When Coyote Came to Sunnydale

This is why two people with a bent imagination shouldn’t lob ideas at each other. Snoopy and I were debating the possibility of Aragorn somehow ending up in a vibrating recliner with Professor Snape. That segued into a BtVS/LOTR crossover, and Snoopy said she doubted it could be done convincingly. Immediately, little bunnies were nibbling on my toes! And this is what happened when they BIT.

I do not, of course, own any part of LOTR.

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Life, Xander thought, was just weird.

Well, ok. He lived on the Hellmouth. He fought for his life with vampires and demons on a regular basis. Add the occasional Hellgod or mantis-woman or zombie to the mix. His two best friends were a witch and a girl with superpowers who was destined to fight evil. Who had died. Twice.

And maybe the thing about best friends wasn't quite right, because just lately Xander had felt a great big disconnect from Buffy, and an even bigger one from Willow. He was not very happy with his role in bringing Buffy back to life, anymore. Not after what she'd told them under the influence, so to speak. But he was even more unhappy that she had lied about it. And had hidden certain - things - from them all about Spike. Plus the whole Riley thing. So Buffy, not so much the friend, anymore. And then there was Willow. He was having a hard time getting past what she'd done to Tara - to all of them. She just seemed so damned...nonchalant about the whole thing. Like she was struggling to see the wrongness of it. And that was another weird thing. Her Tabula Rasa spell had made some things happen. He and Anya (yet more weirdness - engaged to an ex-now-not-ex-vengeance demon!) had been struggling. The wedding had been imminent and both of them had been getting more and more anxious - more and more snappish. Then the all-singing, all-dancing segment of their life and some...things...had come out. Then Willow's spell, wherein Anya had gotten all smoochy-face with Giles (and neither one of them seemed to have minded it one bit) and wherein Xander had defended - had, in fact, really liked - Randy. Errr, Spike. Xander wondered uneasily if that meant he secretly had the hots for Giles - tweed, and all - but he dismissed that notion with a shudder. All that had kind of put paid to his relationship with Anya. And weird thing number - Christ, what number was he up to, anyway? - since when did he have the hots for Spike, whether in tweed or anything else? Ok, so, Oxnard had happened and he'd let go a few long-held inhibitions and, really, had had the time of his life sleeping with any and every warm body that would accommodate - mostly male bodies. Working at a male strip club had certainly helped. So had being out of Sunnydale and able, for once, to take a breather and just take stock. Figure out what he was feeling without the overriding sense of doom or panic or utter terror that accompanied him most of the time in Sunnydale. Which was what he was feeling right now - panic with a bit of terror as he realized there was something in the bushes near his house.

And that, Xander thought, with the survivors' ability to think along more then one track at a time, was the ultimate weirdness. His house. Or rather, the house he was sharing with Tara. When Willow's spell had been ended, and Tara had moved out, she'd discovered that she couldn't get back into the dorms. So she'd put her name on a waiting list and then bunked, reluctantly, with Xander and Anya. Ten days later Anya had re-claimed her vengeance heritage and was gone, leaving Xander and Tara alone in an apartment that was too expensive and thick with memories that frankly, Xander would have happily used a spell to forget. So Tara had checked out some off-campus student housing and moved into the upper story of an old Victorian-style house. A week later and she was begging Xander to please help her do something with a bathtub that was about to go right through the floor. 'Victorian' in this case meant 'there since the days of Queen Victoria'. The house was a mess after thirty or more years of student tenants, and Xander had found himself spending an awful lot of his free time with Tara, fixing windows that wouldn't shut - or wouldn't open - and plumbing that threatened to explode, and doors that stuck and floors that drove splinters into unsuspecting, socked witchy feet. The landlady - a woman who was firmly stuck somewhere in 1967 - had watched him fix the neck-snapping broken step Tara had to hop over every day and had offered him a job. Move into the vacant apartment in the basement and fix everything he could fix in his off hours. She'd supply the materials, he'd supply the sweat. She'd charge him fifty dollars a month rent so they'd both have paperwork for their taxes ("a paper trail for The Man, you dig?" is what she'd actually said) and she'd pay his utility bill. Xander had shaken hands on it. He was drowning, trying to pay the rent at the other place plus some credit-card bills that had surfaced once Anya had gone and it had just seemed like the perfect plan. A god-send, really.

So back into the basement, only this was a Victorian basement, or someone's interpretation of the same, so he had little rectangular windows up near the ceiling with corners and strips of blue and green stained glass all around the edges, and carved wooden details in the corners of the door-jambs. The lot the house sat on sloped rather sharply in the back so that one wall of the basement was actually above ground, and Xander had a set of double French doors in that wall that led out to a weedy, fenced yard. It caught the late afternoon sun and made a perfect place to set up a bar-be-que grill and a couple of lawn chairs. The apartment was only three rooms and a bathroom, but the bath had been re-installed sometime in the late eighties and was about three giant steps up from the Basement of Doom. The kitchen had an actual stove that he'd actually used, and this very cool little drop-down table that he could fold up out of the way when he wasn't eating. And a couple of weirdly shaped closets and fancy metal grills on the heat registers, and a private entrance. It was cozy and airy all at the same time, which shouldn't have been possible but it was. Amazing, really. He'd discovered that he liked old, when it came to houses. The three other students living there were just - amazing as well. A girl from Tokyo who was pre-med and spent more time at the library then in her rooms. Another girl who seemed to spend most of her time with her boyfriend somewhere else, and a very quiet boy who could definitely match Willow for intellect and a mouse for timidity. Housemates from heaven, since there were never any destructive keggers, screaming fights, or Greek-life inspired hi-jinks.

But all that weirdness aside, (and really, house mates like that were very weird) it looked as if his really rather great evening was about to come to a normal Hellmouth end. Pool, a beer, and a movie with Spike and now there was something rustling in the overgrown clumps of azalea and chrysanthemum that flanked the cracked concrete steps going down to his door. Rustling and moaning, or was that growling, and Xander wished he'd invited Spike back to his place for a beer or something. He'd wanted to, but there had been more weirdness stemming, seemingly, from the movie they'd seen and he'd just been too freaked out to contemplate Spike in his living room tonight.

Now he gripped the commando-style knife he'd taken to carrying in one hand and a stake in the other and approached his door with trepidation. There was a full moon tonight, and it lit the side of his house like a spotlight, making the shadows blacker and the open spaces practically a-glow. He was trying to be careful, but he stubbed his toe into a bit of raised walkway - the whole thing was as crazed and uneven as broken glass - and stumbled loudly, sneakers slapping on the cement and a curse jumping out of his mouth unbidden. The noises ceased all together in what seemed a very ominous way and Xander tensed himself to run.

Then someone - something - rose up out of the darkness under the ornamental pear tree. It was pale - slender - SPIKE? Xander thought wildly, and then it was stumbling towards him and then it was crashing to the ground, tangled in the azaleas and making this sort of choking noise. Not Spike, then, because this thing was altogether too clumsy and too white, if that were at all possible. Plus the long hair kind of gave it away. Xander approached the hunched figure carefully, weapons held ready. The figure sucked in a hard breath and turned luminous, doe-wide eyes on him, and lifted a trembling hand. Xander just stared. Blinked. Stared some more.

"Ok, Spike, you've had your fun. Ha ha, funny joke. How'd you do it, though? I mean..." Xander's voice trailed off into silence as no bleached-blond menace stepped, laughing, from the shadows. As the figure twitched away a little at his voice and looked around, seemingly terrified. As a list ticked off in Xander's head and he stared, utterly dumbfounded. *Oh, no WAY is this happening. This is too weird even for the Hellmouth. No. Way. In...Hell. Fuck.*

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CHRIST, Spike thought, but life was weird. And for a vampire living on the Hellmouth, that was saying something. He kicked moodily at a garbage can, sending it careering out across the street and into the side of a parked car, where it made a sizeable dent. And set off the car alarm. Spike grimaced at the high-pitched shrieking and hurried away, ears ringing. But it was a good dent. And now half the street was awake. He lit a cigarette and strode along, feeling marginally better. But still - weird. The evening had just been…weird.

It had all really started with the monumentally bad decision that had brought him back to Sunnyhell. So Dru had dumped him, seen the Slayer 'all around him'... That was no reason to come haring back to the scene of some rather spectacular fuck-ups. But there he'd been, contemplating the death of the annoying blonde, and suddenly he'd been tazered into captivity. And...incapacitated. Bloody soldiers. And then that whole thing with Glory. Normally, he'd have been on Glory's side. Or at least, rooting from the sidelines. Maybe. He still didn't like the idea of the world - his world - being sucked into a dimensionless void of utter chaos. Sure, it had it's attractions, but as a vampire he needed humans and he really didn't see the advantages of a world overrun with demons who would, most of them, look on humans and vampires as a tasty snack. Or a convenient target, or slave labor. So he'd fought on the side of good, and wasn't that just too bloody sickening for words. Fought for the Slayer and her little sis and found himself falling for the bitchy blond. Not the Hellgod, but the Slayer. Falling for her hard. He blamed Dru. She had put all that nonsense into his head, and he was just a little too susceptible to that sort of doomed-love kind of shite, wasn't he. He'd even found himself helping out the witches - and Xander, for fucks' sake! And the witches had made him cookies and Dawn had spent way too much time at his crypt, bonding over teen magazines and peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches. And the Watcher, good gods; the Watcher had listened to him about Doc and various other things and acted like...like Spike knew what the hell he was talking about. For once. And that was weird, just too weird, because weren't they all supposed to hate him? Buffy, at least, had held up her end of the deal and hated him to the bitter end, even as she'd shagged him silly in his crypt (behind Captain Cardboard's back, even!) and invited him back into her house and put the Niblet's life in his hands. And the feelings of pride and love and devotion that had surged up in him had been weird, too. Demons weren't supposed to feel this way, and he blamed that on the bloody choke-chain the Initiative had shoved into his head. What vampire had ever had to actually interact with the food? Live with them, for fucks' sake? It just made him all - weird - and emotional. Even Xander-bloody-Harris had been nice to him - brought him over blood that the boy'd paid for himself when Glory had half-killed him. Hung out at the crypt while he was recuperating and made small-talk and made sure he ate. Kept that wanker Riley off his back. And that was another weird thing. He'd taken Buffy to see her soldier-boy in all his debasement. Sitting in a ratty arm-chair in a filthy squat, letting some vamp whore feed off him. The ultimate betrayal. And what does the Slayer do? Does she turn to Spike, all broken and weeping and declare that the soldier is out of her life? Does she fall on his neck and beg for help, or at least some comfort in the form of a good shag? Does she even bloody thank him? No, she does not. She rescues the bloody G.I. Joe. She gets him out of there and off to some special clinic and she saves him, the ungrateful bitch. That had been the end of it, really. Or, rather, the beginning of the end. His feelings for her had been wrong from the start and finally, finally, he'd been able to stop himself - take a good look at what the hell he was doing. That hadn't stopped him from one last, pathetic attempt, but still…at least he'd come to his senses eventually. He didn't love the Slayer anymore, oh no. But, weirdly (again!) he didn't love Dru anymore, either. He couldn't forget her betrayal of him, the things she'd done. He couldn't forget that she'd abandoned him again - although, to be fair, preparing to stake her to prove his love for Buffy really had been a bit - crazy. But hey, he was a vampire! A demon ruled by his impulses! He was allowed a little crazy behavior from time to time. That was no reason to dump him again. Of course, with Angel in the mix he really hadn't stood a chance.

Spike flicked his cigarette butt into a back yard and watched with a tired sort of satisfaction as someone's washing began to go up in flames. Sure, he could still do the whole evil gig, but it was getting harder and harder. He couldn't kill anyone that he really wanted to kill - he couldn't make minions and make an army and take out the Slayer or even terrorize her sodding little sister. He was stuck, somehow, in this bloody town with these bloody kids. And it just got weirder, because now he was doing stuff with Harris, of all people. They'd had after-work pool games and patrolled together and rented movies and watched them in a litter of beer-bottles and junk food that had sent Anya into orbit. And then the night she'd gone all demony and left the whelp, Spike had done something just - beyond the pale. He'd taken the boy out and gotten him drunk and let him sob his little broken heart out all over Spike's leather-clad shoulder. Truth be told, Spike had gotten a bit drunk, too, and confessed everything about him and Buffy, and what she'd done, and what he'd done, and how he was so over her but over Dru, too, and feeling - well - lonely. Xander had sputtered and goggled and questioned him a bit too closely about just what, exactly, Buffy and he had done, and then questioned him even more closely about Riley. The soldier that Xander had once been coming back with a vengeance and not liking having an addict in the mix at all. That had kind of started a rift with Buffy - Xander hadn't trusted Riley, and now he really didn't trust him, and having all that mess out in the open had made Xander pretty angry. He'd even yelled at Buffy. Told her she didn't have any right just going in and using Spike and then hurting him and then telling him to help or else… And lying to them! And lying to Riley! *Boy was so pissed he didn't know what to be pissed about most! Xander Harris in a royal snit and wasn't THAT just too lovely for words?* Riley was supposedly all better now - he flew in and out of Sunnydale in some big black helicopter, pretending to be the expert on all things demony because he was in some special military group. Doing missions all over the place and coming back to Sunnydale to brag and show off to Buffy. Who just lapped it up with a spoon, the stupid bint. Being on the same page with Xander Harris about the Slayer was just too fuckin' weird. And the witch! Red and her damn spell, and while Spike-with-no-memory had been utterly pathetic with his babble about being noble and good, it had been Xander of all people who had told Buffy-as-Joan that there was no way she was dragging 'Randy' out into the streets to try and distract the horde of vamps that threatened to kill them all. She'd shouted him down, of course. And Xander had shrugged and laughed, afterwards, telling Spike that he'd lost his head over the tweed suit, was all - he had a secret fetish. Spike had gaped at him and then laughed right back, taking it as the joke it was intended to be. And left it at that. But...certain thoughts...had sprung up. And now, tonight, the movie and there those thoughts were again, leaping up out of the little mental closet Spike had tried to cram them into. He had never been so glad to get the hell away from Xander, because things were just...weird. *And why can't I think of a better soddin' word?*

He turned into the gates of his cemetery, heading for his crypt and the bottle of JD hidden down in his recliner. He was gonna drink and watch The Twilight Zone and rejoice that he wasn't stuck in a town where everyone lived in terror of a little boy with a cornfield or whatever. The sound of a fight caught his attention and he grinned. A spot of old-fashioned ass-kicking was just what he needed to make himself feel better. Unless it was the bloody Slayer, in which case he'd just hang back and see if maybe she couldn't finally get herself killed.

The fight, however, proved to be uncomfortably close to his crypt, and he didn't like the idea of the Slayer being near his lair - especially if she had Captain Cardboard with her. Spike broke into a trot, leaping headstones and dodging memorial statuary. As his crypt came into sight he groaned. It was that damn loan shark, Teeth. Him and his gang had been gunning for Spike for a while. All the stuff that had been happening - all the weirdness - had put Spike seriously off his game and he owed a fairly hefty debt to the demon. One he was pretty sure he was going to pay off. But not if the bastard kept coming around his territory trying to threaten him. Only this time, looked like they got somebody else. Spike slowed and studied the scene for a minute. Whoever they were fighting with didn't know the first thing about killing vampires, but he was acquitting himself damn well for all that. Despite the odds that were heavily stacked against him. Spike ducked around a tree and finally got into a good position to see what unfortunate was going to fall to Teeth and he felt himself take a deep, unneeded breath. *No way. No WAY. This is - a joke. Some sort of trick. Has to be. Because it just isn't possible.* Spike stared a moment longer, then made a sudden decision. He'd never find out what was going on if this guy bought it. Time to play the fool and rush in. Spike pulled his stake from an inner pocket and ran forward. This could actually turn out to be fun. With a grin like the Cheshire Cat on speed, he joined the fight.

 

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Xander felt his legs wobbling and he abruptly sat down on the walkway. He realized he was still holding the knife in his hand and he tucked it away in the sheath in his waistband. The other followed his movements closely, hand still outstretched. Xander debated with himself.

*This is some sort of...joke. Has to be. Or - I was attacked on the way home and this is a dying hallucination. And can I say - if this IS my dying vision? - I'm in need of some serious help.* A car roared by and the figure cringed away, looking wildly after the blazing headlights. *Well, maybe not. I mean - if I were really going to have a dying hallucination I think it would do something besides be terrified of cars and fall in the azaleas. Hmmmm.* Warily, Xander shifted the stake to his other hand and then slowly stood up. Once on his feet, he extended his own hand, waiting. The other looked at him and then carefully slid his hand into Xanders. The skin was cool - smooth - the hand light and fragile as a bird. Xander closed his own hand around it and tugged gently, and the other stood up. Tall - taller then Xander by about three inches. Slender as a greyhound, dressed in green and grey and brown. Long, ice-white hair that was caught in tiny braids at the temples. And. Ears. Pointed ears. Spock ears, sort of. Only much more...suited to the slender, inhumanly beautiful face they framed. The face of an elf. *I'm really, really losing it here. There is NO way this is real... Oh, damnit.*

"Are you - do you -" Xander bit his lip, cursing inwardly. The other - the elf - stared at him. Shivered all over, suddenly, and Xander wondered what was wrong with him.

"Do you understand me?" He asked, and the elf nodded.

"I do," he said. Soft voice - musical - slightly accented. *Damn. And wow. Ok, focus, here.*

"Are - are you hurt?" The elf glanced around, his hands absently rubbing up his arms.

"I do not think so. But there is some - evil, here. Some dark power. It - it hurts." He looked at Xander, and Xander finally noticed that he was paler then maybe even a pale elf should be, and that he was swaying a little, and that there was dirt on his hands, and a bruise.

"Yeah, that's - this place is... Listen. I live here. Why don't you just - I can get you some tea or something, and we can figure out - what's going on. Ok?" The habit of a lifetime kept him from inviting the elf in, and after a moment the other nodded and looked around - bent down and disentangled a bow from the azalea. It was taller then Xander, too. The elf ran careful fingers over it and then tipped his head at Xander, waiting. *Just like Spike. That little tip of the head and that means 'let's go' or 'what do you mean' or 'aren't you a fucking wanker, Harris'. And when did I start paying that much attention to what Spike's head-tilts mean? Fuck.* Xander made a sort of 'follow me' gesture with his hand and completed the short journey to his front door. He pulled out his keys and unlocked the deadbolt, then opened the door and stood aside, waiting for the elf to go in. After a moment's hesitation, the elf did; stepping lightly across the threshold, as alert and soundless as a cat. Xander shut the door and stepped forward, navigating easily in the moonlight that filtered in through the French doors. He turned on his living room lamp and stood there, staring. The elf stared back, sending little flickering glances over the room, taking in the books and the TV and the couch with no real recognition - looking longer out the French doors and at the budding herb garden Tara had planted there. There was a quiver of green-fletched arrows slung across his back, and the white hilts of two short swords stuck up beside it. *And man, can he fight with those. Wonder if he'd show me a move or two… Wait, though…not real, right?* The water heater gurgled, a soft chugging sound, and the elf flinched.

"Uh - ummm...listen, I'm - my name's Xander. Xander Harris." The eyes - a summer-sky blue that seemed to shimmer, like sunlight on water - turned towards him.

"I am called Legolas, of the Woodland Realm."

"L -Legolas. Really? I mean - are you sure that your name is Legolas?" The elf cocked his head, *that means 'what the fuck' in Spike-talk* and a faint smile touched his face.

"Of course I am sure, Xander Harris. Are you not sure of who you are?"

"Not really," Xander mumbled, putting his stake on the coffee table and crossing to the kitchen. "Not lately. Just call me Xander, ok? Do you want some tea?"

"I - am not sure. Show me?" Xander nodded and pulled out the tea he'd bought especially for when Spike came by. *You did, too, didn't you. Good god.* It was loose, in a tin, and the elf stepped over to him and took the tin - sniffed the dark leaves and shook them gently.

"I think - tea would be nice." He handed Xander the tin back and suddenly he was grimacing, his hand to his head.

"What is it?" Xander asked, and the elf looked at him, his eyes tight and narrow with pain.

"It is - this place. What is wrong here? Does some evil threaten? I feel as if a great cloud of darkness were suffocating me. As if - as if the land itself is poisoned."

"It's - it's called the Hellmouth. It's a - portal, kind of. To Hell. To some hell. There are all kinds of demons and things here - " Xander stopped, aware that Legolas was staring at him in utter horror - actually backing away from him.

"You live in the midst of this? How can this be?" Xander shrugged, filling his kettle.

"I was born here. I went to school right over the mouth itself. I guess I'm just kinda - used to it. We - my friends and I - we closed the Hellmouth a couple of times - saved the world a couple of times. Well, Buffy did. We kinda - helped. And we kill the demons, the vampires - whatever. We just - protect everybody the best we can, you know?" Legolas was shaking his head, and he sank down on the floor, clutching the smooth wood of his bow.

"It is horrible. It is as if...a sword were going through and through me. As if a troll had swung his hammer into my skull." He bowed his head and Xander turned on the stove - lit the pilot with a click of the lighter and carefully adjusted the flame.

"I think - well, I have a friend who might be able to help with that. I mean - she's a witch. A good one!" he added, as the elf's head came up with a snap. "She's really a good person - really into the earth and nature and stuff - all about the balance of everything, you know? She might - she might be able to do a spell that could - help." Xander went to his phone and picked it up - dialed Tara's number. He'd seen her light on upstairs, knew she was home and awake.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Tara. I really need you to come down here. I have a - a friend here and he needs some help. It's pretty - important. Can you come down?"

"Well - sh-shure, Xander. Just let mme get dress- get my sh-shoes on, ok? What k-kind of help?"

"I'm not sure." There was a rustling on the other end of the line and a muttered curse, and Xander imagined Tara tying to dress and talk on the phone at the same time. Probably she'd been lounging around in that kimono she had. It was pretty. "He - he can kind of - feel - the Hellmouth? He says it hurts." There was silence from Tara's end, and then a sharp intake of breath.

"Ok, Xander, I-I'll be right d-down." She disconnected and Xander hung up his phone - got a cup out of the cupboard and set it on the counter, and then got a spoon and the little Honey-Bear. It was less than half full. *Gotta get some more. Spike uses so much. I wonder what honey tastes like on...* He stopped that train of thought immediately and turned around, watching his guest. Legolas seemed to have fought off the pain for the moment and was looking warily at the blue flame under the kettle.

"You are a mage as well?"

"Huh?" Legolas gestured towards the stove - the fire.

"You seem able to - control fire. Only a mage can control the elements."

"Oh. Well - we've kind of - everybody can do this. It's just - it's gas that burns. It's kind of like having a campfire in your kitchen only you don't need any - wood, or anything..." Legolas was staring at him and Xander just shook his head. When you really thought about it, it did sound a little crazy.

"You hungry?" Xander turned to his cabinets, opening the one he kept food in. "I've got...well, not much. Uh. Oh - I've got these - " He took down a package of Fig Newtons. "And...uh....these." Graham Crackers. *That's it? Sheesh. Well, there IS that lovely can of 'emergency' chili, and of course - Ramen. But I think I should try to be hospitable. Ramen is not hospitable. I need to go to the store. Of course, there WERE those really nice iced cookies but a certain Creature of the Night scarfed them all.* Xander picked up the Fig Newtons and opened them - took one out and eyed it. Would an elf like chewy figgy goodness? He shrugged and shoved the Newton into his mouth. Legolas watched him, wide-eyed, and he hastily chewed and swallowed.

"Here - these are good. Uh - figs and...stuff." Xander brought the package over and laid it on the coffee table, in easy reach of the elf. The kettle was starting to sing, so he moved back to the kitchen, trying to remember how Spike made tea. *Leaves in the little ball thing, pack it tight...right, now, in the cup, boiling water...shut the burner off...spoon, honey, saucer for tea-ball. Right.* Xander carefully shuffled back over to the coffee table, trying not to slop the hot water or drop the spoon. He set it all down and then slumped onto the couch. Legolas had a Fig Newton and was eyeing it with what Xander hoped was curiosity and not disgust. After a moment he took a small bite and chewed, eyes distant. Then he looked at Xander.

"All right?"

"It is - different." Legolas swallowed and took another bite, and Xander relaxed. *If you really hate something, you find a way to squish it into a napkin or something. You don't take another bite. So - tea.* He leaned forward and dunked the tea-ball up and down a few times, then pushed the cup towards the elf, and opened the honey.

"That has to - uh - steep a while. You can put in the honey. I don't know how much is right - Spike uses a lot, but you might not like it that sweet."

"Spike?" There was a soft tap on the inner basement door, and Xander stood up, edging out from between the couch and coffee table.

"Yeah, he's a - a friend of mine. Likes honey in his tea. I'll be right back." Xander hurried over to the door and opened it. Tara stood there, her hair back in a loose ponytail, her body swathed in oversized flannel pyjama pants and a knit pull-over, her feet in fuzzy socks. The 'doing homework and lounging' outfit. She had a backpack over her shoulder.

"Tara. Ok - listen. Don't wig on me, ok? It's - this isn't a joke. It's real, as far as I can tell. Ok? Just - be calm." Tara's eyes went wide and she nodded. Xander stepped back so she could come in. Tara took two steps, caught sight of the elf and stood there, staring. Legolas was squeezing honey into his tea - as they watched, he put out a finger and caught a drip and brought it to his mouth. *Oh, that's...hmmmm* Xander shook himself and shut the door.

"Come on," he whispered, and led Tara into the living room. She didn't take her eyes off the elf, and Xander didn't blame her. In the low, golden light from the lamp the elf seemed more than unreal. Seemed a figment - a sort of dream. His hair sparked tiny lights every time he moved, and every piece of clothes - the light, patterned cloth of his cloak, the leather of boots and - some sort of leather over-shirt thing - all seemed to shimmer slightly, or glow, or...something. They both went over to the couch and sat down. Legolas had put the honey down and was stirring the tea, looking contemplatively down into the dark liquid. He looked up as they settled and made as if to get up.

"No - d-d-don't, that's a-all right." Tara said hastily, putting out her hand. The elf subsided, cup and spoon still in his grip.

"This is my friend Tara, the - witch I told you about. Tara this is - this is Legolas."

"A pleasure to meet you, my lady," Legolas said, and Tara blushed.

"A p-pleasure to meet you, too, L-legolas. Xander said you were in p-p-pain?" Tara pulled her backpack around in front of her, clutching it close.

"This place seems to hurt me. The evil of it is...overwhelming. How do you bear it?" The elf raised the cup to his lips, blowing gently across the hot surface, and Xander found himself staring at the gentle pursing. *Oh for god's SAKE, get a grip!*

"I think - th-think that maybe y-y-you're just more sens-sensitive to it then we are. I think I c-can do a b-b-blocking spell. Kind of a p-protection spell. It should s-stop you from f-feeling it so much." Legolas took a sip of the tea, holding the spoon and the chain of the tea-ball back with one finger. He made a strange sort of face.

"Isn't it any good? I don't drink tea - " Xander watched as Legolas opened his mouth to say something and then closed it in startlement as Tara deftly lifted the cup out of his hands and took a sip. She choked.

"God, Xander, this could peel paint off a wall."

"It's -" Xander gestured helplessly at the tea. "It's how Spike makes it."

"It m-might not kill the evil und-dead but it's w-way too strong for nor- for the l-living." Tara put her backpack down and picked up the saucer - went over to the kitchen. "I need to prepare a few things for th-the spell, Xander, can you p-put the table down?" Legolas looked as if he were going to ask a very uncomfortable question so Xander sprang to his feet, stumbling a little.

"Yeah - sure. One table coming up. Or, coming down, I guess..." He let the table down and then hovered there - jumped and let out a small squeak of startlement as a cool, long-fingered hand descended on his shoulder. Legolas was looking at him oddly, and he handed over Tara's backpack. Xander took it automatically, laying it on the table.

"Xander - what did she mean? You said this - Spike - was a friend of yours and yet he is - evil? Evil undead?" Tara shot him a guilty look, rooting in her backpack, and Xander sighed and turned to face the elf.

"It's - kinda complicated. Spike's a - Spike's a vampire. You know?"

"I have heard of such things."

"Ok. Well - he tried to kill us for a while, but then this group - this military group - captured him and they put this chip...this...thing - in his head. It's kind of... Well, anytime he tries to hurt a human, or drink their blood, this thing zaps him."

"Zaps?"

"It - hurts him. Hurts him pretty bad. So we - uh - we get blood for him from the butchers and - " But the elf was pacing away from him, frowning. He reached the center of the living room and turned sharply to face Xander.

"What you are saying is that this friend of yours feels pain when he - causes harm to humans. Or when he attempts to - feed?"

"Yeah. Yeah to both. It doesn't hurt when he drinks out of a cup or anything, but when he -"

"And if this - thing - were not in his head, he would try to kill you all?"

"Well - he says he would, all the time, but sometimes I wonder if he really - " Legolas shot him a grim look, hand on the hilt of a knife at his belt.

"Why then do you not simply kill him? Why do you allow such evil to exist?"

"It's not that simple!" Xander paced over to the couch, running his hands back through his hair. "Listen. He helps us. Last year, when Buffy died saving the world - again - he helped us all summer, killing vamps and demons. Keeping Dawn safe. And he let Glory - this Hellgod - torture him almost to death! She wanted to know...something really important but he wouldn't tell her. He kept his promise. He's saved my life before, and Tara's - Willow's - all of us. He's helped save the world twice! He came to Buffy and made a deal with her and he - he took Angelus out - Angelus was a super-evil vamp. He gave Buffy the chance she needed to stop him from destroying everything." Legolas was staring at him and so, he realized, was Tara. Xander sighed and slumped back down onto the couch, snagging a Fig Newton. "Look, he - I don't know how evil Spike is, anymore. We're - we're friends. We hang out. He's good company and... I can't believe I'm saying this, but I like the guy, ok? Besides - he can't defend himself. Killing him would be - wrong."

"It would be a mercy, if what you say is true. Being compelled to act against his nature - by some outside force..." Legolas shuddered and walked over to the French doors, staring out.

"I don't think he sees it like that," Xander muttered, and stuffed the cookie into his mouth. Tara was crushing herbs into a bowl, looking troubled, and suddenly Legolas swayed and leaned dizzily against the door jamb.

"You ok Legolas?" Xander got up and went over to him, and the elf raised a small smile.

"I am well. It - it seems to come in waves." He lifted his hand, as if to brush it back through his hair and seemed to notice the dirt for the first time.

"Oh - hey. You wanna clean up?" The elf nodded, and Xander led him to the bathroom - demonstrated the taps and pointed out soap and a towel, then left him to his own devices. Tara was making another cup of tea, a small line of tension between her brows, and Xander came and leaned on the sink-edge. A small white velvet pouch lay there, full of the herbs Tara had mixed. A faint cinnamon-y smell came from it, sharp and pleasant.

"Did I just defend Spike?" A quick glance of laughing eyes, and Xander groaned. "I did. I defended the bleached menace. Said he wasn't evil! We all know he's evil. Right?" Tara put the tea-ball into a fresh cup of water and looked at Xander.

"I d-don't know, Xander. What you s-said was true. He defended D-dawn and he kept his promise to B-buffy and he... He really is y-your friend. Maybe h-he's changed, after all this time."

"You think?" *And what - I want him to be all fluffy bunnies and hearts? He's the evil undead and even if he's not quite so - evil - anymore, I sure don't want him to be like Deadboy. CAN demons change? He said they couldn't but...he sure has. To me, at least. I THINK he has...* Tara put the tea-ball into the sink and squeezed some honey into the tea - turned as Legolas came out of the bathroom, looking a little fresher.

"I think you know th-the answer to that, Xander," she murmured, then stepped forward. "Try this L-legolas. I think you'll l-like this b-b-better."

"Thank you, my lady." Legolas took the cup with a small bow and sipped at it - smiled down at Tara. "It is much better. A woman's touch, I'm sure." Tara blushed again - glanced around a little wildly and scurried back over to the table.

"I'm a-almost done here - we c-can do the ss-spell in a minute. I just need to - to light this - " Tara pulled a white candle out of her backpack and carried it and the pouch to the center of Xander's small living room. She set them on the wood floor, then retrieved a jar of colored sand and uncapped it.

"Legolas, y-you need to ss-sit here, before the c-candle. I'm going to make a c-circle around you and th-this p-pouch. Then I'll do th-the spell and when I say "so mote it be" you b-blow out the candle. That sh-should charge the p-pouch. Then you c-can wear it and it sh-should protect you from most of the…Hellmouthy vibes." Legolas put his tea on the coffee table and settled cross-legged in one graceful move. He looked calmly up at Tara and Xander.

"I have every faith in you, my lady." Tara blushed and ducked her head, then turned around, looking for something.

"Xander? Lighter?" she whispered, and Xander handed her the one from the stove. Tara lit the candle and handed the lighter back to Xander, then began to carefully make a circle around Legolas with the deep blue colored sand. As she made the circle she chanted softly - too softly for Xander to hear, but Legolas seemed to be listening. As she completed the circle, the sand began to glow; a pale bluish light that lit Legolas from beneath, making him seem to be made of glass and smoke. Xander shivered, looking at him. *Fuck. He is so… He's beautiful. So pale…that white hair…like Spike.* Xander examined that thought for a moment, watching Tara walk slowly three times counter-clockwise around the circle. *Like Spike? I don't care if he looks like Spike. I mean - sure, Spike's a good-looking guy…* Xander's stomach did a little flip-flop as he thought that. Spike was more then 'good-looking'. *And yeah, we've been hanging out and stuff. Being…buddies. But that doesn't mean…anything. THIS guy is…well, he's a good guy, for one thing. No wishy-washy 'is he evil or isn't he' stuff there - he's SO not evil… And I sure wasn't comparing him and Spike in my mind tonight at the movie, no way…*

Tara was going clock-wise now, and the glow had intensified. It seemed to move over the elf like sunlight reflecting and shimmering off of water. Legolas had his eyes closed, his fingertips resting lightly on the pouch. His hair seemed to stir slightly in a ghostly wind, gossamer strands lifting and floating around his head. Xander shifted against the kitchen counter and tried to organize his thoughts.

*Ok. So we go see this movie tonight. And all through it I'm practically freaking because Spike just keeps…TOUCHING me! I mean - it was probably just accidental. He reached for the popcorn, perfectly normal. And stretched his arm over the chair-back…it was a LONG movie. And…kept bumping his knee into mine, but those seats are so close and, again, long movie! And walking home, we were both… Well, let's be honest - my little foray into the wild life down in Oxnard is no secret to Spike since the night he showed me how to do tequila shots off of that girls cleavage, and so what if we were both talking about how…hot the guys in the movie were? It's not like I was talking about this pale blond so I…wouldn't have to talk about…the other pale blond in my life. Was I? Fuck.* Xander blinked as Tara said "so mote it be" in a voice that seemed to have strange, ringing undertones. At the same moment, Legolas leaned forward and blew out the candle. All of the pale, glowing light that had been swirling and settling on and around Legolas rushed to the pouch and seemed to implode there, sinking rapidly away, leaving a bright after-image. Xander rubbed his eyes, and Legolas reached out and gently lifted the pouch by the satin cords tied around the neck. He opened the cords and slipped the pouch over his head, settling it securely under his shirt. Then he looked up at Tara and smiled. Xander felt his heart give a painful extra beat at that smile, and Tara seemed incapable of sound at all.

"It seems to work, my lady. You are indeed a skilled witch. I am in your debt." Legolas rose lightly to his feet and Tara leaned down and brushed the sand aside, opening the circle. The elf stepped out, and laid his hand gently on Tara's shoulder. They stood like that for a moment, then Legolas went back to the coffee table and retrieved his tea, settling gingerly on the edge of the couch, and Tara moved slowly into the kitchen, her eyes dreamy.

"Tara? You ok?" Xander whispered, and she blinked and licked her lips - looked dazedly at Xander for a moment.

"Oh, I'm fine, Xander. Just fine." She smiled, then seemed to come to herself and ran her hands back over her head, pushing little loose strands of hair away. "I n-need to sweep up th-the sand and put it ow-outside. Do you have a dust p-pan?"

"Sure." Xander opened his little utility closet and got his broom and dustpan from where it was stored next to the mop, toolbox, and water-heater. He handed them to Tara and she made fast work of the sand, sweeping it all neatly into the dustpan and then stepping outside for a moment to scatter it into the courtyard.

"L-legolas…" Tara said, handing the broom and dustpan to Xander. "Do you n-know how you c-came here? I mean - wa-what do you remember?" Legolas took a drink of the tea and then looked down into the cup for a moment, frowning.

"I remember…running. With - my companions. It seemed we had been running for days. The sun was just rising, and I remember I looked back, and saw how red the light was. Like blood. It seemed - an ill omen. Then - the light dimmed and changed and it was the moon, and I was here. And…it hurt." He looked up at the two others then, and his eyes were liquid with pain - with fear. "Do you think - that I can ever go back? I fear for my companions. We are already so few…" He stopped talking, and looked down again - drank the rest of the tea. Xander and Tara exchanged glances.

"That's all? No - no voices, or big portals opening or - anything?" Xander asked, and Legolas unfolded effortlessly to his feet, walking into the kitchen and handing Xander his cup.

"I think perhaps I heard - laughter. Something…as if a wolf howled. But it was faint, and fleeting, even to my ears. I am sorry, but I can tell you no more." Xander took the cup - reached tentatively and put his hand on the elf's shoulder. The muscles under his fingers were warm and solid - the leather of the elf's over-garment a soft suede, pleasant to touch.

"Don't worry about it. We'll figure this out, Legolas. Tara's really - great with the magic and we can go see Giles tomorrow, he's the Librarian Guy, I'm sure he'll have something that will help." Legolas smiled - that smile, that was soft and sweet and absolutely glowing with gentle good humor and trust and Xander couldn't help but smile back. *Damn. That just makes me…and how can he trust us? I mean - for all he knows, we DRAGGED him here…Spike would never… Well, that's 'cause Spike is the evil undead, he doesn't trust ANYbody, and really - why should he? Not like unlife has been kind to him, lately* Xander sighed - shook off the weird mood he seemed to be talking himself into and moved away from the elf, putting the cup and spoon into the sink. *Do that later. Suddenly, I just want to go to sleep. Or just…want to go think in private* He turned around and saw Tara loading the stuff she'd brought back into her backpack. She dumped the still-liquid wax from the candle into the trash and closed her pack.

"I n-need to go to b-bed, Xander. I have an er-early class tomorrow. Why d-don’t' I stop by the Magic Box after class and s-ssee if Mr. Giles can come by?" Xander glanced in surprise at the microwave clock - it was almost 2 a.m. *Really was a long movie! Wow.*

"Yeah, sure Tara, that'd be great. I really appreciate you coming down here so late - I owe you one, yeah? Xand-man special next time we're at the Espresso Pump, hey?" Tara grinned, hugging pack and candle to her.

"Sure Xander. That'd be great." She turned to the elf, and her smile softened. "I p-promise we'll find a way to s-send you home, Legolas," she said, and the elf made a formal, courtly bow to her, hands open at his sides.

"Once again - I have every faith. You are…very kind, my lady." Tara ducked her head and scurried away, closing the door softly behind her, and Xander followed and locked it.

"It is late. I think - I'm gonna turn in, too, if you don't mind. I've got some blankets and stuff, we can make up the couch - " Xander stopped as Legolas held up a hand.

"Elves do not - sleep - as mortals do, Xander. I think I will simply rest and - contemplate the day. Perhaps if I meditate, I can remember more about how I came to be here."

"Oh - ok. Just - don't go outside, ok? I mean - you're probably a good fighter and all, but sometimes you need special weapons to kill the stuff around here, and there's things that might really hurt you. Vampires can't come inside unless they're invited, and most demons don't bother with houses, so you'll be ok. You can open those doors if you want - " and Xander gestured to the French doors, suddenly thinking that Legolas might like to be closer to the plants and stuff. "Just don't - you know - wander."

"I understand, Xander." Legolas smiled at him, head a little to one side, and Xander felt that little flutter in his belly again. *In Spike-speak that's 'thanks, mate'. Although Spike would blow smoke in your face or something too, just to be sure you didn't get too comfortable with the gratitude. Damn it. Wasn't going to think about him*

"Ok. I'm gonna - take a quick shower then. Just make yourself at home." Legolas nodded and Xander ducked into the bathroom, his hands trembling just a little. He got the shower going and tossed his clothes into the laundry basket - stood staring at himself in the mirror as the water heated up. Dark eyes, dark hair getting long and curling loosely at the nape of the neck. Construction-worker tan and construction-worker muscles, not too shabby. A couple of scars - nothing too bad. Surprising, really, considering what he'd been doing since Buffy came to town. Nothing like Spike, who had several scars, including a fairly nasty one from Glory where she'd tried to "peel me like a bloody apple", as Spike had said. It would fade in time, or so the vampire claimed. Eventually, the demon would return his body to the state it had always been.

"Then why the scar there?" Xander had asked, gesturing to Spike's eyebrow, and the vampire had reached up and brushed it, grinning, mug of blood in his hand and the TV playing softly in the background. Xander perched on a tomb and Spike in the ratty armchair he'd 'salvaged' from somewhere and dragged back to his crypt.

"That's a mark of bloody honor, mate. That Slayer in China - she gave me that. It's like - I keep it to show how tough she was. And to show that I was tougher."

"Yeah? That makes sense." Xander took a sip of soda - watched Spike drain his mug and lick a drop of blood off his lip; pointed tongue over scarlet lips, and Xander had shivered. "What about the other Slayer? You killed two, right? Did she - do you have another scar?"

"Nah." Spike stood up, sinuous twist of black-clad torso and legs, and stalked over to his kitchen area, putting the mug on a table and rooting around in his old 'fridge. "I got my duster off'a the second one. Looks better on me then it did on her, that's for bloody sure." He grinned over at Xander, white teeth and glinting azure eyes and Xander had felt a reluctant answering smile stretching his mouth. The duster DID look good on Spike…

Xander shut his eyes briefly, shaking his head. The mirror was steamed up now, and he hopped into the shower and washed up quickly. Finished, he dried off and wrapped the towel around his waist - brushed his teeth and used the toilet then slipped out quietly, not wanting to disturb the elf. Legolas had opened the French doors and was sitting cross-legged in front of them, his back to Xander. The elf had shed quiver and swords to a neat pile by the couch. Xander could hear cricket-sounds and the soft rustling of leaves from the chinaberry tree in the courtyard. The scents of sage and lemon verbena, chamomile and peppermint and marigolds wafted in on a cool breeze - Tara's 'herb garden' that needed better soil and probably more sun, but was doing all right. And a subtle, spicy scent - vanilla and cinnamon and lavender. Legolas's scent. Xander stood for a moment, just watching the upright back and sleek fall of moon-pale hair. Then he slipped into his bedroom, shutting the door.

He tossed the towel over an old straight-backed chair he kept in one corner and crawled under the covers. Lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. He let his mind just wander, not trying to direct it, and images from the night came slowly to him, one after another.

The Bronze, and Spike pushing through the crowd to a pool table, snatching a cue from under the hand of some distracted frat boy and setting up a game. The bartender looking narrow-eyed at Xander's i.d and then shrugging and handing over two bottles of beer, not even bothering to ask for an i.d. for Spike. The duster, cool and creaking and that good leather smell, folded over a stool and Xander moving it a little so he wouldn't bump it with his knee and send it to the sticky, gritty floor. Spike lining up a shot, saying something; laughing blue eyes and glint of teeth as he shot a glance over at Xander and then made the shot, sending a striped ball neatly into a far pocket. Xander shooting, feeling clumsy under the vampire's intense scrutiny. Making it, barely, and grinning in triumph as Spike lit a cigarette and huffed smoke.

The walk to the movie theatre, Spike doing that loose-hipped, cat-smooth swagger that absolutely dripped with menace and confidence and sex. Xander walking beside him, watching the vampire covertly, trying not to stare when Spike did a little hip-roll-thrust thing for just a moment as a car passes, blaring some music he apparently liked.

At the theatre, making some comment to the ticket-sales girl - Xander didn't catch it but the girl had blushed painfully red and Spike had grinned like a wolf, sauntering into the theatre.

And then…and then…in the theatre, Xander juggling popcorn and Milk Duds and Jujubes, Spike with the sodas, quick growl and flash of fangs and they're sitting down, Xander not sure whether he should laugh or be pissed that Spike has just terrified some 13-year-old out of his seat. Spike not caring, just settling into the seat and shoving Xander's soda at him, snatching the Milk Duds and tossing a handful into his mouth.

And then…"Gimmie some popcorn," Spike whispers, his cool hand sliding down Xander's arm and trailing over the mortal's hand before dipping into the bucket. *But Spike can see in the dark better then me - not like he couldn't see where the popcorn was* And Spike shifting in his seat, leg canted sideways into Xander's, knee pressing into knee, into thigh, slight rub. *He's got long legs, really, and I was doing the same - got kind of cramped up - too crowded to put our feet up on the seat in front of us* Spike stretching, moving, his arm going up and out and over, to rest on the back of Xander's seat, his fingers just brushing Xander's shoulder, the pit of his arm just arching over the other. *Oh man - who HASN'T used that move on some...date? Jesus, were we on a DATE? Was Spike trying to…? Did I WANT him to? Evil, undead, soulless fiend. Tried to kill us all... Grieved for Buffy for weeks, wouldn't come out, wouldn't eat… Dawnie had to beg him, and then they cried together… He was gonna STAKE Drusilla for her - the love of his - unlife! And…what Buffy did. Treating him like he was - nothing. Like she was too good for him but that didn't keep her from asking him for HELP all the time and that didn't keep her from fucking him and…hurting him. Am I defending him again?* Xander shifted in the bed, aroused, disturbed - so confused. Ever since Larry had come out, right before graduation, Xander had struggled with his own, deeply buried attractions to the same sex. Then Oxnard, and he'd finally overcome all the inhibitions and conditioning and outright terror and given in. And felt - free. Happy. Content within himself for the first time in years. And - he would admit it - he had thought of Spike, when the vampire had shown back up. Had been terrified of him, and then contemptuous of him, and then frankly curious. But a strong disinclination to being made fun of had kept him from admitting that he admired the vampire physically. And that he was growing to trust him - to rely on him - to consider him a friend. And when the whole truth about Riley - about what Buffy had done to Spike - had come out…that had cemented his new-found feelings of respect.

*All that crap going on and he was still…loyal, to her. To us. And Spike was there too, wasn't he, when Anya left. That's when he told me about him and Buffy - about Riley. That's when I really started to look at him as a - person. One that deserved better. A whole lot better then what he'd been getting, especially from us. Can't believe some of the things we did to him… that I did to him. And now…is he HITTING on me? Does he…like me? Like that? Or is it just some joke? Fuck, how'm I ever gonna KNOW…* Xander closed his eyes, picturing the vampire. Seeing him fighting - like watching a dance. Seeing him teasing Dawn, so much like the big brother she never had - desperately wanted. Seeing him look over, look up, look around and see Xander, and smile. Slight twist of the lips, tilt of the head, saying in that special Spike language 'wanna play?' or 'wanna fight?' or 'good one, Harris' or…maybe…'wanna fuck, Xander? Wanna kiss me and touch me and fuck me…?'

"Oh, god…" Xander breathed - slid his hand under the covers and rubbed the flat of his palm over his growing erection. Imagined Spike. Smoke-pale and lithe as a snake, twist of lip and hip and sinuous glide and then he's picturing Spike hovering over him, eyes dark with desire, mouth a little open, soft touch of lips to his forehead, cheek, mouth. Picturing Spike, arch of hipbone like the leading edge of a gulls' wing - white, gleaming, thrusting forward. Pale circle of areole, the nipple upright within. Striated planes of pectoral, rib, belly. Dip of the navel, dark line of hair beneath. *Saw all this - saw it that time in his crypt, when I came marching in and Spike was…sheet barely caught across him, hair clawed free of that gel for once and tangling over his forehead. That ridge, under the sheet, his cock straining forwards…who was he thinking about? Thinking about me?* Xander gasped harshly, his own erection caught in his fist, hips working as he teased himself towards orgasm. He pushed the covers down with his other hand, letting the cool air wash over him. *Cool like he would be, cool skin… And god, god, his mouth, on mine, would be like kissing petals, like leaves, cool and damp and flavored with smoke, with blood, with whiskey...* Xander's other hand crept lower, stroking his inner thigh, nudging at his balls and then rolling them in his fingers - tugging. Letting his knees fall wide open, letting his hand slip lower, to press and rub the smooth skin behind his balls. Lifting his hand to his mouth and slicking himself with saliva and then back…sinking one finger into himself, slowly. Xander's hips came up off the bed, his thumb slipping over the head of his cock and smearing the fluid there. Both hands moving faster - rougher - imagining the greater strength of the vampire just pushing and pushing at him - almost too much, almost pain. He sank a second finger into his body, twisting them, searching, and bit his lip, hard, when his fingers found the place, deep inside. *Fuck, he would do this, he would - push and take and - oh, blood, I bit my lip - blood in my mouth, could be Spike's blood, could be… He'd like that, like the blood… wonder what his tastes like, wonder what his skin tastes like…lemon and smoke and burnt sugar, just like what he smells like and…"come on, Xander, just a little faster, pet, right there, right there..." Xander pumped himself ruthlessly, fingers thrusting and clawing, and his hips rose, mindlessly seeking more; pressing up into the air, into the vision, into coolness without weight. His back arched and Xander moaned, trying to bury the sound in the pillow, the rhythm of hands and hips gone ragged, desperate. Then the warm spatter of semen, over belly and chest, hand and wrist. His orgasm a wave of goose bumps and shivers and his breath caught in his throat, his body a trembling bow. Gradually he slumped back to the mattress - lay there for long moments, gasping for breath. When the roaring in his ears had subsided, Xander got shakily to his feet and stumbled to the chair - used his bath towel to clean up, wiping slowly at the smears on his body. He felt over himself, finding a spot of missed dampness, and self-consciously raised his fingers to his lips. Darted his tongue out, to gingerly taste himself. *What does Spike taste like? More bitter? More sweet? Like blood, maybe. Like…dark chocolate and blood…* Xander shivered, tossing down the towel, and crept back into bed. *Oh, I want that…want him. Don't KNOW what he wants…how the fuck am I gonna find out… Want to wear his bruises and put my own mark on him, want…* Xander sank into a restless sleep, hands scrabbling and searching for what wasn't there.

 

***********************************

 

Teeth had brought eight henchvamps with him. *Eight! Is he that desperate for his pay-off? Nah - he's that scared of me.* Smirking, Spike darted through the loose circle of vampires and got next to the human that stood at bay, sword raised. Dark-haired human, scruffy beard, leather armor and greenish cloak. Look of utter surprise. *Nothin' to the surprise I'm feelin'. How in HELL could this have happened?*

"You gotta put a stake through the heart, mate, or take the head off. Only way to kill a vampire." Spike said, brandishing his own stake, and the man nodded - looked around at the hovering vamps. They'd all taken a step back when Spike had joined the fray - his reputation as a fighter was still intact, even if more demons then normal thought to test it, nowadays. Spike grinned, morphing briefly into gameface where the human wouldn't see.

"Come on, boys - let's dance a little, shall we?" he purred, and the vamps attacked. Spike danced - there was no other way to describe it; and that's what it felt like, to him, inside. An easy, deadly dance that made his undead heart soar and his brain go on stand-by. He was fangs and fists and feet - dip and whirl and kick - and two, three, four vamps exploded into dust. He whirled, searching, and the human brought his sword around in a flat, deadly arc and the last vamp was gone. Teeth stood over by Spike's crypt, a cigar smoldering forgotten in his fingers.

"Sssoooo…" Spike said, slow stalk to the loan shark. "You decide that my word's not good enough, mate? You decide that I'm a welcher? You think you can just show up here - attack my friends - and nothing will happen?" With each word Spike got closer, until he was inches from the demon; smelling the nasty cheap cigar and the nasty cheap cologne *why the FUCK is he wearing cologne?* and the stench of decaying fish on the demons' breath. Teeth twitched nervously, one way and then another, obviously unsure of what to do next.

"N-now Spike, you have to let me explain -"

"I don't 'have' to do nuthin', mate. You show up here again - go after any of my mates - and we'll see about me getting' that shark-tooth necklace I've always wanted. You savvy, Teeth?" The demon grinned into Teeth's wildly rolling eyes, and the loan shark stuttered an affirmative before scuttling away into the darkness. Spike reverted to his human face and looked around for the other. The dark-haired man was leaning on a tombstone, cleaning the blade of his sword with a handful of grass. He seemed to be relaxed - indifferent to his surroundings - but Spike could sense the tension in him - the alertness and wary attention that was just below the surface. The vampire couldn't help but notice the miniscule tightening of muscles as he approached the human.

"You did good, mate. Most folks would've run screaming."

"I've seen my share of - strange things." The man tossed the grass aside and stood up, sword held casually as if he'd forgotten he had it in his hand.

"These - others - they were waiting for you?"

"Yeah." Spike patted at his duster-pockets and pulled out cigarettes and lighter. He lit up - inhaled deeply - smirking a little as the human tensed, watching his hands closely. "That Teeth, I owe him a bit a dosh an' he just won't be patient. Although, ambushing me in me own home - hardly sporting. Guess you buggered his plans well and truly." Spike blew smoke casually over their heads - looked at the man.

"You're not from around here, are you mate?" he said, and the human's mouth twitched in the start of a smile.

"No, I do not think I am. Where is here? It feels…" The man paused, looking around as if he expected something to come leaping out of the darkness. "It feels - wrong."

"Yeah. S'called the Hellmouth. Lots'a demons about, lots'a bad mojo - magic," Spike clarified, when the human raised an inquiring eyebrow.

"Hellmouth. Here?" The human looked around again, the sword arcing casually back and forth, back and forth, cutting at the unkempt weeds that sprouted around the tombstones. Spike stepped away - leaned back against the wall of his crypt, smoking, watching the human.

"Well, not here - 'bout…ten minutes from here. It's closed, for now. But some daft git is always tryin' to open it up again."

"I -" The human looked at Spike, considering, and finally sheathed the sword. "I must confess to you that I am lost, here. I have been separated from my companions and…this place is strange to me."

"No doubt about that, mate," Spike said, and ground the cigarette butt out on his boot-sole - tossed the butt away. *What is it with these do-gooders? Always so trusting. Who in their right mind admits to being lost and alone? Only white hats. Like Xander. HE'S that trusting, the pillock. Get him hurt bad, one of these days.* Spike thought about that for a moment, watching the human across from him. *Not if I have anything to say about it, though* Spike had, almost a year ago, admitted to himself that he fancied the boy. Admitted it and then tried to drown it in a flailing, last-ditch attempt to win Buffy over. If you could call going nuts and chaining his supposed 'love' to a cave wall 'winning over'... But that hadn't worked, and then - Joyce dead, Buffy dead…for a while, he'd almost forgotten there were other people in the world. But Xander had never given up on him - had brought the Niblet to him and finally made him come out - come back to life. Realize that he was over Dru - and Buffy. And he had, finally, admitted to himself that he was - *What? In love? Maybe…not. But…something. Damnit. Humans are nothing but trouble. And Harris - he's double trouble, being a damn Scooby and all… Why do I have to be the only demon on the planet who needs…love? My unlife sucks.* Spike pushed himself off the crypt wall and strode over to the man.

"I need a quick bite, mate, and then I think - we'd better go see a friend of mine. Might have some answers to your problem." The man looked at him - a head-to-foot sort of look, weighing his presence and his reliability, probably…maybe something else, although Spike rather doubted that the man was appreciating the view. *Although he might be. Never know. It's a pretty good view from here.* Spike returned the look, frank in his appreciation of long, hard thighs and narrow hips and waist in worn, battered leather and wool. Took a deep breath, scenting. Woodsmoke and clean sweat, oil and iron and blood. And…something else. Something that was the man himself - a rich mix of earth and green, and a sort of ozone smell that the vampire associated with magic. A tantalizing scent. *Xander always smells like sawdust and chocolate and sunlight…like life.*

"A friend?" The man said, eyebrows raised again, lips turned up in the smallest of smiles, and Spike grinned back, not caring that he'd been caught looking, and looked again, just for a moment. "A friend like…I am your friend? You told that - demon - I was your friend." The man's gaze was steady - his lips still in that slight, sardonic smile and Spike had to laugh.

"Yeah - a good friend who can do some good mojo. And you want to be a friend of the Big Bad around these parts, mate." Spike turned on his heel and walked around the crypt to the doors - pushed them open and went in, listening to the slow and steady heartbeat of the human behind him - hearing the footsteps hesitate at the door and then follow him in. Spike took out his Zippo again and lit a few candles - enough so that the human wouldn't stumble over anything. *Although - there's magic about him. He might not need light any more than I do. But, still - only polite.* Spike rummaged out two bags of blood - human, this week, since he'd had a rather successful run of muggings just lately - and filled his big coffee mug. The one with the Starbucks logo that Xander had 'forgotten' to return to the store when he'd gotten fired. Spike grinned, putting it in the microwave, and glanced over at the other things Xander had 'found'. Or stolen from this or that minimum-wage job. Just little things, like Dollar Store candleholders and a selection of 'damaged' ashtrays. *Nice to know he thinks about me, but… does he THINK about me? I think he does… Gotta find out soon - it's makin' me talk to myself like a 13-year-old girl.* Spike shook his head in disgust at himself, and watched the human wander from point to point in the crypt, examining the forest of unlit candles *More Xander finds. Who knew the boy was a secret jumble-sale addict?* the untidy stack of books and cd's and magazines by the TV - the TV itself.

"This is where you live? In a house of the dead?" The human looked at Spike with an air of disbelief.

"Yeah. Not bad, actually. Quite, most times…dark. Ideal, really, being I'm undead an' all." Spike had turned his back to the man - smirked to himself when there was a sudden intake of breath. And then the slithery sound of the sword coming back out of its sheath.

"Undead?"

"Yeah - vampire, me." Spike turned back around, still grinning, only this time with the demons' face and saw the human standing warily, sword low but ready, watching him.

"Vampire. Why were you killing your own kind?"

"'Cause they were tryin' to kill me. M'not real popular, 'round here, what with me helpin' out the white hats an' all."

"White hats?" The man seemed more puzzled then antagonistic, and twitched just a little when the microwave dinged.

"Yeah. The good guys? I kinda - help out. Don't fancy the world bein' sucked into a demon dimension by some half-assed Hellgod or…anything else. They count on me, you know, to go after the nastier types." *Well, that may be goin' a bit far, but… What he don't know…* Spike turned and got his mug out of the microwave - took a long drink, watching the human. The man seemed to be considering something - then with a glance around him, he re-sheathed the sword.

"You helped me, when you did not have to. And you are being truthful with me. And you told me how to kill - your kind. I believe that I can trust you. For now." The man stepped forward and made a small sort of bow. "And I have not thanked you for coming to my aid. I am in your debt. I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn. Some call me Strider." Spike went back to his human face, made a small bow in return.

"William the Bloody. But those as have brains call me Spike." Spike drained the last of the blood - wiped at his mouth and sucked the resulting smear of blood off his finger. Aragorn watched him, expressionless.

"You missed some," he said, and touched the side of his own mouth. Spike licked out, finding a small drop, and grinned. Aragorn suddenly grinned back.

"This is a strange place, Spike. But interesting. Would that I had time to explore it, but I left my companions in dire circumstances, and I must do everything in my power to return to them. If your - friend - can help, then we must go."

"That we must. Can't wait to see Xan's face…" Spike grabbed the bottle that was stuffed down the side of his recliner and took a long swig of whiskey - offered it to Aragorn. "Cheers, mate." The human sniffed it - sipped it - and grinned right back. They walked, sharing the bottle back and forth, and Aragorn seemed to get more and more - twitchy.

"Here, what's gotten you into such a state? Jack too strong for you?"

"What? I - this Hellmouth, is it near here? I feel…I feel an overwhelming evil." Spike raised his eyebrow, considering.

"Yeah, it's right up here, matter of fact. You want we should - go another way?" Aragorn stood for a long moment, eyes closed; one hand tight on his sword-hilt, the other lightly on a delicate pendant he wore. The silver filigree and jewels seemed to have a glow of their own, and Aragorn calmed after a moment, opening his eyes.

"No, we need not avoid it. It is simply…uncomfortable. Unsettling."

"Yeah." Spike took a last sip from the bottle - tossed it against a wall and watched it shatter. "You get used to it. We demons - we can feel it all the time. But after a while, it kinda…fades."

"I will do my best to disregard it, then. Tell me about this friend - Xan?" Spike grinned, sauntering onward, and Aragorn fell into step beside him.

"Xander. He's just - a mate a mine. It's the other, the Good Witch of the West that can probably help. Tara, she's called. She's got a lotta power - and got brains, too." *Mate. Wonder if he thinks of me that way or… We were together so much, after Buffy died. Watchin' over the Niblet and keepin' Sunnyhell free of nasties… I hated him so much when he brought her back and didn't even tell me…thought, after all that time that he finally trusted me. Guess he felt pretty damn bad, after all was said and done, though. Made up for it, really. Apologized, and started treatin' me like… Like I mattered. And then his demon-lady ups and leaves him, and he's cryin' all over me and what do I do... Get as drunk and do my own cryin'. Thought he'd stake me, maybe, for havin' it off with his Lady Fair but no, he gets pissed at HER… Over me. FOR me. Fuck. I am such a…ponce. But damnit, I all but asked him to wear my pin tonight and he just…* Spike kicked at a rock, hands deep in the pockets of his duster. He'd hoped Xander would invite him in, tonight. Fix him some tea and turn on the TV and then maybe they could have… *What? Shagged? Even though he practically jumped everything with a pulse that summer down in Oxnard don't mean he wants ME. I mean - he was all nervous and babbling, after the movie - didn't even want me to walk him home. I guess I made a fool of myself…not that that would be a first, or anything. Oh no. Bloody pathetic, is what I am, and I ran out of there as fast as he did.* Beside him, Aragorn was looking alertly into an alley, hand tense on his sword-hilt, and Spike cast a glance into the dimness there.

"Hey, Clem," he mumbled, and the sagging-skinned demon emerged from the alley, a cardboard box gripped tightly in his arms.

"Hey Spike. You wouldn't believe my luck! I found this dead cat back here, and guess what? She was a mother! There were five kittens in this nest under a loading dock! They're just old enough to eat real food, so I'm definitely gonna be in on the game next week. You gonna be there?" Spike turned, walking backwards for a few steps.

"Dunno. Teeth is really breathin' down my neck. Haf'ta wait an' see."

"Oh, sure. Hey, you want to take these kittens? Put 'em towards -"

"Nah. That's ok. See ya 'round, Clem." Spike turned around, walking forwards again, and Aragorn spared a long glance over his shoulder at Clem's retreating back.

"What do you do with…kittens?" He asked, and Spike could here the tremor of suppressed laughter in his voice.

"Kitten poker, mate. A…game of chance, unless you have the sense to cheat."

"Ah." Aragorn scratched thoughtfully at his chin, and Spike shivered a little, watching him. *Bet that feels all prickly and…tingly, scrapin' down your back. Wonder if Xander'd ever grow a beard… He looks good without one, but…* Spike clenched his fists so tight that his nails cut into his palms a little. *What the bloody HELL is wrong with me! I need to just - get over it. Sure, Xander was all…hot and bothered tonight, but he was blabbin' on and on 'bout that elf in the movie - gettin' all worked up over that…that blond-haired, blue-eyed… Oh.* Spike suddenly felt as if a ton of bricks had fallen from his shoulders. He straightened up and pulled his hands out of his pockets - put a little slink and roll into his walk, thinking. *Gettin' all worked up over some blond with blue eyes. Sounds damn familiar. Maybe he…* Spike could feel his mouth stretch in a grin of epic proportions and he tried to calm down a little. Beside him, Aragorn seemed to be involved in studying the streets and the route they were taking, and Spike took a moment to look at him. The clothing - leather and what looked like wool and linen - were all worn, patched - used, in a way that would be impossible if this were some…trick. He could see where the leather over-coat had been ripped and carefully sewn back together - could see the truncated ends of what had probably been fringe on the boot-tops - fringe that had been cut off to lace the sword-belt back together. There were scars from hard use and hard fighting all down the heavy bracers he wore, and the mans knuckles were a mass of scars and tiny nicks and scrapes, some half-healed, others new. Everything was well cared for but hard used, and the man himself walked with the supreme confidence of someone whose skills have been tested and proven, time after time. Spike inhaled the rich mix of scents coming off of him, and wondered just how in hell Aragorn, son of Arathorn, had arrived in Sunnydale. He cast back over the events of the evening, and nothing seemed…different. He couldn't remember anything that had been… Wait. *We were walking - talking about the movie…about THIS guy. And there was…something. Smoky. And sharp. I thought it was just - the usual Hellmouth crap…*

"Aragorn, do you remember - how you got here? What happened?" Aragorn glanced over at him, and his hand strayed up to the pendant again, touching it briefly.

"My companions and I - we were in pursuit of a band of…orcs. A - a kind of demon, you might say. They had taken friends of ours, and we were determined to hunt them down. It was just dawn, a blood-red dawn, and I remember Legolas saying it was…an ill omen. And then… I think I remember laughter, some sort of laughter. And a sound of…drums. Then - it was no longer day, but night, and the - vampires - were circling around me, taunting me. And then - you arrived." Aragorn looked down at his hand, where it rested on the sword-hilt; flexed his fingers around the worn leather wrappings and then sighed.

"I hope that your witch friend can help me. I fear for my companions." Spike fished for a cigarette - offered the pack to Aragorn, who took one cautiously. The vampire flicked open his lighter and they both lit up, Aragorn sucking cautiously and making a face at the taste.

"I think she can. She's right smart, our Glinda. What - you don't like?" Spike gestured with his cigarette and took a deep drag. Aragorn flicked the cherry off the end of his and handed it back to Spike, shaking his head.

"It doesn't hold a candle to South Farthing pipe-weed." Spike shrugged and took the cigarette back, tucking it away into the pack.

"Oh - here's Xan's street." Spike took a left, and they walked quickly past three houses. The fourth was Xander and Tara's - a three-story quasi-Victorian that had seen too many students and not enough upkeep. Xander was doing his best, but he needed a crew of at least three and more tools then his tool-box would hold to make any real advances in his 'fixing up'. But he was happy for the break in the rent and the landlady was pleased with his work, so Spike supposed it was a good situation all around. He rather liked Xander's basement apartment - it was dim and cozy and pretty private, and he'd entertained a few fantasies about what they could do in the creaky old iron bed that had come with the place. *Hell, it's all I've wanked off to for the last few months… Picturing him, naked, all spread out on that bed, so quiet, just his voice, beggin' me…* Spike shook his head, snapping himself out of his reverie, and led Aragorn around the side of the house to the basement entrance. They went down the steep, cracked steps, the sharp smell of chrysanthemums heavy in the air. *Damn - it's late. Must be near three - hope he doesn't get pissed.* Spike knocked sharply, and waited. There was a long moment of silence, and then…something. A presence, on the other side of the door. Spike didn't know what it was, but it was magic and otherness, like nothing he'd ever felt. Beside him, Aragorn took in a hard, sudden gasp of air, and Xander's door flew open. Legolas stood there, staring wild-eyed at them, and Spike could only stare back, utterly confounded. He barely even registered a door opening, and then he heard Xander's voice:

"What in hell is going on?"

********************

Xander started awake, heart pounding. *What the -?* He lay frozen in the bed, listening. Had someone knocked? Then, faintly, he heard the rattle of his deadbolt and he was up and out of the bed in seconds - snatched his robe from the back of the door and yanked it on, fumbling for the belt with one hand as he hauled open his bedroom door with the other. There - Legolas at the outside door, swinging it open, and standing there in the moonlight was Spike, looking - utterly confused - *like some Anime kid, all eyes and hair* and standing next to Spike -

"What in hell is going on?" Spike twitched - looked over at him, mouth opening as if to explain, and then Aragorn *Aragorn, for fuck's sake!* was stepping past him, into Xander's house, pulling the dumbfounded elf into a hard embrace. In the moonlight, Xander could see that the expression on the man's face was one of joy and relief and shock, and Xander paused a moment to lap the edges of the robe and tie his belt, glancing from Aragorn to Spike and back. Spike seemed to snap out of his daze and he came inside, as well, shutting the door quietly and setting the deadbolt again.

"Spike?" Xander whispered, and Spike sauntered over to him, grinning now. Aragorn had pulled back - had his hands on Legolas's shoulders, and Xander could see the elf's pale, slender hand resting lightly on Aragorn's cheek.

"What - how - who?" Xander whispered, and Spike chuckled softly.

"Dunno, mate. He was out by my crypt, fightin' off a bunch'a vamps. I told him how to dust 'em and we killed 'em and then - I thought maybe Glinda could help with - this." Spike waved his hand at the two, cigarette trailing smoke. Xander leaned back against the doorframe. Aragorn and Legolas were talking now - soft voices saying something in a lilting, musical language that Xander couldn't understand but would bet anything was Elvish.

"Legolas was here when I got home - outside. He can - can feel the Hellmouth. He said it hurt. I called Tara and she came down and did a protection spell. She said it would block the Hellmouthy vibes."

"Did it work?" Inhale and exhale, eddy of grey-white haze, and Xander wondered when he'd stopped hating the smell of cigarette smoke.

"Yeah - I guess. Legolas said it did. She's gonna talk to Giles after class tomor - well, I guess today, see if he can help with this." Spike frowned.

"Do we really want to get the Watcher in on this, mate? Might be better to just - figure it out ourselves."

"Do you really think that's likely? I mean - how in hell could this happen? I thought it was a - joke, or something, that you -"

"Yeah, blame me, 'course you did -"

"No! I mean - I just thought you'd got somebody to dress up like - you know, just to…" Xander trailed off helplessly and Spike looked at him, pluming smoke like a small and very angry dragon.

"To what? Piss you off?" Xander shoved his hands into his robe pockets - looked over at Aragorn and Legolas who were - *Damn! and wow. And…we should…*

"Spike, uh, why don't we, uh - " Xander jerked his head towards his bedroom and Spike's eyebrow went up, tilt of the head and... *oh hell, THAT means 'gotcha'…*

"Go in your bedroom? Why pet, I never thought you'd ask." That Spike-smirk, the one that said "I'm so sexy even the Pope would give it up to me", and Xander hissed in frustration and grabbed the leather-clad arm nearest him.

"I think they might want some privacy!" Xander barked - whisper-barked, and pushed his bedroom door open, jerking on Spike's arm. Spike frowned - glanced over at the other two, then he did the eyes-wide thing again and Xander did his own not-so-subtle stare as he dragged the vampire through his doorway and into the bedroom. Aragorn and Legolas in a lip-lock were just…

"Fuckin' hell," Spike whispered, craning his neck to see up to the last minute as Xander shut the door. "That was fuckin' hot." Spike grinned and Xander walked over to his bed and flopped down on it, tugging irritably at his robe.

"Yeah, hot. Fuck. What is going on? Legolas said he didn't see anything or hear anything when he - when he came here. Just maybe someone laughing, maybe a wolf howling. No - portals or lightshows or…gloating bad guys. I mean - how could he just appear -!"

"Dunno, mate." Spike looked around for a place to put out his cigarette. The ash was nearly two inches long and Xander was glad that one benefit of probably sixty years of smoking meant Spike could keep the ashes from falling off. Sometimes. After a moment Spike spotted an open can of soda on the dresser and dropped the butt in. There was faint hiss as the soda-dregs doused the cigarette, and then Spike came over and slumped down on the foot of Xander's bed, leaning back against the tall footboard. Xander's bed was one of those old iron bedsteads, and the head and footboards had a curly, leafy sort of pattern, dingy white with dark old metal showing through where it had been chipped.

"I don't think Tara will be able to send them back. I really think we'll have to call Giles in. Maybe he'll…leave Buffy out of the loop, this once."

"Well, first time for everything," Spike grumbled, and he eyed Xander speculatively, head a little to one side and… *Oh fuck, I know what THAT means, too; THAT head-tilt means 'time to embarrass the fuck out of the carpenter'. Damnit. Ok, buck up, little camper. You can only be embarrassed if you LET yourself be embarrassed…*

"Sssoooo, pet…wanna show me your etchings?" Xander blinked.

"Huh?" Spike snorted, grinning.

"I forgot, you're way too young for that. Wanna -" Spike's nostrils flared, and he glanced around the room - noticed the crumpled towel on the chair and his grin went positively wicked, his eyes seeming to gleam with an unholy light. "Wanna finish what you started?" His voice dropped down about two octaves and Xander felt sweat break out under his arms - prickle on his back.

"What do you - I mean, I wasn't…Spike!"

"What?"

"Stop that!" Spike looked up from unlacing his boots, a puzzled expression on his face.

"Why?" Xander sat up, running a hand back through his hair. *Yeah, why? You DO want this, right? All you've been thinking about. And here he is, practically offering it on a silver platter and you - what - want him to stop? Probably just a joke, to him. Just…* Xander twisted the ends of his robe belt in his fingers, wrapping it around and around until the tips of his fingers started to go numb.

"It's just - Spike, I -"

"What, pet?" Silky-soft voice, practically a purr. *Oh damn, oh NO. If he's gonna do that…VOICE…I'm never gonna be able to…explain…* Xander suddenly realized that the thumping was NOT a third boot dropping to the floor, that someone was at this bedroom door, knocking.

"I've got company, Spike!" Xander hissed, and scrambled up, making sure his robe was closed. He opened the door. Legolas stood there, Aragorn a step behind.

"Xander? We are not - disturbing you, are we?" Legolas asked, and Xander shook his head - twitched ever so slightly as Spike came up behind him, cool hand on the small of his back, other hand grabbing the edge of the door and pulling it open further. He'd shed the duster and his arms were bare in the t-shirt - no overshirt, tonight.

"Not yet, anyway," Spike murmured, and Xander took in a long breath.

"No, you're not - its ok. I just wanted to let you guys have some…uh, privacy. Did you need something?"

"I wanted you to meet my companion. This is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. He wishes to thank you."

"Thank - me? Why?" Aragorn put his hand on Legolas' shoulder - moved up closer, so that he could look Xander squarely in the eye. *Man, he's…yeah, a king. It's what he IS. It…SHINES out of him. Wow.*

"Legolas told me of your kind offer to help him - us. And that your friend helped him - gave him relief from the pain of this place. We are both greatly in your debt."

"Oh. Well. I didn't really do anything, it was Tara with the spell, she's the - person of witchy persuasion here… I just - I know you want to get home, and nobody deserves to be stranded on the Hellmouth. We'll figure this out, Aragorn - all of us." Aragorn reached between them and put his hand on Xander's shoulder - squeezed, for a moment, the leather of his glove creaking a little, woodsmoke smell strong in Xander's nostrils.

"You are a true friend, Xander Harris." Aragorn said, and his hand dropped away.

"Spike as well," Legolas said, looking over at the vampire. "Aragorn told me of your - battle, earlier. You saved his life, and for that I am truly grateful." Legolas did that little bow again, hands open at his sides, and Spike shifted a little from foot to foot.

"Oh, well - can't let that bastard Teeth get one up on me. And 'sides, wasn't a fair fight, eight to one and him not knowin' how to kill the vamps. It was fun, though." Xander could hear the grin in Spike's voice, and Aragorn grinned back - an open, pleased expression that showed he enjoyed a little 'ass kicking' as much as Spike did. *Jesus. Two of a kind.*

"Now I think we will - rest. Perhaps we will be able to remember more about how we came here. And in the morning - Legolas said another friend was going to help?"

"Oh, yeah. Giles. He's - he's like super-librarian guy. If it's been written down, he'll find it." Xander ignored the soft snort of derision from Spike - tried to ignore the fingertips that were rubbing in small circles over his back. "Tara is going to t-tell him the whole story tomorrow after class and then we'll - we'll get to work. I don't have much food - just - help yourself to whatever you want, whatever looks good - there's some stuff in the fridge, there - that thing next to the sink? Just - make yourselves at home." Legolas smiled, and Aragorn did, nodding, and Xander stepped backwards into Spike and shut the door.

"Damnit -!"

"What?" Spike was doing the Anime thing again, all innocent and wide-eyed and sex practically oozing out of him and Xander put his hands into his hair and pulled for just a moment, utterly frustrated.

"Spike, what are you - I mean, what do you want?"

"Thought that was obvious, pet," Spike whispered, and Xander watched in fascination as one of the vampire's hands ghosted down his own chest - hip - just missed his groin and settled on the jean-clad thigh, kneading lightly. The jeans left no room for mistakes - the vampire was aroused. *For me. BECAUSE of me? Or because of - damnit. Gotta ask. Ask and you shall… Right.* Xander dragged his gaze back up to Spike's face - to the amused, wolfish expression there, and the glitter of eyes half-closed.

"Spike. Did you - were you coming on to me in the theatre tonight?" Xander couldn't get his voice above a whisper and the robe belt was practically cutting his hands as he twisted it, and he felt himself twitch violently when the vampire's cool, strong hands touched his - pried the belt free of his death-grip and folded both of Xander's hands in his.

"Did my best, pet," Spike said.

"And - and, if I - ssaid I wanted to kiss you, what would you say?"

"I'd say…'bout time, pet." A whisper now, so soft, and *oh god, that smile is… that's the sort of smile he used to give Buffy, that's the smile that says…*

"Would you -"

"Kiss you?" Spike took a step closer, moving his arms out to the sides, one of Xander's wrists in each hand. Another step, and their bodies were touching, just barely, all along their length. Xander gasped softly, twisting his wrists a little, but Spike bent his arms, imprisoning Xander's hands behind his back, the vampire's arms around Xander's ribs. Spike pushed his nose and cheek into Xander's cheek, rubbing softly - brushed his lips lightly over Xander's jaw, cheek, forehead. Xander closed his eyes - felt the soft, cool press of flesh on his eyelids - bridge of his nose - and he whimpered softly.

"Sspike…"

"Mmmm?" Spike pulled Xander a little closer, not letting his wrists go, and Xander felt the hard length of Spike's erection press into his own, a delicious pressure that made him gasp.

"Spike, Spike -" Xander arched into the vampire, and Spike hugged him hard, stilling him.

"Haven't kissed you pet - be patient…" The teasing brush of lips again, cheek and chin and then finally, finally, against his mouth, and Xander's lips parted instinctively. *Fuck, he's gonna drive me crazy, why doesn't he just…ooooh, like that; blood, smoke…sweet, he tastes sweet, rich; burnt sugar and lemon… something…* Xander was shivering all over as Spike's mouth sealed over his - as the vampire's tongue leisurely stroked inside. Licked along his teeth and dipped under his tongue and ran under Xander's lips, tasting every place, exploring every place. Xander pushed his own tongue out, tasting and learning - trying to get deeper into the coolness and wetness and just… Spike pulled back - nip of teeth at Xander's lower lip, and then he was gone and Xander moaned, just a little, opening his eyes. Blue eyes, staring at him, dilated with arousal. A satisfied look, entirely too cat-that-got-the-canary, and Xander tried again to pull his wrists free.

"Did you like that, pet?"

"Let me go, Spike." Spike leaned in again, taking a deep breath, and Xander knew he was scenting him. The smile on those kiss-swollen lips small and sweet.

"Nope. Not gonna let you go, pet." Then they were kissing again, and *oops, he lied* Xander thought as Spike's hands slipped away and came up Xander's back - came up on either side of Xander's skull and held him; long fingers tangling in the dark hair, thumbs rubbing lightly at his temples and tilting Xander's head over just a bit, just a little, better access and going deeper and another moan climbed up out of Xander's throat. He scrabbled at Spike's back - got the edge of Spike's t-shirt out of his jeans and yanked it up - ran his hands up and down Spike's back, ran his nails up and down, and Spike made a little noise himself, then - a kind of whimpering sigh and Xander did it again and again, thrusting his hips forward, trying for more pressure and more contact and suddenly Spike jerked away. He was panting - his eyes were demon-gold and the hands holding Xander's face were trembling.

"Want you - wanna fuck you - taste you - wanna bite you, wanna…god, Xander…want you -" Xander shivered, and his whole body was tingling, throbbing - little shockwaves of pleasure kept racing over him, spiraling out from the cock that was pressed up tight against Spike's and moving over his whole body.

"Oh god, Spike I - I want… But we have to wait, Spike, we have to wait…" *Head-tilt. That's 'what the fuck'. And that twist of the lip is NOT good - *

"Wait for what, pet? Permission? You gotta talk this over with the Scooby gang first? What?"

"No, it's - nothing like that, Spike, I just - I want to - There are people out there, Spike, and in about six hours there's gonna be more people and - and I j-just want to…I wanna make noise and I wanna…keep you in bed all day and…I just want…" The getting-pissed expression faded from Spike's face, to be replaced by…something else. Something soft and a little bit - awestruck, and Xander leaned forward and pressed his lips to Spike's - let his tongue lightly trace the full lower lip and let his teeth close over it - tug a little, gently.

"Oh…" Spike pulled back a fraction. "Really? That's really why - ?"

"Yeah. Oh yeah. I wanna do it right, I wanna…" He kissed again, harder, his hands yanking Spike closer and digging into the denim-clad buttocks, squeezing and rubbing. Spike shuddered all over, his kiss getting more frantic and then he was pulling away, taking a step back, and Xander just stood there, trying to get his breath, his cock so hard it hurt and his head whirling.

"Gonna kill me, pet. Fuck, I want you… Can I just -"

"No - no - gotta wait, Spike, gotta…" Xander took a deep breath and tried to calm himself down - deliberately turned away from Spike and went to the bed - sat down and pushed his pillow up against the headboard, tucking his legs sideways underneath his robe.

"Xanderrr…" Spike swayed a little - shook his head, as if shaking off water, and settled back to his former position at the foot of the bed. He put his legs up on the mattress and stretched them out, his bare toes just touching Xander's knees.

"Think we can do it, then? Wait?"

"Gotta. We gotta, Spike. I - I've been…" Xander stopped, biting his lip. *Do I tell him? Will it…what could it hurt? Besides me? Fuck it.* "I've been…thinking about you. For…a while. "

"Thinking about me, pet? Thinking…how?" Spike's toes went back and forth, back and forth, across Xander's knee, and he felt himself scoot forward infinitesimally, trying for more contact.

"Well, I… When you told me about - you know - Buffy and all that, that night I… I just realized that… I really - liked - you. That I had for a while." Xander shifted again, and Spike's toes were kneading at him, rubbing over his knee and shin. *Fuck, I sound like Dawn or something. This is stupid. He doesn't…*

"Yeah? Like you too, pet." Little shift from Spike - creak of the bed- and his toes were creeping up Xander's thigh now. Xander watched, fascinated, as they wormed their way under the edge of his robe.

"You - you do? I mean… Spike, I - " Xander shivered, looking up and catching an expression on Spike's face. Lust, and need, and…possessiveness, a kind of child's greedy hunger when it sees a new toy or an ice-cream, and suddenly Xander put his hands down on the wriggling toes, squeezing them a little.

"Spike, what - what does that mean. What do you…want? From - me?" Spike was propped on his elbows now, and his feet wiggled in Xander's grip - burrowed a little, brushing naked flesh under the robe.

"I want…you, pet." Spike looked - pissed. And maybe a little…scared? *The Big Bad, afraid of… what? Telling me he…LIKES me? Or…what? I mean…I'm not in love. Am I? Is he? Fuck.*

"Ok…you want me, I want you, I mean, who wouldn't want you…" Xander rubbed his fingers over Spike's foot - over the delicate bones on top and the rigid column of the Achilles' tendon. Circled the rather slim ankles with his hands and held them. He almost missed the mumbled response from Spike.

"What?"

"I said, plenty of people who didn't want me, pet. But you do. And… That feels - good. Feels good to be…wanted." Spike's eyes were dark with arousal, but they were also…a little sad. A little wary. And he was looking at Xander with his head a little to one side, and with his mouth held in a faint frown, and Xander knew what that was saying…even though this was a totally new expression. *That means…don't hurt me any more than you have to and oh GOD, I don't want to, I really don't… Don't hurt me either, Spike, please don't…*

"Yeah. I want you…right here. In my bed. With me, all day, just…curled up and kissing and…" Xander ran his fingers up under Spike's jean-legs, rubbing the sparse hairs along his shins, feeling the tight, hard muscle of the calves. Digging his knuckles in a little, and Spike shifted and sighed, eyes half-shut.

"Want you here too. Been thinkin' about that. Thinkin' how I wanna wind your wrists up in soft, white rope. Wanna tie 'em over your head…wanna taste every bit of your skin and wanna taste your blood…wanna put my mark on you, pet, while you twist and beg and fight that rope… Wanna put my mark on you for you - secret ones under you clothes so nobody knows except you; every time you move or touch you feel the ache… Wanna put 'em on you for me, pet, where everybody can see…bruise you with my mouth, with my body…" Xander felt his eyes close - felt his body arch up into the pressure of Spike's feet on his thighs - felt his hands digging into Spike's calves as that voice, so low and so rough, half growl and half lullaby, stroked over his body and over his nerves and made him sigh; made him shiver and take in air in breathless little pants. Suddenly Spike's feet were pulling away and Xander felt Spike's hands on his wrists again - tugging them apart and pulling him down and Xander found himself on his back, feet dangling off the bed, Spike kneeling over him and his hands against the mattress, pushed deep into the softness there.

"Just like this, yeah, just like this... Would you let me, Xander?" Spike's mouth, an inch from his ear - closer. Spike's lips just brushing his temple, Spike's cheek against his, and Xander drew in a hitching, needy breath, writhing and twisting under the delicious, immovable weight.

"Oh, yeah, I'd...Spike, yeah, you could do…anything, fuck…do something, Spike…" Spike's groin was tight to his - hard cock and denim grinding down onto Xander's groin, his robe half-open and the friction of the jeans and the robe was good but it wasn't enough, not nearly enough, and Xander got his feet on the edge of the mattress and pushed up, gasping. Spike's mouth was on his then, hard and devouring, invading. Taking his breath away, making his head reel and he arched up again, his hands useless in the vampire's grip, his body moving in one deep, rolling undulation, again and again, the sensation in his belly close to pain it was so exquisite and so strong and so… *Oh now, oh please, please, PLEASE*

And then Spike was gone - totally gone, and Xander's hands twisted in his covers, trying so hard… *Gotta wait, wanna wait, oh GOD, can't, can't…*

"Xanderrr…do it. Touch yourself, pet, just…let me see you, let me…" Spike's voice, hoarse and barely audible, and Xander opened his eyes and Spike was standing right there, his own hands rubbing slowly up and down, up and down over his groin, his eyes gleaming gold. The tip of his tongue came out, licking over his lower lip, and Xander pushed his robe open - took his cock in his hands with a sort of sobbing groan,.

"Thought about you, before. Was thinking about you when…god, Spike, was thinking about you in me, taking me, just…pushing and…" Xander closed one hand around his cock, stroking slowly, and Spike's hands pressed tighter into himself. Xander held his other hand out, two fingers together. "Need 'em to be wet, Spike, can you -" Spike stepped closer - put his knees on either side of Xander's legs, pressing into the edge of the mattress and leaning forward. He put his mouth on the tips of Xander's fingers - let his tongue snake out and run down the length and then he sucked the fingers into his mouth, friction of teeth and rasping tongue and suction, and Xander arched up convulsively, feet together and letting his knees spread wide.

"Oh god oh yeah, fuck, that's…" Spike slid his mouth off Xander's fingers, trailing teeth and tongue lightly from base to tip, and Xander shivered - reached down and pressed them to himself - pressed in, both at once, his breath catching on a hitching gasp and Spike growled, hovering there. The vampire's own hands tearing at the buttons of his jeans, yanking the material aside and freeing himself. Wetness there, and rigid, pale flesh, and Xander came up hard, twisting his fingers deep inside, pumping ruthlessly with his other hand, his eyes fixed on Spike, only Spike.

"That's you, in me, that's y-you, pushing in and f-fucking me and making me…scream, Spike, wanna…ssscream for - " Xander bit his lip, hard, and his orgasm was like nails down his back, like an electric shock that made his muscles go hard and quivering and his hips buck mindlessly up into nothing, into himself and it was enough but it wasn't enough and then *Oh FUCK what is -* Spike's mouth was on the tip of his cock and catching it all, sucking and sweep of tongue and Xander ground his teeth together in an effort to be silent, the motion of his hands furious and ragged. Spike's hand, pushing against his, pushing his own fingers up inside, harder and deeper. After what seemed forever it was over, and Xander collapsed flat on the bed. Spike drew back slowly, leaning both hands on the mattress on either side of Xander's hips, breathing hard.

"Christ, Xander, that was…you are…" Xander opened his eyes - slid bonelessly forward and off the bed, catching Spike's hips in his hands when the vampire tried to step away.

"Just let me, wanna taste you -" Xander ran his tongue up Spike's cock - base to tip - then took the head of it into his mouth. He savored the taste there for a moment, the pre-come that was *oh, like I thought, blood and dark chocolate, sweet and sin, good, so good* He wound his arms around Spike's hips and pulled him close and went down, as far as could - almost all the way - and Spike growled again, hands in Xander's hair, tugging and twisting and Xander pulled against the little sparks of pain, just a bit, loving it. He sucked hard, scrape of teeth and fluttering tongue and Spike's hips were bucking into him, Spike's belly was heaving and his hands were like a vise and then he was coming, stuttering flood of cool liquid. Xander swallowed and swallowed - ran his nails up Spike's ribs and over a nipple - dug them into the vampire's spine, and Spike cried out, immediately choking it off, one hand leaving Xander's hair. After long moments it was over, and Xander pulled slowly away, licking every trace of the fluid off, inhaling the lemon and musk and sweet that was Spike's scent. He looked up, and Spike was gazing down at him, dazed, his mouth a little bloody - his arm bloody where he'd bitten himself, stifling that cry.

"God, that was…good," Spike whispered, and Xander grinned and pushed at him a little - got him to take a wobbly step back. Xander heaved himself up onto the bed, feeling as if he'd run a marathon. His limbs were heavy and he felt a delicious, warm languor stealing over him.

"Yeah, that was…" Spike leaned down and kissed him, and for a moment they were lost in that, and then he gently pushed the boy down onto the bed, tugging him around a little and getting his feet up, wrestling with the covers until he could get them out from under. Xander struggled up onto his elbows and shrugged the robe off - yanked at it and finally got it off him.

"Ooh, sooo tired now. C'mon to bed, Spike," Xander murmured, and Spike stood there for a moment - pushed his jeans down and off and stripped off the t-shirt, then climbed over Xander and slid under the covers with him. Xander turned over and pushed at Spike.

"Lay on your other side, I wanna get behind you." Spike snorted, twisting over, and Xander curled up tight behind him, fitting himself to every part of the vampire, putting his arm over Spike's ribs and tucking his hand under his chin - sliding the other under the pillow. Spike put his own arm under the pillow and grabbed Xander's hand in his - wriggled a little and pressed himself firmly into the mortal, and sighed.

"This is lovely, pet. So lovely…" Spike whispered, and Xander kissed the soft skin at the nape of his neck and then sighed as well, long and deep, and settled to sleep. In moments, they were both drifting away, sated and content.

*God, that was…can't wait to do it right, can't wait…my Spike, hmmmm…* and Xander was gone.

 

There was a steady, rocking pressure on his shoulder, and Xander twitched away from it - flinched when his phone rang, right near his ear. He jerked his head up, blinking around the dimness of his bedroom. Aragorn was standing over him, one glove-clad hand on his shoulder, the other holding the phone.

"I am sorry, Xander, but this keeps making - noise. I thought that it might be important."

"Oh, yeah…sorry. I should have - brought it in here last night." Xander reached up and grabbed the phone - turned it on and tried to wiggle his left arm out from under Spike. It had gone to sleep and was a dead weight.

"Hello?"

"Xander! Th-thank gods. I've been c-calling you for ten minutes, I thought something ha-had hap-p-pened to you!"

"Hey, Tara. No, I'm fine, I just - forgot about the phone and couldn't hear it, stayed up kinda late, you know?" Aragorn was watching him with a wide-eyed look of curiosity and amazement, and Xander finally managed to yank his arm free and sit up. It flopped against his thigh, very faintly tingling with pins and needles, and Xander tucked the phone under his chin and tried to rub some life into it, wincing a little.

"Where are you? Is class over?"

"It's almost e-eleven o'clock, Xander. I'm at the Magic Box. Mr. Giles is…" There was a fumbling, and then Giles voice, sounding a little harassed.

"Xander, I really don't think that this sort of - of prank is -"

"It's not a prank, Giles! Look, this is for real, and we need your help. How about - how about we come over there, ok? I've got my car, and we can all fit. We'll just come over there and you can -"

"Xander, I'm actually extremely -"

"Giles! Just - give me a chance, ok? This is real." There was a long moment of silence, and Xander flexed his arm, shaking it a little. Aragorn watched him, a small smile on his face. A long sigh from Giles.

"Alright, Xander, we'll be here doing real research into real problems. Come over whenever you're ready."

"Thanks Giles." Xander clicked the phone off - shook his arm hard. "Right, ok. That was our other friend, Giles. He's - he's having a little trouble with - all this."

"So I gathered." Aragorn looked at him for a long moment - settled gently on the edge of the bed. Spike shifted a little, his leg moving, and Xander unconsciously put his hand out and stroked the bare shoulder next to him. "We aren't causing you any…problems, are we Xander? With your friends."

"Oh - no. Not really. Giles is just - well, he's very skeptical, you know? And this is kinda…strange, even for here. So, you know…" Xander finished uncertainly, and Aragorn smiled at him.

"I understand, Xander. I have seen things in my life that many would not believe to hear the tale of. I'm sure he will help, in the end."

"Bloody well better." Spike lifted his head, glaring over at Aragorn and then at the phone. "Bloody Watcher." Spike twisted under the covers, turning and coiling sinuously around Xander's legs. "Come back down here, pet, m'not through with you…" Spike mumbled, and Xander sucked in a breath in startlement when he felt cool lips and tongue on his hip-bone.

"Spike! Uh - we need to - we need to get going, you know? Go over to the shop and - and see if Giles can help us." Xander felt the blood rushing to his face and he glanced helplessly at Aragorn - was not reassured by the amused smirk that he saw there.

"I will put this - back, and then…" Aragorn's voice trailed away and he rose, taking the phone with him, walking silently out the door and shutting it behind him. Xander grabbed a handful of Spike's hair and jerked his head back, scowling at the vampire. Spike grinned back, one hand behind Xander's back and rubbing up his spine, the other between Xander's thighs, inching upwards.

"C'mon, pet, we've got time for a quick -"

"NO! I mean - no." Xander lowered his voice to a hissing whisper. "We don't have time for a quick anything and I don't want a quick…anything. Wanna take my time, remember? We gotta get going." Spike frowned a little - leaned over and kissed Xander's belly.

"Yeah - you're right, pet. So - gotta go see the Watcher, eh? "

"Yeah." Xander sighed and reluctantly let Spike go as the vampire rolled away and slid out of bed.

"Mind if I take a shower, pet? All that hot water's callin' me…"

"I don't mind…" *Vampire in my shower. Oh yeah. Wonder if I could join...ooooh…* Spike was stretching - reaching to the ceiling, legs a little apart, hands curling. He relaxed out of it, lowering his head and sending Xander a look of utter want. Xander felt his cock stirring - took a deep breath.

"You just - go on and shower and I'll - step in right after you. Gotta…hurry."

"Whatever you say, pet," Spike murmured, and sauntered out of the bedroom. Xander sat for a minute then his mind clicked over. *He just walked out there nude and fuck, I made scratch-marks up his back - way to be discreet…* Xander scrubbed his hands back through his hair - stood up and grabbed Spike's jeans and t-shirt, then got fresh clothes for himself. He shrugged on his robe and went hesitantly out into the living room. Aragorn and Legolas were out in the yard, sitting cross-legged in the shade of the chinaberry tree. Legolas seemed to be doing something to an arrow, and Aragorn was sharpening his sword - long, slow strokes of a whetstone. They were talking - smiling - and Legolas leaned over and gave Aragorn a soft, quick kiss, ducking his head a little. Xander felt a smile on his own face, and he turned to the bathroom door. It was half-open, steam eddying out, and Xander could hear water splashing. *They look comfortable together. And happy. I wonder if…me and Spike…fuck, what'm I gonna do about Giles? Do I - do WE - tell him? I don't wanna pretend…but I don't wanna get yelled at either. Well, fuck. Isn't he worth getting yelled at?* Xander stepped into the bathroom and shut the door. Spike was standing under the shower spray, curtain half-open; hands in his hair, shampoo foam running and dripping down his chest and over his stomach. *Oooh yeah, worth getting yelled at, worth it, worth it, worth it. I can always tell Giles about Buffy and THAT should shut him up.* Feeling a little…Bad…himself, Xander brushed his teeth, almost missing the sink when he spat because he was physically unable to tear his eyes away from Spike, who was dreamily soaping himself for the second time, eyes half-shut and that cat-content smile on his lips.

"Spiiike. You're gonna use up all the hot water."

"Thought you might join me pet." Spike rinsed, watching Xander fiddle with the belt of his robe.

"I can't. We'd never get out of the damn bathroom. We just gotta wait…a little longer." Spike stepped out of the shower - shook his head, rather like a wet dog, spraying the room with water.

"Spike!"

"Best get in there before it gets cold, don't you think?" Spike grabbed a towel and slung it around his shoulders - grabbed Xander's toothbrush out of the cup and squeezed some paste onto it.

"Hey! That's mine!"

"Yeah? So? Think where we had our mouths last night, pet. Not like we aren't sharin' our cooties or whathaveyou already." Xander frowned, then shrugged, and hung his robe up.

"Fine. Just don't get toothpaste all over the mirror." Spike growled and snapped foamy tooth-paste fangs, looking even more doggish - mad doggish - and Xander laughed and stepped into the shower - almost shrieked.

"Damnit! This is cold!"

"Told you to hurry, pet." Spike laughed into his cup of water and almost choked - rinsed and spat and then watched Xander do a hasty wash-up while he dabbed at himself with the towel. Xander ducked his head under the spray, gasping - scrubbed shampoo out of his hair and shut the water off. A towel smacked him in the face.

"Thanks. I brought your clothes."

"Ta, mate." Xander dried off while Spike wriggled into his jeans and t-shirt, then stepped over and bent Xander back in a hard, deep kiss that literally took his breath away. Spike finally pulled away, smiling, his blue eyes alight with laughter.

"Morning, pet," he murmured, and wandered out, leaving the bathroom door open. Xander wiped off the mirror and looked at himself - couldn't stop the incredibly huge, incredibly goofy smile that lit up his whole face. *Vampire in my shower, vampire in my bed. I don't care what Giles says, or Willow or anybody. He's STAYING. MY vampire.*

*****************************

 

 

They crowded into Xander's battered old LTD, Spike sulking in the back seat. It was darker back there, but still - he'd wanted to curl up under his blanket by Xander - maybe get his head over into his lap and…

But no, stuck in the backseat with a perfectly edible human who, on any other occasion, he would have at least tried to cop a feel from. But now…it was Xander in his head, in his blood - in his mouth, taste of him, and Spike just wanted to figure this thing out and go home, go to Xander's house and…stop waiting.

Xander was talking about breakfast, and Denny's, of all places.

"Cant' go there, pet - think what'd happen, these two in there. Go to Anton's."

"They don't have pie at Anton's, Spike!"

"Dunno 'bout that, but they do have a shady entrance and a selection of blood types. I'm a bit peckish, here…" Silence.

"Oh. Right. Ok. Yeah, Anton's is probably better. Don't need anything…crazy happening. Crazier." They drove for ten more minutes and then they were parking and Spike made the dash to Anton's deeply shadowed door, folding his blanket up and shoving it under his arm as the others crossed the asphalt at a more leisurely pace. Aragorn and Legolas were gazing around them in rapt curiosity and Spike wished for a moment they could stay - that he could show them some of the more interesting parts of the 21st century. Xander brought up the rear, and grinned at him over Aragorn's head, and Spike grinned back.

Inside was a low-ceilinged room with a collection of rickety tables and mis-matched chairs. A couple of alcoves even held squashy, worn couches for those whose anatomies worked better reclining. About fifteen demons - maybe six or seven types - were scattered at various tables through the room, eating what passed for breakfast. Spike grinned at the waitress - a slight, shaggy Worthor - and made his way to a table. He sat down and felt a little frission of desire go over him as Xander sat next to him, knee and shoulder just brushing his as the mortal adjusted his chair and stretched his arm to get a menu. Aragorn and Legolas settled as well, and watched Xander peruse the selections. The Worthor bustled up, armed with a coffee pot.

"Caw'ee?" she asked, her doggish muzzle slurring the word. Xander glanced up and nodded.

"Yeah, coffee for me. Ummm…do you guys think you want any coffee?" Aragorn seemed to be sniffing the air, and he raised an eyebrow - made a sort of one-shouldered shrug.

"I will try it. It smells…interesting."

"I think I would rather that tea, again." Legolas said, and Spike nodded.

"Yeah - tea for me as well, missus." The Worthor poured coffee out for Xander and Aragorn and bustled away, and Xander put the menu down.

"So - what sort of a food do you want? They do breakfast here all day, so you can get, you know, eggs and stuff, pancakes. Or a sandwich, soup -"

"What are you having?" Aragorn asked, looking at his own menu. He was holding it upside down.

"What's he not having? Boy eats like a Fyarl after hibernation." Xander poked Spike in the ribs.

"Stop that. I'm gonna have pancakes and poached eggs on toast and bacon and…ummm…hash browns and…they do fresh fruit here, so fruit cup, and…" He picked the menu up again. "Ooooh! They do have pie! Hrmmm…. Never heard of that kind of pie. Ahh - blueberry. Blueberry pie…" He glanced up at Aragorn's amused expression and put the menu back down.

"I'm a growing boy. Gotta eat a good breakfast. 'Sides, Spike is paying."

"Oi!"

"I know, for a fact, that you ripped off that nest we found the other day - and I also happen to know that they had been ripping off the gas stations out on Highway 101. So don't act like you don't have any cash, 'cause I know you do, and I paid for the movie last night so you can get breakfast." Spike glared at Xander - reached into his duster and pulled out smokes and lighter and lit up. Deliberately blew a lungful of smoke at Xander, who flicked coffee at him.

"Stop that! Fine, I'll pay. Get whatever you want. But you'll owe me." Spike let his voice drop - let his eyes go half-shut, staring straight at Xander and was rewarded with a sudden flush and a delicious wave of scent from him. Spike grinned and took a long drag, and the Worthor was back with little pots of tea for himself and Legolas. She put them down and the pulled out pad and pen and stood poised, looking expectantly at them.

"Oorder?"

"Yeah - I'll start…" Xander gave his order, then looked over at Aragorn, who shrugged and pushed his menu away.

"Why not? The same, if you please," he said. Legolas was stirring his tea, and he glanced up at the Worthor.

"I think…fruit? Only fruit, please." Spike took a last drag and crushed his cigarette out. "Waffles, missus, and sausage and a couple pints of something…A, if you've got it, O if you don't."

"Toassst? Muu'in? "

"Oh. Toast." The Worthor nodded and then grinned at them, long fangs and curling tongue, and Aragorn twitched just a little. They'd been persuaded to put their weapons in the trunk of the car - daylight, and the possibility of being pulled over made it more practical - and Spike could see that Aragorn was a little nervous without them.

"No worries, mate. She's just bein' polite. Human-types, we smile, you know?" Aragorn raised an eyebrow - nodded, and the reached for his coffee. He took a careful sip and grimaced.

"This is…"

"Disappointin' ain't it? Never tastes as good as it smells."

"You need to put sugar and stuff in it," Xander said, pouring three packets into his own. Spike made a disgusted noise and grabbed the bottle of honey off the table.

"What's the point in gettin' it if you're just gonna turn it into sugar-sludge? Might as well get a…milkshake, or somethin'."

"I need something to wake me up. Besides, this way it tastes like caramel, kind of." Spike snorted, drinking his tea, and Aragorn watched Xander - added sugar to his own cup and tried again.

"It is…different, like this." Legolas sniffed it with the air of a cat being offered dry kibble when he can smell the fresh tuna, and sipped at his own drink.

"I believe it must be a human thing, Aragorn."

"But - he is human… Isn't he?" Xander looked up from his coffee, and Aragorn shifted in his seat a little.

"Not - precisely. I am…Dunadan - a Man of the West. We are mostly human." Xander just stared at him - jumped a little when Spike kicked him under the table.

"Right. Well, that's cool. Human or not, doesn’t matter, I guess…" Xander kicked back at Spike and Spike trapped the boy's ankle between his own - pulled his leg over a bit and let his hand fall casually down onto the thigh that was now pressed into his. He started a slow massage, up and back, keeping mostly to the top. Xander shivered in his seat - slumped down a little, his eyes going wide and then closing in a long blink. Spike smirked into his tea - let his fingers creep a little further around, going for the sensitive inner thigh and Xander squeaked.

"Eh?" Spike said, looking lazily over at him, and Xander shot him a wild, annoyed look.

"N-nothing. Spike!"

"Oh - sorry - that your foot?" Spike shifted a little in his chair, pulling Xander's leg over further, and letting his fingers just trace the crease between hip and thigh - pressing down into the warm denim. Xander twitched again - looked up thankfully as the Worthor came back, bearing a tray of food. *As if that'll change anything. Must have somebody with a little magic doin' the cooking. That was fast* Spike smirked to himself. The Worthor put the various plates down - put down a selection of syrups and then Spike's blood in a thermal pot. Spike watched Xander try to maneuver salt and syrup and utensils while trying to ignore Spike's hand, which was rubbing lightly over his groin now. Spike himself easily poured blood into his empty tea-cup - managed the syrup and then drizzled blood over the waffles as well. Aragorn glanced at him, that sardonic little smile tilting the corners of his mouth. Legolas was also watching him.

"That is blood - human blood?" Spike cut a bite of waffle - lifted it.

"Yeah. It is." He ate the waffle, watching Legolas. The elf watched back.

"Xander is right. I don't think you're really evil," Legolas said, and Spike almost choked on his waffle.

"What?" Beside him, Xander twitched, and Spike realized he had maybe grabbed a little too hard. He slid his hand down Xander's thigh and gripped the boy's knee.

"He said that you helped to - save the world? And took care of his friends - saved their lives. His life. I don't think you could be evil, and do that. I was - reluctant to trust you. But Xander - and Aragorn - seem to have faith in you, so I will also." Legolas picked up a strawberry and bit into it, and beside him Aragorn was smiling.

"Talkin' about me, eh pet?" Spike decided to ignore the 'not evil' comment - they would discuss that later - and focus instead on the fact that Xander had been talking about him. To a total stranger. He grinned. Xander put his head in his hands, fork sticking up in the air.

"Yes. I was talking about you. I do that sometimes, not-so-evil-undead. I was telling Legolas and Tara that in reality you're a fluffy little cuddly vampire who wouldn't hurt a fly. Happy now?" Spike snorted - let his hand trail back up Xander's leg and settle over the growing erection under the jeans.

"We'll talk about this later, pet." Spike watched Xander shiver and he went back to his breakfast, smirking. Aragorn was smiling down at his plate, eating pancakes, and Legolas seemed to be enjoying his honeydew melon just a little too much. Of course, they were both eating one-handed, as well. Spike finished his food and leaned back, sipping the last of his blood. Xander was still working on the pie, and Legolas was studying the various tin signs and old posters that plastered the cheaply paneled walls - ad's for Coke and Twenty-Mule-Team Borax and old signs from gas stations and soda shops. He watched their waitress struggle by under a tray of what appeared to be live insects and looked at Spike.

"How is it that we can be here and not be attacked? Demons are not usually…friendly."

"Anton's is kinda…neutral. Like this bar - call it a pub - Willy's. Everybody needs someplace to just - sit, get a drink, get a bite. If anybody busts up the place, everybody else kinda - pays 'em back, you know? Nobody wants to put this place outta business." Legolas nodded - drank the last of his tea.

"It's sensible. But it would not be tolerated, elsewhere. What a strange place this is."

"Aye. And even though it would be intriguing to explore here, I fear for those we left behind. Do you truly think your friends can help us?" Aragorn leaned over the table, coffee cup in hand, looking at Spike and then Xander, his expression serious. Xander pushed his empty pie plate aside and wiped his mouth. His hands fell into his lap - one landing on Spike's. Spike laced their fingers together, squeezing just a little.

"I know that Giles and Tara will help - they'll do whatever they can. I can't - guarantee they'll find a solution, but they'll do their very best. Your - friends - will be alright, I'm sure." Xander said. Aragorn put his cup down and sighed.

"I hope they will be. I know that you'll try - it's all we ask."

"Yeah," Xander said softly, and he squeezed Spike's hand back - looked over at the vampire. His eyes were hopeful - a little sad, and Spike smiled. Took a chance and leaned forward, placing a soft kiss on lips that were sweet with syrup and blueberries.

"Don't fret, love. We'll chivvy that Watcher into something extra-good, you'll see. We'll fix it." Xander smiled back - returned the kiss, fleetingly.

"Yeah. We'd - better get going. It's after noon, already."

"Right." They all rose, and Spike walked over to the counter to pay - tipped the little Worthor and winked at her, then followed the others outside. Xander made a 'wait here' motion and got in his car - drove it over close to the door so Spike wouldn't have to run across the parking lot. *That's my boy, thinkin' of me* Spike draped himself in his blanket and slid into the backseat, and they drove in silence to the Magic Box. Xander parked in the back and Spike made another dash, darting in through the back door. Xander was right behind him, and then Legolas and Aragorn. Spike folded his blanket - tossed it down - and turned to see Tara come around the corner. She stopped abruptly, her eyes going wide, and Spike realized she hadn't known about Aragorn. Giles rounded the corner as well, head down in a book, and only stopped when he stumbled into the witch. He frowned - looked up - and gaped at them.

"Good lord." Spike lit a cigarette and smirked.

"Got a couple people for you ta meet, Watcher."

 

**************************

 

Four hours - four hours - and Xander was going out of his mind. Tara and Giles were still pouring over books - Tara had done some spell that had told them another spell had been used, and they were looking for what spell, exactly. Aragorn and Legolas were trying sporadically to help, but few of the ancient human or demon languages were familiar. Xander had read dusty texts until his head had started to pound, and Spike had read until Giles had told him pointedly to piss off, as he was being annoying. Spike had grinned and gathered up the elf and the almost-human, and they had gone in the back to spar. Since neither of them were human, the chip didn't notice them and Spike was having a blast. Aragorn could take a hit better than Buffy, even, and Legolas was faster than the vampire - but not as versed in sneaky tricks. So far, the score seemed pretty even, with Aragorn suffering bruised ribs and a cut over his cheek, Spike with a nasty slash to his knuckles - it was nearly healed - and a split lip, and Legolas... Well, Legolas looked as if he hadn't been fighting for an hour and half, and didn't seem to even be slightly out of breath. *Magical elf constitution. Damn. He'd be great to have on the team if they...* Xander stopped, shaking his head, and shifted a little on the old couch Giles kept in the training room. They would find a way to send them back. It had only been four hours - Giles and Tara could do it. Xander got up and wandered over to the heavy bag - bunched his fists and did a little right left right-right, not hitting very hard as he hadn't taped his hands. After fifteen minutes he'd worked up a little sweat and was hitting harder, not really noticing the sting across his knuckles. There was a thud somewhere behind him and he danced around the bag, looking. Spike was sprawled on the floor, grinning, and Legolas stood over him, holding out his hand.

"My apologies -"

"No worries, mate. Haven't had a work-out like this since...since I tangled with that H'hyg nest." Spike took Legolas's hand - started to sit up and then did a move - a sort of roll and kick at the same time, and Legolas went over the vampire's head, thud onto the floor. Spike bounced to his feet, his grin positively incandescent, and Aragorn tackled him from behind. There was a brief flurry of limbs and fists and then they were both sprawled near the heavy-bag, panting. Xander looked down at them, laughing, and did another punch combination.

"You guys are a mess." Spike smirked at him. Legolas stood up and brushed himself off - came over and hauled Aragorn to his feet, lightly touching the new bruise on the man's jaw. "I need a drink," Aragorn said, slinging his arm around Legolas's waist.

"We've got some soda in the fridge - I'll get you one. Spike? Want anything?"

"Want something..." Spike said, leering at him, and Xander flushed and stepped over Spike's sprawled legs - narrowly missed falling as Spike grabbed his ankle.

"Drink?" Xander asked, a little breathlessly, and Spike licked his split lip, slowly, his eyes fixed on Xander's.

"Sure, pet. Drink," Spike said, and Xander felt a jolt of arousal in his belly - in his cock. Spike took in a deep breath and grinned, shutting his eyes. His fingers slipped off Xander's ankle and Xander stumbled away towards the little kitchenette he'd helped Giles install. Hot-plate, fridge, sink - minimal, but functional. He opened the 'fridge and looked at his choices. No-name ginger ale, no-name cola, no-name diet cola *shudder* grape Crush, and a lone Mountain Dew. While Xander pondered, Aragorn wandered up behind him, looking over his shoulder.

"Very colorful," he said, and Xander smiled over at him.

"Yeah - so - what do you want? Or - trust me?" Aragorn eyed the cans - looked at Xander's widening grin and sighed.

"I trust you, of course." His smile was sardonic and Xander giggled - reached for a grape Crush and the Mountain Dew.

"Here - grape for you - does Legolas want any?"

"We'll share." Aragorn said, and Xander smirked.

"Alright then - here you go." Xander handed over the can - demonstrated the pull-tab to Aragorn and took a long drink of the Mountain Dew. Aragorn opened his can - lifted it to his nose and recoiled in surprise as the freshly-opened-soda fizz hit him in the face. He took a cautious sip and choked slightly.

"Sugar, fake grape flavor, bubbles. Drink of kings." Xander joked, and Aragorn gave him a full-on grin - turned and looked at Legolas, who was examining the rack of weapons along the back wall.

"Legolas will hate it," he said cheerfully, and strode across the floor, can held out. Xander giggled again and went back over to the heavy-bag where Spike was still sprawled, supple as a cat, on the floor. His eyes were closed and one hand rested lightly on his chest, the other tucked behind his head like a pillow. Xander flopped down next to him and put the cold soda can on the strip of exposed stomach that was showing between jeans and rucked-up t-shirt. Spike jerked and opened his eyes, demon-yellow and narrow.

"Tosser," he said, and Xander took another drink - reached out with his other hand and rubbed the now-damp skin, warming it up.

"Wanna drink?"

"I hate that shite." Spike sat up and snagged the can - took a long, long drink and grimaced. "Gah."

"Didn't have to drink it."

"You didn't bring me anything else." Spike pointed out, and flopped back down, this time scooting around so that his head was on Xander's thigh. He closes his eyes and sighed, appearing content, the can balanced on his hip. Xander stared at him, propping himself on his left hand. He hesitated for a long moment and then reached out and gently stroked his fingers through Spike's hair. Xander didn't have any hair products at his house, so instead of the usual gel-infused 'do, Spike's hair was softly waved over his head; suprisingly long strands falling over his forehead and curling around his ears and the nape of his neck. It was... *Cute. And hot. And...feels nice. So soft...* Xander lazily combed his fingers through and through Spike's hair, gently running his nails over the vampire's scalp, tugging ever so slightly at the ends. Spike lay absolutely motionless, but after a long moment a low, breathy rumble ghosted up out of chest and Xander's hand stopped moving. *What the hell-?* Spike cracked open one eye - blue, now - and stared up at him.

"Why'd you stop?"

"What is - are you - purring?" Xander felt a giggle coming on and stifled it as Spike frowned, shifting a little.
"What if I am? Feel's good. Do it some more." He shut his eye, wiggling around a little, and after a moment Xander went back to stroking his hair. The purr started again, low and choppy as a badly-tuned motor, and Xander grinned. That same loopy grin from that morning, he could tell. He glanced across the room at Aragorn and Legolas. They had sprawled down onto the pile of exercise mats in the corner, Aragorn on his belly, Legolas cross-legged. They seemed to be talking softly, and Aragorn was turning the soda can idly in his hands.

*This is...I like this. I like this a LOT. Maybe Spike DOES like me. Maybe... I wonder how Giles and Tara are doing? I hope Buffy doesn't come in here, ruin everything. She'll yell at Spike and...and probably try to stake him. Act like I don't have any sense and try to...'fix' it. Damnit. Why'd she have to...* Xander closed his eyes, his fingers unintentionally pulling a little too hard on Spike's hair, and he jerked, startled, when he felt cold fingers on his cheek. He opened his eyes. Spike had switched the soda-can to his other hand and was looking at Xander, inhumanly blue eyes wide and a little concerned.

"What is it, pet?"

"Oh, I'm - sorry, Spike." Xander untangled his hand from Spike's hair - soothed the abused head and Spike ghosted his fingers over Xander's jaw - his lips -let his hand drop. "I was just...hoping that..." Xander sighed, looking away, and Spike sat up. He turned around, settling cross-legged, his knees pressed into Xander's leg. He put the soda-can to one side and rested his hands lightly on Xander's thigh.

"Hoping what?" Soft, soft voice, lifted eyebrow, and Xander sighed again.

"Just...this is nice. I was just...hoping..." Spike studied him - tilt of the head to one side and Xander couldn't help but smile. *That's 'how do I make the human git understand', and WHAT, exactly, am I supposed to understand?*

"Hoping it'd last?" Spike asked, and Xander shivered just a little, looking down. *More than that, more than that...*

"Something like that." Xander mumbled, and Spike reached out and lifted his chin - looking at him, no trace of the smirk or the leer. That look, that Xander had seen him turn on Buffy, a long time ago. That look.

*Can't be for ME...is it the same? Does he -*

"Can last as long as you like, pet. I'm not - going anywhere." Spike slid his hand back, through Xander'd hair and cupped the nape of his neck in one slim hand. He leaned forward, slow, and his lips brushed over Xander's.

"Oh..." Xander sighed, and Spike moved - was straddling Xander's lap, thighs against his hips and groins just lightly pressing together. Spike wound his arms around Xander's neck and kissed him - kissed him breathless and gasping, moaning, and Xander slid his hands up under Spike's t-shirt and just held on. The kiss - kisses? - seemed to go on forever, and Xander didn't care that his butt was numb, or his back getting a little cricked, or...or anything. He just wanted this feeling - this being held, being wanted - to go on and on. They both stiffened when the bell over the street door jangled, and Spike pulled away sharply, looking back over his shoulder as they heard Buffy's voice:

"Hey guys. You were right, Giles - they did try something. I went over to their secret hideaway or whatever the hell and there were cops and an ambulance... Whatever they tried went wrong. That Jonathan was hurt pretty badly - broken bones, internal injuries. Andrew - Tucker's brother? - he had a broken collarbone and a concussion. But that other one - Warren? He - was dead. Whatever they were trying to do, they really screwed it up."

"Good Lord." From Giles.

"Yeah... I guess nobody would have found them except Andrew's mom came by with some food or something. So - that it? Does that - help?" There were footsteps - Buffy or someone moving around, and then Giles' voice again.

"It does, yes. Thank you."

"Great! Well, I'm gonna go, then. Riley's coming into town tonight, I need to, you know - get ready."

"Of course, of course." Giles sounded distracted, and there were more footsteps.

"Goodnight, Buffy," softly, from Tara, and then the bell jangled. Xander felt the tension flood out of his body and he sagged back in Spike's arms.

"Man - I'm so glad she didn't come back here."

"Who was that?" From Legolas. Xander and Spike both looked over at the elf, who was looking - disturbed?

"That was - uh. Buffy. She's the Slayer. She's...got these powers. She's stronger than most people..." Legolas looked at them - looked at Aragorn and shivered.

"She felt...wrong."

"Got that right." Spike muttered. He shifted a little, making Xander gasp audibly. Spike was hard - Xander was, and the vampire's position in his lap was...

"Jesus, Spike."

"Mmmm?" Spike shifted again, smiling lazily at Xander - settled his arms a little more snugly around Xander's neck. "Where were we, pet?" He dipped in for more kissing, lazy glide of tongue over tongue and teeth and roof of mouth. Xander quickly forgot about Buffy - about everything, really - and fell happily back into that warm and wanted place. *My vampire. Oh god, Spike, do that...* Xander realized he was making a whimpering sound as Spike slowly rolled his hips, pressing hardness to hardness in a calculated progression: gentle, and then hard, and then harder, only to back off, and start again. Xander's heart was racing - he had his hands up under Spike's shirt - down the back of those tight, tight jeans, and Spike was panting now, breathy little moans. There was a shuffling, and then someone cleared their throat. Quite loudly. Xander flinched and pulled back - looked up into Giles' face.

"Uh..." *Fuck. He comes in here, sees THIS...and I just figured out Spike's got my tongue. Or my brains. Something. Don’t ask me any questions, G-man.*

"Xander, what are you doing?"

"Uhh?"

"Gettin' snogged, watcher, what the bloody hell do you think?" *Oh good. Spike can talk. Uh. Not TOO good. Is Giles pissed?*

"That is painfully obvious. What I meant was - oh, never mind. The four of you, come up front, if you would." Giles stalked out, indignation in every line, and Spike sniggered - leaned into Xander and put his mouth on Xander's neck - sucked hard.

"Hey!" Xander pinched the two handfuls of vampire buttock that he was holding and the resultant body-twitch made him groan.

"What, pet?" Spike mumbled, mouth still occupied.

"That's gonna make a mark."

"I bloody well hope so." Spike scraped his teeth over Xander's neck - moved up to his earlobe and whispered, his voice low and rough and sweet as honey.

"Wanna bite you, right there. Gonna. Gonna make you scream..." Xander shuddered all over, his eyes fluttering closed for a moment, and then Legolas and Aragorn were standing there, Aragorn looking amused and Legolas looking - a little dazed.

"I think your Giles has some news for us." Aragorn said. He held up the grape Crush can. "What do I do with this now that it's empty?"

"Uh...you...there's a bin." Xander blinked a couple of times - pushed at Spike's shoulders. "Let me up, Spike."

"Promise I can bite you later." Spike whispered, and Xander shuddered again.

"Oh, fuck yeah, anything..." Spike laughed softly - stood up smoothly and hauled Xander up with him, slipping his arm around Xander's waist.

"That green box there, by the door - toss the can in there." Spike told Aragorn, and Xander nodded. They all went out to the front of the store. Giles was standing over the table, a fan of pictures spread out in front of him - Polaroids.

"Oh - there you are. Tara and I determined that some time yesterday, a rather powerful summoning spell was used. But whomever had done it had done it - well - wrong. They didn't anchor the energy correctly, and it got away from them. The magical backlash of the spell..." Giles' voice trailed off and Xander nodded, trying to act naturally with a vampire pretty much glued to his left side.

"We could hear Buffy. It - killed one of them?"

"Yes. It did. She took these pictures at the house. From what I can see of the markings here, they were trying to summon -" Beside him, Tara gently cleared her throat.

'Um? Oh, yes. What they were trying to summon is immaterial. What in fact happened was, the energy from the spell was set loose, and it zeroed in, for lack of a better word, on another summoning. Only this one was - unintentional."

"And for those of us who didn't go to Hogwarts...?" Xander said, doing his best 'Isn't this fascinating but get to the point' look. Spike chuckled, and his thumb made slow, light circles around Xander's hip-bone.

"Yesterday in m-my Indigenous Anthropology class, the pro-professor had a guest speaker." Tara said quietly, giving Giles a tiny smile. "He's a Chumash story-teller and author. He was t-telling us stories about the Trickster figure in Chumash folktales - about C-coyote. I think - I think the summoning energy came to him."

"And - why do you think that?" Aragorn asked softly. Tara ducked her head - looked back up.

"Be-because...I didn't really th-think about it until a couple of hours ago, b-but when he was telling the stories, he was really - into it. Hhe danced and did v-voices and - all kinds of stuff. And it was like - we w-were there." She looked at Aragorn - at all of them, and Xander found himself nodding.

"I get what you mean. So - he summoned - a coyote?"

"No, not a coyote - Coyote. He is - a clown. A fool. But also - very powerful. He likes to play jokes on people - sometimes not nice ones. I think this...storyteller summoned him, and the latent power of the Hellmouth - made him real. And somehow - he called these two here. But I believe his focus was - you two."

"Oookay..." Xander surreptitiously inched his hand up under Spike's t-shirt and scratched lightly at the small of his back. Spike shivered, and there were about five seconds of that breathy purr. Xander fought the grin that was threatening. "What do you mean by his focus was us? We didn't do anything."

"No, no - what I mean is...he found something in what you were thinking or talking about that made him summon - A-aragorn and Legolas. "

"How is that possible? We know nothing of this place, and you - know nothing of us." Aragorn was looking a bit spooked, and Xander tried very hard to convey to Giles that telling them that they were figments of someone's imagination was a bad idea.

"Me and Xander, we were...talkin' about heroes and stuff, you know. He must have just....picked the two closest he could find." Spike said, and Giles opened his mouth - looked at their guests and shut it.

"Exactly. So. What we need to do is get this storyteller to tell us how to summon Coyote, so we can have him send you back. Tara has called the university, and it seems Mr. - ?"

"Weighill."

"Yes, Mr. Weighill is out for the evening. We've left a message, so now, all we have to do is..."

"Wait?" Xander groaned. He didn't think he could wait for much longer. The sheer boredom of research combined with the heart-stopping lust for Spike was going to kill him.

"It'll be dark in about an hour, so I suggest the four of you go on patrol. Buffy won't be out tonight, so there's no chance of you meeting up with her, and it would be a good way to work off excess energy. Don't you think so, Spike?" Giles voice sharpened and the vampire jumped, his mouth coming away from Xander's jaw with a soft smack sound.

"Right, Watcher - patrol. Yeah. I'd like to see Legolas use that bow of his - see how good he really is." Spike grinned over at the elf, who raised an elegant black eyebrow.

"As good as I say I am, Spike." Legolas said - then swayed, just a little. Aragorn touched his arm, looking alarmed.

"I think - that soda? Was not a good idea." Legolas said faintly. Then he suddenly cried out, grabbing his head, and fell to the floor, out cold. The next ten minutes were chaotic, but finally Legolas came around, Aragorn curled protectively around him. Tara was gently wiping his face with a damp cloth, Giles was speed-reading through various texts in a futile effort to find anything about elves, and Spike and Xander were hovering, feeling a bit useless. Xander resisted the urge to kiss Spike - it seemed insensitive when Aragorn was so upset - and instead contented himself with scratching that same spot in Spike's back. Spike shivered every now and again, and the purr kept starting and stopping. When Legolas opened his eyes, there was a tiny sound from Aragorn - relief, and nerves - and the elf blinked up at him - over at Tara.

"Legolas?" Aragorn breathed, and the elf sat up slowly, leaning into Aragorn's circling arms.

"The pain is back." Legolas said softly, and Tara bit her lip.

"The spell s-stopped working?" She asked, and Legolas smiled faintly at her.

"Yes - all at once, it would seem."

"Damnit." Tara glanced over at Giles. "S-sorry... I don't know why it would stop -"

"I believe, from what you told me, it only stopped working because he isn't - human, Tara. The spell was made for humans, and I think - his extreme sensitivity made its duration somewhat shorter."

"Much shorter." Tara pushed some loose hair back off her face - stood up and went over to the display case. "Maybe I can do it again?"

"I think - we'll have to find this Mr. Weighill tonight. No more waiting." Beside him, Spike shivered again, and Xander ducked his head, biting his lip to keep from grinning, running his fingernails slowly up and down a short stretch of Spike's back. From just at the top of his buttocks to right above his waist. He could tell it was driving the vampire crazy. *No more waiting. Damn straight.*

"So - what's the plan? Do we know where this guy is?"

"Tara and I are going to do a locator spell - Tara managed to get something of his when he visited her class." Giles said, and Tara held up a fluffy brown feather.

"He had this feathered staff, and this one dropped off wh-when he was talking and kinda blew up against my foot. I was g-going to give it back, but I... I didn't."

"Lucky for us." Xander murmured.

"In the meantime," Giles continued, "there is a circle that you, Xander, will be drawing on the floor in the training room. I expect Spike to help you." Giles was looking at them both sternly, his glasses in one hand and a large bundle of some sort of herb in the other.

"Right - ok. Just point me to the colored chalk."

"There's colored chalk?" Spike asked, and Xander scratched a tiny bit harder. "Right. Magical circle thingy, colored chalk, we're on it, Watcher." Spike grinned at Giles and started to drag Xander into the training room.

"Perhaps you would like to actually take the chalk with you?" Giles said. Spike stopped walking. "And, a picture of the circle might come in handy?"

"Right. Book? Chalk?" Xander made a show of looking around, and Giles sighed heavily and handed them over.

"This does need to be right, Xander." He said, and Xander ducked his head for a second - put on his best serious face.

"I know. We'll do it right, Giles." He finally let Spike drag him away, and after a moment they heard a soft exclamation of surprise from Aragorn. *Locator spell. Hope they can find the guy... Hell, I hope they can CONVINCE the guy. What if he won't come? What if he thinks Giles and Tara are nutso?*

Xander opened the book where Giles had marked it and looked down at the design he and Spike were supposed to draw and groaned.

"What'smatter, pet?" Spike's lips were just brushing his ear and Xander shivered.

"Look at this thing, Spike. How're we gonna do this?" Spike nibbled his earlobe - took the book out of his hand and studied the design for a minute.

"It's not so bad. First we need some string and a nail or something, so we can make the circle... It's supposed to be -" Spike squinted at the text. It was in some language that wasn't English, and actually didn't look a lot like a language, at all. "Right, the string needs to be three and a half feet long..."

 

******************

It took Giles and Tara an hour to find the storyteller and get back to the shop. By that time, Xander and Spike had finished and Aragorn had carefully helped Legolas into the back room, settling him on the mats and trying to make him comfortable. Legolas lay with his head in Aragorn's lap, eyes closed, doing a breathing thing that was something like meditation. It was helping, but not very much. He was shaking a little, and looked paler than he should. Aragorn gently rubbed his temples - spoke to him in that language that sounded like some kind of singing to Spike. He was at the opposite end of the mats, leaning up against the wall with Xander between his legs. The warmth and weight of the boy were delightful, and Spike rested his head against Xanders and amused himself by running the tips of his fingers up and down Xander's arms, and across his chest and stomach. Occasionally he would slide under the edge of Xander's t-shirt and dip just below the waist of his jeans, and Xander would sigh and shift and lean back into him a little harder. It was... *This feels...so good. Gotta figure out how to keep him. Mine, now.* Spike rubbed his cheek slowly against Xander's hair, and smiled when he felt the boy's hands drop to his thighs and squeeze, just a little.

The bell jangled, and there were footsteps - voices. Giles and Tara appeared in the doorway, looking flushed with success. Behind them came a large man in black jeans and a faded green t-shirt. He had a black leather vest over the shirt, and worn black boots on his feet. His hair was a silken blue-black that fell half-way down his back. Dark, wary eyes scanned the room and stopped, widening in surprise, when they came to Legolas and Aragorn.

"Oh man. You weren't kidding." The newcomer said. He looked over at Xander and Spike. "Hey."

"Uh, hi." Xander began to push himself up and Spike sighed and helped, climbing up after him, missing the heat as soon as it was gone. Giles walked around the intricate design on the floor, checking it against the book Spike had left lying beside it.

"What's that?" The storyteller asked, and Tara began to explain protective magic and binding circles to him. In a minute he was shaking his head.

"No, man, you can't do that. You'll just piss him off. You don't need all that." Giles slapped the book shut, walking over to the man.

"We do have quite a bit of expertise with this sort of thing, Mr.Weighill. Perhaps you should -"

"Call me Tharon. And the Old Man isn't gonna come in here an' rip your heads off. You just need to sweet-talk him a little - give him a present." Giles started to speak again and Spike strode over.

"Best listen to the man, Watcher. He knows his own better than you do, don't you think?" Giles scowled at him.

"Hey, you that vampire? I dunno if I believe in vampires." The man smiled, easy good humor in his face and in his black eyes. Spike grinned back and vamped out. Tharon jumped back a tiny bit, then leaned in close.

"Damn." He looked over at Giles. "Guess you were telling the truth."

"Of course I was." Giles looked affronted that someone would think him a liar and Spike sniggered - shook the demon away.

"So we gonna do this or what?"

"Yeah. He's not doing so well. I'm Xander. This is Spike." Xander nodded towards Spike, and Tharon nodded back - looked over at Legolas, who was grimacing, hands clenched tight.

"Guess we'd better. You wanna help me get my stuff?" Tharon made a gesture towards the front of the shop, and Spike nodded. They walked up front and Spike lifted a small carry-bag that smelled strongly of sage. Tharon picked up a tall feathered staff and a small drum, and stood for a minute, head cocked to one side.

"So - a vampire." Spike nodded.

"An Indian."

"Never met a vampire before."

"Never met an Indian."

"Can you turn into a bat?" Spike grinned.

"Nah. Can you talk to your horse?"

"I don't -" Tharon chuckled. "Sorry, man." Spike shrugged - hefted the bag.

"So, what's in here?" They walked back to the training room, where Giles and Tara had settled on the far end of the mats and Xander was hovering next to Aragorn, a bottle of water in his hand.

"Sage, some salt - just a few things. The essentials, you might say. So - did you meet Coyote when he did this?"

"Nope. He wasn't around but - I think I felt him. Or something. Legolas and Aragorn heard him."

"Huh." Tharon crouched down next to Legolas and gestured for the carry-bag Spike was holding. The vampire let it down into his hands and watched as he took out a large abalone shell and set it on the floor, then filled it with salt from a cardboard box. Then he pulled out a bundle of herbs and a box of kitchen matches and stood up.

"Which way's east, here?" He asked, and Giles pointed wordlessly. Tharon nodded and lit a match - lit the herbs. A dense white smoke coiled out, richly scented.

"What is that?" Spike asked, fascinated, and the man grinned at him.

"It's a smudge. Some sage, some cedar, some tobacco, some marijuana. A few other things. My sister makes them. I'm purifying this space - calling the directions. You guys -" Tharon looked around him at the others. "You guys just relax." Everyone nodded, and Xander grabbed Spike and pulled him over closer, settling his arm around Spike's waist. Tharon moved to the eastern side of the room and gestured with the smudge - chanted something under his breath. He did that at each of the four directions, then came back to Legolas and Aragorn and lay the smudge in the shell full of salt. A couple of falling embers landed there and winked out harmlessly. Then Tharon settled down cross-legged, and pulled the drum into his lap. The staff lay on the floor next to him. Legolas studied him through pain-narrowed eyes, and Aragorn turned a mute, pleading look on the man, his hands slowly, slowly soothing Legolas's temples.

"I'm gonna call Coyote, see if he'll send you back. I'll try not to be too loud. You have to give him a gift." Tharon's hands stroked the skin of the drum, making a tiny rumbling that sent a shiver over Spike's skin. The man smelled of sage and salt and woodsmoke, tobacco and magic. He looked up, his black hair sliding silkily over his shoulder, his eyes impossible to read. "You two, you need to give him something as well."

"What kind of gift?" Xander asked.

"Coyote, he likes life. Something that makes life fun. Like this." Tharon reached into the carry-bag again and pulled out a small leather pouch. He opened it to show loose tobacco and a pack of rolling papers. He closed it again and handed the pouch over to Xander. Spike nodded - looked over at Xander, who shrugged and started going through his pockets. Spike walked over to where his duster lay over the pommel horse and dug out a couple of things. He went back to Tharon - crouched down.

"This do?" He held up his flask and his silver Zippo, and Tharon nodded, grinning.

"Yeah, that's great. Put 'em down over there." Spike laid the things on the floor about ten feet from their little group. Xander showed something to Tharon, then came over as well. He lay his knife and the pouch of tobacco down next to Spike's Zippo.

"Xander - would you?" Aragorn asked softly, and he held something out. Spike watched Xander cross to the man, hand out, and then come back to gently lay the gifts down. A plain silver ring, with a raised design of leaves embossed over it, and a leaf. The leaf was a pale golden-green, and a sweet, spicy scent rose up from it. Spike knew Legolas must have been carrying it - was amazed that it was still fresh.

"It's from Lothlorian." Aragorn said softly, and Xander smiled at him.

"It's amazing."

"Sit down now." Tharon said, and his fingers stroked over the drum, tapping slowly, gently. The sound rumbled out, like distant thunder, and Spike settled on the edge of the mats - leaned into Xander's heat and solid muscle as the boy sat next to him. Behind Tharon, Giles and Tara were quietly doing their own magic - a summoning similar to what the three hapless boys had done the night before, but much more focused. Tharon started a singsong chant, something rhythmic and soothing and repetitive, and Spike felt himself swaying ever so slightly to it. It was like a heartbeat, and combined with the rumble of the drum he felt himself falling into a daze. The drumming and chant wavered, now softer, now louder, and Xander was leaning heavily on Spike, his eyes wide, his breathing a little fast. Spike put his arm around the boy - hugged him close. That smoky scent - the same thing he'd smelled the night before - began to tickle at Spikes nose, and suddenly Tharon stopped dead. A figure was in the room, standing near the pile of gifts. It went in and out of focus, and then abruptly came clear. A lean, upright figure stood there, in moccasins, fringed chaps, breechcloth and bone breastplate. An enormous eagle-feather headdress framed a seamed, brown face and trailed down to the floor. A long lance, decorated with feathers and *scalps? Hey - didn't know they really DID that* was in one hand. The other hand lifted slowly, palm out, held up at chest level.

The figure's mouth opened.

"How." He intoned. Tharon's mouth had dropped open. Now he blinked rapidly once or twice, and then grinned.

"Old Man, that is the best disguise I've ever seen." Tharon chuckled, and the figure wavered - scowled - then finally cracked a huge grin. He seemed to shimmer, then the 'classic' Indian was gone and a young man stood there, dressed in worn jeans and boots, and a ribbed undershirt with a red flannel shirt open over it. His skin was darkly brown and his hair even longer than Tharon's, loose down his back. His eyes, though, were a piercing amber and when he grinned his teeth were long and a bit sharper than normal.

"Who are you calling old man?" The boy asked, and Tharon chuckled again.

"Older than me. We called you to ask for your help. You brought these two here a night ago. Now we need you to send them back. Being here - is hurting this one." Tharon gestured to Legolas, whose eyes were closed now, and who was shaking all over, curled into Aragorn's embrace. Aragorn was rubbing his hands gently up and down the elf's back, murmuring in his ear. He looked up at Coyote, his eyes wide and full of pleading, and fear.

"Please, my lord, this place will kill him. He cannot suffer the evil of it." Coyote frowned for a moment - looked over at Xander and Spike and grinned again. Beside him, Xander shivered a little, and Spike wrapped an arm around him.

"I remember you two." Coyote looked at them a moment longer - looked back at Tharon.

"Takes a lot of work, sending people here and there."

"We've brought you some things." Tharon said, gesturing, and Coyote took the few steps over to the small pile of gifts. He crouched down, examining them. He opened the tobacco pouch and sniffed appreciatively - flicked open the Zippo and grinned. He opened Xander's knife and tested the edge, licking at the drop of blood he raised. The ring he slipped onto the thumb of his left hand, and the leaf was held to his nose for a moment. A strange expression came over his face then - one of utter joy. Then he was tucking the leaf away in the breast pocket of the flannel shirt. Tobacco and Zippo went in one pocket, knife in the other, and he stood up.

"Those are nice things. But what about those two? Their magic is thick around me, as well." Tara and Giles looked uneasy, and Coyote walked a step or two closer, grinning at them. Spike watched Tara reach into the neck of her shirt and pull out a crystal on a braided cord. She pulled it over her head and held it out.

"H-here. I'm sorry, I didn't n-know I needed to give y-you anything. It's Watermelon Tourmaline." Coyote crouched down, studying her, then reached out and took the crystal.

"Very pretty. Just like you." His grin was approaching a leer, and Giles cleared his throat. Coyote let his admiring gaze linger on Tara for a few more seconds, then he looked over at Giles.

"I don't have anything very nice on me. But I got this in Egypt - I carry it for luck." Giles held out a small blue stone - a scarab beetle carved from lapis. Coyote cocked his head to one side and then took it.

"Can you help us, Old Man? Can you put things back as they should be?" Coyote looked over his shoulder at Tharon - rose with a fluid twist of his lean body.

"I can. Put things as they should be. Heir of Isildur and son of Thranduil, are you ready to go home?" Coyote's voice - changed. Gone was the teasing infliction. Now it was rich, deep, and rolling with hidden power, and Spike felt himself stiffen - felt the demon come out, snarling. *Keep that away from mine...* he thought, and drew Xander closer to him. He forced the demon back. The magic - the power - was coming from Coyote in waves, and Aragorn looked up at him, recognition of that power in his eyes.

"We are. But let us thank our friends, first, for making us so welcome." Coyote nodded, and Aragorn whispered in Legolas's ear - carefully helped the elf to stand. He guided him over to Tara, who rose and stood nervously. Legolas bent down and hugged her gently - placed a soft kiss on her forehead.

"I thank you, Tara, for your help and friendship. May you go in light all your days." Tara ducked her head - stretched up and placed her own kiss on the elf's cheek.

"Thank you, Legolas. Blessed Be." Legolas stepped back, and Aragorn repeated his gestures, hugging Tara and kissing her lightly.

"You have been a true friend. May the blessings of the Dunadan be upon you all your days."

They turned to Giles, and both bowed deeply. Giles returned the bow, and Legolas smiled at him. He caught Aragorn's arm, and they came over to Spike and Xander, who hastily stood up.

"You also have been a true friend, Xander Harris. You are always welcome in my home. May you also go in light." Legolas enfolded Xander in a brief hug - turned to Spike.

"You have my blessings as well, vampire. Truly, you are an amazing creature." Spike grinned - got his own hug. The heady, spicy scent of the elf clung to him, and he shivered a little. Then Aragorn was embracing him - leather and rough wool and woodsmoke, and Spike breathed that in, too.

"Thank you, Spike." Aragorn said, his hand clasping Spike's shoulder. Then he pulled Xander to him, murmuring something in his ear. Legolas leaned on Aragorn, shuddering a little now, and Aragorn led him over to Coyote. They both looked at Tharon.

"Thank you, sir, for your help. You were a stranger to us, and yet you did not hesitate. You may call upon us for aide at anytime, should your need be as great." Tharon blinked up at Aragorn - smiled at him, his fingers brushing lightly over the drum.

"It's cool, man. Here -" He got to his feet - plucked the smudge up from the shell. He pushed the burning end into the salt for a few seconds, then pulled it out. The salt had smothered it and now it was out. "Take this with you. You may need it." Aragorn took the smudge with a small bow - tucked it into his belt. He turned and accepted their combined weapons onto his arm from Giles, and finally they faced Coyote, who had rolled a smoke from the pouch and was puffing on it, Spike's flask open in his other hand.

"Ready then?"

"We are." Coyote smiled - took a deep breath of smoke and blew it at Aragorn and Legolas. The smoke swirled out of his mouth - around the pair - getting more dense, more white. A sudden burst of light, like lightning, and a clap of sound like thunder, and the smoke flattened out from where the two had been standing and blew away, fading into nothing. Aragorn and Legolas were gone. Spike felt something in him relax that he hadn't known had been tense. *Glad their gone. I liked them, but that elf... This place wasn't for him. Hope they're all right, now.*

Coyote stood there for a moment, finishing his smoke. He leaned down and pushed the butt into the salt and left it there, then looked around the room.

"I think it's time for me to go. You gave me good gifts - I will remember all of you with warmth." He cocked his head to one side, as if thinking, then turned to Spike. "One more thing, though." He walked up to Spike, and the power was like a blast of heat - like standing right next to a waterfall or a in the eye of a tornado. Spike fought to keep the demon at bay - felt Xander's grip tighten around him. Coyote reached up and stoked his cheek - leaned in close and pressed a delicate kiss to his lips. Spike was frozen - caught in magic like a fly in amber. Pain flared in his head, but before he could even react to it was gone, dimming down to nothing in seconds. Coyote pulled away, and his eyes were like fire - his grin as sharp-edged as any vampire's. "Putting things back the way they should be." Coyote whispered, and then he was backing away - laughing - spinning - and winked out, a candle flame blown flat and gone. The thrum of his power ebbed away fast, and the ghostly heat, and everyone in the room seemed frozen. Then Tharon threw his head back and laughed, and the tension broke.

"Man, I never thought I'd really see the Old Man. This was great! I might have to come down here more often." Tharon did a little shuffling jig, grinning, and Xander laughed.

"You'll have to remember, however, that the latent magics of the Hellmouth can make - unexpected things happen. For instance -" Giles began to tell some story, and Spike turned to Xander and pulled him close - tucked his face down into Xander's neck and kissed him.

"Tired of waiting," he whispered, and Xander's heartbeat kicked up a notch.

"M-me too," Xander whispered back, and they pulled apart - grinned at each other. Tharon, Tara and Giles were deep into a discussion of magic and the Hellmouth, and Spike and Xander made hasty goodbyes. Tara put her hand on Xander's arm as they were walking out.

"Xander - you and Spike - be careful, ok? We'll h-have to tell Buffy when she's in a r-really good mood." Xander gaped at her for a minute - turned to Giles, who had stopped talking and was staring at the two of them.

"She's right. Spike - I am fully aware of your - intense relationship with Drusilla, and how much care you lavished on her. I can only say...I expect this to be no different." Spike stared at the older man - at the dark glint of the Ripper that seemed to be looking out at him. He grinned and tugged his boy close.

"No worries, Watcher. Me an' Xander are gonna be fine."

"Yeah. We'll be fine. Thanks, you guys - for everything. It was great to meet you, Tharon."

"Hey, you too. I think I'll be back for sure. Maybe see if we can summon the ancestors."

"Ancestors?" Spike remembered their first encounter with Chumash spirits and shuddered. "Uh - maybe not. Giles has this really interesting story to tell you about that." Tharon looked puzzled, and Spike pulled Xander away, hustling him out of the shop.

"Waited long enough. Who knows what kind of bloody mayhem they're gonna be up to? Let's get home."

"Yeah..." They walked around back to Xander's car and got in. Xander started the car and looked at Spike for a moment. "Spike? I don’t wanna wait, either, but..."

"Yeah, pet?" Spike asked, feeling a little clutch of dread in his belly.

"I'm really, really, hungry..." Xander's voice was plaintive, and Spike just stared at him for a second, then started laughing.

"Anything you want, pet - let's stock up, 'cause I'm not gonna let you out of bed for days." Xander stared at him - swallowed - and Spike caught the delicious scent of arousal from him. He leaned over in the seat and pressed a deep, hard kiss on Xander's lips. "Let's go then, love. Time's wastin'."

 

**********************

 

They stopped at a rib place and got enough for four people, then Spike asked Xander if he'd take him past Willy's, so he could get some blood. Xander waited in the car, and after about fifteen minutes Spike sauntered out of the bar, a huge grin on his face and a bulging sack of blood in his hands. He looked excessively pleased with himself, and Xander wondered what had happened in Willy's to make him so happy.

"Man, you got enough for days. You were - serious, huh." Xander said, and he felt his stomach clench in nervous anticipation.

"M'always serious when it comes to this sort of thing, pet. You'll see." Spike put the blood down between his feet and leaned over for a kiss, and they spent a few minutes locked together, until a drunken demon bumped into the car, startling them. Spike rolled down the window and hissed something, and the demon scurried away, listing to one side and making squeaking noises. Spike grinned and Xander grinned back and they drove home. The house was dark, and Xander felt his excitement growing as they went inside. Spike stowed all but three packages of blood away, and Xander laid out two plates of bbq ribs and French fries, cole slaw, and three-bean salad. Eating was...difficult. Neither one could get more than one or two mouthfuls without stopping for a kiss, and Xander found himself eating Spike's blood-drenched ribs at one point and not even caring. Finally finished, they both rose and did a minimal clean-up, and then Spike went to start a shower while Xander double-checked the locks and made sure the ringer on his phone was off. He walked into the bathroom and stared at Spike, who had once again not drawn the shower curtain. He was leaning against the back wall of the shower, his hands foamy with soap, sliding them lazily up and down his belly. His cock was erect, straining upwards, and he paused every three or four passes and ran one soapy hand down the shaft. Xander felt his breath shortening - catching in his throat - and he peeled his clothes off as fast as he could and stepped into the shower, pulling the curtain closed. Spike reached out with one hand and pulled him close, getting him under the warm spray. A soapy hand ran down Xander's chest to his groin, and then Spike was leisurely soaping; running his fingers into every crevice, crouching down to massage soap into Xander's legs and feet, and then turning him to rub it over his back and buttocks. He swayed and bumped against Xander at every opportunity, letting soap-slippery body parts skid and grind and slide against one another. Never enough friction to get them off, more than enough to make Xander whimper every time the glancing contact moved on. Spike even washed his hair, and Xander was desperate for him to just touch him - do anything. *God, he's gonna kill me. Thought we weren't supposed to be waiting anymore? Don't wanna wait...*

"Sspiiiiike..." Xander whined, and the vampire turned the shower off and stepped out, grabbing a towel. Xander stood dripping in the tub - caught the towel Spike tossed at him.

"Hurry up, love - want you on the bed -" Xander blinked, looked down at the towel - started scrubbing at himself. Spike snickered and grabbed Xander's toothbrush, doing a fast brushing-up, and Xander grabbed the brush out of his hand when he was done.

"It must be love. I'm letting you share my toothbrush, for god's sake. I never let Anya do that," Xander grumbled, and suddenly had a vampire in his face, pushing him up against the door.

"What did you say?" Spike asked, and his voice was curiously flat - very quiet.

"I said -" Xander stared at the blue eyes that were staring back. *What DID I say? I said...OH. Oh. Well, fuck. Maybe it is. I dunno. I wonder if this means he'll leave, or...* Xander blinked, focusing on Spike again as the vampire gently knocked his head into the door.

"Xander, wake up. What. Did. You. Say."

"I said...I thought...I mean, what I meant to say, was...I think I might...love. You." Spike just stared at him again, and Xander sighed and looked down at his dripping toothbrush.

"Look. You can just ignore it, ok? I can't always turn my mouth off, you know? Just...just pretend I didn't say it and you can -"

"Why would I do that, love?" Spike asked, soft, and Xander shrugged, not looking at him.

"Well, cause... You don't - I mean, you can't love...me, I mean... I understand that you don't, so it's just -"

"Shut up, Xander." Spike leaned in and kissed him. And this time it wasn't the breath-stealing, lip-bruising kind of kiss, but a kiss that was slow and steady and sweet. A kiss that was...loving. When Spike pulled away finally, Xander just stared at him - felt that big, dopey grin stretching his mouth.

"Really?" Xander asked breathlessly, and Spike tilted his head a little to one side, and smiled that smile. *And that head-tilt means...I love you. Oh.*

"Really, pet. Hurry up." Spike pushed away from him - pushed Xander over to the sink. He tossed his towel over the curtain rod and went into the bedroom. Xander stood in front of the sink for a long moment, just grinning to himself, and then he furiously brushed his teeth - rinsed and took a drink and then filled the glass again and carried it with him into the bedroom. Spike had draped the bedside lamp in a swath of red silk - one of the silk 'altar clothes' that Giles sold at the shop for sixty dollars. It made the bedroom a warm, dim cave. The sheets had been folded down to the foot of the bed, and Spike lay sprawled over the mattress, arms behind his head, one leg straight, the other bent a little at the knee. He watched with yellow-glowing eyes as Xander crossed the room and set the glass on the dresser. Then Xander knelt at the foot of the bed, scooting so he was in between Spike's feet.

"Know what I've been thinkin'?" Xander whispered, and Spike smiled at him.

"What, pet?"

"Been thinkin'...where I'd like to touch you first. What I want to do to you. I was thinkin'...I'd start down here..." Xander picked up Spike's left foot - brought it up onto his knee and rubbed his hand over the top - bent it back a little and dug his thumbs into the ball of Spike's foot, pressing hard, rubbing. Spike twitched a little and then made a low, breathy noise, and Xander grinned at him.

"Like that?"

"Mmmm..." Spike watched, eyes glittering as Xander rubbed up the high arch - kneaded the heel and Achilles tendon, circled the ankle bone with his thumbs. Spike's skin was still faintly warm, faintly flushed from the shower, and it felt like silk under his hands. He massaged his way up Spike's calf - bent, and trailed a line of open-mouthed kisses up the vampire's shin. He smiled as Spike gasped softly. He lay Spike's left leg down gently and did the same to his right foot and calf. Then he crawled up a little closer and began to rub Spike's thighs. One hand on each thigh, digging his fingers and thumbs in, kneading hard. He pushed Spike's legs apart and lay flat on the bed, his feet up. He looked up at Spike, who was watching him like a hawk. The vampire's eyes gleamed in the low light, and he was panting. His cock was heavy and hard, slick with arousal and twitching with every gasping breath. Xander put his hands on Spike's knees and pushed the vampire's legs just a little further apart, then he leaned in and began to kiss and lick up the inside of each thigh. Spike twitched - moaned - yelped in startlement as Xander bit into the thin skin behind his knee. Xander moved slowly upwards, letting his teeth graze and nip and worry the soft, delicious flesh - flesh that tasted like lemon and caramel and salt. As he got to the juncture of thigh and buttock, Xander got his arms up under Spike's thighs and pushed them up - got Spike's legs up over his shoulders. He nuzzled into the silken, dark-gold hair at Spike's groin, biting at the rigid tendon that was straining under his touch. Spike jerked, gasping, and his hands were in Xander's hair, tugging gently, urging him.

"Xander, please..." Spike murmured, and Xander grinned against Spike's thigh - lapped his tongue around the base of Spike's cock - bit at his balls and the slick skin just beneath. Spike arched up fiercely when Xander ran his tongue in lazy swipes lower and lower - cried out when Xander pushed in, little fluttering thrusts that Spike lifted his hips to meet - to deepen. His feet were flat on the bed, and he was pushing and writhing. Xander pressed in deeper, amazed at the cool, tight flesh that opened to him - grasped at him. He slid one hand under Spike and then pushed his thumb in, pressing hard.

"Oh fuck, Xander, c'mon pet, please - that's so fucking good -" Spike's fingers were digging into the mattress and Xander got up on his knees - leaned over Spike and sucked the tip of the vampire's cock into his mouth. The salt-sweet flavor of the fluid there was like nectar, and Xander moaned, sending little vibrations into Spike, moving with him as his hips thrust up mindlessly. Xander pressed his thumb in harder, his fingers squeezing Spike's buttocks, spreading them. Xander sucked there for a minute, bobbing deeper and then shallower, loving the taste, the incredible taste. He looked up at Spike - at the lean, sculpted face and wide open eyes fixed on his - the scarlet lips open in moans - in nonsense sounds. Xander pulled his mouth slowly off of Spike's cock and moved to graze his teeth over Spike's hipbones, one after the other. He licked his way up heaving ribs to the pale nipples and teased there for a moment, biting and pulling. Spike's legs were around his back, ankles locked, pulling him close, and Xander didn't stop working his thumb in and out, pressing up and then down, stretching and caressing the flesh there. Spike was writhing, thrusting - and Xander put his other hand flat on Spike's chest - let it rest there for a moment.

"Know what else I thought about?" He whispered, and Spike shook his head, his hands twisting in the sheets.

"T-tell me, Xander, please, oh fuck..."

"Thought about making sure everybody knew you were mine." Xander said, and he closed his hand slowly, dragging his nails down Spike's chest. Five lines of blood sprang up on the milky flesh, and Spike yelled, a hoarse scream. His body clenched down tight on Xander's thumb - his hips pumped mindlessly, and Xander bent to lick the blood. "Oh god, fuck, that tastes so good..." Xander slipped his hand free - pushed Spike's legs up and pushed the tip of his own cock against Spike's body. He was so hard he wasn't sure he could last even a minute, and he froze there. Spike arched up against him, moaning, and Xander saw a glint of silver - scrabbled under the pillow for the tube of gel Spike had pushed there. Quickly, he squeezed a dollop out onto his cock- slicked it over himself and pushed, one hard thrust that made Spike yell again.

"Ooooh...." Xander held still for as long as he could, but the tight, cool flesh was shuddering around him and couldn't not move. He began to thrust, hard and fast, his hands on Spike's shoulders, digging in. He brought them down Spike's chest, scratching, and licked at the new drops of blood that appeared. Spike was silent now, his body crushed beneath Xander's, his mouth open in a silent snarl. Xander leaned down, pushing hard, and kissed him, feeling Spike's lips under his teeth. He bit down heedlessly, tasting blood again, and Spike roared and he was convulsing under Xander, his long-denied orgasm wracking his body. Xander pounded hard, not letting go of Spike's mouth - licking at the blood, sucking for more, his hands lifting Spike's hips and spreading him open wider. Spike's hands were on Xander's back - urging him on - and then his nails were digging in and clawing him open and Xander arched into a rigid bow, his thrusts going ragged, his orgasm like thunder in his head, pounding through his body. As he began to come back to himself, Spike's legs slipped down and circled his hips - and then Spike was rolling them, so that Xander was underneath and Spike was straddling his hips, grinding down.

"Fuck, pet, that was fuckin' amazing..." Spike's lips were swollen - bloody - and Xander reached up one hand to gently trace their edges. Spike shuddered, watching him, and his tongue licked out and caught Xander's finger - drew it into his mouth and sucked. Xander caught his breath and watched, mesmerized, as Spike drew another finger into his mouth. The suction and light scrape of teeth were incredible, and Xander felt himself slowly hardening again. The long day of waiting catching up. Spike grinned down at him - lifted himself up and off. Xander moaned.

Spike pulled his mouth slowly away from Xander's fingers - took Xander's wrists in his hands and pushed them up, above his head and through a gap in the iron-work bedstead.

"Grab hold, love, and don't let go." Xander obediently grabbed the cold iron and held on. Spike flattened himself out over Xander's body, kissing him deeply, then moving down to lick and suck at Xander's neck and chest. Xander felt him change - felt the fangs prickling over his body, tiny points of heat that made him shudder.

"Know what Coyote did?" Spike said, nipping at hipbone and rigid belly.

"What - what did he..." Xander gasped - arched up, pressing himself into Spike's chest as the vampire slipped further down and gasping in pleasure as Spike's hand clenched around his cock.

"He killed the chip." Spike said. Xander felt his heart skip a beat and then race in double-time, and he looked down at Spike - across himself, where tiny bite-marks oozed drops of blood. At the demon, whose ancient gaze locked with his own. Spike pushed his tongue flat to Xander's inner thigh - opened his mouth and bit. Xander arched up and screamed aloud. The teeth in him were like two points of lighting, sending out stuttering charges of heat and sparkling, dizzying pain. It was like sandpaper and hot oil over his skin at once and he felt his body on the trembling edge of orgasm, the pain translating to ecstasy as his blood flowed into Spike's mouth. Spike's hand tightened, stopping him from coming, and Xander sobbed out a harsh plea.

"Spike, Spike, let me, please, oh god -" Spike lifted his head, disengaging, and the incredible feeling settled to a delicious throb, that radiated out from his thigh to his groin and belly. Spike's mouth was smeared with blood and he licked at it like a cat. He reached with one hand to grab the lube and got to his knees - squeezed a dollop over his cock. He smeared it over himself - reached down and did the same to Xander, pushing one, then two fingers in, rotating briefly. Then he was pushing Xander's legs up, folding him over, pushing in, one smooth, hard thrust that felt like ice and fire at the same time, and Xander's hands began to cramp a little, around the bedstead. Spike pushed in, moving his hips, until he was pressing and dragging over that spot, that place, and Xander was gasping for each breath.

"Like this, I thought about it like this, like you did, pushing you, making you - you love this, Xan? You want this?"

"Fuck, want you, want whatever - fuck - whatever you'll do -" Xander tried to thrust upwards but Spike's weight held him pressed down, and every time his cock moved it sent sparks through Xander's body, sparks that made his muscles tremble and his own cock surge. Spike eased up his grip - began to stroke him slowly, so slowly, direct counterpoint to the staccato rhythm of his hips, and Xander wanted - wanted - something else, something more.

"Spike - come on - need -"

"What do you need, love - tell me -" Spike dipped low over him, licking the blood that stippled his chest, letting his teeth scrape over Xander's throat. Xander shuddered, jerked violently.

"That, that, need that, Spike - want you to - Spike...Spike -" The vampire pressed his mouth to Xander's throat - licked there. His thrusts became harder, the edge of pain sharpening to something incandescent and incredible and Xander arched his throat up, begging. Spike hesitated one long moment and then struck, sinking his fangs in deeply, drawing sharply on the blood there and Xander felt his orgasm explode from him, shuddering delight. The same throb of heat and sparks, spreading down his chest, twisting in his belly, and he could feel Spike coming, inside him, and he was rigid, shuddering and writhing while Spike bore down on him with cock and teeth and nails in his shoulder, in his hip. When the feeling began to ebb - to fade - Xander finally let go of the bedstead, letting his hands fall limply to the mattress. Spike pulled away slightly and licked his neck - let Xander maneuver his legs down off the vampire's shoulders and fall weakly to the mattress. Spike blanketed him, hands under his back holding him close, and Xander shut his eyes and just tried to get his breath back - waited for his heart to slow back to normal.

After a long, hazy time he opened his eyes, and Spike was there, human again, looking at him.

"When did he - how did he do it?"

"When he kissed me." Spike said, and Xander frowned.

"Better not be kissing anybody else. Fuck - " Xander got his arms to come up and wrap around Spike and he pulled him close.

"That was definitely worth waiting for." Xander whispered, and leaned up for a kiss. Spike kissed him back, taste of blood and taste of Spike, and Xander 'mmmmed' happily into the kiss - grinned when the stuttery purr rumbled up out of Spike's chest for a few seconds.

"So you're not gonna - run screaming?" Spike finally asked, and Xander looked up at him.

"When I thought about you, and me - doing this... I always saw you doing that, in my mind. I always thought about...what your blood would taste like. What mine would be like to you. I always...wanted it." Spike gazed down at him - bent for a soft kiss, lingering and gentle.

"Mine now, love. You know that, don't you?" Xander snuggled closer, wrapping his legs around, feeling the ache where Spike had slipped free of him and wanting him back, wanting more - wanting it all.

"Oh yeah, I know."

 

Two Months Later

"Giles - look what came today." Tara held up an envelope, the size of a greeting card. The sprawling handwriting across the front was easily identified, and Giles put down the journal he was writing in and gestured for Tara to open it. She did so, pulling out a card that was a reproduction of a painting - Lord Leighton's Flaming June, Giles noted idly. Tara admired the sleeping woman in the picture, swathed in a gown of glowing apricot and orange tints, then opened the card. Two pictures fell out. The first was the obligatory one - Xander, leaning casually against a newsstand, a bright swath of sunlight cutting across his chest and legs. He was darkly tan, and his hair was long, past his shoulders and streaked with dark red from sun. He was wearing baggy, olive-drab, knee-length shorts, and rope sandals. There was a silver chain around his neck, with something hanging from it - too small to tell. The papers behind him had the same picture on every one - some in color, some in black and white. The violent explosion of a volcano in Hawaii that had been the front page news for the last three days. The text on the papers wasn't in English, but it was too blurred to read. Xander was grinning in the picture - pointing to the volcano. He'd obviously asked some stranger to take the picture. He looked - good. The vagabond life obviously agreed with him. A total hottie, as Dawn would say.

"Still not a vampire," Tara said, and Giles smiled at her. The second picture was of Spike and Xander, curled together in a hammock. They were on the porch of some house, screened from what seemed to be the setting sun by a dense bamboo thicket. The bits of sky and ocean that could be seen were deep scarlet red and cobalt, with the pale burning flecks of stars and phosphor. The porch was white and blue and green, and potted plants were in the foreground. Spike was looking at Xander, an expression of utter content on his face. Xander was looking at Spike's hands that were twined with his. Same olive-drab shorts, this time no shoes, and Spike had on only a ragged pair of cut-off jeans. Tara studied the pictures - sighed happily. Then she read the note written inside the card.

"Hey guys!

Hope everybody is doing good. As you can see, everything is fine with us. It's really beautiful here, except for the bugs, but we can cope. Funny how bugs don't seem to like the evil undead.

I'm learning to scuba-dive. It's kind of scary, but the water here is so clear, and everything is so beautiful. Spike says I'll be eaten by sharks, but I tell him even sharks can tell I'm with him, and they wouldn't want to mess with the Big Bad. He says tell Dawn no, he won't send her a monkey or a parrot or a capybara, but he WILL send her a custom-made necklace if she tells him what she likes better, silver or gold. We've been to the guy's house that makes them, and they are really beautiful. Much better than a 'screechy, filthy, flea-ridden animal that chews up the books and claws the curtains'. So says Spike.

It's so different here, it's amazing. The last place wasn't as nice, and we think we'll stay here for a few months. Lots to explore! Thank you, Tara, for the pictures, and for the long letter - it was great. We appreciate that you're keeping this a secret from Buffy, and from Willow. I hate it, too, but I understand. Maybe they'll figure it out, someday. Thank YOU, Giles, for fudging the locator spell. We owe you.

Gotta go - I can see the mailman coming up the hill, and he WON'T wait. Love to everybody, and take care. We'll write again soon.

Still human - Xander

Still dead - Spike "


Pretty pretty picture by Roxy