Manifestation by Lazuli Kat



Chapter 13 Past

Overall, Xander was obnoxiously cheerful.  Overall, but not always.  Throughout the morning Spike had noticed moments when the man’s attention drifted, when his experiences and the despicable thoughts forced into his mind by the entity caught up with him and pushed him into a shaking fit, to the edge of tears, sometimes over the edge for the shortest fraction of time, but they resolutely ignored the effects in a determined bid to denigrate the cause.  A pretence, and easily recognised as such, but Xander was happy for his fleeting moments of anguish to be overlooked, and was exceedingly grateful for Spike’s determination to embrace the necessary volume of denial for this exercise to work successfully.

As they packed and tidied, Xander found the occasional reason to get so close to Spike they were constantly brushing shoulders or wrists, and Spike, appreciating the need, all but opened his arms and welcomed Xander in.  Occasionally there were moments straight out of a cheesy TV movie, when, for instance, their hands would meet as they reached for the same object, and they saw the joke, grinned and accommodated it, but never broached on the whys of closeness.  Never questioned why the joke would be parodied, then the parody parodied further until Spike was sure that, for the existing moment, the haunted expression had been driven from Xander’s eye by the power of sheer silliness alone.

Spike spent some time with the road atlas, studying the route to Woodbury, preferring to memorise rather than refer when he was actually driving, hoping that Xander could doze undisturbed for most of the journey.  He didn’t realise that the size and location of the armchair made him fairly inaccessible until he caught Xander in his peripheral vision, inching closer and closer without trying to be obvious.

“You can sit on my lap if it’ll help,” Spike suggested as he set the book aside, inordinately pleased when Xander stared at his lap in consideration for long enough to convey that he was taking the offer seriously.

“I can’t.”

“We’ve been through this: don’t be embarrassed about wanting to be close, I understand about the peace.”  Xander gave a wan smile and shook his head.  “I sat on yours, remember?”

Spike sprang up and approached Xander, backing him up to tumble onto the sofa, straddling his lap as he had the night Xander was assaulted.

But now the feeling was very different, and safety and comfort barely entered the picture as Xander’s hands began smoothing up and down Spike’s thighs, stopping occasionally to squeeze and enjoying the taut muscles that filled his grip.  There was some kind of objection required to Spike’s seating arrangements, Xander knew that, but Spike stared into his eye, a snake hypnotising a rabbit, and Xander found it impossible to break away even when he knew he was becoming aroused with the contact and that was the last message he wanted to send to the vampire.  It was impossible to miss the fact that Spike was turned on too, and as Xander mindlessly allowed his thumb to scrape over tightening denim, the moment broke.  Xander was left dazed and wondering what the fuck, and Spike was back in the armchair with the atlas, muttering about scenic routes.


Xander prepared lunch and Spike made the supreme sacrifice, cleaning up after him without – okay, with a minimum of – complaint.  They sat at the table, Xander’s toes always touching Spike’s foot or calf, and discussed LA some more, the chapels here and at Woodbury, talked about the fancy car Spike had driven away in.

“Take it for a spin if you like.”

“Really?” Xander asked enthusiastically until he re-ran the offer in his head.  “Uh…maybe not this time.”

“The screen and windows are vampire-friendly glass: I’ll come with you to make sure you don’t get lost.  Strange area an’ all,” Spike effortlessly covered for Xander’s evident fear of being too far from the Spike zone.

“I’ll stay here, try to fix the mess we made of the crawlspace door.”

“Someone will be around to deal with that.”  Xander shrugged and prodded at the food on his plate, appetite having waned in seconds.  “Remind me to clear the trunk before we go,” Spike added nonchalantly, wanting to divert Xander’s attention despite being dubious of what the man would make of the items Spike had gathered to bring back to the cabin while blissfully ignorant of the occurrences taking – and about to take – place.

“You bring me pressies?” Xander made himself joke.


Xander’s jaw dropped in a comical reaction of pure surprise.

“You brought me pressies?”  Spike nodded.  “Real presents?  I mean…real ones?”


“You—  You’re kidding, right?  I open the trunk and it’s full of those carnival snakes that all spring up in my face and…”


“What then?”

“Keys are by the door if you can’t wait for dusk.”

“I can wait, I’m not a kid.”  Spike bit back a smile and didn’t bother with double figures when starting the mental countdown.  “Although we do need to pack, and if any of the stuff in the car needs packing…?”  Xander left that sentence hanging in the air and waited with childlike anticipation for Spike to put him out of his misery.

“It’ll need packing.  You be okay if I wait on the porch?”

“Yeah, yeah, I can manage that.”

Spike gestured to Xander’s three-quarter-full plate…

“When you’re finished here then.”

…ensuring it was cleared in less than five minutes.

Spike watched with a distinct return to wary as Xander popped the trunk of the company car and practically dived in after the gifts that Spike had brought him.  Arms loaded, he returned to the cabin, grinning gleefully at the vampire as he passed by and eventually placing his goodies on the rapidly cleared dining table.

First up he studied the very wilted bunch of roses.

“That a vampire thing?  The whole…deadness?”

“They weren’t dead when they went in, you plonker, they’ve been there days.”

“Oh.  Yeah.  Course.  And…red roses?”  The grin returned, full force.  “You really did think you had a chance.”

“This wasn’t about that,” Spike insisted.  “This was a joke, the continuation of a joke.  The teasing boyfriend nonsense.”

Xander did know that and, seeing Spike’s concern, reassured him with a nod and a kinder smile before diving back into the packages.

“’Kay…  Eww.  Very dead strawberries to go with the dead roses.  Belgian chocolates?  Champagne?  Wow, you really are the best joke boyfriend.”  Xander felt Spike’s pained reaction and shot him a warning look.  “Who hasn’t hurt me or done anything wrong at all.  Well, not since you stopped trying to kill me and that was many, many years ago.  And the minor wrongness of falling for my manly charms, but who can blame you there?” Xander kidded as he tossed his unkempt hair and suggestively twitched his equally unkempt eyebrows.  “In fact we can blame proximity, which isn’t known to fight back or even attempt to defend itself and therefore makes an easy target.”

“Although proximity might point out that its good self is what allows a bloke to figure out that attraction is about more than proximity.”

“Attraction?  Ooh, no, no attraction, we are so not inviting attraction to the party.  Bad enough flirting with futility and dancing around attachment.”


“Convenience was more our kind of guy; can we simply hang in the kitchen with convenience and wait for reality to check in?  ‘Cause reality – running late, but always turns up in the end.”

Strictly ignoring blue eyes brimming with undeniable persuasiveness, Xander shuffled through the mini-discs Spike had brought along, barely recognising half the artists but willing to give anything a try rather than turn to Spike to ask ‘who?’.  Then there were three good quality t-shirts, very handy when he’d already had to throw a couple of his own out; the first due to damage and stains after the Toby-manufactured fight; the second after Spike, the liberating hero, had ripped it from his body.  The shirts were tastefully plain in dark hues, a red, blue and a green; something fundamental in Xander’s being insisted he find an outlet where he could buy a Day-Glo pink shirt with luminous yellow daisies or some other such monstrosity that would leave Spike heaving.

Two A5 page-a-day diaries: one for the year soon to end, another for the new.

“I thought it would be easier to report back to Willow if you kept better notes.  More organised.”

“Organised, yes, I should have done this years ago.  I guess you saw where I was trying to work out what happened when?”  Xander’s peripheral vision caught Spike’s nod.  “It didn’t seem to matter, but it might.  With Dead Guy, a good record…  I’ll do that.  You’re doing well, Baby, you should be proud of yourself.”

“Proud of myself?” Spike snorted.  “I was prolonging an imbecilic joke when all you really needed was for me to be back here.”

“Hey, no insulting the joke boyfriend.  I got both.  You, and cool stuff.”

“It’s nothing, it’s pilfering the petty cash to piss off Angel and…”

“You were thinking of me and I appreciate that.”

“I should’ve…”

“I was liking this before the breast-beating, thanks and shut up, Spike.  Big box now?”  Spike sighed, stepped aside, and waved a ‘have at it’ toward the biggest gift.  Xander scrabbled it open.  “Laptop?  You got me a laptop?”

“Angel caught me checking out the office supplies and specifically told me to leave this alone.”

“So, naturally, that’s what you stole.  Excellent!  No, wait.  He knows you pretty well: a bluff, you think?”

“He wouldn’t dare.”

Xander finally risked a look at Spike, and they exchanged a conspiratorial grin before Xander returned to rifling in the box.

“This is a great package.  There’s a camera…and a…scanner…  Speakers and…uh…light sabre?  You know what plugs in where?”

“We’ll figure it out.”

“I make notes in the diaries, I write them up here – taking twenty times longer than usual ‘cause typing and speed have no place being in the same sentence where I’m concerned…”  A sobering thought and Xander curbed his enthusiasm, turning to Spike.  “I’m going to be dead before Christmas.  That’s why this now, isn’t it?”

“This now,” Spike corrected as he stared at a clutch of meaningless computer cables, “was a joke, remember?”

“And dead before Christmas?”

“No idea.”


“No idea.  Truthfully.”

“Okay,” Xander accepted quietly, back to the handfuls of computer equipment.  “Okay.”  The quiet was short-lived…  “Hey, you see this?  The light sabre doubles as a printer.”  …and the truth didn’t prevent the outbreak of light sabre sound effects; in the face of possible death, it was as encouraging as Spike could hope for.

“I missed one.”

“One what?”

Xander was waggling a CD at Spike.

“Present.  I was clearing up the table and found this.  But we don’t have a CD player.”

“In the kitchen.”  Xander turned on his heel and bounded kitchen-ward.  “Xander, it was…”  Talking to himself.  Spike tutted and followed, lounging in the doorway as Xander searched and found the player that folded into a space beneath one of the wall units, turning it down and prodding buttons until the disc drawer emerged, then carefully putting the CD in place.

“It was for one song,” Spike told him as he crossed and took the jewel case, scanning the track list and clicking the player along to number two.  “And Xander…”


“Part of the joke.  It was meant to be ironic.”

“Sure,” Xander nodded, eye wickedly bright, as he pressed play.

Slow and sweet piano intro, and a voice like velvet emerged from the player’s secreted speakers.  Spike turned his back, head bowed as he listened.

‘Tonight you're mine completely,
You give your love so sweetly.
Tonight, the light of love is in your eyes,
But will you love me tomorrow?’

“Ironic, all right?” Spike repeated, starting to leave but only getting as far as the void left by the trashed table.  Turning to stare thoughtfully at Xander, he remained unreadably transfixed as the song played through; Xander attempted to ignore the concentrated attention but was barely able to stop himself from squirming.  “Put it on repeat.”  Xander glanced at Spike curiously, then did as he was asked, looking over to see Spike holding out a hand to him.  “Come and dance.”

A split-second’s shock and Xander gave an embarrassed laugh.

“I can’t dance with a guy.”

“You’re not dancing with a guy, you’re dancing with me.”  Reminding Spike of a nervous colt, Xander fidgeted his way over to the vampire, eventually letting himself be drawn close, his hands led to Spike’s waist.  “There we go.  Not quite as traumatic as being possessed,” Spike grinned, and Xander giggled at the continuing oddness, liking it nevertheless when cool hands skimmed over the bare skin of his arms, pausing on his shoulders to squeeze reassuringly, before trailing up his neck, fingers proceeding to tangle themselves in the dark hair.

Spike leaned his brow against Xander’s and encouraged the first swaying steps that stiltedly progressed from awkward to…less awkward.

‘Tonight with words unspoken,
You say that I'm the only one.
But will the spell be broken,
When the night meets the morning sun?’

Just when he was on the verge of coping with the situation he’d found himself in, Xander was somewhat disconcerted by Spike falling still for the greater part of one play-through, and although immobility was simpler to deal with than the knowledge that he was Dancing With Spike, it troubled him enough to ensure he was glad when Spike moved in and pressed his lips to Xander’s ear.

“I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

“Stop doing this to yourself,” Xander groaned.  “If there was anything to forgive I wouldn’t hesitate to forgive you, but…”


“…there’s nothing.”  Xander drew his head back to look into Spike’s disturbingly watery eyes.  “We dealt, Spike.  If we’d’ve had a clue that what happened could happen, if we’d discussed it, I would have told you to do whatever you had to.  Like when we talked about stopping the entity from using me to hurt people: whatever it takes, you do what you have to.  You’re the only one strong enough.”

“Tell me you don’t hate me.”

“I’m beginning to hate that fucking soul,” Xander muttered, but the irritation in his voice never touched his eye, the soft indulgence in its depths giving Spike what should have been unneeded hope.

“Tell me…”

A tender kiss silenced the demands, over too soon but the best argument Xander had come up with since Spike’s self-damned actions.

“I’m dancing with you, Baby,” Xander whispered as he tightened his grip and rocked them, returning to the previous brow-to-brow stance.  “As for the rest?  Expediency may have to stick around for the rest of this party, but you and me…  I think you were right.  We’ll be hanging out with irony.”

‘Is this a lasting treasure,
Or just a moment's pleasure?
Can I believe the magic in your sighs?
Will you still love me tomorrow?’

The final absolution seemed to have done the trick.  Spike perceivably perked up, grouched up, almost gave Xander a smack when the light sabre sound effects started yet again, and didn’t even try to quell the lust-hoarsened shout of Xander’s name when he warped fact into fantasy and brutally wrenched an orgasm from himself mid-shower.

Xander heard, naturally, and he guessed that he was supposed to hear for some reason known only to the vampire, but it made him feel uneasy and horny in equal parts.  He occupied himself with loading their belongings into the Mustang and being ready to leave the moment the sun began its rapid winter set, sitting behind the wheel and examining how he felt about the fact that Spike seemed to be fucking his way through the Scoobies.  He thought about Willow, and Spike being small and green and hoppy if he tried anything with her.  He thought about Dawn, and Spike being dust several times over if he misplaced a finger or misjudged a look.

He admitted how alike he and Spike were inasmuch as they seemed to be victims of the proximity deal.  He wouldn’t have sought out Anya, Spike wouldn’t have chased Harmony.  Both of them, he acknowledged sadly, would have had a better life if Buffy had never appeared and turned their respective worlds upside down.  He’d deserved her more than Spike – although in hindsight he could spot a lucky escape rather than a missed opportunity – but maybe neither of them deserved her at all, in the way people don’t deserve incurable diseases, because time was still proving her to be an emotional wrecking ball leaving a trail of wounded in her wake.  Xander wondered when he’d learned to love his friends objectively, and actually love them better for it, refusing to see that it was because of the distance he had created.

Buffy.  He smiled and tried not to.  She might have been physically astounding, but Spike thought Xander was better without even trying.  Just…needing.

‘Deny that there’s a spark inside you that glows at the thought of being wanted.’

“Sure.  Like I’m made of stone, Dumbass.”

Sparking, sparking, and, oh boy, sparking.


He studied Spike as the vampire exited the cabin and strolled over to join him, pouring into the passenger seat with that uncanny, enviable grace.

“You’re so fucking hot, you know that, don’t you?”

Spike covered his briefly glimpsed amazement with a smug smile and a snicker.

“Course I know that.”

“Okay if I go back to hating you for a couple hours?”

“Be my guest.”  Xander smiled appreciatively, and started the car.  “Sure you don’t want me to drive?” Spike offered, wanting a distraction to minimise his thinking time.  “Slight advantage of me knowing how to get to Woodbury.”

“I know the general direction and I need to drive.  Been itching to get moving.”

“You have a nice scratch then, I’ll just sit here and look fucking hot, how’s that?”

Xander swivelled and examined the vampire, lingeringly, hint of dark roots to dirty boots.  Spike couldn’t not be affected, and they both had to know that, didn’t they?

“Don’t go to any trouble on my account,” Xander said with a rigidly straight face but a very naughty twinkle to his eye.

Spike shifted to accommodate involuntary physical reactions.

“Think I’ll hate you too, manipulative little sod.”

With a sigh of mean satisfaction, Xander put the car into drive and headed for the road.

Two-thirds of the way to Woodbury Xander conceded defeat.  If questioned he would have refused to admit it, but he was still not fully recovered from his experiences at the non-corporeal hands of the uber-nasty; he tired quickly, and now the urge to escape had passed, he was happy to change places with Spike and take it easy for the remainder of the journey.

“What do we know about Dead Guy?” he asked Spike after a short, meditative rest.

“Suspiciously little.”

“Just that he may not have been fully human.”

“Fine, upstanding citizen, he wasn’t,” Spike told him grimly.  “Whichever version of hell he’s in, he deserves to be there.”

“But if he is in hell – and that’s for want of a better term – there’s every chance I won’t be able to contact him.”

“Can’t help thinking ‘good’ to that.”

“End of the world, Spike?  Inter-dimensional war?”

“Yeah, all right,” came, grumbled quietly, along with a concerned glance that Xander probably wasn’t meant to see, not going by the way Spike’s head snapped back in the direction of the road when he was noticed.

“Any idea of what the non-human portion was?”

“No.  His former associates – they’re all hybrids and we can’t figure out any of them – seem very cagey about discussing him, probably ‘cause one of them had him knocked off.”

“Maybe they’re glad to see him gone, don’t want him given a voice in any capacity.”

“Maybe.  And when that type are scared?”

Xander took a moment for that to sink in.

“Okay, totally not Mr Nice Dead Guy, but he is Mr Knowledgeable Dead Guy.  If he can be reached, we can do this.”

“‘Irrationally optimistic.’”


“That’s what Angel called you shortly before he began his love affair with the floor.  Or at least it’s my niced-up version of what he said.”

“I can imagine.  Closer to…too stupid to know better?  And he’s probably right.”  Xander paused for thought; Spike took another of those perturbing concerned glances.  “This…” Xander began slowly.  “This is only one stage of life.  My physical presence gets killed in the middle of this, I know I’ll live on, I’m not scared of dying.”

“You wouldn’t regret it?”

“Sure, I’d regret it.  I’m hoping to hang onto the physical presence, there’s a lot more I want to do with it, but…  Realistically?  If you’re this worried about me, I’m kinda looking forward to meeting up with Saul and Jesse in person.”

“And William?”

“But you…”

“We’ll be going together, mate.  Different destinations but same departure date.  If you meet William and he’s heard the rumours, tell him I wasn’t all bad, right?”


Xander fell silent once again, confused by the fact that, after this brief time together, he was more bothered by the thought of Spike dying than he was by his own mortality.  Probably because Spike really had proved he wasn’t all bad, and the thought of this version spending eternity in any kind of hell…  Xander reached out without thought, wanting contact and now, not caring if Spike got the wrong impression as his hand landed on a bony knee and squeezed.  But Spike didn’t get the wrong impression at all.

“Don’t worry about me, Petal.  The demon deserves it.”

“The demon…  That’s you.”

“Yeah,” Spike agreed with quiet resignation.  “That’s me.”

“This is wrong.  What you deserve is what everyone deserves: a second chance.”

“I’m living mine right now, aren’t I?  And even knowing that, I still want to kill people for beating up defenceless psychics.  One day it’s going to happen, I’m going to kill someone for what I think are the right reasons.  Second chance and I’m going to blow it, Xander.”

“No.  Nothing is that black and white.  The stuff I said to you, about the demon being automatically damned?  Can’t be that simple.  Not if the person you are now is a part of the equation.”

“Let it go, eh?”


“’Cause if you don’t, I’ll start thinking that I’m one of things you want to do if you hang on to your physical presence.”

“Like you don’t already think it.  If you had brains as big as your ego you’d be dangerous, you know that?”

“Size matters, eh?”  Xander slumped and groaned, knowing he’d brought this on himself.  “You can’t have been disappointed then.  I’ve been complimented before on the size of my…ego.”

“Know the worst of this?  I can’t even taunt you back because you’d expect me to deliver.”

“So what?  We both know it’s only a matter of time.”

“No, Spike, we do not know.”

“Please yourself.”

“I will.”

“Can I watch?” Spike snickered, and Xander’s only escape was to pretend to sleep.

“Much bigger town than the last place,” Spike observed as they drove along a Woodbury thoroughfare lined with shops, noticing that some fast food restaurants were still lit.  “Must’ve caught ‘em just before closing time.  Want to pick up something to eat?”  Spike slowed the car to examine the available fare.  “Pizza?  Chicken?  McDonald’s?”

“Not McDonald’s.  I’ve had enough of McDonald’s to last me a lifetime.”  Spike cocked an inquisitive brow.  “Long story,” Xander dismissed.

“Pizza?”  Spike was already pulling in to the kerb.  “I’ll get them, what do you fancy?”

“I’ll go with you.”

“I’d rather you stayed…”

One look at Xander’s ready-to-rant face and Spike was climbing from the car and waiting for Xander to join him.  The guy behind the counter at the pizza parlour had started to shut up shop but was good enough to take their order when Spike waved a hefty gratuity under his nose.  As they waited for their food they wandered around the immediate vicinity, Xander happily window shopping and trying not to laugh at Spike, who was in beady-eyed bodyguard mode, keenly alert and, most certainly unintentionally, very entertaining.

Pizzas collected, they sat in the car and ate, watching as the town finally closed down for the night.

“You think you’ll ever go back to England?” Xander asked suddenly.

“Maybe,” Spike frowned.  “Why?  Fancy the trip?”

“I didn’t mean—  Seriously?  No, not seriously.”

“Yes, seriously.  Superhero like me needs a sidekick.”

“Ah, I obviously misheard.  I thought you needed a psychic.  No wonder Angel thinks I’m crazy.”

“You’d like England.  It’s full of eccentrics who’d make you seem normal by comparison.”

“The psychic sidekick.  UK-bound, and fearlessly diverting attention from the fact you’re super-heroically cowering in a shipping crate away from the sunlight.”

“Oi, less of it.  I’ve been around the world and never had to resort to cowering in shipping crates yet.”

“Are you curious about the tree?”


“Your aunt said they’d had a tree planted, a memorial to you and your mom.  If I were you I’d want to find it.”

“Then you can do that.  When this is over we’ll go to England, I’ll introduce you to the old stamping ground, and you can find William’s memorial.  How does that sound?”

“Not sure.  I can barely hear it over the roar of denial.”

“Xander…” Spike began thoughtfully.  “Can I tell you something that’s been bothering me?”


“When my aunt connected with you, what she said implied that they hadn’t been in contact with William.”

“Well…you’re here.  All of you.”

Now I am.  But where was the soul before it was returned to me?  If they didn’t meet up with it, it couldn’t have gone to that version of heaven, my family’s version, could it?  And you thought that an innocent soul wouldn’t be punished, so…?”

“Uh…  Good one.  You ever question why you don’t have memories of where the soul was?”

Spike frowned.


“Then perhaps that’s how it works.  You’re not meant to remember, and your family isn’t meant to either.”

“I got to wondering if there was some sort of purgatory where souls go to in these circumstances, and they can’t go on to heaven until the vampire is killed so their whole self is dead.”

“Could be,” Xander reluctantly conceded, full of uncertainty.  “You know I don’t know.  And that’s…God, that’s depressing, the possibility of existing in limbo for over a century.”

“Let’s forget it then.”

“How can…”

“’Cause I said so.”

“Won’t come to that for you, though, will it?”  Another slice of pizza in pensive silence and Xander spoke slowly as he picked his way through difficult thoughts.  “Spike…  Your mom.”

“Here?” Spike asked hopefully.

“No, sorry.  But…  You turned your mom, she was a vampire, yes?”

“Yes,” Spike agreed flatly at the reminder.

“She came through to me, didn’t she?”

“She didn’t kill anyone.”

“But if she was a vampire…”

“She didn’t kill anyone, never had a chance.  I assumed, because of that…”

“Okay, I have to tell you…”  Xander sighed and shook his head.  “I wasn’t hiding this, I just didn’t think of it before.”  Spike frowned at Xander and waited for him to continue.  Another sigh and…  “Jesse.”

“Your Jesse?  The one who helps you?”

Xander nodded.

“When Buffy first got to Sunnydale he got…caught up in the middle of the shit flying.  He was taken.  Turned.”

“And…he killed?”

“He must have.  Before I…  I’m the one who staked him.”

A moment for that to sink in and to let the worst of Xander’s pained expression fade, and Spike was twisting in the seat to face him.

“Has he ever spoken about it?”

“No.  When he first came through to me it was the Jesse I knew and loved, he was so familiar I guess it was easy to put the bad stuff out of my head ‘cause, God knows, I needed to.  We’ve never spoken about it, he’s never alluded to being a vampire, or – or knowing about them, even when you showed up.”

“So…we’re back to the demon’s memories being lost, and don’t try to console me with William getting to heaven,” Spike insisted before Xander could do just that.  “I’ll be lost, Spike will be lost.”

“Maybe the demon’s conscience will continue somewhere else, the memories and knowledge saved that way.”

“Yeah,” Spike said, forcing a patently fake smile.  “Maybe that’s it.”

“I’m sorry, Spike, I don’t think it’s fair, but…”

“You didn’t make the rules, I know.  Like I said: forget it.”


“You’re not so pretty when you’re miserable; improve the view, eh?”


“Move on.  It’s not like I have one foot back in the grave, is it?  Think positive.”

“Think positive?” Xander sighed.  “Okay.  Okay, I’ll be…irrationally optimistic.”

“You do that.  And I’ll…” Spike grinned, “tell you about this bloke called Charlie, pissing in Angel’s chair.”

Their next residence was another luxury backwater retreat, this time an imposing, gothic, stone house that looked genuinely antiquated.  Xander peered at it through the Mustang’s windscreen with cautious anticipation before leaving the car and moving far enough from Spike to gain a first psychic impression.

“This is…uh…”

“Quite old, rumour has it,” Spike said as he approached the building’s porch.  “Thought you mind find it interesting.”

“Old, yes.  Old and…busy.”

Realising Xander wasn’t following him, Spike stopped and looked back expectantly.

“You with me?”

“Do these houses belong to you and Angel?”

“They’re a returned favour.  Someone we worked for who appreciated our unique skills and, more to the point, our discretion.”

“You trust him?”

“Absolutely.  He’d have too much to lose if he ever turned us over.”  Spike shifted impatiently on the spot.  “Give it a try, eh?  Like I said, you might find it…”

“Interesting, yes, okay.  This place is active.  Very.”  Spike ducked inside and Xander hurried to catch up, noticing how deliberately some distance was put between them.  Xander shook his head and chuckled.  “That what this is about?  Free show?”

“Not as such, but if you’re inclined I’m not going to put you off.”

A few minutes concentration and Xander was in pursuit of the strongest emanations.

“Where are we going?” Spike asked.


“How do you know…”

“That’s where Emily is.”  They arrived at the kitchen, Xander paying close attention to what was being conveyed to him, Spike bright-eyed with excitement.  “Okay.  Okay, Emily…    Thank you, Saul.    She preferred Em.  Em.  Because…because the children could say it easily.  She loved the children and…  Even now, although these particular children…”  Xander listened for a while, nodding.  “There are several layers of activity here.  Time is responsible for some, but others…  Some of the stones used in the construction of this building were taken from another site and they brought their own residual energy with them.  Emily, and the children I can feel, are from different times, but from this site, and they are aware of each other, positively aware.”  Xander smiled as he experienced.  “They’re tiny, the children, they can’t be more than two or three.  Ah.  Sad.  Flu killed them, it seems like flu.”

Xander waved Spike aside and rushed to a different area of the ground floor, a large living room with a grand fireplace.

“There’s a man attached to the children’s time – can’t figure out father or uncle – but this was his place, he loved this room, he loved the warmth.  He stood…”  Xander crossed and leaned an arm on the mantel.  He closed his eye, felt, and went on to mime knocking a pipe out into the fire.  “Oh, yeah, his place, he loved this place.  He’s…”  Xander opened his eye, took a step sideways, and stared at where he’d been standing.  “Maybe…six inches shorter than me, his hair is mid brown, onto his shoulders.  Thin face, pock-marked skin, strong features, admirable features.  And…  Reginald,” Xander grinned at Spike, “this is Reginald.”

A glance toward the rear of the building and Xander showed less enthusiasm.

“There’s another spirit, not so good, full of negative energy.  Mainly…”  With a nod to an unseen presence, Xander cautiously walked through into a dining room.  “Okay.  Okay,” he said slowly, possibly to himself.  “What have we got?  Okay.”  He looked back to make sure Spike was with him.  “It’s a man.  He seems confused.  Hostile.  I think…    Yes, he belongs to the stolen stones.  This place doesn’t make sense to him, but he’s still drawn to the aura of familiarity because this is – this specific area is – where most of the stones were used.    Christopher, yes.    Christopher…Meadows.    Not a good man, he lost his original home for a reason, he was…    Again.    Thanks, Saul.  Killed for his crimes – legally executed – and his home was dismantled.  He’s angry about his home.    Here and now…  It seems…the children can sense him, they feel the evil in him and…and they run from him.  But he…thankfully, he doesn’t sense the children.”

“You’ve turned grey, you want to rest?”

“I’m just a little tired.  There’s a lot of conflicting activity here, leaves me feeling drained.”

“Sore?” Spike frowned at where Xander was rubbing a hand over his solar plexus.

“That’s where I feel it.  Kind of a…psychic socket,” Xander managed a weak grin.  Spike moved in close, and Xander’s stressed face relaxed somewhat as the zone kicked in, but he didn’t look any happier.  “Instead of fussing over me, take a look around.”  Said in such a way that Spike knew Xander wanted rid of him, despite his quieting effect.

“You going to pass out?”

“I don’t think so.  No.”

Spike acknowledged that with a nod; he strolled off to check out the upstairs with poorly manufactured nonchalance, suspicious of Xander’s motives, and blatantly disgruntled at being sent away.

Physically alone, yet deafened by the growing swell of voices, Xander tried to build some mental defences, succeeding in muting the sensations he was experiencing and that was as much as he could hope for, even with Saul’s help.  Not so long ago he’d have given anything he had for an opportunity like this, but here and now it felt like a disaster and, joy of joys, he got to be weak in front of Spike yet again.  It was bad enough having to be honest with himself about how vulnerable and anxious his encounter with the uber-nasty had left him, confessing to Spike in any way was like pouring salt into a wound.

His trust wavered momentarily as he questioned whether he’d been completely taken in by the vampire and this was all a massive joke at his expense, but…  That wasn’t how it felt.  The only scrap of consolation came from knowing how bad Spike would feel when he saw how bad Xander was feeling, and how perverse was that?  So much for the better person.

Spike was becoming quite reconciled to the spasms of alarm that he now firmly associated with Xander.  They usually involved the human being missing, and here he was again, or rather here he wasn’t: missing.  There was large scale missing, which resulted in his dilapidated companion being discovered in a stinking, airless crawlspace, and there was small scale missing, which basically involved Xander not being where he should be.  Right now, this was the medium size variety: Xander had left the house and Spike didn’t trust him not to wander off and get savaged by—  Lack of fauna-based regional knowledge put a halt to the inner rant and he decided that looking for Xander was better than leaving him to be mauled by a range of species that could involve anything from chipmunks to wolves.

He’d quickly figured he’d lost a few points, bringing Xander to this place; the sight of the man perched on the car’s hood, back literally turned on this adventure, head dejectedly down and arms defensively crossed, wasn’t necessary to drive that fact home.

“I know there’s nothing here that can affect me badly,” Xander said flatly as he heard Spike approach.  “I know I should be able to cope.”

Spike settled alongside him and thought about how it must be to be Xander.

“After what you’ve been through…”  The sentence pretty much finished itself.

“I so want to be here, to experience, and investigate.  Learn.  But I’m sca—  I’m worried about being here.  And ashamed at wanting to leave.”

“I’ll stick with you every minute if you want to stay.”

“That isn’t the answer, is it?”

“Could be.  Temporarily.”

“You’d think that feeling like such an ass would do the trick.  All the stuff I keep having to admit to you…”  Xander gave a humourless chuckle.  Never tell me what you really think of me, Spike, don’t be that honest.”

Spike’s smile held the warmth that Xander’s lacked, and he gave Xander’s thigh a hearty slap before straightening up and heading to the driver’s door.

“Let’s go.”

“I’m going to regret giving up this chance until the day I die.”

“Once we get through…”

“No,” Xander snapped.  “I’ve had enough of being humoured.  I’ll never see this place again, I’ll never see London, good chance I won’t see Christmas.”

“Yeah, you’ll have a hectic schedule in the new year if you’re not busy being dead,” Spike told him conversationally.  “Now shift your arse, and let’s find somewhere else.”

Xander stood and took another look at the building, trying to talk himself into staying.  The strongest, and least sensible, argument was simply…

“I want to be here.”

“No.  Get in the car.”

“If it’s the only chance…”

“Go with your instincts.  First and last impression might be whoop-de-do, but the overriding sense is ‘not now, not ready’, right?”

“Yeah,” Xander admitted defeatedly.

“So, put away the brave face and let’s go.”

Xander did as he was told, silent and moping and, once more, wishing he could talk to his usual team at the Stokes’.

“We passed a motel, didn’t we?” Spike asked, more to engage Xander than because he needed to know: he’d made a mental note of the place he was now looking for in case the house was unsuitable.

“I don’t remember.”

“C’mon, Love, chin up.  It could’ve been worse.”

“It could?”

“Mmm.  Could’ve been boring.”

“I would like boring.  I would pay for boring.  Okay, I’m broke, but if I had a thousand dollars in my pocket I would pay for boring.  The thousand in the other pocket would pay for this whole Dead Guy thing to be over.  The thousand—  How many fantasy pockets am I allowed?”

“D’know.  Your fantasy garb.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to believe it for a moment after what you’ve seen,” Xander shot off on a semi-tangent, “but I love what I do.  I really love my work, and I’m happy with my life, however crap you think it is.”

“I know all that.”

“But you’ve only seen things going wrong and…”

“No, I haven’t.  And I do know what it’s like when you feel like you’ve found your place.  I had that once, a very long time ago.”

“What place was that?”

“Beside Dru.  Newly made, and I worshipped her.  Thought it was just her and me for eternity.”  The contentment on Spike’s face at that memory didn’t last for more than a few seconds.  “Was soon disillusioned, thanks to bloody Angelus, but I’ve never forgotten how it felt, how…precious.”

“Did you find out what happened to her?” Xander asked tentatively.  “Other than her just being…gone.”

“No.  Don’t have a clue where it happened, or who was responsible.”

“Isn’t there a way…”

“Let’s not talk about that.  Can’t have both of us weeping and wailing, eh?”

Xander drew breath to offer his sympathy but ultimately had the sense to keep quiet about the loss of Drusilla.  Instead, back to the premature death scenario.

“Has there been any information about the people who might’ve killed Dead Guy?  Any chance we’re hiding out for no good reason?”

“No information, and every chance.”

“Gee, I’m glad you found it in your heart to break the crushing futility of this road trip to me gently.  Guess it doesn’t matter if I miss my home and my friends and my work so long as you’re having fun.”

“Did I say I was having fun?”

“Great, now you’re miserable too.”

“Did I say I was miserable?”

“What then?  You’re mindlessly tolerating…”

“Did I say I was mindlessly tolerating?”

Xander peered at Spike, his expression morphing from peeved to vengeful as he settled back comfortably in his seat.

“Are we there yet?”

“No, it’s…”

“Are we there yet?”

“Can’t be more than…”

“Are we there yet?”


“Are we there yet?”


“Are we there yet?”


“Are we there yet?”


“Are we there yet?”

Thankfully they arrived at the motel before Spike felt it necessary to strangle Xander with his own tongue; Spike booked their room while Xander got into the driver’s seat and parked up, taking his time assessing the area before removing their luggage from the Mustang’s trunk, just as Spike showed up, waving a swipe card.

“This place all right?”

“Characterless and soulless,” Xander told him firmly.

Exchanging a look, they commented in harmony:



They were pleasantly surprised by the accommodation, more so after the impression gleaned from the dour exterior: the room was larger than average and certainly homelier, with two double beds, a small seating area alongside a kitchenette, and still room to swing the proverbial cat.

Spike claimed the bed furthest from the windows and lounged while Xander examined every square inch of the place, physically and psychically, finally pronouncing himself satisfied and quite at ease.

“That was quite something earlier.”  Xander stopped unpacking long enough to look a question.  “The way you walked in and read that building.”

“Oh, right.”

Xander went back to sorting through his belongings.

“You take it for granted?”

“No.  But…yes.  No, ‘cause I know this is a blessing, if that doesn’t sound too corny.  Yes, because it’s there, all the time, and seems as natural as if I’d been able to do this all my life.”

“What’s it called when you hold an object and pick up information from it?”


“Can you do that?”


“Will you do that for me?”

“Yeah, sure, but not tonight.  When I’m not tired, I’m better then.”

Xander went to shower, and Spike helped himself to Xander’s puzzle book before stripping off and climbing into bed, checking out and mulling over the latest poser.  What Xander found a challenge, Spike found a bore, so he occupied a little time by doodling rudely suggestive  pictures in the margins, then tossed the book across the room to land on the other bed, approximately where Xander had left it.

When Xander returned he stood and gazed at his bed for several minutes; Spike assumed he was thinking about the chances of a good night’s sleep.

“You want me there?” he offered, already pushing back his covers.

“No,” Xander told him distractedly.

Spike’s hands unconsciously clenched into fists as his stomach turned a slow somersault.




“Why what?”

“Don’t you want me in there with you?”

“I didn’t say…”

“Yes, you did, you just did.”

“I didn’t…”

“What are you afraid of?  You think I’m going to seduce you or something?  I just want to give you some peace, let you rest.”

“I never…”

“Bloody typical!”  The pillow predictably took a pounding and Spike turned his back, huddling into the covers, hurt and thoroughly disgruntled.  “You said you’d forgiven me – in fact you said there was nothing to forgive – but now you won’t have me in your bed.”


“I think you trust me, fucking hell, I want you to trust me, and you let me hope but I’ve blown that, obviously.  You’re like every other human I know.  Two-faced bastard.”

Spike froze, physically and verbally, as he felt the bed dip behind him, Xander reclaiming some of the bedclothes from the mound that Spike had screwed himself into.  The vampire scrambled around and stared at the human accusingly.

“What?” Xander yawned.  “You want to sleep in that bed, go ahead, but the mattress is new and it’s like concrete.”

“You…  Fuck,” Spike concluded, and Xander grinned.  “Like that, did you?  Me rabbiting on and making a fool of myself?”  Xander said nothing, poorly disguising his chuckle with a fake cough.  “What were you thinking about, then?  When you came back in here?”

“How to go behind your back and send H a birthday card without letting anyone know where we are.  I saw the puzzle book and it reminded me.”

“You can do that,” Spike muttered resentfully, but at least now able to blame Henry for his fit of pique.  “Get him a card.  We’ll send it to LA and one of the minions will post it on.”

“You have minions?”

“The term is force of habit.”

“Ah.  Huminions.”

Spike watched Xander begin to drift off; it felt strange to be this far apart, they were always his chest to Xander’s back or, more rarely, vice versa.  He wriggled a little closer and took a deep breath.

“You smell nice.”

“You hitting on me, Mr Armitage?”

“Not likely.  I might be trying to work out if there’s any chance of a cuddle.”

Xander frowned.

“I thought…  I think we’re okay.”

“Yes.  And?”

“What was the ‘I’m not trying to seduce you’ about?”

“The fact that I’m not trying to seduce you.”

“I never thought…”

“But you might have.”

“Why should I?”

“Because, deep inside, you still think I’m opportunistic lowlife scum.”

The positively reasonable manner in which that statement was delivered took Xander aback; he was instantly fully awake, and after a few blinks he stared at Spike for a long moment.  A long moment that he spent asking himself some pretty tricky questions.  Giving himself some answers that occasionally surprised him.

“No.  That was years ago.  I’m not going to pretend I never felt that way, but it’s in the past.”  Spike gave a shallow nod.  “Sounding like a stuck record here, but we’ve both changed, and I think we’re beyond being nice to one another for the sake of the mission.  Even if we started out with neither of us mattering enough to the other to be the object of hatred, we’ve moved on.  Sunnydale kin, maybe.  Friends…?  I’m hoping.  Opportunistic lowlife scum?  Despite some of the stuff I’ve said since you showed up, I haven’t honestly thought that for a moment.  I may get pissed with you, but that bigoted hostility is all in the past.  For me, at least.  I shouldn’t speak for you, but…”



They watched each other relax; Xander turned onto his back for a highly satisfying groan-filled stretch, then onto his side, facing away from Spike.

“I’ll be over here if you want…”  Xander grinned to himself.  “…a cuddle.  The cuddling vampire, Jesus, that’s bizarre, and it could only be you.”  Spike was moulded to Xander’s back in a second, face in his hair and murmuring unintelligible sweet nothings.  “Just don’t stick anything up my ass unless you have my permission in writing, okay?”  Spike…creaked.  “You’re so easy.”

“Try me, Love,” Spike murmured against Xander’s neck, unintentionally stimulating the well-healed but shockingly responsive bite scar.

And in the midst of the shiver it caused, Xander could almost be heard thinking…

Ass, tongue, ass, tongue, ass, tongue…





Chapter 14 Twenty-Twenty

Xander knew he was dreaming, of course.  Ever since his abilities had surfaced he’d been peculiarly sensitive during his dreams, often experiencing a sense of being conscious inside them.  It had been a boon and a curse: a boon when dealing with the impossible scenarios within his nightmares; a curse because he rarely escaped from reality.

Tonight he was back at Sunnydale High, alone as the school crumbled around him in the midst of the town’s destruction.  He felt a pain in his empty eye socket, or rather, a reversal of pain, beginning as the dull ache the damage had become by that time and becoming agonising before the eye was suddenly popped back into his skull.  That wasn’t new either: the eye was returned to him on a regular basis, his vision bi-optical and twenty-twenty as he watched the dreamscape unfold.

A few minutes to acclimatise and he was picking through the rubble, looking, probably, for Anya.  Probably, because he’d never found her yet and, waking, had pondered the significance of that.  Too simple, surely, for it to be the fact he’d never seen her body so her death had seemed unreal for a very long time.  He thought it might be because she was already lost to him at the time of her passing.  Or, if he wanted to feel especially guilty, that he didn’t deserve to find her because somehow he let her die, or led to her death, and if his every waking hour hadn’t been so preoccupied with sexsexsexsexsex when she first propositioned him she would’ve been somewhere safe, far away from the action that would lead to her being slain.

Perhaps tonight he’d find the pile of ash that had been Spike saving the world.  That would…hurt.  Now.  Not then, naturally.  Back then the vampire had been an accepted casualty of war, warranting a moment’s reflection but no tugging of emotional strings.  Now, though?  Xander was undoubtedly…strung.  No longer taking a lead from Buffy’s sanity-preserving outward indifference to the death and mayhem, Xander felt.

“Spike?” he called, hearing himself echo endlessly through the empty building.  “Spike?”


“Ah, shit.”

Any voice that sounded like gravel being rolled simultaneously around steel and plastic buckets had to be bad.


Xander kept walking, kept looking, unable to pin down the direction of the voice, trying to ignore it until the source made itself known, when he’d no doubt find himself running down the requisite endless corridor to escape it, or…suddenly discover he was naked in the middle of Angel’s memorial service.  Oh, yeah, that had been a doozy.




He jumped back a good couple of feet as the rubble in front of him stirred, spouting dust and waste like a minor volcano, tumbling away to reveal…

“Oh.  God.  No.”

…his lost love, and appearing exactly as any reasonable person could expect her to after being hacked to death and buried under an assortment of jagged and heavy debris.  She smiled sweetly at Xander, the effort splitting the decomposing flesh on her once-beautiful face; skin sloughed from her arms as she shifted to tug away rotting clothes from her oozing body.


Her legs opened, one hip joint collapsing and the leg swinging wide, and she glistened with putrefaction rather than lust as she offered herself; Xander watched with disgust as his dream hands enthusiastically undid his belt, fumbling in eagerness over button and zip.

Aware but unable to intervene, Xander felt the sharpness of broken concrete under his own knees as he knelt between Anya’s, his ardent desire evident as his erection dripped onto her, and where each drip landed a void formed, dark and deep and humming with life.  When the first bugs crawled from the voids, Xander – even insanely horny dream Xander – couldn’t help but jerk away from the disintegrating corpse, and as the trickle became a line became a rush became a swarm that whirled around him and bit and tore, he screamed in panic and sobbed apologies to Anya in the hope she’d make it stop.


“Please?  I never meant this to happen.”

A wider grin and the flesh slid away from the jaw with a gruesome slurp, barely visible through the black clouds of insects.

My.  Own.

Xander forced himself awake with a wail of dismay, panicking in the darkness, another nightmare, one he lived with, fearing he was completely blind and…

The bedside lamp clicked on and Spike was leaning protectively over him, snarling at the emptiness of their room and ignoring the desperate hands that grasped and slipped, damp with sweat.

“Fuck,” Xander gasped.  “Fucking almighty fuck.”

The snarl lessened to a muted growl and Spike moved slowly back to his own spot in the bed, one hand snatching Xander’s and finally giving him something solid and strong and real to hang onto.

“Nothing,” Spike eventually said, having out-stared the room for a solid five minutes.

“Dream.  Fuck.  Bad.  Bad, bad, bad.”  Spike unconsciously brought Xander’s hand to his mouth, pressed it against his lips, not kissing, just holding.  Xander let the gesture sit him up, and he leaned against the vampire, catching his breath and calming down.  “My own,” Xander whispered, the words that were branded in the forefront of his mind.

The growl went back to the snarl for a moment before breaking off completely.

“It won’t get you,” Spike promised, now clutching Xander’s hand to the cool skin of his chest.

“It was only a dream.  There were…bugs.”  Xander shuddered.  “Where in the world are there no bugs?  I have to go live there.”

“Somewhere freezing.  California boy like you wouldn’t stand a…”

“Gyah!” Xander exclaimed as he finally noticed the demonic features.  “I did wake up, didn’t I?”

Spike shook the game face away and studied Xander closely as the human began to giggle, his scrutiny breaking the giggles into full-blown laughter.

“You’re a funny one,” Spike observed as he fell back onto his pillow, taking Xander with him and almost managing an accidental strangulation.  “This shut you up?”  He morphed back into his true guise and after a pathetic squeak, Xander simply laughed harder.

Out of both breath and energy, Xander slumped where he’d been guided, sprawled over Spike and now leaning his chin on the vampire’s breastbone.  He gazed thoughtfully at Spike, and Spike, semi-hidden behind the demon’s mask, gazed thoughtfully back.

“You bit me,” Xander stated in due course.

“I know.”

“You liked it.”

Understatement.  Spike’s fingers itched to caress the scar.  Fangs ached to renew it.



“Bite or drink?  Is that the ‘spit or swallow?’ of the vampire world?”


“But you tasted my blood, didn’t you?”

“Couldn’t help but take some,” Spike answered with cautious honesty, “but that wasn’t the intent.”


“Do I taste different?”

“To what?”

“To normal people.”

“You are normal people.”

“You know what I mean.”

“You taste…human.  Normal,” Spike overemphasised.  Then added quietly: “Good.”


“Are there repercussions?”

“You mean like rabies shots after a bite from a mad dog?” Spike smiled.

“I mean like Angel thinking…  I don’t know what.  If I knew I wouldn’t be asking.”

“There’s always a chance he’ll see the scar and go ballistic, so I’ll get in first and tell him what happened.  Not all of it,” Spike quickly assured before Xander could protest.  “Just that you needed me closer and that’s…that’s…”

“As close as a vampire gets.  Make sure you tell him I wanted it.”

The thoughtful gaze was back, but now, only seconds in, Spike turned his eyes away and shifted uncomfortably.

“Want to move, Petal?”

“Because you’re getting hard at the thought of…being closer?  Don’t you think I’m used to it?” Xander grinned.  “Last thing at night, first thing in the morning – our time equivalents of those – battery with a friendly weapon.  I don’t mind if you don’t.”

“You don’t mind?”

“It’s not like I take it personally.”

“Idiot,” Spike told him affectionately, dragging fingertips through the dark hair that flopped over Xander’s brow.

“So, Angel…?”

“Why does it matter what he thinks?”  Xander shrugged.  “Think he’ll go back to Rupert and your girls and tell sordid tales that’ll make ‘em stop loving you?”  Xander shrugged.  “Think he’ll have some sort of claim over you, some attachment, through the bloodline?”  Xander shrugged.  “Are you even still awake or am I talking to myself?”  Xander shrugged, tired self seduced into mindlessness by the rhythmical stroking through his hair.

Spike gently tipped him aside and rearranged the tangled covers, tucking Xander in and hesitating as he reached to switch out the light, but reasoning that Xander had never seemed afraid of the dark, and he’d apparently recovered from his bad dream, and…

It was as if Spike took a huge step back and looked at himself, at his behaviour as he alternately fretted over and cosseted the young man.  Laughing softly, he shook his head as he recognised the old ways, the old version of Spike who was love’s bitch and too often wore a wounded heart on his sleeve.  He didn’t want to be that Spike, semi-permanently miserable and ultimately rejected, he wanted the detachment and sanity he’d fought for over the past five, six years.

Yes, okay.  That was, logically, what he should want.  Detachment.  Emotional inaccessibility.  The knowledge he was his own master.  But another hard look at himself and he knew what he illogically wanted.  Honestly wanted.  Wanted?  More.  Back to need over want.  What he needed.  He understood need, which is why he understood Xander’s.  And if Spike didn’t give in to his true nature he’d be treating himself as cruelly as Edmund had, trying to force himself in an unnatural direction.

The simple act of not condemning himself for the person he was lifted an incredible weight Spike hadn’t realised was there.  No leaping up in bed after a shocking revelatory dream and proceeding to behave like a besotted fool, this was a considered step and…no doubt proceeding to behave like a besotted fool.  Time to stop fighting who he was.  Time to start seriously working on what he desired.

“I want you, Xander.  I know what you think, and maybe you and me as an us doesn’t make any kind of sense, but…  This is who I am: an idiotic, hugely obsessive romantic who chooses to see us as star-crossed lovers, and…I want you.”  Xander, barely awake, certainly not paying any attention to Spike’s words, flung an arm back and tried to find purchase to draw the vampire closer.  Spike went willingly, body tight against Xander’s, laying kisses to neck and shoulder as the man muttered something sweet and indiscernible before finally falling asleep.  “Want you, Love.  All of you.  I’ll do my best not to hurt your heart, but I will have you.  See…I do understand need.  And I need you.”

“Fancy going to the pictures?” Spike asked as he browsed the local newspaper Xander had picked up in the motel’s diner.


Spike tutted.


“Ohh, pictures.  Moving pictures.  They have sound now, y’know.  And col-our,” Xander cheekily spelt out, ignoring the reprimanding glance from the vampire.  “You have that address?” he asked as he sealed and stamped Henry’s birthday card and placed it in a second envelope.  “The via LA one?”

“Leave it, I’ll do it.”

“I want to mail it, so…now?”  Spike tossed the paper aside with a sigh and took Xander’s pen, doing as he was asked; Xander added a stamp and sat staring at the door, wondering if Spike could be persuaded to let him out of sight for the second time that afternoon.  “You mind if I…”

“Yes, I mind.  Just go and do it.”

The moment Xander left, Spike was at the window, peering through a crack in the curtains and watching every step of the man’s progress until he was out of view.  Wasn’t often that Spike cursed what he was, but sometimes the UV problem really got to him.  The rules were fine for traditional vampires, but he thought there should be some sort of leniency for a unique being such as himself.  Oh, and Angel at a push, he supposed.  But especially him because he was here, now, and once again stuck in the ‘unable to protect the human in daylight’ loop.  It helped to blame Xander: bloody humans and their irrational enjoyment of being in the sunshine.  Or lack of it, today, but even this watery light was enough to keep Spike inside.  And, in fairness, Xander had been reasonable about being trapped indoors too, and Spike knew how hard reasonable was, and…that didn’t help.  At.  All.


“Have you been standing there, grinding your teeth, since I left?”

“No.  Yes.  It’s your fault.”

“Well, of course it’s my fault,” Xander grinned, “it wouldn’t be any fun if it wasn’t my fault.  And what are we talking about exactly?”

“The fact that, with time and inclination, I could walk the sea beds to reach anywhere in the world, but I can’t help you if you’re outside when the uber-nasty strikes in the day.”

“Not when,” Xander told him with a shudder.  “Don’t make it a when, for God’s sake.”

“I don’t care how inconvenient it is for you, in future…”

“No, stop right there.  Finish that sentence and we’ll fight, really fight.”

“Because I want to keep you safe?”

“Because I feel enough of a prisoner already, I can’t cope with any more restrictions.”

Spike glared and Xander…  Well, it would be irrational to expect him to stop making up games after a post-pubescent life of it.  Anya would have detected the potential for multiple orgasms by the glint in his eye and pounced, but luckily Spike wasn’t paying attention, still sulking and wearing that off-putting sucking lemons face, as Xander battled to expunge the warder/prisoner fantasy from the naughtiest corner of his mind.

But still…

“I’ll get safely out of your way: shower while you brood and hit the blood.”

Xander gestured to the duffle of fresh supplies that had shown up on their doorstep during the morning, hoping that Spike would be distracted long enough for this frustrated male to escape.

“You don’t have to hide away from me, I’m…  All right, I’m not going to mention that again.  Course you need a little freedom, you’re not the only one feeling trapped.”

“We’ll be good later, yeah?  I know it’s only the chapel but we get out, meet new people.  Maybe,” Xander added quickly, already sold on his own idea, “maybe, as this is a bigger place, they have a club we can go on to.”

Spike’s interest visibly perked.  Then visibly flattened.

“How can you do that with the voices?  All those people, it’d drive you nuts.  At least if we went to the cinema we could sit close enough for you not to be bothered.”

“’Kaaaay…  Apart from the fact we’ll have missed the last show, could be, if we’re clubbing, the music will be louder than them.  Could be…I’ll have to smooch with you all night to stay sane.  Could be we won’t know until we try, so let’s try.”

“If you’re willing to take a chance it’d be churlish to turn you down,” Spike grinned.  “And you know I’m not averse to the odd smooch.”

“You know that was a joke, right?  ‘Cause, good choice of words.  Odd smooch.  The locals would probably find it a very odd smooch.  After Tobyville I have no intention of stirring up the locals.”

“You don’t want to check me out while I protect your honour, or what’s left of it?”  Hands on hips, Spike hung his head, shook it slowly, adding a transparently fake sigh for good measure.  “You’re not the man I thought you were.”

“And isn’t that something to be grateful for?”

Spike peered and smirked, so mischievous that Xander wondered where the soul got to when that expression appeared.

“Shower then?” Spike reminded him.

“Uh…yeah.  Shower.  Alone,” Xander felt it necessary to add after that look.

Spike gave him a wink before turning to retrieve a bloody snack from Angel’s delivery.

“Alone in body if not in spirit.  Enjoy thinking of me, Petal.”

“Think of you?  Oh, sure, ‘cause we’re expecting a bizarre occurrence to announce the forthcoming apocalypse.”

Xander left, muttering to himself, and Spike took a deep breath, analysing, and silently rejoicing over the knowledge that Xander was growing increasingly horny around him.  Not the most patient of vampires but he knew the worth of attrition, and what were Xander’s defences for if not to be worn down?

The Woodbury Chapel was bigger and grander than anything Xander had been used to, but the warm welcome was familiar, and it was nice to catch up with the people he’d met a short while ago at Peter and Miriam’s.  Spike’s ability to quiet the spirits led to in-depth discussions that went far over the vampire’s head, and he was tempted, listening to what he rapidly condemned as off-the-mark twaddle, to simply announce ‘demon, get over it’.  But he was charming and as helpful as possible because Xander was happy, in his element, and it would have been cruel to ruin his evening.

Nothing to do with Spike’s chances later.  Nothing at all.

There was always a possibility Spike would be outed by one of the stadium of victims, and he’d’ve been lying if he said he wasn’t concerned about that, for Xander’s sake rather than his own.  He was surprised that it hadn’t happened yet.  But Xander hadn’t mentioned those particular voices since before Spike had visited LA, so maybe they’d been permanently scared away by a far greater nasty than him.

As Spike reassured himself with that notion, coincidentally Xander had arrived at the uber-nasty too, and was explaining what had happened at the Stokes’ to Jo, cautiously straightening out some rather bizarre half-truths and rumours.  Spike listened with interest as Xander side-stepped, back-peddled, and generally played down his own continuing involvement with the phenomenon, finally managing to turn the conversation back in the direction of why he was actually here and being delighted when he gained himself a guest appearance in the meeting that was due to begin very shortly.

At the back of the hall, Spike watched the other mediums with half-hearted interest, obviously because they weren’t Xander and this obsession wasn’t half-hearted either.  Xander had chosen to sit nearer the stage tonight, and Spike had an unobstructed view of the man in meditative mode, eye closed, features calm as he prepared himself for his work; he would be called upon at any moment, and Spike looked forward to seeing his companion as his best: Xander only seemed to be truly happy, vibrantly alive when he was helping people and, although that was unsettling to a demon who wanted to be everything, it was something Spike realistically knew he would have to come to terms with.

Xander’s eye slowly opened and he instinctively looked for Spike, just at the moment when Spike was smiling at his ridiculous self as he sat plotting and planning an immediate future that was as fantastical as anything the Sci-Fi channel had ever bestowed on the object of his scarily single-minded devotion.  Xander simply saw the smile, thought it was encouragement for him, and smiled back with an appreciative nod.  Xander started to look away, but he seemed compelled to take another glance, and their eyes caught and held for what probably should have been an uncomfortably long time, but no.

The knowledge that Xander was drawing strength from him hit Spike like the proverbial ton of bricks.  He knew if he chose to he could pretend that this gaze was about romantic affection, but the truth was as good, perhaps even better.  Whatever had been said, he hadn’t really believed Xander trusted him.  Until this very moment.  When Spike saw it.  And felt it.  And knew it.

Another brief smile as Xander heard himself being introduced to the audience, then he was in public mode, and Spike was simply one of many.  The vampire missed Xander’s first contact, as he wallowed in his marvellous discovery…  Trust.  …then there was a very still silence, and he paid attention to find Xander listening closely to the next spirit, wearing the short-focus expression that told Spike the medium was being shown something; Xander frowned in confusion as he tried to make sense of what was being shared.  He shook his head.

“Again,” as his fingers stopped their twitching and moved to unconsciously stroke an area of his inner forearm.  “I’m sorry, this is very hazy.  Jumbled.  I think…  It’s to do with…numbers, but…” Xander groped, with a further shake of the head.  “Now…  I’m seeing…hair?  A whole heap of…  It can’t be hair.    Sorry, Saul, again?”

Xander’s focus lengthened as Spike deliberately drew his attention, then the vampire peered warily around himself at the back of the hall, making sure he was unnoticed before laying a finger across his top lip and raising his hand in a fascist salute.  The references immediately clunked into place.

“Oh, fu—” Xander whispered as new, brutal thoughts flooded through, the spirit taking advantage of his realisation.  “Just the knowledge not the emotions,” he said urgently, “don’t let me…  Okay.  That’s okay, that’s better.”  Xander scanned the audience, looking toward the centre right.  “Where do I have to go?” he murmured to Saul, taking only seconds longer to settle on a middle-aged man.  “Sir…  In the green jacket.  Would you understand about…photographs?  Looking at photographs recently and feeling very sad?”  The man nodded.  “Stars.  There are stars.  White or grey now.  But they were yellow.  You were…looking and…hiding.  Hiding photographs, because you don’t want your children to see them?”

“Yes, I…um…I understand,” the man replied awkwardly, and the young teenager at his side gave him a look filled with curiosity before turning back to Xander.

“Ruth?” Xander asked.

“My wife.”

“That’s it, that’s the sense.  This, I’m sure, is your wife’s grandfather connecting to me, paternal grandfather.  But he knew you, he looked upon you as a son by the end.    Within your present family there’s been a lot of interest in the past.”

“That would be me,” the teen spoke up.



“Your great granddad is very aware of you, of what you’ve been doing, investigating the past.”

“Our family tree.  For school.”

Xander nodded, and listened, turned his attention back to the man.

“I have to come to you.  Erik?  That’s you?”  Nod.  “He’s showing me…”  Xander flinched.  “Just the thoughts, not—  Okay, that’s it.  Show me.  This is…  Bir…ken…  Birken…  Birkenau.  It was…”

“I know what it was,” Erik cut in, voice hoarse.

“And your grandfather…    Okay.  You can’t protect the children.  That’s what he’s telling me.  You can’t protect the children.”  Xander listened, making sure he had the message precisely right.  “This kind of protection leads to ignorance, and ignorance leads to it all happening again.    He’s…  Amazingly, he’s learned to forgive.”  Erik understandably shook his head in disbelieve, an action repeated by individuals in every row of seats.  “But forgiving…can’t mean forgetting.  He’s showing me…  Oh, God,” Xander’s voice broke up and he swallowed hard.  “I can’t convey any of this, it’s too…it’s too much, and I don’t want to try in front of Darryl.”

“I do know about the camps,” Darryl said, sounding pretty shaky himself.

“But you…”

More images, uncensored feelings, and Xander turned away for a moment’s privacy as he tried to compose himself, Saul finally putting an end to the vivid and terrifying awareness of existing within a Nazi concentration camp that the spirit was inflicting.  Instinctively knowing that Spike would be halfway to the stage by now, no doubt in aggressively overprotective mode, Xander quickly turned back, gave a wave to stop Spike in his tracks, and managed a weak smile for the family he’d been talking to.

“He spends a lot of time with you, he watches over his family.  He knows the way the past has affected the present and…  He asks you to respect the – his – beliefs, even if you can’t share them.  You understand?”  Erik nodded; Darryl remained head down, refusing to acknowledge that request.  Xander listened for more information and his face broke into a relieved smile.  “You have a daughter, or possibly a niece you’re very close to, and…  There’s a lot of disapproval going on.     This would be about…wow, has to be the boyfriend.”  Erik nodded ruefully as if he knew what was coming, amid a few humorously knowing murmurs from those seated near to him.  “Your granddad wants to remind you that he didn’t like you much either when you first showed up…but see how that turned out.”  The burst of laughter Xander was expecting happened and, thankfully moving away from past terrors, he settled into his variety of normality.

In the small ante-room to the side of the stage, Xander waited impatiently for the few seconds it took for Spike to join him.  He knew what he wanted, thought Spike wouldn’t object to filling the void created by the lack of Simone and Henry, although it was more difficult than he’d imagined it would be to ask for comfort when he came face-to-face with the vampire.  But a single step, an awkward gesture, and he found himself being hugged and fussed.

“That was…  God, that was horrible,” he said unsteadily as he clung to Spike.

“Over now, Pet,” came the response in Spike’s best soothing tones, swiftly followed by the correction.  “Petal.”

“You could try Xander.”

“I’ve tried Xander: bloody fantastic it was.”

Calling me Xander,” Xander said patiently, enjoying the diversionary tactics.

“Calling you Xander when?  Before, during, or after?”

“During,” Xander replied in kind, pulling back to catch the lustful interest in Spike’s eyes.  “During…our many fascinating conversa…”

Xander’s face suddenly lost all expression and Spike tightened his hold as the man teetered on the edge of a blackout, but Xander pulled himself back and let himself be guided to, and gently lowered into a conveniently placed chair.  As requested, coffee and a blanket had been left here for Xander, and Spike wrapped him up and helped him drink, seeing the giddiness disperse and Xander’s focus return.

“Humanity,” Xander whispered.

“In which context, and what of it?”

“What of it,” Xander repeated, meeting Spike’s concern with a teary eye.  “Puts your – the demon’s – crimes into perspective, seeing humans—”

Xander couldn’t go on, features crumpling in upset as he turned his face away.  Spike shuffled his chair closer and resumed the hugging and fussing.

“Ate a few Nazis in my time,” Spike whispered.  “That make you feel any better?”

“Oh, yeah.  And that has to be the wrong answer, but after…after…”

“It was a long time ago.  Them, and me.”  Xander nodded and wriggled, any last reticence gone as he pushed himself into the vampire’s embrace.  “And that was just a part of tonight.  Think how many people you made happy.  Erik’s future son-in-law better send you a piece of wedding cake, I know that.”

“Can we get out of here?  Did you ask anyone if there’s a club in town?”

“I’ll ask around now.  Be all right, will you?”

A rapid nod and Spike topped up Xander’s coffee before putting on a very deliberate show of not being at all worried, and leaving to interrogate the congregation.

Xander relaxed, closed his eye, tried not to let his mind drift toward the latest additions to his mental chamber of horrors.  Forced himself to think about…  Spike doing the crossword in the newspaper and bothering, however pointlessly, to read Xander the clues; Dawn with hair six inches tall; Willow with yellow crayons and not black eyes; Mom using lipstick to paint his face like a raspberry tiger; Giles being a Fyarl demon; Buffy not being dead; Anya and Tara not deserving to be dead; Spike being alive and dead and deader and aliver and…

“Am I allowed to disturb you?”

“Please do that,” Xander told Jo, starting to rise but letting her ease him back into his seat.

With a smile, Jo sat in the chair Spike had set alongside Xander’s.

“That was a fascinating reading: Erik’s.  I am sorry it upset you though.”

“Don’t worry about—  Damn, I forgot, I wanted a chance to talk to Erik…”

Jo stopped Xander rising for a second time.

“Already gone, I’m afraid.”

“You have his number?”

“I’m sure someone has, I’ll make sure you get it.”

“You think I should have carried on?  Tried to tell him more of what his granddad was showing me?”

“No.  You were right to stop when you did.  Maybe if Darryl hadn’t been…  No, not even then.  It would have been too distressing for a lot of people.”

“I’m relieved.  I don’t always make the best decisions when it comes to telling or not.”

“Xander, I was wondering…  Would you like to join me and a few friends for dinner tomorrow night?”  Jo smiled again, apologetically this time.  “I’m afraid it’s a rather selfish invitation: I’m hoping with less distractions you may be able to contact my late husband, seeing as none of the resident mediums have.”

“Tomorrow, sure.  I’d be happy to try to reach your husband, you don’t have to be embarrassed to ask.  What time do you want us there?”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to check with Spike before accepting for him?  He might like an evening off if he knows you’re safe with friends.  I get the impression he isn’t here for any reason other than you.”

“No, he does enjoy the readings, it’s the debate that bores him so we’ll have to try not to talk shop all night.  He’ll be fine, and…he’s not going to let me out of his sight anyway – Peter told you about…?”

Jo nodded a sharp, almost conspiratorial nod before standing to leave.

“Any time before eight,” she requested.  “My house is called Rosewood, it’s about a mile along this road on the left if you’re travelling south, it’s the only white house, you can’t miss it.”

“Thanks, I’m looking forward to it.  Keep thinking about your husband.”

“I certainly will.”

Jo waved her crossed fingers at Xander and, with a hopeful smile, she left him alone with his thoughts once again; as Spike reappeared Xander had arrived at…

“What were they thinking?  How could they do that, how could they follow those kinds of orders?  If you can live with a demon and still be a good man, what was their excuse?”

“You have to let this go, Xander.”

“Yeah, or I’ll go nuts trying to figure it out.”

“No, or I’ll thump you for being so tedious.”

“Well, thank you for that, my compassionate friend.”

“Actually…  Can I ask you something?  Now you’ve dragged up demons and such.”


Spike drew breath to speak but suddenly hesitated.

“Out of here first.”

Quiet contemplation until the car but, once inside, the words burst out of Spike.

“I’ve been thinking about it since you asked me how you tasted.”


“How do I feel to you?”

Xander remembered the sensation of cool flesh beneath his hands and knew he was missing the point.


“Feel.  Y’know…feel.”


“Do I feel dead?  Do you feel like you’re with a corpse?”

“No,” Xander assured him, “no, of course not.  You’re like anyone else.  Body, spirit…”

“No heart beat, no breathing…”

“You breathe all the time.”

“So I can speak.  The rest of the time it’s purely habit.”

“Habit or need, you still breathe, and Spike wouldn’t be Spike without the huffing and the puffing and the siiiiighs,” Xander grinned.  Spike’s frown didn’t unwrinkle for a moment.  “C’mon, Spike, I may listen to the dead but I live with the living, and that’s the living of whatever description, and that’s you.”

“I feel alive?”

“As much as anyone does.  Remember, voices aside, I’m just a normal guy.”  Spike stared, eerily quiet.  Xander looked out of the window, finding a featureless brick wall fascinating, just to avoid that stare.  “What am I facing?  A charge of deadism?  ‘Cause, Baby, I’m spending every minute with you, I’m sleeping in the same bed as you, I can’t be much more accepting.”

Xander defensively jerked away as Spike moved in fast, and the vampire missed his kiss by a fraction of a second.

“You call that accepting?” Spike accused.

“Don’t come at me from my blind side and make me jump, you ass!” Xander laughed as he prodded Spike away.  “And will you stop with the kissing.  No kissing.”

“You know how much I want you and you have less excuses all the time to…”

“You want me, why?  Proximity.  Wow, what was I thinking?  Even the biggest cynic in the history of failed romance would lose himself to that heartfelt declaration of wanting to get off on the nearest convenient body.”


“I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to pander to this.  No more insinuations of deadism from you when I’ve been honest about how I feel and—  Fuck this, I’m past justifying my decision!  Deal, okay?”


“And this is just you, isn’t it?  Nothing to do with me, wanting me, at all.  Hang out with anyone for any length of time and you have to push for more, whatever the context.  I’m telling you now, I don’t want to be where Angel’s been.”


“You’re such a pest, you know that?  You’re as bad as those bugs at the cabin.  Is this what Buffy had to put up with?  She fuck you just to shut you up?”

“She fucked me,” Spike replied through clenched teeth, “because I loved her enough to take, without question or complaint, the beatings and abuse she considered foreplay.”

“Oh, shit, I didn’t…”

“After all, it’s not as if she could have turned to anyone she liked or respected, but I’d’ve settled for any attention, whether it was broken ribs or a solid six-hour fuck, simply…”

Six hours?

Spike kinked an eyebrow at Xander.

“Have to admire the human male, always going straight to the heart of the matter.”

“We’re talking six hours including intermissions, right?”

“Six hours solid.  How much detail do you want?”

“No, no, nothing, no detail.  But…  Six hours?

“You’re thinking…?  How could she bear…”

“I’m thinking if I ever say yes you’re going to fuck me to death.”

“I might not fuck you to death but I guarantee to send you to heaven,” Spike said with an improbably straight face that cracked into a grin as Xander was seen to think about the offer.  “You’re not going to tell me that old line worked?

“Just…just…  Drive.  Club, alcohol, now.”

“You look tired, Petal.  Sure you wouldn’t rather give it a miss tonight, go tomorrow?”

“We’re…  Ah.”

Ah?  Spike repeated, and sighed.  “All right, where are we on the scale of…Spike laughing politely, to Spike removing your liver and lights?”

“You’ll…er…laugh?  But not long, or loud, or…at all.”

“It’s that bint who spent all night giving you the eye, isn’t it?”

“There’s someone giving me the eye?  That’s very generous, I could do with ano—”  Xander broke off as Spike shot him a don’tyoufuckingdare glare.  “Yeah, um…  Actually, it’s Jo, Jo asked us to dinner tomorrow.”


“I’ve already said yes.”



“Why can’t you grasp the concept of laying low, keeping safe…”


“I’m trying my bloody best to give you some freedom, and…”


“Don’t.  Sodding.  Whine.”

“It’s only Jo.”

“You don’t know her, Xander, you shouldn’t assume…”

“This is Jo we’re talking about.  Jo.  She’s the administrator for the chapel, she’s hardly going to be running with a team of hit-men.”

“You shouldn’t assume anything.  Yes, she seems genuine enough, but what if she’s been set up?”

“Are we still going out?  I think I need to get you mindlessly drunk as quickly as possible.  Or get me mindlessly drunk so I can cope with you being sober.”

Spike slammed the car into drive and the Mustang shot off along the road, Xander clinging to his seat by his fingernails but not daring to complain or criticise.

“And just so you know…  Six hours wasn’t even an effort.”

Good club, invigorating atmosphere, a little more abstaining from abstention and Xander was happily relaxed, not bothered by the voices as they became an unobtrusive element in the wall of sound.  He knew he’d get a sustained lecture later but it didn’t stop him sneaking away from Spike after a mere twenty minutes and finding himself a crowded spot on the dance floor where he could hide in the heaving mass of bodies.  Not that he was fooling himself, he knew Spike wouldn’t lose track of him for a moment, but this way he could pretend he had some choice over what he did.

So he danced, unaccompanied, or sometimes with anonymous others, turning away when he saw too clearly the despised curiosity but not wanting to risk even less favourable, alcohol-liberated responses if he took the patch off.  A couple of times he saw a flash of white-blond hair under the pulsing lights, but he was, gratefully, left alone.

Two-and-a-half hours later he’d had enough and went looking for Spike, finding him on the quieter side of the bar, stopping dead in his tracks when he saw that the vampire had company and not wanting to intrude, mind racing through the possibilities and…  That would be something to watch, wouldn’t it?  Too easy to imagine Spike’s stark, sculpted paleness entwined with this girl, whose dark skin looked polished, glittering under the strobes, while her long, sleek hair had turned to black silk.  Xander’s fingers flexed as he imagined drawing them through those tempting locks during a kiss, or while she…  Stopping right there, Xander reminded himself with brutal honesty that the likes of her were not for the likes of him.  Head to head now, beautiful together, Spike and the girl laughed at a shared joke; Xander felt the exclusion keenly, and wanted without focus.

“Completely superficial,” he muttered to himself, using a bullshit excuse in an unsuccessful bid not to be quite so jealous.  And jealous of which of them?  Not for the first time he thought about having had sex with Spike and wishing he could recall more than the anguish of dealing with the uber-nasty, his frantic relief that Spike had returned, the shock of the bite, and how much the encounter had hurt his tense, unprepared body.  He’d had sex with Spike and seemed to have missed out on the sexual aspect entirely.  Not that he’d tell Spike anything so potentially insulting – well, not until he needed something fairly antagonistic to throw at the vampire – but he did feel justifiably cheated: first bout of sex in three years and he’d missed it?  Oh, yeah, thoroughly cheated.

The blow job on the other hand…  Shame about the guilt ruining that, because it was spectacularly good, more so for being completely unexpected, and it was…it was…spectacularly good and…spectacularly, and…and…a blow job.  Bogged down by lust, Xander pointedly asked himself when precisely he’d turned thirteen again, forcibly reassigned Spike to the (vertical) position he belonged in – representative of client, and vampire keeping Xander in one piece – and mentally re-booted.

Which had the desired effect until the fantasy of a threesome exploded in his mind and he slumped against a convenient pillar with a groan.  Unfortunately the pillar’s mirrored surface was cruelly candid in what it reflected, and Xander glimpsed himself, this flushed and sweaty, danced out, lucked-out…freak.  His hand started up to rip off the patch, but stopped abruptly when he considered what he’d see when it was gone.

A few minutes intense self-pity later and, plastering a fake smile on his face, he made his cautious approach to the couple in the bar, ready to disappear again at the slightest indication from Spike that he would be a complication to wherever the vampire’s encounter was headed.  He needn’t have worried: the moment he was close enough, Spike threw a friendly arm around his shoulders, introduced Xander as ‘my bloke’, and pressed a hard kiss to his cheek.  The affectionate gesture unsurprisingly reminded the girl that she had somewhere else to be, and she left before Xander even had the chance to say a proper hello.

“What was that about?”

“Stupid cow, wouldn’t take the hint.”

“You were laughing with her.”

At her, actually, but she was too dim to get it.”

“Don’t be so mean, she looked…nice.”

“No, Xander, we don’t measure niceness by the quality of the cleavage.”

“We might.”

“Or the shortness of the skirt.”

“We still might.”

“No, we don’t.”

“She was gorgeous, and she obviously liked you, and you turned her down.  Know what that means?  Huh?  It means,” Xander grinned, “you’ve turned into Angel, you sad bastard.”

“It means,” Spike countered with an equally wide grin, “that now I get to concentrate on you.”

Xander was unresisting as Spike’s body pinned him against the bar, but the kiss he was expecting and, frankly, would have welcomed, never happened.  Instead, Spike reached up and gently peeled off the patch, slipping it into Xander’s pocket before lightly stroking the marks away.

“Want to dance with me?”

“Not here.”


Xander gave a humourless chuckle.

“I wish.”

“Home here.  The motel.”

“I guess.”

Spike rubbed their bodies together in a parody of dance, watching closely as Xander’s eye darkened further with mounting lust.

“Not just me, is it?” he murmured when he leaned in to nuzzle Xander’s cheek.  “Caught in the proximity trap.”

“No,” Xander groaned in reply, hands finding the vampire’s waist, drifting lower.  “Can I blame the alcohol?  ‘Cause then it’s your fault: you promised not to let me drink.”

“You asked, I never promised.”

“The alcohol.  I blame the alcohol.”

“It’d just be sex.  Just sex, no attachments,” Spike considerately lied.  “We both want this.  Let’s have it, Xander.”

Pest,” came the muttered reply, and Spike smiled against Xander’s flushed skin.  Pest.”

“I know.”


“If nothing else…”


“Listen.  You were angry with me last time because I sprang it on you.  This time…”

“Wait, wait.  Last time?  You mean…  You’re offering to blow me?”

“If it’s reciprocated.”  Spike frowned to himself.  “Even if it’s not, surprisingly.”


“You’ve been horny all day, and I…”

With an exasperated sigh, Xander pushed Spike away.

“You have to screw it up by being nice, don’t you?”

“What then?  You’d fuck a bastard, but not me if I’m being considerate?”

“You don’t listen, and…  You’re never gonna get it.”

“I’ve listened: no attachments, you can’t afford attachments.  I did say…just sex.”

“No,” Xander said regretfully, barely able to take his eye off the vampire’s sensual mouth.  “No, you didn’t.”

With a frustrated flick of a hand that was more likely an attempt to brush away the situation than the voices, Xander squeezed past the confused and crestfallen vampire and headed for the club’s exit.

Another car ride when the communication was monosyllabic at best, and they arrived at the motel just as the cell in Spike’s pocket trilled for attention.  Spike took the call as Xander made his way inside, a lonely and depressed man, and still, irritatingly, turned on; tonight he would sleep alone, Xander resentfully announced to the room, snatching his belongings off the so-far unused bed and petulantly hurling them into an empty corner.  Alone on the rock-solid mattress, the discomfort of which wouldn’t matter because he intended to brazenly masturbate himself into a stupor.

The vampire was clearly insane.  The protectiveness was understandable; the same bed was about the quiet, Xander sleeping well and being strong and alert when he was needed to contact Dead Guy; the provocative banter he remembered well from their days of uneasy cohabitation in Sunnydale;  Spike wanting him?  Spike wanting Xander?  That was like Wile E Coyote finally catching up with the Roadrunner and deep-throating the damn bird.  Not normal.  Okay, Spike had managed to get him hot and bothered but, being this close to a living(ish), breathing(ish) body after prolonged celibacy, Xander didn’t entirely blame himself for being susceptible when the vampire was good company, and witty, and attentive, and a stimulating challenge, and fucking hot, and…charming.  Spike could be unexpectedly charming, damn him!

“It isn’t Spike.  It’s…me.  He’s right: I’m caught in the proximity trap.  If I’d spent two weeks cooped up with the seven dwarfs I’d’ve been begging for a piece of vertically challenged action.  And why am I defiling the memory of my childhood icons?  And why am I talking to myself?”

The vampire was clearly insane, and it was catching.

Xander sat heavily on his hard, unwelcoming bed and wanted peace, wanted to be unconscious, wanted to come until his balls pruned, wanted…  Too much he couldn’t have, and this was ridiculous.  He didn’t want to sleep alone.  Ridiculous.  He wanted to be seduced, and not by Spike – because this adventure would be over soon and Spike would be gone – but by someone who might be able to tolerate the oddities and insecurities and one day love him despite them.  Someone who’d stick around for a lifetime.  A stunted, human lifetime.  He wanted…




Xander bothered to look and found Spike offering him his cell.

“What?  I don’t want to talk to anyone.”

Spike picked up Xander’s hand and wrapped it around the phone.

“It’s sorted.  Finally.  Scramblers, everywhere apparently, don’t ask me to explain how it works, but I asked and I got.  I grudgingly admit that the old boy’s not so bad.”


“At the risk of ripping off Spielberg: phone home.”

“Seriously?” Xander demanded, sitting bolt upright and gazing at the phone as if it were another box of the joke boyfriend’s Belgian chocolates.

“Seriously,” Spike confirmed, but Xander was already dialling, forgetting it was three in the morning and laughing jubilantly when the first words he heard were Simone telling him off.

An exchanged smile and a soundlessly mouthed thank you from Xander were the perfect end to Spike’s night, letting him know he hadn’t done any real damage with his earlier, apparently unacceptable, consideration – and that would take some figuring out but…not just now.  Crossing to his own bed, he threw his coat aside and settled down, folded arms comfortably propping up his head at exactly the right angle to observe and take pleasure in Xander’s happiness, and without a single thought of scoring points.