*Mirrors,*  Spike thinks, *are very tricky things.*  He lays with his eyes closed in the back seat of the DeSoto, feeling it being buffeted by the wind - feeling the tires skid and catch and slide.  Thinking about that morning in the hotel, and him standing in front of the mirror, staring.

Staring at himself, and he's not supposed to be able to do that, but then again, it's not exactly himself, is it?  It's Dru's - thing.  Dru's glamour.  And it's...

"Fuck," Xander whispers, coming up behind him, and Spike has to nod - has to agree. 

*'Fuck' 'bout sums it up*   He is there, spectral and faded as a ghost.  Himself but...smoked glass and ash.  Pale blue fire burning along bones that shine through skin like quartz.  Wings that lift and arch and span half the room - that cut through the walls and disappear but are still there somehow, with feathers like the charred remains of butterfly's wings  And the spines; sprouting from his shoulders and back and wrists, curving up and out and around - protective and fierce.  White-blue fire - or smoke - or something, where his hair should be.  And holes of smoke and lapis for eyes, glittering like the sea.  It's eerie and it's insubstantial and he can't see it all the time but it's there and Xander is there, as well - jackal-head turning to study him, the fiery pulsing of his heart a ruby flame.  Spirals of stars and winking galaxies in skin that is the burnished carapace of a brass beetle - a carapace he can see through with every shift of Xander's body - every rise of his chest with his breathing.  Xander as is phantasmal as Spike - as daunting.

Spike has to turn and look - make sure - and Xander's plain human face stares back at him, eyes wide, lower lip caught between his teeth.

"Is that what you see all the time now?" he whispers, and Spike shakes his head. 

"No, just - the mirror."

"Which is a whole 'nother kind of weird," Xander says, and Spike has to agree again.

They gather their meager belongings and go, Spike ducking out of the hotel under a camping blanket, crinkly silver cloth smelling strongly of chemicals and plastic.  Heading out, going north, driving through the day and most of the night, sleeping when they can't stand to be awake anymore.

It's cold, and Spike is glad the DeSoto's heater works so well; it roars out dry, burnt-smelling air better than any car he's ever been in, and even Xander doesn’t complain.  Sighs happily and holds his hands to the vent when he gets back in from pumping gas.

Right now the boy's heart is beating too fast, and they're going too slow, and Spike risks a quick peek out from under the blanket.  A peek that becomes a long look, because it's so overcast now that it's dark and totally safe.  Spike sits up, looking out of the space scraped free of paint in the front window. There's snow driving across the highway - snow being pushed along the ground by a fierce northern wind that rocks the heavy car on its shocks.  The highway is crusted with it, the lanes half buried.  Xander is driving with a look of intense concentration, his hands gripping the wheel so tightly his knuckles are white.  They hit a patch of ice and slowly revolve, drifting to the left, and Xander carefully, carefully corrects, turning the wheel just so, letting off the gas.  After a minute or so they're straight again and he pushes gingerly on the gas and they go forward.  The tunnel of snow that's lit by the headlights is a restless, hypnotic swarm - dancing specks that draw your focus further and further away until you wouldn't notice a building ten feet in front of you .

"Where'd you learn to drive in this?" Spike asks, surprised that this SoCal boy knows what he's doing, and Xander smirks a little, easing the gas on some more.

"I spent some time with my Uncle Rory, up in Reno.  I'd drive him when he was too drunk to do it himself and it snows up there sometimes, so - I had to learn."

"What time is it?"   Spike has tried and failed to gauge the time - he can feel the sun, but he can't get his bearings at all, and the cold is making him muzzy.

"It's a little after noon.  It's been snowing for - two hours.  I thought maybe it'd ease off but it's not and my head is killing me.  I need to stop.  Can you see anything?  There was a sign - said there'd be a motel in three miles and it seems like it's been three, but..."

Spike moves sideways a little so he can see Xander's face.  His brows are drawn down in concentration - his lip caught and held between his teeth.  Spike reaches out and tangles his fingers in the hair that's lying over Xander's flannel-clad shoulders.  He squints out the window, watching.  A moment later he sees it - neon-red like a dying cigarette, fading in the white-out.

"There - motel and vacancy.  To the point, at least."  Xander nods and they finish the drive in silence.  The off-ramp is slippery and the parking lot half-deserted and Xander pulls the car into a space and slumps in utter relief, leaning his head back and letting out a shaky sigh.

"Thank god," he murmurs, and Spike strokes the side of his throat, smiling to himself when the boy doesn't flinch away.

"I'll get us a room," Spike says, and he slides out of the car before Xander can protest.  The room is cheap, the caretaker old and half-deaf, and Spike gets the key as fast as he can - stalks back outside and leans down, tapping on the driver's window.  Xander cracks it open, looking up at him.

"Got us one on the end.  Can you go another twenty feet?" he deadpans.  Xander just rolls his eyes and puts the DeSoto back in gear.  Spike walks fast down to the end, room 14 and he grins when he sees that right next door is room 12.  Old superstitions die hard.  He opens the door and flicks on the light - moves straight to the heater, turning it on full blast and twitching the curtains closed.  A moment later Xander hurries in and slams the door, slinging their bag onto the foot of the nearest bed and standing there for a moment.

"Be warm in a bit," Spike says, unable to hide his own weariness and chill, and Xander rubs his hands together.

"Heat up quicker in the shower," he says, and unzips the bag - pulls out sweat pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt and thick socks.  He hesitates for one moment and then pulls out another pair - a pair that's smaller, and black as opposed to grey.  And socks, as well. 

"C'mon," he says, tossing the black sweats and socks at Spike, and he goes to the bathroom.  Spike just stares at his retreating back for a moment and then sheds his duster to the bed - yanks off his boots and jeans and the two flannel shirts he's put on in a vain attempt to stay warm in the back seat.  The DeSoto's heater only warms the front of the car.  Xander's boots fly out of the bathroom and thud to the floor in front of the scratched dresser, and then his clothes come flying, too, hitting dresser and floor equally.  The water starts up, and Spike grabs the sweats and socks and strides into the bathroom - shuts the door.

Steam is already obscuring the mirror and warming the closet of a room, and Xander's already under the spray.  Spike piles his clothes on top of the boy's on the back of the toilet tank and slides into the shower.  The heat is shocking and incredible and he gasps, and Xander turns to him, blinking water out of his eyes.

"Too hot?"

"No fuckin' way," Spike says, and he moves right up under the spray as well.  Catches Xander around the waist and pulls him back when he tries to sidle sideways.

"Got to share it, pet," he says, grinning, and Xander shivers and then relaxes - leans into him, letting his arms go loosely around Spike's waist.  He jerks a little at the contact.

"Fuck, Spike - you're freezing!"

"Be warm in a bit," Spike says again, low, and let's his body mold itself to the boy's - let's his cheek rest on one shoulder and his arms link in the small of Xander's back and they just lean there under the pounding spray.

Spike has no idea how long they stand there but suddenly he's jerking his head up with a snap and Xander is blinking at him, swaying on his feet.

"We're sleeping standing up, mate - time to get out," he says, and turns the water off with a sigh.  Their skin is the same temperature now, and they're both flushed pink, Spike's fading fast.  The towels are thin and scratchy and Spike doesn't like how they feel on his skin.  They dry off and dress and Spike shivers a little when Xander opens the door and goes out.

"Should have given me a shirt!" he grumps, and a flannel shirt catches him in the face.  He pulls it off and Xander is standing there, his kit in his hand, toothbrush already out. 

"Sorry," he says, not meaning it, and Spike just flashes him a fangy grin.  He pulls the flannel on - it smells wonderfully and thickly of Xander - sweet and salt and apples, something crisp and rich - and Spike hugs it around himself for a moment before buttoning it closed.  He goes out into the main room and pulls the cheap, nylon-slick duvet back and then the blanket and sheet - slithers fast into the bed, hoping to conserve his hard-won heat.  Xander finishes brushing and comes out - snaps off the light.  He's left the bathroom light on and the door nearly closed, so that the room is dimly lit by bluish-white fluorescence.   Spike is almost too surprised to speak when Xander crawls into the bed with him, curling up close behind him and tucking his face down into the space between Spike's neck and shoulder.

"What's this, then?" Spike asks.

"'M cold," Xander mumbles, already halfway asleep again, and Spike just burrows closer and tucks his head down, too.  He imagines the pulsing fire of the mirror-Xander's heart, and fancies that he can feel it against his back.  It feels good.


He wakes slowly, warm all over, comfortable and not wanting to move at all.  In sleep he and the boy have moved around and Xander is lying on him; leg between Spike's thighs, arm under his shoulder, chest half on Spike's chest.  His face is in Spike's neck, his breath tickling the skin there and Spike breathes in slowly, tasting his scent as much as smelling it.  Letting his eyes drift shut, letting Xander's body weigh him down into the mattress.  It feels so good, to be held and anchored - wanted.  The demon isn't happy about it, but Spike ignores it.

*I'll want what I want.  And take what I can get.*   That's always been his philosophy.  Take with both hands until there's nothing left.  It might not be the best way to do things, but it's his way, and it works for him.  Sort of.    Xander stirs, taking a long breath in, and then he's leaning up on his arm a little, looking down at Spike in the dim light

"Tell me why I'm here again," he says, soft, and Spike blinks up at him. 

"Because I was fucking bored.  Because - you deserve better.  Because Sunnydale's a fuckin' graveyard, pet, and you're still alive.  Because...they were killing you with their bullshit."  Xander blinks down at him, sleepy smile and tousled hair, looking maybe sixteen.  His face is all long bones and hollows, his eyes too dark and too big to be real.  Spike thinks maybe he'll kiss him and then thinks maybe not.  Xander surprises him by leaning down and pressing his mouth to Spike's - a dry, almost chaste kiss.  When he pulls back Spike wants him to do it again.

"What was that for?" he asks, and Xander's fingers move a little under his shoulder, flexing.  They're probably asleep.

"Because...I wanted to.  Because you treat me like I have half a brain.  Because you didn't kill me.'re pretty."

"Yeah?" Spike whispers, and Xander snuggles back down onto him and if a human could purr, Xander would be purring.



They're standing in the middle of grassland, and Spike is freezing.  The grass is the color of flax and rust and honey, all mixed together and moving like the sea, and there are markers standing up like bones here and there.  The horizon is far and hazy and softly rounded against a low, grey sky.  Snow is sluicing down, driven by a northern wind that smells of ozone and earth and Spike watches Xander through eyes that are tearing with cold.  The air is like champagne in his throat, bright and sharp and intoxicating.  He puts a shaking hand to his mouth and smokes, and Xander finally walks over to him, huddled in layers of flannel and thermal, his cheeks fever-bright with the chill.

"You ready?  'Cause I'm fuckin' freezing," Spike says, and Xander nods.  They walk fast back to the museum where they've parked the DeSoto and the guard - or maybe he's a groundskeeper, or the head of the fucking museum, who knows? - watches them from the doorway, flat black eyes inscrutable and wary.  Spike's never seen a real Indian and Xander says you can't call them that, but he can't imagine what else you'd call them - him.  He'd always liked books about the 'red savages' as a boy - had read his copy of The Leatherstocking Tales to rags and had wished, with all the fervency of a ten-year-old that he could visit the Americas and see Indians and Mountainmen, teepees and war parties and men who could track deer and humans with equal skill.

Now Xander won't let him talk to the Indian - Native American - that is so temptingly close and he's in a bad mood.  And he's cold, and hungry, and they have an hour drive back to Billings and their hotel - maybe more, if the snow gets any worse.   

Spike gets behind the wheel and starts the car - backs and turns and drives away in a seething silence.

"What in bloody hell was that for, Xander?  It's bloody cold out here and you just wanted to, what - look at some bloody cemetery?"

"It was Custer's Last Stand, Spike," Xander says, his voice thin and tired sounding, and Spike glances over at him, where he's huddled in front of the heater.  "It was - it was one of the only things I remember from History class, okay?  I used to think Custer was this big hero but - he was just...trying to make big, you know?  Did something stupid, lost it all.   I just wanted to see if..."

"If it felt like this?" Spike says, quiet, and Xander sighs and scoots over, until he's touching Spike, shoulder to hip to knee.

"Yeah.  Something stupid where I lose it all.  But...  It's not the same.  I felt...  It was sad, out there.  It was...pointless.  All those people died and it all ended up for nothing, anyway, 'cause the tribes still got screwed over and Custer still died and every soldier he had with him."

"You think this is pointless?" Spike asks, and Xander leans his head on Spike's shoulder, and Spike lets one hand go out, to curl over Xander's knee.

"No.  It's not.  It's...there's life out here.  I forgot about that in Sunnydale.  That there's a reason for fighting."

"'Cause it's damn good fun," Spike says, and Xander laughs, drowsy.

"Yeah.  It's so fun to be smashed into a wall.  No, it's 'cause...if I don't, nobody will."  Xander sighs again, and Spike squeezes his knee, smiling a little.  It's not why Spike fights, and never will be, but Xander wanted to come up here and right now that's good enough.  He's alive, at least - alive and kicking and making Spike do things - making demands and living, and it beats the hollow, bruised boy that crept in and out of his basement and in and out of the Slayer's field of vision - that let guilt eat acid holes right through his White Knight armor.  Spike thinks maybe he can hear spurs, or maybe it's just loose change down in the seat, but either way Xander's not the same, and that's good.


Their hotel has a hot tub and a sauna down by the gym and he and Xander go down in their sweatpants, but slide into the hot tub nude.  Here, so close to Christmas, the hotel is almost deserted.  Spike had to really hunt for his meal and it was fun but he'd never gotten the chance to warm up.

Now, sliding into bubbling water as hot as lava he shivers in sheer bliss and sinks in up to his chin.  It's wonderful - amazing.

"Gotta get one of these," he says, and Xander 'hmmms' at him, eyes shut, head tipped back against the rim.

"Who did you kill?" Xander asks, and Spike slides around the tub a little, until his leg bumps Xander's.

"Some guy.  Had to work for him, too - he was good.  Some - drifter, I guess.  Had a backpack."

"Or maybe he was a student, hitching home for Christmas?"  Xander asks, and he's frowning.

"Maybe.  Didn't ask," Spike says, and lets his leg bump again, a little harder.  Xander shifts and lifts his head - looks at him.

"Why do you - why can't you be like Angel?  Drink animal blood?"

"There's so much wrong with what you just said I'm not even sure where to start," Spike says, and he slides away, staring angrily out at the fogged glass of the gym.

"Ookay...  You don't wanna be like Angel.  I get that.  Deadboy is annoying.  But - he lives on animal blood."

"If you want to call it living.  Sure, sure -" Spike raises his hand, forestalling Xander's next comment.  "I can live off of animal blood.  Just like you can live off of tap water and stale bread.  Do you want to?"  Xander just watches him and Spike sighs.

"I'm not a sodding house pet, Xander.  I'm not tame.  I'm a predator.  It's what I'm built for - it's what I am.  When I couldn't hunt...  It was driving me crazy.  I was hungry all the time.  All the time.  And just..."  Spike doesn't know how to explain - doesn't know what words will break through the Scooby mentality that says killing is always bad, no matter what.  Even as they kill, and kill, and kill again.  It's useless to argue and he leans his own head back and shuts his eyes, blocking Xander out, trying for some measure of calm.

*What do you care, anyway?  Not like you need to justify what you are to the little brat.  Should have drained him in Brazil - stuck with Dru.*

*Dru didn't want us around,* he reminds himself, and twitches in startlement when he feels Xander's hand on his ribs - when Xander's weight is suddenly on his thighs.  He opens his eyes and the boy is right there, straddling him, groin to groin, his hands moving in a slow slide from hip to rib to shoulder.

"I know what it feels like," Xander says, and Spike just stares at him.  "What it's like to want that.  When - there was this time - I had a hyena in me.  And it wanted to kill - it did kill.  It wanted to just take and take...  And it was all for the pack - all for..."  Xander stops, and leans down and kisses Spike.  Slow and gentle, tongue teasing at the underside of his upper lip and then pushing in and Spike let's his mouth fall open a little - lets his head tilt a little and Xander kisses him deeply.  After a minute or so he pulls back, resting his forehead on Spike's.

"You taste like blood," he says, and Spike's hands come up and grip Xander's hips, and his thumbs are rubbing in the hollows there.

"I always will," Spike says, and kisses him back.  This time Xander's hands tangle in Spike's hair - grip his neck - and Spike crushes Xander close to him, wrapping his arms around him as far as they can go, feeling hipbone and thigh and knee pressing into him, feeling the blood in him filling his cock and sending it up and out, to push against Xander's belly.  There's an answering hardness pushing back, and he wonders how far this will go.

"I never forgot wanting to kill people," Xander says, and one hand has slipped down between them and is tracing delicately over Spike - is discovering foreskin and balls and sending little electric pulses of pleasure all up and down Spike's body.

"I never did either, pet - it's the nature of the beast.  Would you ask for it back, your beast?"  Spike lets his own hand wander, and he is kneading the taut muscle of Xander's buttock in one hand - tugging at the length of him with his other.  Liking the solid heat of it, the weight.

"No," Xander sighs, arching his back.  "I wouldn't."

They're both so desperate - they've both ached for it, for so long.  Their hands move, almost in unison, stroking and tugging, free hands exploring whatever they can reach.  Xander's kisses are sharp-edged and devouring and breathless and Spike turns them, pinning Xander to the side.  He ducks down and takes the water-hot, blood-hot flesh into his mouth, tasting the salt-spice of pre-come briefly on his tongue.   He sucks, bobbing his head, holding the pumping hips in his hands and a moment later he's swallowing and swallowing, the taste of blood and the sea in the back of his throat.  He lets go and slides up Xander's heaving body, listening to the rapid pounding of his heart.

"Spike," Xander says, and jerks him close, kissing him almost desperately, his hands hurtful and exquisite on Spike's cock and he thrusts with impatient need into Xander's grip - into his belly - and then he's coming as well, slicking under Xander's palm and gasping into his mouth.  And Christ, it feels so fucking good.

"If you don't go to your room you'll get kicked out," someone says, and it's the guy from the front desk, looking red in the face and agitated and Xander just laughs - laughs so hard Spike has to pull him up and hug him close to keep him from drowning.



Part Three - East