Hunger by Lazuli Kat



Chapter 3

Spike watched Xander sleep a peaceful sleep.  Happy to lay and watch.  Lay and watch.  Until he got bored and wanted attention and gently stroked back the long hair, caressing Xander’s face until the human got the hint and stirred.

“Xander.  I couldn’t resist touching you.  You’ll have a lot of that to put up with.”

The dark eyes opened and fixed on him, exhausted and miserable.  The muscles around Spike’s heart clenched.  It’d been too much to hope that Xander could be drawn back from the edge of despair by one vampire’s selfish need.

“Hey, Spike.”  The voice was nothing like the look.  It had a new warmth.

“Hey, you,” Spike smiled, encouraged, resuming his stroking of Xander’s hair.  “Give us a kiss.”

“Why do you want to kiss me?  I must taste horrible.”

Spike carried out a little research.

“Lime.  You taste of lime.  And toothpaste.  And chocolate.”

“Still chocolate?”

“I think I’m conditioned to associate Xander Harris with chocolate.  Pavlov’s dog.”

“He the one on the album covers?” Xander kidded, much to Spike’s surprise.  “You know, with the gramophone?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.  His Master’s Voice.  I hope that master had better luck with obedience training than this one will.  Don’t give me the innocent look, I know I’m totally stuffed.”

Like every other positive emotion, the humour caused Xander pain.  Spike saw and sympathised.  Learning to live again would be like acquiring a soul.  Not pretty.

“Tell me, Xander.”

“What now?”

“What’s hurting most.  You’re mine and I have to fix it.  Let’s try one step at a time.”

Spike saw Xander hover on the brink of one of his fade-outs but pull himself back.  Spike suspected the answer would tell him whether or not his Xander could be restored or if he’d always exist as a shadow of himself.  It was tempting to up and run.



“Right now?”

“Right now.”

“I…” Xander’s voice trembled and seized up.

“Tell me, Xander.”

“After everything…  It’s too selfish.”

“Be selfish then.  Be selfish for me.”

A few deep breaths and Xander could say it, however apologetically it came out.

“I’m so hungry.”

Spike felt his eyes prickle with the tears that Xander was incapable of shedding for himself.  For a few minutes all he could do was wrap Xander in a loving, unreciprocated embrace, attempting to offer a little comfort whilst persuading his starving human that self-preservation was not a crime.  Then he tucked Xander up in bed, dressed, and left the room.


Spike returned a short while later with a mug of hot soup, which was barely warm when he finally managed to sweet-talk Xander into drinking it.  They held the mug together so Xander wouldn’t shake the contents all over himself, and Spike made him take the soup one sip at a time so there was less chance of it coming back up.

“Does that feel good?”

“Feels strange.”

“Enjoying it?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’ll take some time, I expect.  For you to come to terms with everything that’s happened.  Dying.  Living.  Me.”

“You wanting me.”



Xander glanced at Spike curiously.  The seductiveness buried in that look was a thing of beauty and the vampire felt a definite twinge as he wondered how many tricks Xander had up his sleeve.

“Get some rest.  I’ll be downstairs.  Shout if you want me.”

“Why can’t you stay here with me?”

“Because we need different things.  You need to sleep, and I need to fuck you.”

That inexplicably jarred Xander.  Was all this just because Spike needed to?  Suddenly knowing became very important.

“You need to?  Is it a part of the claiming?  Is that all?”

“Want to,” Spike corrected.  “I want to.  Want you.  I want you, Xander.”

“You chose me.”  Spike thought he glimpsed some satisfaction in that fact.  Maybe he was projecting.

“I did.  Was I right to?”

“I can do this,” Xander told him, a flash of determination bringing the eyes to life for an instant.  “I can do this, I won’t let you down, and I won’t condemn you to being alone.”

That was thrilling.  And Spike was suitably thrilled until he remembered what came next; he began to pace.

“We’re getting to the bit you won’t like.”


“I have to mark you before midnight.”


“There’s no easy way, I just have to do it.”


“It’ll hurt.”


“I just have to do it.”


“I won’t be taking much blood.”


“But I have no choice.”


Spike spun back to face Xander.

“It would be easier if you wanted me.  This.  I don’t want to hurt you but if I thought it was for us rather than for me…”

“It is for us.”

“I don’t mean…”  Spike stopped, hands on his hips, and sighed.  “You’re right.  It is for us.  You getting to live is for us.”

They just looked at each other for a long time, both secretly wishing the other would say exactly what they wanted to hear, both knowing they were hoping for too much.

“I’ve hated being alone,” Xander admitted uncomfortably after a while.  “And…  We weren’t so bad together.  Later on.  We were friends.  It was better than being alone.”

At that concession Spike went and sat by Xander, leaning down to the startled man and burying his face in his hair, taking a long breath and delighting in the scent and the warmth.

“You have a duty to live now, Xander,” he whispered.  “I know you’ve never thought very highly of me and when you get stronger there won’t be a day goes by when you don’t curse me for what I’ve done, but I will always have your best interests at heart.  You can trust me.”

Spike drew back slightly to kiss Xander’s cheek, feeling the rebuttal deeply as Xander tilted his head away from the contact.  But as Spike made to withdraw further Xander’s hand landed on his upper arm, employing gentle pressure to keep him close, bring him closer.  Xander offered his mouth, not his cheek, and Spike gladly took it, making such a slow approach, undoubtedly to give Xander time to change his mind, that the human’s heart began to pound in anticipation.  Xander watched Spike’s eyes close and for an instant the vampire appeared so vulnerable it stirred the protectiveness in him, it stirred…more.  Xander clamped down on thoughts and feelings, closed his own eyes and counted the seconds until their lips met with the gentlest of touches, counted the seconds until Spike was moving away again, counted the seconds until the next contact.  Spike shifted and laid his cheek against Xander’s forehead, leaving the human dumbfounded by the simple affection, forgetting numbers as Spike’s serenity filtered through to him.  The moment passed too soon; Xander stirred as Spike kissed his brow and sat up.

“I am genuinely sorry that I have to hurt you later.”

“It’s okay.”  Spike stood and turned toward the door, not seeing the frantic gesture as Xander grabbed for and missed him.  “You’re going?”

“Just downstairs.  Get some sleep, no bad dreams, I promise.”  Xander nodded despite being entirely unconvinced.  “You need your rest.  After all, you’re going to save the world.”

Xander groaned and hid himself beneath the covers.  Spike smiled at the trembling lump in the bedclothes and left him to sleep.

As soon as the sun was down Spike strolled across to his bench – oh, yes, his, proprietary much – and sat, admiring the fine evening sky, waiting for a connection.

A patrol car cruised past and the cop behind the wheel glanced and waved; Spike waved back with a smile, recognising one of the troops from the last battle.  The guy looked about twelve.  Who said you knew when you were getting old because all the cops looked like kids?

Spike felt old.  Tonight he should feel jubilant, but he knew he’d fucked up royally, that he’d fucked up Xander Harris for the next few hundred years or so.  Long old life if you can’t stand the other half, Spike mused sadly, wonder if he’ll ever forgive me.  What was I thinking?  Anything was better than being alone?  Well, excuse my rampant stupidity driven by rampant lust.  Rampant loneliness.  He’d known it was a bit of a risk, choosing Xander, leaving his claim this late so there was no time to even consider anyone else before the Powers-inflicted deadline.  But he’d expected the old Xander, who might have looked at this as if Spike was insane but, hey, nothing better to do this lifetime, why not?  When it came to the choice Spike had taken his time, considered long and hard all the beings he knew, but he kept coming back to Xander, kept wanting Xander, purely, impurely.  He wasn’t even sure quite why he wanted him so much.  I’m lying to myself.  I know exactly why, and I’ll have to tell him if he asks.  Sounds bloody daft.  He’ll think I’m due a trip to the funny farm.

But Spike was one bloody act away from having his Consort, his companion, his ally in the war to come.  A man who wanted to die because he’d been manipulated and broken by the weakness and mortality of others.  A man who remembered hating Spike better than learning to like him.  A man who would lie to himself for a fuck, but now he was being honest could only reject the one person…   Vampire, and Xander was always thoroughly enamoured of vampires, eh?  …who truly wanted every annoying thing about him.  Should I ask the Powers to intercede?  Not demand Xander’s love but his friendship.  Friendship would do.  For a start.  If he genuinely liked me…  How genuine would any affection be if it was brought about by the intervention of a greater power?  No begging then.  No intercession.

He thought of being around, on, inside Xander, and if his heart could beat it would have been beating a drum roll.  He’d primed himself to fall in love with this exasperating human, reminded himself constantly of his shortcomings (many) and strengths (more) until it was as if Xander had been a part of the falling process.  But, of course, he hadn’t.  And he wouldn’t be.  There would be sex, possibly: when Xander was healthy he’d be as horny as a demon and there was little chance he’d fuck around after his last fateful escapade, so it was Spike or nothing and Spike was reasonably certain it would be him.  Reasonably certain.  Not absolutely.  Perhaps Xander would prove that man could live by masturbation alone.  And Spike would be in Hell on Earth.

Spike felt the familiar tingle that preceded contact and cleared his mind, grateful for an excuse to stop thinking about another life he’d ruined.

Xander guessed it was about nine, nine-thirty when he woke after the promised dreamless sleep; no light at all making it’s way through the heavy drapes.  He stretched, feeling stronger, more alert, knowing his body was responding to the massive indulgence that was a helping of soup.  There was a lamp on the cabinet beside the bed, and he groped out to find it in the darkness, clicking it on before snuggling back into the cosy little nest he’d created and counting the beams of soft light thrown across the ceiling as vague thoughts infiltrated the numbers.  Spike’s going to bite me.  A vampire’s going to bite me.  Can I say I’m scared?  Okay, I’m scared.  Do I want this?  Don’t know.  Do I want him?  Don’t know.  Do I want more sex?  Fucking hell, yes, and that’s what always gets me into trouble.  Shit, he felt good.  Do I want to live?  ‘You have permission to live.  You’ll live for me.’  Have I got a choice anymore?  ‘The Powers dictate.’  What do I do?  Spike tricks me into coming here, takes away my freedom, makes me his fucking Consort elect and now he’s going to sink his fangs in me to secure the promotion.  I’m scared.  I can’t do this.  I can’t save the world without Buffy and Willow and Giles.  I can’t do this.  I can’t do this.  I have to do this.

No choice.

Barely five minutes had passed when Spike arrived, mug in hand, prepared to cajole or bully Xander into eating more soup.  Xander distractedly accepted the food, accepted Spike sitting close to his side to help him keep the mug steady, he even accepted the myriad affectionate touches.  Soup finished, mug set aside, and they knew what was coming next.  Xander stopped the counting and let the truth hit him with full force.  He was terrified.  Spike knew, and he petted and reassured despite knowing how pointless his attempts at comfort were.

“Do I have any choice about this?”

Spike challenged Xander with a look.

“Do you want any?”


“You wouldn’t like to go back to no, no, no?”  Xander sank down into his nest.  “Come on, love, we’ve got this far,” Spike followed Xander, pushing the covers aside so he could get to some skin, licking and kissing between words as Xander lay motionless.  “Gonna set you free, Xander…  You may have to face the odd demon…  God at a push…  And we know you take the average apocalypse in your stride…  But I’ll scare off the ghosts…”

“You will?”

Spike’s head rose.

“If you trust me.”

Spike expected a similar reaction to his earlier use of that provocative word, but Xander looked into his eyes, searched his face for something, someone to believe in.

“You picked me?”  Spike gave a nod.  “You could have picked anyone?”  Another nod.  “But you picked me.  Why?”

“Because I wanted you.”



“It doesn’t make sense.”

“How corny would you like me to be?”

Xander considered.

“Pretty corny.”

“Heavy schmaltz?”

“I could go for heavy schmaltz.”

“Okay…” Spike laughed nervously.  “That’d be the truth you want then, last piece of the home, Hellmouth, me, deal.”  Spike paused, returned Xander’s gaze.  “I picked you…because my soul wanted your soul.”

And here came the…


“It called out and you came home.”


“That’s the truth.  ‘No,’ all you like but that’s the truth.”

“No choice either way then?  You’re stuck with me?”

“Not stuck.  I chose you.”

“But if…  But you said…  Nothing makes sense, I’m too fucking stupid for this,” Xander groaned, pushing Spike away and attempting to retrieve the covers.

“You think I’m not embarrassed coming out with that?”

“Then why?”

“Because I promised myself I’d tell you the truth.”


Xander fell silent, troubled face a testament to his confusion and unhappiness.  Spike backed off, sat cross-legged and watched his Consort’s internal struggles, reminded himself about the time, about claiming, and he was itching to get on with it, longing to taste Xander’s blood.  Reminded himself about the time and what a relief it would be to get out before he subjected Xander to this fate.

“Are you going through with it?”

“I’m the one with no choice,” Xander said flatly.

Spike sighed, regretting his need to be honest.

“If I don’t mark you by midnight you’ll be able to leave,” he said quietly.  “In fact you’ll have to.”

“But you’ll be alone.”  Spike shrugged.  “Can you save the world alone?”  Spike shrugged.  “Is the saving the world thing true?”


“How far away?”

“Three years or so.”

Xander stared at him, appalled.

“You had me believing we had maybe months if we were lucky.”

“I didn’t choose the timing of any of this.  I don’t know why tonight matters.”

“You didn’t tell me.”

“Fucking hell, Xander, I haven’t known what to say!  You turn up looking more like the living dead than I ever did, you’re shaking yourself to bits, won’t eat despite being starving.  And it’s your bloody choice.  That’s your choice, so I see you making that sort of stupid-arse decision and I’m meant to hand this other shit over to you and see you make another monumentally stupid-arse decision?  I make the decision and I save your life, such as it is.  I tell you as little as possible and con you into this arrangement and you live.  You make the decision for yourself, walk away, collapse and die in a gutter somewhere because no-one else cares.  I – fucking – care!  Xander was staring at him in wide-eyed wonder.  Or possibly horror.  “I know you’ve got your own private hell happening in your head right now.  I know you’re trying to make sense of your life or your death and I’m hoping you’re trying to justify living.  I’d lie, cheat, manipulate you unmercifully if I thought I could help you shed your past and forget what’s dragging you under.  I want you to live for me, Xander, and I don’t care how selfish that is.”  The caught in the headlights look didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  “Didn’t it mean anything?  Earlier?  Being that close?  I’m not just talking about it being an exceptionally good shag although…  It was an exceptionally good shag.  No, I mean being…close.  Being for each other.  Afterwards I thought it had really happened: the Consort thing.  I thought you felt it too, Xander, I thought you wanted it.  I thought…hoped…you wanted me.”

Now it was Spike’s turn for silence as he apprehensively waited.  Xander was back in shake free-fall and seemed to be mentally formulating what they’d done plus what Spike’d said and attempting an equals what Xander wants.

“Nothing’s changed,” he said at last.

It was Spike’s turn to look horrified.

“Everything’s changed.”

“No.  Did you really think a fuck would win me over?  If you wanted this so badly you should have left me thinking that I had no choice.”

“I couldn’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because this way you resent me slightly.  If I kept lying now and you found out the truth in ten years you’d probably lop my head off.  And…and…”


“Being honest with you…matters.  Would’ve mattered.”

“Maybe I would have preferred you to keep on lying.”

“You deserved the choice.  And talking of choices…”

“Yeah, I know time’s pushing on,” Xander sighed.  “Spike…  Did you really think we’d have sex, you’d be soup monitor, I’d sleep a while, and when I woke up it’d all be different?  That I’d wake up as your Consort?”

Unable to meet Xander’s eyes, Spike stared at his hands in his lap, shook his head, spoke quietly.

“No.  I hoped, I didn’t expect.  I wanted, I didn’t expect.”  A short, humourless laugh emerged.  “You don’t even like me.”

“I like you.  I do like you.”

The blond head came up and Xander could see that that admission in itself was almost enough to make Spike happy.  He also saw the stress in the vampire’s body language melting away and knew that Spike was coming to terms with not having his Consort, letting go of a fantasy he’d never quite believed in.

“That means a lot.”  Pause.  “And that shag…”

“Was exceptionally good,” Xander conceded.

Spike grinned, reached out to touch Xander and knew he shouldn’t because it was over; the hand withdrew at lightning speed.  The heart was a little slower.

“Before you go we could—  No.  No, of course we couldn’t.  Can we stay in contact, Xander?  That would mean a lot to me, too.  I’ve missed – missed…  To tell you the truth – and make a joke of that – I’ve been a bit lost since Willow and Dawn left, and this new lot hanging around are friggin’ tedious.  I can’t believe I used to complain about…  Will you try and let the past go?  Try to live?  No, don’t answer that,” Spike rambled until he caught himself doing it and brought himself up short.  “If you ever want to, y’know, talk…  About that girl, or about Buffy…”


“You can.”


“Thank God for that.  It’s hard to listen to other people’s bellyaching.”

Xander smiled at him.

“So much for Mr Sensitivity.”

“I can be sensitive when it’s about me.  Or us.  If there’d been an us,” he corrected quickly.  “That would’ve been different.”  Moving swiftly on.  “Staying around long enough to meet the new slayer?”

“I thought I had to leave.”

“Yeah,” Spike agreed, once again unable to look Xander in the face.  “But another day won’t hurt.  You could leave on Monday.  I could drive you home on Monday night if you want to wait for sunset.”

“What’s she like?”


“The slayer.”

Safer ground, and Spike made an effort to lighten up.

“Pain in the bleedin’ arse.”

“So, she’s…?”

“Righteous,” Spike said distastefully.

“Yeah, I can see how that’d be a problem.”

“But I get my allegedly due respect and that’s a novelty.  Watcher’s a nice enough old duffer but he’s not our Rupert.”

“Our Rupert,” Xander repeated fondly.

“They know a bit about vamps but bugger all about demons.  That’s where I come in.”

“You enjoy it?”

“It’s not like it was.  It’ll never be like it was, I don’t want to spend time with…”


Spike’s head turned, he looked toward the window as if he’d been called.  His expression became completely open and Xander saw everything that the vampire usually concealed: the loneliness, emptiness, fear, the strain of his entire unnatural existence.  He saw tears well as Spike whispered an answer to the silent question.

“No.  It’s over.”

“It’s over?” Xander asked, deliberately tearing Spike’s attention away.  Spike looked a question.  “What’s over?”

The shutters went back up, Spike blinked away the evidence of his distress.

“Nothing for you to worry about, love.”

“It doesn’t feel like midnight yet.”

“No, but…”

“Then it isn’t over.”  Xander rearranged himself against the pillows, pulling back his hair and leaving his neck bare.  “It’s just beginning.”

“Xander?” emerged as a broken wisp of sound from the astonished vampire.

“I said I wouldn’t condemn you to being alone.  I meant it.”


“And I have a choice about the sex, right?  My body’s my own, I don’t have to let you fuck me.”

“I…  Xander…”

“Hey, think you can give me some ballast here before my own stupid body vibrates right off the bed?”

Spike broke out of his shock and fell onto Xander, fast enough to make him yelp with surprise.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” Spike asked huskily as he nuzzled Xander’s neck.

“Yeah.  Being set free, right?  That’s what you said?”

“Shit, there must be more I’m supposed to tell you before this happens.”

“Do it.”

“Let me think.”

“I still have my own life, right?  I can work if I want to, ‘cause I’ll want to.”


“And I don’t have to call you master?”


“And I can say no to sex?”

“If you have to.  Do you want to?”

“I just need to know I have some control.  It’s not that I don’t want you…”  The final words were smothered as Spike’s mouth covered Xander’s, and his body moved automatically, humping Xander through jeans and bedclothes.  Xander broke the kiss with some difficulty.  “Spike…”

“Okay.  Thinking.”  And this time Spike made a concerted effort to think and came up with the obvious.  “You’ll have certain freedoms – let’s face it, just about anything you want, I’m not exactly your tradition-bound vampire – but you will be mine.  If you ever betray me you really will die.”  Xander nodded.  “This matters.  Fuck around and you’re dead.”

“I won’t want anyone else.”

“No whoring around.  You’re mine.  You’re going to live and you’ll live for me.”

A hint of life in Xander’s eyes now and Spike fought back the howl of delight at the glimpse of the real Xander, his Xander, waiting to emerge.

“I’ve changed.  I’ll be faithful.  Always.”

“Keep to that and I’ll do my best to make you happy.”

Spike waited for the familiar look of disbelief, mistrust.  It didn’t happen.  He saw gratitude.  Hope.  Affection.  Desire.  Spike kissed him again, slowly, appreciatively.

“Do it, Spike,” Xander urged between kisses.  “We don’t know the time.”

“Are you sure?”

“Do it.”

“Are you sure?

“Scared but sure.”

“Xander, I…”

“Do it.”

“It’s going to hurt.”

“I know that.”

“Fast or slow?”

“What’s better?”

“Better is my cock buried inside you taking your mind off it.”


“That’s what you said earlier,” Spike pointed out with a teasing smile.

“Look me in the eyes, Spike.”

Spike did as he was asked, his smile vanishing.  Yes, he could see the difference between the afternoon’s desperate young man who wanted him despite not wanting him, and this Xander who said no and meant it, the Xander who demanded respect and would receive it from this already-besotted vampire.

“No fucking,” Spike confirmed, satisfied that he’d got this right by the relief on Xander’s face.

“Fast or slow, you think?”


“All right.  Fast.  Whenever you’re…”

Spike sank his fangs into Xander, so rapidly that Xander wasn’t truly aware of what was happening until the pain struck him and he took a sharp deep inhalation, eyes watering; then the glorious thrill of the vampire’s claiming coursed through every vein, inflamed every nerve.  It was more than ritual, it was stunningly erotic: to know that Spike was feeding off him, taking him into his body.  Xander unconsciously ground himself against Spike, feeling Spike’s growl of pleasure vibrating through them as he responded in kind.  The fangs withdrew; the licks that followed were equally as stimulating and Xander was quite dizzy with lust by the time Spike stopped.

“Fuck, I knew I’d forgotten…  Xander, you have to have this, taste this…”

And Spike slit his wrist with a nail.  Xander saw the blood and sobered up remarkably quickly.

“I have to?”

“A drop.”

“Just this once?” Xander asked suspiciously.  Spike nodded and offered up his wrist.  Another hesitation before a muttered…  “What the hell.”  …and Xander covered the wound with his mouth.  Sucked.  Vigorously.

Spike groaned and bucked forward, coming hard and unexpectedly as their union was completed, blearily hearing Xander’s panting and knowing it should sing to him of breathless fucking and a satisfied Consort rather than the frustration of being this close and unfulfilled.  He wriggled off of Xander and his hand snaked under the covers.

“No, I said no.”

“Just my hand, just my hand,” Spike soothed, finding Xander’s erection and wrapping his fist around it, deciding to make this fast in a bid to prevent Xander changing his mind.  Silent once again, Xander pressed up into the grip; Spike found Xander’s ear and whispered as he pumped.  “Hope you want me soon, Xander.  Because I want you.  I want to taste my Consort, suck that gorgeous cock of yours until it’s ready to burst and feel you shoot down my throat.”  Spike grinned at the subdued murmur that escaped Xander.  “And I’ll need you to fuck me.  It’s been so long since I was fucked and I’ll be so tight for you.  Will you do that for me?  If I suck you really well will you reward me by forcing this beauty into me?  Share that heat and come…”  And Xander obliged with a stifled moan, thrusting up and falling back, trembling in violent waves as Spike’s strokes milked him and milked him and finally became tender.

As Xander dozed Spike went downstairs and made hot chocolate, weighing it down with sugar and cream, wondering if he could persuade Xander to eat something.  He suddenly saw a mental picture of himself, saw the change of direction in his life.  He had Xander, he had a Consort.  He had company.  It was a wonderful sensation, this knowledge, and it made his eyes well as he bade a hopeful farewell to the loneliness, grinning irrepressibly as he looked forward.  He knew Xander would have regrets eventually but he would deal with that when they came to it.  For now though, he would enjoy.  His eyes fell on the phone.  Enjoy, and possibly even gloat.

Xander felt like he’d spent half his life waking up in this bed.  Some early light was coming through and over the drapes, creating faint patterns on the ceiling that yesterday he had counted maniacally, today he counted calmly.  Which was progress.  No nightmares, no dreams at all that he could remember.  No sensation of drowning, no gallons of blood, no turning to look at one face and seeing another, seeing Buffy, dead because he wasn’t there for her.  No nightmares.  Which was progress.

He glanced over at Spike and felt a whole jumble of emotions bubble up inside his chest and his gut and, yes, his groin.  God, he was confused.  A couple of days ago everything had seemed so simple.  He’d been entrenched in such deep depression, crippled by guilt, that his course had seemed easy: stop eating, suffer, die.  Not suicide, which would be wrong, but atonement, which would be right.  He’d been looking forward to ‘die’ in a classical ‘blessed release’ kind of way.  But Xander Harris had always been a fighter, a survivor, and if he was subconsciously searching for an excuse to live Spike had given it to him.  And maybe that was okay because this was a different brand of atonement, not an excuse to give up and live, nothing he’d been aware of when he turned up.  Why had he turned up?  Did he truthfully believe he had no choice?

“I had no choice,” Xander whispered into the stillness.

Which he had truthfully believed.

He carefully removed himself from the bed, not wanting to disturb the vampire, and took his fuck-achy body off to the bathroom.  He felt stronger again, amazed at the human body’s recuperative properties when fed with only two mugs of soup, a trickle of vampire blood, and hot chocolate that he’d almost needed a knife and fork to consume.  Spike’s taking care of me.  The thought brought a smile, and that felt weird, as if his facial muscles had just about forgotten how to pull it off.  I don’t deserve it but someone wants to take care of me.  Guardian of the Hellmouth: quite a catch if you happen to like vampires.  And he happened to like this one very much.

His shower was long and hot, and as he lethargically counted tiles he remembered Friday, Spike in the shower with him, already caring, washing his hair and touching him.  Touching him and making an unspoken statement that shattered Xander’s image of himself as loathsome, insufferable, unwanted.  It had made Xander want to ask one thing of the vampire: if, when the time came, he could come to him to die.  Now he was expected to stay with him to live.  To live.  Recognition of that sent a wave of nausea through Xander and he picked up his counting, trying to drum out the growing alarm.  The severity of his shaking increased until he was leaning against the wall, trying to remain upright as his mind reeled and the room span.  This was wrong, he’d known it was wrong from the start, and yet a tiny voice in his head was telling him to get to Spike right now, Spike could banish the fear.  And that was wrong too.

Xander knew he couldn’t stay, couldn’t let Spike touch him again…  I let Spike fuck me.  I wanted Spike to fuck me.  This is Spike I’m washing away.  Don’t want to wash him away but I feel so dirty.  Spike’s clean.  Spike cares and shouldn’t.  …and he certainly couldn’t save the world.  So dirty.  He shouldn’t have touched me.  He’s too good for me.  He’s too good for me.  Jesus, that’s funny.

Back to one.  Numbers to drown out the words.  Quickly out of the shower and Xander despaired when he remembered he had nothing to put on but dirty clothes.  It was somehow symbolic.  He wouldn’t look in the mirror, didn’t want to see the bite mark on his neck or the fading light in his eyes as he lost the little hope he’d mustered, or rather Spike had mustered for him.  He shaved by touch, using the electric razor Spike had bought him, counting at speed as he did so, not wanting to think about the kindness of a demon who didn’t want him to cut himself.

A glass of water, a purloined cigarette, and Xander left the guardian’s house.  The door was never locked, Xander realised as he pulled it shut behind him.  It made the house easy to enter.

It made it easy to leave.

Spike knew.  The second he woke he knew he was alone, and it didn’t feel like the previous day’s alone when Xander was across the road in the park.  He was alone.

He inhaled deeply.  The richest scent came from the pillow beside him, stained with blood from Xander’s neck.  Next was the semen on the sheet.  Beyond that there was soap and shampoo, toothpaste and cigarette smoke.  But no Xander.

Spike rolled and buried his face in Xander’s pillow, taking the stained area of linen into his mouth and wetting it, sucking, chewing, until he’d extracted every last scrap of blood from it.  Then he moved down the bed and repeated the action with the semen.  It made him uncomfortably hard, and he joylessly rubbed himself against the mattress as he suckled, ejaculating with no discernible satisfaction as his mind threw up images of Xander last night, the honest pleasure on his face as he’d come for Spike.

Yes, he’d primed himself to fall in love with Xander, and without force or effort he’d fallen quite naturally, probably the moment his Consort had said, ‘It’s just beginning’ and was believed.  Spike had been prepared to commit himself whole-heartedly to caring for and restoring the damaged man if that was the only way Xander would allow him to demonstrate his affection.  But now…  No Xander.  The shock of lost love.  The pain of losing his Consort.  The desolation of a future non-negotiably, completely alone.

Spike.  Truly love’s bitch.  And love’s bitch wept.





Chapter 4

Much as he had two days ago, Xander stared up at the front door and hesitated.  Much as he had two days ago, Xander thought about choice, the lack of it, the need for it, the lack of need for it.  Choice can be overrated, he now accepted.

He counted the steps, then he ascended, counting again.  He listened at the door, not exactly knowing what he was listening for, but unable to hear anything over the deafening pounding of his heart.  Cautiously opening the door he stepped inside, standing there awkwardly despite a part of him instantly recognising that this was where he belonged.

It was possible to see into the kitchen from the hall and Xander stared at Spike: he was sitting at the table, head propped up on one hand, staring blindly at the unopened newspaper before him.  He looked devastated, and the fact he hadn’t even noticed someone walking into the house said a great deal about the level of his preoccupation.  Xander wanted to take away that devastation and return the vampire to the state of relative peace he’d seen when he arrived; Spike’s happiness was paramount, he realised, the Consort realised, and the peculiar sensation he experienced might have been the metaphorical ice encasing his heart beginning to melt.

Xander put down the bag collected from the bus depot and shakily made his way to the kitchen doorway.  But even if he hadn’t have been shaking right now he’d have been shaking.


Spike jumped out of his daze and stood jerkily, turning to stare at Xander, fighting to keep a hold of his inscrutable expression and the emotional privacy it afforded him.  Poker-faced maybe, but his eyes were another matter, reflecting the morning’s anguish.

“You left,” he accused.

“My stuff.”  Xander gestured up the hall to his bag.

“You left,” Spike repeated, tell-tale tremor in his voice.

“I came back.”

“Were you always going to?”  Xander stared at the floor and shook his head, ashamed of his actions.  “So what happened?”

“At first it was too difficult to stay.  Then it was too difficult to go.  I think there’s something to this Consort business.  Or it could just be…”  The dark head came up, and Xander straightened his back and stood tall.  “I made a choice.”

“You made a choice?”

“Yeah.  ‘Cause…  I think I’m trash.  I think I’m worthless.  But I know I’m yours.”


Spike turned away, crossed to the counter and switched on the kettle, taking mugs in hands that trembled as thoroughly as Xander’s and fussing over making tea.  After a moment he just stood, tensely gripping the edge of the counter, and Xander couldn’t resist whatever drew him to the vampire, didn’t particularly want to.  His left hand rested beside Spike’s on the counter, his right slid around Spike’s waist as Xander pressed close to his back.

“Am I allowed to do this?”

It took everything that Spike had not to lean back into that trembling heat.

“You don’t have to.”

“That isn’t what I asked.”  It was impossible for Xander to explain just how much he wanted to touch Spike; his hand ran over the tight stomach, feeling muscles twitch beneath his palm.  “You’re very sensitive.”

“To you.”

“To me?” Xander’s voice was loaded with excitement and fear.

“Consort,” came as a fervent whisper.

Xander pulled Spike’s t-shirt out of his jeans and ran his hand beneath, gliding over the smooth, cold flesh before fingertips began to explore.  Spike’s hand suddenly slapped over his, stopping all movement.


“You owe me an apology.”

Xander nuzzled the back of Spike’s head, spoke softly.

“I owe you more than that.”  He paused, dragging up some courage from who-knows-where.  “I’m sorry I left this morning.  I’m sorry I upset you.”

“You frightened me.”

“No.  No-one scares Big Bad.”

“I haven’t been him for a long time, Xander.”

“You’ll always be Big Bad to me.”

“And what about you?  Who are you?”

“I’m ready to be whoever you want me to be.”

“I want you to be Xander Harris.  Think you can manage that?”

“I can try.”


There was a long pause as Spike regrouped and Xander stroked, rubbed his face in Spike’s hair, felt the deepening acceptance of what he was becoming.

“Sit down, Xander.”  Xander reluctantly left Spike and sat at the table.  “I want you to eat something.”  This time the stricken look passed quickly.  “You’ll do that for me?”


Spike considered.

“If you’ll match me.”

Xander nodded and waited, back to counting squares in puzzles, while Spike cooked some eggs and put the plate between them, picking up his fork as Spike mirrored the action.  An uncompromising gesture, and Xander took a first forkful and ate.  Spike smiled his approval and followed suit.

“I phoned Angel last night.  While you were sleeping.”


“To crow.  ‘I made the deadline.  I have a Consort and it’s Xander Harris so stick the, ‘He’ll never,’ up your arse and spin on it,’ basically.”

“Has a nice ring to it.”

“You think?” Spike asked, evidently surprised.  “Selectively or all of it?”

“All of it.”

Surprise gave way to shock.  Several dozen questions tried to escape Spike but he bit them back, biding his time, not wanting to pressurise Xander.  Not wanting Xander to look too closely at, or think too deeply about, his situation.

“Eat.”  Xander ate; Spike ate.  “I didn’t relish the thought of ringing him back today and telling him you’d done a bunk.”

“What would he have done?” Xander frowned, experiencing a swell of protectiveness and becoming irritated with the older vampire in anticipation.

“Just taken the piss unmercifully.  Given me the, ‘I told you so, what would Xander want with you?’ speech.”

Xander positively glowered at that and Spike watched with a mixture of confusion and delight.  He’d pursue Xander’s feelings later, when the human was stronger.


Xander didn’t want to think about Angel right now.  He picked up the day’s newspaper and found the crossword puzzle, counting boxes, scanning clues.  He took another mouthful of egg and swallowed it down without thinking.

“One across, ten letters: a compulsion to exaggerate.  I’ll be disappointed if you don’t know that.”

Spike threw Xander an unconvincing look of disdain before taking a glance at the structure of the puzzle.

“What’s one down?”

“Umm…nine letters: distinctive behavioural trait.”


Xander filled that in, letters wobbly but legible.

“Compulsion to exaggerate, first letter’s m.”


“’Kay…spelling that phonetically and hoping for the best.  Y’know I can’t actually spell ‘phonetically’.  Course, I could if it was spelt phonetically.  Three across…”

Xander ate; Spike unobtrusively laid his fork down and sat back contentedly in his chair.


Food finally gone, puzzle half-finished, and Xander was beginning to fade.  Without a word, Spike helped him up, guided him to the first floor, into the bedroom and started to undress him.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re tired.  What did you do all morning?  Walk?”

“I wanted to see some of the old haunts.”

“In case you never came back?”

“I was staying by then.  I thought maybe you’d never let me out of the house again.”  Spike chuckled and hesitated at Xander’s boxers; a moment’s deliberation and he left them on.  “The sheets need changing,” Xander pointed out dozily.  “There was blood…”  He touched his neck.  “And stuff,” he blushed.

“I changed the sheets.”

It had been too tormenting for Spike: not to have Xander but to have his scent surrounding him.  He’d changed the bed first thing.

“Okay.  Good.  Yeah, I may be tired,” Xander conceded as he keeled over.  “I get tired a lot.  It’s nicer being tired here though.”  Spike rearranged and covered him, sitting and stroking his hair as he fought sleep.  “I’m sorry, Spike.  For walking away.”

“You came back.”

“I missed you.”

Spike swallowed at the lump that had filled his throat.

“I missed you too.”

“We’re okay then?”

“We’re okay.  You’re forgiven.”  Xander’s eyes opened and focused on Spike, and the significance of what he’d said struck the vampire.  He carried on stroking and smiled.  “You’re forgiven.”

Pain again.  Xander flinched and burrowed and shivered.  Soon he slept.  With a quick farewell kiss, Spike headed for the tunnel in the basement, knowing he had to get out for a while and wreak havoc underground, destroy a few physical and figurative demons.

Back here, Xander acknowledged comfortably as he hauled himself to wakefulness, judging late afternoon before the consideration of Spike’s whereabouts rapidly pushed all else from his mind.  He should be here, with me, Xander sulked, caught himself sulking, launched an anti-sulk campaign immediately in his head.  He had the energy for a decent stretch and made the most of it, spreading himself out in the bed…  Nice bed, Spike’s bed, where the hell is he?  …and relaxing his muscles again.

He’d been aware of the differences in his attitude and expectations when he’d woken that morning before the rot set in; now the changes were more pronounced and they thoroughly battered him.  Consort.  He liked.  He smiled.  He wanted.

“Spike,” he called, knowing that if the vampire was in the house he’d hear and be there in seconds.  No response.  Xander cursed to himself, spent a few minutes analysing why Spike’s presence was so essential and ended up back at a single word, Consort, and swore again.  In frustration and disappointment that Spike still wasn’t there.  At this precise moment he had no problems with Consort at all.  Consort said life and chosen and wanted and security and sex-toy and if he was mind-blowingly lucky, it might even say love one day.  Strangely enough, and as Spike had promised, it also said freedom.  That made little sense until Xander considered what he wanted to be free from.

A faint noise downstairs and Xander tingled; minutes later the door was silently pushed open and Spike entered.  So did…

“What is that…smell?” Xander grimaced.

“Had a bit of a run-in with a Keskarauli.  Not the most fragrant of demons when you pop their guts,” Spike grinned.  Xander switched the lamp on for a better look.  Spike was gunged from head to toe and looked surprisingly happy with it.  “How are you?  You look brighter.”

“How am I?” Xander deliberately pondered aloud.  Spike waited.  “Different.  More different.  I was feeling different this morning and now the differentness seems more definitely…different.”

Short pause for bemusement.


“It’s a positive different.”


“Are you going to stand there and stink all day?”

“I’m heading for the shower.  I wanted to check up and make sure you were…”


“Here,” Spike admitted.  “I knew you were, I could feel you were, but I had to see.”  Xander nodded his understanding and Spike started to strip out of his gunked clothes.  “If you had to put a word to the differentness what would it be?”

“I feel…  It’s embarrassing after the fuss I made.  The, ‘Did you think I’d wake up and it would be different and I’d be your Consort?’  I should have kept my mouth shut because that’s just what happened.”

“That’s the difference?”

“Yeah.  I feel kinda…Consorty.”

“Consorty,” Spike repeated with a smile.

“Kinda.  And it’s getting stronger.”  Spike saw Xander’s interest in his semi-naked form and took a step in the direction of the bed; Xander held his hands up defensively.  “Get that stench away from me.  Go shower.  And take your clothes with you.”

“Can I kiss you?  Just…”  Spike held up one finger.

“Only after surgery to remove my sense of smell!”

Spike thought about heading straight for the bathroom but decided to finish undressing where he stood, aware of Xander’s gaze fixed to his body and the increased rate of the young man’s heartbeat.  Subtle, Xander was not, and as a naked Spike collected his discarded clothes and walked back to the door Xander leant up on his elbows for a better look.

“I thought you’d seen it all before.”

“It hadn’t fucked me then,” Xander replied quietly, still preoccupied with the view.

“What do you think?”

Spike tried to sound casual but was unnervingly concerned by Xander’s opinion.  Xander tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling.

“I think…  I think I’m hungry.”

That felt uncannily like a reprieve.

“You know where everything is.  Help yourself.”

Xander’s gaze returned to him, flickered over his body.

“Thanks.  I will.”

As Spike occupied the shower, jerking himself off over a look, Xander found a clean t-shirt and pair of jeans to wear and went to the kitchen to stare in the fridge.  The cheesecake seemed synonymous with his guilt and he wondered if Spike would be peeved if he threw it away.  The smell of the chocolate made his mouth water and he fought to recall the taste and sensation as Spike had fed him that one finger-full, but all he could remember clearly was the cold finger between his lips, sliding in and out like the best fuck he’d ever had.

He poured a glass of milk, mopped up what he’d spilled through suddenly worrying about spilling it and subsequently triggering a big shaking fit, and sat at the table.  He unhurriedly counted the squares left to fill on their crossword puzzle and glanced over the clues again.  Not a chance.  He re-counted the squares and pushed the paper away.  Another look in the fridge and he noticed the soup Spike had bought for him; the fact that it came in bags quite similar to the blood bags of old wasn’t lost on him and he smiled as he took a pack out and peered at the heating instructions.

The smell alerted him to Spike’s approach and he opened the door to the utility room so the reeking clothes would come and go as fast as possible.  He heard the washer start up and Spike returned, rinsed his hands, and liberated the soup pack from Xander.

“There’s a delicatessen a couple of blocks from here and they make this as a speciality,” he explained as he filled a mug and placed it in the microwave.  “Decent restaurant attached to the deli.  I’ll take you when you’re better if…”  Spike didn’t finish the sentence and Xander had a few goes for him.

“If I’m ever better enough?  If you’re brave enough to be seen in public with me?  If we last that long?”  Spike silently fell back on diversionary tea-making.  “It’s that one, isn’t it?  If we last that long.  Think you’ll get tired of me and throw me out?”


“Then you think I’ll leave.”  Spike was reliving his gripping-the-counter-till-it-creaked manoeuvre from earlier in the day.  Xander got as close to his back as he could without touching.  “I will have to leave.”  He saw the vampire tense and felt quite moved.  “I’ll leave.  Get the rest of my stuff.  Come back.  Come home.”

“I could help,” Spike volunteered uncertainly.

“That’d be good.  You’ve got a car, right?”  Spike nodded.  “I don’t have much really.  There’s stuff I don’t want to bring.  Stuff with memories attached.”

“I don’t expect you to forget your past.”

“There’s something in me today that’s insisting the future is what matters, and the past is past and gone, but I don’t know if that’s me looking for an excuse or if it’s real.”

“An excuse?”

“To let it all go.  Start letting it go.  I know that’s wrong…”


Now Xander fell silent as he thought.

“Isn’t it obvious?”



Xander thought some more until the something in him today staged a revolution and pushed all such concerns over the philosophical ramparts and, quite frankly, for all of thirty seconds he couldn’t give a damn.  Spike sat him down and gave him the soup and tea, standing at his back and running his fingers through the thick hair.

“Tell me, Xander.  Tell me you want to live.”

Xander knew the implications of what Spike was asking.  It was a fairly loaded question with all that living now entailed.  He’d never imagined Spike to be so insecure.  But he had his own problems.

“It hurts,” he confessed.  “Still hurts.”

Spike leant forward and buried a kiss in his hair.

“Be a miracle if it didn’t, love.”

“Is it force of habit?”

Spike frowned.


“Love.  Calling me love.”  Xander’s voice thickened with the words.

“No, not habit.  It’s…you.”

There was a stilted pause before Xander abruptly pushed away from the table and spun around to Spike, clumsily bringing him close and burying his face in his chest as he clung to him.  Spike held Xander tightly back and tried to calm the furious trembling.

“I’m scared,” Xander whispered.  “I’m so fucking scared.  I’ve forgotten how to live.  I’ve forgotten how to be loved.”

“I’ll show you.  I’ll teach you.  Nothing to be scared of here.”

“Would you let me go if I asked you?”

“Not easily,” Spike admitted haltingly.  “Don’t ask me.”

Xander shook his head briskly.

“I won’t.  I’ve hated being alone.  I won’t let you be alone.”

“Don’t go.”

“I won’t.”

They held one another in silence for a while, individual worries seeping away and leaving behind the closest thing to peace of mind they were likely to experience under the circumstances.  When Xander relinquished his hold he felt the familiar desolation hovering at the periphery of his senses and instantly wanted Spike back but still wasn’t sure what he could take, or how to ask for what he needed; he watched Spike reheat the soup and drank it without argument, stretching his legs out under the table to where Spike sat, touching his toes to Spike’s calf and finding relief in that minor contact.


They’d almost finished the crossword puzzle when the phone rang.  Spike answered and after an initial hello made appropriate noises as he wrote copious notes on a pad he produced from the pile of newspapers like a magician whipping a rabbit out of a hat.

“I’ll look that up now,” he finally said and gave the handset to Xander before going into the library.

After staring at it in alarm for a full minute Xander decided he couldn’t leave whoever was on the other end in complete silence, and maybe this was a good time to start making the acquaintance of Spike’s associates.  He tried channelling the gregarious Xander of old.

“Umm…hi, this is Xander…”

“Xander!” a delighted voice greeted him.  “Spike informs me that you’re going to save the world.  Aren’t you getting a little long in the tooth for that?” it teased.

“Giles?” Xander asked in amazement, “Giles?”

Identity affirmed and Xander wanted to whoop or howl or dance for joy, but instead, settled into a conversation that lasted the best part of two hours.

“Thanks for not telling me who it was.  I doubt if I could have talked to him if you’d told me.”  Spike looked up from his books with a brief smile.  “He didn’t ask about this – us - and I didn’t offer.  I wouldn’t have known what to say.”

“He knew my intentions so he must’ve figured the rest out.  After all, you’re here, aren’t you?”

Xander’s eyebrows shot into his hairline.

“You told him you wanted me for your Consort?”

“The day the Powers made the demand I rang him to ask his advice – not about you, not then,” Spike quickly established.  “And I spoke to him when I’d made my decision.”

“Did he think you were crazy again?”

“He thought it was an unusual choice but trusted my instincts.”

“Unusual as in bad?”

“Unusual as in unusual.  He’ll be happier now he’s spoken to you.”

“He said…”  Spike looked over curiously.  Xander took a breath.  “That I wasn’t to blame.  That Buffy was wrong to go into the school alone and he warned her to wait.”  Spike nodded a sad agreement.  “I thought he blamed me for not being there in time.”

“The only person to blame you was you.”

“I think I’m starting to get that.”  Xander wandered around the table to Spike and paused behind him, reaching out to lay one tentative touch on his back before moving on and sitting.  “Can I help?”

“Go and have something to eat.”

“I really can’t right now.”

Spike took a long assessing look at Xander before relenting on this occasion.

“You’ll eat later.”

“Later, I promise, when I’m not so wound up.”

Spike scribbled a few pieces of information on a fresh page of the pad and peeled it off, rising and fetching a few books which he placed in front of Xander.

“Okay…  These are the demons I’m looking for…”  He tapped the names on the paper.  “…but I need references to them working together.  One or the other alone is no good to me, but you have to check all the references in case one is referred to by description not by name.  This is the clan name of…”  Spike glanced to Xander to make sure he was following, but Xander was entirely lost in admiration of the vampire, studying him closely as he rattled off instructions.  Spike was flattered and aroused by Xander’s interest; he was also amazed by his appalling timing.  “Get your mind on the books, Harris.  Find this and then we can…”  Fuck?  All night?  Please?  Want me, Xander, want me.  “…grab something to eat and see what’s on the box.”

Xander turned to study the notes Spike had made, recognising the, ‘You have no choice.  Be here by Friday,’ writing and feeling rather stunned that Friday was only two days ago.

“I’ve only been here two days,” he told Spike.

“It feels longer,” Spike agreed, allowing himself to be distracted.  “What do you think of the house?  Happy to stay here?”

“Don’t you have to?”

“No.  But it’s convenient.  So, you…?”

“Fine.  Needs work: your crypt had more character.”

“There are some things in storage that Willow and Dawn gave to me before they left.  They might make the place more…homely,” Spike suggested uncomfortably.

“Okay,” Xander replied in kind.

“You wouldn’t like that?”

“Whatever you want.”

“No.  Whatever we want.”

“Then I want some us stuff.  One day I’ll be coping-with-the-past-man, but until then…”

“Us stuff?” Spike grinned.

Xander flushed furiously and reached for a book to bury himself in.  Spike couldn’t remember Xander being much of a blusher and thought it was delectable.

If I stay,” Xander said to deliberately wipe the misinterpreted smile from Spike’s face.  Oh, yeah, I have the power.  Made him look fucking miserable again, that’s something to be proud of.  Can’t bear it, can’t bear to see him unhappy, what the fuck has happened to me?  Consort.  “Which I will.  Stay.”

Spike went back to his seat and returned to his work.

“Do what you want with the place,” he told Xander, coolly now.  “Just leave this room alone.”


“I need to get on.”  Xander nodded and flicked to the index of his book.  “Leave that, eh?  You go and watch the telly.”

“I want to help.”

“I’m used to doing this alone.”

It was as if Xander was watching all of Spike’s defensive shutters slamming into place, cutting him off.  A few smart words, one cheap shot, and he’d lost the Spike who was keeping him grounded and feeling safe and he had no idea of how to get him back.  He carried on checking the index.

“You’re not alone anymore,” was all he could think of to say.

Spike’s jaw clenched and he turned a page.


Xander soon tired.  He’d lost the ability to concentrate over the last few months and reading was hard work, but he was loath to be apart from Spike while the vampire was still upset with him.  Knowing he was missing more than he was finding, Xander pushed his book away and crossed his arms on the table, laying his head on them.

“Go upstairs and rest,” Spike told him.

“If you’ll come with me.”

Xander was becoming quite accustomed to that look of surprise but he couldn’t help liking it better every time he witnessed it.

“I can’t.  I have to figure out how to kill these creatures and then go and do it before they eat too many people.  Rupert says they should be arriving in Sunnydale…”  He glanced at the wall clock.  “…any time now.”

Xander turned his head and peered at Spike through his hair.



“Can I…”

“Not a chance!  Don’t even think about it,” Spike snapped.  “If anyone’s going to kill my Consort in the next twelve hours it’s going to be me.”

“Okay,” Xander agreed without hesitation.  Spike begrudgingly smiled at that and Xander witnessed a definite loosening of the tension in Spike’s body.  “Can your Consort ask if you think you’ll be out for long?”

Another smile.

“You know how it goes.  It’ll take as long as it takes.”

“Can your Consort ask you to please be careful?”

Xander got the desired reaction: there was the surprise again.  Spike reached across and stroked the hair out of Xander’s face, kept stroking.  Contact made all the difference and they both relaxed.

“I’ll be careful.”


An hour later Spike was preparing to go out and Xander hated it.  He kept pressing and pressing the emotion down inside him, watching with growing dread as Spike pulled on a coat with pockets the size of dumpsters and proceeded to fill them full of weapons.

“Nothing to worry about,” he told Xander in soft, reassuring tones.  “I do this all the time and rarely get a scratch.”

“Just—”  Xander stopped sharply and Spike took a closer look at his shuddering human.

“You’ll have to get used to this, Xander.  Start now.”

“Just come back, all right?” Xander demanded.

Spike took a step toward Xander, wanting to hug and reassure him, but then he remembered Xander the previous night, apparently needing to set the physical parameters to this relationship, and he would allow him that.

“Stay calm or you’ll rattle yourself to pieces.  Eat.  Go to bed.  I’ll be there before you know it.”

The thought of bed and Spike was perfect but Xander had no way of telling the vampire that without being the whore he didn’t want to remind Spike of.  But Spike was walking out of here and…  Instinct took over from intellect, and Xander went straight to Spike, took his face in his hands and kissed him: not passionately but sincerely.

“I need you to come back.”

Their eyes met and shared a few hundred truths that couldn’t make it out of their mouths, and all at once they melted into one another, lips meeting in a tender caress, hands gliding lightly, touching delicately, worshipfully.

In the midst of this perfection, Xander was aware of the front door opening and someone entering the house; Spike reacted protectively and ferociously, game-faced and snarling, out into the hall, catching the intruder by the throat and heaving him a foot off the floor and flattening him against the wall.  Xander followed, in awe of this terrifying creature that he’d been sharing gentle kisses with seconds before.

“Spike, Spike, it’s me,” the young man in Spike’s grip choked.

“I think you should put him down before he goes blue,” Xander advised.

With another snarl Spike dropped the human and took a deliberate step between him and Xander, morphing out of his demon guise when he felt Xander’s hand between his shoulder blades.

“That wasn’t a clever move,” he growled, grabbing a wrist and dragging the man to his feet before turning to Xander.  “Xander, this is Casey.”

“Friend of yours?”

“Twat with a death wish.”

“Clever move?” gasped Casey.

“In future you knock, you don’t walk in.  Things are changing and you’ll get yourself killed if you’re not careful.”

“In future I’m knocking.”

“What are you doing here?”

“There’s a couple of big beasties in one of the cemeteries.”  Despite being breathless, Casey positively bounced with enthusiasm.  “Thought you might need some help.”  Casey finally noticed Xander and gave him a smile, reaching out to shake his hand but snatching his arm back at a further growl from the vampire.  Xander prodded Spike into silence and introduced himself, seeing Casey’s eyes widen as the name finally sank in.  “Xander?  The Xander.”

“I presume so,” Xander agreed suspiciously.

“Saved the world, right?  After the slayer…”

Spike grabbed the man by the collar and literally threw him out of the front door, turning back to Xander and approaching slowly, angry to see his Consort smarting again at the reminder.  He inched his way into Xander’s arms and hugged him hard.

“You don’t have to rely on him for anything?” Xander checked.

“Bait, occasionally.”

“Fine.  If the fight is to the death make sure it’s his.”

Spike nodded and gave Xander a quick kiss before leaving.  Left alone Xander wandered miserably around the house – his home, as he supposed he should start thinking of it – passing through the kitchen twenty times and knowing how pleased Spike would be if he ate, but left alone he simply didn’t have the resolve.  Back to the library and Xander found a book that discussed the Master/Consort bond and he read until his concentration was shot.  More wandering and eventually he went to the bathroom, shaved and showered, studied the mark on his neck in the mirror and felt somewhat dissatisfied by the fact it wasn’t somehow more.  When it healed it’d be unremarkable.  If he was to be the Consort of a Master vampire he should at least have a brute of a scar to advertise the fact.  He’d talk to Spike.

Into the bedroom; before he got into bed he took another look at the family portrait and for the shortest possible time considered calling Willow and telling her what was going on.  The shortest possible time.  He climbed beneath the covers and, resolutely not thinking about Spike and the perils of Sunnydale, counted the light patterns from the lamp until he dozed off.

Xander jumped to alertness at the sound of the front door, heart pounding, tremors rushing through his body.  This was ridiculous, but he couldn’t feel safe in Sunnydale without all possible precautions and tomorrow…

“I’m going to put locks on the doors,” he told Spike the moment he walked into the bedroom; Spike simply nodded.

“I told you: do what you like to the place.”

Xander smelt the food Spike had brought with him and his stomach rolled, unable to decide between hunger and nausea.  Spike put a tray of take-out containers on the bed beside Xander.

“What is that?”

“It’s from the Italian place I told you about.  I thought you could manage some pasta.”

“I don’t think I can.”

“Just a little.  Try for me?”

“Maybe.  Let me wake up first.”

Spike undid the containers and twirled some spaghetti around a fork, offering it to Xander and waiting obstinately until he leant forward and took it.


“Nice,” Xander agreed indifferently.

“I wasn’t particularly selective, just grabbed what they had handy.”


“I didn’t want to hang about, wanted to get home to you.”

Spike looked ready to pursue his feeding-time-at-the-zoo approach so Xander found his own fork and prodded unenthusiastically in various containers until he found something he vaguely liked and made the effort to eat.

“You get the demons you were looking for?”

“Yeah.  If it’d been just me I’d’ve run them out of town and left it at that, but the slayer…”  Spike rolled his eyes and that was explanation enough.

“You get a chance to feed?”

Spike nodded.

“Like I said, I wanted to get home, so Casey gave me a pint.”

Xander freeze-framed.

“When you say…?”

“I’ve fed off him before, he thinks it’s…”

Xander dropped his fork onto the tray as his other hand slapped over his mouth.  Spike stared after him as he scrambled out of bed and ran for the bathroom, following quickly and arriving in time to hold Xander’s hair back as the small amount he’d eaten re-emerged.  A few heaves and Xander was angrily shoving Spike’s hands away as he sank to the floor, wiping his mouth on the back of a hand.

“Go away,” he told Spike tersely, furiously mopping his watering eyes and nose.

“Too rich?”


“The food?  Too rich?”

“No!  Fuck off!  It wasn’t the food.  Just…fuck off!”

Spike reluctantly stood and retreated a few steps.  Xander glared and Spike began to slowly pace as he thought.

“This is about me feeding…”

“Don’t say it again!”

Spike held his hands up placatingly, kept pacing.


“Get out of here, just leave me alone.”

“Can you explain…”

“No!  Fuck off.  If you can’t see it…  Jesus, I can’t believe you spent years calling me ‘Bollocks for brains’.”

“Xander…” Spike tried again.

“Have you fucked him?” Xander demanded furiously, not exactly sure why he was furious but it felt pretty good in an awful way.

That stopped an authentically stunned Spike in his tracks.

“No.  I bit him, he was food.”



Have you ever fucked him?


“But if he turns up tomorrow I’ll see this…”  Xander pointed to the bite mark on his neck.  “…I’ll see this on him.”

“It isn’t the same.”

“It’s not something I want to see.  You do it with strangers, you don’t do it with people there’s a chance of me setting eyes on.  When I’m strong you can do it with me, but I don’t want to see this on anybody who walks into this house.”

“It isn’t the same,” Spike repeated, almost patiently.

“I don’t - fucking - care,” Xander spelt out, fingers going back to the mark, voice dropping.  “It’s too personal.”

“You can’t compare my food with my Consort.  If there weren’t rules I’d have drained that annoying little tosser and snapped his neck.  Whereas you…  You, I claimed with my mind, my body, my soul.”

“Promise me I won’t see this on anyone else.”

“I promise,” Spike vowed.

Xander grudgingly allowed himself to be mildly placated, but letting the anger go allowed the equally irrational upset to creep in.

“Great.  Now…fuck off,” the voice trembled, matching the body.

A little more pacing and Spike came to Xander, gracefully sinking cross-legged to the floor in front of him.

“I’m not a mind-reader.  I didn’t know you’d object to…  I believed that you would only object if I killed a human, and I don’t do that.”  Spike looked into Xander’s unforgiving face and sighed.  “I am doing my best to treat you with respect and consideration.  It should be mutual.  If you get upset I would prefer to discuss your problems and find a solution that doesn’t involve you overreacting and talking to me like I’m…”  Spike refused to lose his temper.  He made himself quiet, staring at his hands in his lap, habitually picking at nail polish he no longer wore.  Xander forced his attention away and counted tiles until Spike stood.  “Do you want any more of this food?  I can reheat it.”


“Something else?”




Spike crouched, took Xander’s chin firmly in his hand and pulled his head round, making him pay attention. When he spoke his voice was measured, silky smooth and very scary.

“I’m going to make something for you and you’re going to eat it.  If you choose not to, I will force it down your throat.  I would rather choke you to death than watch you starve.  Do you understand me?”  Xander knew this wasn’t posturing; he gave a shallow nod.  “Consider it a sign of my affection that I’m prepared to kill you rather than see you waste away.”  A second nod.  “I’m glad we agree on this particular subject.”  Spike rose and crossed to the door, determined to keep walking before Xander drove him crazy.

“Spike.”  Xander sounded subdued and apologetic.  Irresistible.  Spike turned back and waited.  “I’ll have what’s there, it won’t be cold yet, it’ll be fine.”

“It won’t take a minute…”

“Don’t go away,” Xander pleaded.

Recalling a thousand taunts and stifling an unhealthy degree of satisfaction at having intimidated Xander into submission, Spike strolled back and offered his hands; Xander took them and let himself be lifted to his feet.  Spike pulled him close and rubbed his lips lightly over a cool cheek before giving him a single kiss.

“I don’t know which of us scares the other more,” came the whisper that sent an icy shiver through Xander to contrast with the virtually perpetual hot shivers.  “C’mon, back to bed, you feel cold.”

Xander eased out of his grip.

“Let me just clean my teeth.”

“I’ll warm the food up, get you a drink.”


“Downstairs and back: that doesn’t count as going away.  Or fucking off,” he smiled before leaving the room.

Xander brushed his teeth and gargled the taste of bile away, caught sight of the shower in the mirror and wanted to be in there but knew Spike would be waiting.  He quickly counted the tiles on one wall and returned to the bedroom.


Eating was a protracted business but Xander persisted for what seemed an age before Spike took pity on him and removed the tray.  Mumbled thanks and Xander shuffled down the bed, getting comfortable and closing his eyes.  He listened to Spike stripping and wanted to look, wanted to study every inch of that amazing body and learn it with his eyes and hands and mouth but Spike had looked so mad when he’d admitted his whorish ways.  He felt Spike climb in alongside him, come close but not close enough.

“So…  Fancy a bit of grunt and groan?  Or in your case, deathly silence broken by the occasional no?”

Oh, God, YES!  No.  Don’t be such a fucking whore!

“Can we talk?”

“We can talk,” Spike told him warmly, and Xander could hear the smile on his face.

Now Xander looked, because he couldn’t believe the patience of this creature and wanted to see the pretence.  No pretence.  Spike lay on his side, head propped up on one hand, watching and waiting.  Waiting?  Talk.

“Aren’t you angry?”

“What about?”

“Having to talk instead of fuck.”

Spike thought.

“Not angry, no.  I can even make a few dozen excuses for you.”

“You can?”

“I assumed a lot.  Beyond being curious, which is natural, I don’t even know what you think when you look at me.  I’d like to believe that something lights up in you and you think, ‘Yes, want to fuck that,’ but I don’t know, and yesterday I didn’t give you a chance to say.”

That?” Xander repeated irritably. “Want to fuck that?”

“And just because you’ve slept with men in the past, doesn’t mean…”

“You don’t talk about yourself like that to me, all right?” Xander snapped.  “I don’t think of you in those terms and I don’t want you presuming I do.”

Xander, Spike acknowledged.  Real Xander, my Xander, stroppy, mouthy, heated Xander.

“I wasn’t expecting this.”


“You to be so protective.”  Xander shrugged.  “Like when I said about Angel taking the piss out of me.”  Spike saw the anger flare.  “You really don’t like that.”

“Of course I don’t like it!”


“Because you’re my…  You’re my…  You’re…  Mine.”  Wonder took the place of the anger.  “You’re mine.  I am allowed to say that?”


“I’ve spent so much time thinking about being yours that I missed out on that.  You being mine.”

“D’you…like that?”

“Fuck, yes!”

Spike rolled onto his back and laughed delightedly.  Xander felt braver, surer; he followed, laying a hand on Spike’s arm and stroking the flesh with his thumb.

“You’re different too.  I told you I felt different but you’re different too.  Apart from the whole prowling the graveyards and tearing apart demons aspect.”

“Different how?”

“Just about everything.  You caring about what I want.  Threatening to kill me if I don’t eat.  Even your surprise that I feel protective in return; maybe you’d have felt that before but you’d never have shown it.  And I’m having a hard time accepting so much affection.”

Spike groaned.

“I’m going to become an embarrassment to you, Xander.  I’m always the same.  I fall for someone and get soppier by the minute.”

“You’ve fallen for me?” Xander asked quietly, unconvinced but flushing with pleasure nevertheless.

Spike fixed Xander with a heated look before gently pressing him onto his back and crawling over him; nose-to-nose and powerfully intense.

“Shall I tell you about my hunger?”  Xander nodded, pupils dilating until his eyes were black.  “I have an unquenchable hunger.  A deep.  Dark.  Yearning.  A craving.”


“You, Xander.  My hunger is for you.”

“Okay,” emerged, but only just.

“When I was in you…”  His demon visage shimmered over his features and Spike drove it away, closing his eyes and concentrating on serene Spike, civilized Spike, sane Spike, trying to break free of the all-consuming desire before he scared Xander too much, because the depth of his need was certainly scaring him.

“Hey, you okay in there?”

Caring touches made it easier and harder to get back; Spike opened his eyes to be confronted by Xander’s concern and didn’t so much continue to fall as spin out of control, crash and burn.  He slid back to Xander’s side and attempted to let it all go, feeling Xander staring at him.

“What?” he asked.

“Confused, I guess.  One minute you’re saying…what you were saying, and the next…you’re not.”

“Yeah, well, I’m confused too.”

“About me?”  Spike said nothing, the implication being that Xander was stating the obvious, which he pretty much was.  “Want to tell me about it?”

“Not a lot.”

“Is this about you not having any real choice?”

“I chose you, Xander.”

“But you didn’t necessarily want to choose anyone, did you?  You were pushed into it.”

“That isn’t what I have a problem with,” Spike sighed.

“Then what?”

“For once I’d like to be with someone who wants to be with me, all right?  I hated being used before the soul and now I have these fucking sensibilities that leave me terrified of loving and losing.”

No way Xander was brave enough to pursue the loving; he opted for the losing.

“You think you’ll lose me?”

“Let’s just say that however much I want to believe you’ll stick this out, I’m already getting ready for the, ‘You’re beneath me’ and so long.  It’d be funny if it wasn’t ludicrous: I picked someone strong enough to leave me.  You say you won’t but you’ll get back to normal and see who – what - you’re with and know it isn’t what you want, and why the hell would you stick around then?  I won’t be able to make you stay, I can never make anyone stay.  I’ve got a few months with you, that’s all.  And however much I want to fool myself that we can make this work for just those few months I’m reluctant to be confronted with proof of your underwhelming interest in me.  This…arrangement isn’t about sex, I know, but you’re here and I need you and I want you to be hot for me, hard for me, and without being bullied into it.”

Xander was silent and thoughtful for a while, juggling words in his head so this came out right.

“Can I say something now?”


“I’ll take that as a yes.”

“Don’t,” Spike advised with a glare.

“Okay.  Earlier on you said to me…”  Spike was up and dressing in an instant.  “What…?  Where are you going?”

“Away from you.”


“Crisis of conscience.  Let me tell you, for a vampire with a soul that’s a fucking big crisis.”


“I’ve been very cruel to you, Xander, and I’m sorry, truly sorry.”

“No, Spike.”

“You turned up here for the right reasons and got mistreated for the wrong.”


Please stop saying that.  What have I done to you, you poor sod?  I took away your choice, tried to take away your life, pretended I was doing it for you, to save you, and it was about me all the time.  But it’s like you said: who else would I be doing it for?”  Spike headed out but stopped at the door.  “Anything good I said to you, about you, was true, Xander.  It wasn’t just me trying to get what I wanted.”

And Xander watched in stunned silence as Spike did the one thing his Consort truly feared: he walked away.