Curiosity Killed the Cat

"It's not like I thought it would be," Xander says, and Spike blows smoke up towards the ceiling - puts his head on his hand and leans on his elbow, studying his boy. Xander stares up at the same ceiling, idly running his fingers over Spike's thigh.

"It never is, love," Spike says, and Xander grins at him.

Sunnydale is five years in the past - five years of the world unspooling before and behind them like a movie - like a really off-beat documentary. Five years of Xander making discoveries about himself - about the world. Changing his views, and his hair, and his clothes. Changing the way he fights and the way he talks. Even the way he fucks. There's more confidence in him now - he's more willing to take control, to take command, and Spike likes that. He still asks Spike to fight him sometimes - to let him struggle against his demons like some rabid dog in a kennel. He still dreams, and cries sometimes when he dreams. But he's put away some things, and taken on new things, and if he isn't the same boy that begged to be taken away, all those years ago, there's still some of that fear and that sadness lurking in the depths of his soul. Hyena-soul that has turned vicious from time to time.

Spike thinks about that - about the incident in Berlin. Slayer wanna-bes, coming at them at high noon, and Spike trapped in the back of their flat, doing what he can with thrown knives and, finally, chunks of cinder-block dug out of the wall. Xander on his own against five, who'd torn the curtains down and sprayed holy water everywhere. Trying to take him alive, maybe, Spike was never sure. But Xander had snatched up an axe and dove into them - wielded honed steel like it was nothing - like it was a fencing foil. Elegant and savage in ripped black jeans, his hair across his face and blood on his hands - on his chest - scarlet dapples on pale-gold skin. He'd aimed for knees and spines and ribs - he'd aimed for damage, not death, and let them lie in their own blood and anguish while he was scrubbing the place down and re-hanging curtains so that Spike could walk without getting hurt. Watching Spike finish them off until nearly sunrise and then letting Spike take him in that abattoir; headboard creaking in his hands as Spike had pounded into him - mouth open and letting out a stream of profanity and endearments as Spike knotted his fists in Xander's hair and sank his fangs into his shoulders, his back, his throat.

Hyena-soul, but the heart of a child. Buying Spike stupid gifts - little plastic monsters and a model of the DeSoto - bootleg copies of CD's from every country that had them, so he's got 'Never Mind the Bollocks...' in German and Japanese and Vietnamese and Russian. Laughing over the same old movies and over new ones, still rambling on in high-school-geek mode when some new science fiction movie or comic catches his eye.

Never once in five years has he suggested going back. Never once in five years has he spoken about Sunnydale in more then the most cursory way. Until a month ago.

Lying in bed in Shanghai - drinking tea and smoking opium and watching Spike clean and sharpen a favorite knife.

"Let's go back, Spike," he'd said, and Spike had glanced up at him, eyebrow cocked.

"Go back where, pet?"

"Back to America. Back to Sunnydale." Dark eyes never wavering from his and Spike had frowned and put the knife down - wiped oily hands on a rag and come to settle cross-legged on the bed.

"Why d'you wanna go back there, Xander?" An infinitesimal puff on the blown-glass pipe and Xander sets it aside, leaves it smoldering in an ashtray. He leans over and kisses Spike, green taste of tea and sweet smoke, faint tang of apples. Pulls back and contemplates Spike, head to one side and fingers resting lightly on Spike's knee.

"It's time for it. I just...need to."

"The Hellmouth's still open - bound to be a Watcher there - new Slayer. It's dangerous, pet."

"You afraid?" Xander's mouth is serious but his eyes are laughing, and Spike let's the demon out, baring fangs in a mock snarl.

"You saying I'm a coward, Xanderrr?" Growling his name and Xander moves into a crouching position, head lowered and hands flexing on the worn, striped sheets.

"Yeah, I guess I am," he says, and launches himself. They collide - roll - end up on the floor, tea splashed across Spike's leg and Xander laughing helplessly into Spike's ribs. They make love slow and sweet and Spike forgets about the Hellmouth for a couple of days, until Xander mentions it again, and then they fight for a week. Xander won't really say why - Spike can tell he's hiding something - and Spike won't agree until he knows everything. So, impasse, and they leave Shanghai in mutual silence and discontent, going south to Hong Kong and catching a container ship east. Xander has perfected certain skills with small engines, appliances, electrical things; he can nearly always get a job fixing something or other. It's a hassle to stow away, and not nearly as comfortable as having an actual berth. The crew regards Spike as some sort of whore and Spike does absolutely nothing to change their minds - takes to lounging around shirtless, his jeans half-undone and a sullen, bruised look that screams 'sex was just had here'. Xander thinks it's funny, even though he has to throw a couple punches to get them off his back. He's changed in that respect, as well - doesn't mind a fight, doesn't mind a little blood, and doesn't much care what the world thinks of him, anymore. And Spike thinks the bloody lip and bruises are a good look on him, and he makes sure to make Xander scream a little, crammed tight into their bunk and rolling with the pitch and yaw of the sea.

They fetch up in L.A. and Xander wonders aloud if they should go and see Angel - drive him crazy for a few days. Spike almost agrees but in the end it's Xander who says no, and they drive out of L.A. in the fading wash of post-industrial sunset, all mercurochrome red and bruise-blue, stained with banks of dirty-cotton smog.

Sunnydale is the same as it ever was - middle-America at its blinkered best and they can't believe how oblivious the people are. Can't believe the new high-school got built right on top of the old one, and they read in stunned silence the plaque that commemorates it to 'Mayor Richard Wilkins III' and his years of selfless service to the children of Sunnydale. Xander is looking at the building as if he might just blow it up again and Spike is wondering where they could lay their hands on some C-4 when someone flies out of the dark and lands on Xander. Some skinny little red-headed girl who gouges Xander's shoulder-blade with a stake and manages, through sheer surprise, to knock the breath out of him. Spike pounces - wrenches her up and bites - and after a minute or so she's sagging to the ground, her eyes rolling up in her head. And oh fuck but it's the same - rocket fuel in his veins and Spike looking down at the Slayer he's nearly killed He's hauling Xander to his feet, and they both look the girl over. Maybe fifteen - too small and skinny to look like much of a threat. Stake rolling free of a lax hand and a water pistol of Holy water in the waist of her jeans.

"Slayer?" Xander asks, and Spike takes in a huge breath and laughs, catching Xander around the neck and kissing him breathless.

"Oh fuckin' yeah. You weren't around, last time - it's like drinking liquid cocaine, pet - like meth straight to my veins." He's already hard, already wanting and Xander threads his hand back through Spike's hair - wrenches his head over and bites, gleefully.

"Guess I'm in for a long night, huh?" he purrs into Spike's ear, and they go back to the hotel, eager to ride this blood's high, forgetting the half-dead Slayer lying crumpled by the sidewalk. Bad odds for her making it through the night but they don't really care.

Sometime that night - that dawn - when the fucking has slowed to loving and Xander is lying on his side, curled up behind Spike and just rocking in, slow and gentle... He starts talking about his life before Spike - about Sunnydale. About his parents, something he's almost never done. About the gang - the Scoobies - and Spike hasn't heard that word out of his mouth in years. Spike listens, enveloped in heat and caress and the low drone of Xander's voice. Hearing all the reasons Xander came to the mansion and kissed a crippled vampire. Hearing all the reasons he stayed.

"'Member the wreck?" Xander murmurs, his hand on Spike's belly, his cock pressing that so-sensitive place, and Spike nods - lays his head back on Xander's shoulder and sees that night in his head. Driving down through the Grampian Mountains in Scotland, near Dalwhinnie. Some drunken shite in a Land Rover and a god's awful mess of broken glass and twisted metal. The DeSoto crushed beyond repair and Xander still and white on the verge, his chest hitching and catching and not moving right - not sounding right. The drunk staggering out to sit on a rock and hold his head - cut face and broken wrist, nothing else. Spike bleeding - cursing a broken arm and leaning over Xander; pressing his torn wrist to a slack mouth and begging whatever gods heed the evil undead that he wake up, that he just open his fucking eyes, Xander, fuck's sake just PLEASE open your fucking eyes. He had, after a bit - opened them and groaned in pain and slowly sat up. When Spike was sure he was back - could sit there and breathe and live on his own - he'd turned on the drunk and taken him to pieces. Let the fragrant blood steam out onto the ground because he wouldn't have it in his body. Carried Xander seven miles to some house and played at being human long enough to get in. A week, in that house, with the old couple who lived their and three concerned neighbors stacked like cord-wood in a listing shed out back.

And Xander, half awake and half not, in and out of awareness and lost in dreams - drinking whatever Spike gave him and gaining a little more of that awareness, that otherness, as vampire blood knit flesh and bone and brought him slowly back. The hyena-mind, that so far had simply been a lurking ferocity easily put aside now came to the fore, and after the wreck Xander went over entirely into 'vampire' hours, and joined Spike on his hunts more often.

"I remember that," Spike breathes, lost in an orgasm that seems to have lasted an hour - rolling waves of sensation that ebb and crest, over and over, but don't seem to end.

"I want you to finish it, Spike. Finish it." Xander whispers, and Spike knows what he's asking.

It's a terrifying thing, to watch him die. He's done whatever he can to keep that slow, steady heartbeat unchanged for nearly a decade, and it's all he can do to lie next to his boy and simply let it slow, slow...stutter and catch and stop, silence so deafening Spike's ears almost ring, and he clutches the cooling body close to him, holding tight. A century and a half of being the living dead and suddenly he's seven again, praying for the magic of match-head to candle-wick - praying for that spark to come back, come back, oh please come back. Please don't let one-hundred thousand years of resurrection fail this night, this time. He shivers and wonders if Xander's soul and the demon will cross paths somewhere in the ether above where they lay. He wonders if maybe the soul ever really leaves at all, because when he woke with grave-dirt on his face and in his mouth, he didn't feel its loss. Didn't feel as if that great sword hung over his head, promising damnation at every breath. Didn't feel hellhounds on his trail, or fire licking his heels. He had only felt fear, and disgust, and hunger. And love. For his family, for Drusilla. Even for his mortal mother, though that had ended...quite badly. He wonders what Xander will feel, and if it will be the same. Lying there in the dusty remains of the bed he'd gotten for Drusilla, years ago. The one she abandoned for Angelus...the one he kept in satin and downy cotton for Xander, even though he never said. Xander's choice, to be here - nostalgia or the completion of a circle, or simply human desire, to relive the things that made him happy. Whatever the reason, the faint dusty smells of his old family and his old life make Spike shiver, and he curls close to his boy and waits, waits.

"It's not like I thought it would be."

"It never is, love." Xander grins, and sits up - stretches hard and then looks down at his hands - at himself. Touches his chest and then presses two fingers to his neck, feeling for what isn't there. He looks unsettled for a moment, and then he looks around him, studying the dim room with eyes that glitter gold.

"It's - bright. And I can smell... That's Dru, isn't it, that smell like...perfume.

"Lily of the Valley," Spike says, watching him. Xander takes in a deep breath - another - his mouth slightly open, tasting as much as smelling.

"Angelusss..." he hisses, and Spike laughs - flicks his cigarette away in a shower of sparks that Xander tracks like a cat - instant attention, slight twitch of muscles as if he wants to chase it down.

"At least you know what to hate," Spike says, and Xander rolls up on his knees - leans over Spike and rubs his cheek along Spike's chest - his shoulders and throat and jaw.

"And I know what to love, too... Sssspike..." He's flattening himself down over Spike, rubbing his whole body over Spikes, fluid as a snake, heavy and cool. Spike arches and pulls him close - rolls them over and regards his boy.

"Are you sorry?" Xander opens his eyes wide - morphs from the demon to human and looks as Spike warily.

"Do I look sorry? I asked you for it, Spike. I wanted it for...a while. Just had to get up the courage to tell you."

"Why courage, pet?" Xander shrugs a little, opens his legs and settles Spike against him, hard flesh to hard flesh.

"Wasn't sure if you' it. If you'd want -"

"What, want you? Want us?"

"Want it forever. Want me that long." Xander closes his eyes and pushes his head back into the pillow - arches his throat up, offering, wanting. Spike leans down and kisses the length of cool skin - bites ever so gently, just letting his fangs slide in and rest there. Xander shivers under him - wraps arms and legs around him and holds on tight.

"Never been a keeper," he murmurs, and Spike twists and pushes at Xander's legs - sinks into flesh cool and tight and still slick.

"Are now," he says, moving just so, just right, and it's like family again, familiarity in scent and taste - in the feel that's so different from human. Only this time he's not last - not least - not the one who has to work and work and work to make a place and make a home. This time he is what Xander says he is - beloved, wanted, family. All Xander wants and all his, for years so far into the future they're impossible to imagine. Satisfaction in that - contentment so sweet it aches.

Later, when they're driving away - heading back out and thinking about going north, this time, into unexplored places and twilight forests - Xander very carefully lifts one foot and then the other, brushing his shoes off and then his hands. Leaving the dust behind.