Hunger by Lazuli Kat

 

 

Chapter 1


It wasn’t as if Xander didn’t know the area.  The address scribbled on the paper in his perpetually shaking hand overlooked the memorial park that used to be a school before it was destroyed.  Three times.  Three times and someone finally figured it would be cheaper to re-lay turf than rebuild a school.

He knew the area and he felt awkward, like he was returning to the scene of a crime. Standing, staring at the park, he fought the memories, didn’t want to examine flaws in plans or losses or reasons for fleeing not only the town but the state.  It was a surprise not to see one of the ornamental beds featuring ‘Hellmouth’ spelt out in marigolds and petunias.  Three trees, seven shrubs, three beds, four benches, six adults, seven children, one dog.

Later, when the park emptied, he’d go and pay his respects.  Five fallen comrades.  One fallen slayer.

Xander tore his eyes away and took another glance at the paper, although he’d memorised the words several buses ago.  Looking along the row of houses he studied the numbers and began to walk, counting the paving slabs compulsively and refusing to recall when that behaviour had started.  But he counted paving slabs and counted lampposts and counted red cars and counted blue cars.  He…counted.  The trip had been a nightmare, numbers rattling through his head until he was dizzy.  There were steps up to the porch and he counted them.  He stared at the house number and added, subtracted, divided, multiplied.  He wasn’t crazy.  He just needed his mind to be harmlessly occupied, or else he’d begin to think and he couldn’t risk that.

‘You have no choice.  Be here by Friday,’ the writing, curly black on white, told him.  And the address.  Xander added the words, juggled the figures, decided on how many knocks.  Six.  Excessive but he couldn’t bring it down.  His trembling hand rose and gave six sharp raps.  As he waited nervously for an answer he questioned for the first time why he had no choice.  Then he counted the nails in the boards of the porch.  It was Friday and he couldn’t knock again.  His hand rose and fell, rose and fell.  He began to recalculate the numbers and when he got back to six the door opened.

The householder smiled warmly, kindly, as his eyes exclaimed ‘What the fuck!’ in large glowing letters.

“Come in, Xander.”

“Hey, Spike.”

“Come on.  Daylight,” the vampire pointed out.

“Yeah, sorry.”

Xander entered the house cautiously; he was better outside, not so keen on confined spaces.  Spike offered to take his coat but he misheard and kept it, wondering what he hadn’t listened to but knowing there were sixteen stairs to the first landing.

“Come with me,” Spike told him and led him through to a plainly decorated, sparsely furnished living room; it looked like Spike had lived here for a couple of months rather than years.  “Let me take your coat, you’re looking flushed.”

Xander allowed Spike to slide the big wool overcoat from his shoulders and stood, lost, in the centre of the room as the vampire took it back to the hall to hang up.

“This is…umm…”

“Dull?” Spike supplied as he returned.

“Minimalistic,” Xander contradicted and Spike gave a soft laugh.

“Can’t complain.  It comes with the job.”

“Not complaining?”

“The house.”

 

Spike solicitously took Xander’s elbow and sat him down.  Xander jerked back as a cool hand pressed to his forehead.

“You’re ill?”

“I don’t travel well.”  Which was the truth but a lie in this case and they both knew it.  “You have anything cold to drink?  Non-alcoholic.  Water’s fine.”

Spike went away and came back with a jug of something pale and sweet and icy, pouring Xander a glass and watching neutrally as the young man tried not to spill it all over himself.

“Why?” he asked as Xander finished the cordial with a sigh of satisfaction.

“What?”

“Do you shake?”

“Just kinda wound up.”

“Why are you so thin?”

Xander shrugged and counted the ice cubes in the jug before flicking a look in the vampire’s direction.

“You look well.  You look…sane.”

Except for the naturally dark blond hair, Spike had reverted to what Xander considered to be the norm: black t-shirt and black jeans and the hefty DM’s, even in the house; still smelling of the distinct cigarette-based Spike smell that Xander remembered from their days sharing the basement, sharing the car, sharing a little corner of hell.

“I was going to order in later.  Can I get you something now?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Are you ill?”

“No.”

“Then why are you so thin?”

 

Xander unscrewed the paper in his hand, offered it to Spike.

“It’s Friday.”  Spike nodded, stared.  “Anyone else going to be here?”  Spike shook his head, stared.  “Can I…?”  Spike poured more cordial, not filling the glass quite so full this time.

“Where’s your stuff?”

Xander almost choked on the drink, wiped his mouth, felt a prize fool.

“I left it on the middle bus.  I was distracted.”  Counting the uprights of a picket fence.

“I thought you’d drive yourself.”

“I…  No.”  Xander put the glass down, picked it up.  “Why didn’t I have any choice?  I mean, I didn’t question that and I don’t know why I didn’t question it.”

“You had a choice.  I just wanted you here and put what I thought would bring you.”

“Fine.  That’s worth losing my stuff over.”

“I’ll call the bus company tomorrow.  And I have a spare toothbrush,” Spike said with a smile.

“All your guests get the same one?” Xander asked and Spike’s smile broadened.

“I’ve missed you, Xander.”

“Okay.”  Quietly, uncomfortably, head down.

“Miss me?”

“No.”

“At least that’s honest.”

“I didn’t mean…  I meant…”

“Xander,” Spike said in the cosseting tone that Xander hated because it made him feel so vulnerable.  “I understand.”

“Okay.”

“Shall I show you around the house?  You can see how your average hell-hole guardian lives it up.”

“That’d be good.”

Xander started to rise but his legs shook so hard he tipped back into the seat.  He looked around for something to count but only met Spike’s eyes, and was pinned like a butterfly to a board by the sympathy and anger he saw there.  A hand shot out and Xander took it, thanked Spike as he was hauled to his feet.

 

The next room was a library; the large circular table piled with open books or closed books with all manner of items as bookmarks.

“How’d you find the number when you want pizza?”

Spike glanced over the pile and unburied a large leather-bound tomb, opening it and showing off the bookmark which happened to be for the local pizza delivery firm.

“Eighteenth-century witches and warlocks, European edition.  Means a meat feast, no garlic every time.  Chinese is The Ghaneski Chronicles.  Italian is…”

“I get it.”

“Which volume do you fancy tonight?”

Xander made a ‘Your choice’ gesture and quickly looked away.  Spike stared at the nearest hand as it shook its way over the ancient volumes on a nearby shelf.”

“I remember a lot of these.  Researching, y’know?”

“Some of these were Rupert’s.”  Panic flitted over Xander’s face as he turned to Spike for further explanation.  “He’s fine.  He gifted them to me.”  Relief and suppressed emotion drained Xander and he sank into one of the chairs at the table, hand coming up to cover his mouth, eyes clenched shut.  “He’s fine,” Spike reiterated, and Xander acknowledged that with a nod, jumping with shock as hands landed on his tense shoulders and squeezed.  Xander forced open his eyes and counted the books on the table, sub-dividing them into size and re-counting, sub-dividing into binding colour…  “Come on.”  And hands slid around his upper arms and eased him to his feet.

 

They went to the kitchen, a pleasant, homely room that Spike apparently spent most of his time in, the table here piled with newspapers opened at the crossword puzzle, cigarette packs and the general detritus of existence.  Spike propped Xander up against the nearest counter and started to make tea, blocking Xander’s view of the mugs so it wasn’t possible to see quite how much sugar he was putting in Xander’s drink.

“I’d prefer cold.”

“You’ll drink this.”

Spike turned back, came to Xander without hesitation and grasped the hand that worried a loose cotton on his shirt.  He gripped tight to stop the shakes.  Xander tried to withdraw but Spike was so much stronger, and the only evasion possible was counting the floor tiles.

“Are you going to tell me?”

“No.”

“Will you let me help you?”

“No.”

“Do you want to be here?”

“No.”

Spike brought the hand to his face, held it against his cheek and cherished the warmth.

“You want to leave then?”

There was a long pause.  Long, long pause.  One-hundred-and-forty-eight tiles.

“No.”

 

Spike returned Xander’s hand.  Went to pour boiling water then was back, scarily close and forcing Xander to pay attention.  He silently played with Xander’s too long, too untidy hair, eventually pushing it back and holding it as if tied at the nape of his neck.

“Was this a sartorial decision?  Or just that you couldn’t be arsed to get it cut?”

Xander’s weary, empty eyes met his.

“Couldn’t be assed.”

“I like it.”  Spike let the wavy locks fall loose again, pulling them around to frame the expressionless face.  “Still so handsome, Xander.  You were always handsome.”

“No.”

“Again with the no.  What happened to the Xander Harris with the yammer?  He’d have had more than ‘No’ for me.”

“Can I sit down?”

“No,” Spike replied, imitating Xander.  Then he smiled.  “Course you can.”

Spike stepped back and Xander moved to the table and sat, fiddling with a pack of Spike’s cigarettes before taking one out and lighting up, drawing deeply before Spike had time to snatch the offending object from his fingers.  Xander couldn’t be bothered to argue; he started to count the boxes in the crossword puzzle closest to him.  He didn’t look up as Spike held his hand still and put the cigarette back between his fingers, and it was at his mouth before Spike went for the tea.

Spike sat beside him, placed a mug on the table before him.  Xander tapped at the crossword.

“Eleven across.  Tambour.”  Spike cocked the scarred eyebrow, picked up the paper and a pen, filled the word in without question.  Another look and Xander shook his head.  “That’s all I’m good for.”

Spike rifled through the papers and pulled out a week-old edition, scanning through the clues.

“Here.  Six letters.  Flush joint.  Something, something, R, something, E, something.”

“Carvel.”

Spike grinned, filled the last empty squares as Xander counted along, admired the finished puzzle, then tossed the paper into a pile beside the sink unit.

“The recycling vampire,” he laughed at Xander’s curiosity.

“Commendable.”

“I’m pathetic,” Spike snorted amiably as he lit his own cigarette.

“Why am I here?”

“Usual.  End of the world.”

Xander groaned.

“I think I’ve averted my share of apocalypses, Spike.”

“But you’re so good at it.  Wouldn’t dream of having an apocalypse without Xander Harris.  Be like trying to reform the Pistols without Sid.”

“They did, they proved it could be done.”

“Yeah, well, maybe Sid didn’t have the key to the explosives cabinet.”

“I can’t.”

Xander’s expression screamed, ‘Look at me, for God’s sake!’ but Spike didn’t want to look, refused to see the debilitated version of his acquaintance.

“I’ll phone for pizza then I’m going out for a while.”

“Out for a bite?”  Spike nodded.  “Perk of the job?”

“Could say that.”

“Do you kill them?”

Spike shook his head.

“Thrall ‘em – Dru’d be proud of me, I tell you - couple of pints, they’re woozy for a day or two, that’s all.”

“The soul lets you do that?”

“What does your soul let you do, Xander?” Spike asked, tone harsh, and Xander took a sharp, telling breath.  Spike’s hand covered his and he jumped yet again.  “You’re one of the great and good, mate.  Nothing on your conscience, I’ll bet.”

Xander swallowed hard, throat clogged by too much sugar in the tea.

“No.”

The chilly hand on Xander’s stroked and explored, every inch of flesh, the shape of every prominent bone.  Xander bore it as long as possible then moved his hand away, flushing with inexplicable embarrassment.

“Tired?”

“Yeah.”

“Want to see your room?”

“Yeah.”

 

They took the stairs slowly, Spike fighting against the desire to help Xander but eventually offering his arm and Xander defeatedly taking it.

“I’m just tired,” Xander unconvincingly explained his weakness away as he rested on the landing, counting the banister spindles.  “It was a long trip and I don’t…”

“…travel well,” Spike finished for him.

Into Xander’s room and Spike sat him down on the bed.

“Can I stay here now?  I’d like to rest.”

“Did you sleep at all last night?”

“No.  I was…”

The wallpaper was patterned; there were insulating tiles on the ceiling.  The room was perfect: Xander could count himself into a stupor.  Spike sat close and put an arm around Xander, running his hand over the back that stiffened in reflection of its owner’s anxiety.

“Shall I put you to bed?” Spike asked quietly.

“I can manage.”

“Sleep now, food later.  Promise me you’ll eat something.”

“I’m really not hungry.  I’m too tired to be hungry.”

Spike leant closer and nuzzled Xander’s neck, up to his ear, changed direction and kissed his cheek.  Xander remained completely passive.

“You still smell of chocolate.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“It’s in your head.  You’re still crazy.”

“You were never very good at accepting the obvious.”

“Go away, Spike.”

“Anything I can bring you back?”

“Razor.  Comb.”

Spike nodded and stood, fished into a back pocket and pulled out a card.

“Here,” He offered it to Xander, who stared for a minute before taking it.  “My cell number’s on there if you need me.”

“You have a card?”

“And now you have a card,” Spike told him in idiot speak.

“Where’s the phone?  House phone?”

“Kitchen table.  Throw the papers on the floor and you’ll find it.  I won’t be gone long.”

“Take your time, I’m fine.”

“Yeah.  You look it.”

Another jump as Spike caressed the back of Xander’s head, a touch of comfort and statement: no, Xander wasn’t fine and it hurt to see.

 

It was barely dark out but Spike wanted to leave Xander alone to sleep, if he could sleep: he didn’t look as if sleep played a great part in his schedule.  With a grin he pulled on Xander’s coat, hugging it around himself and enjoying the scent that enveloped him.  Why did Xander need such a big coat in this clement weather?  Too thin to keep to himself warm?  Quick recce through the pockets: bus tickets, keys, pen, change, wallet.  Spike rifled through the wallet: just under two-hundred dollars, bank card, driving licence, various IDs.  No photographs, nothing personal.  He studied a year-old ID card that seemed to permit Xander to drive anything up to a space shuttle providing it was on a building site.  The picture was the Xander he’d remembered, the one he’d written his note to.  He drew a fingertip over the face.

“Beautiful, Xander.  I’ll get you back.  Promise, love.”

Quietly closing the front door he stepped to the edge of the porch, taking a deep, searching breath.  That was handy, someone still in the park.  Quick snack and the chance to commune with the Powers, all in one convenient package.  He needed to get the nod on what the fuck had happened to Xander; if he was going to keep him he had to help him, and he couldn’t help him without knowing and, yeah, right, Xander would just tell him everything.

The sugar had kicked in; Xander felt a bit better, a little stronger.  He considered a shower and went looking for the bathroom, finding Spike’s bedroom first.  Unable – actually, unwilling - to fight his curiosity, he went in and looked around, fascinated by the lack of personal touches.  The only item that spoke of connections was a photograph: Willow, Xander, Buffy, Dawn.  His chest ached; he touched Buffy’s half-forgotten face and whispered a hello and a sorry, lied as he promised Willow and Dawn he’d be in touch.

He looked in the dresser.  The top drawer was packed to overflowing with letters, too many to count, and he guessed they were from Angel.  Xander liked that and he could see it – two obstinate bastards who rarely picked up a phone but would write one another long, eloquent epistles.  Taking the top envelope and pulling out the contents, Xander glanced over the back page for the signature.  Yes, Angel.  His own name caught his eye: ‘Xander will never agree…’ and Xander had the pages back in the envelope and the drawer shut in seconds, shaking his way over to the bed and sinking heavily onto the edge.  He wasn’t frightened of Spike but he was frightened of plans and intentions and commitments, and if Angel knew he would never agree, then surely he would never agree?  To what?  Didn’t matter.

Xander spread his hands over the bed cover: velvet.  Hedonist, his mind smiled.  Allowing himself to fall back, he stretched out, wondered how many people had shared this bed, before he mentally slapped himself and turned his head to count the quirks in the gothic headboard.  With a frown he pushed himself back up, moving closer to the head of the bed to examine a small stone pendant hanging from a metal twirl.  It was his.  Lost, he thought, in the last battle at the school.  It had been a gift from Willow.  Lost, he thought.  Spike had it.

“Spike had it,” he said, as if hearing that aloud would permit the fact to make sense.  He stared at the pendant for a few minutes before turning away and rolling onto the bed, dragging a pillow to him and getting comfortable.  “Keep it,” he muttered, all thoughts of showers and what he’d never agree to forgotten.  He wanted to sleep.  He needed to sleep.  Spike’s velvet was comforting.  The smell of Spike on the pillow was comforting.  He slept.

Spike looked in Xander’s room for his guest, then he looked in his own.  Xander in his bed, very nice.  He put the bagful of items he’d bought Xander in the bathroom and returned to the fitfully sleeping human.

“Xander,” he said in a whisper as he joined him on the bed.

“No,” came the dozy reply.

“Not everything is an automatic no.  This was a yes.  Unless you have amnesia, in which case I’ll take advantage of your memory loss, persuade you you’re all mine, and fuck you through the mattress.”

“No.”  Xander felt the touch, wanted the touch, knew it was wrong, wanted to scream with the wrongness.   “No,” he told Spike, and Spike removed his harmless, unthreatening hand from its resting place on Xander’s hip.

“I’ve ordered pizza.  I got you some stuff to make yourself gorgeous again.”

“Stuff?”

“In the bathroom.”

“Oh.  Right.  Thanks.  I’ll give you the money.”

“No need.”

Spike took a shoulder and rolled Xander onto his back, meeting no resistance, which seemed to be a feature of this Xander despite everything being no.  Their eyes met, the dead man’s sharp and alive, the living’s dull and dead.

“What do you want, Spike?”

“You like my room better than your own?”

“Velvet.”

“Yeah, nice, innit?”

“What do you want?

Spike studied the unhappy face for a while.

“Can I kiss you?”

“No.”  Quiet.  Subdued.  No offence, no objection, just the same air of bleakness.

“Why not?”

“Why the hell would you want to?”  Not really a question at all.  At least not a question for Spike to answer.

Nothing to count in this room, nothing to count.  Xander began counting his inhalations and his exhalations.  Spike studied the utter misery laid out before him, and the need to explore what had destroyed Xander burned in him.

“Talk to me.”

“Leave me alone.  I’m tired, I want to sleep.”

“You don’t look like you do much of that.  Sleeping.”  No response beyond Xander turning his face away.  With a gentle touch Spike brought it back, trying to make Xander meet his eyes again.  Xander was horribly compliant; he gazed back at Spike, unafraid to expose the emptiness.  “What happened to you, eh?” Spike asked gently as he stroked a sunken cheek.

“You trying to like me?” Xander asked.

“I do like you.”

“Well, don’t.  Don’t like me.  Don’t lower yourself.”

Xander pulled away and turned his back to Spike, tense and hunched and a million miles away from the debateable comfort of sleep.  Spike moved closer to the inhospitable back, leant up on one elbow, rested his chin on Xander’s shoulder.

“So…  No kiss?”

“No.”

“Then I guess a shag is out of the question?”  The slightest smile touched Xander’s mouth at the old joke and Spike rolled away, satisfied.  “Come on, love.  Come and eat.”

“Don’t.”

Such pain in the whisper that Spike flinched.

“Don’t what?”

“Call me that.  Not love, I’m no-one’s love.”

Spike filed that gem away and returned to his previous position, snuggling against Xander’s warm back.

“I was hoping you meant move.  Don’t move.  ‘Cause this is good.”

“Spike…”

“Begrudge me the warmth?  Share, you miserable git.”

Xander fell silent and Spike got comfortable, wriggling as close to the heat as possible, wrapping an arm around Xander’s bony frame.

Spike watched as Xander expertly demolished pizza slices, picking them to pieces, rearranging what was left to make the plate look more empty than full, occasionally putting tiny scraps into his mouth and making a show of chewing and swallowing.  To someone who was not specifically looking for such behaviour it might have worked as a decoy, but Spike was looking and saw straight through to the truth.  He made Xander sweet tea and Xander drank it because he had to, resenting Spike and throwing him sullen looks.

“‘You have no choice.  Be here by Friday,’” Xander quoted.  “Tell me.”

“There is a choice.  I’m trying to decide whether you get to make it.”

“What kind of choice?”

“Hard one for you.”

“When does it have to be made by?”

“Sunday.”

“But that’s too close.”

“How do you know?”

“You said it was a hard choice.”

“I also said I’m wondering about whether you get to make it.”

 

Too much for Xander, and he leant forward, head in hands, counted crumbs until the plate was taken away, then he counted the knots in the surface of the wooden table.

“Got you an old favourite.”  Xander smelt the chocolate as Spike placed a pastry box by his elbow.  “Cheesecake.  Seen you eat your bodyweight in these before now.”

The box was opened and Xander turned his head away, but not before Spike had seen the expression on his face.  Appalled.  He’d been appalled.  Xander and chocolate?

“I’m not really hungry,” Xander announced uncomfortably, sensing Spike’s concern.  “Tomorrow would be good.”

He turned back and tried to look sincere.  Spike stuck a forefinger into the top of the cheesecake, scooping up a curl of the topping, offering it to Xander.

“For me.  Because I made the effort.”

“No.  Tomorrow.”

Before Xander knew what had happened Spike had moved, his chair was jerked back and the vampire was straddling his lap, facing him.  The one finger of chocolate still offered.  Xander froze.  Spike tilted forward, whispering in Xander’s ear.

“Be a nice boy for Spike.”

For a moment Spike thought he was going to get a real, honest-to-god, Xander Harris reaction and be unceremoniously thrown aside, but Xander’s clenched body didn’t so much relax as give up, and his hands lay limply on Spike’s thighs.  Spike touched the unwilling mouth and gained admittance, watching with greed and lust as his finger slid in, moaning softly as Xander sucked the chocolate away and his tongue completed the clean-up job.  Spike’s finger fucked the soft, hot mouth and Xander let him, eyes half-closed, mind out of the body, out of the building, off of the planet for that moment.  Then Spike saw that wretched mind return and switch Xander over to automatic pilot.  His head drew back and Spike slid his finger out, wetly tracing over the bottom lip, back and forth.

“No,” predictably.

Spike’s head ducked forward, tongue swiping between Xander’s closing lips, one pass, stealing the provocative flavour of chocolate and Xander.  Ragged gasp and Xander wanted out, and he tried to push Spike away.

“I need to go up now.  I need to shower.  I feel dirty,” he finished under his breath.

“Because of me?”

Xander was surprised into looking at this Spike who spoke anxiously at having caused such a reaction.  Authentically surprised, Spike noted with relief.  Relief turned to dismay as Xander followed up with:

“No.  Because of me.”

Spike stood, helped the fiercely shaking human to his feet.

By himself in the bathroom, Xander sorted through what Spike had bought for him, touched that he’d gone to the trouble of buying the brands he remembered Xander favouring.  Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorant.  Toothbrush.  And there was an electric razor because Spike wouldn’t put anything with a naked blade in those unreliable hands.  An act of kindness.  Lots of individual acts of undeserved kindness in one bag.  Xander felt the pain of it and counted ceramic tiles.

“You forgot your towel.”

Spike moved in slow motion, strolling over to place the towel in the ring beside the shower, gaze fixed upon the figure semi-disguised by steam and pouring water.

“Don’t look at me,” Xander said in that quiet, defeated voice, not seeing Spike but knowing Spike.

So Spike didn’t.  He sat on the closed toilet seat and faced away.  Now he was looking at the mirror not at Xander.  That Xander was reflected in the mirror was coincidental.  Spike smoked a cigarette as he analysed the once-proud body that was now a delicate apology of itself, trying to convince himself that he’d made a mistake and he had to send Xander back to where he’d come from.  But his compassion said keep him, care for him.  His instincts said that if he didn’t intercede Xander wouldn’t see another birthday.  His soul merely reminded him that this was Xander Harris, and that Xander Harris was what he wanted.

Xander was trying to open the shampoo; it was a special offer pack that had two bottles sealed together.  He couldn’t find a way in and his infuriating, clumsy hands shook harder the more he tried.  These were the moments when he questioned his actions, when he thought about the destructive speed of trains and cars and bullets.  A swan dive from a local viaduct.  It was the tiniest inconvenience that made him want to weep and maybe he would have if he remembered how.

“Let me.”

Spike, close, and Xander almost collapsed with fright.  As he leant against the wall on one arm, Spike, fully clothed and rapidly becoming drenched, took the bottles, easily separated them with sharp nails; he tossed one bottle outside the cubicle and took a palm-full of shampoo from the other before dropping it and proceeding to wash Xander’s hair.  Now with both arms propped against the wall, Xander leant his head back and luxuriated in the contact as Spike slowly and methodically worked the lather along every strand, taking time to massage scalp and neck.

“Good?”

“Uh-huh”

“You want me to stop?”

“Uh-huh.”

Spike’s hands slid easily down the soapy back and around the waist.

“No,” Xander pleaded.

“I’m just holding you.”  Proving his point by leaning against the hot body and tightening his grip, manoeuvring Xander beneath the spray and letting the suds stream away.

“No.”

“Won’t you let me help you, love?” Spike coaxed.

“Don’t,” Xander told him again, pressing back hard against the inflexible body, face turning so his lips touched Spike’s cheek.  “Please.”  Mixed signal, Spike thought, totally confused because the tone of that word would have got Xander fucked in any other situation.  He was already hard from touching Xander, harder from Xander’s wet body pushing against him, and he had to check because he couldn’t help but desire.

“Want me, Xander?”

“No.”

“Figures.”  The pressure didn’t let up; Xander’s breathing grew heavier, shuddering in time with the distinct waves of trembling that wracked his body.  Despite the almost unbearable temptation Spike refused to look, or drop a hand lower and see how Xander was really feeling.  “Sure you don’t want me?”

“Sure.”

“Can I have you anyway?”

“No,” they said together.

 

Spike pushed Xander away from him, turned off the water, grabbed the towel and wrapped it around the thin body.  Then he carefully swivelled Xander until they were facing.

“Okay?”

“Yeah.  Thanks.”

“For not shoving you up against the wall and fucking you raw?”

“For washing my hair,” corrected Xander without so much as a blink.

“You’re welcome.”

Xander glanced over him.

“You’re wet.”

“Got a bigger problem than that.”

Xander waited, expressionless, for further explanation, allowing Spike to take his hand and place it over the prominent bulge in the front of his soaking jeans.

“Oh.  Right.”

The hand lay still.  Spike let it go.  It withdrew into the towel.  Spike’s attention focused on the face before him, and he found himself wishing that he didn’t need to see an emotion, a reaction, a smile: a smile would be good.  Anything in the eyes, anything at all, even if it were hatred; he’d lived with the hate in Xander’s eyes before and come through it, won him around, forced those eyes to reflect their camaraderie.  Now those lovely eyes were vacant, and Spike wanted to put a smile on this face.

“Can I kiss you?”

“No.”

Xander wanted Spike’s bed rather than his own.  Without a word he went to it and, dropping the towel, climbed under the covers.  Naked, dried-off Spike entered the room five minutes later, joined him, eased him into a sitting position and moved behind him, using the dry towel he’d brought to take the remaining moisture from Xander’s hair before it all sucked into the pillows.  Spike couldn’t resist playing: combing through again and again, braiding and un-braiding, curling strands around nimble fingers that still exhibited muscle memory of fussing over Drusilla’s dark locks.  He hummed constantly: such a happy, peaceful sound.  Bar the now minimal shaking, Xander sat motionless between Spike’s thighs and let him get on with it, trying not to enjoy the attention, but it was soothing and restful and he so wanted to rest.  Eventually he leant against Spike’s chest, exhausted and grateful and too weak to resist the offer of comfort any longer; his head fell back onto Spike’s shoulder and a creak escaped his throat as a sure touch ran over his arms, collected his hands and held them.

“I’m dying, Spike,” he murmured.

“I know, love.”

“I deserve it.”

“No.”

“You don’t understand…”

“I do, as it happens.  And I’m going to turn it around.”

“Why?”

“You.”

“But you don’t even like me.”

“I like you well enough.  Chose you, didn’t I?”

“You…”  Xander’s head rose and he tried to pull away and face Spike, but the vampire needed little strength to keep him where he was.  “You chose me,” Xander said flatly as his head sank back once more.

“I didn’t know you’d be like this.  I had you in my head as you were: strong and stubborn, loyal and fearless.  I thought of you saving the world, reckoned you might like another pop at it.”

“I’m useless like this.  Useless to you.”

“That’s why I’m going to help you.  Get you back to where you were.  Save you.”

“It’s impossible.”

Spike wrapped his arms around Xander and held him tightly, feeling the heightened shudder, knowing what was going through the human’s mind about not deserving even this much affection.

“What are you dying from, Xander?”  Xander tried to get away but the struggle lasted only seconds.  “Tell you, shall I?  Guilt.  I can see it, smell it.  I know it, Xander.  And I know that starving yourself to death may be sufficiently painful to make you feel you’re paying the price, but you’re not.”

“You know the price?”

“Course.”

“Then what…?”

“It’s why you’re here, love.  Back to saving the world.  I save you, you save everyone.”

“I can’t help you, I’m too weak.”

“I’ll make you strong again.  I’ll give you a reason to be strong.”

“You chose me?”

“Yeah.”

“Is that why I have no choice?”

“You have a choice, Xander.  I just doubt that I’ll let you make it, I told you that.”  Spike cradled Xander, hands moving over his skin, making him shake harder, until one hand settled over his rapidly beating heart.  “I never dreamed you’d be the one to give up.  I counted on you being the Xander I knew, and I have to have that man for this fight.”

“I can’t be him.”

“You will be him.  Inside you’re still him.  You’ll understand what’s happened and move on.”

“No.”

“We have time before the next showdown.  I’ll teach you to be him again.  I’ll bring him back and you’ll be healthy and powerful, smart, self-opinionated, maddening, beautiful, loud – so bloody loud – and…I’ll let you drive me to drink.”  He kissed Xander’s neck and when he next spoke it was tenderly.  “I’ll hold you and care for you.  Have you.  Fuck some love into you.  Bring you back to life.”

“No.”

“That’s almost funny.  The undead showing you how to live.”

“It would be wrong.  To live would be wrong.”

Tipping Xander forward, Spike went back to humming and combing, and Xander wouldn’t remember exactly when it was that he finally passed out.

 

 





 

 

Chapter 2


Xander had a good internal clock.  He knew it was that time between the dark of night and the light of morning when the world was grey and demons were slinking back to their lairs.  A time of promise.  A time he’d be sad to lose.

Spike’s arm was around his waist and he carelessly pushed it away, not concerned with the wakefulness or otherwise of this particular demon.  Out of the bed and to the bathroom, relieving himself and back to counting tiles instead of wondering why the Guardian of the Hellmouth’s needs included him.  Despite last night’s shower he felt dirty and needed to wash.  He washed a lot.  He ran some hot water into the basin and braced himself to look in the mirror.  The image nearly brought a smile to his face: his hair was full of untidy kinks from where Spike had been fiddling with it, and it stuck out this way and that.  He wet his hands and ran them over it a few times, smoothing it flatter but never managing flat.

The door magically opened behind him and he cursed himself for jumping at everything.  Wrapping a towel around his waist, he turned so he could see what was invisible to the mirror.

“Morning.  Bit early to be wandering around.”

Xander’s gaze travelled down and back up the body in front of him.

“I can see.”

“See what?”

“The difference.  Where you’ve been feeding properly.  Not much bigger but…fuller.  Does that make sense?”

“It’ll do,” Spike laughed.

“You must be very strong,” Xander murmured, more to himself than Spike, reaching out and touching a plump bicep with one finger, feeling it turn to steel as Spike flexed the arm for him.  The finger ran up, across, down, pecs, abs, stopping and yanking away when the owner saw the vampire was rapidly getting hard.

“Don’t stop,” Spike appealed, taking a step closer.

“I…  No.”

Xander attempted to turn away but Spike brought him back.

“Can I kiss you?”

“Why do you…!  What is it you want, Spike?” Xander demanded, desperation creeping into his voice.  “You just looking to get off?  What’ll it be?  Hands, mouth, ass?  You can have what you want, just tell me.”

“Don’t, Xander.  Makes you sound like a whore.”

Xander gave a brisk, humourless laugh and it was startling to Spike.

“But I am a whore.  Always was.  You know, despite what people thought about me I was never a good person, even back then.  Sure I can save the world but I’ve never been able to stay faithful to anyone in my life.  Funny when you think of it: the way I was over you and Anya fucking after – after – I’d walked out on her.  Couple of days before the wedding I was taking it up the ass from three guys I met in a bar.  Then I’m fucking this incredible man and thinking about wedding arrangements to calm me down and make it last longer.  And safe sex?  Forget it.”  Xander felt Spike’s reaction, knew how wasted he looked.  “No,” he sighed.  “I never caught anything.  I’m not AIDS-thin, not hepatitis-thin, I’m just…”  Xander stopped, the pain having caught up once again.  “I’m just a whore and I’m paying for it.”

“Guilt-thin,” Spike supplied.

“Guilt-thin,” Xander repeated before switching off and leaving Spike in silence and solitude.

 

The vampire followed him back to bed, snuggling close despite Xander’s discomfort, engaging in some tender touches that did very little to settle Xander, but gave him something to count.  An hour passed.

“What then?”

“Mmm?” Spike asked drowsily from his own personal comfort zone.

“Did you want?  Hands, mouth…”

“I want…to understand you.”

“You want to understand Xander Harris?  Just picture a guy whose head was so far up his own ass he only saw daylight when he yawned.  That’s all you need to know.”

“There are levels of understanding.  I’d like to get beyond the basic.”

“And you can do that by kissing me?”

“That’s making contact, infiltrating your defences.  That’s weakening your resolve to cut me out.  That’s…” Spike grinned.  “That’s me doing what I’ve wanted to do for years.”

“You’re full of shit, you know that?”

“Don’t take it personally.  In my heart I wanted to corrupt you all.”

“You’re so full of shit,” Xander muttered under his breath.  “Don’t ask me again, all right?  You don’t ask me that again.”

“I won’t ask again.  If you’ll talk to me.”

“I am talking.  Fucking hell, I haven’t spoken this much for a year.”

“Ranting isn’t conversation.”

“Fuck off.”

“You’ve got a little fire in your belly today.  I like that.”

“It won’t last,” Xander informed Spike tersely, rearranging his pillow and shoving his face into it, flicking his tongue around his mouth and counting his teeth.

Surrounded by blood, gallons of blood, drowning in blood, and Xander leapt awake, choking and sweating, grabbing onto the nearest thing that could divert his attention and today that happened to be the undead.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck…” Xander droned continuously, twisting and pressing into Spike’s sleepy embrace, holding onto the unlikeliest source of comfort he’d ever known as if his life depended on it, because maybe it did.  Gratitude swelled in him as he felt Spike’s arms protectively surround him.  “Fuck, Spike, oh fuck, help me…”

“You’re okay now.  I won’t let anything have you.”

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry…”

Spike pulled Xander’s head onto his shoulder, listening to the babble and knowing it was statement not apology.  He placated with touches and whispers and eventually the distraught human calmed.

“Ready to talk to me?”

“No.”

“You have to.  It’s a part of the choice you don’t have.”

“You’ve decided then?”

“You’re not rational enough to be given a choice.  You’ll only say no.”  Xander started to pull away and Spike held firm.  “Stay with me.  Talk to me.”

“Don’t you know?  Haven’t your voices told you?”

“I need to hear it from you.”

“I can’t.”

 

Another hour slipped by; Xander fought to remain awake, knowing he was safe within this unrelenting grip.  His fingers traced the shapes of Spike’s torso constantly, counting the ribs over and over and over again.  When Spike’s hand closed over his, stilling his movements, he finally made the effort to get up, unhappy about having to wear the previous day’s clothes, but dressing and going downstairs.  Ten minutes staring into the fridge, thinking about the taste combination of chocolate and Spike, before drinking a glass of water, finding his coat and heading out, crossing the road to the memorial park and spending the remainder of the morning sitting with the unliving dead.  He talked to Buffy and found a surprising amount of peace, something he relished as his focus remained fixed on Spike’s house, on the window of the room where he slept.  One house, one window, one room, one vampire.  One future?  One decision?

One decision he wasn’t to be permitted to make.  He was too irrational.  Xander dipped into his breast pocket and brought out his wallet, checking to see if there was anything of value left inside.  But it was all there, including the price of bus tickets home.  Home.  His eyes flitted back to the window, catching a slight movement of the drapes and knowing that Spike was keeping tabs on him.  If he was honest, Xander was surprised he’d been allowed to leave the house at all.

A young couple wandered through the park, faces he vaguely knew from the past.  They glanced in his direction and away, no sign of recognition, but he didn’t expect it.  He knew how wrong he looked here, how out of place.  Stick-thin, prematurely grey-streaked hair sitting on his shoulders, unshaven, body hunched as if freezing despite a thick winter coat in the warmth of late spring.  Dead eyes.  Scary dead eyes that only Spike had the balls to look into.  Lost and it showed.  Dying and it showed.

He nearly yelped in surprise as a phone rang within a deep pocket, scrabbling to find it, wondering whether to answer it because the call was obviously for Spike because it was Spike’s phone that had got there God knows how.  But answer it he did, charily offering a hello.

“Come in, Xander.”

“Not yet.”

“Don’t be mean.”

“Mean?”

“You’re frightening the children.”

Xander started to look around for the traumatised youngsters before catching on.

“Bastard,” he murmured into the phone, but he liked the joke and that made the ache that lived in his chest erupt with a vengeance.

“Come in, love.”

The voice was warm and irresistible.  Successfully manipulative.  Xander looked over at the house and nodded.  Switched the phone off and made his way slowly back.

 

Spike was still on the phone when Xander walked into the kitchen, now pretending to be Mr Harris and arranging to pick up his luggage from the bus depot.

“How did you know what company?” Xander asked as Spike put the phone down; Spike waved yesterday’s bus tickets at him.  Well, obviously he’d been through the coat’s pockets or the phone wouldn’t have been there and, okay, that still didn’t make much sense.

“We’ll pick it up later.”

“I can collect it on the way home.”

Spike stared at Xander long, hard and heavy until the human buckled under the weight, dropped his head and counted floor tiles.

“I didn’t get you here so you could leave.”

“I’m trying to have a choice.”

“If I give you a choice you’ll be dead,” Spike yelled out of pure frustration.  Xander did his best not to flinch.  In the ensuing silence Spike relented and crossed to Xander, backing him into the door and running his hands up Xander’s arms and onto his shoulders, into his hair.  Spike coaxed Xander into a hug, feeling the shaking intensify and Xander lean into him as if he wanted the contact and affection.  “Don’t die, Xander.  Please.”

“I don’t deserve this,” Xander protested weakly, not making any attempt to get away, if anything, leaning in harder.  “Any of this.”

“I think that’s true.  But not in the sense you mean.”

 

One final squeeze and Spike took Xander’s coat off, sitting him down at the table.  Back from hanging the coat up and Spike put a plate in front of Xander: tiny amount of scrambled egg, one slice of toast. Xander looked horrified and it was only a vicelike grip on his shoulder that kept him in place.

“For me, Xander.  Eat it fast and it’ll all be back soon anyway, no way you’ll keep it down after starving yourself for so long.”

“No.”

“Just…”

“No!  Take it away, I don’t want it, I don’t want anything.  I don’t want this, I don’t want here, I don’t want you and I don’t want your phoney concern…”

Xander caught himself before he could tip into a full-blown panic attack, taking deep breaths and trying his best to shut down.

“You don’t want to feel,” Spike offered a last observation before taking the food away and replacing it with a glass of cordial which Xander lunged at and gulped down.

Spike left the jug on the table and sat down opposite Xander, lighting a cigarette and keeping the pack away from the human.  He picked up a paper and filled in some of the crossword.

“What do you do all day?” Xander eventually asked.

“Depends what’s brewing.  Sometimes, like the last few weeks, I’m just sitting around being bored.  That’s one of the reasons I want you here.”

“Nothing to keep you occupied right now?  Like, say, the end of the world?”

“Bugger all to be done about that yet.  So company would be nice.”

“We used to drive each other nuts.”

“But we rarely got bored.”

“If you’re looking for light entertainment you picked the wrong guy.”

“It’s not just for…  You weren’t part of some lucky dip, Xander.  I didn’t put all the names of potential Consorts in a hat and pull you out.  I thought about it, about who I wanted.”

“Consort?  Consort?  You never said.”

“Of course I never said, I thought I could trap you before you knew.  Didn’t want to put the mockers on it by telling you the truth, did I?”

“Why a Consort?”

“Why not?”

“That means something special, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah.  What’s limacine?”

Xander shrugged, too preoccupied to give a damn about crossword puzzles, watching as Spike found and flicked through a dictionary.  If he’d had the strength he would have been mad as hell: what Spike was suggesting didn’t make any sense: the level of commitment he wanted was impossible.  But he didn’t have the strength.  Sympathy, maybe, now he thought about it.

“Is it because you’re lonely?”

“I am lonely.  Very lonely.  But it’s more than that.”

“And you chose me.”  Xander wasn’t going to take that in for quite a while now the C word had been aired.  “I think I may just…”

“Don’t go out.”  It was a request not an order.  Spike finally looked up from his paper.  “Don’t go away, Xander.”

“No.  I was…  I need a shave.”  He ran his fingers into his hair.  “You have any scissors?  I thought I might get rid of some of this.”

“Shame.  You look positively biblical.  Bit of a novelty having Moses around the place.”

“Scissors?”

“Leave it.”

“Why?”

“I like it.”

“And that’s enough of a reason?”

“Up to you.”

Their eyes locked and held.  Xander envied Spike’s calm, wanted to ask him how he’d found peace after all the terrible things he’d done over the years.  Why he’d allowed himself to live.  If he knew, if he could understand…

“Spike…?”  Spike silently waited.  “Limacine?”

“Slug-like.”

“Slug-like.  Not a stretch then?”

Spike chuckled as he turned back to the paper.

“Scissors are in the sink drawer.  Gimme a shout if you need a hand.”

Xander touched his hair again.

“Maybe I’ll leave it.  For now.”

He saw Spike’s smile widen before he turned to go.

Shaved, washed, sitting on Spike’s bed, waiting.  Giving the vampire thirty minutes max before he showed.  Xander thought about choices while he waited, and about how little time he had to make this one.  The one he wasn’t permitted to make.  Consort.  Handing himself, body and soul, over to Spike.  But it wasn’t as if he was making such a great job of his life, maybe he should hand it over and be done with it: the lack of responsibility would be a relief until the first time Spike tried something twice as dumb as Xander would ever have considered.  So what if the vampire had changed over the years, so what if the soul had made him stop and think occasionally?  He was still fundamentally that maniac from years past and when he was roused it showed.  Showed?  Understatement.  Kind of like the way an earthquake showed.

“That’s a serious face,” came from the doorway.  “But it seems to be the only one you packed.”

“Why so fast?  The decision?  Why does it have to be made by tomorrow?”

“Tonight.”

“You said Sunday.”

By Sunday.  Midnight Saturday.”

“Why so fast?”

“Thought if you said no I wouldn’t lose the whole weekend,” Spike grinned infuriatingly.

“You’re an earthquake,” Xander told him matter-of-factly.

That made Spike think, but not for long.  He came and pushed Xander flat on the bed, straddling him, taking his wrists and pinning them above his head.  His eyes gleamed with mischief and, curiously, Xander felt safer with this Spike than he did with contained Spike.

“Can I kiss you?”

“No.”

“How about I bite you then?” he grinned.  “Just…”  He dipped, snarling as he pinched the skin of Xander’s neck between blunt teeth for a few seconds.  “…here.”  Devoid of a suitable reply, Xander found it safer to switch off his mind and tilt his head back, tentatively enjoying the vampire’s subdued growls as he began to nuzzle and suckle from shoulder to ear.  “Wish you’d stop washing every five minutes.  You barely taste of you.”

“I want to be clean.”

“Didn’t work for Pilate either, mate.”

An unexpected spark of anger and Xander twisted under Spike, almost throwing him off, earning himself some serious lust in eyes that now met his in a challenge.

“Want to get fucked, Xander?”

“No.”

“You’re going about it the right way.”

“Get off of me.”  The nothing voice was back and Spike sighed in disappointment.  “Please, Spike.”

 

Another sigh and Spike climbed off, falling onto his back beside Xander and reaching out to take a reluctant hand.

“How long ago did it happen?”

“Did what happen?”

“That’s clever, I’m completely fooled by that.”

“Fuck off.”

“You wish.”  Spike kissed the back of Xander’s hand and smiled at the shiver of distaste or appreciation that distinguished itself from the usual tremor.  “Doesn’t matter when.  Not really.  It’s the ‘what’ I need to hear.”

“I don’t want to…”

“Tough.  Spit it out.”  Xander attempted to roll away but was drawn back by the hand Spike was hanging onto.  “Just the bare minimum.”  No response.  “Shall I then?”

“No.”

“Okay.  You met her…”  Spike considered.  “…at work?  In a bar?”

Spike waited patiently for the answer he knew Xander would eventually give.

“Restaurant,” was quietly supplied, and Spike lowered his voice to meet the level.

“Waitress, manager, owner, customer?”

“Waitress.”

“She waited on your table and took a shine to you.  She thinks, ‘Nice guy, pretty, built, wouldn’t mind him climbing aboard’.”

“Spike,” Xander snapped.

“No point in getting delicate now, is there?”

Xander took a long breath and a longer pause.

“No.”

“You couldn’t just tell her to fuck off when she hit on you in the first place…”

“I couldn’t.”

“…even though you didn’t want her…”

“I didn’t.”

“…for reasons we’ll come to later.”

“No.”

“She proved to be a surprisingly naive little thing who didn’t understand that a boy who’d grown up in the suburbs of Hell needed more than she could possibly give him to fight off the demons in his head and the damnation in his heart.”

“An innocent,” Xander murmured, hand wriggling in Spike’s as he counted fingers.

“She fell in love with him, which is understandable…”

“No.”

“…because he’s a fundamentally good man.”

“No, Spike.”

“What she couldn’t get to grips with was the fact that he couldn’t love her back, that he was too damaged and too afraid to take that kind of a chance.”

“Spike…”  The voice was shaking as hard as the body; Spike felt a frisson of excitement as he tipped the scales.

“And that naivety also meant she never got her head around the fact that he wasn’t, as she thought, respectful of her virtue, but didn’t actually want her on her back – or in any other position for that matter – and would rather disappear for days and nights at a time to…”

“She knew what I was like,” burst out of Xander like it had been waiting to escape for a long time.  “I’d warned her often enough that I couldn’t be trusted and I wouldn’t change.  I tried to be honest.  I didn’t change.  I wasn’t happy enough to change.  I was never happy, always searching for something…  Just, something.  And one night when I was out searching for the something and fucking around with some couple I picked up at a club she was…she…”

Xander tugged his hand away, turned and curled into a ball and tried to shut the pain and guilt away again, but it pounded and pounded at him until he wanted to scream.  He felt Spike’s hand playing with his hair.

“She ran herself a bath, climbed in, and slashed her wrists,” Spike finished for him conversationally.

“Why?  Why are you doing this?  If you already know.”

“You found her.”

Nothing to count.  Nothing to count.

“I found her.  All her blood was in the water, gallons of blood.  Cold.  She’d been there so long it was cold.”

“You were late?”

“Yes.  Too late.”

“You were late, Xander, not too late.  No doubt, according to her scheme, you were meant to find her, save her, and be guilted into signing away the rest of your life to her.”

“No.  I let her down.  She loved me.”

“That wasn’t love, that was coercion.  That’s not a nice girl.”

“She was a nice girl.”

“You couldn’t touch her.  Sometimes you couldn’t bear to look at her.  Nor could you tell her to just fuck off out of your life.”  Spike moved closer, rubbed Xander’s shoulder, rubbed his arm.  “Who did she remind you of, Xander?  Who did she look like?”

“No.”

“Who did she remind you of?”

Pause.  Brittle, breathless pause.

“Buffy.”

 

Spike allowed Xander a little time to recover, constantly petting and stroking, hearing the dull mutter as Xander counted the touches.

“Buffy didn’t die because of you.”

“I wasn’t there when she needed me,” Xander ground out through clenched teeth.

“Not your fault.”

“I should have been there.”

“And she should have waited until you were.”

“She might have lived.”

“No.  She wasn’t meant to live.”

“She saved us.”

“You saved us.  You saved the world.  Again.  Occupational hazard for carpenters.”

“I loved her.”

“I know.  Me too.”  Bare minimum and Spike wouldn’t push for more because it was possible to feel Xander switching off; Spike forced himself to perk up.  “Come on, we’re not finished yet.”

“I’ve had enough.  I want to die.”

“Later maybe, see how I’m feeling.  Xander…”

“What?”

“We have to do the acceptance thing.  I know it’s tedious, but the Powers need your acceptance.”

“Acceptance?”

“Firstly, you have to accept the past so we can move on.  I want you, Xander.”

“This is…  This has been about you?”

“This isn’t about me.  This is about your acceptance.”

“What am I supposed to accept?”  Xander tried to scramble away but Spike had him pinned to the bed.  “That I’m such a – a…  I don’t have a word,” Xander groaned, “There isn’t anything I can call myself that’s enough.”

“How about…human?  Fallible?  And how about repentant?”

“I am.  I am so sorry.  So sorry,” Xander assured him.  “But I didn’t know she was that fragile and…  No excuses.  I have no excuses, Spike.”

“Accept.”

“That I fucked up?  I know I fucked up.”

“You’re missing the point.”

Xander stared into Spike’s eyes but couldn’t find the answer.

“What then?”

“Think about it.”

Anger gave Xander strength and he finally pushed himself out of Spike’s grasp and off of the bed.  The tiny amount of energy expended on top of the emotional trauma drained him completely and he fell against the wall, slid to the floor.

“I can’t do any more thinking.”  He looked to where Spike was lounging on the bed, watching with apparently casual interest.  “I can’t think.”

“Starvation can do that to you.  Better feed you up, give you a better chance of figuring it out.”  But he made no move to leave.

“It’s not the food.  It’s me being too stupid.  I was always too stupid.  Fuck knows, you reminded me enough.  Special Ed.”

“Yeah.  Sorry,” Spike said regretfully.

“Don’t be sorry about being right.”

There was a long pause as Spike watched the distraught human gulp in air and try to calm himself.  The man’s despair was beautiful to see; Spike admired the flushed skin, the sheen of sweat, the glossy eyes.  The tremor was becoming quite mesmeric.  He had to move this along before he forgot his place.

 

“Accept, Xander.”

“What am I supposed to be accepting?  I can’t do this.  I have to leave, I can’t be here.”

“But here is what you need to accept.”

Xander stared at the vampire, blinked to keep him in focus.

“Here?”

“Here.”

Spike crawled elegantly from the bed and toward Xander, scenting him, understanding better and wanting to consume his misery.

“No,” came the standard and oh-so-weak response.

“To what?”

“Everything?”

At Xander’s feet, Spike grabbed the ankles and pulled Xander away from the wall, laying him flat on the floor and witnessing the boneless slump of a man no longer afraid of falling.  Spike reclined at his side, one hand resting on his stomach and stroking, stroking, giving him something to count.

“You can’t run away from the inevitable.”

Xander thought, consciousness slipping, numbers, remembering, forgetting, numbers, wondering who was touching him, wondering why he deserved to be touched.  A whispered clue and his eyes sprang open.

“The Hellmouth?  Here?  The Hellmouth?”

“Clever boy,” Spike murmured, shifting a little closer and drawing patterns around the buttons on Xander’s shirt.

“No,” and a mistimed swat.  No second swat and Spike kept on drawing.

“Tell me about the Hellmouth.”

“We used to joke about being children of the Hellmouth,” Xander ventured, watching for Spike’s response and receiving the languid smile he admired and hated.  You’re bound to this place.  Were we, are we?  Am I?”

“That’s the something,” Spike stated baldly.

“That’s it?” Xander demanded, aghast.  “That’s the something I can’t settle without?  This fucking awful place?”

“Home.”  Xander rolled his head away, wanted to pound it against the floor, would have if he’d had the energy to lift it in the first place.  “You’ve been pining away, haven’t you?  Trying to fill the void.  You miss the slayer but you don’t really care that some bit-part player in your life topped herself…”

“That isn’t true!”

“What’s breaking you apart is needing this place.  You belong here and it owns you.  Stop fighting it.  Accept.”

“It doesn’t make sense.”

“I might have cocked it up in the telling, but you get the drift: you leave, you’re punished; you come back, you’re saved.”

“The others left.  Willow and Dawn left.”

“Oh, they’ve got sweet little itches they can’t bear to scratch.  Their time’ll come.  Much like yours.  They’ll fuck up so badly there’ll be no choice but to come back.”

“Like me.  Was it me?  Did I make it happen or did you?  The Powers?”

“I can’t answer that.”

“If it was real why can’t I remember her name?”  Spike went back to stroking and Xander counted.  “It was real.  But I can’t remember her name.  What was her name?”

“Don’t know, love.  Don’t care.  I only care about you.”

“No.”

“You’re special.  That’s why I chose you.”

“No.”

“Yes.  Chose you to save the world.  How’ll that look on the CV?  Once could be considered heroic, twice might look like arrogance, thrice and you get your own ‘straight to video’.”

“I can’t.”

Spike moved closer still, breathed deeply, let the tantalising scent of Xander’s fear get him hard.  He pressed his erection into Xander’s hip, ignoring the sudden tensing of the warm body beside him.

“You’re going to save the world for me.  I’ll make you strong again.  And I’ll make you mine.  Between me and the Powers you’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”

“No.”

Xander struggled to get away; Spike sighed and sat up.

“Don’t fight it, Xander.  Home, Hellmouth, me, all part of the same package.”

“I don’t want this.”

“You do.  You’re just scared.  Trust me.”

“You’ve got be fucking joking!” Xander yelled; another mad scramble and he was staggering to his feet and heading for the way out.

Spike rose too, springing easily up and calmly grabbing Xander, tossing him onto the bed, following with a formidable air of determination.

“No choice, love.  Sorry.”

 

Spike was poised over Xander, hands twisting in his clothes ready to tear apart any obstacles between him and his chosen one, when their eyes met.  The emptiness in Xander’s was horrific; Xander was surprised again by the compassion in Spike’s expression and looked away, counting heartbeats.  Spike lowered himself carefully, draped over Xander’s right side, mindful of how delicate the human seemed.

“I have to have you, Xander,” he explained tenderly, “and it has to be soon.  I’ll make you mine.  Make you live.”

“No.”

“I’ll make you feel good.”

“I don’t want to feel good.”

“I know.”

Spike stroked the tangled hair, murmuring reassurances until Xander’s face turned to him.

“It would be wrong.”  Spike peppered kisses over the brow and cheeks and jaw line.  “No,” even though Xander didn’t attempt to move away.

“Can I kiss you?” Spike asked with a knowing grin.

“No,” Xander told him, voice trembling, as he gazed longingly at Spike’s mouth, offering his own as Spike leant in.  “No,” muffled as their lips met, and Xander’s hands couldn’t decide whether to pull or push, yearning for and loathing contact.

Spike felt like he’d been hard since the moment he set eyes on Xander the previous day; he rubbed himself against a bony hip and acknowledged how much he wanted to touch Xander, caress his cock and feel it grow hard in his hand.  But he was afraid.  Even as their mouths learnt and tongues played he didn’t feel passion from Xander so much as desperation.  What if that was all he’d ever inspire in the damaged human?  Maybe he had no choice either and he’d just have to fuck Xander and see him stay soft and not wanting but tolerating.  Spike knew that he needed more from his Consort, he wanted desire and love and trust and more desire and there couldn’t be enough desire: if Xander wasn’t aroused when Spike entered him and claimed him it would be unbearable.  What if he never became aroused, what if…

He didn’t have time to be sentimental about this, and unless Xander was planning on one concerted late defence he’d be Spike’s and fucked and bitten and it’d all be over by midnight and was it too fucking much to find someone who wanted him?  Someone that he wanted who could return the…  Yes, get angry, angry, better than all the moody, broody stuff.  He broke the kiss and got on with it.

“Want me?  Xander?”

“No.”  Spike’s hand rested on Xander’s fly, unmoving, aware of the distinct lack of heat and hardness beneath his palm.  “No.”  Button flicked open, zip slowly lowered.  “No.”

“Bloody.  Fucking.  Fine.”

Spike gave up being measured and careful and hopefully, but of course sodding-well not, arousing, sitting up and tugging Xander’s clothes from him, seeing the shock and despair and finally understanding what people meant when they said their heart bled for.

“I’m sorry, all right?” he told Xander irritably.  “I am sorry.  But we’ve just got to…do it.  Not think about it, just do it.”

“Don’t you have any choice either?”

“Fucking hell, Xander, don’t!  Spike stood beside the bed and removed his own clothes and he was as hard as Xander wasn’t.  He looked at the human, not surprised to see the blank expression and the slight movement of the lips, and for a full minute tried to guess what Xander was counting now.  “Xander.  Xander, look at me.”

“No.”

“Xander…”

“I’ve seen it all before.”

Look at me.”  Xander sighed wretchedly and turned his head, trying not to let his gaze fall upon the obvious.  But that’s exactly where Spike’s actions drew his attention.  The vampire’s hand slid over his erection, slow and measured strokes.  He spoke softly.  “One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five…”  Xander was immediately transfixed, whispering the count along with Spike, appearing to want to reach out and join in as Spike moved closer.  Touching distance and Xander’s hand rapidly withdrew.  Is it too much…  “Xander, I have to have you.”

Xander’s gaze made the journey from Spike’s hand to his face, met his eyes and nodded resignedly.  A couple of minutes looking totally lost and then Xander was shuffling over, giving Spike room to join him.

“Do you hate me for this?” Spike asked as he knelt beside him.

“No.”

“Why not?”  Because I think I might before we’re finished.

“I don’t know.  Maybe because you think you’re doing the right thing.”

“The right thing for me.”

“Yeah, but who else would you be thinking of?”

Excellent shot.  Severely wounded.  Shall we get back to business?

“Time, Xander.”

Another crestfallen nod and Xander started to turn onto his hands and knees.  A hand shot out to stop him.

“No.  On your back.  I want you to see it’s me.”

“But I don’t want to see it’s you.”

“I will not be one more anonymous fuck in your life.”

“Get over it.”

Xander made a second attempt to turn.

“You’re not strong enough for that.”

“You are.  You can hold me up.  Or let me go.  You can still fuck me whatever.”

“Xander!”

“Don’t ‘Xander’ me.  Just do it.  If it’s what you want, if I have no choice, then do it.  I don’t care.  It’s not like it matters.”

Spike threw Xander onto his back, trying to talk face-to-face but losing close contact as Xander brought up his arms and crossed them over his eyes.

“I’ll tell you what matters: you being Xander.  The Xander I chose, the one I admire, my Xander.  I don’t want you to be subservient.  I want you to be the awkward bugger you always were.  It was one of the reasons I chose you.  I wanted someone strong enough to fight me, challenge me.”

Nothing from Xander and Spike was determined to get a response one way or another.  His hand dropped to Xander’s groin, persistent fingers rolling and squeezing and pulling Xander’s cock to hardness, all to the expected litany of no’s.  They stopped on a gasp as Spike shifted and his mouth brushed over chest and stomach, hands gripped shaking hips; cool lips ghosted over ultra-sensitive flesh and Xander stopped breathing altogether when he felt the trail of light kisses from balls to glans.  His body remembered it had to breathe and forced a sharp inhalation, enough to allow Xander another…

“No.”

…as Spike nuzzled the rigid flesh and spoke against it.

“Very nice.  I always knew you’d be nice.  Always knew there’d be plenty.”

“Please, Spike,” Xander whispered from beneath the shield of his arms.  “If you have to fuck me get it over with.  Don’t…”

“But you’re so tempting, Xander.  Like this.  Hard like this.  You smell delicious.  Beautiful cock.”  Spike’s hand returned to the shaft and he began to vigorously pump.  “Want to see you come for me, Xander.  I’ve wanted to see that for a long time.  See you seriously lose control.”

“No, no, no…” Xander rattled off in the midst of ragged breaths, but even as he begged Spike to stop his legs parted and bent, allowing him leverage to push up into Spike’s hand.  Then the pumping stopped and Spike’s fist loosened; he could sense the frustration in Xander’s body and waited hopefully for the pleading to turn tack.  Nothing.

“If you want this, Xander, you have to be prepared to do some taking or make some demands.  I want your strength, remember?  I want a battle for dominance, and there will be times when you’ll win, when you’ll be able to fuck me blind.  Strength.  I want to be able to take you and know you’re tough enough not to be hurt.  I want…”

The sudden weakness in the vampire’s voice piqued Xander’s curiosity; his arms slowly fell away and he found Spike looking at him with open longing.

“You want?”

“To be wanted.”

Sincere regret clouded Xander’s face and Spike waited for another inadequate platitude.

“I can’t.”

“But you’ll let me fuck you?” the voice hardened again in disappointment.

“If there’s no choice.”

Spike gave a sharp laugh.  Xander looked at him enquiringly.

“I had this ego trip planned stop by stop.  Xander Harris in my bed and begging me.  Wanting me so much and begging me.”  Spike fell alongside Xander, mouth at his ear, and he spoke in an intense whisper as his hand forced Xander’s thighs far apart and fingertips sought out and rubbed over the tight ring of muscle at the entrance to his body.  “Fuck me, Spike.  Want you, Spike.  Deeper, harder, fuck me, Spike.  Come, Spike, make me yours, Spike, come in me, Spike…”

“Stop.”

“Talking or touching?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll shut up but I’m going to fuck you.”  Xander took a shuddering breath and pushed himself at the teasing fingers.  Spike smiled.  “And when I ask if you want me you’ll say…”

“No.”

“Which is a joke.  Because you want something of me in you, don’t you, love?  Fingers, tongue, cock.  As long as there’s something opening you up and making you feel.”

“I thought you were shutting up.”

“I’ll fuck away that numbness for you.  Fill you with my come and you’ll be claimed and have no say in whether you continue to kill yourself.  And maybe you’ll be so grateful I’ll get a smile.”

Xander twisted his head away and Spike knew the smile was a forlorn hope.  So, let the mind go without, still two cocks and an ass going to have some fun.  Spike reached into the cabinet for the lubricant he’d bought the previous night, twisted it open and covered his fingers before returning them to Xander, breaching the muscle with one slick fingertip.  Xander’s head snapped back, and the moment Spike saw the panic on his face he slowed down.

“It’s okay, I’ll be careful.”

“You don’t have to be careful,” Xander told him, and the panic became shame.  “I’m used to this.”  He visibly quailed at the flash of anger in Spike’s eyes, gasping at the pain when three fingers forced themselves into his body.

“Not recently,” Spike said tightly as he withdrew his hand, using more lubricant and returning to his task more gently.

“Not recently.”

Xander’s eyelids fluttered and closed as Spike sought his prostate and massaged.  The effect was there – the customary trembling multiplied ten-fold.  But the silence was not what Spike had expected, nor was the grim determination of this man to sustain that silence; Spike didn’t much like it.  His hand withdrew for a second time and rested on Xander’s thigh; Xander could feel the heat from his own body on his skin.

“How many?”

It took Xander a few seconds to get his focus back.  This was Spike.  Oh, sweet Jesus, this was Spike.  Spike wanting to fuck him, to save his life, to fuck him, to give him a reason but not to give him a choice, to fuck him, to fuck him, to fuck him.  And he’d asked him how many men.  Like he’d carved notches into his headboard.  Notches into his heart.

“I have no idea.  I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.  Up until now it’s been your life, it’s been a slut’s life.  But from this moment on it’s mine.  These are the only hands that will touch you like this for the remainder of your existence.”  Spike witnessed the astonishment and saw Xander trying to assimilate what he’d been told.  “Say it then.”

“What?”

“No.”

“No?”

“It’s all you keep saying.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“‘Yes,’ obviously.  ‘Please,’ would be nice.  ‘The others meant nothing,’ I’d probably pay for.”  Xander stared at him blankly.  “Say, ‘Fuck me, Spike’.”

Spike accepted it wasn’t going to happen, no invitation here.  He knelt between Xander’s thighs, smothered his cock in the slick gel, and looked up to unexpectedly meet Xander’s eyes.

“Yes,” came the miserable whisper.  “Please.  The others meant nothing.  Fuck me, Spike.”

And that prompted speech was far worse than the nothing Spike’d been expecting.

Spike reached down, fingered his cock into Xander, a little rough, maybe pushing harder than he should have because he was mad at himself for putting those words into Xander’s mouth, mad at Xander for allowing him to, and still fucking furious about all the men who’d been here before him.  But Xander took him without a whimper before releasing a whole series of no’s, hips jerking up to get more of what he so fervently denied wanting.

It was glorious: burning heat and crushingly tight and Xander.  His choice, his Consort, his…his love?  Still silent but for the convulsive breaths that matched his (counted) thrusts so erotically, and the tortured expression was almost enough to make Spike come with a glance.  Changing position, changing, changing, indelicately poking around inside Xander until contact was made with his prostate and the shakes became more about a fucked body than a fucked-up one.  Xander squirmed beneath him, hands grasping at him, at the bed and the headboard, and Spike made it delightfully worse, leaning down and biting one nipple, pulling at the other, until mouth and hand were struck away.

“No.”

Even that irritating word breaking the silence sent a charge to Spike’s groin.

“That’s it.  Talk.  Talk to me, Xander.”

“No.”

“Tell me how you like me fucking you.”

“No.”

“Talk to me.”

Something to think about and Xander forced himself to do that thinking.  Forced himself to speak, however unsteadily due to Spike’s attentions.

“Talk to you?  Okay.  Shall I remind you that I’m not what you wanted, that I’m not… What was it?  Strong.  Stubborn.”

“Loyal.  Fearless.”

“I’m not.”

Spike fucked.

“Want you, Xander.  Chose you.”

“I’ve been used, over and over I’ve been used, I can’t be as tight as you wanted.”

Spike fucked.

“Oh, you’re tight, you’re bloody wonderful.”

“You wanted to be the first, right?  Thought you’d be the first, didn’t realise you’d get a whore instead of a virgin.”

Spike fucked.

“This is good, you feel good.  Feel good.  Shut up now and feel good.”

“You come and I go, right?  You figure out that I’m wrong for what you want and you let me go.”

Spike slumped to a halt.

“You’re fucking useless at this, aren’t you?”  Spike didn’t realise there had been any emotional input from Xander until he felt it withdraw.  He’d managed to hurt him.  Really hurt him.  “I meant the banter.  Just the banter.”

Spike saw Xander’s expression turn insular, and he waited.  Still hard, still buried in the intoxicating heat of Xander’s body, he waited as Xander’s insubstantial wish for survival made war with his conscience.  Shifting, Spike’s mouth found Xander’s neck and he licked and nibbled harmlessly, and his hips were moving with a will of their own because, physically, fucking Xander was as excellent as he’d always known it would be.

“No,” came routinely as Xander tilted his head back to give Spike better access, lifted his hips in encouragement.

“Come back to me, Xander.  Your body’s not enough, I need your mind now.  Need you to understand that you’re being claimed, ‘cause I’m relying on that loyalty kicking in when you know you belong to me.  It’d be disloyal to kill yourself for some thoughtless bint when your Master needs you.”

“No.”

“Master?”

“No.”

“Don’t like that?”

“No.”

Xander’s body contradicted his words, curling into Spike’s to make more contact.

“Consort,” Spike growled, relishing the concept, delighted when no denial of it came from the man beneath him.  “But you don’t like Master,” Spike laughed to himself.  “Bloody typical.  Belligerent, disrespectful…  Hell of a Consort you’ll make.  Every soddin’ demon in the state’s going to be poking fun at me.”

“No.”

This no had some depth and meaning, true meaning.  Spike flattened Xander to the bed and kept him there and still while he thoughtfully studied him.

“What then?  You can take the piss out of me all you like but no-one else is allowed to?”  Xander studied him back through slitted eyes, giving nothing away.  “I’ll settle for that.  Considering this is you and me it ain’t bad at all.”  Spike began to move again, leisurely now, making the most of every slippery inch of contact.  “My Consort.  Xander, mine.”

“I still have a choice,” Xander protested breathlessly as he willingly offered himself.

“No choice, Xander.  I’m fucking that choice out of you.”

“I’m not your Consort, you haven’t bitten me, maybe I won’t let you bite me.”

“Don’t have to yet.  Under these circumstances as soon as I come in you it’s over, you’re mine.”

Fucking hell, a reaction: after a brief moment of shocked immobility Xander’s hands grasped at Spike’s shoulders and pushed.

“Get off of me.”

“No,” Spike objected with a scowl.  Mine.  “No, no and sodding no.”

“Get.  Off.”

Xander’s sudden thrashing took the scowl from Spike’s face, replacing it with intense lust.  The human lashed out, trying to knock Spike away, twisting his body in an attempt to free it from it’s impalement.  Pointless against a vampire at the height of his powers.  Barely retaining control, Spike frantically worked his cock in the fiery body beneath him, finding this battling Xander too erotic to resist.  It wasn’t long before he fell still and whispered a warning.

“Gonna make me come, love.  This is too good.”

Xander was exhausted, glad to have an excuse to stop the inane struggle.  He rested for a while, poker-faced despite adoring the soft kisses and licks that Spike lazily applied to his body.  It was wrong.  Wrong to feel pleasure, wrong to want to live, wrong to be here and whole.  Wrong to want Spike and what he was offering.  Wrong to crave love and absolution.

Spike’s fingers explored his face, so lightly they almost tickled.  A delicate way of attracting Xander’s attention, and he looked to see what Spike wanted.  Him.  The vampire’s eyes were shining with it.  Spike wanted him.  It made no sense whatsoever and exacerbated the guilt that was eating him alive.  He jerked his head away from the touch.

“Get off of me, Spike.  Please.  Please?”

“You know, that isn’t precisely what I meant when I said I wanted you to beg.”

“Please get off me.  Get out of me.”

Spike knelt up, keeping a firm grip on Xander’s hips and pulling him into his lap, keeping them joined.  For a moment Xander’s hands couldn’t decide what to do at the loss of contact, and it was only then that Xander realised he’d been clinging to the vampire.

“Look at you, Xander,” Spike instructed in a low, sultry tone.  “Look at you.”  Xander gasped as a hand left his hip and the backs of Spike’s fingers brushed against his erection.  Look, Xander.”  Xander did look, momentarily, before falling back in embarrassment at being so exposed.  No, he didn’t want this, it was obvious.  “You’re dripping with pleasure.  Dripping.  And you taste…”  Spike took wet fingers to his lips and sucked off the pre-come.  “…like you want to come for me.”

“No.”

“That’s what you’re scared of, isn’t it?  Not that I’ll come for you but that you’ll come for me.”

“No.”

“You’re scared that you’ll enjoy this and love me for making you feel so good, scared that you won’t want to leave me.  All the pain and sacrifice will be for nothing if some filthy, disgusting demon makes you feel good.  Gives you a reason to live simply by sticking his cock up your arse and filling you with his filthy, disgusting seed.  Makes you want to live by taking your cock in his hand and milking you dry.”

“No.”

“We’ll see, shall we?”

“No.”

“Yes, Xander.  Yes.

Spike’s hand curled around Xander’s erection, gliding up and down, fast, slow, intense, teasing, exploring and tracing shapes and veins, circling the head and letting his fingertips paddle in the constant flow of clear fluid.  Xander’s hands covered his face, muffling the pleas for Spike to stop, free him, leave him with his guilt and his penance.  How sincere were those pleas when, behind the words, Xander was preoccupied with the sensation of Spike’s cock stretching him open, impatiently twitching inside him?  He could feel those twitches through the shaking, which was now ferocious, and it made everything so much worse and how could Spike even want…  So close, so close, oh please  The hand on him fell still.

“Spike?”  Xander peered out, saw one inexplicably unhappy vampire.  “Spike?”

“I need to fuck you.”

“Spike.  Please.”

“I’m sorry to do this to you but I have to have you.  There was no-one else I wanted and if I fuck this up…  I don’t understand why but it’ll mean being alone for a very long time.  I’m not good alone.  If you don’t want your life, Xander, let me have it.”

 

Once again holding Xander to him, Spike resumed their earlier position: the one least stressful – at least physically - for Xander.  As Spike became accessible he was reached for, clawed at.

“Please.  Please.”  So ambiguous, the balance of distress and demand on Xander’s face.  “Please, Spike.”

Spike needed to move and he moved, drawing out, thrusting in; whatever its present condition he adored this body, how could he ever part with it?  How could Xander?  Apparently he’d said that aloud and Xander murmured questions about the sanity of his statement, but the hands stopped clawing, started kneading.  Urging.

“You don’t want me?” Spike demanded.

“No.”

“Don’t want this?”

“No.”

“Don’t want to be my Consort?”

Xander’s head turned, trying to hide the truth.

“No,” so much less convincingly and Spike was fired by hope; he picked up speed, groaning with the joy of fucking this temperamental sod.  Xander fucked him back, pushing up onto his cock, rising to tiptoe in his enthusiasm.  Spike’s hand fell onto Xander’s drooling erection and gripped hard, receiving a charged, “No,” and desperate tugs at his arm in a pointless attempt by Xander to stop the vampire bringing him to orgasm.

“Fight me all you like,” Spike panted.  “I’m taking you now.  Filling you now.  Consort.”

Please, Spike.”

“You’ve been waiting for someone to give you permission to live.  You have it, Xander.  You have permission to live.  You’ll live for me.  The Powers dictate.  No choice.”

“No.”

“Tell me to stop.  Tell me.”  And Spike slowed, shaking too as he teetered on the edge of coming, frantically wanting those last few thrusts that would fill this human with his seed, fill his life with this human.  Much longer and Xander’s delectably hot body vibrating around his cock would solve the problem for them.  “Tell me, Xander.  Love.”  Needing Xander to want him was torture. “Tell me to stop.”

Xander released Spike’s arm, and the moment seemed interminable before he awkwardly pushed himself up on to his elbows, hesitating before touching his lips to Spike’s in the gentlest, most highly charged kiss the vampire had ever experienced.  He murmured his answer against Spike’s mouth.

“No.”

Spike’s demon broke free and he roared into his climax; Xander collapsed onto the bed, fucked so hard and fast that he became a statue, breathlessly frozen in sensory overload as his semen shot in thick streams over their bellies and chests.

From a great distance Xander felt salvation pouring into his body as an unfamiliar cool filled him.  Claimed him.  Made him Consort.

Saved his life.

 

 





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