Little Runaway Part Two

Little Runaway Part Two



For three days Dawn had been bouncing through the house, chattering almost endlessly and Xander was about to lose it.  Spike just laughed, watching her; indulging her sudden desires to buy presents for everyone, to start packing now, to call Buffy again, Willow again.   Xander understood her excitement, but he was on edge, and it was getting harder and harder to hide.

 For the first time in months Xander had actually sat down and talked to Willow, the phone hot against his ear, and heard the whole story.  The Council had finally come to its senses, so to speak, and realized that one Slayer simply could not deal with a rampaging Hellgod.   They'd begged, borrowed, maybe even stole power and information and had finally found the thing that would defeat her.  This after three abysmal attempts to contain her that had lost the Watchers a double handful of their members.   The final solution to Glory had been something called a Qui-Gon Jinn Puzzle Box - Willow's voice had drowned a little in static and Xander wasn't sure that that was exactly what she'd said - that had sucked Glory into an alternate dimension that was inside the box.  Roomy, apparently, since it had taken a half-dozen of her little troll acolytes and some random demons, as well.

"You should have seen it, Xander!  It was all - lights! Camera! Action!  Except no actual camera 'cause we weren't there to take pictures except maybe we should have 'cause it was like this amazing tornado or something made out of lights and sparkles and...and fairy dust -"

"Fairy dust?" Xander asked, laughing, and Willow laughed too.

"Well, some sort of highly magical dusty stuff!  It glittered, okay?  Like in Legend when Una tried to tick Jack..."  Willow went off on some complicated ramble that somehow equated a movie fairy with a million-year-old Hellgod being sucked into a cloisonné prison and Xander let his mind wander.


Spike hadn't touched him since that day.  Well, that wasn't strictly true.  He had touched him, but nothing had come of it.  Brushing his hand over Xander's back when they were both in the kitchen - propping his feet close and letting his toes bump Xander's while watching TV - coming up behind him and nuzzling into the hair at the nape of his neck and then slipping away.  Xander had yet to touch back - he was nervous about Dawn seeing - and he wasn't sure what he wanted to do.  Wasn't sure if this was just some game, to Spike.  Some...easy let-down because now they'd be going back to Sunnydale and the Stalk-the-Slayer business would start up all over again and Xander really didn't think he could watch that.  He wondered what the likelihood was of him moving to, say, Oxnard and getting his old job back.

*Not like he didn't say.  Because he did.  He said - we aren't soul mates and we aren't each other' true love.  Just - having fun.  Just...enjoying it while it lasts and FUCK...why did it have to last such a damn short time?*

"Xander?  Are you there?"  Willow's voice was sharp with - something - and Xander straightened unconsciously in his chair and cleared his throat.

"Yeah, I'm here Wills, sorry, just -"

"Oh, it's okay!  I know you're excited about coming home...  I can't believe you're finally coming home!  It's been so long -"   And Willow was off again, detailing all sorts of things, large and small, that had changed since they'd left.  Talking about classes and about Tara, talking about some UCS guy Buffy had gone out with, talking about how hard dealing with Glory had been.  Stuff she had put in her emails but needed to say again for some reason and Xander just kind of zoned out.

"Xander, I don't think you're listening," Willow said, and Xander nodded distractedly before realizing he was on the phone and she couldn't see that.

"I - I guess I'm a little...overwhelmed.  Things are just kind of different now, you know?  It's kinda...weird.

"Yeah.   Speaking of...I saw your mom in the grocery store the other day.  She looked - good."  Willow's voice was tentative and Xander sighed.  He'd asked Willow to print out a letter for him - a story about needing some time on his own and that he was okay, everything was fine.  Something so his folks wouldn't worry.  They hadn't sent any sort of reply back and Xander had given up asking. 

"You did?  Did she - I mean...that's great."  Willow sighed, and Xander clutched the phone a little tighter.  *She didn't say anything about me.  She didn't...ask.  She doesn't...*   Xander slammed the mental doors shut on that thought hard.  He was not going to sit here and think about his parents and get all...

"I'm sorry, Xander.  She seemed a little - preoccupied.  I - we didn't talk long."

*Just long enough to confirm that they don't care.  Fuck.  Neither should I.*   Xander rubbed his eyes with one hand, doing his best not to let it get to him.  *Don't want to care.*    "Wills, I gotta go," Xander said, his voice strained and a little hoarse, and he heard Willow take in a sharp breath.

"Xander, I'm really -"

"Don't, okay?  Just...don't.  I - I'll talk to you tomorrow or something, okay?  Bye Wills."

"Bye Xander.  Say hi to Dawnie for me."  Willow's voice was sad but Xander resolutely clicked the phone off - set it on the table instead of throwing it.  He got up and went over to the fridge and got a soda out and stood leaning against the sink, drinking slowly.

*I'm twenty, damnit!   What they think doesn't matter anymore.  I'm...fuck, I'm in Mexico!  I'm on my own and I helped save the fuckin' world and...*   Xander glared at the floor and blinked rapidly.  *Think about something else, for fucks sake...think about...anything...*  


The Council had finally coughed up some cash - reinstated Giles' pay and dealt with the mess that Joyce's death had made of Buffy's finances.  They were paying for Giles and Buffy to fly down to Veracruz and bring Dawn and him home.  Spike - had muttered something about how he wasn't going to abandon the DeSoto and he was driving back, but there hadn't been an offer of a ticket for Spike in the first place.

*Can't believe they'd do that to him, after all he's been through for her...for Dawn.  He let Glory torture him!  And he...*   Well, nobody but Xander knew how he'd financed them here, and Xander was pretty sure that if he were to tell Buffy or Giles or even Willow about it they'd be disgusted and angry.  Angry because he was biting humans and disgusted because...

*Because they would be.  They'd think 'whore' and that would be it.  But he's just doing...what he can.  Selling what he can 'cause he doesn't have a choice.  I mean...I don't like it but I understand it.*    The Scoobies, he was sure, would never understand.   *And when did they become 'The Scoobies'?  I'm still a Scooby...aren't I?*    Xander sighed, and shook his head.  He really wasn't, anymore.  Research was mostly beyond him when he had to work two jobs just to stay afloat, and his years of fighting beside Buffy had been more a string of bad luck and near misses than anything else.    It was a scary kind of thought.  It made him feel - adrift.  Like he had no anchor, and no real home.

*Two more days and they'll be here. Two more days and I'll be back in Sunnydale.  Lost my apartment so I don't have any place to stay...  At least Anya put all my stuff in storage for me but...where can I go when I get there?  Crash with Giles, maybe...  Back in Sunnydale and...I don't even know if I want to go back, anymore...*   Thinking about it all made Xander feel a little sick and he dumped the rest of his soda down the sink and paced around the apartment for a while, jittery and unsettled.   Dawn was off with Serafina, getting in as much time as she could with her friend before they left and Spike was -


"Would you stop stompin' around like a bloody elephant?"  Spike stood in his bedroom doorway, in those damn striped pants, glaring at Xander with sleep-heavy eyes.

"I'm not-!   Oh, fine.  I am."  Xander flung himself down on the couch and a moment later Spike ghosted over, sliding over the back and settling bonelessly beside him.  Xander wanted to get up again - wanted to touch him - but he held himself still and kept his eyes down, concentrating on picking at the threads on the worn knee of his jeans.

"What's troubling you, pet?" Spike said, and the change in his voice - from irritated growl to soft concern - made Xander glance sharply over at him.  Spike was looking at him, sitting perfectly still and pinning him with that clear, intent gaze that made Xander want to squirm.  Hair every which-way and left-over makeup around his eyes from last night.  Double duty at the blood-house because he'd stepped up the de-chipping schedule.  Xander couldn't tell if the circles under his eyes were smeared eye-liner or not.  He forced himself to stay calm - to meet Spike's look with one of his own.

"I - it's...  I'm just...nervous about going back."  Xander watched the scarred eyebrow lift itself and braced himself for... something.  What, he didn't honestly know, anymore.  This Spike was so very, very different from the Sunnydale Spike.  *Hell yeah, different.  And not just the...ohgodsex, either.*

 "Are you?  Why's that, now?" Spike asked, and Xander had to suck in a startled breath.   

*He's being nice!  God I hate this.*   "Well I guess because...  Willow's been telling me how much has changed and...about the Council and everything and...  I don't have an apartment anymore or - anything...  It's just - weird."  Spike just looked at him some more and Xander wanted to bolt.  Wanted to take the vampire's shoulders and shake him until the cool, calm look was rattled right off his face.  *I'm nervous because there's every possibility that once we get back to Sunnydale and you start chasing Buffy again and I start being...him again I'll just go postal!  Fuck, I might start  right here!*  Xander shook his head, looking away finally, searching frantically for the remote to the TV in an effort to get some noise - some distance - between himself and his thoughts and Spike.  He shivered convulsively when cool fingertips touched his jaw - gently cupped his face and turned his head. 

Spike was sitting up, leaning towards Xander a little and his eyes were wide and open.  "Not as bad as all that, is it?" he said, and Xander felt a surge of hysterical laughter bubble up in his chest and he gritted his teeth against it.

"Jesus, Spike - it's..."  And Spike leaned forward and kissed him.  It was several minutes before Xander could come up for air.

"You just need a little soothing, yeah?  C'mon to bed, pet," Spike murmured, his lips brushing Xander's and Xander just sat there, shivering, his eyes shut and his skin singing where Spike's hand and lips were touching it.  "Xander?  C'mon..."  Spike's hand in his, tugging, and he got up and stumbled into the bedroom after Spike - let him take his clothes off and push him down on the bed.  Let him do this slow, crawling grope all over him, the striped pants on the floor and Spike like a snake, heavy and cool and impossible to escape   Lips and fingers, tongue and teeth and Xander was starting to hyperventilate.  He jerked hard away from Spike - pushed himself up the bed until the back of his head and his shoulders hit the carved wood of the headboard.  "Xan -?"

"Don't - don't.  Just - quit, just -"   Xander knew he looked like an idiot - chest heaving and his cock so fucking hard and his eyes about to brim over with tears.  But it had hit him like a fist to his gut.  Hit him hard.  Spike was playing with him.  Was - was doing what he did at the blood-house, Xander was sure.  The image in his mind - so vivid it made him sick;  Spike talking soft and sweet to some rich bitch with a complex - Spike easing her down and smoothing things over and Spike being gentle and it was just so fucking wrong.

"What the fuck is your problem, Harris?" Spike snapped, and Xander took in a hard breath, gasping chuckle.

"Now that's the S-spike I know and love, that's the - that's -"   Spike made a disgusted sound and got up - stalked out of the room.  Xander laughed again - wrapped his arms around his ribs and looked up at the ceiling, willing the tears to go away, surrounded by the smoky-sweet, musky smell that permeated Spike's pillows and sheets.  There was a distant crashing sound and Spike stalked back in - flopped himself onto the bed and grabbed Xander by the back of the neck, pulling.

"Sit up, you git," he growled, and Xander sat up slowly, blinking.  Spike pried one of his hands loose from his ribs and shoved something into it.  "Drink that," he ordered. 

Xander looked down at the water-glass in his hand - at the two or three inches of amber liquid inside. "Jesus -"

"Just drink it, Xan," Spike said, and there was a crack in his voice - a twist of utter weariness and Xander ducked his head and drank.  The whiskey burned - the fumes went up his nose - and he choked, coughing.  Spike smacked him sharply on the back and pushed the glass at him and Xander finished it. 

Spike snatched the glass away and set it on the floor and then turned back to him.  "Now tell me what in hell is going on."   Spike sounded pissed - looked pissed - but his hand had crept out and was on Xander's knee, just lightly resting there, thumb stroking into the crease behind it and Xander watched, mesmerized. 

"You don't have to do this, you know.  I mean, I f-figured it out and -"

"Figured what out?"  Spike sounded genuinely confused and Xander risked a look up - got the full manga-look of wide, wondering eyes and he groaned.   The whiskey was like liquid fire in his belly and the heat was creeping outwards, tingling.

"Look, I know that you do this, okay?  That you - act like you...really want - I mean, it's what you do every night, so you don't have to d-do it with me.  I'm not a fucking idiot," he added, sniffing. 

Spike's thumb had stopped moving and his eyes had gone from wide-open to narrow - to pissed off and Xander cringed a little under that basilisk gaze.  "You think this is what I do?"   Spike's voice was low and hissing and Xander flinched again. 

"Well - yeah.  You - make 'em feel good, don't you?  Make 'em...want you."  Spike just stared at him, as unmoving as a statue and Xander started to inch away, aware that something bad was probably going to happen.  His skin was hot, and his legs felt too far away - felt rubbery.   

"You think I'm...treating you like some...trick."

"Aren't you?  We're gonna leave soon - go back to S-sunnydale and..."  Xander turned on his side - grabbed one of Spike's pillows and curled around it.  His head was swimming.  The familiar - comforting - scent on the pillowcase filled his nostrils and he breathed in deeply - peered at Spike over the bunched case.  Spike was still staring at him, but the 'kill you now' intensity of his stare had dimmed a bit to 'maybe I'll just make you cry instead'.  *An' I probably will.  Fuck.  This is just so pathetic.  I knew this was a bad idea...* 

"What does this have to do with Sunnydale?" Spike asked, and Xander sighed, exasperated.

"Hello - Hellmouth!  Where the Slayer lives?  The girl you've been stalking for - months?"

"I have not," Spike snapped.  "I've been here for months, watching out for the Niblet and you."  Spike stared at him and then he sighed heavily, running his fingers back through his hair.  "We talked about this, Xander.  You said - this isn't true love or anything."

"No, you said that," Xander mumbled into the pillow.  He felt - fuzzy.  Hot and fuzzy, like a bear.

"You feel like a bear?" Spike asked, and his voice was so bewildered that Xander laughed.  And then he stopped and took in a hitching breath, because Spike's hand was back on his knee, cold on his heated skin, nearly weightless. 

"I told you...stuff like this never turns out well.  I like you, Spike," Xander said, trying to convey what he really meant.  Not actually sure what he really meant, but knowing it was true.  He liked Spike - a lot.  And he was...  *I am so very fucked.*   He watched Spike frown a little, his head to one side.

"Harris..." Spike said helplessly, and Xander pushed his face into the pillow and shut his eyes - tried not to want...anything. 

"I really like you, Spike.  You said you wouldn't hurt me," he added, barest whisper, and he heard Spike heave another breathy sigh.  Then the bed was shaking a little and Spike was shifting - was curling up behind him, tucking Xander up in his arms, chin on the crown of Xander's head and his body touching at every point down Xander's back.   One cool hand stroked down his shoulder and arm - found his own hand and curled around it, thumb rubbing lightly over and over his knuckles.

"I won't, pet.  Won't hurt you.  You don't love me, Xander...and neither does she, yeah?  It was all - for nothing.  You just...just sleep a little now and we'll talk about it later."    Xander wanted to protest that - *You don't know how I feel!* but did he really feel that way, anyway?   The stresses of the past few days and the upheaval he felt to his very soul - *and the whiskey* all combined to make his limbs heavy as stone, his eyes impossible to open.   He sighed, his breath catching a little, and Spike's arm hugged him tighter, and then he slipped sideways and down into sleep.




*Foolish, stupid...boy.  Human boy...scared boy...*   Spike sighed, and pushed his face gently into the swath of loosely curling hair that lay over Xander's shoulder, breathing in the scent of himself and the boy mingled together. 

*Christ, what is he saying to me?  What is he...?  He can't feel anything for me - he hates me!*    But Spike, Slayer of Slayers and William the Bloody, the vampire who'd not only hunted with Angelus and Darla but survived them, too - didn't lie to himself.  Others, hell yes, at the drop of a hat.  To himself - never.   Xander hadn't actually hated him for a long time - for months, truth be told.  It had been a slow shifting of perspective - a gradual awakening to some facts that had previously been ignored or maybe just...deliberately overlooked.  But Xander didn't hate.  Xander trusted him, and liked him, and by all that was sacred and profane, the boy was as sweet in bed as any Spike had ever had.  Sweeter, even, because he came to Spike all new and untried and willing, with nothing held back and no hidden agenda. 

*And that's a first, isn't it?  'Cause when has anybody ever just said 'here, take me' and not asked - demanded - for something back?*    Spike sighed again, and shifted a little closer, soaking up heat from Xander like a snake on a rock and Xander moved slightly in his sleep, inching closer.  God, it felt good.

*He's going back.  He's going to be with his mates again and he's going to...forget about this.  Forget that we almost made a family, forget everything...*   Fuck.  Who was the foolish, scared boy now?  He sounded...much too much like William, a hundred and more years ago when he'd told Angelus he and Dru were to be together forever.  That it was destiny.  Angelus had laughed - had taken Dru away into the other room and he'd had to listen to them fucking the rest of the night. 

*Angelus isn't here, now - it's just the Watcher and the Slayer and red-witch who'll laugh...and Xander...   Fuck, fuck, fuck.*   Spike shoved it all aside - wished he'd taken a drink of that damn whiskey himself.  It was mid-afternoon, and he was still tired, and he just - *Just wanted a little more time...* he thought, and closed his eyes, and told himself to sleep.


When Spike woke again he could tell it was hours later - near evening - and he could hear Xander on the phone in the other room.  He didn't listen too closely, just eased over into the space Xander had left, feeling the last bit of heat wisping away and trying to capture it.  Xander stopped talking - turned off the phone and came to lean in the doorway.

"You awake?"

"Yeah.  Who called?"  Spike sat up a little, resting on one elbow.  Xander was only in his jeans, the fly and button not even done up.  Spike's gaze tracked the long, straight hairs that made a path from his navel to the thicker hair at his groin.  Xander's heart kicked up a notch and he looked back up at the boy's face.

"It was Dawn.  She - wanted to spend the night next door, I told her it was fine."  Xander hesitated for a long moment and then he came forward and sat on the edge of the bed.  He looked down at his knees, his hands knotted between them, and Spike resisted the urge to reach out and stroke his back.

"Spike, I - I'm sorry.  For earlier.  I didn't mean to freak out -"

"S'okay..." Spike murmured, and he went ahead and reached out - ran his fingers lightly down Xander's back, pausing to rub gently at the small of his back.  Xander shivered just a little.  His heart was pounding harder now, and Spike could smell the surge of nervous sweat that broke out on him.  "Pet, what is it?"

"Listen, Spike.  I - I want...  I don't...want...togobacktoSunnydale."  He gasped the last bit out and squeezed his eyes shut, head bowed, and Spike took a moment to play it back over in his mind - sort the babble into words.

"You don't want -?  I don't - understand."  He kept his hand rubbing in slow, slow circles despite the leap of excitement in his belly.  

Xander sighed and sagged back into his touch a little, his hands clenched tight enough to make his knuckles white.  He opened his eyes but kept his gaze firmly fixed on his hands.  "Look, there's just - there's nothing there for me!  I don't have a job anymore or a place to live...and I'm not moving back in with my parents.  Anya has moved on in such a big way it's not even funny and I don't want that now, anyway...if I ever really did..."   He stopped, biting his lip, and Spike just watched him, waiting.

*Waiting for what?  For him to say he wants...this?  Us?  Not his one true love.  Not his soul mate.  He's just a sweet boy, just...fuck...just lonely.*

"Can I - can I come back with you?  Drive back?  And you could just...take me somewhere...  I had a job up in Oxnard for a while, maybe I could -"

"Xander..."  Spike stopped him - stopped himself.  Ruthlessly squashed the excitement that was coiling through him - the emotions he wasn't sure he wanted to feel, again.  "You're mates are waiting for you, though.  Slayer an' Red - they'll be happy to see you."

"Well, sure.  For a few days.  And then it'll be back to 'Xander, what job did you get fired from today' and...'Are you dating someone yet?' and...Willow thinks she can fix everything with cookies and Buffy just doesn't wanna know and...  I just - can't do that anymore, Spike."  Xander's fingers kept twisting around themselves and he kept staring at them.   "I liked being here!  I liked - being somewhere different, and...and taking care of Dawn...  Made me I could really do something.  Like I was worth...something.  You know?"  He finally looked up at Spike, his eyes huge and dark and full of longing - full of need

*Oh fuck.  Jesus Christ, yeah. I know what that feels like, love, I know...*  Spike stared back, unsure of what, exactly, he wanted to say and he saw the shutters go up - saw the shield lift, hiding the bruised little boy behind dented steel.

"I'd rather go back alone, huh?" Xander mumbled and Spike sat up fast - put his hand on Xander's shoulder and squeezed, just a little.

"Now hang on, pet.  Not what I said.  In fact, I didn't say anything, did I?  I'm just...   I'm surprised, is all.  You really - don't want to go back?   Go back home?"    

Xander shrugged, looking down at his hands again - slowly uncurling them.   "This place has felt more like home - like a real home - than Sunnydale has in a long, long time."  He looked back up at Spike and the need and longing were back, and Spike could feel his resolve crumbling - his denial slipping. 

*Won't last, won't last...  First human I take out, he'll bolt...  First time I kiss him with blood on my lips he'll scurry for home...  Oh fuck but I want him...*   Spike was utterly bewildered.  His feelings, his damnable, laughable, human feelings - had gone from grudging respect to lust to...affection.    And his happiness at having a family - even a temporary, not-quite-right one had become a craving.  An addiction.  He couldn't do without now.   Didn't want to.  *I'm the one said I wasn't true love and here I am actin' like a soddin' girl...  Actin' like...a lonely boy...  Christ.  We're a pair, we are...  Always hated being alone.*

"I'm goin' back, you know.  Stuff there I need to get - some things I...don't wanna leave behind.  After that, though... I'm leaving, Xander.  I'm done with the Hellmouth and everything in it."   

Xander gaped at him.  "You...  But, you love Buffy!  Aren't you - aren't you gonna go back and, you know - stalk her some more?"  Tiny bit of a smile in the corner of the boy's mouth and Spike laughed softly.

"My Slayer-stalking days are over, pet.  I got out of there - got away from her and...  Realized a few things.  It's over.  It never really was and now it's...over.   I'm gonna - do a little traveling.  Like the old days, with Dru.  Think you can handle that?" 

Xander's full-on smile, when it came, was slow and sweet and wide open - full of untarnished joy and blooming hope.  "Yeah, I can handle that, Spike.  I can handle...a lot."  And he shot a look of utter wantonness at Spike.

"Oh, I'll bet you can, pet...  Bet you can.  Wanna show me what you can handle?"  Spike grinned, and Xander finally relaxed and leaned over Spike, laughing.  His kiss was confident - devouring - and Spike lay back under him and let him do what he wanted.  Let him trace over every inch of Spike's body with his lips and his tongue and his teeth; the rough skin of this callused fingers rubbing with delicious friction over Spike's nipples and ribs and hip-bones - over the insides of his thighs and the tip of his cock.  Xander - a child of his generation - seemed fascinated by Spike's uncut state and explored with wide-eyed wonder until Spike thought he was going to explode.  "Christ - Xan - you something...fuck!"  Spike bucked and froze when Xander's mouth closed around the tip of his cock, the heat and slippery slide of it making him pant for breath he didn't need.

"That any good?" Xander murmured, lips buzzing against him and Spike twisted the sheets in his fists, his hips just working, slide and twist and grind, totally out of his control.

"It's lovely, pet, it's - fuckin' brilliant -"

"Mmmm..."  Xander hummed, sinking a little lower, his teeth catching a tiny bit and his mouth like liquid flame.  His hands were stroking Spike's belly - pinching at his nipples and then dragging down his body to his thighs.  Xander stroked the sensitive skin in the crease between thigh and groin and then took Spike's balls in his hands, kneading lightly, tugging and rolling, and Spike pulled his legs up, letting his knees fall open wide, sobbing in a breath.

"Xan, please love, need you to -"   Xander's eyes flicked up to look at him - a wanton's look from under thick lashes and ruffled locks of hair.  His own body was writhing slowly on the sheet, oiled in sweat and all but drowning Spike in musk and anise and salt-sweet scent.  *God, oh god, just his mouth, just...* 

"What do you n-need, Spike?" Xander whispered, his breath shivering over Spike's belly and Spike sat up, lifting Xander by the shoulders so he could kiss him - fuck his tongue into that mouth and taste their mingled flavors.


"Wanna fuck me, pet?  Like you did before?  I want that - want your heat in me -" 

Xander's eyes were dilated nearly black - his cock was slicked with pre-come and dark with blood, and when Spike put his hand there and stroked Xander quivered all over.  "Fuck - yeah, I - god, god!"  Spike froze, and Xander did, and then Xander was scrambling over him to grab the little jar of unguent they'd used before.  The ginger-musk-cinnamon of the cream hit them both and Xander breathed deeply - scooped out two fingers-full and smoothed it over himself.

"That's all you need, love, c'mon now - Xan, c'mon -"   Spike just wanted him - just wanted him in, just wanted him to push that heat inside him - surround him with it - weigh him down.  He pulled his knees up, waiting, and Xander rubbed the last of the cream over Spike's cock, panting now.  He lined himself up and pushed slowly - so slowly.

"Oh, fuck..." he breathed, eyes closing, back arching, and Spike pulled his knees wider - arched his hips up as far as he could, willing the boy to move, for fuck's sake.

"Xan - Xan, just do it, just -"

"Yeah -"   Xander sounded dazed and suddenly he pushed, sliding home, and Spike heard a thin, breathy wail come out of his own mouth, the burn and stretch and pressure almost too much, for a moment.  Xander pushed hard against him, pelvis tight to Spike's ass and then he started to thrust and Spike just gave in, gave up - put his calves over Xander's shoulders and pulled him close and kissed him breathless.    The salt-anise taste of Xander's skin was like a drug and Spike licked his throat and collarbones - licked his chest and jaw and kissed him again and again, clenching around the bar of solid heat that was sending him to Nirvana.

"Right?  Is this right?" Xander gasped, angling his hips a little, hitting that spot and Spike felt the demon rise, snarling and open-mouthed.  Heard Xander's heart skitter-thump and then pound faster.

"Yeah, there, there - gods you're lovely, so lovely pet, so fuckin' good - hard as you like pet, god...Xander, Xander..."   *Babbling like a fool and fuckin' look at him, like a fuckin' angel, like... oh yes, oh there...*

"Spike - sssss...Spike!"  Xander's pounding rhythm suddenly tripped and fumbled and re-doubled and Xander's skin was gooseflesh and his eyes were wide and unseeing and Spike felt the pulse of him inside his body - felt the sudden, extra swelling and the jet of liquid heat and he roared, lifting his hips as best he could, fingers scrabbling at the sheets and then at Xander's ribs and back and Xander's hand was on his cock, stroking hard and rough and fuck...

It was ten minutes recovering from that, and Spike let his mouth move in lazy circles over Xander's shoulder and bicep - over his throat.  The weight on him was pleasant, as was the warm throb of battered muscle between his legs and when Xander finally slipped free of him they both sighed.

"Spike...want you to do that to me.  Next time, do that to me.  You looked -"   Xander lifted his head, flushed and sweaty, and his eyes were full of laughter and awe.  "You looked like you were in heaven or...  Or something."

"Or something, pet.   I can do that for you, Xan.   I can do that no problem."  Spike smiled and put his arms around Xander's body - rolled them on their sides and snuggled the boy under his chin, one leg possessively over Xander's and his arms tight around him.  "Gonna be good, pet.  Me and you, it's gonna be good."

He could feel Xander smiling into his chest, and he smiled himself and drifted slowly into sleep, counting heartbeats.




Waiting at the airport for Buffy and Giles to clear customs, Xander thought he might be sick.  He didn't want to tell them - what he was going to tell them.  He didn't want to see the looks he was sure he was going to get - the arguments.  He just wanted them to collect Dawn and go.  He'd never felt so rattled - so shaken - and it didn't help that he had a bruise on his forearm - a bruise from Spike.  A bruise from sex and he kept running his thumb over it - pressing it very gently so he could feel that residual ache.   Cuddling in Spike's bed that whole night - talking some, but mostly just breathing, just touching.  They'd had sex again, somewhere in there - slow sex, with Spike on top of him, riding him, arching his back and pressing his fingers tight into Xander's chest.  Murmuring to him in that honey-and-whisky voice, telling him he was lovely, brilliant, beautiful, oh beautiful, pet, so fuckin' good...   It still made a pleasant, twisting shiver go through Xander's belly and groin when he imagined Spike's voice in his head, saying those things to him.

*God, is that another secret vampire power?  That fucking voice?   Jesus...*

Standing next to him, right up against the edge of where they were permitted to go, Dawn was practically vibrating with excitement.  They'd sat down the night before and told her that Xander wanted to drive back with Spike - keep him company - and Dawn had been surprisingly okay with it.  Xander had sagged with relief and given her a hug, and she had gone off to go over her packed bags one more time, to see if she'd left anything out or could cram one more gift into them.  And Spike had kissed him right there at the kitchen table, his mouth sweet with fresh coconut and palm fruit, his fingers tight on Xander's arm.

Xander sighed, and slid his hand away from the bruise and suffered a poke to the ribs as Dawn saw Buffy and Giles striding forward with the crowd.  They were at once completely familiar and at the same time utterly foreign.  Xander felt the tension wind a notch tighter in his belly and he swallowed and grabbed Dawn's arm and pulled her around to where Giles and Buffy were coming through.

"Buffy!"  Dawn threw herself into Buffy's embrace and they just stood like that, hugging, Buffy murmuring something into Dawn's ear and Dawn shaking - sniffling.  Giles smiled on them for a moment and then he turned to Xander, and Xander saw something - shock? surprise? - go through his eyes.

"Xander - so good to see you!  You're looking - remarkably well!"  Giles held out his hand and Xander took it - shook it hard, wishing he could hug the older man but knowing Giles wasn't up for that. 

"Hey, thanks, Giles!  I guess. You - uh - you look the same."  Giles didn't look the same, actually.  There was a little more grey in his hair than before but there was also...a lack of tension.  As if Glory being gone and Dawn being safe and the Council coming around had eased something.  Or maybe he was just glad to be off the plane.

"Xander -" It was Buffy, reaching out to him with Dawn still tucked under one arm and he went gratefully to hug her, wincing a little when Slayer strength squished his ribs but holding on tight for as long as he could.  "I can't believe - Dawn looks great!  She's so tan!  And I swear she's taller - so not fair!"  Buffy's eyes were wet and she wiped them with her fingers - laughed a little and wiped Dawn's cheeks as well, because Dawn was crying too.  Then Dawn squealed and flung herself at Giles, hugging him, and Xander looked Buffy over.  She looked the same - mostly.  Her hair was shorter, and a little blonder.  Her face was a little fuller. 

*Council pay agrees, I guess.  Better than some crappy minimum wage job.*

"You look great too, Buffy. How's everybody?  How's Willow?  Is she doing okay?  And Tara?"

"Oh, Willow's great - you should see her!  She got her hair cut, this cute little bob - "   Chattering, they moved slowly away down the concourse. Buffy and Giles had only small carry-on bags since they were leaving again the day after tomorrow.  Dawn had insisted that stay just one day so she could introduce them to the neighbors and the ladies down at the market and the dress shop and the book store.  And she wanted to take Buffy all over the city - show her how well she could get around - how well she could speak the language.  Proud of herself and wanting to show off.  Spike had encouraged her in it, even though Xander had seen the twist of his lips when Dawn had first brought it up the idea of her sister staying.

They were taking the bus, something that made Giles' eyebrows go up, but he and Dawn were old hands now, and Xander got them on the right one and into seats with ease.  Dawn and Buffy just kept talking, with Dawn bouncing in her seat and pointing out the window - telling stories that she'd only get halfway through and then something would distract her and she'd be off again, making Buffy laugh. 

Giles watched them for a mile or so and then turned to Xander, his expression a little bemused.  "So tell me, Xander, how has it really been?  How has - has Spike treated you?" 

Xander blinked at the man and took a deep breath.  "Well, like I said in the emails, Giles - Spike's been great.  Working at that - that bar, taking care of the bills and getting our house...  I got a job too, but since I didn't have a passport or anything it was all under the table, you know..."  Xander rubbed his thumb over the ridges of the calluses on his finger and palm from smoothing and sanding and finishing the pretty little details of the furniture he helped make.  Custom stuff that was expensive and well made.  But he still didn't pull in half the money Spike did.  Not that he'd admit to that.  He didn't think Giles would believe Spike could make that much at a bar.  And the company he worked for installed things, too - custom built kitchens and things - and that was expensive in the States so Giles would believe he got paid more than he did.

"Carpentry, Willow said?"  Giles gaze was mild, but the tension was back in him, just a little.

"Well, more like finishing stuff.  Custom furniture and stuff like that.  Detail work.   I really like it." 

Giles nodded distractedly, looking out the window for a moment.  "And Dawn?  How has he...treated her?" 

"Like - like a brother, Giles.  Look, is there some problem?  'Cause Spike's been great.  Like I said."  Xander felt his hand close down on his arm - felt the little soreness from the bruise.  *And he's been letting me fuck him.  And he kissed me - kissed me like...  Like he wanted me.  Said I could come with him.  Don't - don't make me mad at you Giles, please...*    

Giles sighed, rubbing his thumb over his forehead in a gesture so familiar that Xander felt a little pang in his heart.   "I just...  Well, it's just hard to believe that Spike, of all people..."  Giles didn't seem to know how to finish that sentence and Xander didn't know how, either.  Spike - was different.  Had been different, all along, and the longer Xander had been with him, the more clearly he'd seen it.  And the hate...had just made him so tired sometimes.  Tired like he'd been around Larry, or his dad; you always had to be alert, on edge - waiting - for something awful to happen.  And it never had, with Spike.  Physically he'd never done more to Xander than knock him unconscious. 

*And he could have drained me on the spot, but he didn't.  He dragged my unconscious body along to the factory and he let us go...he could have just left us there, but he told Buffy where we were...  And Glory...and coming here...  And I can't tell Giles any of this.  He'll think I'm nuts.  Oh god - telling them is going to suck.*   Giles seemed to be as lost in thought as Xander was and he was grateful that the rest of the trip was made in silence.




Walking down their street Dawn was practically dancing, pointing out the little park where she liked to have picnics, talking about the fireworks that had bloomed and burned over the Gulf.   Buffy looked relaxed - she looked happy, and Giles was starting to unwind again and they were almost there when suddenly Serafina was popping out of the little courtyard to their house, a huge bouquet of flowers in her arms, her fancy go-to-the-dance white lace dress sparkling in the sun.  She rattled off a greeting and presented the flowers to Buffy with a kiss and in the confusion of bouquet-giving and introductions and translations and Serafina's mother, for god's sake, coming out and shaking hands Xander took a few steps away and drew in a huge, ragged breath, trying to calm down.  He looked up at their house and - Spike was there, a pale and indistinct figure in the window that was his bedroom.  Xander found his hand going up, unconscious gesture, and for a moment he thought Spike smiled.  But then he was gone, the blind and curtain falling back into place and Xander sighed.

The house was a surprise for Buffy and Giles, Xander could tell.  *What, did they think we'd be in some kind of...rattrap or something?  I told them - *   Xander smothered his irritation at their repeated 'This is where you live?'  as they walked through the little, arching gateway and crossed the garden to the stairs, Dawn happily telling them about Spike helping her dig holes for the little fruit trees and flowering bushes she'd planted.   The first floor was under construction - the landlord was doing some renovation - but being up on the second floor had always felt...safer, to Xander.  Like a nest.

Going inside brought more exclamations from Buffy but Giles seemed to shut down a little, his eyes flicking warily over the rooms. 

*Looking for Spike, that's what he's doing.*   Spike, of course, delayed coming out and when he did it was with a carefully blank look on his face and a stiff-backed prowl to the kitchen for whiskey.   He leaned in the doorway, his eyes hooded and wary.

"Spike!  Look what Serafina had for Buffy - aren't they beautiful?  And her mother's invited us for dinner tonight - came you come?"  Dawn displayed the flowers to Spike and his expression fell into familiar lines - affection and pride and pleasure.

"That was nice of her, Bit.   I have to work tonight, but you go and have dinner," Spike said, touching Dawn's cheek and Xander saw both Giles and Buffy stiffen.

"You sure?" Dawn asked, pouting just a little, and Spike nodded.

"I'm sure.   You should show big sis your room, Niblet - show her how pretty you made it."  Spike's eyes flickered to Buffy and away, and Xander felt his stomach clench.

"Spike -" Buffy said, and there was a question in her voice - a question and anger and Spike slowly turned his gaze to her, the animation going out of his expression as if a switch had been thrown.

"Slayer," he said, and his voice held the faintest hint of amusement.   And then he turned and went back into his room and shut the door and Xander was pretty sure he was about to drop dead from a heart attack. 


Dinner was wonderful - Serafina's mother, Ave Diosdado was an amazing cook - but Xander couldn't taste any of it and he kept glancing out the Diosdado windows, wondering if he'd see Spike on his way out.  But he didn't.  The knot in his stomach had grown to epic proportions and by the time Dawn, Buffy and Giles were in bed - Giles was sleeping in Xander's room - he felt like he might be sick.  He took a long, hot shower and then spent some time staring sightlessly at the television, hoping he'd fall asleep.  But he couldn't, and finally he gave up with a sigh of disgust - fought his way out of the blankets he'd spread on the couch and wandered into Spike's room.  The familiar, comforting scents of smoke and spice and leather enveloped him, and he sat down on the edge of the bed, breathing deeply.

*I've really - fucked up.  I'm going to tell Buffy and Giles I'm not going back with them and...they're going to fight with me and...and how do I tell them why without telling them...?   I think I'm...*   Xander stopped that thought, and sighed, and closed his eyes - leaned over on the bed and curled himself around Spike's pillow.  He'd just rest here for a while - relax.  Then maybe he could sleep.  In a few minutes his breathing had slowed to a steady rhythm, and he was asleep.




Spike stood in the doorway to his room, watching Xander.  Xander, who was twisted up in Spike's covers, wrapped around Spike's pillow.  *Silly git.  And what if the Slayer or the Watcher walked in here?  He'd probably have heart-failure, tryin' to explain...*   Spike sighed and winced.  Rough night and his ribs ached and his head and his ass.  *Fucker was out of control.  Three more days.  Three, that's all, then...*   Spike smiled, imagining the carnage.  He was going to pay every last one of that little clique a visit when the fucking chip was out.

But for now he had a warm boy in his bed, sighing softly, hair tousled over his cheek and neck, hand loosely splayed on the sheet.  Spike stripped and showered, looking with a slow, seething rage at the cuts on his thighs - the bruises everywhere.  He wondered if the Slayer would notice - if she'd think they were from fighting or fucking.  *Watcher might notice - but then, what could he say?  Christ, hope Xander calms down today.*  The boy's frantic heartbeat had driven Spike half mad - he'd listened to it from across the room and wanted to go to him - touch his cheek and run his fingers through his hair and tell him it was all right.

*Well, fuck.  I'm well and truly lost, now aren't I...?  This is only going to hurt, damnit.  So tired of hurting...*   Spike toweled himself off roughly and stalked through the house to his room.  The dim, saffron light of the rising sun was glowing behind his blinds as he curled into the bed behind Xander - snuggled close and took a deep breath of the sweet anise scent that was just him, was just Xander.  Warmth radiating back to him and soaking into him and Xander stirred - sighed - inched closer.

"Spike," his voice fading and falling away, and Spike rumbled a noise down in his chest, purest pleasure.  Xander jerked a little.  "Spike?"

"M'here, pet," Spike murmured, kissing his shoulder and Xander stiffened for a moment and then wormed closer, his hand finding Spike's and pulling it up to tuck under his chin.

"Can't let them find me in here," he said, so soft, and Spike heaved a huge sigh, knowing the boy was right.  But wanting just a little more - a little more of the heat, and the musky-sweet scent, and the faint salt and cloves taste of clean skin and soap.

"I know, love, just let me...just for a minute..." Spike whispered and Xander nodded, making a little humming sigh of pleasure, one Spike couldn't help but copy.  He closed his eyes and just held on.


Something - touching him.  A rough, shaking grip and Spike flinched away - learned response, awareness rocketing to the surface.  But not fast enough.   A voice - 'Buffy, don't -!'   Touch again, harder, and he snarled and lashed out, instinct taking over, sending his fist into a body that yielded with an 'ooof' of expelled air and then   *no, no nonono!*  acid and fishhooks, raking him from crown to heels and he shrieked, arching hard off the bed.  His eyes snapped open but he only saw flashes and flares of red - sparks of white as the pain arced through him.  Then it was done, over.  His whole body felt as if it were on fire and he propped himself up on one elbow, gasping in a breath, pushing his palm hard into his forehead in an effort to make the jagged bursts of residual pain stop.  Even the dimness of his room was hurtfully bright right at that moment and he closed his eyes.   There was a confused babble of voices - Xander, Dawn, Buffy, Giles.

 "Jesus, Buffy - told you not -"

"Buffy, you hurt him!  I said I-"

"Guys, it's just Spike, he'll -"

"Isn't that a bit of an extreme -"  

And then Xander's voice over all, brittle with some emotion that Spike wanted desperately to be worry - to be...  "No, it's not extreme, Giles!  I sill remember you almost clocking Willow that day when she surprised you in the library after - after what Angel did -"

"Angelus -"

"Whatever!  The point is - we told you not to touch him, Buffy; we just call his name from over here and he wakes up.  That way nobody gets hurt."

"Has someone been hurt?"

"Yes, Giles, Spike has been hurt." 

Spike felt a rusty, reluctant chuckle bubbling up in his chest and he stifled it.  *That's it, boy - tell him!  Why are you telling him?  Did they find you in bed?*   His brain felt sluggish and too bruised to work right and he flopped back down onto the pillows, inhaling the lingering traces of anise and salt that meant *always means* Xander.  *Never gonna shake this, how'd I let him get in so fast?  Pathetic sod...anything for...*    But he wouldn't let that word form even in utter silence behind closed lids and he sighed in relief as the voices moved away - as Buffy and Giles and Dawn left the house.  A moment later the edge of the bed sagged a little and he felt Xander's hand - hesitant and warm - stroking the hair back off his forehead - stroking through and through the rumpled strands.

"Sorry, Spike.  I tried to stop her -"

"Mmm..."  Spike opened his eyes and looked up at Xander - saw the defeated droop of his shoulders and the sadness that made his usually lively eyes dull and dark.  "Not your fault, pet.  Not much stops the Slayer when she wants to do somethin', you know?  You tried.  More than most would do."

"I...  I just..."  Xander seemed to be having a sudden rush of severe self-doubt and Spike curled himself around Xander's hip and thigh - put his head on Xander's knee. 

*Get what you can.  I'll let him off the hook, make it easy.*   "Listen, Xander, you don't have to tell them - anything.  You should just fly back with them.  Easier all around, don't you think?"  Spike felt Xander's hand stop - felt his body stiffen and his heartbeat skip up a couple of notches.

"But - but I -"   His voice was shaky and Spike sighed.

"It's all right, pet, it'll be fine."

"Stop it.  Stop it, Spike!  Don't - oh, fuck!"   Xander jerked himself away and stood up fast, pacing to the window. 

*That's it, then.  Go on and spit it out, boy...*   Spike curled into the lingering warmth left behind and rested his head on his folded arm.  Trying not to desperate as he felt.  "Xan -"

"No, wait.  Do you want me to - to go back with them? I thought...thought you -"   Xander turned away from the window, curling his hands into fists, obviously trying for some sort of control.  "I thought - you wanted m-me -"  He stopped then, just looking at Spike - looking with those dead eyes, the color gone under his tan so he looked ill - looked - broken.

*Oh, fuck.  Fuck..  It won't be good...can't be good...*   Spike wanted to tell him 'no' - wanted to tell him go home to his family and his life.  Wanted to - tried to.    But what came out of his mouth when he opened it to speak was the truth, the damning truth and Spike was already seeing the miserable inevitability that would come from it.  "Course I want you, love.  I'd be daft not to."  Xander just stared at him - stared for so long Spike wondered what, exactly, had come out of his mouth.   The life flooding back into Xander's face was - sunlight through mist, all glowing edges and soft shadows and Xander smiled at him - smiled and took five long strides to the bed and kneeled down, and put that smile and that sunshine straight into Spike with a kiss as eager as it was all-consuming.  Spike gave himself up to it, not caring, anymore, where it all might lead.  The now - was too sweet to be denied.




"So I've decided that - that what I'm going to do is go back with Sspike.  Ride back with him.  Instead of you guys."   Xander could feel his fingernails digging so hard into his knees he wondered if they'd actually gone through the denim.  He braced himself and waited, watching his news percolate through their brains. Giles - got it.  Buffy was - almost there - ding!

"Xander - are you seriously saying that you want to stay down here and ride in that deathtrap for days with Spike?"

"Yeah, that's what I'm seriously saying, Buff.  I just -"

"And Spike is letting you," Giles interrupted, and Xander blinked and wet his lips.

"Well, yeah, he - he's fine with it.  I can drive during the day like I did coming down here and -"

"Xander.  You do know Willow's waiting for you?   I don't get it.  Spike can get home just fine - or stay here - Glory's gone, it's not like we need him anymore -"

"Buffy!"  Dawn looked furious and Buffy looked over at her impatiently.

"What?  We don't actually need him.  It's not like I was all - helpless and stuff before he got himself fixed!"  Xander wanted to slap Buffy for that - was glad that Spike was already gone for the night and couldn't hear her.  And his stomach hurt.  Literally hurt, because this...was worse than the yelling he'd expected. "Besides, Xander hates Spike.  Why would he want to spend any more time with him?"  Buffy turned a sudden gimlet-eyed look on him, frowning.  "Is he blackmailing you?  Did you - do something or - or is he holding something over your head -?" 

"Buffy!  Jesus!"  Xander shot to his feet, pacing away from them, pushing his hands back through his hair in frustration.  God   What Buffy was saying was suddenly making him feel like he was a kid - like he was too stupid to realize just what he was doing.    "What in hell could he be blackmailing me over?  Do you think I've done something - something bad or something?  I mean -"

"No, Xander, calm down."  Giles sat forward on the couch, absently rubbing his forehead.  "We know you didn't do anything...uh...illegal or - or bad, but - you've been alone for some months and probably - very lonely and -"

"I haven't been alone, Dawn's been here and Spike's been here -"

"And we're friends -" Dawn added, but Buffy shushed her. 

"Fine, fine, you're all buddy-buddy.  Which is really kinda weird."  Buffy sighed and shook her head - looked at her watch.  "It's late, and the plane leaves early.  I dunno why you want to hang out with Spike but - fine - do it."  She made a sort of throwing-away gesture with her hands.    "Dawn's got school again in a couple of weeks, and I'm going back to school too, so..."

"So what you're doing is more important, yeah," Xander said, shrugging, and Buffy looked pissed off for a moment.

"Well if you were coming back with us, you could do something - important too!  But you wanna stay down here, so - fine.  I'm going to go get cleaned up and go to bed.  C'mon Dawn, let's go pack those shirts we bought."  Buffy stood up, impatient, and Dawn rose more slowly, biting her lip.  Oh, so much worse than yelling, 'cause Buffy...just didn't care.

"Are you - sure you...  I mean, I'm gonna miss you, Xander.  Why can't we get Spike a ticket?"  Dawn turned to Giles, a pleading look on her face, but Xander interrupted the older man before he could answer.

"Spike doesn't want to leave his car down here, Dawn.  You know that.  We won't be long behind - I'll bring you a souvenir from every state we drive through, okay?" 

Dawn sighed, but then she smiled a little at Xander, looking tired.  "Yeah, okay.  I just...  Okay."  She started to follow Buffy out of the room and then darted back to hug Xander hard.  "I'll miss you, is all," she whispered, and Xander hugged her back. 

"Miss you too, Dawnie.  G'night."

"'Night, Xander.  'Night, Giles."

"Yes, yes, goodnight, Dawn."   Giles rose as well and went into the kitchen - retrieved Spike's bottle from the cupboard and poured himself a drink.  He leaned there against the counter and Xander leaned opposite, watching him.  "You know, Xander...  When I was younger, I did - a lot of foolish things.  Ethan Rayne comes to mind and Eyghon..."  Giles took another sip, his eyes on some middle distance.  "These things - made for trouble, in the end.  They made me wish quite desperately that I'd done otherwise."  Giles looked straight at Xander, his eyes mild and calm but something there - some spark of something that Xander felt might burn him to a cinder if he wasn't careful.

"Giles..."  Xander stopped and considered everything.  Considered the feeling of Spike curling up behind him in the bed, just wanting skin-on-skin, just wanting him there.  Considered what Spike had been doing, these past three months.  What he had been doing.  Considered how he'd felt only a week ago - and how he felt now.  "I'm not doing anything I'll regret, Giles.  I promise."  He looked back at the older man with, he hoped, the same mild gaze and Giles finished his drink - set his glass in the sink and slid his glasses off, tucking them into his shirt.  He stood there for a moment and then he shook his head ever so slightly.

"Well.  Goodnight then, Xander," he said, and turned and walked out of the kitchen.  And his tone - his look - was so disappointed, so dismissive - Xander felt a rush of panic.  Felt that he'd just lost - whatever he might have had with Giles.  Whatever friendship they might have been growing between them.

"Giles -"   Xander said, but too soft.  Giles was gone.  For a moment Xander wanted him back.  Wanted to tell him everything that had happened - wanted to confess how he felt and what he'd done - wanted to tell him everything about Spike.  About him and Spike.  *If there even is such a thing...*   But - he didn't.  He listened to Giles going into the bedroom - listened to Buffy and Dawn in the bathroom and then to Giles in the bathroom - listened to them settling and the house becoming silent.   He could never tell Giles about what Spike had done - was doing.  About the blood-house, or the chip - any of it.  And he didn't want to tell Giles about Spike...about kissing him or holding him or just...talking with him.  That was his, his own secret, his own little bit of warmth against the coldly dismissive Watcher and against Buffy's total lack of caring.  *Spike's mine.  Not theirs.  He...choose me over Buffy. I think.   He...asked me, he...  I won't betray his secrets and I won't tell mine...*

That made him feel...totally alone.   After awhile he went into Spike's room and curled up in the chair in the corner - let his eyes run over the books Spike had acquired while they were there.  Volumes and volumes bound in dull, old leather - faded greens and blues and reds, dirty browns.   One lay on the shelf out of place, with a piece of newspaper marking the page and Xander reached and picked it up - opened the book. 


"...the General seized Martine's hand and held it for a long time without a word.  At last he said:

"I have been with you every day of my life.  You know, do you not, that it has been so?"

"Yes," said Martine, "I know that it has been so."

"And," he continued, "I shall be with you every day that is left to me.  Every evening I shall sit down, if not in the flesh, which means nothing, in spirit, which is all, to dine with you, just like tonight..."


The words made his throat hurt for some reason, and he held the book and lay and his head on the chair - stared out the window at the lights of the city, waiting for Spike.



"Xander?  Wake up, pet..."  Soft voice - soft fingers easing the book out of his grasp - brushing his hair back.  "You need to wake up now," Spike said, and Xander sighed and burrowed a little closer into the heavy, silky fabric of the chair.

"Don't want to," he whispered, and he heard Spike doing something - heard the heavy sound of his coat being tossed on the bed and then Spike was worming into the chair, dislodging Xander and pulling him half onto his lap - wrapping his arms around him and burying his face in Xander's hair.

"Did you tell them, then?"

Xander sighed again, opening his eyes.  The room was lit with a dim, greyish-rose light and Spike smelled like whiskey and like blood - like oranges. "Yeah.  I did."

"So you been up half the night, havin' some sorta - argument?"  Spike's mouth, close enough to his neck that he could feel the brush of cool lips, and breath stirring his hair.

"No.  They didn't - argue at all.  Buffy was too concerned about getting back home and...  Giles..."  Xander let his eyes close again and fought the surge of anger and pain that came with the older man's name.

"What about Rupert, pet?" Spike murmured, and his arms hugged a little tighter.

"He - I think he kinda...knows.  And he gave me - an out.  Gave me a chance to tell him - everything - and tell him...  Tell him I'd made a mistake."   Xander opened his eyes again because Spike's arms had squeezed just a little too tight for a moment.  He looked at them, crossing over his belly, almost glowing in the filtered light, ugly bruises like dapples up his forearms.

"What -" Spike started to say, and Xander squirmed in his grip - twisted and slid down until he was on his knees, his hands on the arms of the chair, Spike's thighs on either side of him. 

He leaned there for a moment, looking up the several inches into Spike's face.  Watching the vampire turn his head away a little, watching the wide-open eyes shutter and darken.  "I told him I didn't have any regrets.  And he - walked away." 

Spike stared past him - stared at the window or the bookshelf for a long, long moment, and then he shifted and turned his head - looked at Xander with no expression on his face whatsoever.  "So, you still gonna - come back with me?" Spike asked, and Xander let his hands slide down off the chair-arms and up Spike's forearms and biceps - let his fingers thread into Spike's mussed, ragged hair.  Tugged him gently forward, until their foreheads were just touching.

"Yeah.  I am," he said quietly.  "Wouldn't miss it for the world."   He could feel Spike smiling, and he lifted his head just a little and pressed his lips to Spike's - delicately kissed until Spike made a hrummph sort of noise and pulled him in tight, kissing him hard.  Kissing him like he just couldn't get enough.  Xander knew exactly how that felt.




The house was so quiet, after they left.   Still.  *Like a tomb,* Xander thought, which led inevitably to thoughts of Spike, the resident undead.  *Doesn't even make me flinch, anymore.  Undead.  So what.* Xander stood on the balcony, knowing he was hiding, a little.  It was just after nine in the morning and Spike couldn't come out after him - the balcony was flooded with the hard, hot sun of a late-summer day and it felt...really good.  *But I'm still hiding.  I'm alone with him now like I wanted to be but...  What do we - do?*   Xander felt just a little ridiculous but he couldn't force himself to go in, not just yet.    He was still trying to process the morning, anyway.  The goodbye scene which hadn't really been a scene but had been...something...


"Dawn, we have to go in ten minutes!  Are you ready?"  Buffy impatiently checks her watch - pats the row of luggage by the door and then looks up, frowning, as Spike as Dawn walk into the living room.  Spike is saying something - talking low in her ear - and Dawn is sniffling already.

"Here now, none of that," Spike says gently, wiping at Dawn's face with his fingers and tucking her hair back behind her ear.  Dawn just looks up at him, her eyes so big and hurt and lost, already.  "Look, I've got you a present."  Spike is holding a - book?  No - more like an album and Dawn takes it with a look of surprise - sits down on the couch and opens it.  Xander leans over to see and Spike just watches Dawn.

The album is full of pictures.  The first is their house and Xander recognizes the picture they saw in the want ad - how it was before.  Only this is a color picture, probably the one the realtor copied to make the ad.  The house looks so - barren.  The next page is a new picture of the house, only this time it looks as if it were taken days ago, with the plants and trees and flowers that Dawn picked out and they planted together - with the old stucco re-painted a soft terra-cotta, the rails and little benches and gate and archway all done in the turquoise Dawn liked so well. 

The rest of the pictures are the same, shots of the house as it was when they moved in - all dull walls and bare windows - and shots taken who knew when with the sun coming in soft and golden through the blinds, glowing on the walls.  Spike's room in plum-red and amber, Xander's in the navy and cream and soft mocha-brown Dawn had persuaded him to.  The gold and green kitchen, the bathroom all blues and pearls.  And Dawn's room, yellows and creams and small, vivid bits of scarlet.  Dawn wipes repeatedly at her eyes until she comes to the last page; herself and Serafina in their white party dresses, Xander and Dawn sprawled on the couch in 'movie-mode' and Spike, sitting and smoking at the kitchen table, small smile and tilt of his head.  Then she just breaks down and sobs, and Spike moves instantly to kneel beside her and rub her shoulder - offer a tissue from the box on the end table.

"Please come back with us, Spike -" Dawn wails, and Spike looks taken aback - looks uneasily at Xander and hugs Dawn gently.  Buffy is watching from the door and silently fuming - Giles is staring silently out the double doors to the balcony, probably not seeing the white-capped water of the Gulf or the ships that are churning slowly by, his shoulders tense under his light summer shirt.

"Now Bit, you know I can't.  Can't leave my darling down here, can I?   It'd be a heap of rust in a month, pet.  I'll be back before you know it.  Now pull yourself together, Bit; don't want to be all splotchy on the plane.  Go wash your face, yeah?"

"Spike!  Stop that!  Stop trying to just - just -" 

 Spike sighs, offering more tissues, and Dawn snatches a handful and mops her face.  "It can't be helped, pet, so better to just leave off, yeah?  Just - don't think about it.  Look - you've got pictures of all your hard work right here to show your mates back home.  Bet they'll be askin' you to do their rooms up next, yeah?  And Serafina said she'd come see you soon, and -"

"I’m not a child, Spike!" Dawn says, but the wobble in her voice betrays her.  She swallows and clenches her fists around the sodden tissues.  "You don't have to distract me with - with toys."  Her voice is hard but her hand is gentle with the album - closing it carefully and stroking its red leather cover.  "This is really nice," she says, but then skewers Spike with a hard look.  "You are coming back, right?" 

Spike makes an astonished face - manga-eyes and open mouth - and Xander almost laughs.  Buffy makes some sort of snorting noise.   "Bit!  How could you?  Would I lie to you?"

"Of course you would, Spike.  It's time to go, Dawn."  Buffy strides over and snatches the album - crams it into the top of Dawn's carry-on and jerks the draw-string tight.  "Go use the bathroom if you need to Dawn, the taxi's here and we have to go." 

Dawn stares up at her for a minute and then she grabs Spike in a huge, hard hug, burying her face in his neck.  Spike shoots Buffy a glare - a kind of 'don't you dare' look - and hugs her back just as hard.  "I'll miss you.  Be careful and - and take care of Xander, please don't - don't let him get hurt.  And - I love you, Spike," Dawn gasps out, then she's pushing to her feet and running for the bathroom and Spike is left crouching there, a look of utter disbelief and wonder on his face.  Five minutes later they're gone, and Xander waves a last time from the balcony.




Xander shifted a little and sighed - leaned on the railing, idly watching the Gulf and a handful of gulls dart and dive, finding lunch in the sand near an outdoor café. 

"Going to hide out there all day, pet?"  Spike's voice was like a caress of cool velvet and Xander shivered a little - turned and looked into the house, waiting for his eyes to adjust.  Spike was standing there in his oldest jeans and tightest t-shirt, his hair still mussed from his shower, his eyes sunk a little into bruised-looking sockets.  Nobody had said a word about the ladder of cuts going up his arms, but now Xander felt a slow, twisting knot of anger in his gut.  He pushed away from the rail and went straight up to Spike - hesitated for one long moment and then hugged him close.  Spike's arms came up around him immediately and he made a small gasping sound.  "Fuck, you're so hot, that feels so good -"   Spike was burrowing into him - getting his hands and arms up under Xander's shirt, searching for the sun-bought heat and Xander let him - pressed close and just held on.   "C'mon to bed with me, pet, yeah?  You gotta start keepin' vampire hours an' I'm..." 

Spike didn't finish that but Xander knew what he was saying.   Not 'I'm tired', although he probably was but; 'I don't want to be alone.  I'm cold.  I'm...lost.'   It was how Xander was feeling anyway, and he went willingly along with Spike to the warm, ruddy-gold of his room.  Somehow, taking off his clothes didn't make him feel self-conscious anymore, and slipping into the musky, smoky nest of sheets and blanket was a relief.  Spike pulled him on top - got arms and one leg around him and it was like a cocoon almost except Xander didn't care.  He pushed his face into Spike's neck and just breathed in the scent that was rapidly becoming the scent of home to him - of comfort and safety.

"I hope Dawn's okay," he murmured, and Spike's arms tightened around him.

"She'll be fine, pet.  Niblet's stronger than she looks.  You'll see."  

Spike's hands were rubbing in slow, easy sweeps up and down Xander's back and he shifted and sighed and kissed the smooth skin that was under his mouth.  "Spike..." he said, and then didn't know what else to say.

"What is it, love?" Spike murmured.

"I...I want..."  Xander stopped again, feeling a rush of blood to his face - to his whole body.  He knew exactly what he wanted, but asking - was hard.  Asking opened him up for rejection. 

"Ask me, Xan.  Anything you want."

*Don't be so stupid - he's right here!  He's holding on you want him to hold on.  Just...*   "You said - next time...  You said you would - show me...what it's like?" 

There was a moment's silence from Spike and then he shifted a little and Xander felt a cool hand under his chin, lifting his head.  "You want me to - be inside you, pet?  Is that what you're asking?" 

Spike's eyes were dark in the dim room - were half-shut and fathomless and Xander couldn't make a sound, so he just nodded - stretched forward a little and kissed Spike's jaw, then his lips, slow and soft.  "Please?"  His voice cracked a little and he paused, taking a long breath in.   "I...  It feels like I just..."   *Want you to be in charge.  Want you to just take care of me - just for a little while.  Just - long enough.  Please...*

"Course I will, love," Spike whispered, and Xander shuddered with relief and longing, kissing Spike again only deeper, and harder. 

*God...please don't let it hurt...  Please let me do this right...*

"I can hear your heart, pet - it's beating like a drum.  You're not afraid of me, are you?" Spike asked, and Xander shook his head - took another deep breath, letting his forehead fall to Spike's shoulder.

"No, I'm just - I don't wanna - mess this up."

Spike laughed but it was quiet, not mocking.  "Told you already - you can't.   But this is for me to do, yeah?"  Spike rolled them both a little - got Xander on his side and got himself up on his elbow and leaned there, looking at him.  Xander couldn't stop the hand that reached out and lightly traced the curve of collarbone and pectoral and bicep.  "Trust me, pet?"  Soft question - easy question, really.  So frighteningly easy to answer.

"Yeah.  I do," Xander replied, and Spike smiled.




"Slow, pet.  Got all day, we'll go real...slow..."  Spike's hands on Xander's back, rubbing and pressing and stroking, making him feel as limp and boneless as a rag.  If he could purr he would, but since he can't he makes no effort to stifle the soft, moaning sounds of pleasure that Spike's hands draw out of him.  He can feel Spike's cock, cool and slippery-damp and so, so hard brushing and dipping over his back, his buttocks, the backs of his thighs.   Making him squirm, making him shudder.  He eases his legs open, wider and wider, wanting that touch there, oh right there, and Spike is husking pleased little murmurs of praise and encouragement in his ear - is pushing the tip of his cock gently into the crease there, rubbing and pressing but not actually breaching the muscle and it's all Xander can do not to scream...  "Like this, Xan?  Like this, right here?"  Spike's fingers - god, inside him - slow, slick glide and teasing twist and pressure and oh god, oh god -

"Sss...pike...ohhh..."  Xander is face-down on the bed, hair in his face, fingers clutched tight in the sheets.  His thighs are over Spike's, his knees slipping on the mattress and Spike is rubbing his back and slowly fucking into him and touching, inside, some little place that makes Xander's whole body fizz and coil and buck.  He's already come once like this and he feels as heavy as a sated lion.  But this time he wants to feel Spike's weight - wants to feel Spike's chest against his back and Spike's belly tight to his buttocks.  Wants to feel Spike's cock, wider than fingers, pushing him to orgasm.  "Please, can you -" Xander whispers, and Spike's fingers twist out and then his cock is pushing in instead, slow and insistent, bigger and softerharder and so different and Spike is pushing Xander's legs up further, is lifting his hips so Xander is on his knees and it feels...feels...

", that's lovely, you're lovely," Spike breathes, arms around Xander's ribs holding him tight, his mouth at the nape of Xander's neck, his hips moving slow and sweet and easy; cushion of slippery lube and blood-heated, blood-swollen flesh.  Xander can feel his body opening to Spike - can feel the muscles pulling Spike in and god, that spot, pressed and rubbed by the broader head of Spike's cock.  So different from his fingers, somehow more intense and Xander is aware that he's gasping - whimpering - is aware that somehow he's gotten one of Spike's hands in his, fingers laced and held tight, tight.  It feels good, so good; not just the delirious, body-shivering fact of Spike in him but the weight of him, the crush of him, holding him still, holding him safe - holding him close and gentle and...loved.  He feels loved.  Even if he's not.




Xander turned in the bed, stretching, smiling to himself, and snuggled back into Spike.  The feeling was good enough - he wasn't going to question it, he was just going to revel in it for as long as he could.  The next time he woke up Spike was awake as well; smoking a cigarette, one arm casually around him.  Xander blinked sleepily at the slow ribbon of blue smoke that rose up and up in the amber air, his cheek warm against Spike's chest.

"Want you to come with me tonight," Spike said, as if continuing a conversation they've been having and Xander looked up at him, frowning.

"Huh?  Go where with you?"

"To the house," Spike said, tamping out his smoke.  Then he turned and looked down at Xander and his eyes were hooded and unreadable - his face tense.

"You mean - to the - you mean to where you work?"  Spike nodded shortly and Xander reached up and scratched at his cheek, feeling stubble rasping a little under his fingers.  "Well, okay, but...  Why do you want me to come?"

"I just..."  Spike sighed, tucking his arm under his head and blinking up at the ceiling, looking less then happy.  "I want you to it is.  How I work.  So you know." 

Xander thought about that for a minute - thought about his little 'episode' a few days earlier, and the assumption he had made.   "Oh.  Oh.  You want me to...  Okay.  Yeah.  Spike?"

"Yeah, pet?" 

Xander hoisted himself up so he could kiss collarbones and biceps and the smooth line of Spike's pale throat, and Spike closed his eyes and smiled a little, humming under his breath.  "I'm sorry I said that.  I just - didn't know."

"S'okay.  You really didn't -"

"I thought I did.  I thought...  Well, I shouldn't have thought that.  I should have...trusted you."

Spike laughed softly and his arms came up to hug Xander close, fingers ruffling through his hair.  "Should you have?  Trust me?  M'a vampire, pet.  Evil, soulless -"

"Yadda, yadda, yadda.  I know.  So they say - so you say.  But you did all this to save Dawn, and you were nice to me, even - at the start.  You didn't have to be."  Xander leaned his chin on Spike's sternum, going a little cross-eyed as he studied Spike's mouth.  "I think - you can be as evil or as good as you want to be and before you just...didn't have any reason to be good."  Xander glanced up then, because there was something...but no.  *Vampires don't cry.  Spike doesn't.  Just...a reflection.*    "Spike?"

"Best get showered, pet.   Don't want to be late my last night."  Spike voice was a little wavery but he twisted and got a kiss on Xander's nose - slid out from under him and climbed off the bed.  While Spike did that so-familiar full-body stretch, Xander sat up and winced a little, and got slowly to his feet.  "Sore, Xan?"

"A little.  Not too much, though.  Ummm...can I take a shower with you?"  Spike laughed - held his hand out and pulled Xander to his feet. 

"Counting on it, pet."  He started to pull Xander to the bathroom and Xander admired the bunch and flex of his buttocks - the lean line of thigh and back, now unmarred by any marks, courtesy of the blood in the fridge.  

Xander reached out and ran his hand down Spike's ribs - curled his fingers around the hip-bone that rose there, jut of bone and muscle.  "Do you think we can...uh...?" 

Spike turned around, walking backwards into the door and shoving it open with a kick of his foot.  He was grinning, his tongue caught for a moment between his teeth.  "Counting on that too, pet," he purred, and Xander grinned.



The name of the club was 'El Séptimo Sello' - The Seventh Seal - and the biblical connotations gave Xander the creeps.   It was a huge old building done in a very 'colonial Spanish' style and lit up like a Las Vegas strip-joint.   Spike strode in through the front door like a rock star and Xander felt conspicuous and grubby and much, much too young.  Spike had loaned him a dark red silk shirt and put a little liner under his eyes - told him he looked good enough to eat and then, half a block from the club had kissed him for five heart-pounding minutes up against a wall.  Full-body grind and those fucking hands and Xander could feel every inch of his skin tingling.  He was painfully hard and as they walked through rooms that were decorated in plush fabrics and leather and throbbing with music, a number of the vampires turned and stared - shifted to their demon aspects and sniffed after him.  Spike just took his hand, snarling, and led him upstairs to what was obviously a 'behind the scenes' area.  A small room with racks of clothes and a table full of makeup and other things.

"You were 'bout to get pounced, love, the way you look.  The way you...mmmm....smell..."  Spike nuzzled into the crook of Xander's neck and Xander felt his knees wobble.  From fear, from their walk through the club but mostly desire.  Spike had turned something on in him.  Or that's what it felt like.  Because just the look in those heavy-lidded eyes - just a touch - a purring word in that fucking voice that was like honey and opium...  And Xander was lost - gone - so lust-drunk it was like being thirteen all over again and jacking off three times a day - going through school a walking hard-on and here he was right back there.   Spike's fingers on the small of his back, Spike's tongue just touching his skin, butterfly-kiss, so, so good.

"Oh...god..."  Xander slid his hands around Spike's waist, pulling him close and Spike's hands came up to sink into his hair and hold him - tilt his head and kiss him and Xander just leaned there, hardly able to breathe and so turned on he couldn't think.

"You taste so good," Spike murmured, and then he was pulling away - backing away and shrugging out of his coat.   "You can sit down, if you like," he said, nodding, and Xander turned and saw the couch along the opposite wall.  He walked stiff-legged to it and sat down gingerly on the edge, watching Spike.  The vampire hung his coat up and then stripped, making Xander's heart pound.  With a sly look over his shoulder, Spike bent over and began to slowly work on a pair of thin leather pants.  By the time they were halfway up his thighs Xander thought he might faint.

"Jesus, Spike - what the fuck?"

"Just keeping you entertained, pet," Spike grinned, and Xander collapsed backwards with a groan.

"I'm so 'entertained' I'm about to...embarrass myself."

"That so?"  Spike shimmied the pants the rest of the way up and then slipped on a blood-red shirt that was as thin as cobwebs.  He rolled the sleeves up to his elbows and left the front of it open and turned around, sauntering to the table.  The pants were open, and he was hard, and Xander watched the sway of his cock, framed by black leather, and felt his fingers sink into the couch cushion. 

*Oh my...god.  Fuck, he looks...*

Five minutes later Spike turned to face him and Xander couldn't help it, he moaned.  But Jesus.   Spike had put black eyeliner on - heavy and dark, like a Goth kid.  And maybe lipstick, because his lips looked so blood-red - darker than usual.   Ladders of silver bracelets up his wrists, rings on every finger.  Even a necklace - heavy silver choker of chains and dangling stones that looked like diamonds but were probably just glass.  And he looked...unearthly.  Not human - better than human.   The liner and the shirt made the pallor of his skin even more pronounced and as Xander watched Spike casually ran a little sponge over his chest and throat, leaving behind a faint shimmer of silver.

"Fuck..." Xander whispered, and Spike rose out of the chair with a twist of his body - prowled across the room and Xander couldn't help but stare at him - stare at his bone-white chest between the wings of the shirt, and at this cock, flushed and damp at the tip, jutting up hard and thick from the open pants.

"This is what they want, pet.  Whore.  Toy.  This is what they get.  You want some, too?"  Spike's voice was a purr; his eyes were huge and so very blue; brimming with some emotion that Xander couldn't interpret.   Spike dropped gracefully to his knees, his hands on Xander's thighs, kneading lightly. Stroking towards his groin and Xander wanted to grab Spike's head and drag it down into his lap. 

*But...can't...oh, god...*   "Spike...I just..."  Xander gasped, hips twitching upward, as Spike ran his fingertips over the bulge of flesh under Xander's zipper.  "D-don't, okay?  This....I'm...not p-paying, I'm..."  Spike froze, his face going utterly blank and Xander felt like his heart had stopped.  Pain in his chest, and he wanted to scream.    "I just want you in bed this afternoon, okay?  Okay?  Please?  Don't be mad..."  Almost a whisper and Spike just looked at him.  And then he smiled - god, smiled like he'd only done once or twice before and leaned forward and kissed Xander.  Sweet, slow kiss - a kiss that said he wasn't mad and that he wasn't going to be.  Xander gave in to it eagerly - easily - because with his eyes closed it was their house and not this fucked up club full of fucked up people who liked to hurt other people.  Who liked to see blood and pain and - *Spike's blood, Spike's pain...oh fuck.*    Xander pulled back, finding his hands all unexpectedly in the hair that Spike had left soft and tousled and free of product.

"Can't we just go home?  I mean...can't you done?" 

Spike's hands tightened on Xander's thighs for one moment and then he smiled again, and leaned back in and kissed Xander lightly on his cheek.  "No, pet.  Last night.  Got some kind  Something.  Big chunk of money and it'll pay off everything."  Spike rubbed his hands up and down Xander's thighs, slowly, and Xander let his fingers slip through the silken hair again and again.  "Just one more time and then I'm done and then - we're out of this place, yeah?"

"Yeah..."  Xander sighed and pulled Spike close again for one more kiss then watched as he rose and smoothly did up the fly of the pants.  They rode low on his hips - low enough to show the merest swell of the tip of his still-erect cock at the waist and Xander had to catch his breath and look away because Spike was so...  *Fucking sexy.  God.  No wonder.  But this is it, no more after this and then...back to Sunnydale and...  What the hell am I gonna do there?*

"Listen, Xan - after tonight, before we leave...  They're gonna do it.  Turn this fucking chip off."  Spike was staring at him, nervously fiddling with one of the rings and Xander pushed himself to his feet and walked over to him.  Used one finger to tidy Spike's liner, flashing back to Willow and Buffy and 'Bronzing' - feeling that hurt in his chest again.

"You were smudged," he explained.  He wound his arms around Spike's waist and leaned into him.  "I'm... I've gotten used to the idea, you know?  It's okay.   Do I - I mean, is there anything I'm gonna have to do?"

"Nah.  I'll be....a little out of it, I guess.   Oliverios - he's the owner - he's gonna have a car for us to get home in."  Small grimace at that, because there was no love lost between Spike and the owner of the club.    "Just don't invite him in, yeah?  Don't invite anybody in."

"Sure."  Xander raised a small smile and Spike smiled back - ran a hand back through his hair.

"I'm going up now.  There's a place for you to wait - got a TV and stuff...  I'll be a while.    Okay?"

"Sure.  Okay."  Xander didn't feel okay, but he wanted this night over and he followed a barefoot Spike out and down a corridor - up in a small elevator to a quieter, even more opulent floor.  Spike ushered him into a small living room type of room with curtains all along one wall and a huge, flat-screen TV in one corner, a full bar in another.  Squashy couches and chairs were scattered around, and the room looked comfortable and cozy.  It creeped Xander out.

"Okay?" Spike asked, hovering in the doorway and Xander nodded reluctantly. 

"Yeah, okay."  Spike grinned and then he was gone and Xander sighed.  He went over to the bar and got a soda and then sprawled down on a couch.  There was a remote on the small coffee table and he clicked the TV on.  Die Hard was playing, dubbed in Spanish and Xander amused himself for a while by seeing how much of the mostly-forgotten - and forgettable - dialogue he could glean from the rapidly spoken words.   He was actually surprised at his own fluency, and when the movie was over he waited with something like anticipation for the next thing to come on.


"Enjoying yourself, cachorro?"  Xander jumped, twisting around on the couch to see a tall, elegantly dressed man coming into the room. 

*Cachorro?  Cachorro...puppy?  Fuck him.*   "I'm - fine, thanks."  Xander stood up slowly, uneasy.  The man was pale with very black hair and a sleek mustache.  His dove-grey suit looked expensive and fitted him perfectly, and he had a heavy gold and diamond ring on his right thumb.  His eyes were eerie - a sort of pale green - and Xander found himself taking a step back before he stopped himself, clenching his teeth.  *I'm here with Spike.  They know.  Nobody's gonna mess with me.*   The thought didn't make his heart stop pounding, though.

"Spike has been...very closed-mouth about you.  I can see why."  The man spoke with a pronounced Spanish accent and his weird eyes slid over Xander like oil, assessing and greedy.  "I'm Oliverios, the owner of El Séptimo Sello.   And you are...?"

"Just a friend.  You know," Xander said, and then stopped himself.  *No damn babble.  Not now!* If he knew anything about Spike, he knew he didn't like his private stuff talked about with strangers - or people he didn't like.  And Spike really didn't like Oliverios.    And Xander really didn't like being in the same room as a vampire older than Angelus.

"Oh, friend?   I know what you are, cachorro.  It's all over you.  You're here the show?"  Xander glanced, puzzled, at the TV and Oliverios laughed.   "No, cachorro, not the TV.  The show.  The Spike show."

"What?" Xander said, but he felt a horrible twist of fear go through him, making his stomach drop - making him blanch.  Oliverios laughed again, low and soft and fucking creepy and Xander flinched away when he came around the couch and brushed past.  *Too damn close!  God - wanna get out of here.  Spike show - what the fuck?*

Oliverios went over to one of the heavily draped windows and twitched the curtains back, revealing a window.  Xander stared for a moment because what he was seeing really wasn't making any sense.  There were eight or ten people in the room beyond, dressed in bits of black for the most part - leather and silk, he guessed, and what looked like vinyl - very shiny.   Expensive, kinky-looking clothes that showed off as much as they covered.  A white room,, spattered over it.  And a body hanging by its wrists, tattered red silk around the shoulders, tattered black at the ankles.  Male body, striped with red - with purple-blue bruises...  Spike.

"Oh god -"   Xander's hands went up, unconscious motion, and met cold glass and he stared, swallowing and swallowing, trying not to be sick.  Not to be sick in front of Oliverios, that fucking bastard, who just stood there, small and nasty smile on his face.

"Oh, perhaps you did not want to see this show," the vampire purred, and Xander closed his eyes, breathing, breathing.  Opened them again.  One of the black-clad figures - a woman - reached out with a metal and leather gloved hand and did - something - and Spike's head came up sharply, his mouth open in shock and pain.   Demon-faced, agonized and screaming, but there was no sound.   Oliverios seemed to read his mind.  "Shall I turn on the speakers, cachorro?" he asked. 

Xander saw his finger going toward a sleek, silver panel set flush into the wall and he knew - knew - he'd lose it if he could hear Spike.  Knew he'd do something...really stupid.  "No!" he gasped out and Oliverios chuckled silkily.  And Xander felt rage rise up in him - hot and pounding and sharp as a razor.  He turned slowly and took two steps - stopped about a foot from the vampire and stared at him.  "You know Angelus?  He came to our town.  Tried to fuck us over.  Know what happened to him?"  Oliverios was staring at him, eyes narrowed, very, very still.  Frozen, even.  "We sent him to hell.  Now get the fuck away from me."  Xander wanted to hit him - make him bleed - but knew he'd gone as far as he could.  The vampire hissed at him, morphing to game face and then back.  And then without a word he twitched away and stalked out of the room, back ramrod straight, quivering with fury.  *Fuck, Spike, I'm sorry but...  Oh god, god...*   Xander turned and caught sight of Spike again and his hands reached for the curtain - hesitated, and fell back.  *Can't pretend this isn't happening.  Can't pretend it's not him.  This is what he did...for us.  For months.  For fucking money.  Because of us, because of the Initiative, this is what he did...*   Shaking, feeling so sick he wanted to lay down, Xander stood there and watched.  *Watch this.  Remember this.  Don't ever, ever forget.  Ever.*




Spike eased his duster onto his shoulders slowly, slowly.  Everything hurt, god, fucking hurt, and he just wanted to get on with it.   Meet the Yn'n and do the mojo and the chip would be off.  And he would be free.  *And those motherfuckers are gonna pay.  And pay big.*    He ran his hands back through his hair, wincing, and then jerked around as someone knocked on the door.  "Yeah?"

"Oh, Spike -"   It was Fancy, one of Oliverios human servants.   The intricate gold-wire necklace and bracelets she wore didn't come off, and she was dressed in almost nothing.  And looking spooked. 

Spike felt a little shiver of unease go over him.  "You were supposed to be showin' the boy around - getting him a drink and stuff, Fancy."   *Maybe I should have told him first - could be he just sent her away...*   Spike took in the clinging, translucent sheathe-dress and impossibly tall heels the woman wore.  *Maybe he got embarrassed.*

"I know!  I'm sorry.  Oliverios - told me not to.   He - wanted to talk to - to him."  Spike growled and the blonde woman flinched, her gaze darting to the floor, her whole body hunching.  "I'm sorry!  I'm sorry."

"Oh - not your fault, pet.  Know you have your orders."  Spike fished out his flask and had a long drink.  "Where is he?"

"He's - where you left him.  Oliverios...  I'm sorry," Fancy whispered, and then turned and fled and Spike closed his eyes and took a deep breath - tilted his chin up and set his shoulders. 

*Doesn't matter.  I told him what I do, nothing Oliverios could shock him with, that bastard.  Just need to get this done and go...home.*   Spike strode out of the dressing room and went up, tapping his fingers nervously on the elevator buttons.  Upstairs again, going to the lounge - and he could smell Xander.  Could smell sweat and fear and....misery and he growled again.  *Bastard - if he hurt him -*   He slammed the door open, searching, and Xander was there, just there, standing motionless.  And beyond him -   *Fucking bastard, bloody hell, oh fuck, fuck, fuck -*   Beyond him the room and a handful of servants cleaning up - swabbing blood off the slick tile walls.  Spike walked fast, grabbing Xander's shoulder and turning him, jerking the curtain shut violently.  "Xan -"   He was totally unprepared for the boy *my boy, damnit, mine, shouldn't have seen - should never have seen -* to lunge at him and grab him - arms going around him in a hug that made him wince.

"Spike - god, Spike, I'm sorry....I didn't know, I'm sorry -"

"Xander?  Stop that, now.  Sorry for what?  Pet?"  Spike couldn't get him to let go without hurting himself  and the boy so he just hugged back, stroking the thick hair, rubbing a slow hand up and down Xander's back.

"What it m-meant, what you - what you were doing -"   Xander shivered, crowding closer and Spike shut his eyes. 

*God, I'm so tired...*   "Pet - stop that.  That was...  You shouldn't have seen that, that was - something different, that -"

"Don't lie, Spike!"  Flash of dark, wet eyes - flash of anger and betrayal.  "I've seen the cuts and the bruises and - and everything.   Don't try to tell me - god! "   Xander abruptly wrenched himself away, scrubbing his hands back through his hair and yanking the curtain back hard enough to tear it off the first two rings. 

"Xan -"   Spike followed him, reaching out helplessly to touch and Xander flinched away.

"Don't.   I should never - should never have listened.   Shouldn't have let you -"

"Wrong!  Wrong, boy."  Spike shoved Xander back hard, wincing with him as his back and the back of his head connected with the window.  "You don't let me do anything, you understand?  You don't have any say in what I do or how I do it and if I choose to keep you in bloody food and clothes by fucking then I will.  You're a bloody child -"   Xander's sharp, hurt inhalation made him stop, finally, and he stood for moment, just staring at him.  At the shocked, white face and clenched fists and dark, wounded eyes that sparkled with fiercely held-back tears.  "Damnit, Xander, I - I'm sorry.  Didn't mean to say that."

"No, it's okay."  Xander jerked his head aside, staring at nothing, blinking.  "I mean, you're like - a hundred and fifty years old, I guess I am just a - a kid -"

"No, love, no, no, no."  Spike reached out slowly and touched Xander's shoulder.  When he didn't pull away Spike slowly moved his fingers up, rubbing gently at Xander's neck - sliding his fingers around to the back of his head and finding the spot that made him twitch a little from soreness.  "Listen to me Xander.  Xander?"  Spike put his fingers on Xander's chin, carefully turning his head so that Xander was looking right at him.  Biting his lip, and meeting Spike's gaze in shaky defiance.  "I'm just...angry.  Not at you, love.  Angry that - that Oliverios showed you - that.  I didn't...  I never meant for you to see that."

"Because I'm just a child.  Because I'm too stupid and too - too immature -"

"Shhhh...."   Spike pulled Xander close, relieved when the boy relaxed into his arms instead of fighting.  "No, that's not why.  That's not why at all.  It's because..."   *Because I never, ever wanted you to see me like that...  See me - defeated.  Because I was.  Have been, for the longest time.  But not after tonight.  Not after the magic.  Then - then I'll show you, love.  Show you who I am when I'm not...afraid.* 

"I know why," Xander said softly, and he pulled away a little, looking at Spike with a sober, almost stern look.  "You didn't want me to see for the same reasons I wore long-sleeved shirts to school even on the hot days.   I didn't want anybody to know...I had bruises."

Spike looked at Xander - thought about the yelling, and the little flinches, and the hunched stillness whenever he had to go upstairs.    "Yeah, pet.  That's exactly why.  I'm the Big Bad, yeah?"  Xander smiled faintly at him and Spike leaned forward until they were forehead to forehead, his arms around Xander and Xander's arms under the duster, hands locked in the small of Spike's back.  "I'm still...  I'm so sorry, love, that you had to see.  Can you just..."   *Forget it?  Erase it and never think about it.  Never again.*

"I won't - tell.  It's a secret, Spike.   Won't tell anybody.  But I'm not going to forget."  Xander tipped his head enough to brush his lips over Spike's mouth, little nothing kiss that made Spike shudder.  "I'm never going to forget because nobody...  Nobody ever did anything, anything at all..."  Xander stopped and then just kissed him, his chin trembling and Spike kissed him back, sliding his hands up to gently hold his face - stroke his thumbs over Xander's jaw. 

Xander tasted of sweet and salt - tasted of something that was very much like love, but Spike pushed that away.  *Don't push.  Don't - expect.  Just take what's given satisfied,* he told himself.  Told the demon and told his poet's heart.  But he was pretty sure neither one listened.


The Yn'n were waiting in a room in the lower level of the club and Oliverios' household kept warily away.  It was another lounge only this one a bit shabbier - meant for employees and not clients.   The demons looked like bundles of animate sticks with burning, sulpher-yellow eyes and Spike felt a shiver of unease, seeing them.  He'd made his deal - paid them what and how they wanted.  But the mojo freaked him out, and Yn'n were so very strange - so alien, even among demons.   Oliverios was nowhere to be seen; having made his grand gesture, he'd backed out of any further interaction.  Spike was grateful - ripping the head off of the owner's shoulders wouldn't go over well and that was pretty much what he wanted to do to Oliverios right that minute.  Fancy was there, though.  "Is there a car, Fancy?" he asked, watching with amusement as Xander look everywhere but the mostly-naked woman standing not three feet from him.

"Yes, there's a car - right outside.  The Yn'n say - it will hurt."

"Good things always do," Spike said, giving her a small smile, and Fancy smiled back, then nodded over at the Yn'n, who shifted and then approached slowly, creaking softly.  Spike half-turned to Xander.  "Xan - Fancy'll show you the car when we're done here.  I guess I'll be a bit - confused."

"Okay," Xander said quietly, but he bit his lip, looking nervous.  "Will it - take long?"

"Dunno," Spike shrugged, then turned to face the Yn'n while Fancy drew Xander a few steps away.  Five of them, and they surrounded him - reached out hard, twig-grey fingers to touch him - touch his head.  Spike felt something like a static-shock at each place where their finger-tips touched.  Shock that buzzed and built and tingled all over him.  Heat was building up under their fingers as well and Spike shut his eyes and gritted his teeth, riding it out as best he could.  But it strengthened - more and more - until he could feel his whole body shuddering.  And then the chip fired, and it didn't stop.




When Spike began screaming Xander tried to rush to him but Fancy - surprisingly strong - held him back.

"What they're doing would kill you!  Wait - just wait!" she whispered urgently, pushing him back and back until he hit the stucco-covered wall.  Spike's body was a rigid arch and abruptly the scream choked off - ran out on a ragged thread.  Spike collapsed and the stick-demons clicked to each other for a moment and then stalked away, jerky stop-animation movements that creeped Xander out.  He and Fancy both scrambled to get to Spike.  Xander knelt down and pulled Spike over onto his back - pulled him up onto his lap, straining with the dead weight. 

"Spike?  You - in there?  Hey - Spike!"  Xander stroked Spike's face, hugging him close.  The vampire didn't move and Xander glared up at Fancy.  *And I'm crying again.  Why am I always fucking crying?  Jesus.*    "What do we do?  Did they say this would happen?"

Fancy was white, her green eyes huge and scared-looking.  She nodded hastily.    "They said it would - burn out.  They said it would hurt.  He's going to be all right!  You need to take him home."  Fancy crossed the room quickly, avoiding the clutch of stick-demons that clicked and swayed to one side.  She opened the door and called out, low and rapid Spanish and then hurried back to Xander.  She knelt down opposite him, her eyes darting all around the room.  "Listen!" she hissed.  "Spike wanted me to set up something.  I did.  You tell him one week - like he asked.  Hear me?"

"What did -?"

"No!  He'll tell you.  One week.  Understand?"  She looked like she might be sick at any moment and Xander pulled Spike a little closer, wondering what in hell was making her... 

*Scared.  She's scared out of her mind.  What the fuck is going on?*   "Yeah - okay, I'll tell him."  Xander's hands nervously clutched at the slick leather over Spike's chest - smoothed back his hair, again and again.  *God - Spike - you didn't tell me it was gonna be like this...*   He looked up, startled and wary, when two men - both big, dark, and silent - moved into the room.  Fancy said something to them in Spanish and Xander was too upset to bother translating.

"They're going to get Spike to the car and drive you home.   In about - an hour someone will come with blood."  Fancy looked ready to snap and Xander watched helplessly as the two men bent down and hauled Spike up - carried him effortlessly out the door.  He scrambled to his feet and followed, shooting Fancy one last, mistrustful glance.

"Right.  Blood.  Thanks," he added, and then he was around the corner and hurrying after the men, biting his lip to keep himself from yelling at them to be careful.  A bulky sort of sedan waited in the alley and the men got Spike into the back seat and then silently climbed into the front as Xander scrambled in, pulling Spike close to him.  The car growled to life and nosed out of the alley into traffic - there was always traffic - and began a slow drive home.  A trickle of blood was coming down from Spike's nose and Xander wiped at it with the sleeve of his shirt.  Spike hadn't bothered taking off the liner and Xander wiped at that as well, where tears had tracked it and smudged it.  "Spike?  I'm here.  It's Xander, and I'm here, I've got you."  He kissed Spike's forehead and rested his cheek there, murmuring softly.  Hoping Spike could hear him - hoping he was comforted.   "Going home, we're going bastard, you should have told me...  Almost there, almost there...  God, I don't - don't know what I'd do if... "   Xander hugged Spike tighter, rocking him.  Not saying that out loud, even if Spike was unconscious.  *You have to be better.  Have to wake up.  Hate this...  God, this shouldn't hurt so much but it does, it really does...  I don't know...what you feel for me, Spike but...  I think - I think you.  Think I love you...*

When they got home, Xander stripped off the clothes that reeked of the club - got a bowl of hot water and a washcloth and Spike's favorite clove soap and gently, carefully, washed him.  Did it in his own bed, because Xander knew he'd get the sheets wet.   Then he carefully got Spike over his shoulder and into the vampire's own bed, and did a quick wash-up and change into soft cotton pants.   Then he slipped into the bed next to Spike and wrapped himself as close as possible around the still, cool form.  Warming him and holding him and just being there, because he hated the thought of Spike waking up alone even for a minute.  He could hear anyone at the door and the phone was right there and he wasn't going anywhere at all.

*Yeah, I do.  Love you, Spike, even though you don't love me.  Won't make you say so - won't push you to that.   But I do, and I'm not scared of it anymore.*   He kissed Spike's mouth and his cheek and the tip of his nose - wished Spike would wake up, like Sleeping Beauty.  And settled in to wait.




Spike walked down the sidewalk, smoking - strutting.  He felt good.  Felt better than good - felt very much his old self.  For the last week he'd fed - at will.  No club, no...give.  Just take.   *Like it's supposed to be.  Like it was.   Vampire again.*    He practically  bounced as he walked, smirking to himself - reined himself back to a casual saunter as the neon and flashing lights of El Séptimo Sello came into view.    Fancy met him at the door, looking odd in a pair of plain black slacks and a dark blue silk shirt.  More clothes than he'd ever seen her in.

"Hallo, love," he said, tossing his cigarette away, and she smiled at him - quick, nervous grimace. 

"Spike - hurry, please," she whispered, and Spike stepped inside.

"Oliverios is gone, yeah?" he asked, following her upstairs, and she nodded - nearly tripped on the seam of the elevator door.  Nerves and fear around her like a cloud, rank and intoxicating.

"He's gone.  D-dinner with the Mayor." 

Spike snorted, shaking his head.  Oliverios liked to play up to the humans of the city - liked to pretend to be a fine and upstanding citizen.   It was a game Spike had never had the patience or the desire to join.  "Well then, plenty of time.   Everything's set and...  You still want me to -?"  Fancy looked at him - looked down at her wrists, her fingers plucking unconsciously at the bracelets around them.

"I do.  I - still do," she said softly, and Spike nodded.   The elevator stopped and they stepped out - went to the room that was oh, so familiar.  Spike slung his duster off and handed it to Fancy and she hugged it to her.   "Ready?" she whispered, and Spike grinned.

"Love, I'm more than ready."  Fancy nodded and opened the door and Spike stalked in.  The group of humans - nine of them - who had been lounging in various postures of boredom around the room slowly stood up.  One man - the oldest man, a tall, silver-haired European - stepped to the fore.

"Spike!  So pleased to see you.  When Fancy told us you'd be here again, we were...very excited.  But - you're not dressed properly."  The man looked Spike up and down, taking in his worn black jeans, boots, tight t-shirt.  No jewelry, no makeup.  "You'll have to be punished for that," he said, his voice like silk and syrup. 

Spike grinned at him - took out a cigarette and lit it with a snap.  "You think so, Christian?"  Fancy shut the door, near-silent snick of the lock and Spike changed - let the demon survey the prey that stood and stared at him so stupidly.  "Let me tell you a story, Christian."   He didn't come back out of the room for three hours.  Fancy was waiting when he did.


Xander was waiting as well - at home, curled into a blanket on the couch, staring blindly at the TV and some Bollywood film.  When Spike slipped inside, he started up and then sat there, staring - hands clenched into fists.

"You okay?" he asked softly, and Spike leaned back against the door, his head spinning just a little despite the long, meandering route that he'd taken to get home.

"Oh, pet.  I'm - fine, I' very fine..."  Xander unwound himself from the blanket and came closer; cut off old jeans a worn t-shirt, his body palely golden in the dim, blue light of the television.  He stopped a couple feet away, his eyes darting over Spike's body.  Spike knew he couldn't really see anything - not with the duster, and the black clothes.

"Spike?"   Xander came a little closer and reached out to him, and just as his fingers touched Spike's cheek, there was a pounding on the door.  Xander jumped, giving a little yelp and Spike growled.  He knew exactly who was on the other side of that door.

"Don't say a word, love, all right?" he whispered, and Xander nodded, stepping back.  Spike grinned then - turned and stared at the door, lifting his chin.  Then he reached and opened it.  Oliverios was there, glowering, as well as three other vamps - his personal guard.

"Spike, you bastard," he hissed, and took a step forward - hit the barrier with a look of fury.

"Place is in somebody else's name, Oliverios."  He patted himself down for his cigarettes - made a show of slowly choosing and lighting while Oliverios stared coldly at him.  "What is it you want exactly, mate?" he asked finally, and Oliverios snarled silently, the demon finally coming to the fore.  *One for me, you bastard,* he thought.   He could sense Xander behind him, still and silent.  *It'll be all right, pet.  He'll be gone soon.*

"You - used my club tonight to - to extract some sort of petty revenge -"

"You deliberately chose some of the sickest fucks in the city, Oliverios.  And you told them things."  Spike cocked his head a little, studying the older vampire.  "You overstepped yourself and you know it.  They - dishonored my line."   That was a laugh - his 'line' consisted of a madwoman, himself, and Angel and whatever get any of them had made that had managed to survive.  Very, very few, if the truth be told.  Aurelius was tight-knit, and those turned for convenience or pleasure rarely lasted more than a year.  "I did what honor dictated I do," Spike added, almost choking on the laughter that wanted to bubble up.  He shrugged - took a long draw on his smoke and watched Oliverios try to control his anger.

"You cost me nine of my wealthiest clients.  You brought the sanctity and the integrity of El Séptimo into question with all my clients - with the entire demon community!    The safety - the confidentiality of my club has been breached!"

"I made close to 12 million pesos for you, Oliverios.   You're more than compensated.  You're bloody lucky all I did was take nine humans apart in on of you special rooms!  I'd thought to take out every body that'd ever seen me in there."  And he had, too, but a blood-bath of that proportion would have made it impossible for Oliverios to back down and Spike didn't feel like starting a war, just now.  Not with Xander so easily in the cross-hairs.  Spike smoked down another half-inch of his cigarette and flicked the butt into the chest of one of Oliverios' guards, making the guard jump back, swatting at his shirt-front.  "Besides - I'm leaving.  You can smooth your client list down and throw a party and everything will be back to normal by the end of the week.  You know these little....dust-ups never last."

"Dust. Ups."  Oliverios growled and Spike changed, as well - growled back, oblivious to the sharp intake of breath behind him from Xander. 

*Not the time to draw attention, pet,*  Spike thought, but then let it go in favor of staring Oliverios down.   "You knew it was going to happen, Oliverios.  You knew I wouldn't let them walk away.  What is it you're really here for?"  Spike knew this bluster about the clients - about Christian and his little covey of sycophants - was merely cover.  They were humans, and in the grand scale of things - particularly to a vamp like Oliverios - weighed out to almost nothing.  Oliverios glared at him, his eyes molten-gold in the dimness of the landing.

"You killed Fancy," he hissed, and Xander did make a noise this time - soft sound of dismay.  Spike shrugged, took off his duster and tossed it down onto a nearby chair.

"I did.  She asked me to.  That was part of our deal.  She got me the room - got me Christian.  I got her free." 

Oliverios snarled and smashed one fist into the barrier - straightened away, suddenly, and smoothed his suit-coat.  Shook the demon away, and reached into a breast pocket for a slim silver case.  He pulled out a narrow, black cigar and lit it, slowly.   "You owe me, Spike." 

Spike shrugged again.   "Yeah, so - it was worth it.  I'm leaving, Oliverios.  Whatever I do for you fits my plans.  We're quits, after this." 

Oliverios smoked slowly - nodded his head.  "Yes.  We are.  And you don't come back here, Spike.  Ever."  

*Oh - couldn't see that comin' a mile away.*    "Sure, mate.  Whatever you say.  Send one of your boys over with the details.  We're out of here end of the week, so don't take too long." 

Oliverios drew on his cigar again - examined it briefly.  "Tomorrow at sunset.   And Spike - better get a collar and leash for your little cachorro, there.  He might stray."  Oliverios grinned and Spike shook his own demon away - raised two fingers in salute and shut the door between them.


Now that he'd taken the duster off Spike knew Xander could see the state of his clothes, and he just stood for a long moment looking at the door - listening to Oliverios and his body-guards make their way downstairs - into a car that purred away into the twilight of the coming dawn.  Spike looked down at himself, studying the blood that ringed each cuticle and was ground into the skin of his knuckles.  *Take a long soak to get that out,* he thought, and then Xander's fingers were on his shoulder - a ghostly touch, there and gone.

"Spike?  You're not - hurt, are you?  You didn't -" 

*Didn't let them touch me, pet.  No worries there.   Just one of me, nine of them...but humans are so fragile, and those chains - those straps - kept a vampire helpless.*   "Didn't do anything but what I swore I would, pet.  Took them out.  Drank them down."  It was more a relief than anything.  It had felt good, doing it - felt good to see them writhe and scream and twist in helpless agony.  Their blood had gone down like honey - like opium and applejack and he still felt drunk - felt clean, finally.  Felt whole.   *Washed in the blood.*   But he was tired now, too.  Just - tired.  He turned finally and looked at the boy - took in his wide, dark eyes and the tight set of his lips - the tension that made his whole body shiver.   *Do you care, Xander?  Or is this all for those humans that died?  Are you on the edge of anger for them?  Or tears?  Or is it for me?* 

"There's blood on your clothes," Xander said finally.  Softly.   Keeping his voice low, but Spike could hear the cracks in it.

Spike nodded, brushing one hand lightly down the stiff front of his t-shirt where blood had dried in shiny, crackling patches.  "Sorry, love.  I'll burn these.  They won't come clean."  Xander nodded absently at that, the knowledge of blood and how tenacious it was in his eyes.  *Child of Hell, this one - don't have to tell him things he already knows.*

"Why did you kill Fancy?" Xander asked, and Spike blinked in surprise at him.

"She asked me too, pet.  She wanted free."

Xander tipped his head a little to one side, eyes going narrow.  "Free of what?  She wasn't a vampire."

"No, love, she wasn't.  She was his - possession.  She'd been there since she was a child.   He snatched her up in the States, years ago.  Brought her up to be his own little bed-warmer, didn't he?  Since she was nine."  Xander winced at that but Spike wasn't going to make things pretty for him - he didn't need that sort of protection.  Not anymore.  "She was near thirty - getting old, for him.  He was going to turn her.  She didn't want that.  That jewelry of hers - kept her from going."  

Magic - the unspoken word that Xander heard loud and clear.   He nodded slowly, and finally - finally - one hand unlocked from its clench by his thighs and reached out.  Touched Spike's cheek, and his lip.  "I'm glad you're back," was all he said.  Then he turned and went back to the couch and settled again, blanket over his naked legs, eyes blindly on the kaleidoscope of color and sound on the TV.  

Spike watched him for a moment and then he walked stiffly out of the room, feeling every one of his 150 years in his flesh and bones.  He stripped and pushed the ruined clothing into the trash - went into the bathroom and got in the shower and stayed there for as long as he could.  Until the water was going cold, and his fingers were salt-white again.  When he came out finally, the sun was well above the horizon and the whole house was shuttered, gold-green or garnet haze in every room.  He went slowly into his bedroom, exhaustion like lead in his marrow - like chains, weighing him down.  And stopped, staring.  There was a long, low hump in his bed and as he watched it moved - turned.  Xander raised a bed-tousled head, looking blearily at him.  Amber-rose light through the blinds, anise-sweet scent in the air.  Sweet smile on Xander's face.

"Come to bed, Spike," Xander said softly, holding out his hand, and Spike did.


On Friday, they left Veracruz in the late morning, Xander carefully guiding the DeSoto through the crowded streets, Spike curled asleep in the back.  Two bags in the trunk, a sheaf of cash in a lock-box under the front seat.  Miles and roads ahead of them.  Xander couldn't help but smile as he steered them north.  Leaving, and with Spike.  Something - beginning.  He knew it was going to be amazing.