Chapter Three: Secrets

Chapter Three: Secrets

When they'd eaten all the Chinese, and flipped through at least three hundred of the five hundred channels, Spike finally turned the TV off and looked at Xander.  Xander immediately felt his stomach clench tight. 

*Now it comes.  The moment I have not been waiting for.  Ok - bare essentials and we'll be fine.  Oh, fuck*

"Now what's gotten you into such a tizzy, mate?" Spike was looking at him, and Xander tried to slow his heart down by sheer force of will.

"I - uh - n-nothing at all, I'm fine." He gulped the last of what was probably one too many beers and set the bottle down a little too hard.  They both winced at the sharp crack of it, and Xander had to check to be sure it wasn't broken.

"I wanna know - what's goin' on.  That kiss - you takin' me in - everything.  Right?"

"Right," Xander echoed faintly.  He was less then delighted about telling his 'story', but he had to tell someone.  If only to be telling someone.  It was lonely, having a secret.  And it wasn't one he was willing, right now, to share with the girls or Giles.  It'd mean a lecture from at least two of them, and pouting and hurt faces from the girls.  Maybe even yelling from Buffy.  And he just wasn't up to it.  He shifted a little on the couch, tucking his feet under him, and Spike shifted too, so they were facing each other. 

"Ok - I went road-tripping this summer and didn't get very far - Oxnard, to be exact.  And...stuff happened and...the night before I left to come back here, I met someone - helped someone out, actually.  And he - he had this - he gave me..."

"Just tell it.  Start at the beginning and go on until the end, right?" Spike looked only serious and interested, no smirk and no snark, so Xander took a deep breath and told him.

 

 

 

It's a chilly night, and Xander walks fast, hands stuffed in his pockets, tired from bartending and cleaning up - his head still rings a little from the blaring music of the club.  He's gotten almost 200 dollars in tips  tonight, and is looking forward to using it to go home.  Oxnard - this time, these things - are over.   He's about a block from his place when he hears the noise:  flesh on flesh, low cries, harsh voices.  For a moment he freezes, panicked, and then he's running, grabbing up a discarded length of board from a bin, his heart going double-time and his mouth dry.  He comes around a corner and sees two guys; one with a knife, one with a length of chain.  And a third, huddling back into a wall, arms over his head and is that blood?  In the orange glare of the streetlight it's hard to tell.  Xander yells and dives in, striking wildly, managing to hit the guy with the knife first; a lucky blow to the arm that makes the man grunt in pain and drop the weapon.  Xander swings again, hitting the chain-guy, screaming at the top of his lungs.  He's decided that 'homicidal maniac' might work to his advantage, so loud and wild it is. The soldier is bemoaning this lack of plan, but the hyena yips excitedly, ready for a fight.  The two attackers don't even try to fight - they just run off, the knife-guy clutching his arm, both cursing.  They were two of the same guys from...before, and Xander figures they just didn't want extra trouble.  He stands staring after them, panting, until they're out of sight and then he turns and crouches down next to the guy on the ground.

"Hey - are you ok? Are you hurt?" Xander sees the knife out of the corner of his eye and pushes it away with the board, under a nearby dumpster.  He pushes the board under there, too.  The other man slowly slides down the wall until he's sitting, his legs bent up and his arms across his knees.  He has blood on his face and staining his jacket sleeve, and his dark eyes are a little wild.

"Listen - I live real close to here.  Why don't you come home with me, get cleaned up.  We can call the police if you want - "   The man doesn't look happy about that, so Xander adds , "- or you can just get a drink, relax for a few.  Up to you.  But I don't think we should hang around here.  Ok?"   The man wipes his hands over his face and looks at the blood on his fingers, then up at Xander. 

"Ok," he says, and pushes himself stiffly to his feet.  He looks around for a minute then bends and picks up a worn leather knapsack.  Slinging it over his shoulder, he gestures to Xander and they both walk away, up the street and over one to Xander's place.

In the bright light of the kitchen the wounds didn't look too bad, and Xander gets a clean washcloth and shows the man to the bathroom.  While his guest cleans himself up, Xander washes his hands in the kitchen sink and gets a couple of beers out of the fridge.  His hands are shaking - his stomach is in knots.  He really needs to get the hell out of Oxnard. 

 The man comes out of the bathroom, blood gone, and Xander finally gets a good look at him.  He's maybe Xander's age, maybe a little older - it's really hard to tell.  His skin is dark and his hair, and he's wearing jeans so old and battered that it's amazing they hold together.  The undershirt he wears is no better, and the denim jacket over it has a new, blood-stained tear in an already ratty sleeve.  Homeless, maybe - or a migrant worker.  There's duct-tape holding the soles of his dingy high-tops on, and Xander thinks about the money in his pocket.  The man puts his knapsack down on the table and settles into a chair.  He reaches out and picks up a beer, and Xander notices a ring on his left hand - worn silver, etched with flowing lines; a design he couldn't quite pick out.

"This for me?" the man asks, tipping the beer, and Xander blinks.

"Huh?  Oh - yeah.  Sorry.  Just - tired.  Been a long night.  So are you ok?   Looks like the bleeding has stopped."

"Oh, I'm fine.  Hard to hurt me." The man smiles and opens the beer - looks around the kitchen.  "Got any salt?"

"Salt?"

"I like it in my beer.  Just a pinch."   Xander hasn't heard of that before but he gets up and gets the salt shaker from the stove and hands it over.  The man pours a little into his hand and sprinkles it into the beer - carries the last grains up to his mouth and licks them from his finger.

"It's good you came along.  Those men - they had their iron - I was going to be in a bad way."

"Yeah - those guys.  They've...done that before.  I thought they were in jail or something but I guess not." Xander opens his own beer and takes a long drink, watching the man do the same.  He has a different  look about him.  His narrow, foxy face is maybe American Indian, maybe Mexican, maybe Middle-Eastern.   Xander can't place it, but his Hellmouth instincts - not to mention the hyena - are stirred up.  This guy might not be 100 percent human.  But he doesn't seem to be a threat, either.  At least, Xander hopes he isn't.

"You have had trouble with these men?"

"Oh, yeah, I have - me and a friend...  The worst part was - I'd seen those guys around.  One of 'em works at the hardware store and he helped me figure out how to fix the wiring in here."   Xander gestures around at his kitchen.    "And the other guy likes to play pool, and we had a few games when I first got here.  I thought - they were ok guys."   Xander shakes his head and takes another pull of the beer.  It hurts, to see the violence and hate that lurks beneath the pleasant exteriors.  The man drinks his beer as well, watching Xander.  He has feathers in his hair, Xander notices suddenly.  Two black ones, like crow's feathers, and a blue-jay feather, tangled in the mop of black hair that falls over his shoulders and obscures half his face.

"I'm a bit - weak in the stomach from that fight...   Do ya think you'd have a bit of bread?  It'd help calm me down."   The man pats his flat belly and Xander frowns at him for moment, then shrugs.  Whatever will make him feel better, that's fine.  Xander gets up and gets the loaf of bread from the counter and sets it down on the table. 

"Help yourself."   The man does and they sit quietly for a few minutes finishing the beer, the man eating the bread in small bites, obviously not liking it very much.  When it's done, he sweeps the crumbs away and puts his hands on the table, looking up at Xander through the tangle of hair.

"You've given me bread and salt and drink.  Invited me into your home - most importantly, intervened for me when I was in peril and could not defend myself.  You have offered me the hospitality of your house freely, and for all these things I am in your debt.   A debt you may call in at any time.  Don't call for it lightly, or frivolously."

Xander stares at him as he speaks, feeling his stomach go tense and his heart start to pound.  The man's voice is changing - his whole demeanor seems to be subtly different.  As if he's settled solidly into himself, suddenly.  He sits straighter and his voice takes on a solemn, deeper tone.  And Xander is quite sure that there's a glint of red in those dark eyes, like coals glowing out at him from behind the thicket of hair.  Xander blinks and the man settles back in his chair.  He is...the same.  Some homeless guy, with dirt under his nails and duct-tape around his shoes.

"What the hell was that?" Xander asks softly, and the man grins.  His canines seem overly long, and Xander stifles a small gasp.

"That was me.  Taking care of business.  You helped me, I'll help you.  That's all.  And as for the calling - when you want to call in this debt - you just say my name.  For you, it's... Jack Green.  Don't forget that."

Xander studies the - man? - sitting across from him.  He doesn't feel a threat from him.   Just - otherness.

"I'll make you a gift, too, for your gifts to me."

"What gifts?"

"Your hospitality.  It's a gift few care to give.  And here is yours."   The man - Jack - rummages in his knapsack and finally takes out a small pottery jar, stoppered with a cork.  For extra security, rough hemp cord is wound around it, making sure the cork stays in.  Jack unwinds the cord - uncorks the jar - and a sharp gingery odor permeates the air.  Xander breathes it and it smells like something good - something from when he was a child.  It makes him smile, and Jack smiles back at him.

"Now - lean closer.  You have been hurt; people hiding behind masks, showing one thing and doing another.  Never again."   Jack dips one long finger into the jar and then extends his finger towards Xander, a small smear of pale green jelly on the tip.   "Close your eyes.  It won't hurt you."  

Xander looks at him for a long moment, and then takes a deep breath and does it, ignoring the hyena that growls and the soldier that makes his fists clench down tight on the table edge.   Coolness touches his eyelids - his forehead - and then his nose and mouth and his tongue licks out before he can stop it.  He tastes sharp and sour and fresh and...life...before the taste fades completely away.  He opens his eyes and Jack is there, smiling, putting the cork back into the jar.

"What was that?   What did you do?"

"A gift.  To see the truth.  Now, when you want to see you say this - taisbean.   Say it now, Xander."

"I - I haven't told you my name."

"You didn't need to.  It's written on the air.  Say it, Xander.  Taisbean."

"Ty-ben," Xander whispers, and everything...shimmers.  And Jack shimmers and Xander's eyes go wide.  Jack is wearing a velvet coat; it's a little shabby and worn, but the deep green is thickly embroidered with leaves and flowers in dark blues, purples, and reds.  The linen shirt underneath is also embroidered, white on white, an interlocking pattern.  The feathers that had seemed tangled in Jack's hair now seem to be part of  his hair, and there are more of them - many more, mostly black but also red and yellow and a few mottled black and white.  His face has thinned - his whole body is thinner and longer without him seeming to be any taller - and his hands are almost spidery.  His eyes glint a deep red and then are only black, glittering with good humor.   And is the jacket actually velvet?  It looks like - leaves stitched together - bits of ragged leather, pressed flowers...   Xander blinks, and the velvet is back.

"What - what are you?  What did you do?"

"You said 'reveal'.  You're seeing - me.  My true self.  If you looked at anyone else right now, you'd see what was in their heart - you'd see their soul.  You would have known the true self of those men that attacked...   You can see anyone's soul, this way.  Anyone's true heart."

"My...god..." Xander stares at Jack, seeing a glimmering swirl around him; motes of light that seem to dance around and through his body - green and white and yellow.  And he feels...  Age pours off Jack - age and darkness and something both fierce and jovial.  It makes Xander think of a cat at play; able to kill with a swipe of its paw, but in far too good a mood to actually do it.

"What if I - what if I look in the mirror?"

"You won't see anything.  You can't see your own soul.  Doesn't work that way." Jack cocks his head, watching him.  "You'll be able to see the true heart of demons, as well.  What they really are."

"Demons?" Xander says weakly.

"I know where you're from.  The mouth of Hell.  That sink - it distorts the very air.  I don't like it there.  But the demons do."

"Who are you, really?"

Jack smiled at him.  "Say this now - ceil."

"Keel." The shimmer again, and Jack is the homeless man, denim and patched shoes; just a man. 

"That is 'hide'.  I think you'd find it a bit distracting to see like that all the time.  Don't forget those words, now.  Taisbean.  Ceil."

"I won't."

"I know." Jack smiles at him again and closes his knapsack, buckling the flap down.  "Now I really must go.  You be careful, Xander.  Use my gift.  Let it help you.  And remember - I owe you one thing, one great thing to repay you for your help tonight.  Don't use it lightly.  Hold it to you, think on it - wait.  I'll always come to you if you call.  Here.  Keep this close." Jack reaches up and pulls the blue jay feather from his hair and hands it to Xander.  The rich blue and black of it is beautiful and Xander runs his fingers over the vanes, feeling the merest tingle of...something.  When he looks up from the feather, Jack is gone. 

The next day, Xander goes home.

 

 

 

When he finished his story, Xander was staring fixedly at his hands, and he felt rather then saw Spike move towards him.  Move and then stop, and then take an unneeded breath.  Xander finally risked a glance up and saw Spike just sitting there, looking... 

*That's thoughtful.  Not pissed and not sneering and not...pissed.  Thoughtful.  Which is...good?*   Spike stretched to the coffee table and got a cigarette.  He lit it and puffed on it for a minute, staring into space.  Finally, he looked over at Xander and Xander flinched from the look in his eyes.  Anger.  Calculation.  And was that...fear?  *Damn.  Thoughtful was NOT good.  Here it comes*

"Ssssoooo..." Spike hissed like a snake - a big, blond, scary snake, despite the Initiative hardware.  "You can see someone's 'true heart', huh?  Their soul?  Demons  souls?  And what makes you think demons  have souls,  mate?"

"Ummmm.  Actually - Giles."

"What?"

"Well - ummmm - before you got here - to Sunnydale, I mean, there was this - incident.  Willow scanned this book and it turned out it was this demon and he got into the computer and then he was in the Internet and he was, uh, tricking Willow and a couple guys into doing stuff for him and one guy tried to kill Buffy and - "

"Stop, stop.  Bloody hell.  What did the Watcher say to make you think demons - that demon - had a soul?" Spike sucked the last half-inch of his cigarette down to ash and stubbed it out fiercely, his eyes never leaving Xander's face.

"Uh, well, he was explaining that the book had been a trap - these guys had 'trapped the demon's soul for all eternity' in the book and the only way to let him out was to read him.  It.  The book.  Which the computer did when Willow scanned it." Xander examined his fingernails, then looked up hastily when Spike spoke again.

"So, you been  usin' this...gift.  Been lookin' at things?"

"Yeah."

"Been lookin' at me?"

Xander flinched a little and looked back at his fingernails.  "Yeah, actually.  Once."

"Not your business, lookin'."

"I know, but...  I'd used it out on patrol with Buffy a couple of times and I had to see...if you

were..."

"Good?  Evil?  Fucked?  Which would it be?"

"Uh.  None of the above?" Spike looked suprised at that, and Xander straightened a little.  He wasn't going to be intimidated - Jack's gift was amazing, and he wasn't going to be afraid of using it, or of telling Spike what he'd seen.

"Listen.  Giles is right - demons do have souls.  Demon-y souls.  They're different than people souls...I mean, obviously...but they're there nonetheless.  A lot of them are really - horrible.  The ones Buffy kills are mostly pretty bad, and a few that are just...around - they're scary.  But a lot of them are...well, take Manny."

"Who the bloody hell is Manny?"

"He's my boss.  He owns this house.  His son owns the company I work for.  He's from Portugal - left right before the war and moved here.  And he's - a demon. His whole family is - are.  He told me what kind, I can't remember right this minute.  But he's - he's a nice guy.  He's teaching me stuff.  I even got invited to do Christmas Eve at his house." Xander smiled at that memory - he'd never spent a Christmas that didn't involve drunks, fights, humiliation and a fun-filled night on the lawn in his sleeping bag.  When the terrors of the Hellmouth paled in comparison to a holiday get-together with your nearest and dearest, you were in deep trouble.  Xander had to shush the petty little voice that reminded him that neither Buffy nor Giles or even Willow had ever done anything to make a sleeping bag on the lawn in vamp central unnecessary.

"You still with me, mate?  'Cause holiday bloody cheer and all aside, what the fuck does this have to do with me?"

Xander laughed - of course, that was how Spike would see this.   "Well, lots, maybe.  I'm trying to say, Manny and his family are good people - demons - whatever.  I looked at them.  And I could see their hearts, and I could see their souls.  They want what most of us want - a place to live, their family safe and happy...   Just normal.  I mean - half his family is human, they did the inter-species marriage thing.  About half the demons at Willy's are like that -"

"You keep the fuck away from Willy's.  Bad element in there, could get you...hurt."  Spike looked discomfited by what he'd just said and lit another cigarette, frowning. 

Xander ruthlessly squashed the little voice that burbled happily in his head.   *Worried about me, he's worried about me!*   "You go to Willy's."

"'M a demon,.  It's the kind of place demons go.  'Sides, I don't go there anymore, and you better not, either."

"Why not?" Xander asked, and Spike looked at his cigarette, looked at his nails - the black polish was badly chipped, and he picked at it - looked at the ceiling.  Looked sheepishly at Xander when Xander cleared his throat.

"Not real popular in Sunnyhell just now, am I?  Been seen 'helpin' the Slayer', killing my kind - they don't trust me.  Got banged about a bit, last time I went there.  Blacklisted, as it were."  This recollection seemed to piss Spike off and he scowled at Xander, taking a deep puff of his cigarette, blowing smoke across the couch towards the mortal.  "Back to the point.   What do you see when you look at...vampires?"  Spike said 'vampires', but Xander heard the 'me' in there, and he looked down at his hands again for a minute to hide the smile.

"I see mostly what Giles says.  Animals who want to kill and destroy.  The part that's human - whatever makes them remember stuff from before they were turned - it's tiny.  It's all - dark and squashed and...hurt.  It's like the demon rips it apart and keeps what it needs and the rest just gets - locked away.   But some vampires are different.   It's like the human soul was strong enough to fight the demon off - or like the demon didn't mind the human, or something.  The ones that still have a human soul - they've got the demon soul too, they've got both.  You'll laugh, but Harmony still has her soul.  I guess it's why she's still... Harmony.   I mean, no demon on earth could stand up to a Cordette in full-on snark mode."  They both laughed; Spike mostly because he knew vampire-Harmony pretty well, and Xander because it was still just too bizarre; Harmony as take-over-the-world evil vampire. 

"When did you...look at me," Spike asked, and Xander bit his lip for a moment.

"The first night you stayed in the basement with me."

Spike looked at him, finishing his cigarette - thinking.  "That why you...?  Never mind."  He crushed the cigarette out, frowning.

*That's why I let you share the bed with me.*  Xander thought.  He took a deep breath.  *Now or never.*  "You've still got your human soul too, Spike."  Xander said it softly, but the vampire's reaction was instantaneous and violent.  Spike leapt to his feet and hurled his beer bottle across the room - snatched Xander's and did the same, then swooped down to get right into Xander's face.  The mortal flinched back as Spike's demon came to the fore and snarled at him.

"Soul - you're saying there's a human here, Harris?  Demon, here, no bloody hag-ridden poufter."

"Spike," Xander whispered, trying not to look him in the eye; the hyena wanted him to bare his throat, show subservience, but Xander wouldn't go that far - wasn't that stupid.  The soldier fervently backed him up on this.  "Spike, please?  Let me tell you." The vampire spun away, growling, and Xander just sat still, watching him pace, watching his fists clench until blood seeped out from under his nails.  Finally Spike stopped and stood by the window.  He pushed the curtain aside and stared blindly out.  His back was quivering with tension, and Xander wanted to get up and smooth it - touch and rub and pet until the vampire was calm again.  Xander clenched his own hands down tight, knowing he'd likely get smacked across the room if he touched the vampire right now.  And while he could maybe deal with that *Ok, no, I'd be pissed as hell* there was no way he was going to trigger that damn chip.  So he waited.

After what seemed ages - probably really only about five minutes - Spike let the curtain fall closed with a sigh and came back to the couch, rubbing his palms on his thighs.  He flopped down and stared at Xander, and finally nodded.  "Right.  Tell me - what it is you see, exactly."

"Ok.  I'm going to really - look, ok?" Spike looked puzzled, but nodded again, and Xander whispered the word.  Taisbean.   Spike twitched a little, but sat still.  And Xander looked, and told him.

"I see the demon.  He...it...whatever - glows.  This dark, dark gold, like fire.  And there are all these - sparks.  Gold and red and black, flying around, going through him - through you.  And then there's - you, or maybe William, I don't know.  Longer hair, darker.  Not so - hard.  That part glows, too, paler - more like sunlight.  And a lot of the time they're - together.  Merged, like...kind of like you when you go all grrr only... Well, it's hard to describe.  But the sparks around him are white and silver, and they go into the demon, and the demon's go into him.  They're just kind of - there, like ghosts, hovering just...inside you.  I can see the bad stuff, Spike.  I can see how you got your name.  I can see...the right hand of the Scourge of Europe there, you know? 

*Old and blackened blood sheathing blunt claws...gore-stained fangs that leer.   And more then that - not only vision but feeling.  Malevolence.  Remorseless hate.  The urge to destroy and absolutely nothing to stand in its way.  Nothing but the human part.*   "But...I can see how much you loved Drusilla, too.  I can see it...  I can see why you made that deal with Buffy, to keep Angelus from waking Acathla.

*The human part - it had to be William -  strong enough to hold the demon - subsume it into himself and keep it still, keep it...under control.  Obvious, when the human part wrapped itself around the demon and the demon closed its eyes in bliss and surrender, the blood and fury simply fading away.  A feeling of connection, some sort of connection, and the demon wanted it badly enough to give in.   The human had wanted it badly, too.  Enough to give in to Drusilla .*   Because that was there, too - the feeling that Drusilla, of everyone Spike had ever known, had seen him.   And wanted exactly what she had seen. 

"It's all there.  It's..." Xander wanted to say beautiful but he wasn't sure if Spike wanted to hear that.  So instead, he ended with:  "It's amazing.  And - lucky you - not a trace of poufter anywhere."

Spike was staring at him, his eyes so wide they looked cartoonish,*looks like a manga character* and then he snorted.  Snorted again and was laughing, and then was laughing so hard he actually cried.  As Spike lay helplessly on the couch, Xander stared laughing, too, and poked Spike in the ribs with his foot.  The sparks were whirling faster - fast enough to make Xander dizzy, and the demon looked - puzzled.  That made Xander laugh harder.  He poked the vampire again and Spike batted at his foot.  Poked a third time and suddenly Spike grabbed his foot and yanked; pulled Xander halfway across the couch and snatched him upwards by his shirt front.  Xander ended inches from the vampire, chest to chest, Spike's hands tight on his biceps, one leg over Spike's thigh, the other squashed underneath.

"That why you kissed me, then?  'Cause you saw this - my - soul?"

"That - that's part of it," Xander gasped out.  The souls, this close, were more a golden aura then anything else, the sparks dazzling and dancing as if Xander had cracked his head on something.  *Oh man, don't mess this up, come on, calm down, just tell him...   Oh, he smells so good, he - love his eyes, love how his eyebrows are so dark, love how his eyelashes are so long...   That scar is really deep, must have hurt to get that...want to kiss him again...*

"Well?  What was the other part?"

"I - thought about you.  All the time.  Ever since that first time that...   When Angel tried to trick you into biting me.  And after.  I just - couldn't get you out of my mind.   Couldn't get you out of my mind..." Xander whispered, and he leaned forward, the tiny bit he needed to, and kissed Spike again.  A light, careful kiss, hardly daring to press, not daring to move at all.  Xander felt Spike's hands clench tighter on his arms, and then he felt Spike start to kiss him back.  To move closer and press harder and for a moment they were actually kissing; cool and wet and Spike's tongue just touching his.  And then Spike pulled away - let go and backed away completely, until nothing was touching at all.  Xander couldn't move.   His lips were tingling - fuck, his whole body was tingling - and he wanted to pounce and get back into that taste, that scent...feel that lean and whipcorded body against his.  He bit his lip, hard, watching Spike, and Spike scrubbed his hands back through his hair and sighed.

"I need to - I gotta think about this.  I can't...I..."  Spike shot to his feet and started pacing again, and Xander stood slowly and went into the kitchen.  He got the broom and dustpan from the cabinet and went back to the living room.  Spike had lit a cigarette as he paced and trailed smoke like a slim blond dragon.   Xander had to smile.  He went over to the wall where Spike had thrown the beer bottles - and thank god he hadn't hit the TV - and started to sweep.  He was mindful of his bare feet, but when a piece got lodged under the edge of his bookshelf, he bent and carelessly tried to wrench it out.  The glass sliced right into his finger, of course, and he straightened with a curse, wincing.

"What did -?   You're bleeding." Spike was right there, grabbing Xander's hand, looking at the cut and the blood that welled and ran down into Xanders palm.  His eyes were dark and the tip of his tongue came out to touch his lip.

"It's ok - not a big cut, didn't hurt much..." Xander watched Spike - watched the shivers that gripped him as he scented the blood.   Watched Spike's eyes go gold and baleful as the demon longed for it - looked, and saw the demon's color darken further, saw the sparks take on a reddish tinge.  And the human part looked to be in pain.  Not from the bloodlust but from the demon, whose insubstantial claws were scrabbling at the black spot in their skull - a spot like a cancer.  The chip.  Xander stared at it, that ugly spot of deadness in the glowing creature he... 

*Loved.  You love him*   "Spike, you - you can -"   Xander didn't know what to say - how to say it.  Instead he simply lifted his hand, offering, and Spike stared at him, demon-eyed.  Then he bent his head and licked, like a great cat - licked every drop and streak and trailing line, and lapped at the small pool that had gathered in Xander's palm.  And then he pulled Xander's finger into his mouth and groaned, sucking the blood, eyes shut, and Xander felt it like fire all over his body, racing to that place.  He felt himself harden, felt arousal like a wave of heat and cold wash through.  *Oh god, oh...if this is what it feels like to be taken, what does taking feel like, what is he - ooooh...fuck...*  Xander swayed, and Spike pulled away slowly, letting his tongue trail over Xander's finger, the lambent gaze on Xander's face now, watching him.  Xander stared back, marveling.  The demon glowed like a bed of coals - the human part almost white, emerging for a moment and then sinking away, merging with the demon.  The sparks were still reddish, swirling in a languorous dance.   *I think it felt - even more incredible - to be on his end.  Fuck he looks...beautiful...sexy...want...* 

"Xander?" Spike was still staring at him, and Xander blinked and looked down at his finger.  The cut was closed over, a raw-looking slash of red, but one that looked a couple days old, rather then minutes. "Xander..." Spike whispered, and the hand still holding Xander's was trembling.  Xander realized that he was trembling.

"Wh - what?"

"Why'd you let me do that?" Spike whispered, and his voice was raw with want and need and...something.

"Because I could - see you.    I could see you."

Spike closed his eyes, and his grip on Xander's hand became crushingly tight.  Xander didn't flinch, didn't think about it, begging for the chip to not notice, not notice.  Spike shook his head, the demon coming out, and he shot one last look at Xander and turned and ran.  Xander just watched him - watched him go out the back door and across the grass, towards the bluff.  The gibbous moon was high - small and cold and white - and its stark light showed the vampire running flat out, faster almost then Xander could track him.  Spike ran to the edge of the bluff and was gone - dropping straight down the twenty feet between land and sea.

Xander breathed a long sigh of relief.  He wasn't going far, not without his boots - his duster.  But he was safe there, on the beach.  No Initiative, no humans.  Xander heard a grumbling, shrieking roar, and knew it was Spike, pouring his frustrations into the night sky, into the wash of diamante stars and endless cold black.   Xander whispered ceil.  No need for seeing now.

               

Hours later.  The sky was faintly pinking and Xander was lying in bed, stiff from nerves, exhausted.   He finally heard the door creak open and then click shut.  He closed his eyes and listened to Spike coming into the bedroom, the soft swish of clothing being removed and tossed aside.  Then Spike slid into the bed, and Xander could feel his shivering across the mattress.  He hesitated for a long moment, and then scooted over, reaching for the vampire.  His fingers found chilled, damp flesh and muscles that shuddered from cold. 

"Damnit Spike - did you get wet?  You'll freeze to death!  What were you thinking?  Were you thinking?" Xander got out of bed and quickly went around to the other side, not even contemplating the impossibility of the undead catching a cold.  "Move over right now.  Get onto my side, where I was lying.  Come on, Spike!"  Dimly, he could see Spike's pale head, his bleached hair matted and spiked from salt water.  Spike looked at him and then obediently slid over, settling into Xander's warm spot with a sigh.  Xander got back into the bed and curled himself around the frigid body, rubbing Spike's arms and getting as close as he could.  All the while he murmured in Spike's ear, low and soft.

"It's alright, Spike, it's ok, just let me get you warm, alright?   Just let me hold you and warm you up, ok, it's alright, alright, I'll take care of you, keep you warm..."  Xander rubbed and stroked, kneading tight muscles, smiling to himself as he touched the smooth skin; ran hands and fingers over a body that was satin over steel.  After a little while Spike gave a great sigh, and his shivering, which had grown less and less, just stopped.  Xander felt him finally relax, and he sighed and relaxed too, closing his eyes.  He bit his lip, considering, and finally dropped a kiss on the back of Spike's neck, just below the salt-sticky hair.  Spike shifted a little, and then he petted Xander's arm where it lay curled against the vampire's chest.

"Wish I could see you, " he whispered, and Xander squeezed once, briefly, and burrowed a little closer.  In a few minutes they were both deeply asleep.