Chapter 16: Details

Chapter 16: Details

                Xander lay on his back in bed, his mind only half-awake and his body not even close.  Something had woken him...  Ah.  The shower.  Spike was back.  Xander shifted in the bed a little, letting himself drift.  In a few minutes there'd be cuddling and quite possibly sex, and he grinned in anticipation.  Squinted at the clock and saw it was only 4 a.m.  Spike was back early.  Did that mean he was hurt?  Xander's eyes opened wide in the darkness and the sleepy languor left him.  *Love what hurt*   he sent, and what came back was the mental equivalent of an eye-roll.  Xander giggled and slipped out of bed, the exhaustion and strangeness of the past twenty-four hours completely gone.  He padded into the bathroom, looking for clues.  The duster was hung up, as usual.  *Not dripping blood, that's good*   Docs there - one upturned sole showing the beginnings of a hole. *Needs to get those re-soled, again.*   Spike's clothes were in a tangle near the washing machine and Xander picked them up.  Jeans - whole but bloody.   Over shirt - torn and damp.  Xander touched a finger to a damp place on the red silk and grimaced when it came away smeared with blood.  T-shirt - definitely shredded - in fact, garbage.  Xander tossed it into the trash, dropped the rest of the clothes back to the floor and turned to the shower.

                Spike stood in the stall, arms crossed, grinning at him, the open door dripping onto the floor and a bank of steam eddying out.  Something on his body - blood?

                "Got me all sorted then, love?"  Xander grinned back and stepped into the shower, gasping a little at the temperature Spike had the water set on.  He pulled the door shut and immediately began to feel a little breathless from the steam.

                "You're back early.  I wondered if you were hurt.  And - you are!"  Xander grabbed Spike's wrists and pulled his arms away from his body.  Underneath were two sets of deep, parallel scratches, still oozing just a bit, a crisscrossing V-shape from collarbones to navel.

                "What happened?"  Spike pulled Xander closer, resting his forehead on Xander's and sighing.  *Uh oh.  This is the 'I love you lots I did something you'll hate' pose.  What now?*

                "Spike..."   *Tell tell love you*

                "Went and collected my 'leven pounds, didn't I?"

                "Eleven...pounds?  What?"  Now Xander got the actual eye roll and he put his hands on the tiles on either side of Spike's head and leaned into the vampire's body, pressing his groin lightly to Spike's, letting his tongue find the strong tendon of Spike's neck.  Need already coursing through Xander, making him hard.  Spike shifted, hands on Xander's hips, and drew in a small breath.  "Tell me, Spike, before I haf'ta...torture it out of you."  Xander bit lightly at Spike's neck, right above his collarbone, and Spike shivered, his fingers tightening down, his head going back into the wall with a soft thump.

                "Poncey bastard owed me, ssso I went to c-collect..."  Xander continued to nibble and lick - softer, harder, his hips keeping up a firm pressure.  He felt Spike's erection pressing insistently at his, and he did the little hip-roll thing, eliciting a breathy moan from the vampire.

                "What bastard?  What eleven pounds?  How'd you get the cuts?"  Xander bit down suddenly on Spike's throat - on the jugular - and held him, almost hard enough to break the skin but not quite.  Spike arched fiercely into him, his hips pumping mindlessly, and Xander shook him, just a little, letting the hyena have its fun.

                *Mine mine kill what did it mine*

                "Xan-derrrr..."  Spike moaned, and Xander bit a little harder, feeling his teeth sink in.  *TELL*

                "Drac - that bastard - got my...p-pound of flesh, didn't I; got that bastard...please, please..."

                Xander let go of Spike's throat - grabbed his shoulders and turned him, pushing him into the wall, running his hands down Spike's arms and capturing his wrists; lifting and pressing the vampire's hands against the tile, above his head.  Xander's own cock was throbbing with want, the hyena desperate to re-claim what was theirs, and the *want want want* coming off of Spike - the sub-sonic growl that was vibrating through Spike's chest - was pushing Xander over the edge.  He filled his palm with soap and roughly slicked himself - forced two fingers into Spike and groaned aloud when Spike surged backwards, ready and eager and *please fuck now NOW*  washing through him, a wave of desire and need that made Xander's knees weak.

                Xander kicked Spike's legs further apart and then he was pushing in, forcing himself in, the pants and whimpers of mingled pain and pleasure only spurring him on.   He'd learned a lot about that, these past couple of weeks.  How much Spike could take - how much he needed to take, sometimes - and it no longer made him angry, or sick.  Now it was another turn on a wheel - soft and gentle, playful, passionate, brutal - and he wanted it as much as Spike did.  Wanted to claim what was his, however he could.  *Rival*   Someone else had touched what was his - hurt what was his, and he needed - the hyena needed - to wipe out all memory of that other; to re-establish its own supremacy over all others in Spike's life. 

                Which was exactly the same reason Spike had done - whatever he'd done - to Dracula.

                Xander surged forward and buried himself, and Spike moaned aloud - the moan going to a rising wail as Xander once again sank his teeth into Spike's throat and began to thrust furiously into him, hard as he could.  Which was damn hard, lately.  Spike was right - Xander wasn't like the other boys, anymore.

                As he drove into him, Xander slipped one hand around and began to stroke Spike's cock, hard and tight, making it rough.  Spike was nearly silent now, gasping for one hard breath after another, his body like iron under Xander and his hips moving in helpless, furious counterpoint to Xander's.  The surges of want and lust that they were both sending to each other only made them more desperate - more frantic - and Xander felt the wave of fiery heat, like lightning, rippling through him as he neared orgasm.  Spike writhed under him  *blood need*  and Xander brought his arm up, pushing it against Spike's mouth.  They both bit down at the same moment; Spike's blood like champagne in Xander's mouth, alive and tingling with *magic demon mine*   Spike's fangs in his forearm, a point of heat and shuddering *want* that encompassed his whole body, and they both stiffened into orgasm, Xander groaning into Spike's neck, Spike snarling and growling like some kind of feral cat, the demon to the fore and his jaws locked down hard on Xander's arm.

                It took long minutes to come down from that, and Xander just leaned on Spike, gasping harshly, letting his cock slip free by slow degrees, curling his arms around Spike's heaving ribs and resting his forehead on the water-warmed back.  He couldn't help his tongue going out to taste Spike, again and again, little licks that gathered in the spice and smoke of him - taste of unreal and unliving flesh that was *everything mine always mine*   Spike was mouthing the bite on Xander's forearm - soothing it with strokes of his tongue, kissing gently where he'd bitten so deeply a moment before.  *That's gonna be sore*  Xander thought fuzzily.       

                *Love you love you yours*  from Spike, and he turned himself, gathering Xander into his arms, his eyes half-shut and the look of a satisfied cat on his face.  Xander kissed him, tasting blood and whiskey and Spike, content to just lean there and slowly re-learn every inch of Spike's mouth.    Xander had no idea how long they stood there, just lost in each other, lost in the feel and scent and taste of the other.  But Spike shivered suddenly, and Xander realized that the water was cooling off.

                "Come on, love, let's get dry and get into bed and you can tell me all about your adventures tonight."  Spike snorted, shooting him a look, and they got out and dried off.  The cuts on Spike's torso had sealed, and were starting to fade - they'd be gone by the time Xander got home from work, he was sure.  But the sight of them brought another wave of *mine mine KILL IT*  from the hyena, and Spike laughed softly and pulled Xander into the bedroom, tumbling the human down into the rumpled covers and kissing him hard.

                "Don't worry 'bout Drac, pet.  He'll be healin' for days - and on the move, as well, since I burned his fuckin' house down."  A brief wash of rage and glee from the demon and Xander shivered, wondering just what Spike had done.

                "Why didn't he just - do the mist thing or the bat thing - get away from you?"  Xander squirmed around, getting the covers over them, and Spike settled behind him, pressing as close as he could, one arm under Xander's pillow, elbow bent and fingertips in Xander's hair,  the other curling around Xander's chest, held tight by Xander's own arms.  Spike buried his nose in the damp sable hair and inhaled.  *love you smell good*

                "'Cause he's a wanker, that's why.  That gypsy shite is for the food - he wouldn't pull it on another vamp.  'Sides, he thought he could beat me."  Spike laughed, kissing the back of Xander's neck.  "He was pretty weak from tusslin' with the Slayer and still thought he could take me on.  He always did have more balls then brains.  An' I'm not above takin' advantage of a situation, neither."

                *Sick ones die* the hyena insisted, and *outsider* from the demon.

                "So - he's gone.  That's good."  Xander shuddered a little, remembering the feeling of being under Dracula's thrall - the otherness that had been like mist in his brain, drowning out his own thoughts and impulses, smothering everything into dullness.  Spike felt his unease and nuzzled closer, murmuring reassurances, and Xander closed his eyes.  Smiled, when he felt the bone-deep rumble of the purr start, Spike knowing how much Xander loved that.  Xander felt safe, there, enfolded and protected and *love love* and he let himself remember.





                Xander walked beside Willow, heading for the cemetery - out on patrol - something he'd done with the gang so seldom lately it was almost strange.  The Initiative gone and Riley gone and back already, things settling into Hellmouth normal and he felt...all wrong, being there.  It was *not pack* and Xander wished he'd agreed to meet Willow somewhere else.

                 Willow was doing her hyper-drive double-speak thing, wringing her hands and going on about secrets - the reason he'd agreed to come out at all.  Willow had told him she had something important to talk about, and he was wondering when she was going to just blurt it out and say it.  She was terrible at innuendo and couldn't keep a secret to save her life.  Spike was off doing something nasty to some vamps that had been stupid enough to choose the old High School as their nesting place.  He was taking his Master of Sunnydale title seriously - at least for now.  He'd told Xander he wasn't going to kill every demon or vamp he came across, but he was going to keep the more foolish and foolhardy from messing with the Hellmouth.  *No opening portals into demon dimensions and sending us all to Hell on MY watch, pet*

                By the time they got to the cemetery, Willow still hadn't actually said anything, even though she'd talked almost non-stop the whole way, and Xander was almost glad when Buffy warned them away.  But too late, whatever she'd been on about was suddenly there, and Xander found himself looking into a pale and dark-eyed face that held them all spellbound.  *Dracula?  He really exists.  Who'd have thought?  But still, cheesy cloak.  That's SO last century.  Spike'll laugh...*  Then Dracula was gone - or rather, was a bat - and they ducked and covered until he - it - flew, squeaking, away.  *Huh.  Wonder if Spike can do that?  That's...fairly cool.  I'll bet Angel can't.*

                They spent the next hour at Giles' house, listening to Buffy rave about her apparent notoriety with the undead set; to Willow stammer about dark and penetrating eyes, and to Anya - who'd come by to borrow a book from Giles - about past dates with the Prince of Evil, or whatever.  Xander shared a look with Giles and Tara of mingled incredulity and amazement, and left when Riley and Buffy started to bicker about...something.  *And I so don't care.  Dark Prince or not, even Buffy wouldn't go for a guy in a cape.*    Xander walked briskly back towards the cemetery - he was going to meet Spike at the vampire's old crypt, get the truck and go for a game of pool.  Friday night, and they had both felt like going out and doing something...mundane.   They were also going to talk about Oz.  Ever since the night the Initiative had gone down, Oz had been...  He'd been wrong, somehow, in a way Xander couldn't put his finger on, but that bothered both him and Spike.   The werewolf was quieter then ever, so serious, and he looked tired - looked haunted, as if his thoughts were too much for him.  He only seemed happy when they did their own patrols, and then he was more feral, more vicious, than Xander had ever thought the quiet boy could be.  Spike and Xander were both unhappy and uneasy, and were determined to fix it, whatever it was.  Xander entered the cemetery, something just on the edge of his awareness, making the hyena cast about, senses as open as possible.

                And then...there was...   Xander found himself standing in the cemetery, hands lax at his sides, staring into space.  Something had...  He tried to think, retracing steps in his mind.  Willow-babble.  Dark Prince.  Giles' house.  Walking to the crypt...nothing.  A blank wall of mist - flickering images that made no sense.  A wolf *Oz?*  dark eyes, long-nailed hand just touching his cheek...  Xander shivered all over, wondering how long he'd been standing there.  He felt as if spiders were crawling on him and he brushed half-heartedly at himself. *No...not spiders...nothing was...*  He couldn't seem to finish a thought, and he could feel, somewhere deep in his mind, the hyena going into full panic-mode.  But even that seemed dull and far away - wrapped in cotton wool and unimportant.  *What was I...?*    Spike.  He was going to meet Spike.  He'd left his truck parked near Spike's old crypt and they were going to...  Xander stumbled forward through the cemetery, bewildered, and finally the crypt was in view.  There was a faint light inside it - Spike had a lit a candle, it seemed, and Xander stopped outside the door, swaying just a little.  Inside he could hear voices - Spike and...Riley?  *How long was I standing there?  I should...*  He listened to the conversation but it only came through as a sort of low buzz - no words, just tone and cadence, and he finally turned away and wandered off - found his truck and sat in it, waiting.    A few minutes later Spike was there, leaning into the open window, grinning at him.

                "I'm gonna kill Captain Cardboard, pet, you mind?" he said, gleeful and utterly serious.  Then, abruptly, Spike was wrenching the door open, dragging Xander out, and Xander was pushing at him, confused.

                "What in hell is up with you?  Xander?"  Xander looked at Spike *vampire* and giggled a little, wobbling in Spike's fierce grip.

                "He's gonna make me, you know, immortal.  Just get Buffy to him and - poof!"  Xander giggled again and Spike was game-faced, snarling.

                "That bloody bastard.  Fuck, should have...  Come on, Xan-love, get in the truck."  Spike pushed him inside, digging his keys out of a duster pocket, and started the truck.  Xander rocked a little in his seat, humming to himself.  Spike *vampire not the Master rival* shot him glances of mixed fury and anxiety.  When they got to the house he hustled Xander up the steps and inside, startling Oz who was curled on the fold-out couch they'd acquired; something Tibetan and voiceless playing on the stereo, a book propped on his knees.

                "What's up, guys?"

                "Bloody Dracula.  He's fuckin' thralled Xander, the wanker."  Spike pushed Xander down onto the edge of the mattress and Oz dropped his book, eyes shifting from green to black and back again as he took stock.

                "Dracula?  Wow.  Is - Xander hurt?"

                "Nah.  Not hurt.  Just - under his spell, like.  That ponce's got the trick of it, almost as good as Dru."  Spike lit a cigarette and puffed hard, staring at Xander.  Xander watched him, hearing the hyena howling somewhere.   The hyena was trying to use the link, but the soldier was blocking it - blocking them all, and seemingly blocking Spike, as well.  The soldier mumbled about infiltrators and perimeters and Xander felt as if he'd been re-set, somehow, or just...put on standby.  He wanted to get up, kiss Spike, go find Dracula and *He promised.  Immortal.  Dark gifts...*   A flicker of coiling mist, white on white, a blur of a face; red lips and chilled fingers on his jaw, scent of age and earth and something like burning, like lightning.  The crawly spidery feeling came over him again, and Xander jumped up, feeling his hands clench together, feeling his shoulders hunch as the skittering twitches washed over him.  He wanted to claw himself bloody, but the mist blinked across his vision again, drowning that thought, so he rocked instead, plucking at the hem of his shirt, rolling it in his fingers, twisting it.  The Master was... chose him to be...  Xander thought he was talking, but he couldn't be sure.  He put his fingers to his mouth and sure enough, his lips were moving, his tongue.  He giggled at that and absently clawed his cheek, feeling *spiders... no, not...*

                "Mustn't touch, mustn't touch..."  he sing-songed, and Spike stepped over to him and pulled his hand away.  Dimly, he could hear Oz and Spike talking, then Spike was leading him into the kitchen, sitting him in a chair.  Xander stared at the candles in the middle of the table, lost in the flicker-jump of the flame in a moment, content to just stare.   The dullness that had settled over him was horrifying - everything was muffled, except for that nasty sensation of bugs crawling over his skin.  He fought it, but it was like fighting mist - he couldn't get a grip on it.  Then something was pushing at his mouth - rim of a glass, and he drank without thinking, choking as he swallowed a huge mouthful of Spike's whiskey.  He coughed, gasping - felt someone pounding his back and then the glass again, and more of the fiery liquid burning down his throat.  He swallowed convulsively, Spike's voice murmuring in his ear, Oz's particular scent *dark warm pine earth* in his nostrils.  After a bit the candle flames started swimming, merging, and he put his head down, shuddering.  It was - horrible.  His skin seemed to be trying to crawl off him and he couldn't touch *mustn't touch* and it was driving him crazy.   He clawed at the table-top, whimpering, and the mist again, a voice whispering  *mine*  But it wasn't Spike's voice and the hyena howled, frantic and furious, and Xander watched the mist darken to black, and then everything was gone.


                When he came to himself he was in the corner of the living room, rocking unsteadily on his feet, his head pounding.  It was just sunset outside, and he hummed to himself, fingers tapping restlessly against his thighs, more of that babble coming out of his mouth but he couldn't stop it and *Master wants her, wants her, have to go... she's chosen too, she's...*  He sank his fingers into his hair, moaning, yanking furiously, and suddenly there were cool fingers on his wrists - on his hands - delicately prising his fingers apart and pulling his hands down, stilling them.

                "Xander - love, don't.  What is it?"  Spike's voice *not Master rival* and Xander twitched away, looking dazedly around at Spike.  The vampire's face was drawn, exhausted, and his eyes red-rimmed.  Smoke and whiskey smell like a wall around him and even as Xander stood there, mute and uncomprehending, Spike snarled.  The demon came to the fore and then gone, and Spike looked over his shoulder at Oz, who was hanging up the phone.

                "Buffy's at Anya's place - they thought that'd be safer.  Willow said Giles and Riley found a place, they're pretty sure it's Dracula's lair.  They're headed over there now."

                Xander heard the words but all that he comprehended was *Buffy - Anya's place...found the lair...Master needs her, have to go, have to go, have to GO!*  He wrenched at the cool hands holding his wrists and Spike tried to soothe him, petting his face.

                "It'll be alright, love -"

                "Got to go, got to take her - let me go, letmeGO!"   They hyena was hysterical - Xander couldn't tell if it wanted to stay or leave, just felt the panic and it made it all worse, made the *spiders* worse, and he screamed, battering at Spike, knowing he had to go.

                Suddenly Spike was gone - backing off, demon snarling but Oz there, too, hand on Spike's arm and saying something.  Spike hissed at him but then he nodded his head, a fleeting touch to Oz's shoulder, and they were still, watching him.  Xander watched them back, uncertain, but the mist suddenly cleared, just a bit, and he saw *dark eyes Master...wants* and he knew Dracula was awake - was calling.  The sun was down.  Xander bolted, hearing the others behind him and not caring.  He headed for Anya's apartment, for Buffy *get to the Master* his lungs burning as he ran.  The rest was a blur - Anya all suprised to see him, still talking about Dracula - Buffy hollow-eyed on the couch, watching him, Dracula's bite-mark dark on her throat.  Then Anya was... *Hurt her? Didn't hurt the closet* and that was all right.  Then he and Buffy were walking along the street, going towards a house *It's a castle!* that Xander had never seen before.  Xander could feel Spike somewhere behind him - the soldier couldn't block that, even though he tried.  But it didn't matter - Xander just needed to get there, and everything would be *better, be better then, he'll give me...*    They went inside, Dracula taking Buffy, and Xander felt himself relaxing, *safe now* until Riley was there, saying something and *threatening the Master!* and Xander launched himself at the ex-soldier, snarling.  Then pain exploding in his head, and nothing, nothing.

                When he struggled awake, head throbbing, the first thing he saw was Spike hovering over him, eyes wide and anxious and golden, the demon barely leashed.

                "Xander - you all right?  Xander?"  *love you love you MINE*   Xander struggled upright, Spike helping him, and he clutched at his head.

                "Christ.  I feel... What did I - oh my god!  Is Buffy ok?  Is Anya - what did I -"

                "Love, shh, it's all right, everyone's all right.  He's gone, gone for now, the Slayer got him."

                "Oh, man..."  Xander felt his jaw, wincing, and Spike snarled.

                "Riley, that fuck -"  *kill him hurt you KILL HIM*

                "No, no, Spike, it's ok, I attacked him and he just - he was trying to save Buffy, it's..."  *love you yours always HOME* and Spike gathered him close, hugging him so hard he could barely breathe.

                "I've got you now, love, got you now.  We'll go home, we'll -"  *mine mine protect*

                "Ok, Spike, ok..."  Xander hugged him back - turned his head and caught Spike's mouth in a hard kiss. 

                "Hey, guys -"  Oz's voice, quiet, and they broke apart.  Spike pulled Xander to his feet, steadying him, and Xander smiled at him, *love you* and turned to meet Giles and Riley and Buffy, coming through the door.

                "Buffy!  You ok?  Did'ja get him?"

                "Oh yeah.  Got him.  Got him twice, actually."

                "Gypsy shite," Spike muttered, and Buffy frowned at him.

                "Spike!  What're you doing here?"  Spike scowled back, going through the ritual of lighting a cigarette, the link thrumming with rage and hate, so strong that Xander felt his heart begin to pound.

                "The boy was actin' all funny, me an' the wolfling thought we'd better keep an eye on him."  Spike blew a lungful of smoke in Buffy's direction and she shifted, hand clenching down on the stake she held.  "Thought you might need a little help with the ponce."  Spike made a vague gesture around at the castle with the cigarette.

                "No, I didn't need any help, and Xander didn't need your help, either."

                "Hey - the more the merrier, huh?  I can't believe he - thralled me!   I didn't - hurt anybody, did I?"

                "Nah, you were fine, man.  We got you drunk last night, you were passed out for hours."  Oz grinned at him and Xander stared back.

                "You did?  No wonder my mouth tastes like the bottom of a shoe."  *calm calm love you*  Xander pushed that hard through the link, and Spike, who had been pacing agitatedly up and down finally stilled, flicking his cigarette butt away.

                "I think it's definitely time to call it a night.  Wouldn't you say, Riley?"  Giles was polishing his glasses and Riley grinned at him, gathering Buffy close into his arms.

                "Yeah, I think you're right - I know you must be tired after your...encounter with the ladies of the night."  Riley sniggered into Buffy's hair and Buffy looked wide-eyed over at Giles.

                "What?  Giles?  Did you have an...encounter?"  Giles flushed, fiddling with his glasses, finally putting them back on and straightening his shoulders.

                "I was just about to - to stake them when Riley arrived -"  They wandered out, talking, and Buffy looked back over her shoulder.

                "You'll get Xander home safe, right Oz?" she called, and Oz nodded.  Then they were gone, and Spike immediately swept Xander up in another hard hug, kissing his neck and face, finally his mouth, slow and sweet and *home want you love*

                "Yeah, let's go home."  Xander touched Spike's cheek, cupping it, and Spike rubbed into the contact, eyes closing.  *need you*

                "So, why'd you get me drunk?"

                "You were really freakin' out.  It seemed like a good idea."  Oz smirked at him and Xander pulled him close for a one-armed hug, still tangled with Spike.

                "Thanks.  I think.  I need an aspirin and I need to brush my teeth and... these are the same clothes I was wearing yesterday.  Gah.  I need a shower."

                "Need somethin' else, too," Spike murmured, rubbing against him, and Xander drew in a hard breath, scent of smoke and leather and spice, scent of Spike, and his body responded immediately - helplessly.

                "Oh, yeah...I...  What about the Dusted Prince?  What did Buffy mean, she got him twice?"  They walked out, Xander pulling Spike as close as he could, Oz right there and Xander let his free hand linger on Oz's shoulder, not wanting to exclude him.

                "Oh, his bloody Gypsy tricks.  He's not really dusted."  Spike glanced back at the castle, the demon flickering out and back, *kill it* surging through the link.

                "Spike..."  Xander protested, but the hyena was raging, wanting some sort of revenge as badly as Spike did, and he let it go.   *Don't care what he does*  The soldier was uncharacteristically silent, and Xander caught a feeling of - embarrassment?  *What the hell?  Have to find out what THAT'S all about.  But head*

                They made their way home, Xander feeling as if he'd been in a boxing ring.  He'd fought Dracula's thrall every minute, and it had exhausted him.  Like fighting wet sheets, that clung and suffocated.  He stumbled through the door and *home home*  letting Spike manhandle him into the shower, almost falling asleep under the spray and the gentle caress of Spike's hands, his lips.  He managed to brush his teeth and then gone, out.  His last coherent thought was actually Spike's thought - *protect family love you* and then oblivion. 




                Now, Spike in the bed with him, cuddling him close and telling him - telling him he was safe, that everything was all right.

                "So he's really gone, this time?"  Xander asked again, and Spike stroked his chest, the grumbling purr vibrating through Xander's back.

                "He's gone," Spike agreed, but *mine mine* was still shuddering through the link and Xander turned a little, looking at Spike in the growing dawn-light that was creeping in from the kitchen.

                "What's wrong, love?" Xander asked, and Spike's eyes flashed golden for a moment, and then back to blue, wide and anxious, the purr petering out.

                "Never would have happened if...if I'd had my mark on you.  If we'd..."

                "You mean - the spell?  To make this… permanent?  You know I want to -"

                "I know, pet, I know.  Not blaming you.  It's - it's me..."  Xander felt cold wash over him, felt a sudden, sickening feeling in his stomach like leaden ice.

                *Means it's me, it's me, doesn't want...should have guessed...*

                "Xander, love, hush.   I *want you* love you, don't think...  Bloody hell!"  Spike sat up, cross-legged, sinking his hands into his hair and scrubbing violently, as if it would clarify his thoughts.    Xander sat up also, cross-legged as well, waiting.  *love you tell me*

                "This - spell, this claim.  There's some more stuff about it that I didn't tell you - couldn't tell you."

                "What stuff?  Spike - "  Xander reached out and cupped Spike's cheek in his hand, rubbing his thumb lightly along the vampire's lower lip.  Spike closed his eyes, nuzzling into Xander's touch, and they were silent for a moment, just feeling, sending reassurance along the link.

                "Spike, just tell me, ok?"  Spike's eyes opened and he looked at Xander, his gaze going over and over Xander's face *love you sorry please don't leave*  his need and his fear shivering through the link.  Xander let his hand drop to rest on Spike's, rubbing the knuckles, feeling the fine bones in the back of Spike's hand.

                "Greyson said -"

                "Who's Greyson?"  Xander lifted his right hand, Spike's left, to his mouth, letting his lips rest on the cool, bony knuckles of Spike's hand, letting his teeth just lightly graze them.  Spike shivered, his eyes flickering to gold and back.

                "He was - this vamp me and Dru met in Casablanca.  He had a claim on a woman.  He told me about the spell - taught it to me.   This makes us - one.   You get - you get things from me.  You get immortality, of a sort."  Xander stared at him, his tongue licking over Spike's fingers and Spike hissed in a breath, watching him.

                "Immortality - of a sort?  What's that mean? "

                "It means - you won't age, Xander - not after a year or so.  You won't get sick, and you won't die of - of a heart attack or anything like that.  But - you can still die.  You can get hit by a bloody car and get your skull crushed - just like I can get staked, or burned.  But you'll change, pet.  My blood'll make you stronger..."

                "Isn't it already?  I feel - different, since we - since the link.  The hyena -"

                "It's stronger.  Or - more there, maybe.  Sometimes, when we patrol, you're eyes'll catch the light - they'll shine green."  Spike looked anxiously at Xander at that, and Xander felt his eyes going wide.

                "Really?  Wow.  They are more there...  It's like - I can talk to them better or - or something.  They were kinda - faint, before.   Now - I can remember so much stuff about fighting and hunting.  It's - pretty cool.  I like that part."  Xander grinned at Spike, and Spike raised a small smile back, but there was still unease  *fear* in the link - and Xander rested his cheek on their clasped hands, looking at Spike  *my love mine love you*  silently urging him to not be afraid.

                "How much stronger will I get, then?"

                "Some.  Not much more.  You're still human.  Just - with extras."  Xander had to laugh at that, and Spike's eyebrow went up *git*

                "Tell me what else, Spike.  Tell me everything."

                "They'll know - your gang.  The Slayer for sure - Glinda for sure.  Red maybe, the Watcher maybe.  The wolf.  You'll feel different to them - more like me.  But you'll feel that way to every demon and vamp in the world, too.  They'll know not to fuck with you, 'cause that'll mean fucking with me."

                "Well, that's a definite plus, Spike.  I mean - almost like a get-out-of-jail-free card.  No more demon magnet!  Unless - it doesn't mean extra magnetic - uh - demon-attracting qualities, does it?"  Spike grinned and reached with his free hand and pushed it through Xander's hair, tugging gently.

                "No.  It'll mean - you'll be able to walk into Willy's and get a drink and nobody'll even look sideways at you."

                "Ok then - that's a plus.  Supposing I actually want to get a drink at Willy's.  So far - two pluses:  stronger, and no more random demon attacks.  Oh wait, three pluses - I get to be with you forever."  That smile - the real one, and Xander couldn't resist kissing the softly curved lips.

                "Ok.  Is that all?"  A twist of fear again, and Xander pulled his knees up, resting his chin on them.

                "'Fess up, Spike."  Spike ducked his head - looked around the room for a moment and then got up off the bed.

                "Half a mo, love," he said, and darted into the bathroom.  He came back a moment later with a paper cup half full of water and his smokes and lighter.  He put the cup on the bedside table and lit a cigarette - drew in a huge lungful of smoke and blew it out at the ceiling, watching it swirl away.

                "The spell says...'one mind, one heart, one body'.  That means - we'll share things.  Like pain.  Like pleasure.  It'll be like the link, only - more.  You'll know if I get hurt - if I'm drunk, or tired, or...whatever."  Spike tapped ashes into the cup.  They sizzled faintly, and Xander wondered if he would have heard that noise two months ago.

                "The sex'll be bloody brilliant."  Spike grinned, that 'wanna fuck you now' grin, and Xander blinked.

                "Oh?  I see now - this is just a plot to get more sex, isn't it?"

                "Got it in one, pet."  They grinned at each other for a moment, the break in the tension a palpable relief.  Spike took a last draw off his smoke and dropped the butt into the cup.

                "If -"  Spike stopped, and regarded Xander for a moment, head to one side.  He was cross-legged again, hands clenched on his knees.

                "If I die, or you do - the other won't live."

                "I kinda don't think I'd care to live if you weren't there anyway, Spike."  Xander said softly, and *love you always*

                "Yeah.  Me neither.  But it won't be pretty, love.  The one left alive'll...linger a bit.  It'll hurt."

                "Death always does."  They were both silent after that *never leave me* from Spike, and Xander sent his love - his desire - as strongly as he could.  Reassuring as best he could.  *What if I'm not enough?  What if - I've never been with anybody more then a few months - what if...he doesn't want me after...*

                "Xander…"  Spike ran his fingers back through Xander's hair again - his favorite thing made even better, now that it had grown so long.  "You'll always be enough, love.  Don't think that."  Xander smiled weakly, and nodded.

                "I'll try and remember that.  It's just - I hope I can do this, Spike.  I hope I can - keep you happy, for so long.  What if -"

                "Trust me, love?  You can.  You will."  Xander took a deep breath *love you*

                "Anything else?  Any more?"

                "One - more thing.  The...biggest thing."  *fear* again, a broken-nailed skittering down Xander's back, and he shivered.

                "When we do this - we'll share - memories."

                "What do you mean?"

                "I mean - you'll remember everything that I ever did.  And I'll -"

                "Fuck!  Really?  You mean - I'll know what you did - what you were like when - before you were turned?"

                "Yeah, and...everything else, too.  What I did with Dru and Angelus and Darla - everything we did."  Spike looked utterly freaked out, and it finally hit Xander, exactly what he was saying.

                "Oh.  Oh.  You mean - I'm gonna remember the people you killed and...what it was like to be in love with Drusilla and...all that."  Spike nodded, looking down, and Xander scooted closer, enfolding him in a tight hug.  After a moment he pulled away a little, making Spike meet his gaze.  "Remember - how?  I mean...  All the time? having a movie in my head or something?  Or - what?"  *Do I REALLY want to know - everything?  How he killed - how many - how much he loved Drusilla?  Do I want to know it all?  What if - what if I start to...forget me?*  Xander knew Spike could feel his hesitation, and he knew he was hurting the vampire.  But he had to know.

                "When we do it - the spell - we'll remember.  But after a couple of days - you'll have to try hard to know stuff.  Have to think about it like - like trying to remember a book you haven't read in a while or - how to do something you haven't done since you were a kid.  It'll be like - you watched a big movie about my life and you can see the details when you want, but mostly it'll just be in the background."  Spike had put his hands on Xanders thighs while he talked - was rubbing gently, up and back, along the outside.  It felt good, but Xander put his hands over Spike's and stopped him, just holding him there, the cool hands under his tense with fear.

                "Damn."  Spike looked at him, startled. "You're gonna know all about - well, everything from when I was a kid and...all the really embarrassing stuff I've been hiding from you..."  Xander smiled at him, and Spike rolled his eyes, a tiny smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

                "Bloody hell, love, this is serious.  You -"

                "I know it's serious, Spike.  What - what was she like?  That woman..."  Spike dug his fingertips just a little into Xander's thighs, kneading gently.  Thinking.

                "She was - she was full of laughter, pet.  She thought everything was  A grand adventure.  She was from Poland - very poor, she said.  Very strict.  Religious.  And then Greyson and she...  He thought she was beautiful - wanted to turn her but he got...distracted, I guess."

                "Distracted?"  Spike raised a faint smile, but *love you please please* was in the link, sad and desperate, and Xander leaned forward and kissed Spike softly.  *love you*

                "Yeah.  Distracted by her... well, just by her.   Just - wanted what she was instead of...what she might have been.   She was - I liked her, Xander.  She wasn't a vampire.  She wasn't - a demon.  She was herself.  Maybe more herself then she could have been if he'd never met her.  She had time, you know?  To do things and to - live.  And someone to live with her - love her - all the time."  Spike looked helplessly at Xander, the pain in his eyes as clear and sharp as broken glass - as ice over rushing, treacherous water. 

Xander could feel that pain - like a blade, twisting in him, and he closed his eyes and considered, for a long moment, what Spike was saying.

                *Not like I'm alone in here to begin with.  And it's not like the things that the soldier or the hyena want just...happen.  I control them - they're part of me but I'm still...ME.  How different would this be?  I wouldn't even be getting something that talks back, just...extras*   He opened his eyes again, meeting Spike's gaze.

                "Is it ok to say I'm scared, Spike?  'Cause I am.  I want this, so much - want you so much it hurts. I'm afraid I won't be me, anymore...  Will I still be - me?"  Xander knew his voice cracked on that last, and Spike pulled him close and just kissed him; aching-sweet, desperate, loving, and Xander let the touch and the scent and the feel of  *mine my own* surround him - seep into him and carry him away.  He gave himself up to Spike for long, long moments, and when Spike finally pulled back *love you please mine stay stay*  Xander knew what he would do.

                "You'll be yourself, love - I promise you that.   Just yourself.  Nothing can touch your soul, love - nothing can touch you - change you - unless you want it to."

                "Then - we do it, Spike.  As soon as we can."   Spike just stared at him for a moment and then he smiled, and the relief that came from him was overwhelming.   Relief, joy, love.   Then Spike was kissing him again, laying him down on the bed, and there was an edge of passion in this kiss - the sweetness was still there, the love - but now there was *want need* and it sent a rush of shivery fire over Xander's skin.  To be wanted, so much...

                Eventually, Spike pulled back and looked down at him.

                "You really want to do this, love?  It's - a lot to give up."

                "Exactly what am I giving up, Spike?"

                "Your friends, maybe.  Your - human life."  Xander rubbed at the back of Spike's neck, where he'd held the vampire tight to him.  He met Spike's gaze, serious; reinforcing everything he said through the link, sending *want you want this love you always* as he spoke aloud.

                "I won't miss being the punching bag of every demon in Sunnydale.  And as for the gang - I won't live my life to please them, or anyone.  Except you.    Oz knows - he accepts it.  And Tara does, and Anya.  I dunno about Buffy, or Giles - they're kinda hard-wired into the demon-equals-evil thing, and I don't know how much they can change.  Willow...  She's been my best friend all my life.  She'd be the one I'd really miss, if she - if she couldn't understand.  If she wouldn't.   But I want this, Spike.  I want it more then I've ever wanted anything."  Xander shifted under the vampire, one leg bent a little, settling Spike's lean belly and groin into the cradle of his own - pressing him close.

                "I want you - want this - and you want this - that's the amazing part - that's the part that...freaks me out.  Not the link or the spell - but that you want me - "  Xander couldn't believe he'd said that, and now he waited for what Spike would say - nervous, even now, of hearing *second place do for now only if we don't TELL anyone* 

                *How can you think that?  Can't you tell...*  The soldier was incredulous and angry, and Xander shushed him.

                "Course I do, love - course I want you.'re..."  Spike gave up talking, pressing his face into Xander's neck and just thinking at him  *beautiful sexy brave hearthfire  demonkiller builder laughter mine mine MINE*

                In moments they were moaning, writhing; Spike kissing Xander's mouth bloody, Xander raking his nails down Spike's back and the both of them hard, ready, desperate to take and be taken, to seal the pact in blood and sweat and semen, in gasping breaths and guttural cries, in the strain of flesh and muscle and bone.  Mindless, heedless of noise or damage or anything but the all-consuming desire to be one; the same flesh, the same breath, taken and consumed and wanted, in ways neither had ever been wanted or needed, before.

                When Xander arrived at work two hours late, his split lip still swollen and his whole body stiff and sore, the look Manny gave him was long and considering, and Xander almost told him what he was going to do.  But then didn't, as Manny put his gnarled hand on Xander's shoulder, and nodded once, serious and silent.  Xander figured Manny knew, already.



                Two days later, a Friday night, and Xander and Oz and Spike sat around the kitchen table, eating the stir-fry Oz had made, uncharacteristically silent.  Tonight.  Tonight the claiming, and Spike felt like he needed to go out and kill something.   He was beyond hyper, his senses amped up so high he thought he might lose it; the bloodlust and the need for Xander making a whole-body ache that he could barely tolerate.

                *Can't believe this, can't believe he's gonna... Oh, love you, love you, this is more than I ever...ever thought I'd get, more than I...  my boy, my own...*  Spike couldn't keep his eyes off Xander - could barely refrain from touching him, taking him *right here* and who cared if the wolfling got an eyeful, he just needed -   

                *Calm calm love you*  from Xander, like honey, like smoke; something warm and sweet curling through him, petting him from the inside and he closed his eyes, sinking into it.   *Be mine forever, after tonight.  Mine and...never be alone, never be left behind, never...  Oh, love you love you*   The same thing - a muddle of nerves and love and reassurance -  was coming from Xander, and Spike finally opened his eyes and got a smoke, staring sightlessly out into the darkness through the open kitchen door, taking deep breaths of the salt-laden air, scenting the *warm salt sweet* of Xander and the *earth dark pine* of Oz, the peppers and cooked rice and beef, the candle wax and the laundry soap and the blood from some small cut Xander had got at work, the swirl of spicy-green smells from the bag of herbs the wolfling had brought from the Magic Box - herbs for *Claiming, I'm claiming him tonight, oh gods...*  Abruptly Spike stood up and paced outside, standing on the porch and watching the faint glimmer of the sea, listening to the booming of the surf and the insects in the grass and the dry rustling of the leaves of the eucalyptus.  The medicinal scent of that tree overwhelmed even the cigarette smoke and Spike breathed and breathed, trying to calm himself.   The demon was utterly silent - frighteningly so.  It wanted, so badly, and now Spike felt as if it were crouched somewhere down in him, waiting to pounce.

                 *Don't hurt him, can't hurt him, you've got to make sure - *

                *’Course we won't hurt him - it'll be... it'll be fine.  You'll see.*

                *But when he...remembers...*  Spike shuddered all over, putting his hands on the rail and bowing his head, breathing.

                *Know all our secrets, that's all...know everything and... we'll know him - HAVE him, here, inside, forever.  Never be alone, never be left, never...*

                *He could still leave, could still...*

                *NO, he won't, he won't...loves us, wants this...*

                *MINE*  the demon snarled, surfacing for one moment and then away again, and Spike stalked back inside and opened a cabinet - pulled out his bottle of whiskey and took a long, long drink.  The fiery liquor burned his throat - sent warmth coiling out from his belly, and Xander got up from the table and came and leaned into him, body to body, tucking his head down into Spike's neck and nibbling at his throat a little, where the mark would be.

                "You alright?"  Spike set the bottle aside and put his arms around Xander, hugging him close.

                "I'm good, pet.  We should - get started.  Gotta make the draught..."

                "Yeah.  Ok.  Let's...get this cleaned up so we can..."  Absently, Xander stepped away and started clearing dishes, and Oz got up and silently joined him.  They'd asked Oz to stay, just in case.  With magic, nothing was ever sure, and they wanted him there if they needed help.  And to keep any unexpected guests away.   Spike could smell sweat and nerves from the wolfling - he was as on edge as they were.  As the others cleared away the mess from dinner, Spike got the herbs out and began to prepare them, crushing them to near powder with a mortar and pestle, carefully sifting in the different components.  It was a spell so simple as to be laughable.  Greyson had passed it on to him with a small smile, knowing that one of Spike's line - Aurelius - would have no trouble with such a simple charm.  *Simple is sometimes strongest*  Greyson had said, and Spike agreed.  It didn't make him any less nervous, but at least it was an easy thing to do - nothing much to muck up.  Drink the potion, love his boy, take his blood, say the words.  That was all.   He glanced up at Xander, who was standing with a dishtowel in one hand and a glass dangling from the other, staring at nothing.  Oz gently relieved him of both, and set them on the counter.

                "Xander, why don't you go make sure everything's set up in the bedroom, OK?   I can finish this."  Xander blinked - looked at Oz - blinked again and then nodded, stumbling away to the bedroom.  Spike felt the *love afraid want love* through the link and crushed more herbs, his hands shaking.

                *Fuck, gotta calm down.  This is gonna be fine, gonna be - *  A hand on his shoulder stilled him, and he looked up into Oz's face; calm green eyes and small smile, waft of dish soap and wolf-smell and leather from the half-dozen braided bracelets around his wrist.

                "You all right?"

                "Bloody hell, wolf, I'm..."  Spike put his head down on his wrist, shivering, and Oz's hand moved, stroking his shoulder and back, gently kneading the tension-wracked muscles.

                "Gonna be fine, Spike.  Gonna be fine.  I see you two - makes me... envious.  You love each other so much, and...this is going to be amazing..."  Oz's voice was soft, his tone one of utter calm, and Spike lifted his head and looked at the werewolf - really looked. 

                *Oh fuck.  This is - this is hurting him.  This is...gotta fix this, soon as Xan and me are...gotta fix this.*

                "Thanks, pet.  That - means a lot to me - to us."  Spike smiled at him - his real smile, as Xander would say - and Oz blinked and ducked his head and went back to the sink, wiping an already spotless counter, something else coming off him now; a scent of sadness and arousal that made Spike catch his breath.

                *We'll take care of you, wolfling.  You'll see.*  Spike carefully dusted his hands and then went to the 'fridge, lifting down the small copper that he was to make the draught in.  It was filled with sea-water, and Spike set it on the stove, turning on the burner.

                *The sun's metal and the mother's blood, the living green that springs from the dust of the dead.  Roiled in air, drunk in darkness, spoken as one.  Give each of the seed, of the blood, of the vow, and it is done.  Hyt k'ku, hyt v'lyl, hyt hydu - one heart, one mind, one body*


                Lying in the darkness, the faint taste of the potion in his mouth - earthy, bitter, green and salt.  Xander beneath him, around him, the light of the single candle showing eyes as wide and as dark as the sea, mouth open on a breathless moan  *love love love*  pounding through the link as steady as the mortal's heartbeat - as vital.  Slowly, with infinite care, they let lips, teeth, tongues rest on the other.  Spike's mouth was flooded with Xander's taste - sweet and salt and *sunlight, cool water, clean wood*  The demon came forward, oddly subdued - so focused that Xander was the only light in a tunnel of black.  Spike moved, writhed, thrust, and felt his orgasm from very far away - felt it as a wave rolling in; smooth, heavy and unstoppable.  Beneath him, Xander arched up, gasping, and as their climax took them they took each other, tooth meeting tooth through sweat-slicked flesh and flesh of the living dead.  Spike sucked the heady nectar of Xander's blood into his mouth, feeling hot semen spattering his stomach and chest, feeling his own body pouring it out, a roaring in his ears.  Then they were whispering, saying the words;

Hyt k'ku, hyt v'lyl, hyt hydu.  And....

                White light.  A confusion of colors and things.  A red-haired girl crying, a broken crayon...sight and sound and smell and taste cascaded through him - fast and then faster, and Spike threw his head back and roared, aware of Xander doing the same, aware of pain as the images and the sounds and the emotions built stronger and higher and faster - too fast to comprehend, too loud to hear, too bright to see.  Spike jerked up and away, falling half off the bed, his hands knotted in his hair in an agony of sensation.  Dimly, the scent of the wolfling came to him - a voice - but the life-time that was flooding through him was too much, too fast, and he cried out one more time and fell into it, into a stutter of day and night, hate and love, joy and pain, until it wound into darkness and he knew nothing else.



When Xander woke, it was to a cool cloth on his forehead and the dim, aqueous light of mid-day coming greenly in through the curtains.  The face above him slowly resolved into Oz, and Xander reached a shaking hand up and touched it - touched Oz's cheek before his arm fell limply back to the bed.

                "Hey - Xander."  Oz smiled at him - glanced towards the kitchen and then back.  After a moment Spike was there, slipping into the bed from the other side, sharp scent of cigarette smoke and whiskey.

                "Sspike," Xander whispered, and his throat felt ragged and full of sand.

                "Here I am, love.  C'mon."  Spike eased his arm under Xander's shoulders and lifted him, holding Xander against his chest.  Oz had a cup, water and a straw, and Xander drank gratefully.  Oz set the cup down and touched his hand, then stood up and went away into the kitchen, leaving them alone.  Xander closed his eyes, leaning back on Spike gratefully, lacing their fingers together and sighing in utter contentment.  A random thought surfaced, and Xander frowned a little.

                "Spike, there's something - with Oz... it's worse than it was?"

                "Yeah.  He's...  We'll see to it, don't fret."  A moment's silence, and Spike hugged Xander a little closer.  "So, can I go and kill your father, love?"  Spike asked, and Xander chuckled weakly, squeezing the fingers in his.

                "Sure.  An' then, I'll go kill Angel, 'kay?"

                "Whatever you want, love."  Spike kissed his cheek - temple - and then settled back against the headboard, pulling Xander close.

                "What - when is it?"

                "Next day.  We did the spell last night.  I've been awake about... four hours.  Feel alright, love?"

                "Mmmm.  My head hurts a bit - my throat.  What - what happened?  Did something - did we do it right?"

                "Worked a treat, love.  Can't you feel it?"  Spike kissed his throat - where the mark was - and suddenly something flared up inside.  Xander gasped.  It was the link, but changed.  It was - more.  Deeper.  He could feel the emotions, the *love you love you* that he was used to, but there was something else, too.  It was as if he were inside Spike's mind, and for a moment he could hear Oz's heartbeat in the next room, hear the radio next door and, very faintly, a siren somewhere in downtown Sunnydale.  The scents of the room flooded into him - he could feel the threads of the sheet and he could, somehow, feel the coolness of Spike's body against his back and his own heat flooding back towards *himself* Spike at the same time.  It was something like the Super Slayer spell had been, only infinitely more intimate, and he wallowed in the emotions that Spike was directing towards him, and brushed tentatively over the other things - how Spike felt about Oz, Giles - Buffy.  Echoes of the past came to him as well; a brief flash of Drusilla, spinning and spinning, a veil of sheer silk floating around her and how love had surged up in *him*  Spike, love and desire.  Himself, in their bed, telling Spike *I love you* and the joy that had leapt up, joy and awe and *love love*   He shivered, overwhelmed, and the sensations retreated, leaving only the link as it had been, and the steady assurances Spike was sending him.

                "God - Spike.  That's...  Love you.  I - I can't even..."

                "Shush, love, it's all right.  Don't need to talk.  I know. Love you *always always mine*