat way.  They'd been so easy to fuck with; they'd fractured so nicely in all that mess with Adam and the Initiative.  The girls all put-upon and huffy, protesting too much that they didn't look down on Harris, or each other.  And Harris hiding a lifetime of inferiority behind a studied indifference and physical labor that left him exhausted.   'Too tired', he said, to patrol - too tired to socialize.  Chip on his shoulder the size of Gibraltar and a head twice as hard.   Made it fun to poke at him, though - fun to pluck his strings and watch him dance.  Harris' bitterness had driven the ex-demon right off.  Greener pastures, she'd said, and headed for L.A. 

*And much joy may she find there,* Spike thought, and downed his shot.  Harris had taken to hanging out with the ex-soldier - bonding over beer and bachelorhood.  The Slayer had cooled on her G.I. Joe rather quickly when he'd lost his drug-enhanced specialness and now the two men skulked on the periphery, drinking beer and 'shooting hoops' at the Y after hours - making a lie of Harris' too tired spiel and that seemed to be part of the bonding, too.  It put Spike's teeth on edge.   They came into the Bronze some nights and growled and shoved - told him to fuck off.  Some nights he did.  Some nights he had a bit of something on a string and he pulled it right there in front of them.  Went off into the back room or a dark corner or - fuck - the dance floor and took what he wanted, cunt or ass or mouth.  Harris' eyes and Finn's followed him, black pits of anger and seething resentment.


Spike had just dusted a vamp and taken over his kill - like lions did, and that made him grin - when he caught sight of something a bit more interesting.  The red witch, scurrying down an alley and looking much, much too secretive and nervous to be up to anything - good.  Smirking, Spike followed, silent in his boots and coat.  Predator even if he couldn't pounce the little morsels.  When the witch stopped and looked around and then shivered into nothingness, Spike laughed aloud. 

*Rack.  What could Little Red Riding Hood be doing, going to Rack?  This'll be good for something, that's for sure...*   Spike waited until Red came out again - walking like a junkie, arms tight around her ribs - smelling of desperation and burning.  Then he flicked his cigarette butt away and strode forward and through the cloak that hid Rack's lair.  Like walking through a veil of cobweb and acid and he shook himself, standing in Rack's jumble-sale waiting room and watching the little boys and girls scramble to avoid him.  Rack himself came to his door, scowling and cursing.  Coming to see what was tremoring his trip-wires.

"Ssspike.  What do you want?" he said, and Spike pushed past him, kicking a cushion out of his way and sprawling down onto a couch, lighting up again and blowing the smoke casually at Rack's scarred face.  He'd done too much delving, this one, and he was sufficiently wary of Spike's reputation to risk getting on Spike's bad side.

"Oh, you know me - I'm just out and about, looking for a spot of fun.  Or violence.  All the same, really."  Spike watched as Rack slumped down onto his own couch, errant energies shimmering around his hands as he summoned a flask and cup to himself.

"No violence here, Spike - you know that.  We're all about...feeling good."  Rack poured something sticky looking and amber-green into the cup and drank it slowly and Spike watched him, smoking.  When cigarette and drink were gone, Spike reached out and picked up a long, smoke-stained bone that was poking out from under a cushion.

"Tell me, what were you doing with that luscious little red-headed thing, hmm?"

"Ooh, Strawberry-girl?   She was a treat, let me tell you.   So good she made my teeth hurt - and so bad -" Rack shifted on his couch, undulating.  "So bad, she made my cock hard.   Belladonna and sodapop.  Wha'dya want with her?"

"Oh, it's not what I want - it's what you want.  She's got power and to spare, that one.  Can feel it same as looking at her."  Spike tested the bone in his fingers, flexing it slightly.

"Mmm, yeah," Rack said, and he sat up a little straighter, looking at Spike.  "She runs with the Slayer."

"I know that.  Know where she lives, too - know what she does with her nights, who she talks to...  Know a lot about her and I just bet..."  Spike gestured with the bone and Rack sent the flask gliding over to him, riding on the air as light as goose-down.  "I just bet you'd love to get your hands on what she's got under those fluffy little sweaters she wears.  Under that fluffy little heart."   Spike opened the flask - took a long swig.  Ice and mint and blood on his tongue and he grinned.  Rack always had the best.

"Who wouldn't?  She's a sweet little treat.  But that kind of power - takes some doing, to sneak up on that."  Rack steepled his fingers and looked contemplatively up at the ceiling.  Spike ignored the little scurrying things that swarmed up there, instead concentrating on scoring the bone with his nail, the flask left hovering in the air near his shoulder like a silver bee.

"But you - could come up with something, couldn't you?   Something to - trip her up.  Get her right where you wanted her and then...suck her dry, like marrow from a bone."  The bone cracked in Spike's hands and Rack flinched, just a little.

"There's enough there for four or five of me.  If I could get a lodestone on her..."  Rack's voice trailed off and he licked his lips, imagining.  Spike inspected the dry hollow of the broken bone and tossed it aside, dusting his hands and going for another smoke.  Rack didn't mean a lodestone like the sailors used - he meant a cunning little cantrip that would take the witch's magic and turn it in on itself - like attracted to like and she wouldn't be able to use it unless someone - Rack, presumably - said the word.  Trapped like a fly in amber until he needed her...wanted her.

"Now that, you see, is something I could do," Spike said finally, breaking the silence.  "Easy as a song, that."  Rack's eyebrows went up and Spike grinned, pluming smoke.  "She trusts me.  Thinks she knows a thing or two about me.  Thinks she's got the upper hand.  They all do," Spike added, snarling a little, and Rack laughed, slow and soft.

"I heard, you know.  About the soldiers - about Miss Maggie?  Talk of the demon grapevine for months.  I know what they did, Spike."  Rack twitched his fingers and the flask drifted back to him.  He poured out another measure of the liquid and drank it while Spike finished his cigarette, glaring through the smoke at the man's small, twisted smile.

"I can fix it, you know.  I've done a couple already.  They weren't very careful with their - guinea pigs.  It's an easy fix, too.  It'll only cost you..."  Rack's voice trailed off, his mouth widening into an anticipatory grin and Spike grinned back.

"One Strawberry-girl," Spike murmured happily and Rack laughed again, little flickers of red worming along his fingertips and launching themselves up into the air, thinning and fading just like the smoke from Spike's cigarette.




Rack took his time, coming up with his lodestone - wanted it just right, he said, and Spike jittered impatiently for days, frustrated and getting antsy.  Once there was a plan he liked to put it in motion - liked to get it done.  But Rack was all opium-slow and trance-distracted, working his magic like he worked his string of clients - one exquisite drop at a time.

Three days of other frustrations put Spike at Willy's, scoring a little junk to ease the jangle of his nerves and quiet the hunger that was sinking its bone-needle teeth into his innards.  The Slayer was on some tear, looking for this or that or the other - looking for information.  Looking for connections or rumors or something and she'd cornered him in his crypt two times, breaking bones and glassware in her hunt.  Spike needed blood and he hadn't been able to arrange anything, hurt as he was.  Pain and hunger and a rage he couldn't vent boiling inside, eating his gut and making him snarl at Willy who had the grace to cower and shuffle a little faster.   Cash tossed onto the bar, little foil packets pushed into his waiting hand and Spike stalked out - made his way downtown, his ribs aching and his face stiff.  Not letting go of the demon because his cheekbone was broken and it felt better, that way.  Didn't hurt as much.  Over to the Turning Worm and a back room and a seen-better-days couch where he could cook up - shoot up - groan in agonized relief as the drug slammed through him, unkinking every muscle and joint with a rapturous shudder.    He kicked his boots off and tossed his coat over the back of the couch - stripped off his shirt and belt and undid the top button of his jeans.  Working tonight, because he was too damn hungry not to.  And the heroin and the willing clients combined made it nearly pain-free.  The Turning Worm was happy, besides, to have a vampire of name coming by and always made accommodation. 

Spike found a place to drape himself, hand on his belly and eyes half shut, swimming in the warm, red haze of the drug.   Human-faced now, broken bone notwithstanding.  Two clients in rapid succession gave him a blood-buzz on top of everything else and the throb of the chip-headache was a background thing - false heartbeat that he could move to.  The third client shucked his jeans and settled over Spike - around Spike with a sigh and a sob, shuddering as fangs sank into a bite-scarred pectoral.  Half-concealed behind a swathe of lank hair and narrow rib-cage Spike watched in detached amazement as someone he recognized - two someones - pushed in through the door - looked around furtively and then headed upstairs.   Spike nearly choked on the sweet-sour blood in his mouth and he sucked hard, hips jerking up once and then twice and the man astride him bucked and moaned and slid away, half unconscious.  One of the bouncers stirred from his place by the door and stomped over, scowling.

"Hey, you took too much!" 

"Fuck off," Spike snapped, wiping fastidiously at himself with a wet towel and doing up his jeans - stalking away upstairs, searching.  And finding, in one of the back bedrooms.  Corn-fed himself, sprawled half naked on a crooked mattress, a heavy-set female vamp undulating over him.  Rising and falling, slow rhythm of fuck and suck.  Her fangs were sunk deep into Finn's trapezius muscle and his hands were splayed in the small of her back and the back of her head, pressing her close.  Harris off in the corner, slouched down in ratty arm-chair, his jeans undone and his hand slowly stroking.  Watching, Spike was amused to see, not the vamp but Finn.  Eyes glittering with lust and anger and maybe tears.  Spike leaned in the doorway and watched until Finn gasped to a choking climax and immediately pushed the vamp away.  She hissed in disapproval, twitching up a dress from the footboard and swaying regally into the dim blue closet of the attached bathroom.  Harris still watched - watched Finn get up and clean himself - watched him bend and yank on his jeans and then Harris came too, silently, into a wad of paper towels.  He was put away and zipped up by the time Finn found his shoes and Spike laughed aloud, startling them both.

"Oh fuck -" from Harris, and an inarticulate sound of surprise from Finn.  Spike grinned at them.

"Well, well, well.  What have we here?  A couple of white-hats getting down and dirty.  Does the Slayer know you're here?  Or is this a kind of - boy's night out thing?" 

"Shut up, Spike," Harris snapped, and Spike rounded on him - stalked over to the chair and slammed his hands down on the arm-rests, leaning in close.

"Oh, I don't think that being a rude little fuck is the way to go here, Harris," he said, and the boy cringed back from him for a moment before scowling harder.

"I'll go whatever way I want, Spike!  It's none of your fucking business what we do here."

"Sure it is -" Spike said, and then Finn was on him, grabbing his shoulder and yanking him away - aiming a punch at his sore cheek that Spike dodged, snarling.

"You're here, too," Finn snapped, panting a little.   "What are you doing, whoring for some free blood?  Sell yourself for a little suck?  Except you can't even do that, can you?" Finn sneered, and Spike growled, bringing up the demon.  Finn fell back a step but then stood firm, arms crossed over his chest, shirt flapping open and his neck bleeding sluggishly.  His smelled of hops and earth and sour perfume, the iron-tang of blood over all.

"I get paid to be here, Finn, and blood is what I need to live."  Spike licked his fangs and smirked when Finn took in a sharp breath.   "What's your excuse?  Tryin' to be bad?  Tryin' to get a little tarnish on all that brass?  She won't take you back, sojer-boy."

"This doesn't have anything to do with Buffy," Finn growled, and Spike laughed again - shrugged angrily away from Harris, who had gotten up and grabbed at Spike's arm.

"This has everything to do with the Slayer, and you know it.  Both of you know it.  And if you want me to not tell her...you're gonna have to play nice."  Spike smirked at them and saw Harris blanch. 

Finn swallowed, looking furtive for a moment but then he straightened back up.  "Or we could just stake you and not worry about it," he muttered, and Spike hissed.

"Never make it out of here alive, you git.   Now -"

"What the hell is that?"  Harris was grabbing him again - was staring at his arm and Spike twitched away, frowning.

"It's a bloody puncture from a bloody needle - what do you care?"

"You're doing drugs?" Harris gaped, and Spike snorted in amusement, staring at him.

"Yeah, I'm doing drugs.   And having unprotected sex and talkin' to the dimmest fuckin' nancy on the face of the sodding planet -"

"She won't believe you if you're high.  She won't believe you anyway - she doesn't trust you and - and she doesn't listen to you so you can just - fuck off," Harris stammered out.  He looked around and grabbed up a grubby jean-jacket - pushed at Finn, herding him toward the door.  "Just keep away from us, Spike, or you'll be sorry.  There's still some Initiative around and I'll bet they'd love to get you back in their labs.  Come on."  Harris huffed in exasperation as Finn darted over to grab his own jacket and then they were gone, clattering down the stairs and out of the place.  Spike stood for a long moment afterward, thinking.  Then he dressed, and followed them.




Following was easy - the trail of blood and sweat-stink, anger and lust and fear were like a thread of sour-apple and nightshade through the dry desert air.   They walked in head-bent silence until Finn suddenly stopped - turned and slammed his forearms flat to a shop wall, pressing his face into the wrinkled sleeves of his jacket.

"I can't do this, Xander, I can't -"

"Yes you can.  C'mon, Riley, it's - it's gonna be okay."  Harris hovered, his hands kneading the air, his eyes wide and his voice husked and uncertain. 

"No, I -  You know how hard it's been, since...since they stopped.  Since the drugs...  It hurts, Xander!  And the only - the only -"

"Riley, hey, I know, I know..."  Harris gave in finally - reached out and put his hand on Finn's shoulder, rubbing gently - squeezing just a little.  Soothing, and in his shadowed alcove Spike snorted softly.  No mistaking the look of longing and desire on Harris' face.

*More than one reason demon-girl left him...*

"Jesus, if Spike tells her - if I can't...  Xander, I have to go there!  I need it!  I -"  Finn spun around, hands clawing through his hair and his face streaked with wet tracks - tear tracks.  Harris fidgeted for a moment and then he touched again.  Slung his arm over Finn's shoulders and pulled him into a half-embrace.  Spike saw the covetous way Harris' hand curled around Finn's shoulder - how Harris pressed close at hip and thigh.

"He won't tell.  We'll - look, we'll just let him use it, okay?  Give him blood money and some cigarettes and let him - let him have his little game, okay?"  Harris' head was leaning in close to Finn's - eyes holding Finn's gaze as he talked, low and earnest.  Hand rubbing, squeezing, tugging at Finn's shoulder until Finn slumped a little, leaning on the shorter man.  "Spike'll forget all about it pretty quick, you'll see.  He's always - he's got the attention span of a four year old, okay Riley?  It won't last.  I promise."

*Take more than blankets and beads to buy me off, Harris,* Spike thought, and his lip lifted in a snarl at being - dismissed.

"C'mon - it'll be okay."  Finn shrugged and Harris squeezed his shoulder again.  "Listen, I've got some beer left, let's go back to my place, have a couple and just - relax, huh?  Watch some Sci-Fi Channel.  Okay?"  Little-boy excitement, barely concealed - hopeful tremor to his voice and Spike shook his head, grinning.  Harris had it bad for the Slayer's ex.

*Gagging for it.  Wonder if he'll make a move?  Wonder if Sgt. Rock'll beat him to a bloody pulp or just - abandon him?  Been kicked to the curb by his friends already, that'd just...gut him.  Bet he breaks real pretty...*

"Yeah, okay.  Sure," Finn said - stood up straight and tugged at his shirt - ran his fingers back through his hair, sniffing.  "But I'm not watching that Doctor How or whatever.  That stuff drives me nuts."

"Doctor Who.  That's classic -"

"It's weird -"   They walked on, bickering good-naturedly and Spike lit a cigarette - watched them go.   Thought about what he was going to get from them both, in exchange for his silence.




Another two days and Spike didn't give a fuck about what he was going to get from Harris and Finn, because Rack had his lodestone finally.  And they'd worked it all out.  Spike wanted more than just the chip fixed.  He wanted some mojo to work himself, and Rack had been intrigued and accommodating.  Spike hated magic as a rule - didn't trust it anymore than he trusted Rack - but he wanted his own back.  Too long he'd been the whipping boy for the white-hats.   And the Slayer - had done it.  Sealed her fate and everyone else's.  Coming to his crypt and demanding that he tell her things.   About his past - about his life.  About his private self and how he'd killed the other Slayers and the bloody Watcher there, ready to take notes. 

Hitting and hitting and hitting until he'd hit her back as hard as he could, uncaring that the chip would take him down.  The demon like a starved and beaten dog who'd finally, finally had enough and the ferocity of his attack has sent him unconscious for ages.  When he'd come to himself they were gone, his door wide open and the promised blood poured out into a useless puddle in the dirt at his door.

So now he was skulking along behind the red witch as she walked across campus, his battered body screaming in protest and his mind seething.   Furious and struggling for calm because he had to do it just right or the bint would pull some magic on him.  She'd just left a late class and was chatting with a group of fellow students.  Shortly, though, they peeled away toward another part of the university and she was alone, clutching her books to her chest and walking head-down, the false gaiety shedding from her like snakeskin.  Spike could scent her misery and the treacle-sweet tang of residual magic from Rack.  He sped up - got even with her under a light and she flinched, letting out a small sound.

"Spike!  Don't do that!"  Willow clutched her books tighter, her face pinched and her lips thin and chapped, bitten looking.  Her hair was too red against her pale skin and she looked...worn.  "What happened to you?" she asked, peering in the orangey light of a street-lamp at the bruises and cuts that still marred Spike's face.

"Just had a fight with something nasty, is all - life on the Hellmouth, Red."  Spike tucked his hands into his pockets - fingered the little paper of powder that Rack had given him.  He had to blow it into her face - her eyes and mouth.  Something to make her come along like a trusting child because the lodestone wouldn't work unless - and this made Spike positively gleeful - unless she agreed.   "You look all in, Red - had a bad day, then?"

"All in?  Well - I am kinda...tired.  Extra credits this semester, I wanna graduate early.  Get out of this place," she added, a sullen mumble that made Spike grin.  He pulled out smokes and lighter - lit up and blew the smoke away from the witch who frowned anyway.

"Not happy with the Hellmouth anymore?  Not gonna keep fightin' for truth, justice and the Slayer way?"

"Huh, Slayer way.   Seems like just lately the 'Slayer' way is 'do the research, Willow, do the computer thing, Willow, do the magic, Willow, but don't talk about your girlfriend, your lifestyle...'"  Willow's eyes went wide at Spike's smirk.  "Not that Tara's my girlfriend, or anything!  I mean, she kind of is but - I mean -"

"Doesn't matter a bit to me, Red - shag who you like."  Spike ignored Willow's stuttered protests, stopping under another light and turning to face the witch.   "Listen, I found something when I was goin' through this demon's pockets.  Looked like a magic-thing, wanna take a look?  Might have some power in it."

"Oh?  Well - okay.  How about - why don't we go up to my room?  That way I can use my books and -"

"No, better out here, Red.  Those soldier-boys watch the dorms, you know."

"They do?  Wow, that's - really creepy."  Willow looked around - watched a distant couple walk up to a dorm and go inside and shivered.  "Okay, show me what it is."

"Right."  Spike pulled the paper out of his pocket - carefully unfolded it in his palm and then angled himself beneath the streetlight, knowing there was too much shadow for human eyes to really see - anything.  "Take a close look, now..."

"Can you - it's really dark - is it a ring or something?  I think I have a flashlight -"   Willow bent over Spike's cupped hands, rooting absently in her backpack while she squinted down into the darkness.

"It's very tiny, actually - here -"   Spike took a deep breath and leaned down as well.  He heard Willow's breath hiss out of her lungs - saw her chest still and then start to rise and he blew, hard.  The powder was like very fine dust and it swirled up and out, glittering.  Spike saw the glitter sucked straight into Willow's nostrils and mouth as she gasped in surprise - saw her blink and then blink again, her eyes tearing a little.  Her pack slipped down off her wrist and then out of her hands altogether and she stood there, swaying slightly.

"Now, love, isn't that better?  Best come along with me, Red - things to do, people to see."

"Yeah," Willow said, dreamy sigh, and Spike snatched up her pack and led her gently away.




Fixing the chip hurt, but then - Spike wasn't surprised.  It fit, that it hurt.  Everything about the fucking town had hurt from the moment he'd set foot in it and it was just and proper that the thing that had hurt the most would leave him panting on the floor of Rack's back room, blood trickling sluggishly from his nose and ears and fucking eyes, for fuck's sake.  He couldn't actually get his feet under him - couldn't make his arms work right and Rack just grinned down at him - went to the door and called softly to one of his clients.

A skinny boy sloped into the room, eyes darting over Spike and then back to Rack and Rack - did something.  The boy gasped softly and then ambled over and sat down next to Spike - leaned down over him, hands braced on either side of Spike's shoulders and his chin craned awkwardly to the side.  Dreamy little smile on his face and Spike - hesitated.  

*Fucking soldiers.  Made me - me! - afraid of a fucking human boy!*   He snarled at that - snarled and lunged, dragging the boy down and sinking his fangs into the sweaty, scrawny neck.  Ripe-apple pop of skin and muscle and then the clinging pull around his fangs - the slick soap-and-salt of the skin under his probing tongue.   Biting deep and a little sloppy and his eyes rolled back in ecstasy as the blood surged into his mouth - poured down his throat and down his chin a bit, as well.  He half-curled around the shaking human, arms locked so tight that ribs creaked and then snapped as he sought every last drop.   The hot blood - spiced with magic and fear and a dash of lust - roared through him and Spike rolled onto his back, pushing the drained husk away with a hiss of pure pleasure.

He could feel the damage healing - could feel the residual pain from the chip's death ebbing, washed away on a tide of sparkling, dancing heat.  "Ooh...ffuck.  That feels - sooo good," he crooned, and Rack flopped down onto his couch, chuckling a little.

"I gave the kid a little boost before I sent him over.  I thought it might...help."

"'S like - like a fuckin' hit of the purest fuckin' shite ever..."  Spike felt hot - felt turned on and sated and hungry all at the same time and he pushed himself slowly upright and then half-crawled onto the other couch, grinning a fang-filled grin over at Rack and absently rubbing the erection that throbbed pleasantly in his jeans.  "Too bad you can't hit the Slayer up with a dose of that," he said, licking traces of blood off his mouth - wiping clumsily at the rest with the hem of his shirt.  "Prolly blow the top of my fuckin' head off, though," he giggled, and over in the chair in the corner Willow giggled as well.  Rack hadn't put the lodestone on her yet - he'd agreed to do the chip first - and the powder was keeping her happily docile.

"Ooh, think Strawberry likes that idea," Rack said, crooking a finger at Willow.  She got up and shuffled over to him - snuggled down beside him on the couch and Rack slung an arm around her ribs, pulling her close.  He reached out to the low table beside the couch and picked up a dark wooden box.  Opening it, he removed what seemed to be a chain of glittering light.  Spike blinked - squinted - and saw that it was a necklace with a pendant stone.  A medium-weight chain that sparked silver and a glowing stone of a deep and fiery red.  "Got a present for you, sweet girl.  Do you want it?" Rack whispered.

"Oh, pretty!" Willow said breathlessly, her eyes fixed on the glimmering thing.  She reached up as if to touch it and Rack gently fended her hand away. 

"Yes, it is pretty - a pretty trinket for a pretty girl.  But you have to want it, sweetness.  You have to really want it."   Willow blinked up at Rack - at the stone - her mouth lax and her hands working sporadically in her lap.  Her eyes were wide and a little sparkly and Spike realized with a slow smile that she was almost crying.

"I want it.  Please?  It's sooo pretty..."

"You want me to put it on you?  It won't come off once I close the catch, Willow," Rack said, his voice low and soft - his hand stroking Willow's ribcage, just under her breast.

"I don't - care," Willow said, and she was sniffling - was actually blubbering right there in Rack's arms and Spike couldn't stop the shrill little laugh that burst out of him.  Rack flicked a glance over at Spike, his smile twisting for a moment and then gentling again as he looked back to Willow.

"I d-don't care, I want it.  Please? It - it shines like...like the moon...please can I have it?"  

"Shh, now - don't cry."  Rack wiped at Willow's damp cheeks with his thumb and smiled a pleased and predatory smile at her.  "I think - yes.  Yes, you may have it," he said, and Willow squealed and clapped her hands - struggled up and lifted her hair away from her neck, smiling.  Rack draped the necklace around her throat - smoothed his fingers over the two ends of the chain.  Spike knew that they were linking without a seam.  As soon as they were sealed every bit of glitter died out of the necklace.  The chain was dull and dark as lead and the stone looked oily now instead of fiery - looked bloody.   It fit closely around Willow's slender neck - too close for her to see or notice the glamour was gone. 

"What do you say, Strawberry?" Rack purred, his hands stroking down her back and creeping around her ribs again, caressing.

"Thank you," Willow whispered.  And then she simply sat - her eyes gone blank and empty, her body motionless in Rack's possessive hands.

"That it, then?" Spike said, pushing himself up on the couch and digging for his flask - taking a long pull of good whiskey and sighing appreciatively.

"That's it.  She asked - no, she more than asked.  She consented.  Whatever happens now is of her own - free - will."  Rack nuzzled into Willow's neck - cupped his hands under her breasts and Spike stood up - stretched hard and shook the demon away.  The rush from the magic-infused blood was fading a little and he was eager to get on with his plans.  Plans for the Watcher and the Slayer and for those two bumbling sods Harris and Finn, as well.   He needed to go wash up and then...go.

"Right, I'm off - you've got the other thing ready?"

"Ready when you are," Rack said, distracted mumble into Willow's neck and a poke of his elbow toward a corner where he had a ring of candles set up.  Preparations for a spell for two idiot humans.  Spike grinned - tugged his coat straight and found a cigarette and lit it, watching Rack maul Willow and Willow sit as unresponsive as a doll.  Not Spike's sort of thing at all - he liked a bit of a fight.

"Back in a couple of hours, then," Spike said and walked out.  The waiting room was empty - Rack had cleared them all out.  He was going to be busy, tonight - and so was Spike.




Taking the Slayer down had almost been too easy, Spike reflected, looking at her pale, slack face and battered body.  Oh, he'd almost had her a time or two before this: at the school, and again when he'd had the ring.  But both times he'd let himself be distracted.  Had done too much talking - had wanted the dance too much to really go for the kill.  He'd done Nikki that way - tagging her as his partner for nights on end until the inevitable last dance. 

But this time - no distractions.   Just him and the Slayer and a fight to the death.  Only she wasn't dead, was she?  Spike crouched down, probing carefully at the twisted body.  She didn't move - just made a weak sound of pain or anger and Spike leaned in closer, snuffing up the delicious scent of her blood and pain and terror - her tears.  The puncture-mark on her throat where he'd half-drained her bled sluggishly and Spike licked the thin trails.

"God - that tastes so fucking good, Slayer.  Pure ambrosia," he whispered and she made a harsh, coughing sort of sound.  "Something you want to say to me, Slayer?  Some last insult - one more threat?"  He leaned back a little, studying her, mouth still tingling from her blood.   "Wanna tell me how I'm - impotent?  Useless?" 

She swallowed - licked her lips and drew in a ragged breath.  "Just - do it," she croaked, her eyes glittering with hatred and tears and Spike had to grin.

"Do what, love?  Kill you?  Is that what you mean?"  She coughed again, choking a little and Spike drew back from the blood and spittle.  "Oh, Slayer.  I'm not going to kill you.  No, I'm going to let you live."  She stared back at him, blinking and breathing in hitching pants, her lips bluish and bruises starting to swell the side of her face.  He leaned down and kissed her brutally hard, his fangs cutting her lips.  Remembering long days and nights of pain, trapped in that fucking wheelchair.  Because of the Slayer.

"Have a nice life, Slayer," he whispered.   He stood up - looked over at where the Watcher was crumpled, blood down his face - unconscious.  "Both of you have just a lovely fuckin' life."  He could hear sirens in the distance, coming closer.  Someone had called the police and that was fine with him.  He took the Watcher's petty cash from the box on the shelf by the window - took the good whiskey from the cupboard and walked out, leaving the broken door wide open behind him.   It was a pity the Slayer's mother was already dead, but her little sister would make a lovely snack.  Humming some early Velvet Underground, he slipped away into the night.




It was so very easy to fall into a routine, Spike thought.  Especially a pleasant one.  He stretched hard on the bed, groaning softly and then relaxed, the sheets cool and smooth under his skin.  It was easy to get lazy, too.  But this was a temporary lazy - a temporary routine - and he was going to indulge himself.  Only one more day of it and then - he'd be shaking the dust of Sunnydale off his feet and heading south.  Going back to Dru, if she'd have him.  And if she wouldn't...  Well, there was a whole wide world to tread, wasn't there?   And he'd always been good at entertaining himself.

Spike reached over and grabbed a fluffy hotel pillow - scrunched it under his head and shoulders a little.  Grabbed the remote and scratched idly at a streak of blood on his naked thigh.  Turned the TV on.  This time of day - sometime after one, unless he missed his guess - there wasn't much on.  Passions in an hour or so but until then he'd have to be content with old movies or the endless offering of sport on the four dedicated channels.  He flipped through the channels - looked around for a smoke and saw an empty pack crumpled on the side-table and frowned.

"Harris - any more smokes?" he asked.  There was a soft stirring and then Harris stood up from where he'd been sitting, out of sight between the other bed and the wall.  He was haggard-looking, his hair in lank, greasy strings and there were deep purple-blue bruises on his face and throat.  More on his body but he had a shirt on now, so they were covered.  He shuffled slowly to the dresser and rooted in a paper bag - came up with a pack of cigarettes and walked over to Spike, holding them in his fingers with his arm extended as far as it would go.   He stopped just barely in Spike's reach and Spike frowned at him.

"Open 'em up, Harris.  And come put them in my hand proper.  None of that mincing and whinging about."  The look Harris shot him was murderous - utterly hateful - and his hands shook as he stripped the cellophane off the pack of cigarettes and stepped closer.  Spike smiled up at him - reached for the smokes but caught Harris' wrist instead.  "Oh, I forgot.  You're not whinging - you can't talk.  Isn't that right?"

Harris glared at him and Spike squeezed his wrist - slow, steady pressure until the bones ground together and Harris' lips were thin and white.  He broke when Spike twisted - gasped sharply and went to his knees, wide eyes going wet with tears.

"You - can't - talk, Harris, can you?" Spike said softly and Harris shook his head - shook it hard, panting through bitten lips.  Spike let him go - took the cigarettes and opened the pack - methodically selected and then lit one and blew the smoke at Harris, who hadn't moved.  Who was looking a bit pale, actually, and Spike frowned.

"Did you eat today?" he asked and Harris licked his lips - looked away and then shook his head.  "Did you eat yesterday?" Spike prodded, annoyed, and Harris shook his head again.  "Idiot.  Go get some food - go down to that deli on the corner.  Shouldn't take you more than ten minutes."  Spike watched the man push himself upright - watched him find his shoes and pull them on, then pick up the room key and a twenty from the scatter of money on the dresser-top.  "Finn doesn't need anything," Spike added and Harris stopped - took a sharp little breath, not looking at Spike - not looking at Finn, who occupied the other bed.  "Hear me, Harris?" Spike asked softly and Harris nodded - went out, squeezing carefully through the door so no sunlight came in.  Spike settled back onto the pillows and resumed skimming the channels, listening to Finn's heart beat.  It was going a little fast - a little erratically - even though he was motionless under the blood-stained sheet.  

"I know you're away-ake," Spike singsonged, and the heartbeat skittered upward, rabbit-fast.   "You wanna go find her, don't you?"  There was a clink of chain and then silence and Spike grinned - smoked for a moment.  "She needs you, you know.  Needs her boy.  She's awfully, awfully scared without you - cryin' every day, I expect."  There was a harsh intake of breath from the sheeted lump and then muffled sobbing and Spike turned the volume on the TV up.  *One more day.*




Rome was just like Spike remembered it, only the intellectuals and beatniks were gone.  Now it was the nouveau-riche; super model wanna-be's and second-string celebrities.  It made for a frenetic, slightly desperate air in the clubs and bars, and it made hunting and taking easy.  Within three days he'd acquired a strong-box full of cash and a posh flat in the Parioli district.  And the transitory nature of this crowd - 'jetting off' to here, there, and everywhere - put detection and even suspicion far, far down Spike's list of worries.

And his worries, these days, were few and far between.  After Sunnydale his reputation had ballooned.  His neat extraction of his pound of flesh had been told and retold until there wasn't a demon bar or household that hadn't heard it.  It had even gotten him Dru back...for a while.  Despite her desertion, Spike reveled in it.  Reveled in the fame and the 'favors' and the little flinches when he'd walk into a room - reveled in the scurrying and kowtowing and even the challenges that came his way.  He won them all and that only embroidered his reputation and pushed him a notch higher in the hierarchy of killers.  It was a good feeling.  It was good to be that respected - that feared - that admired.  Good to have money and luxury again - good to walk wide and talk loud and taste the sweet marrow of every moment of life. 

Having Xander was good, too.   'Harris' had only lasted two months; it had smacked of public school and distant, despised human days and Spike hadn't cared for it much, anyway.  'Xander' was slightly exotic and much more intimate and the use of it chafed the man even after all this time.  The gangly boy was all grown up now - was twenty-three.  Was, in fact, having his birthday party that very night.  Not that Spike had told him he was - and it wasn't his real birthday, anyway.  It was a sort of...unbirthday.

Spike looked down at the muscled, darkly-tanned back beneath him - smoothed his hands down the soft skin and grinned at the shiver his touch still caused.  Xander had long ago given up pretending his body didn't crave touch - that what Spike did didn't excite him.  He'd learned, Xander had.  Learned to take pleasure where he could.  Learned not to deny himself.   Because Spike could take him to a fancy restaurant or let him soak in a bath for hours....or he could tell him to sit down and not move and then forget about him for four days.  It had only happened a couple of times, really, the forgetting.  Sometimes things were just so interesting, and one solitary, spelled human tended to get shuffled to the side.  To the periphery.  So Xander had stopped fighting when the plums came his way, and learned to duck the stones.

Or at least, learned to take them with good grace.  Like now, for instance.  Spike knew Xander hated it when Spike...took his time.  When he very nearly made love instead of a fast, brutal fuck.  Spike knew Xander preferred fast and hard because he could get off and get done and go shower - get Spike's touch and taste and smell off him.   And Spike liked that, too - liked the little sounds of muffled pain, liked the shivering muscles and the panting breath and the short, sharp cries when Spike bit - when Xander came.  But sometimes...he just liked to go slow.  Liked to savor every inch and every flinch; every twitch of eyes and fingers away.  Liked to make it so fucking good that Xander would soften - curve - press himself to Spike and all but beg for more.  Not that he could beg.  Spike still hadn't given him his voice back.  Rack's spell, going strong.  Well, really it was the red witch's spell.  The same one that had made Xander a demon magnet - made Spike and the Slayer get all intimate.  Just a variation on a theme and Spike's will - was the mold.  And Xander the clay.

Clay that, like a golem, would do what it was told until it was told to stop.  For nearly three years Xander had fetched cigarettes and whiskey and pretty young meals - new clothes and cars and whatever else took Spike's fancy.  Kept Spike warm in bed and Christ did Xander hate that part.  Hated it so much Spike had found new and inventive ways to make his body love it, and that made Xander hate it - hate Spike - that much more.   It was delicious.

Spike leaned down until he and Xander were skin to skin from neck to hips, slow rocking that made a fine sheen of sweat oil Xander's back.  Spike tasted it with his mouth, here and there - sank his fangs in delicately and tasted the blood that sang with lust and loathing.  "Birthday tonight, Xander," Spike murmured, and Xander froze for a second and then moved again, push of his body back into Spike's, hands fisted tight in the sheets.

"You remember?   Three years ago today, I did for you and all your friends.  Got my own back - got you started in your new life.  Gave your little witch to that Rack and he sucked her drier than any vamp ever could..."  Xander jerked underneath him - started to scrabble away and Spike bore down hard - found his wrists and pinned them neatly and Xander made a hissing noise - anger.  Face turned away and body rigid and Spike ground down, letting his eyes close - letting his lips just brush Xander's ear.

"Got the Watcher packed off back to Blighty, didn't I?  Wonder what he's doing now, old Rupert...  Not much use for a blind Watcher, is there?"  Spike nipped at Xander's ear - rode the convulsive shudder and licked his way down to Xander's shoulder.  He rested his mouth there for a moment, Xander's pulse thumping against his cheek.

"And your Slayer...wonder what she's up to?  Probably in some home somewhere, don't you think?  I imagine the Council pays for it...couldn't just abandon her...but what good's a Slayer stuck in a wheelchair?"  Xander heaved again, twisting his wrists in Spike's grip hard enough to make bruises and Spike drew back a little and then thrust forward.  Hard.  Xander made a breathy sort of keening sound and subsided and Spike could smell tears now.  He rubbed his face slowly into Xander's shoulder - into the sweep of hair that lay like satin over the flushed neck.   "I imagine they're just happy to forget about her, don't you?  Put her away out of sight...  Slayers are tough - bet she lives for years yet."

"And the sojer-boy, he was a treat, wasn't he?    Who knew a soldier could make such a damn fine vamp?  They seemed awfully excited to get their hands on him, those Initiative blokes..."  Spike let Xander's wrists go - wormed his hands under the hot, panting chest and cradled Xander close - smiled softly at the trembling, silent sobs that wracked the lean frame in his arms.  "Didn't mean for him to have you for his first meal, pet.  He nearly got the jump on me there.  Unless - you wanted him to kill you?  Did you, pet?"  Xander fought the question for as long as he could - not long - and then miserably shook his head, stubbled jaw scratching across the sheet.

"I didn't think so.    You want to live - want to get your revenge, don't you?"  Again the silent, internal struggle - again defeat and Xander nodded slowly.   "I like that you tell me the truth, pet," Spike whispered.  He rolled slowly onto his side, bringing Xander with him.  Snuggling close and pulling Xander's leg up over his thigh - getting his chin into the hollow of Xander's throat.  Intimate - cozy - and Spike knew Xander hated that most of all.  Hated the poses that aped love - the touches that imitated affection.  Spike used them every chance he got.

"Like I said, we're celebrating.  Tonight - you get to start a whole new life.   Shall I tell you?  Or will it spoil the surprise?"  Xander moved a little, breathing in sharp little pants and Spike shushed him.  "Calm down, pet.  Nothing to be afraid of...  Well, not much to be afraid of.  I'm here, after all...taking care of you just like I always do."

Another shudder - explosive, sobbing breath that might have been a laugh if Xander had been able to make the sound.  Spike smoothed Xander's hair back from his neck - ran his fingers lightly down the strong line of tendon and muscle.  Then he bit, and leisurely drank.  Nothing new, so it took Xander a few minutes before he started to panic.  By then, though, it was too late.  He thrashed weakly, pushing at Spike's arms and Spike just tightened his hold, driving the breath out of him so that he slumped, choking.  When he was limp and half-unconscious Spike stopped - lifted his head. 

"Xander - you have to listen now.  Can you hear me?"  A pause, and then Xander nodded jerkily, his chest hitching and falling in ragged, uncertain breaths.  "Good, that's good," Spike murmured.  "Xander - you can talk, you know.  You can talk just like everybody else can," Spike said.  He felt the tremor of shock run through the man - looked down at his ashen face.  Watched bluing lips move, working to speak with a throat that wouldn't cooperate. 

"Shh, now - it's all right.  You'll be talking before you know it - just have to be patient.  I'm going to take the last of your blood now, pet.  And you're going to drink mine.  Hear me?"  Another spastic nod and Spike smiled - snuggled Xander back closer and stroked his hand over him, chest to belly, over and over -hips moving in a lazy counterpoint until Xander was gasping through an orgasm, his body tight around Spike.  "You're going to drink, and you're going to change, pet.  You're going to be a vampire when you wake up tomorrow." 

Xander made a tiny, croaking sort of noise - protest or plea, Spike was sure.  Smell of the sea all around him - sweat, tears, come - blood.  Thick and rich and humid, caught on the back of Spike's tongue.   Spike kissed the puncture marks on Xander's neck - carefully put his mouth and his fangs back over them and drank again, pulling on the blood until Xander's heart was skipping and faltering.  Then he tore at his own wrist with his fangs, and put the bleeding wound to Xander's mouth.

"Drink it, Xander...be a good boy..."  Rack had told Spike that the spell wouldn't survive a turning.  Whatever magic that was innate to vampires would throw it off, so Spike'd better be sure before he did it - had better make his last orders good ones.   Spike watched as Xander drank, his breathing slowing more and more with every swallow.

"When you wake up you're going to be strong and beautiful - immortal, just like me," Spike whispered.   "Look at me, Xander.  Do you know who I am?"   Xander turned his head just little, looking back at Spike and Spike leaned forward so he could see better - pulled his wrist away for a moment.   "Who am I?" 

"Sss...ii - k." Xander said, breathy rasp.  Something like joy in his expression as he repeated the word twice more, blood-smeared lips moving in near-silence.

"That's right, pet.  I'm Spike.  And how do you feel about me, Xander?"

Xander's eyes went dark - a little hooded, and his body tensed in Spike's hold.  "Hay-hay...t.  Hhhate y-you."

"Just as you should.  But you're going to remember something when you wake up, pet."  Spike pushed his wrist back against Xander's mouth - watched him drink again, slowly.  Xander's lips were clumsy and cold, his body sinking down, no tension and almost no breath.   Spike was smiling - feral predator's smile as he took his very last bit of that pound of flesh he had starting carving out three years ago.  "You're going to remember that you love me, Xander.  Love me madly - passionately...  Love me forever."

Xander's eyes went wide and he opened his mouth, lips shaping no.  Then his eyes rolled back in his head and he was gone, heart stuttering out into silence in a few ragged beats - last breath groaning out of him as Spike hugged him tight. 

"Yes, yes, yes, my boy.  Yes.  Love me, and want me, and follow me for the rest of time..."  Spike settled himself more comfortably, still hard - still waiting.  Content to wait - to doze and plan, to plot and imagine.  The world waited for them, ripe for the plucking - sweet with juice.  And with Xander there - at his back, on his side - Spike knew the world would be his.