Chapter 12: Truth

                Late Sunday afternoon; Spike asleep in bed, Xander half-heartedly sweeping the living room, Oz perusing the help wanted pages of the paper.  *Like fuckin' Leave it to Beaver here or something.  What is wrong with you people!*   The soldier hated the domesticity of everyday life and seemed happiest when plotting death and destruction.  Xander had learned to tune him out but sometimes, like now, he just made Xander laugh.  Oz looked up from the paper, giving him a curious look through the pass through.

                "What's so funny, Xander?"

                "Oh - it's just..."  Xander dragged the broom to the doorway and stood there, poking it into the corner made by the wall and kitchen cabinet.  He felt pleasantly languorous and achy from...last night.  Two last nights.    "You remember that Halloween, that spell that Giles' old buddy did that made us all turn into what our costumes were?  I dressed up like a soldier..."

                "Yeah."

                "Well - the soldier's still around.  He - never really left.  I can still remember a lot of that military stuff and - he - talks to me."

                "Yeah?  Like - out loud?"  Oz looked nothing more then curious, but Xander felt the blood rush to his face.  *He's gonna think I'm insane.  Well.  More insane then usual*

                "Well - in my head.  Anyway, he's all - upset - 'cause I haven't been doing the whole 'Scooby' thing so much lately.  He likes the search and destroy stuff.  Actually, the hyena..."  Xander trailed off at Oz's look of astonishment, and he bit his lip. 

                *Damn.  Didn't mean to let that out.* 

                *Pack.  Won't care*

                *Oh, shut up.  How big is this pack, anyway?  You keep adding people.* 

                *Many.  Us.  Vampire.  Wolf.  Mother-witch.* 

                *MOTHER witch?  You mean Willow.* 

                *Light witch*   A fleeting image of Tara, blonde hair backlit by the sun, came to Xander's mind.       *NOT Willow?*

                *Red witch scares us*    

                "Xander?  You all right?"

                "Huh?"  Xander blinked - realized that he'd totally zoned out and that Oz was staring at him. 

"Oh, sorry, I..."

                "You said hyena.  Wanna - fill me in?"  Xander sighed, and leaned the broom against the wall.  He pushed at his hair, which was growing long.  No quite long enough to put in a ponytail, long enough to get in his eyes.   Spike loved it.  He went over to the 'fridge and got out a jug of cranberry juice and poured a glass, then sat opposite Oz, taking a long drink.

                "Oookay.   When Buffy first moved here, we did this field trip to the zoo...and there were these hyenas.  And the zookeeper was kinda crazy and he was trying to do this spell to get possessed by the hyena spirit or something, only - me and that guy Tor?  His gang, they were in the hyena exhibit, picking on Lance - remember him?   Anyway, we all got - caught - in the spell instead.  So for a while we were - pack."  Xander took another drink, eyeing Oz over the rim of the glass.  Oz didn't seem too freaked.

                *How the fuck can you tell?  He'd make a good spy*

                *Shut. Up.*   Xander continued.

                "Anyway, so, I had a hyena spirit in me and did some crazy stuff, and then that zookeeper - he took it back, sort of.   It - never really left.  It's still in here, too.  Still wants a pack."  Oz sat back in his chair, head cocked to one side, a little line of a frown between his eyebrows.

                "So, does it have a pack, love?"  They both jumped at Spike's voice and turned to see the vampire nude, lounging in the doorway to the bedroom.  *Not fair.  How come he can fuck all night and get up looking like...like THAT!  Sex and attitude and...sex...*  The diffused golden light coming through the blinds made Spike's skin the palest champagne gold, threaded with tiny silver lines of scars.   Xander shifted a little in his chair.  Spike was looking with definite interest at him, and after a moment Oz looked over at Xander, too.

                "Yeah - is there a pack?"  Oz's voice was low - slightly hesitant - and Xander wondered suddenly what the wolf thought of them; their odd little home. 

                "Yeah - there is.  It says  "Us"    Meaning me and the soldier and it, and "Vampire, Wolf"...and... Tara."

                "Not Red?"  Spike pushed away from the jamb and sidled over to Xander, leaning on the back of his chair and combing his fingers through Xander's hair.  Xander closed his eyes in a long blink, loving the feel of the strong, cool fingers tugging and petting.  *He's nude.  In the kitchen.  Touching me.  In front of OZ.  I shouldn't be getting turned on *

                "Mmmm...  No.  Not Willow.  She scares it.  Kinda scares me, too."  Xander sat up a little straighter suddenly, looking at Oz.  "Oz man, that doesn't - it doesn't bug you, does it?  I mean...you're ok with being part of my psychotic little pack?"  Oz was picking at his fingernails, and he glanced up at Xander and Spike with a quick, smiling look.

                "Yeah.  It's kinda cool.  The wolf likes it.  He needs a pack, too...   I really need to re-do these."  Oz picked a flake of polish off his nail and Xander laughed.  He captured one of Spike's hands and pulled it around to inspect. 

                "Hmmm.   Definitely time for a manicure party, Spike.  These are atrocious."  Spike snorted.

                "S'what happens when you're doing heavy labor with your bare hands, love."  Xander twisted around in his chair, looking up at Spike, puzzled.

                "What heavy labor? You're the laziest person I know."

                "Oi!  M'not lazy.  I just prefer other people to do the heavy lifting.  I had to do some...work, while I was away."  Xander just looked at him, confused, and then suddenly it clicked and he looked away - looked down.  He felt something  *fear?  anger?*  pulse over him; something Spike was feeling and just as hastily shut down.  The feelings - the link, Spike had said - were strong and getting stronger very fast. Xander was getting more and more flashes of whatever Spike was feeling.  He wondered how strong it would get...he wondered if Spike was feeling him.  It was - amazing, and unsettling.  But good. 

                "Spike.  Would you...would you put on some jeans and sit down and tell me...what you were doing up in Oxnard?"  Xander studied the vampire's face, seeing the tiny flinch at the emotionless tone of his voice.

                "Don't need to get dressed for that, pet.  I was - gettin' back to full strength.  Brushing up on my skills.  They'd got a tad rusty of late, what with all the - excitement."  Spike stalked over to the counter and got a cigarette, lighting it with a snap.  He leaned there, smoking furiously, looking at Xander through half-closed eyes.

                "But what - what exactly were you doing?"  Xander asked, and he realized his voice had gotten very small.  Some other emotion surged over him - panic.  He stared hard at Spike and realized that the vampire was shaking.  That Spike was terrified. 

                *What's wrong?  Oh...he thinks...*

                *Well, you're all in a panic over it yourself, Harris.  Why shouldn't he be?* 

                *I'm NOT.  Ok, I am.  But...   Spike...love you  love you*    Spike felt that - Xander could tell.  Spike shut his eyes for a long moment, and then he was striding into the living room and grabbing his duster.  Cigarette clenched in his teeth, he rummaged in a pocket and pulled out a stained handkerchief.  *Blood, that's blood.*   The hyena tried to scent it and Xander crushed it back.  Spike put the knotted handkerchief on the table in front of Xander and draped his duster over a chair.  Stood there smoking, watching him.  *Only Spike could look so intimidating totally nude.  And this - like a cat bringing in a dead bird...   No, don't go there.*   Oz had pulled both feet up into his chair and rested his chin on his knees.  He too was watching Xander, looking a little like he thought he should leave the room.  Xander slowly undid the knots and spread the spattered cotton out.  Inside were four things.  He touched each of them, naming the name.  Knowing.

                "Tony."  A gold class ring with a large blue stone.  There was a football emblem on one side, a cougar on the other.  *Linebacker.  Hurt his shoulder, had to quit*   "Mike."  A money clip, tarnished brass with a tigers-eye stone set into it.  *Got it from his dad - a graduation present*   "Jason."  A picture - his 1971 Mustang, all tricked out with racing stripe and mag wheels and scoop.  * He did all the work himself.*  "Chris."  A bracelet, woven leather strips and silver beads.  *Got it from his girlfriend*  Xander stirred the things with his finger, not looking at Spike or Oz.  Remembered Mike helping him with the wiring in the trailer.  Remembered Tony having a beer and laughing as Xander and Chris played pool.  Remembered  Jason telling him his car was totally dead - KIA.   Remembered as well, fists and boots, a swinging bat, cruel voices that shouted hateful, hurtful things.   He knew what it meant.  Knew...they were dead.

                "You..."

                "Yeah.  They hurt you."  Spike looked as belligerent and stubborn as a child, knowing he'd pissed somebody off - not admitting he'd been wrong.   Xander knew Spike wasn't sorry - knew he would do it again in a minute.   Xander looked back down at the pitiful remains of four people he had known.

                *Protect the pack*

                 *You knew he'd do this.  Do something like this, as soon as you told him about being attacked.  It's gonna be like this.  Question is, can you deal, Harris?*                

                Xander sighed, and knotted the handkerchief up again, and finally, finally, looked back up at Spike.  The vampire met his gaze, his eyes so clear, so deeply blue - like the sea.  And like the sea, Xander couldn't fathom them - couldn't see what was behind them.  But he could feel...  They washed over him in waves; emotions so strong that he could almost not bear them.  Love.  Want.  Need, like a scream from the abyss.  Fear.  Possessiveness.  Loneliness.   And all of it so hungry.  So raw, and so powerful.  *He can't lie.  Can't ever lie.  And we can't lie to him.  However this works - we can't ever lie, and we'll always know...always know the truth.  And the biggest truth is:  he's a vampire.  And that's not going to change.  And if I can't deal...I lose.  Lose him*    Xander stood up slowly and reached for Spike's cigarette.  He lay it gently in the ashtray on the table and then took Spike's face in his hands.  He stood looking across the scant inches that separated them, and he loved him, loved this man-not-man.  But…

"You can't do this, Spike.  You can't."  Low whisper, his eyes never leaving the oceanic blue of the vampire's, and there was a…flinch, in the link.

"It's what I am, love.  No one touches what's mine."  Spike's voice just as low - vibrating with pain.

"I wasn't yours, then."

"Doesn't matter."  Xander let his thumbs just gently caress the blades of Spike's cheekbones - the hollows beneath.  His fingers sunk into the soft waves of platinum hair and his heart beating so hard, so painfully hard.   Dimly, he was aware of Oz moving - slipping into the living room.

"You don't…care that they're dead."  Not really a question and Spike didn't try to answer it, just put his hands lightly on Xander's hips.   Xander leaned in and kissed him, softly.  "You don't care, but I do, love, I do.  You can't…you can't put that on me, Spike.  You can't put any more deaths on me.  Please love?  You can't."  Finally, finally, Xander opened to the link - let everything he was feeling spill out, and it was *sorrow fear anger horror*  but it was also *love love you always my love mine ALWAYS*   Sent as clearly and as fiercely as this new voice would allow, and Spike's eyes widened, and then he leaned up and kissed Xander, slow and sweet and deep.  Holding nothing back.  His heart on his lips and his hands just gently, gently stroking back through Xander's hair, holding him close.  They were both oblivious to the phone ringing, and Oz answering it.   As Oz talked, Xander pulled Spike close, loving the press of the hard, cool body against him; kissing with more urgency now, letting his hands slide down Spike's back to his buttocks and pull him closer still.  Spike was rapidly becoming erect, and he slid one lean thigh up Xander's leg, curling it around, his heel digging into Xander's thigh.  The kiss became passionate, breathless, and Xander had to break away, gasping a little.   Spike's lips on his throat, and Spike in his head *love you love you promise*   Oz stood in the doorway to the living room, frowning again.

                "Guys.  Giles wants us at his place in an hour.  Something's happened, apparently."

                "Bloody Watcher.  C'mon pet, come wash my hair..."  Spike nipped lightly at Xander's throat and Xander shuddered and hugged him tight.

                "What's happened?  Did he say?"  *You're practically dry-humping your...vampire in front of your ...werewolf housemate.  Fuck, this is insanity.  How come I don't care?*

                "Initiative.  Adam.  Death and chaos.  The usual."

                "Right.  Right.  Ok.  An hour.  We'll just... Spike!  We'll just be..."  Spike was walking towards the bedroom, having wound his arms around Xander's waist and hoisted him effortlessly.  Oz smirked and turned back to the living room.

                "I'll just see what's on TV, then," the werewolf said, and rolled his eyes.  Spike kicked the bathroom door shut behind them.

 

 

                Xander stood at the top of the stairs going down to Giles' courtyard and sighed.  He really didn't want to go down there.   All this business with the Initiative was getting out of hand, and he had a feeling it was only going to get worse.  He felt a soft touch in the small of his back, up under his sweater, and he turned his head to smile at Spike.  The vampire smirked back, putting a cigarette in his mouth and lighting it.  Something that would automatically piss off Giles.

                "C'mon pet, once more unto the breach," Spike whispered, and leaned in for a quick kiss.  Then he sauntered down the steps and pushed open Giles' door, the Big Bad from head to toe.  Xander grinned over at Oz and followed.  Inside, Giles was already snapping at Spike to put out his cigarette, and Buffy was glaring daggers - or maybe stakes - at him.   Xander and Oz slipped in; Oz went immediately to the breakfast bar, perching on a stool, and Xander settled at Giles' table next to Tara.    Anya sat at his other side, smiling at him, and he smiled back a little warily.  Willow was doing something on her laptop, frowning.  Spike sucked another half-inch of cigarette to ash and flicked the butt into Gile's kitchen sink, then settled himself on the stairs.  Giles had only two lamps lit, and in the dimness of the stairwell Spike's eyes glittered like a cats, and he became a crouching, slightly threatening figure.  Xander could barely keep his eyes off him and stiffened in his seat when a sudden wash of  *want need * swept over him.  He glared over at Spike, whose teeth flashed at him, something between a smile and a snarl.  Arousal was a twisting little flame down low in his belly, and Xander hunched down in his chair and tried to pay attention to Buffy. 

                "Well, I found out where Adam is hiding - some caves in Breaker's Woods.   Forrest was there, too - one of Riley's team?  Doing some recon.   And Adam - killed him.  I barely made it out of there myself.  The electric zappy-gun Forrest had charged Adam up just like the Energizer Bunny."  Buffy touched gingerly at a bad bruise on her forehead and looked over at Giles, who was frowning.

                "So it seems that this Adam is not averse to killing members of the Initiative.  Have you informed Riley of what happened?"  Buffy sighed and sat down on the back of the couch.  "Yeah, I told him.  He was...pretty upset.  That and Angel -"

                "Angel's in town?"  Giles straightened, taking off his glasses, and Xander felt a bolt of pure rage go through him.  He glanced hastily over at Spike who was game-face, snarling silently.  Xander sent his own feelings out - calm, and quiet, and *love love*  and relaxed marginally when he saw Spike shift back to his human face, scowling.  Buffy looked chagrined, as if she hadn't meant to mention Angel at all.

                "Yeah, he - we had some unfinished business from when I went to L.A.  He's going back tonight."  Giles looked at her for a moment, then he turned to Willow.

                "Have you found anything, Willow?"  Willow looked up from the scant pages of data on the Initiative that she'd managed to hack into.

                "Not really, Giles.  All this stuff is so - military.  I mean, it's all in that kind of coded military double-talk, you know?   It's hard to figure out what they're really saying.  Kinda like when you get real excited about a prophecy and start referencing three hundred-year-old books."  Willow smiled nervously at him, and Giles pursed his lips, massaging his forehead.  Over in his shadows, Spike snorted.

                "Yes, well - carry on then.  Did this Adam say - anything to you, Buffy?  Give any indication of what he's doing out there or what his plans may be?"

                "Nah.  He was way too interested in trying to kill me.  Not one for the polite chit-chat."

                "Until we have a better understanding of what he is doing, and a means of killing him, I suggest you avoid his lair altogether.  I'd like to talk to Riley about this again, as well.   In the meantime, do your best to avoid any Initiative patrols.  I'm afraid that they are not going to be very happy with what they perceive as our continuing 'interference'."  Giles leaned up against the breakfast bar and Xander wondered when they could leave - too bad for Forrest, but when you played with fire, you tended to get burned.  The Initiative should never have started this particular blaze.   That thought was too close to what the soldier was thinking - only he was thinking in terms of friendly fire and acceptable loss and Xander wondered when he'd stopped caring about what happened to the Initiative soldiers.  He just wanted them gone.  And he really didn't like the thought of Angel lurking around Sunnydale.   Who know what he would find out - or do?

                "Slayer, did you say the caves up in Breaker's Woods?"  Spike leaned forward into the light, his face serious and sober, and Xander immediately began to panic.  It didn't help that he was getting a thready undercurrent of something from Spike that felt suspiciously like laughter.

                "Yeah.  Why, are you thinking of taking Adam on yourself?  He'd go through you quicker then he did Forrest.  In fact - go right ahead!  Be my guest."  Buffy gave Spike a big smile and perkily tilted her head as she chirped at him, and Xander ground his teeth.  Spike pulled out a cigarette and his Zippo with an air of long-suffering and lit the cigarette.

                "Noo, I wasn't planning on taking him on - but I wonder if he'd like to take me on.  Make me a part of his - team, so to speak."

                "Why on Earth would he want to do that?"  Giles asked, stepping over to Spike and snatching the cigarette from him.  Spike sighed, looking frustrated.  Giles carried the cigarette to the sink and ran water over it.

                "Evil undead, me.  And I've got some of Mad Maggie's hardware in my head.  Probably thinks I'm one of the bloody family.  I can tell him all about the Slayer.  All kinds of - secret Slayer stuff.  And he can tell me about what he's doin'.  Give us a leg-up on him.  The whole spy thing, like Bond."  Spike straightened, looking pleased with himself, and Buffy rolled her eyes.

                "Riiiiight.  And you think he'll just cough up the 4-1-1 on his evil plot to you?" 

                "Well, he's bloody well not gonna tell you lot anythin'.   And it beats runnin' around one step behind, doesn't it?  It might be your bloke Riley he goes after next."

                "And why would you be willing to do this, Spike?"  Giles was cleaning his glasses, and he peered nearsightedly at Spike, who snorted softly.

                "'Cause you're payin' me, that's why.  Blood and smokes and the odd spare quid.  And it might be I can get him to part with somethin' about this bloody chip.  Might be I can get it out, or find out how to turn it off.  Which is something you lot were supposed to be doing -"

                "But that's bad..." Willow started, but Oz interrupted. 

                "No - it's good.  It's the perfect con."

                "Hmmmm."  Giles looked thoughtful, pacing the small space between the stairs and his desk.  Xander sat very, very still.  He could feel so many things from Spike it was hard to separate them, but primarily he could feel amusement and arrogance - and when they managed brief eye-contact, a rush of lust.  Xander bit his lip hard, trying not to groan aloud, and Spike smirked a little. 

                "I think Spike might have something here.   Why don't you go ahead with your plan then, Spike, and we'll expect a report back in - two days?"

                "Giles!”

                "Oi!  Two days!"  Buffy glared at Spike and turned to Giles, frustration on her face.

                "You're not really going to let him do this Giles, are you?  He'll probably just lie to us about anything Adam tells him and end up getting us all killed!"

                "Two days is bloody short notice, Watcher - might take longer for me to get in there, you know?"

                "No, two days.  You have two days to show us some progress.  You won't get paid until then.  And I seriously doubt Adam has any information about the chip, Willow.  And Buffy, if Adam doesn't like Spike coming around he will, as you said, kill him.  So really, we'll benefit no matter what, don't you think?"  The hyena growled at that, pure rage, and Xander clamped down hard, trying not to react.  Giles had a little smile on his face, looking at Spike, and Spike vamped out, snarling.  He hissed at Buffy, who had automatically taken up a defensive stance between him and her Watcher.   Everyone was tense - waiting - and Xander couldn't help it, he had to stand up, legs shaking.  There was nothing but hate pouring out of Spike now, and Xander battered at it with all the *calm calm calm*  he could muster.    He tried to think of something - anything - to say.   The utter silence of the room was finally broken by Spike, who straightened out of the predatory crouch he had gone into.

                "Bloody bastards.  Supposed to be the good guys here."  Spike slipped back into his human face, although his eyes continued to glow a baleful yellow, and he pushed past Buffy, heading for the door.

                "Spike!  Where are you going?"  Buffy looked exasperated.

                "Got two bloody days, Slayer.  Best get started, hadn't I?"  He pulled out another cigarette, lighting it as he slammed out the door.  There was a moment of silence, then everyone started talking at once.  Xander wanted desperately to run out after Spike - soothe him, kiss him...scream baffled questions at him.  But he knew he couldn't.  After a moment, he felt a faint trickle of *love love* and he relaxed.  Spike was going to wait.  Slowly, he sat back down.  He hoped the rest of the meeting wouldn't take too long.  Beside him, Anya shifted a little closer.  The ex-demon looked pretty tonight, and Xander wished she would stop trying to get him to go out with her.  He liked Anya - her blunt ways were fun, and sometimes she said things that were amazingly perceptive.  And Xander didn't mind that other people found her matter-of-factness embarrassing.   At least Anya told the truth - or the truth as she saw it, which was as good.  He was having fun helping her 'fit in' more by explaining, in the most sarcastic way possible, the reasons behind most social graces.  As she leaned over, obviously intent on starting with the flirty games once again, Xander decided it was enough.  He wanted to 'come clean', as it were, to the gang anyway, and this was as good a time as any.    He waited for a break in the conversation and cleared his throat.

                "Guys - hey guys?  I've got something I've been wanting to tell you all and...I think now is a good time, since everyone is here..."  Six pairs of eyes turned on him expectantly, and he felt himself wilt a bit.   The tiny nod from Oz, the *love* from Spike put a little starch back into his spine, and he cleared his throat again.

                "Ok...remember when I took my trip this summer?  Well, I ended up in Oxnard..."

 

 

                Oz and Xander swept through Giles' door and shut it behind them.  They both paused for a moment, staring at each other, then burst out laughing.

                "Oh my god, I can't believe I did it - I told them!"  Xander ran a shaking hand back through his hair, wired on adrenaline and sheer terror.  He'd gotten through his story about Oxnard - Thomas - almost everything.  And he'd only had to answer about a hundred hysterical questions.  Anya had questioned him more closely then the others and had finally left, looking slightly sniffley.   Tara had smiled her real smile at him, full of warmth and understanding, and Willow had finally broken out of babble-mode long enough to give him a hug and tell him she supported him no matter what.  And then shot a rather speculative and... considering look at Oz.  Giles had polished his glasses, cleared his throat, and offered tea, and then spent twenty minutes in the kitchen not making it.  But he'd shaken Xander's hand as they'd left, and told him that it had taken a lot of courage to come out to them, and that he was proud of him.  Xander had felt - warm, at that.  *Guess the G-man isn't so bad, after all*   Buffy had been - well, Buffy.  She'd screeched a little, wise-cracked a little, then hugged him, and she, too, had shot a narrow look at Oz, who had sat smiling like a skinny, red-haired Buddha.  Xander had deliberately left out Jack - he didn't think he wanted to go there just yet - and had reluctantly but resolutely left out all mention of Spike.  Or anyone, for that matter.  *Better to let them think I'm gay but single, for now.  Don't really want to go through the 'are you possessed, are you insane, he's so dead' thing right now*    They climbed the steps out of Giles' courtyard and headed across the parking lot to Xander's truck.  Oz turned to say something to Xander and suddenly his eyes went black and his mouth stretched in a silent snarl.  Then Xander felt himself being lifted up and swung around, held tight by strong arms in a familiar leather coat.  Smoke and spice and leather smell, cool lips on the back of his neck.

                "Spike!  Jesus!"  Xander squirmed around in his embrace, facing him and covering Spike's mouth in a hard kiss.  Whiskey, smoke, blood.  *mmmm*  Xander tucked his face into Spike's neck for a moment, just breathing.

                "What took so long, pet?  I've been to Willy's and back." 

                "Mmmm...mmmm?   Willy's?  I thought -" 

                "Had a change of heart, he did."  Spike smirked at him, and Xander pulled away a little and smiled. 

                "Oh.  Really?   It took so long because I told them I was - well, I told them I was gay.  Mostly gay.  You know."

                "'Mostly' gay?   Can you do it like that, pet?"

                "Well, you know - I have been with girls, and it wasn't like it was - horrible or anything.  Well, ok, it was kinda horrible, some of it.  But still - girls."  Spike growled deep in his chest, and Xander laughed, kissing him lightly before turning and starting to walk to his truck again.  Oz was already there, leaning against the passenger door and looking up at the sky.   It was a clear night and the stars were thick as dewdrops in the grass.  Xander squeezed Spike's hand, fishing for his keys.

                "Anyway, that's what took so long.  I told them, and they asked me tons of questions, and now they know."

                "Just what do they know, love?"  Spike pulled Xander close, kneading Xander's back through his sweater, and Xander slipped his arms inside the duster, under the t-shirt and along the cool back.

                "Just that.  I left out Jack, for now.  And you.  I didn't want to -"

                "Hush, pet."  Spike kissed him, nibbling at his lip, and *love you love you mine* pulsed over Xander - through him.   He sent it back, hard as he could, and Spike's arms tightened around him.

                "You don't worry your head about it, pet.  Can't be tellin' them all your secrets right out.  This one'll keep, all right?"  Xander looked at him; brushed his fingers back through Spike's hair and then cupped the nape of the vampire's neck in his hand, gripping lightly.

                "I...I know I can't tell them - not right now.  But - I want to, Spike.  I'm not ashamed of you."

                "Know you aren't, love.  Don't fret."  Spike kissed him again, gentle and soft, and then backed away, inclining his head a little toward the truck and Oz waiting patiently.  Xander smiled at him and unlocked the door and Spike slithered across the seat and opened the other door for Oz.  

                "Hey - why did you volunteer to go hang out with Adam?  What's the deal?"   Xander asked, starting his truck and shifting into reverse.

                "He can tell me 'bout the Initiative, pet.  Tell me all their dirty little secrets - tell me who's who. That'll make findin' the bastards that much easier."  Spike's eyes gleamed in the streetlights, and Xander nodded silently. 

*Of course.  And why doesn't this bother me more?  Killing, again…*

*HURT what's ours.  Kill it*   The hyena had no compunctions, and Xander reluctantly had to agree with it.

                "Ok...  You know - you almost got staked in there.  I thought - low profile?"

                "They pissed me off.  Wankers.  Hopin' the Frankendoof'll kill me.  I'm tryin' to play nice."  Xander snorted, and Spike shot him a fangy grin, his eyes dancing.

                As Xander drove, Spike put his arm across the back of the seat and ran the tips of his fingers through and through Xander's hair.  Xander shivered, relishing the feel of him so close; the little touches and looks that spoke volumes to him about what Spike was thinking and feeling.  The - bond, link, whatever it was they had - was amazing, but the casual physicality that Spike indulged in made as much or more of an impression on Xander.  He loved to touch - to be touched - and he'd finally found someone who loved it as much as he did.   They drove home, Santana on the radio; Oz playing air-guitar along with the complicated chords and laughing at himself.  Spike dug more liberated lemon drops out of a pocket and they all crunched some noisily, Spike complaining about how the candy stuck in his fangs.   His hand had fallen into a lovely little stroking rhythm on the back of Xander's neck, and Xander wanted to lean his head into it and surrender.  He drove extra-careful, just to combat the turn-into-goo feelings.

                 At the house, getting out of the truck, laughing about something, and suddenly Spike's demon was there, snarling, and Oz's eyes had gone dark, his lips curling back to bare sudden fangs.  Spike all but lifted Xander off his feet and rushed him onto the porch, growling.   Rage was coming off him, hate, a killing instinct so strong that the hyena howled.

                "Spike -"

                "Go inside, Xander."  Spike leapt from porch to the walk, motioning to Oz who darted up the steps and stood beside Xander, human again but tense.  Something moved in the shadows of the sycamores that lined the street-side of the property.  Something - someone - stepped from the blackness.  Angel.  *Oh fuck.  Just what we need*   Xander unlocked the door but didn't go in.  He watched as Angel came out into the small space of open lawn, pale skin glowing in the street-light.  Spike circled him, head down and demon to the fore.  He was snarling continuously, his eyes glowing, and Xander caught his breath, watching him.  Spike moved like a stalking cat - like a snake.  He was terrifying and beautiful - dreadful and intoxicating all at once.  A Master in his own right - the Lucifer that Xander lay down with every night.  Xander felt a hot and twisting pull in his belly - in his groin.  *Fuck.  THAT turns me on?  That turns me on.  Of course it does.  Look at him - in his element - what he IS.  Beautiful.  Mine*   Angel was watching Spike warily, but his demon wasn't evident - he seemed, in fact, to be fairly relaxed.  Almost - smug.  The hyena growled, and Xander felt his hands clenching into fists.  *Don't be so sure of yourself, deadboy.  You'll be lucky if Spike doesn't take your head off*   Angel took a couple of steps towards the house and Spike was there between the house and the older vampire, barely three feet from Angel, suddenly and ominously silent.  Angel smirked a little.

                "William"

 

 

                Spike stood in a strange, nearly silent place.  All of his attention - all of his senses - were bent on the vampire before him.  Angel.   Memories flooded through him - emotions and actions and words - cascading in a glowing torrent.  Too fast to sort, too ephemeral to re-live.  Only the hurt was real, like a long-bladed knife going through and through him.  And the hate.   The pain - the rage - was so strong he was held immobile, nearly deaf.  His vision narrowed to a black-edged tunnel and all he could see were the pale planes and angles of Angel's face - his thatch of dark hair, his dark coat.  The superior and slightly amused expression on his face.  Faintly, like a moth battering at glass, he could feel * calm love mine* from Xander.  But they didn't penetrate. 

                *Left us...betrayed us...abandoned us - me...*   He took in a deep breath, filling his nose and mouth with the essence of the older vampire.   Angel's scent - leather and musk, mint and green tea and dust.  And underlying it all, the faint, sickly smell of a vampire who was not feeding well.   Animal blood, rank and rotten.   Spike felt his lips curl back from his fangs in something that might have been a smile, and his hand slipped into his pocket - caressed the cool, twisted length of steel there.  *Surprise the bastard.  Let's see how this goes*   Then he launched himself forward, forearm striking Angel squarely across the chest, driving him back.  Angel hit the trunk of a sycamore with an odd, breathless grunting sound, and in one liquid movement Spike pulled the nail from his coat and drove it through Angel's shoulder, pinning him to the tree.  Angel's scream was ragged and inhuman.   Sound and thought and sensation suddenly washed through Spike again, freeing him.  Spike silenced Angel with a fierce backhanded blow.

                "First mistake, Angel.  Wanna make a second?"  He rattled the nails in his pocket - drew another one out and held it to Angel's other shoulder.  Angel swiped weakly at him, gasping, his demon to the fore.

                "What are you doing, Wi - Spike!"

                "Me, mate?  Doin'?  Teachin' you my name, I guess.  Worked, too.  What other lessons might you need to learn, eh?"

                "Spike?"  Xander called from the porch, and Spike pushed the demon's face inward, turning his head over his shoulder to look at the two on the porch.

                "Everythin's all right, mate.   Just...seein' if the pouf's a quick study."

                "What does he want, Spike?"  Xander's voice was level - calm - and Spike felt that calm coming through him, steadying him.

                "Dunno.  Let's ask."  He looked back at Angel, grinning, and dropped the second nail back into his pocket.  He reached up to the one in Angel's shoulder and grasped it.  He held it for a moment, gaze locked with Angel's, then he wrenched it free of tree and body in one ferocious jerk.  Angel gasped harshly and sagged to his knees, and Spike stepped back from him, indolently licking the dark blood from the nail.   Angel pushed himself to his feet, holding his wounded shoulder.

                "What the hell is wrong with you, Spike?   Why are you here - what are you doing with Xander and Oz?"

                "Doing?  I live here.  What's you're soddin' excuse?"   Spike spun the nail through his fingers, not watching it, letting it flash in the streetlight.

                "You don't have any reason to attack me, Spike.  After what happened the last time we met - I should be the one attacking you.  You're damn lucky I'm not."  Angel stared at him, his lip curling in dislike.  "You always were an ungrateful child."  The nail stopped moving, and Spike gripped it tightly, his grin fading.  The rage - the hurt - burned bright again, and he deliberately kept his face human - his voice low.

                "You're not my Sire, Angel.  You're just another bloody vampire poaching on my territory, as far as I'm concerned.  And if you don't leave, I will kill you."  Angel barked a short, humorless laugh, stepping up close to Spike.

                "You can deny it until the hells freeze, Spike, but you know -"

                "Yeah, I do know - Dru turned me.  You bloody well know it, too.  Wasn't her fault she didn't know what to do next.  You taught me some things - you acted the Sire - but you're not.   Any claim you had ended when that hag-ridden soul of yours lodged in your throat like a bone.   It chokes you, Angel - chokes you until you're mad with it - it drove Angelus mad.  I had to make bloody pax with the Slayer to end Angelus' grand world-destroyin' schemes.  You're no more my Sire then Liam was.  And Dru's let me go, Angel.  She's talkin' to snakes in the jungle.  I am Master here.  Go back to LA. "

                "A Master who can't defend himself - can't feed himself?  You're pathetic, Spike.  You're no Master - if anyone's Master in Sunnydale it's Buffy, and don't you forget it." 

                Spike snarled, snapping his fangs inches from Angel's face.  *Knew.  Oh bloody gods, he

 KNEW *    Something - some tiny thing in Spike that had, until then, been a tendril of hope withered utterly with those scathing, scornful,  merciless words.  He fought for control - found it in the steady, sun-warm flow of *love love love*  that came from Xander.

                "You knew.  You knew what the bloody soldiers did!  And you did nothing.   That's why you're not my Sire, Angel.  Because my Sire would have torn the soldier-boys limb from limb for me - would have torn down the Initiative brick by bloody brick and sowed its grounds with salt!   You.  You do fuck all except brood and ponce around L.A., bloody wanker.  Hair shirt and ashes on your face.  Come running when your bitch calls and tuck tail when she sends you home."  Something surged through Spike - an emotion he'd never felt for Angel before.  Pity.  *You ignorant bog-trotting bastard.  You just lost me, and you don't even know it.  Lost me...and you don't care* 

                "That chip is the only thing keeping you alive, Spike, and you know it."  Angel pushed Spike back a step, and Spike threw his head back and laughed.   *Don't need him, have my boy...it's gone...he's gone ... free of him ...tastes like ashes, like bitterest aloe...*

                "Oh, Angel - you really are stupid.   I'm taken care of here - human blood an' all - dosh, a fine place to lay me bones down...   I'm in, here, Angel - like you never were."

                "You're fooling yourself, Spike.  You're a parasite here.  And the minute you're out of line you'll be dust.  And I'll be the one doing it."  Spike laughed again, harder this time, genuinely amused.

                "Weren't you listenin' mate?  I'm not livin' on pigs and cows here - I'm living on human blood, like a good vampire's supposed to.   You want to challenge me, scavenger?"  All amusement left Spike's face, and he growled.  "I'll tear your bloody head off, mate."  Spike looked for a long moment at Angel - at the blood still seeping from his shoulder, at the look of anger and disgust that twisted Angel's face.  Spike sneered, and turned his back, and sauntered up to the house.  He dropped the bloody nail back into his pocket.

                "You're not invited, peaches.  Go home."

 

 

                In the house, finally in the house, magic making its impervious barrier and Spike cat-eyed in the gloom.  The shocking glow of baleful yellow as Oz lit a candle and Xander went to Spike to hug him, ask him...  Spike stiff-armed him away.

                "Spike?"

                "Don't, Xander.  I..."  Spike was utterly still, his hands curled into claws that absently sank into the denim on his thighs.  Xander heard the threads pop as he tore through them.   What was coming through the link made Xander shiver - a roil of anger and pain, of *hunt* and *hate* and *sorrow*  - overwhelming, chaotic.

                "Hey -"  Spike's head swayed a little, left then right.  Scenting.  Oz made a strange little grumbling sound in his chest, and out of the corner of his eye Xander saw Oz's eyes darken.  Spike hissed.  It was a snake sound: low, cold, and hideous.  Xander felt himself freeze.   *mouse, just like a mouse, don't let it see me, don't...* 

                "W-what -"

                "Xan-derrrr..."  His name devolved into a full-throated growl, and Spike's head was down, eyes glittering, so feral and so predatory that Xander involuntarily took a step back.   Spike mirrored him - moved one step closer - then another.  His hand came up and hovered over Xander's cheek, trembling.  Oz shifted nervously, a grumble of warning or displeasure starting in his chest and Spike's head whipped around to orient on him, full demon in seconds, mouth gaping in a rising roar of sound.  Oz froze - Xander did.  Spike shook his head, shaking the demon off even though the eyes remained.

                "Gotta...you smell like..."  Spike let his hand drop, and seemed to come back to himself a little.

"Need to get out, love.  I'll - I'll come back.  Tonight."  The demon-eyes were fierce and dry - the silent wave of emotion that poured over Xander ached with need, with fear, with *love love mine please*   Xander nodded, not daring to speak, sending everything he had of  *calm  love you trust you *    Spike moved past and was gone, faster then thought, out the kitchen door and into the blackness beyond.  Xander sagged, suddenly light-headed, and Oz swore softly.

                "What was that, Xander?  Is he -?"

                "I think...I think what he just did...he rejected Angel...Angel's claim.  I think he just needs to go beat the crap out of something.  He's - he's all right." 

                *You don't seem too sure about that, Harris.  He wouldn't hurt US*

                *Nothing to stop him hurting someone ELSE, though…  Fuck, fuck, that was…  What the hell WAS that?!*

                *Vampire*  the hyena grumbled, as if that answered all the questions.  *Ours*   And really, it did.  It answered them all just fine.

 

                Of course, fifteen minutes later, there were more questions, as Angel stood on the porch, looking in through the screen door that Xander refused to open.  Back, like the proverbial bad penny.

                "What's he doing here, Xander?  I don't understand.  I know your feelings about...our kind."

Xander sighed.

                "Look.  You know about the Initiative - what it did to him.  They're still trying to recapture him.  They trashed his crypt - they grabbed Oz and tortured him.  There's no way they're getting their claws into Spike again.  They crippled him, Angel.  What they did...   At least here he has some protection, if they come.  Oz and me can at least stop them long enough for him to get away, if they ever try it."

                "He's a killer, Xander - a cold-blooded murderer.  You know if that chip were gone, you and Oz would be the first ones to go.  Why do you even care?"

                "You've done your share of murdering, Angel."   Angel flinched, and the hyena yipped in satisfaction.  "You think you deserve agony every time you try to feed yourself?  What about - if some kid decides he wants your coat - your wallet?  Comes at you with a knife.  Even I could pick up a board or a brick or something and fight him off - Spike can't even do that!  It's torture, Angel."  Xander stared hard at the vampire, wondering if Angel could smell the lie.  He sincerely hoped not - hoped the vampire mistook any scent that was...off...for stress from the evening's events, or Xander's own dislike of him.  Xander wished he wasn't sweating under Angel's scrutiny.

                "Nobody deserves that, Angel.   It's - revolting.   At least before, he had a fighting chance, just like everything else on the planet.  Now he doesn't have that.  So yeah, he's staying here with me, and I get him human blood because we need him - he's the strongest of all of us except maybe for Buffy, and sometimes he can kill the demons better because he knows more about them.  Do you know - he told me he got blacklisted from Willy's?  Because he was helping Buffy?   Just leave him alone, Angel.   He's doing fine here."

                "He's playing with you, Xander, can't you see that?"  Angel looked genuinely distressed, but Xander really didn't care.  He didn't know the full history between the two vampires - wasn't sure he wanted to know.  But the feelings that had battered at him, as Spike had confronted Angel - the rage and the hurt, the grinding, hopeless hurt had told him everything he'd needed to know.  Angel had done something to Spike - hurt him badly enough to make Spike want to kill him.   Therefore, he was no friend of Xander's.  If he ever had been.  Even the soldier, whose slavish duty to any and all 'authority' figures was sometimes annoying as hell, didn't want anything to do with Angel.  *Is this what it felt like for Spike, up in Oxnard?  I don't want to...KILL... Angel, do I?*

                *It hurt what's ours*  The hyena had no such doubts.

                "Xander -" 

                "Look, Angel, I'm tired and I have to get up before dawn to go to work.  I just want to go to bed."  Xander ran his hand back through his hair and stepped up close to the screen door, trying like hell to be calm and to make Angel just go.  "Spike and I and Oz ... we're friends.  And he's going to stay here as long as he needs to.  And if he ever gets that thing out of his head - we'll deal with it then.  For now, this is how it is, and I don't need you coming up here and fucking with him.  You've done more to hurt the people I love then he ever has - Spike never killed one of us, and you did.  So just go home."  Xander turned away from the door, and suddenly Angel slammed his fists into the jamb, growling.  Xander spun around, startled, and saw Angel glowering at him, game-faced.

                "Xander - why do you smell like him?  What the fuck are you doing?  Are you crazy?"  Angel's fingernails were gouging the wood of the jamb, and Xander glared at him.

                "Quit fucking up my house, deadboy.  So I smell like him, so what?  Living together here."

                "No, no - it's more then that.  A lot more.  You can't do that, Xander.  Don't you understand -?"

                "I do understand, Angel.  You're out of your territory and out of your league here.  Go.  Home."  Xander shut his front door in Angel's face and slipped the chain on, then went back to the kitchen to slump in a chair opposite Oz.  Who knew what Angel had sensed - who knew what he would do?  At this point, Xander didn't even care.  He was worried about Spike, and tired, and just sick of all the bullshit.  *If they knew what I could see - could FEEL...  Fuck - even if I told them I get the feeling they wouldn't want to be convinced.  Hellmouth Living - see only what you want to see.*    Oz had lit some candles; made himself a big sandwich and a glass of milk and was studiously not noticing that Xander's hands were shaking and that he was close to tears.  Xander got up and grabbed a soda and sat back down, then abruptly put his head on the table and thumped it onto the wood a couple of times, groaning.

                "Fuck.  This is all so - fucked.  Oz..."  Xander lifted his head, looking up into the calm gaze of the werewolf.   "I'm sorry if I kinda - spoke for you, out there.  I just wanted him to leave."  Oz swallowed his bite of sandwich and rubbed a hand over his hair, making it stick out more wildly then before.

                "It's ok, Xander.  We're friends.   Honestly, I don't know Spike well enough to say, you know, a hundred percent, but he came with you to get me.   He didn't have to, and he was in a lot of danger from them..."  Oz shuddered slightly and poked at a crust.  "Anyway, I don't have anything against him, and I - it's weird, but I trust him.   The way you two...  I mean, I can't help but see you, you know. "  Oz looked up at Xander from behind his lashes and Xander was suddenly and rather forcefully reminded that Oz and Devon were - intimate.  *Oh fuck.  Maybe Spike and I embarrass him or...ah...maybe we DON'T embarrass him.  Never thought of that.  Damn.  I wonder if... *

                "Oh fuck, Oz, I'm sorry, I didn't - we didn't mean to -"

                "No, Xander, it's ok.  I'm not - it doesn't bother me.  I mean, not like that.  You guys are - really in love.  Makes me a little...sad, I guess.   I was kind of hoping to come back to something like that, myself."  Oz smiled wanly, and Xander bit his lip - busied himself opening his soda, wishing there was something he could say.  But Oz spoke first.

                "That stuff - from before, the ring and - "  Oz made a gesture with his hand and Xander nodded.

                "Yeah?"

                "That stuff was from those guys - up in Oxnard.  The ones that jumped you?"  Xander turned the soda can in his hands, glancing up to meet Oz's gaze and then away again.

                "Yeah.  It was."  Oz rubbed the grooves in the table, the grooves Spike's nails had left and that Xander had smoothed over.

                "Did you...did you want him to do that?"  Oz's voice was so quiet, but there was something in it - something - and Xander's gaze snapped back to Oz's face.

                "NO.  I didn't - I didn't ask him to do that and I didn't want him to.  Oz - I don't...I don't know what to do about that."  Oz ran his finger down the side of his glass, again and again, concentrating on it.

                "Do you really think there's anything you can do about it, Xander?"  Those eyes - so calm, and so utterly opaque.   Showing nothing.   But his voice...

                "I - dunno.  I don't want him - running around killing people who look sideways at me.  I know - I know he's going to go after the Initiative.  I'm having a hard time caring about that.  But...I think...  Fuck, Oz.  I dunno.  I trust him - I can see him and I can feel him - inside me.  He…promised.   I think he promised.    I don't know what he promised.  What - what do you think about that?  What he did?"  Oz lifted his glass and drank, emptying it, then he touched absently at a mark on his arm; burn-mark, scarred there despite his werewolf constitution.

                "Protect the pack, Xander.   That's - baseline.  You know?  Hardwired."  His jade-pale gaze flickered over the room - came to rest on Xander.  "I know why he did it."  Xander held that steady regard as long as he could - nodded finally, and took a long drink of his soda.

                "So we're cool, Oz?"

                "Yeah."

                "Ok.  Thanks.  I really - I really appreciate you at least trying to - understand."

                "Hey, you get bit by your nephew, turn into B-grade Lon Chaney, and have to go to Tibet to get a cure, you start to see things a little…differently."  Oz grinned at him suddenly and Xander grinned back, feeling better.  Oz's sandwich looked good, so he got up and made one for himself.   They both puttered around, getting ready for Monday.  Oz had a couple of job interviews to go to - he was starting to feel uncomfortable not chipping in - and Xander had to be on site early to deal with the usual Monday-morning craziness.  Also, Manny wanted to go over some schedules with him as the demon was planning a week away and Xander would be in charge.  *Forgot all about that.  I'm kinda promoted - temporarily - and I'm not even excited right now.  Fucking Hellmouth.  Fucking Initiative.  Can't wait for all this crap to be OVER.*   They showered and settled into sleep, the kitchen door unlocked for Spike.  Xander hated being alone in the bed, and he dozed on and off, waiting. 

                His alarm woke him, and he automatically slapped it off, and then slumped on the bed as he realized he was still alone.  *But - the shower's running.  Spike?*  Xander sent a questing thread of  *love missed you where*  and received a blast of  *want want want*  so strong he gasped.  He scrambled out of the bed and into the bathroom and Spike was there, standing under the shower, looking...  *He looks strange.  Something happened tonight.  What happened?*    Xander glanced around.  Spike's clothes were in a heap by the washing machine.  They were - damp.  His duster was hung up on the rack by the outside door, dripping a little puddle of rusty water, and his boots were wet, as well.  There was a smear of blood on the door jamb.

                "Spike!  Are you hurt?"  Xander wrenched open the shower door and frantically ran his gaze over and over the lean body under the spray.  *Nothing.  Nothing.  He's alright...*   Spike was leaning against the wall, drops of water caught in his eyelashes, beading along his collarbones, pectorals.  He was looking at Xander with the oddest expression.

                "Spike - what's going on?  Are you ok?"

                "Xander..."  Spike opened his arms and Xander stepped into them, pulling the shower door shut, pulling the water-warmed body close to his.  Spike clung to him, shuddering, and Xander started to kiss him; neck and shoulders, cheekbones and jaw.  He dug his fingers into the quivering back and kneaded the muscles there, trying to soothe him.       

                "Love, it's all right, please tell me...tell me what I can do...Spike..."  Spike lifted his head and Xander looked into his eyes; bruise-blue, wide and * fear anger sorrow sorrow*   so strong. 

                "What, love, what - please tell me."

                "He's not my Sire."  Spike whispered.  He looked down - back up.  "He never really was, but... 

 I rejected him.  I left him.  And he left...mm-me.  Let me go...didn't even try...  Gone for good, now."

                "He wasn't doing anything for you, Spike.  It'll be all right love, promise."  Spike only stared at him, his expression lost and so sad, and Xander pulled him closer and kissed him.  Tried, with his kiss, to show all his love and all his desire and all his trust.   *mine forever love you.*  Spike let him, standing so still, and then after a moment he began to kiss back, his passion mounting and the kiss becoming something more - something fiercer and more possessive.  And *yours yours*  washing through and through Xander like static electricity; tingling along his nerves, sparking fire in his groin.  He moaned into the kiss and Spike was turning, putting his hands on the wall, opening his legs, and Xander leaned against him, covering the vampire's body with his own, hands to hands and Xander's lips on Spike's neck, gentle kisses.

                "Xander..." *need want* 

                "What do you need, Spike?  Tell me."

                "C-claim me - make me yours, Xander, please - have to be..."

                "Always mine, love..."  Xander whispered, but his hands were moving - getting a palmful of liquid soap, slicking himself and then gently beginning to make Spike ready.  Spike pushed back against him, his head down between his arms, his arms shaking.

                "No, love - just do it - take me.   Need to feel it, love, please...please..."

                "But I'll hurt you -"

                "Need it - won't hurt - please...  "  and *please please need you*  so strong, so desperate. 

                *Do this.  Do this for him, his way.  Make it right, Harris*   The hyena whined agreement, wanting as badly as Spike did, and Xander closed his eyes for a brief moment, and leaned in and kissed the side of Spike's neck.  Then he took a deep breath, and forced his way into Spike's tense, unprepared body.  Spike cried out, flinching, but pushing back, welcoming the pain that Xander could feel - it hummed under the *need need need*  that Spike was sending and made Xander bite his lip hard, hating what he was doing.  Knowing Spike wanted it - could take it.  *But I don't have to like it.  Fucking Angel.*  Xander began to thrust, as hard as he could, gasping as Spike thrust back.  Xander felt the viselike grip of the vampire's body ease just slightly and realized with sudden shock that Spike was...

                "Spike - fuck - you're bleeding -" 

                "S'all right...Xander...yours?"  There was the tiniest  questioning note in that word, and Xander swiftly put his arms around Spike's body, hugging him as tight as he could, stroking into the shivering body, sending out *mine mine love you*  making it count, making Spike feel every particle of love Xander had for him - every bit of desire and need.  As he pounded into Spike, he let one hand slide lower, to grasp and stroke Spike's erection, wanting them to end this together.  Spike was moaning now, gasping harshly, bending further so that Xander could get closer - harder.  And what he was pushing through the link...   Xander shuddered under it - the unbelievable feelings of love, desire, utter surrender, the need, so strong, to give and belong and be a part of.   Mirroring Xander's own feelings - everything the hyena wanted, everything Xander wanted - to belong, to have some connection outside his own head.  Xander understood these feelings - understood them suddenly in a much clearer way then he ever had, and his own desire suddenly doubled.  This was right -  this was pack, and belonging, and this was *vampire ours  sealed in blood.*  Xander pulled Spike upright, threading the fingers of his free hand through the pale hair and wrenching Spike's head to the side.  He ran his tongue up the tense length of Spike's neck - thrust a little faster, knowing he was hitting the deep place, feeling it reverberate through Spike's body physically and through the link.  Then he bit as hard as he could, savage - tearing the pale skin, going for blood.  Spike let out a sound like a howl, like a scream, his hands scrabbling on the wall, his body arching into a fierce and immediate orgasm.  The blood was shockingly crimson on his shoulder, and Xander lapped at it - sucked on the wound and bit again, not quite as hard, his own orgasm leaving him breathless.  *MINE* and "Mine, you're mine, always mine, Spike, claim you, want you... "  Spike sagged against the wall, gasping, and Xander wrapped both arms around him and just held him, rubbing his hands over and over the quivering muscles, murmuring into his ear, kissing gently now at the livid mark he'd made.

                "Love you, Spike,"  Xander whispered, and Spike leaned his head back on Xander's shoulder, turning his face to kiss him.

                "Love you...Xander, love you."  His smile was small and fragile, and Xander's heart ached for him.  He pulled gently away, hating the shudder that ran through the vampire as he came free of Spike's body.   *Oh, blood, on me, on him...fuck...love you sorry sorry*   

                "Don't be sorry, love, "  Spike murmured, and Xander got soap and began to wash him, sluicing the stained foam away and getting more, going so slowly and so gently, biting his lip until it bled.

                "I'm am sorry, Spike - can't change that."  Xander turned Spike around to face him, getting more soap, roughly cleaning the blood off his own body, hating it.

                "I love you, Spike - I don't want to hurt you."

                "Didn't hurt," Spike said, eyes closed, and Xander took Spike's shoulders in his hands and shook him just a little.

                "It did, love.  I could feel it, remember?"  Spike's eyes opened wide at that, and Xander smiled at him.  "I could feel it.  But I could feel - why, Spike.  I could feel that too.   I know why.   I'm still sorry.  Never want to hurt you."  Spike's eyes were darkly blue, still so wide, so hurt, and Xander had a sudden thought, and he tipped his head.

                "Spike - take a little.  Drink, love.  Claim me, too."  *please love you yours always*   The blue flashed to gold, and Xander watched the rearrangement of flesh and bone with fascination.  Then Spike was pressing his mouth to Xander's throat, and the fangs slipped in, gentle, so smooth, a ripple of fiery delight coursing over Xander's body.  Spike drank the merest swallow - licked the wound gently and leaned back onto the wall, human again. 

                "You are...amazing, love."  Xander touched the mark he'd made on Spike's throat.  It was already less sore-looking.  Not so livid.  *Heals fast now - back to full strength, like he said...*   Xander gathered Spike into a hard hug, *want need* and the purr *growl* rattled out of Spike's chest, low and stuttering, infinitely soothing, dying away too fast.

                "Gotta go to work, Spike.  Sorry."

                "I know.  It's alright." Murmured into his hair, soft lips on his neck.    Another minute and they got out of the shower, drying off slowly, Xander rubbing his towel through Spike's hair, Spike drying Xander's back and planting little kisses all along his spine as he did.

                "Ohh, Spike...fuck...don't wanna go to work, just wanna stay here with you."  Xander turned and caught Spike's mouth in a hard kiss, probing deeply.  *Blood, smoke, spice ... the best, oh the best

 taste...*   "Can't get enough of you."  Spike shivered, kissing Xander back; forehead and eyes and nose and cheeks, jaw and chin, down his throat.   Xander rested his hands on Spike's hips and pulled away the tiniest bit, making Spike look up at him.

                "You all right, Spike?"  Spike looked at him, his eyes shimmering gold for a moment, and then he sighed and leaned his head on Xander's shoulder, arms around Xander's waist.

                "I'm all right, pet.  Just - never been...  I've always had somebody, you know?  Always had the bloody Family.  Now they're gone.   Darla's been gone forever, and Penn.  Then Dru... now Angelus...   I

just feel - queer.   On my own."  Spike looked back up at him, and Xander smiled a little, touching Spike's solemn, down-turning lips.

                "Not on your own, you know.  I'm here.  I'm not - your Sire, not anything really, except...yours."

                "You're everything, Xander.  Everything."  Spike kissed him, hard, and the *love love love * that came with it was almost overwhelming in its strength and need.   *God - can I do this?  Can I be enough?  Please let me be enough...love you yours * 

                "Fuck.  I really need to get ready.  You gonna be ok here today?  I could be sick -"  Spike laughed softly, pushing Xander's hair back off his forehead, petting his hands through it.

                "No, love.  You go on.  I'm knackered - gonna sleep 'til you come home, I reckon."

                "All right."  Xander peered at him - did his own hair-mussing, grinning.  "Love the manga look, Spike.  You really should quit with the hair-gel."

                "'S my trademark look, pet."

                "Yeah, but...this is so..."

                "Poufy?"  Xander laughed, pushing past him to grab his comb.

                "No - it's just...makes you look less...hard, I guess.  Looks like you do in bed with me."  Spike slipped up behind him, putting his arms around Xander's waist and leaning his chin on Xander's shoulder.

                "That's just for you, love.  I'm the Big Bad to everyone else.  Right?"  Xander rubbed his head on Spike's, sighing.  Watching his solitary reflection in the mirror.  So strange - a little scary.  Xander put his hand up, to touch Spike's cheek, wanting confirmation that the mirror couldn't give him.

                "Yeah - can't let 'em know the Big Bad has a soft spot for the carpenter.  Would ruin the whole evil undead rep."  Spike kissed Xanders' neck and Xander just rested there a moment.  Then he forced himself to finish with his hair, brush his teeth.  Spike was behind him the whole time, hands on his shoulders, on his hips, and Xander felt the *need* and wished he could stay.  He turned around finally and pointed to the clothes on the floor - the duster that was dripping blood-tinged water and the smear of it on the door jamb.

                "We'll talk about that when I get home.  Right?"  Spike cocked his head at him, the link going silent, and Xander shivered.

                "Whatever you want, pet."  Xander kissed him swiftly and then walked into the bedroom and got dressed, hurrying now, almost late.    Spike curled himself into the bedclothes, hugging Xander's pillow, and when Xander finally left he was asleep. 

                *Looks younger then me, sometimes.  But he's seen firelight go to electric light and cars take over the world...saw us go to war and go to the moon...made so many people die.  I shouldn't feel what I feel for him.  But I can't not.  Not when I can feel...*  Xander bent down and kissed Spike's temple, and went silently out.