Chapter 15 Moves 1
A light brush to Xander’s face roused him a little before dawn, and before he could question why, Spike’s finger pressed firmly to his lips.
“Quiet, Xander, and stay calm. I think we have company.” Xander jolted a little further toward being fully awake, tightening his grip on Spike, even as the vampire tried to ease himself out of the bed. “Put me down, you daft bugger, I have to…”
“Can’t keep you safe if I’m hiding in here, can I?”
“You might live longer.”
“Sitting targets don’t have a great reputation for longevity. I want you up and dressed when I’m out of here. You know what to do if I don’t come back?”
“Good. Won’t be long.”
Spike yanked himself out of Xander’s clutches, dressed in seconds and, after careful checking, slid out of the room like a shadow over a wall.
Xander rose in quiet panic, tried to get both feet in one pants leg, pulled his t on inside-out and had to stop and consider left and right when it got to his feet. He made himself pause, let himself wake a tad more.
“No, I don’t know what to do if you don’t come back,” he hissed at the absent Spike. “There has not seriously been a you don’t come back scenario, you jerk! Why isn’t life like the movies? You give me a gun and say if anyone walks in, shoot them. And then…then…you walk in and I shoot you. Thank fuck you’re idiot-proof.”
Tip-toeing to the door, Xander strained to hear anything from outside, hoping for the sound of any bad guys harmlessly running away from the vampire, but prepared to settle for just about anything other than the dry boof of a demon turning to dust. Okay, commotion: probably only a three on the Sunnydale scale. Rising to a four, and… Nothing.
“Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
More nothing. No way of telling whether that was a good nothing, or a bad nothing, or…
Xander shot a foot into the air and barely stifled a scream as Spike barged through the door.
“Couple of winos, trying to break into the room two along. Gave ‘em a bit of a surprise and they almost disappeared up their own arses in a bid to get away from me.” Midway through casually discarding his clothes, Spike finally noticed Xander’s pale face and wobbly aghastness. “Sorry, should have let you sleep.”
“You should have… Spike! I have no idea what to do if something happens to you! What do I do? And don’t let it happen, by the way, as if you need telling!”
“Calm down, there’s nothing…”
“What was I supposed to do? Assuming I’d be capable of doing anything other than going into shock after hearing you explode into dust?”
“Y’know, I’d love to think this was about more than your own hide.”
“Of course it’s about more than…than…”
An unhindered view of Spike’s own, now-naked, extremely desirable hide, and Xander was left groping after the point of the conversation and considering groping a whole lot more. Spike, oblivious of the effect for once, climbed into bed and patted the spot alongside him.
“C’mon. I know it was a bit of a fright, but all over. C’mon.”
“You know you don’t mean that.”
“As statement rather than intent, I surely do.”
“Let’s get some sleep; we’ll have a strategy meeting later.”
Adrenalin subsiding fast, Xander exhaled and slumped, repeatedly dragged his fingers through his hair.
“What am I worrying for? If it’d been the bad guys I’d be dead by now.”
“Yes, always a consolation, that one,” Spike agreed wryly before snuggling down in the covers. “Bloody cold out and I’ve brought it inside with me. Be a nice lad and come and warm up your poor old Spike.”
“My poor old Spike? Since when my poor old Spike?”
“Promotional offer, didn’t I mention it? Sign up to save the world and you get a complimentary vampire.” Xander started to undress. “And I have been complimentary in every sense, haven’t I, Love? Specially about your splendid arse.”
“That’s right, make me so self-conscious I have to sleep in all my clothes.”
“Splendid arse, and…your back, you have the most beautiful back, the musculature…” Spike mused, warming to his subject. “Course, I can’t mention your prick or you’ll get all…”
“Yeah, that’d be it.”
“Which part would be the not mentioning part? Any chance we can cut to that?”
“That’d be the part where I don’t mention it was best mouthful of anything I’ve had in many a long year.”
“You even have nice feet, how many blokes can claim that?”
“How many would want to?”
Xander crawled in beside Spike and shuffled close, wrapping his warmth around the cold body and shivering at the exchange of temperature.
“Nothing about me, then?” Spike fished, “that makes you look twice?”
“You’re fucking hot, Mr Armitage,” Xander yawned. “Remember?”
“’Kay… I find it incredibly sexy when…”
Spike didn’t even attempt to conceal his interest.
“Here.” Spike thrust a fisted hand in Xander’s direction. “Have this.”
“What is it?”
“You wanted a thousand dollars in your pocket, so…”
“You want to give me a thousand dollars?”
“Well, you’re broke, you…”
“I can’t take that.”
“Course you can.”
“No, I can’t.”
“I told you I raided the petty cash.”
“That isn’t petty, that’s fairly significant.”
Spike uncurled his fist and waved the tightly rolled notes under Xander’s nose.
“C’mon. Can’t you just smell Angel’s indignation?”
“That isn’t a good enough reason.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Xander! Take the bloody money!”
“I can’t, it feels wrong.”
“Expenses, then. You’re being paid expenses.”
“Expenses,” Xander repeated suspiciously.
“Expenses.” The money was once again offered, and once again rejected. “I didn’t think anyone was paying for this job.”
“So you have no-one to claim expenses off of.”
“This is about ripping off Angel?”
“This is about me feeling better if you have few bob in your pocket.”
“I have no expenses, you’re picking up the tab for everything as we go.”
“Well, yeah, but still…”
“But nothing. I don’t want Angel’s money.”
Spike tetchily paced away, twice as tetchily paced back.
“All right. All right! This is my money, Xander. Whatever I’ve let you believe, the firm is a fifty-fifty joint partnership, and this is me, putting my hand in my own pocket.”
“We don’t just save the frigging world, you know, we take on legitimate work and we earn decent money, we’ve got a good reputation.”
“And we’re going…where, with this?”
“What have I had to spend it on? The money’s sitting there doing bugger all, and if I want to…to…”
“You want to spoil me?” Xander grinned wickedly.
“What else can I give you? You’d turn your nose up at a virgin’s heart, wouldn’t you?”
The grin became rigid before gradually dismantling itself.
“You’re not trying to buy me, you’re trying to – what’s the word? – woo me.” Spike stared at his companion, not bothering to correct the assumption, challenging Xander to laugh at the not-so-wide-of-the-mark accusation. “Spike? This is where you tell Xander he’s a bloody sodding foolish bugger and… Spike?”
“Take the money.”
“For my peace of mind. We get hit, I’m a pile of dust, you’ve got this: not much security but enough to get you home.”
“Don’t say that. Getting hit. You—”
“It could happen.”
Xander remained still and speechless as Spike eased the money into the front pocket of his jeans, not objecting as the fingers rested there, their backs absorbing the heat of Xander’s body seeping through layers of denim and cotton.
“This was our strategy meeting?” Xander asked.
“What do I do if—” Xander glanced away, not wanting to tempt fate by putting the fears into words. “We get separated,” he continued firmly, a fair enough question that touched on the ‘no Spike’ issue. “What should I do?”
“If…” Spike stopped and thought, flippant answer usurped by the apprehension on Xander’s face. “If it’s pre-apocalypse, head for LA, providing you’re still willing to be involved. Post-apocalypse and the world’s in one piece, and you still feel you need help with the uber-nasty, go to Angel first, your old gang second. I know you’d resent him for it, but I’m assuming Angel’s demon would serve the same purpose as mine and be able to keep the nasty off your back while a permanent solution is figured out, and you’d need that.” Xander nodded grimly, and Spike raised a smile for him. “Or you could just go home. Wait to see if I…get in touch.”
Implications, thoughts of heaven and hell sped through both minds. Xander felt no comfort at the thought of Spike getting in touch via Saul and, with some considerable effort, he made himself think about the existing moment rather than dwelling on uncertain possibilities.
“Get in touch, yeah. Make sure you don’t lose my number. Or your phone.”
The fingers tucked in Xander’s pocket flexed before bunching the denim and using the hold to bring them closer.
“And you, Love… Make sure…” Another good look at Xander, and once again the flippancy stalled. Xander gave an odd, self-conscious shrug; with a gentle smile, Spike shook his head. “Old hand at this, aren’t you? Nothing I need to tell you.” His fingers loosened and reluctantly slid from Xander’s pocket. “Doubt we even needed to have this conversation.”
“Yeah,” Xander agreed too brightly, backing off a step. “No-one seems to be looking for us. I don’t think running away and hiding has ever been quite this successful before.”
“The plan might be to stop us getting where we’ll need to go. While we’re not trying to get there we’re low priority.”
“Do you know where the Dead Guy event is due to happen?”
“Any clue to how soon yet?”
“That’s a good thing. As in…no inter-dimensional war for the foreseeable future.”
“A good thing, however limited that future is.”
Xander took a thoughtful wander over to the kitchenette, and started to distractedly make coffee.
“I’m ready for this, I think. Ready for the responsibility. But I’m worried about letting people down. About what happens if I do.”
“It’s not too late to back out.”
“What if I did that?” Xander asked, and Spike could hear that the question was more idle curiosity than serious intent.
“We’d find someone else to contact this bloke,” Spike told him with a dismissive wave.
“That sounds so simple.”
“It’s not, you know that. But we’d do it. And I’d be able to stop fretting over you being in the middle of this.”
“New person to be in proximity of,” Xander tried to joke, “and you may have better luck. No us in any sense and you’d forget about me, right?” Xander took a wary look. “Right?”
“What do you want me to say?”
Another, warier look.
“I don’t know.”
“Well…tell me when you figure it out.”
“Tell you what I did already figure out,” Xander took a brisk tangent. “You and Angel, fifty-fifty.”
“I did. No way you’d stick around and simply be some kind of sidekick to that jerk. Who is apparently not such a jerk, which is another reason you might stick around.”
“Why didn’t you say?”
“’Cause it’s more fun our way. In the past I’d get lectured for being anything less than impressed by him; with you I can be as cruel as I want and you always think of something worse.”
“So…I did nick his petty cash just to piss him off?”
“You’ll still take it?”
“I’m not— Okay, yeah, okay. For the security. When this is over I’ll give it back.”
They publicly nodded their satisfaction over the agreement, privately suspected they wouldn’t be around to see it put into practise; Spike couldn’t help the single, light squeeze he gave Xander’s forearm, and Xander couldn’t help appreciating the gesture. A few moments more of the ‘we’re going to die horribly together’ camaraderie, and Spike darted away to retrieve his duster, digging into a concealed pocket in the tail of the coat.
“That trick you have – touching things and reading the energy – what did you call it?”
“Will you touch something for me now?”
“Be a little more specific,” Xander grinned, and earned himself a smirk in return.
“With your filthy mind I’m sorry it’s not a ring, but…” Spike won his fight with the duster and retrieved a small object that he polished with his thumb. “I’ve had this for a while, it was…”
“Don’t tell me anything.”
“Anything?” Spike looked up doubtfully.
“Really, just let me hold it and we’ll see what happens.”
Xander smiled at the way the vampire handled what was soon revealed as an antique brooch; rather than presumptuously take it, the medium waited for it to be handed over, and as he waited he tried not to jump to any conclusions about it being William’s mother’s, but the level of respect and fondness it engendered in Spike seemed to make that irrefutable.
After a few more seconds of reverently staring at the brooch, Spike offered it, and Xander, clearing his mind as best he could in preparation, accepted, his hand curling around the dainty piece.
Xander gasped at the extreme sensations as layer upon layer of memories exploded in his mind courtesy of the brooch’s residual energy, so strong that the experience seemed physical as well as mental; it was as if he were being transported through a vortex in time, swept back and back and crashing to a halt when the brooch was held with affection for the first time.
Xander felt this person, became, relived the thrill of this handsome gift; if he’d looked into a mirror he’d have seen a young girl, perhaps ten years old, long brown hair in precise braids, dressed in an ankle-length nightgown and huddled in an outsized shawl; if he’d looked about he would have seen the trimmings of Christmas and the pleasure, the love in the eyes of devoted parents. But his focus remained on the jewellery that glittered enchantingly in the candlelight, and…
…the world was turned on its head, with horror and fear and the agony of loss, no more love and devotion as the eyes of the parents became flat and lifeless, and here was death itself: tall and dark and terrifying and beautiful. The brooch dripped with blood as the throat on which it rested was torn open in a needless frenzy, the killer already bloated from feeding on the child’s kin and having no appetite for food, merely a desire for orgiastic destruction and…
…a darker place, a place of sharing violent desecration, soft covers and cold, hard flesh; the coarse laughter of Angelus as he rolled and played with a dying woman and Xander, in this role, became, put aside his doll and took the brooch from it’s place on his breast, using its pin to wound and torment the victim, pricking out her eyes and sharing sire’s feasting; whining and weeping for more as the pin was used on him, screaming with delight at being abused and…
…bitten, fucked and bitten, and there was Spike – a different Spike – looking on with worship and hatred, taking the brooch from Xander’s outstretched hand, kissing the long delicate, ruby-tipped fingers before twisting and viciously driving the pin into Angelus’ neck and…
…a witness to torture and death, childe and murderess, victim to Angelus and adoring every moment, turning to Spike for more of the same and being dissatisfied with this purer love. Leading by example and ensuring her childe’s laughably delicate sensibilities were washed away in the blood of the innocent. Dancing in viscera. Copulating on a mattress of broken bodies. Use, abuse. Use, abuse. More blood and more blood and more violence and more blood and Angelus… Sire …magnificent in his prime, setting his own example and idolised for snatching this broken creature back from the gates of hell time and again as he played his games and…
“Xander! Let it go, let it—” Spike practically snapped Xander’s fingers in a final, successful bid to remove the brooch from his hand, breaking Xander’s fall as he slumped the rest of the way to the floor; the distraught weeping and groaning continued and Spike knelt and cradled the semi-conscious man in his arms. “It’s gone, Xander, it’s all gone, come back to me, come on.”
The drone of anxious words eventually reached Xander and, although aware of what he needed, it was with some difficulty that he fought his way back from the desire to pass out completely and escape everything that he had experienced in what could only have been minutes but felt like…two centuries. His eye flickered open and he saw concerned blue fill with relief, and all he wanted to do…
Spike fell back as a fist swung furiously into his face, shocked by the connection rather than injured by it, narrowly avoiding the next fist as it whistled past his nose.
“Oi!” Spike grabbed Xander’s wrists, “it’s me, not…”
“I know who it is,” Xander ground out, “you sick fuck, you think that was funny?”
Anger – no, make that rage – gave Xander the strength to break away from Spike’s grasp, and he scrambled to his feet, staring with absolute hatred into the vampire’s confused face.
“Like you don’t know the history of that thing?”
“I thought…family heirloom, the way Dru referred to it… Her family, and I was always curious. Although…” Spike hesitated, starting to realise what he’d done. “She was never specific. You know Dru.”
“Yeah, I know her now. Intimately. Her preferences when it came to her victims – particularly young and particularly innocent – I know about her preferences when it came to being tortured and bitten and fucked by Angelus…”
“I tried to tell you…”
“I thought we were friends. You do that to your friends? No, you don’t fucking do that, you don’t set them up for – for…”
“I didn’t know this would happen, I wouldn’t have…”
“I thought it was for your mom, I thought the brooch was your mom’s and— Fuck. Fuck.”
“I was there, Spike, I was the child she slaughtered as she stole the brooch, I was her, I was…” Xander’s face contorted in disgust and his hand went to his lips. “I can still taste the blood. I can… And Angelus. Angelus. And he - they… I can still… Feel him. Taste him. Fuck, I—”
Hand slapped over his mouth, Xander scurried away in the direction of the bathroom, and the sound of harsh retching soon followed.
“I didn’t know,” Spike repeated flatly as he couldn’t help but listen.
“You let me be – be violated, you sick fuck,” Xander screamed at him through the door, angry tears and strained throat hoarsening his words, before the retching resumed.
“I didn’t know.”
The ensuing silence was worse than the accusations; unable to find the necessary words to help Xander over this, Spike kept quiet, fixed like a statue, staring at the floor, waiting. For?
He listened as Xander took a very long shower, didn’t attempt to meet his eye when he came into the room to collect fresh clothes before retreating to the bathroom once again with a wall-shuddering slam of the door.
He listened as Xander brushed his teeth and gargled with mouthwash for the sixth time.
Still not as much as a suggestion of outward movement, but inwardly Spike was reliving the Drusilla years, trying to see afresh what Xander had experienced and knowing he should be appalled by what the young man had been made to bear, but all that conditioning hadn’t been for nothing: his time with his sire was regarded with longing and affection, its passing was mourned, and even the soul couldn’t produce a sufficient weight of guilt to persuade him that he wanted to lose the memories or sincerely renounce the past in its entirety.
But Xander… Presently the last person he’d want to hurt, for a variety of reasons, selfish and otherwise. Xander, who was bowling out the bathroom, snatching up his coat, keys, wallet, and heading for the door without so much as a glance in Spike’s direction.
“I’d rather you didn’t leave.”
The stilted words caused Xander to pause as he seized the handle; his fingers tightened until the knuckles were bone-white.
“I don’t give a fuck what you’d rather.” The door began to open and Xander, body stiff and awkward, trembling with distress at this betrayal, fought to retain the last of his control. “You don’t— You don’t do that to a friend, Spike.”
Xander had noted down the evening’s invitation, along with directions of how to find Jo’s house, in his new diary, and Spike had no compunction about rifling through the volume to find what he wanted.
Spike felt he could safely assume that Xander would keep his appointment because…Xander. The man wasn’t about to let anyone down. It was also a fair bet that Spike’s apologies would be made the moment Xander arrived at Jo’s, but that was tough: Spike would be there by eight, with flowers, wine and a winning smile for their hostess, hopefully gaining a chance to be with Xander in neutral surroundings and be accepted once more.
Accepted? He’d settle for tolerated.
Not much of a distance, and the sharp clarity of the night made it an invigorating walk; if Spike could have dragged his mind away from the afternoon’s events it would have been an ideal time for reminiscing, but the disastrous reading refused to be forgotten: Xander had left and kept his phone switched off since, leaving Spike irritable and lonely. He’d had too much lonely in recent years, and he should have been surprised at how easily the hollow sensation had been forgotten since he’d set eyes on Xander this time around. Should have, but he wasn’t. The man made him feel whole, and alive; without him he was less than whole, less alive. Xander was the someone who pulled all the past and present pieces of Spike together. Made perfect sense.
In fact, this all made sense; it was certainly the first time in decades that an emotional attachment measured up intellectually as well as instinctively. It was doubtful that Xander could be easily convinced though; perhaps sacrifices would be needed.
The brooch was back in the tail pocket of his duster. Spike hated the thought of parting with that last, precious memento of his sire, whatever its history, but he could probably persuade Xander he’d thrown it out. And that would definitely make things worse if Xander went looking for it and found it. Should he just tell Xander to get over it, innocent mistake and all that? Or… Did he have to forget finding a way to restore Xander's trust and give him up as a lost cause, screw up after screw up guaranteeing that his acute moral principles would ensure he’d never seriously look twice at a vampire anyhow, souled or not?
Xander would certainly appreciate it better if he backed off. Or would he? In the club… That wasn’t ever going to compute: if Spike had behaved like the kind of bastard Xander couldn’t possibly want, Xander might have wanted him? Oh, hang on… Yes, that did compute: Spike the bastard equalled no fear of further attachment. Obvious. But that was no good because, once smitten, he couldn’t keep up a bad guy act any better than he’d been able to maintain the overly considerate twat façade he’d initially tried to play Xander with.
Xander liked his honesty. Spike liked Xander liking his honesty. He liked to be honest with Xander and see the liking in Xander’s eye at the honesty. That he liked. And…where was this going?
Spike stopped and stared at the stately white house that was Rosewood. He could feel Xander inside. That’s where this was going. Xander, and kissing and making up. Without the kissing. Possibly without the making up. So… Xander.
God, it felt good to obsess.
An affable middle-aged man – Jo’s eldest son, David, if Spike remembered correctly – answered his knock at the door, recognising him as Xander’s companion from the previous night’s meeting and cheerfully welcoming him inside, taking his coat and sending him through to where his mother was greeting her guests.
Jo gave him as warm a welcome as her son, unlike Xander, who glared for a split second before turning his head away. Accepting the flowers and wine with lots of enthusiastic noises, Jo took them and headed off, explaining that she had the perfect vase for roses. A glance back at Xander, who was still pointedly ignoring him, and Spike followed Jo to the kitchen.
“I wasn’t expecting you, Xander said you’d be busy elsewhere.”
“Change of plans,” Spike said quietly, appreciating the kind smile he received. “That all he said?”
Jo obviously thought carefully about how she should answer, and covered the pause by fussing over the arrangement of the flowers.
“He mentioned that he’d attempted a reading for you and it had gone quite badly wrong.” Spike gave a short, humourless laugh and nodded. “Xander also said that he thought he was angry with you when he shouldn’t be, but he couldn’t stop being angry.”
“I don’t blame him for being angry. Honest mistake, but…” Spike shrugged. “I know he doesn’t want me here, but I’ve got to do my job, I’m trying to keep him safe.”
“He’s been on edge ever since he arrived, but the moment we heard your voice from the hallway, he changed, I saw him grow calmer. Even if he doesn’t want you here, I think he needs you.”
“Yeah, not wanted, but needed. I should be used to that.”
Jo gave another of her well-used sympathetic smiles, and Spike couldn’t help but respond with a smile of his own, frustrated and saddened by his situation but still pleased to hear an independent assessment of his worth to Xander.
“There.” Jo stood back and studied the roses. “Beautiful. Thank you, Spike.”
“Shame they’re forced. They don’t smell of anything.”
“Then the scent won’t affect anyone’s taste-buds at dinner. Would you like to take them through and find somewhere that will show them off?”
Spike smirked at his hostess’ ability to say the right thing and, following her directional gesture, took the roses into the dining room, positioning them on a counter behind the head of the table.
“Why did you come here?”
Spike spun around to face Xander’s accusatory tone and expression.
“I was invited. It wasn’t up to you to un-invite me.”
“If I ask nicely will you remember a previous engagement and leave?”
“No. I’m doing my job, keeping you safe.”
“Okay,” Xander managed to say despite the clenched jaw. “Is there a slim chance you won’t ruin the evening?”
“Umm… Yeah. There’s always a slim chance.”
Spike smiled provocatively and Xander barely had the opportunity to resume the glaring before the other guests joined them; given the prerogative of choosing their own places at the table, Xander decided not to notice that he ended up sitting beside Spike because it was where he wanted to be, and then overcompensated by very deliberately ensuring that he talked with everyone and anyone rather than the vampire.
Good enough for Spike: it took more thought and effort for Xander to ignore him than it would have to talk to him, so that kind of (lack of) attention was extremely flattering. His own lengthy conversation with David was carried out, by necessity, across Xander, and it was natural for Spike to turn in his direction, purely coincidental that his knee rubbed against Xander’s thigh, constantly reminding the man of his presence. His touch. A touch that Xander didn’t avoid, even after the day they’d had.
The party of eight moved back to the living room after dinner, and there was a tangible air of expectancy, Jo gazing at Xander in hopeful anticipation and making him smile again and again with her show of childlike trust. It never occurred to Xander for a moment that he was going to let her down and, after a short time by himself in her study focusing his abilities, he returned and asked Jo to concentrate on her late husband. She bustled about, searching for a photograph, and eventually presented Xander with one that appeared to be from the nineteen-eighties.
“No,” Xander told her with a smile as a strong connection was immediately made. “That’s Stephen, that’s your brother. Your husb— Philip says you shouldn’t tease the medium.”
Spike watched with his usual fascination as Xander acted as go-between for the husband and wife, liking Jo well enough to feel for her, whether it was the moments of happiness or sadness, but the contact gradually changed, and it became apparent that Philip was attempting to bring through another spirit. Spike tensed as Xander flicked a look in his direction, but it was more about Xander needing reassurance that the vampire was only on the far side of the room and could be beside him in a second, than any kind of panic over where the reading was headed.
“Okay… … Thank you, Saul. Philip may have to pass some of this message on, the other contact is very weak.” Xander shut his eye and concentrated hard, trying to understand why this felt so unusual. When the answer came to him via his guide he was stunned; he turned in the direction of one of David’s colleagues, a woman in her late thirties. “You have… … Cliff. Clifford. Cliff, is that…?”
The woman, Marcie, looked as shocked as Xander had felt, and the others in the room evidently knew her situation because the natural quiet transformed into a deathly hush.
“I, uh… Yes, I do, but…” Her voice trailed feebly away.
Xander listened once more to ensure he was getting his facts right then took a deep breath.
“Cliff hasn’t passed over, has he?” Shake. “Although…he’s not actually here.”
Xander held up his hand to prevent David from offering any information; the man nodded and kept quiet.
“An accident. The car, it… The car hit the central reservation and rolled. … Once…twice. Cliff seemed okay physically, but it wasn’t until he couldn’t be woken that the extent of his injuries became known.” Marcie clung to Jo’s hand and nodded frantically. “He’s… Cliff…is in a coma, is that right?” Nod. “Well…most of his conscious self is in spirit, the bigger part of him has already passed and—” Xander stopped abruptly as Marcie began to sob, his face openly displaying his level of uncertainty over this particular reading and its extraordinary nature. “I don’t have to carry on.”
“Please,” came the tearful whisper.
Xander gave Marcie a few minutes to compose herself before continuing.
“This is what he’s chosen, to mostly be with his family in spirit. There are times when he comes back to you, when… Do you notice his physical self is occasionally more… I don’t know quite how to say this. Occasionally he’s…different. There’s life in his eyes.”
“Yes, yes, I know exactly what you mean. Once in a while it’s like he’s there, he’s with me.”
“That’s him, his consciousness, his spirit, visiting you. He can’t make up his mind whether to pass over entirely, he’s still drawn to this existence. To you. He…” Xander paused again, struggling to deal with emotions of his own that were being stirred. “He has a hard time accepting that he’ll never get to say a proper goodbye. He didn’t say goodbye.”
“Not that morning. He was late, I had the kids to get to school.”
“He’s always… He’s aware when you’re with him, always. … He’s not at home, but close by, and…it’s a homely environment? Does that make sense?”
“Yes, there isn’t room in our house for the special bed but he’s with his sister and she’s only two houses away from me.”
“You’re often with him and he wants…” Another pause and Xander swallowed hard. “You to say goodbye. You pick the time to say goodbye and…let him go.”
“No. No, I can’t…”
“This is… Philip. The direct contact with Cliff is gone, but via Philip… … Okay. … Okay. That’s… The red phone broke.” Marcie mopped her eyes, gave a smile that was twisted by emotion, and nodded. “He said you should replace the red phone.” A protracted silence followed that last, innocent message. “They’re gone,” Xander explained softly. “Sorry, I really need a moment…” And he escaped to the privacy of the study.
“That was impressive,” Spike told him from the doorway.
Xander sat on the couch, huddled in the blanket Jo had left out for him, shivering despite it.
“Yeah, I could see that. Mind if I come in?”
Spike shut the door behind him and came to Xander’s side, crouching beside him and running what he hoped was a comforting hand over his hair.
“You all right?”
“Yeah.” Xander stared at Spike, stared hard. “Could you do that? Make that kind of decision for someone you cared for?”
“You mean what’s-her-face letting her old man die?” Xander nodded, and Spike thought. Remembered. “Sometimes…sometimes you don’t have a choice about making a choice.”
“I tried not to— Oh, shit, the goodbye thing… I wish I could speak to Anya, just once, just…once.”
“Shall we get out of here?”
“I can’t… Would that be too rude? Freak ‘em out and leave them?”
Spike rose, fingers still twirling in Xander’s hair.
“They’d understand. Tough if they didn’t. We were all moved, but you had to bear the…”
“Oh, right,” Xander snapped, pulling his head away from Spike’s hand, wincing as he lost several strands of hair in the process. “I’d forgotten, how could I have forgotten?”
“I get miserable and you get—”
“Let’s say I can see exactly how moved you were.”
Spike did a mental double-take before looking down his body at the telling bulge in the front of his jeans that Xander couldn’t possibly fail to notice.
“It’s involuntary, Xander, I can’t help it if you turn me on.”
“You could try to help how. You get off on suffering; how do you think that makes me feel? Can you… Just get away from me. I’ve had about all I can stomach of you today, just…get away.”
Spike delicately crossed his hands over his groin, dipped his head to an engaging tilt, and batted his eyelashes in faux coyness.
“Don’t you know it’s rude to stare?”
“Fuck off,” Xander muttered as he sank further into the blanket, covering up the eye that had exposed him.
“Don’t be shy, Love.” The seductive tone infiltrated the inadequate layer that shielded him, and Xander resentfully imagined the satisfaction on Spike’s face at making him squirm. How appalling was it that he couldn’t help the squirming? “Don’t be shy.” The fingers were back in his hair. “Not if it’s what you want.” Xander twisted away, body language screaming about indignation and irritation, and Spike reluctantly withdrew before he pushed Xander too far. “I’ll be waiting for you,” he threw over his shoulder as he left the room, no more than casually friendly now. “Gimme a shout if you need me.”
“Give you a shout?” Xander grumbled within his woolly cocoon. “More likely to give you a stake so far up your ass you sneeze splinters.”
The man almost leapt out of the chair in surprise, scrambling to unwind himself and stand, adjusting the patch that he’d shoved up to his forehead the moment he was out of public view.
“How are you?” they asked together, and shared a feeble smile.
“That was…” Marcie groped for the word; she couldn’t find it. Her lips compressed, her jaw trembled, and Xander rushed across the room with his usual offers of comfort, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and letting her lean against him as she fought the surge of emotion. “It was almost… I thought I felt him, here, tonight. With you, in you, is that how it works?”
“Yes, he was here, with me. I’m glad you could feel him.”
“When I looked at you during the reading, there was a moment, just a moment…”
The tears were swallowed once again and she turned and clung to Xander, accepting his tight, consoling embrace with no more than an overwrought whimper.
“Maybe he wanted you to take strength from that, from his presence.”
“I’m not sure it worked, I – I…” She leaned back in Xander’s arms and stared into his face. “I miss him, I wish… I saw…”
In a clumsy, desperate move Marcie leaned up and kissed Xander. Jerking away at almost the moment their lips met she stared at him, horrified with herself, and with the circumstances.
“It’s okay, I underst—”
Xander’s words were muffled by another kiss, just as awkward, as frantic, but this one didn’t stop as soon as it started, and Marcie’s hand crept up to cradle Xander’s head as he succumbed to an equally deep need in himself and returned the kiss, feeling sorrow and longing, intense anxiety, misdirected desire and… Oh. Fuck. Spike. …mourning well up inside him and lodge in his throat until he thought he’d choke, but he couldn’t, wouldn’t stop this. With an effort he managed to unlock his arms and let his trembling hands caress Marcie’s back, dazed at the rush of this and surprised that it wasn’t a colder, harder body beneath his palms, letting her seize his fingers and unsteadily guide his touch to a softly curving breast.
“Please,” Marcie begged in a fraught whisper. “Please, stay with me, be with me tonight.”
“I - I—”
“Fucking-well won’t,” was announced frostily from the direction of the doorway.
All kinds of denial crumbled and Xander fell back, relieved and sorrowful to be out of the fevered embrace, turning away from both Marcie and Spike, knowing it was a cowardly move but feeling so fucked up it was very nearly acceptable.
“Spike,” Marcie acknowledged, and Xander could hear the shock and embarrassment in her wavering voice, and he should help her out but… Nothing.
“Behold the grieving widow,” Spike ground out with predictable venom. “No, hang on, you haven’t switched the poor bugger off yet, getting in some practise for when…”
Xander’s heart sank lower at the choked sob as Marcie ran from the room, and he wanted to rage at the vampire, but how could he do that when the greater portion of that rage was for himself? Add a little self-disgust, self-loathing, don’t forget the heavy dose of self-pity.
“You didn’t have to…”
“Yes. I did,” Spike insisted coldly. “That was very necessary, and I can barely stop myself beating the sense of it into you.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Something you need to understand, Xander…” Spike strolled to his companion, coming to an intimidatingly casual halt when they were mere inches apart. He waited until Xander braved meeting his icy expression. “When a demon’s jealous, there’s no ‘just’ about it.”
The human’s face turned hard at the intimidation, guilt giving way to indignation.
“You had no right to come barging in here. No right to hurt her.”
“And you don’t own me. Want me to prove it?” Xander challenged. “I could go after her, accept the offer…”
“Contact Dead Guy from a wheelchair and wonder where your kneecaps ended up.”
“Don’t threaten me.”
“Don’t provoke me.”
“You don’t own me.”
Xander didn’t notice the hand that rose to his neck, didn’t realise what was happening until fingers reached inside his shirt and Spike pinched the scar that he’d left Xander with after their recent coupling. The free arm caught Xander as he buckled with the jagged explosion of tumultuous emotions and raw sensations that instantly coursed through his body, and he couldn’t raise the slightest protest as Spike swept him off his feet and settled him back in the chair, wrapping the blanket around him.
“No, Love, I don’t own you.” Back to affectionately stroking the dishevelled hair, Spike placed the lightest kiss on Xander’s unresisting lips. “I don’t. But I could.”
Chapter 16 Moves 2
Jo came to fuss over Xander, concerned for him but relieved that he seemed to be recovering well, despite Marcie’s obvious distress when she’d left him and the woman’s stuttered admission that it had been mutual.
“He’s like this sometimes,” Spike explained, “gets too involved with his work, his contacts, has a hard time coming back to the real world.”
“I’m fine,” Xander assured them croakily, head clearing now, body finding the appropriate connections and eager to test them out. “But I have to go. Sorry, but…”
“You don’t have to apologise, that must have been quite traumatic. I know it is for us: the thought of dear Cliff being almost gone, yet…emotionally tied here.”
Spike smiled tightly.
“Maybe he’ll find it easier to move on after tonight.”
“Seeing Marcie so upset,” Jo nodded, obviously missing Spike’s point. “Knowing he’s adding to it.”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Get my coat, Spike.”
Spike smiled again, this time genuinely.
“Course, Love. Won’t be long. Don’t start anything else you can’t finish, eh?”
“I won’t ask for any more readings, I promise,” Jo said firmly, and Spike let her believe that was precisely what he was talking about.
Fully recovered by the time they were in the car and headed back to the motel, Xander let his general sense of being hard done by fester and grow, pretty sure he and Spike were about to tear themselves apart. Why barely made sense to him, but he resented the end of this, feeling like he was about to be ejected from a venture that he’d been determined to see through, knowing he was about to lose the remnants of this shattered friendship, lose the security of having someone who could bring him perfect peace simply by holding him.
“You didn’t warn me about the groupies,” Spike said suddenly, sounding as if he was Making An Effort.
“Not groupies, don’t be ridiculous.”
“That’s the usual
donation to the
“Don’t you fucking dare!”
“Explain what happened then.”
“I don’t have to explain anything to you.”
“No. That’s right. You don’t.”
Long. Bitter. Pause.
Xander thought about it, the possibilities, tonight’s averted idiocy. For his own sake he needed clarification.
“Sometimes… Very occasionally, when I put people in touch with someone they’ve lost – or, in this case, are losing – they seem to… I don’t know, kind of project that person onto me, and want to be closer to them, so…”
“They lose someone who looks like a geriatric bulldog chewing a wasp and… Tell me exactly how fucking a strapping young medium with a pretty face and exceptionally nice arse will bring him back?”
“You’re wrong, it’s not about fucking me, Spike, they really don’t want me, and after the first couple of times I figured that out and started saying no and… Jesus, here I am, explaining to you.”
“If all she really wanted was comfort that makes you worse than her, you dirty little user.”
“You think I don’t— I’d have stopped it.”
“Yeah? Didn’t look like you were about to stop anything.”
“I’m lonely, I’m frustrated, I’m feeling like shit…”
“You wanted to get back at me.”
“No, I— I wanted to be selfish, I admit that. If she’d just…held me, if she’d…” Xander sighed and turned his back in evident embarrassment. “I wouldn’t have cared who she saw.”
The Mustang careered to a halt in a statement of Spike’s foul mood, and Xander couldn’t wait to get out and away, already wondering if he should rent his own room for the night because the whole togetherness deal didn’t bear thinking about.
“Xander.” Spike’s voice put a stop to his rush to freedom and, after taking what he hoped was a deep, calming breath, Xander turned back.
“I only see you,” Spike said, so softly that Xander had to strain to hear.
The honesty on Spike’s face was highly disturbing, and Xander had to think of brooches and snarky interruptions and unmentionable Vulcan nerve pinches to tear himself away.
Away wasn’t away enough. Spike soon cornered him inside their room – literally – pinning him where wall met wall and making it impossible for Xander to not reach out those few inches and feel the colder, harder body his mind had been searching for even while his hands fumbled over Marcie’s warmth.
Spike leaned in, lips tickling Xander’s neck, raising goosebumps over his entire body. He never, however, went near the scar, and Xander found himself wanting that – more than wanting – craving Spike’s mouth on it. But Spike had been sincere about not coercing Xander, and using the scar to get what he wanted would have been the worst kind of coercion, knowing the effect any manipulation of it would have on Xander. Spike respected him, Xander realised with a bucket of cold water jolt. In his own, demony way, Spike was showing him respect by not turning him into a shivering, whimpering, sexually takeable wreck, and the earlier pinch, in surroundings where nothing could feasibly happen between them, where Xander was safe, was Spike’s way of showing what he could, but hadn’t and wouldn’t use against Xander, proving exactly how much he could be trusted.
Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck. Ohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuck.
“I only see you,” Spike was promising. “Only want you.”
“No,” Xander gasped, panicked by the thought of Spike showing this nobility, being quite so trustworthy; being the kind of person it would be too easy to become attached to. Broken by. “I don’t want you, don’t want… I… You can’t…”
“I only see you, and I can be whatever you want me to be.”
“No.” Harsher now, and Xander somehow gathered the enormous willpower it took to push Spike away. “I don’t want this. You. I don’t want you.”
Spike retreated a few steps and gazed at Xander.
“I want what you took away from me tonight: someone warm and soft and very, very female.”
The dozy lust on Spike’s face was lost to abrupt grimness.
“That’s all you’re about, is it? Hot, wet cunt?”
“Yeah,” Xander agreed, “yeah, that’s me. And I’m not about to feel wrong for that just because you want to fuck what’s to hand.”
“Stop clinging to that bullshit, it’s not about you being handy and you know it. Not proximity, not convenience…”
“I want a woman. I’ve been reminded how much I like women. If I do anything with you it really is about proximity and convenience because I don’t want you so much as I want sex. And as much as I want sex, I’m not prepared to use you, ‘cause that’s all it would be. No hard feelings,” Xander added nonchalantly, pushing past Spike to get to the bed – most definitely his own tonight. “You can’t help the fact that you’re a guy.”
The nonchalance lasted for as long as it took Spike to reach the bathroom and slam the door so hard it almost took out the frame; with bittersweet relief, Xander sank onto the solid mattress, cursing his own weakness and strength. It was impossible to gauge exactly how much he disliked himself for his fear, for his dishonest and superficially blasé rejection of the vampire, and all he could do was cling to the concept of ‘better in the long run’ and silently apologise to Spike, over and over and over.
The room was pitch black when Xander woke some time later, and he jumped as he felt hands inside the covers, running over his belly and thigh. A thousand-and-one vociferous protests stuck in his throat as he found himself shocked into inaction by the heat of these invading hands. Hot hands. With his present company that was impossible and wrong and…
Ah. This was a dream, right? One of those very real dreams that he was ‘conscious’ during. Well, that was fine, he could see how it played out. Because…hot hands. On him. Hot, disturbing hands, on him, soothing and arousing in equal parts, leaving to make the bedclothes disappear completely, back to slip inside the waistband of his boxers. Hot hands and this was impossible and wrong and it didn’t feel like a dream, it didn’t feel like anyone— Anything, that was anything, not anyone, he wanted. He had to be awake. No. Asleep. Real life started bad and got worse, dreams started well and… A few nudged prompts from those impossible and wrong hot hands and he lifted his hips without thought and suddenly he was naked and… Dream, yes, dream, he’d had this before, but there was usually light and he could see because what was the point of this humiliation if he couldn’t see himself being seen?
Provided he was still in the dream motel, the dream lamp would be… A hot hand grabbed his wrist and prevented him reaching the light. A very real, powerful hand, that felt like a vampire’s but was too fucking hot.
“Spike?” Xander hissed, afraid to move again. “Spike?”
Xander let himself be shushed – unless it was permissible to count the stifled cry when a too hot mouth slid over his stupidly erect cock, body responding to what it felt it recognised, what – who – it felt was Spike, and the mouth felt like Spike too, and… Was that it? This dream, if it were a dream, although it had to be a dream… Start again: this dream was about being punished for wanting Spike. Or was it about being punished for not wanting Spike? Oh, for Christ’s sake, be honest! This dream could very nearly and quite possibly be about being punished for wanting Spike.
His body was experiencing none of his mind’s turmoil, it was relishing every lick and nibble and suck, it was slowly undulating, fucking up into the hot mouth, it was beyond being shushed, groaning softly at the perfectly delightful feelings that in reality he’d have begged for if he didn’t have his pride, or wasn’t such a coward about the future. He might have begged if he hadn’t been certain that Spike would do this for him without hesitation.
Dream, dream, dream, dream, dream his mind was insisting, trying to stay safe and sane, but his real life hands ran over real life flesh that was as hot as the previously encountered parts; his real life fingers explored loose un-gelled waves that leisurely rose and fell over his straining body, and Xander wished he could see Spike like this, wished he could tighten his fingers and bring that clever mouth up to be kissed and that would be a fucking disaster because of the future and what-iffing and losing and inappropriate wanting and…
“No,” he pleaded as the mouth rose and left him.
“Shh.” That same whisper of comforting discomforting sound. “Shh.”
“Just tell me if I’m awake.”
No shushing the gasp that emerged as Xander felt Spike straddle him, hot thighs against his sides, hot, impossible and wrong, and now he didn’t dare touch on the off-chance that this was a dream because Spike would turn into something horrendous, and touching always did that in these dreams, Xander would touch and whoever he was with would rot and wither.
Another gasp as he felt his cock start to press into Spike’s body, and a dribble of liquid tickled as it ran down his rigid flesh, and he wanted this, wanted to push inside, but he knew how much that could hurt and he wouldn’t do that to anyone, wouldn’t do it to Spike, if this was Spike, if this wasn’t a dream. That sound, the new sound, the barely audible moan, wasn’t from him. Might-be-Spike eased Xander into his body, his hot body, gently down, up, down, up, barely an inch at a time, and as Spike was opened up the lubricant poured out from inside him and…
Hot. Wet. Cunt.
That was what this was about. ‘I can be whatever you want me to be.’ From artificial heat to androgynous whispers in the dark, this was Spike being what he thought Xander wanted and…how wrong could he be?
Xander felt Spike relaxing, letting gravity take over and allowing a slow slide until he was comfortably settled, full of human cock. And breathing. Which made Xander twitch. Which made Spike’s muscles spasm around him. More breathing.
“I’m awake, I know I’m awake, and I know what’s happening here.”
Xander wanted to touch now but the second his fingertips made contact with Spike’s hips his hands were snatched away.
“No,” under Spike’s breath as the vampire refused to expose himself by using firmer tones.
“You don’t have to pre—”
The words were lost as Spike moved, fast, up, down, riding hard and trying to force Xander’s mind from the practical to the physical. Speechless, but with Spike all the way on this one, Xander finally jerked his wrists free and immediately flailed in the direction of where he thought Spike’s hands would be, fumbling over the catch but finally being able to wind his fingers into Spike’s, sensing a moment’s indecision before the vampire’s grip tightened; Xander was unable to make out what was murmured in response to his actions but the pressure as Spike used the contact for better balance was unmissable.
The rise and fall became less fervent, less about tipping Xander over the edge before he could put a stop to this and more about the sheer pleasure of joining their bodies. A few rolls of Spike’s hips, though, a few tentative pushes from Xander, and they were both vainly attempting to think themselves calm. Or calmer, at least, just enough for this to last a little longer.
Another barely contained groan from Spike was all it took for Xander to lose control and, with an involuntary buck, a muted sob that was about tension and the release of, Xander gave up the fight and let the wash of glorious sensations wipe his brain, coming ridiculously hard and only being vaguely aware of Spike snatching a hand away, shuddering, shuddering again and then again, a single drop of wetness escaping Spike’s grasp to land on Xander’s belly.
Spike wallowed in the orgasmic wake, tempted to sag into Xander’s possibly welcoming embrace and let sleep take him. Tempted but unable. In truth, he hadn’t thought as far ahead as this. So sure that Xander would reject him, forward thinking had been about stopping Xander finding that stake he’d whittled before Spike was suffering a penetration that was far less fun than… This. This. Hidden from Xander’s view by the darkness, Spike’s face was a picture of triumph.
Clinging to the darkness might have been a mistake, Spike conceded as he listened to Xander’s breathing even out. It added an air of unreality that Xander could use against him, against this, too many opportunities for ‘I thought I was dreaming’ and ‘By the time I knew what was happening…’ or even an ‘I thought you were someone else’ that would leave Spike sick to his stomach because it would mean his preparations, his manipulation of Xander and what he’d pretended to want, had worked far too well.
Xander’s hand still held his, and it was with reluctance that he separated that point of contact, easing himself away and off of Xander and feeling the last of the complete tube of lubricant he’d squeezed into himself trickle away. As he wiped his own dead seed on the edge of a sheet he hoped that Xander’s semen was deep enough inside him not to be instantly running away with it; as he laid back and relaxed he tried to feel the life in him, knowing his demonic physiology would soon kill and absorb. There was a terrific urge to explain to Xander, what it meant and how it felt, but even if Xander was blind in this lightless room Spike was not, and he could see quite clearly that the man was looking somewhat shell-shocked; hardly an ideal time to start a conversation about the appreciation of his swimmers and what their short existence meant to the undead.
Spike turned, determined to transform that disconcerting expression on Xander’s face to something serene, determined to be as close to Xander as this endeavour should have made possible, but something prevented him reaching across that awesome divide: a whole hand’s span of no man’s land between them.
Bringing them closer wasn’t meant to drive them apart, and now he wanted nothing more than to hold Xander as he did every night, find a way back to normal, and it felt a greater challenge than getting the man to fuck him. Xander rolled onto his side, back turned on Spike. The notion that something precious was slipping away from him forced the vampire to act; as much as he wanted to take their usual snuggling for granted he couldn’t, and although he didn’t want to ask, he had to ask…
“Can I hold you?”
The answer was a long time coming.
“I wish you would.”
Spike rushed to close the divide and wrap himself around Xander; his anxiety, heightened by the insecure tone of Xander’s voice, began to recede as, for a final time that night, Xander’s hand sought his in the darkness, and their fingers entwined.
It was early afternoon when Spike woke, the lack of heat between the sheets suggesting that Xander had been up for some time. A sneaky look around found him seated at the kitchenette’s table, in the process of setting up the computer and all its peripherals. As he frowned over the manual he held a muttered conversation with one of his invisible friends, and Spike wondered if Xander was preoccupied enough not to notice the naked vampire unpeeling himself from the dried-on sheets and sneaking off before the extent of the un-gelled bedhead could be revealed.
In a cautious experiment, Spike silently stretched, continually watching Xander out of the corner of his eye and seeing him notice, then very deliberately not notice, the movement. Hardly ideal but good enough; Spike rose and sauntered to the bathroom, erection inspired by the smell of their coupling waving at its new best friend as he went. One of the towels was still damp from Xander’s shower, and Spike had to remind himself that Xander would have been crusty-groined and in genuine need rather than carrying out the scouring he’d craved after the uber-nasty had invaded. Sighing heavily, Spike shook his head at his concerns and missed the past, when any introspection on this particular subject glossed over rejection and centred on puzzling out how anyone ever managed to resist his extraordinary charms and undeniable gorgeousness.
Xander hadn’t resisted. Not this time. Probably thinks I owed him after interrupting him and that bird. The rage Spike had somehow managed to contain the previous night at seeing that woman with her hands on Xander boiled up from his gut, and for a split-second he knew that if she’d been accessible right now he’d have happily ripped her throat out, and sod the soul, sod heaven. Ripped her throat out and fucked Xander in the blood. But it couldn’t be like that, it would never be like that, and Xander was so wrong for…the Spike that was. Not the Spike that is. He finally noticed that he was pumping his cock, though not at the thought of the blood and gore, just Xander, having Xander, the lingering scent, wanting more and hopefully – certainly – getting more.
Shower. Wank. Court.
Spike sniggered at himself. Court.
So… Shower. Wank.
Court. And once he’d dealt with
items one and two, he’d put a moment’s thought into how he’d convince Xander
that item three was the best offer since…
A highly eroticised version of Angel offering him Xander’s neck in
Item two was bumped up the agenda.
Spike joined Xander at the table, giving him an affectionate smile when a neutral…
…was sent in his direction.
“Can I help?”
“No, I think I’m fine. When it came to the connections I gave up on the manual and went with basic observation. Why can’t they say flat plug, round plug, nine pins…and why isn’t it wireless? I thought everything was wireless nowadays.”
“It’s to do with security: signals not being intercepted.”
“Oh. Makes sense, I guess.”
“How are your notes coming along?” Xander gave Spike an unfathomable look. “I noticed you’ve been working on them,” Spike continued, “and you did ask me to read your reports for you.”
“Yeah, I did, didn’t I?” Xander said flatly as he went back to hitting keys.
Spike watched for a while, no doubt antagonising Xander by his presence if the gradually increasing force of pressure on the keystrokes was anything to go by.
“Should we talk?”
“Why?” Xander demanded. “So you can ignore everything I tell you?”
“You made me…”
“Stop right there. I didn’t force you.”
“I know that, why do you think I’m so upse— So mad?”
“Either one of us.” Xander sat back in his chair and screwed his fingers into his hair. “But I told you what I told you. The least you could do was respect me and – oh, no, wait, that’s a joke, thought you did for a moment back there, but: joke – you could have backed off or…or…”
“Or you could have said no.”
“I mind you pretending to ignore me, yes.” More ignoring from Xander. “In fairness, I also told you what I told you. About wanti—”
“Leave me alone.” Xander had evidently found one of his numerous untapped stores of strength to draw upon; authoritative now, sounding sure he’d get what he wanted, wearing an unwavering expression that implied he could make Spike go away. “Leave me alone.”
Having the sense not to push too hard, Spike gave a repeat of that horribly appealing smile and a nod before rising and moving away to check out what was in the latest delivery from Angel.
Left in relative peace Xander became absorbed in what he was writing, studying damaged pages from what was left of his trashed notebook, and the additional notes scribbled in his new diary. It was only when he got to the diary page for Saturday where he’d written, simply, ‘Spike saved me’ that his mind lost focus and his thoughts darted between two bouts of sex: number one, which strangely seemed a very long time ago, when Spike had seen off the uber-nasty and suffered tremendous guilt for his part; Xander freely acknowledged that he had encouraged, even instigated, that particular coupling and secretly cursed his inability to recall most of the details.
Bout number two, last night, which Xander remembered in vivid detail. Had Spike gone too far? Yes. Had Xander wanted it to happen? No. Had Spike tried to give him something he allegedly wanted? Yes. Had Xander wanted it to stop? Xander knew the answer but it took a moment for him to admit it to himself this definitely. No. Xander sighed so heavily that Spike glanced over from his bed, where he was contentedly painting his nails with the polish Angel had sent. Xander defensively hugged himself and sighed again. No, he hadn’t wanted the sex to stop, in fact…he wanted more. And couldn’t have more. And for some perfectly preposterous yet perfectly understandable reason he wanted…Spike.
A sensation that reminded Xander of mourning spread out from his chest and, within seconds, had managed to weigh down his entire self, body and soul. It was horrible, it was old, and it was familiar. Not something he cared to share and he felt so dreadfully exposed. Rising, he wandered to the window, opening the drapes on the last of the sunset and watching spellbound as a thin strip of crimson was consumed by the night.
“Xander…” Xander shook his head, unable to find convincing words to keep Spike at bay but hoping he’d get the message. Vainly hoping. “What is it, Love?” Xander cringed at the endearment, fearing it and feeling as if he were being taunted for his loneliness. His non-specific loss. “You can’t speak to me, can’t even look at me.”
Xander swallowed hard.
“Which suggests that either… You hated what we did, hate me for seducing you, hate yourself for letting it happen. Or you loved every second of it, you’re frightened to let it happen again however much you want it, and can’t say a word in case I hear that in your voice. Can’t look at me because you’re terrified I’ll see it on your face.” Spike put the polish aside and sat up, studying Xander closely as the man did his best to remain as silent and detached as he’d been for the greater part of the afternoon, staring out of the window at nothing but black, body held with such rigidity he might sprain a muscle simply standing there. “Not hate, is it? I’d recognise hate. So, that leaves…”
“I’m not good at playing these particular kinds of games,” Xander said abruptly.
“Who said anything about games? Little creative license last night, I admit, but…”
“Mmm, I noticed you were very involved,” Spike smiled as he remembered Xander’s cock jerking deep inside him as he came.
“With me?” Xander refused to hear the delight in Spike’s voice as anything other than mockery. “You could get involved with me?”
“This is how it happens. I blunder into relationships – not that this… I blunder in and usually when I should have the sense to turn and run, I—”
Xander jumped as Spike pressed against his back and wound his arms around his waist; surprisingly, the tension immediately began to dissipate and Xander leaned into the embrace.
“I’m not trying to push you into anything you don’t want. Just sex, and you did want it. Wanted it and needed it.”
“See, that’s where it starts to go wrong: I’m not good at just sex, I keep telling you, no good at all at sex meaning nothing more than sex. I always read more into it. Most I could hope for in the past was that a one night stand would take off before I could start creating embarrassingly cute fantasies about future togetherness.” Spike resignedly let Xander pry his hands away, but they were held out flat so Xander could see the fresh polish rather than being put aside; each individual finger was caressed in turn. “I’m…‘what if’ man. I can’t change that, but I can try not to put myself in situations where I’ll start what iffing.”
“I can be obnoxious enough to put that sort of nonsense straight out of your mind.”
“You don’t need to convince me of that,” Xander said wryly, warming to Spike’s chuckle against the nape of his neck, returning the hands to his waist so he could be held. “But… Yeah. I loved what we did, Spike. It felt… That’s the problem: it felt. Now I’m totally confused. How can it be that good with no feeling behind it? So there must be feeling, and if that’s true…”
“Just sex,” Spike reinforced the falsehood for the nth time.
“I know, for you, I know. But if that was just sex…I can’t do it again.”
“So, how about…” Spike turned a very reluctant Xander around and touched their brows together. “We have a nice session, and I promise to be twice as obnoxious afterwards? Then you can be all ‘I don’t know what I was thinking’ and…”
“I’m already ‘I don’t know what I was thinking’, I have no place left to go.” Spike’s hands were slowly stroking up and down Xander’s sides, and however much Xander wanted this ridiculous offshoot of the whole ridiculous venture stopped, he wasn’t about to say or do anything that would make those hands go away. And knowing he wasn’t, meant he had to. “Do something to turn me off,” he requested, and this was hopeless because he sounded like someone who didn’t mean it, could hear in his own voice that he wanted the opposite.
“Turn you off? Well… You haven’t liked me…”
Spike kissed Xander. Tenderly, Xander would have noticed if he’d been brave enough to allow himself to think about it. A few days ago it would have worked brilliantly as a deterrent, but now a low, lustful creak escaped Xander’s throat and he didn’t think at all as he kissed Spike back. It was slow and sweet; if he took a peek it was visibly Spike and therefore far more seductive than any fuck in the dark. Xander broke away to breathe. Not that he couldn’t breathe within the kiss, but he simply couldn’t breathe.
“I don’t understand how this happened. How did I get here? Suddenly my number one object of desire is the last person on Earth that I’d want to be attracted to if I were the least bit sane.”
“Fair’s fair, Petal, second to last.”
“Why, who…? Oh, yeah, get it, thanks, yes.”
“Would it have been easier in the long run? Dealing with Angel?”
“Frankly?” Spike nodded. “I’m not sure I would’ve done this for Angel. The job, I mean, not… Wow, that works every time. Thought of Angel and I’m cold. Oh, good God, what if it had been him coming back from LA after the uber-nasty and…”
An impassioned kiss smothered the words, Spike too possessive to even consider that scenario. Xander went with it, relishing the level of intensity, but when the show of desire became physical, Spike moving close enough to allow Xander to feel his swiftly growing erection, Xander began the escape attempt, finding it as difficult as he’d suspected to prise Spike off.
“Want you,” Spike whispered, cradling Xander’s hands in his own, raising them to his mouth to kiss. “Want you.”
“I didn’t sleep well last night, I need to get some rest,” Xander said apologetically as he wriggled his hands free. “That’s not a come on, I’m not inviting you to join me. I’m feeling…pretty light headed, and…and… Rest. Real rest. I need. So, you don’t… Okay. Okay?”
“You do look a bit pale,” Spike frowned. “Nap’s a good idea. If that doesn’t bring some colour to your cheeks I’ll have a crack later on.”
Xander rolled his eye and reversed out of the Spike zone, losing contact, gaining voices.
“Actually, if I’m okay later, I’d like to go to the chapel.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Spike said reasonably.
“’Cause you’re not going alone, and if I see that woman I’m likely to kill her,” still delivered with complete equanimity, but Xander didn’t doubt the truth in those words for an instant.
“Sure you don’t want to reconsider the whole killing thing? What with the working for good? What with the soul?”
“Tell me… For the main, did your adorable Ms Rosenberg work for good? Did she have her soul when she skinned that bloke alive?”
The defensive anger
visibly rose and fell, but Xander couldn’t argue for
“Yes,” he answered through clenched teeth.
“Ah, yeah, thought so. And it’s worth thinking about, eh?”
Spike retrieved his nail polish and settled at the table to administer another coat; Xander watched every step, every action, and loathed as he steadfastly refused to think to Spike’s orders. The seething lasted until the smell of cellulose hit him, reviving better memories of the past: he was back with his girls as they made themselves pretty and tried new colours and finishes and…no more. No more. The past was over. The past was gone. All of it. Done.
The mourning returned full force, sucking the last scraps of energy from Xander’s body. He undressed to t and boxers, miserably settled down on the more comfortable bed, knowing it would be a miracle if he slept and subsequently falling fast asleep before two minutes were up.
That felt nice. Safe and quiet and cosy and more cuddling from the vampire spooned behind him. Nice way to wake up, except for the broom handle that Spike was, curiously, jabbing in his back and… Ah. Dozy Xander figured it out. Pretty solid piece of wood but not necessarily related to household equipment.
“Can you stop that?”
“What? This?” Grind. “Yes. I can. No. I won’t.”
“Spike, I’m trying to sleep.”
“But you can’t.”
“Not with you doing that.”
“I know what’s good for insomnia.”
“Not having a vampire trying to drill a new hole in my lower back might cure it.”
“As I see it, you have two choices. You can either ignore me, or you can join in.”
“What about choice three? You stop and let me sleep.”
“Two. Two choices.”
A speedy review of the situation left Xander chuckling; thus encouraged, Spike slid far enough away to give Xander room to turn onto his back, assisting him with tugs to his clothes.
“I am so damned,” Xander laughed as he finally gave in and sprawled.
Spike smiled and ran his fingers over Xander’s chest, idly wondering if the man could bear to have another t-shirt ripped from his body; when Xander’s hand rested over his he thought he was being stopped, his touch rejected, but it took only seconds to realise that this was Xander connecting, twisting their fingers together in a languid series of fluid moves, just as he often did unconsciously in the night. Spike gazed at the sleepy, relaxed face with undisguised affection.
“Colour’s back. You’re all pink and pretty.”
“I really am I going to die, aren’t I?”
“No,” Spike frowned. “Where did that come from?”
“You being so nice.”
“Shall I be nicer?”
The hand on Xander’s chest squirmed free and slid lower, pausing on his stomach before trailing down over the rapidly tenting front of his boxers. Xander groaned at the touch, and again as Spike leaned in and whispered in his ear.
“Want to fuck me? Really fuck me? Get me under you and go for it?” Xander gasped in some arousal, some shock, turning his face away to disguise the giveaway expression. Spike gently brought it back, wanting the lust, wanting kisses that Xander was momentarily reticent to share. “Fuck me?”
“I don’t want to hurt you. No.”
“It won’t hurt. When I did you it was rough. Desperate. You weren’t ready and I…I was barely in control.”
Xander caught Spike’s wrist and pulled him close, instigating the next kiss, wanting to erase the sudden shame from Spike’s face.
“So… It doesn’t have to be like that? Even if you’re telling me to go for it?”
“It wasn’t like that last night, was it?”
“There was no going for it last night, and…I don’t really think last night counts anyhow.”
“Because— You know why, that wasn’t you being you.”
“It was…a version of me.”
“But doesn’t the more realistic version like it rough? I thought…vampire, pain, blood, all that.”
“It’s a misconception that vampires need pain and blood to get off.”
“You don’t like rough?”
“I love rough.”
“I need sex to get off, and I love it all. You fuck me and I’ll love it, however it turns out.”
“Really?” Spike nodded and smiled. “Shit, I can’t believe I’m even considering this.”
“Want to fuck me, Xander?”
“You called me Xander. I am going to die.” Spike laughed and nuzzled, hand returning to rest, unmoving, over Xander’s groin. “Isn’t it wrong for a master vampire to get fucked? I remember reading, accidentally, during research, not that I was looking for…”
“Bloody watcher and his bloody books! Forget everything you ever read on a page, and read my lips instead. Fuck. Me. Fuck. Me.”
Spike added a few punctuating squeezes and Xander shivered.
“And I’ve been calling you Xander since this started. Xander. Xaaaaander,” Spike purred. “Xander’s going to fuck me,” he sang.
“Xander may be going to fuck you,” Xander said amid giggles as he tried to remove Spike’s very persistent hand. “But it may not be now.”
Spike fell still.
“Why not now?”
“Umm… ‘Cause it may be…when I get back from the chapel.”
“Come on, Spike. Safety, I appreciate, but I’m hardly going to like you any better for confining me to a motel room out of jealousy.” Spike narrowed his eyes and growled. “Especially when you have nothing to be jealous of.”
“You were kissing her. Touching her.”
“But I wasn’t…thinking her,” Xander admitted with a blush.
“Yeah, I know, you were thinking anyone other than that sodding vampire.”
“I was thinking— Nuh-uh. No way you’re tricking me into saying…stuff.”
“No?” Spike grinned. “Not even a tiny bit of stuff? Not even a stuffette?”
“You do know you sound cute when you say things like that, don’t you? Spike. Cute. Ha! Pick that out of your reputation!”
Giggling resumed when Xander was grabbed and swiftly manoeuvred into lying on top of Spike.
“Remember this?” Spike asked as he cupped Xander’s buttocks, holding him tightly in place as he ground upwards, successfully replacing the smile on Xander’s face with a far baser expression. “Want to try it fully conscious?”
“Oh, yeah. But can we…?”
Xander’s hand came up to where Spike could see it, and the index finger drew circle over circle.
“Really?” Spike asked in surprise. Xander nodded briskly, managing to look embarrassed as well as horny now. “You—” The astonishment at Xander’s show of trust stole Spike’s words completely, but Xander understood and nodded again: absolutely no embarrassment at the trust.
Spike carefully turned them, feeling the need to treat Xander – this man who really did trust, in a sexual capacity, the vampire who’d raped him – with the utmost consideration and respect. As if an abrupt move could break what he’d been given. Shown.
Xander saw the reverence in Spike’s eyes and was, naturally, instantly afraid for his emotional self, forcing aside a ‘what if…’ and leaning up to lure Spike into the first of many kisses. The vampire responded instantly, his steely cock mashing against Xander’s as their mouths met; but this kiss was without urgency, it was considered and exploratory, a learning experience that both men exploited to the full. Thirty minutes later they could have identified one another in a blindfolded oral line-up, ticklish spots on the roof of a human mouth to fangs that grew more pronounced when they were tentatively stimulated to two crowns where Sunnydale had broken Xander’s teeth to Spike’s slightly rougher tongue that made Xander shiver with delight when it was very deliberately scraped over his smoother variety.
Clammy hands left Spike’s back long enough to prod the vampire far enough away to allow Xander to push the boxers – that he couldn’t believe Spike had allowed him to retain for so long – down to his thighs, freeing his erection for some long overdue skin on skin contact. As Spike balanced himself on one arm, the free hand came to reacquaint itself, but Xander caught Spike’s wrist and kept the hand inches from its target.
“Need a moment to calm down,” Xander breathily explained.
“I don’t want you calm.”
“I don’t want this over.”
“I want to watch you come for me.”
“Will that prove something? ‘Cause if it’s all for you, I can be magnanimous.”
They grinned at one another for a moment, then Spike dipped to give Xander another languid kiss, feeling the hold on his wrist relax and immediately taking the opportunity to loosely wrap his fist around Xander’s rigid cock.
“Beautiful,” he muttered into the kiss, “beautiful.” His head rose and he very deliberately met Xander’s eye. “After…what happened…”
“It’s okay, don’t…”
“No, Love, let me. Since then, all I’ve really wanted was to be with you, a willing you, and have you hard for me. Have you…” Spike glanced down between them. “…like this. Beautiful.”
Xander followed Spike’s gaze, and his cock jumped in Spike’s fist at the sight they made. Spike’s thumb swiped over the glossy head and this time Xander jumped in his entirety.
“Fucking hell, Spike, do…something.”
As Xander watched, slack-jawed, Spike released him and caught his own erection, drawing back the foreskin and directing the fully exposed glans to rub slickly over Xander’s.
Xander’s hand shot between them, clumsily squeezing their cocks together as he bucked into the grip; Spike’s hand covered his and that less and more intimate touch was the one that pushed him over the edge, Spike’s murmur of voyeuristic satisfaction bringing him to new heights of pleasure.
Spike tried to watch everything at once: Xander’s eye, screwed up in painful ecstasy; his mouth, lip bitten; muscles clenching beneath the semi-exposed stomach; pulsing cock as it spurted streams of creamy semen over their bellies, dying to a trickle that decorated their knuckles, and then it was impossible to simply observe as Xander’s hand moved to hold Spike solely and wring the climax out of him with a determined grip and a rather nifty flick of the wrist.
“I am so damned.”
“That’s the second time you’ve said that. You talking…spiritually? Because of me?”
“I’m talking emotionally, because of me. When you’re not around any more…”
“Not something we have to face, is it?” Spike pointed out, forgetting that the besottedness was unrequited and how Xander would take that statement.
“You know a whole lot more about this Dead Guy thing than you’re letting on.”
“Exactly how dangerous? What does the prophecy say about the medium dying horribly and his vampiry cohort boofing into non-existence?”
“You know how inaccurate these…”
“What does it say, Spike?” Xander rolled from his back to his side so he could fix a beady glare on Spike. “That none of us get to walk away?” Spike’s pause to consider if there was anything from the sketchy prophecy worth passing on was, of course, misinterpreted. “That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why you’re willing to do this with me. Are we looking at a farewell fuck, or simply…nothing to lose?”
“The prophecy is a bloody joke: vague doesn’t begin to cover it, and…”
“Hey, the non-attachment therapy was working, don’t screw it up. Be obnoxious. Be twice as obnoxious.”
Spike mirrored Xander’s action: from back onto side, and they were nose-to-nose.
“You have a very good technique.”
“Really?” Xander asked with a happy smile, before he reminded himself that this was supposedly Spike being obnoxious. “I mean…bad selfish Spike,” he scowled.
“Do it again.”
Xander’s gaze flicked down the vampire’s body. Sure enough, Spike was getting hard once more at the mere thought of Xander’s touch.
“You have a helium feed to that? To keep it permanently inflated?” Spike laughed and leaned in to kiss Xander, who kissed back enthusiastically and willingly touched and… “Spike! Hateful! Now!”
“But I don’t feel hateful.”
“I’ll make a deal with you. Every time we – we…get close, you remind me that it’s just sex, you don’t give a damn about me, and that if we’re not over when this is over…we’re over. You know what I mean.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Say it. Remind me.”
The sweet smile re-emerged…
…and Xander fell onto his back with a moan.
“This is such a disaster.”
“No, it’s not.”
“It is. Grade A disaster. I don’t want to want you.”
“You know why, all the whys.”
“You haven’t tried ‘this is happening too fast’. Want to take a shot at it?”
“This is happening way too fast.”
“No, it’s not. We’ve known each other how long? A decade?”
“And disliked one another for the best part of that.”
“So? Any idea of how much I wanted to kill Buffy when I first hit Sunnydale?”
“Hmm…you and Buffy. Great relationshippy example to use. Complete lack of respect, overabundance of self-loathing, heavy on the abuse. The most you can say is that it was all mutual.”
“I didn’t loathe myself.”
“Much,” Spike threw away. “Anyhow, it feels like you and me’ve been together ages this time around, doesn’t it? And it feels good.”
“But it shouldn’t. And it can’t. Mustn’t. This is such a disaster.”
“I’ll let you in on a secret. When it happens, it happens in an instant.”
“It? There is no it.”
“This happened in an instant. I didn’t need time.”
“This feels suspiciously not like just sex, so could you…”
“Oh, right, sorry. Umm…more like…instant attraction…but with delayed reaction.”
“Your abilities?” Spike offered half-heartedly. “And your bod—no, not your body at all, I’m just a pervert who likes mediums, whoever they are and whatever they’re like and… No personality involved at all.”
“That’s good, thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Love.”
“You’re not welcome then, you…you… Nah, can’t.”
Spike brushed a finger over Xander’s jaw and stared searchingly into his eye, seeing the welcome there and responding with a gentle kiss that Xander deepened, and Xander was the one left gaping in confusion when they parted.
“Oh…shit. Shit.” Xander scrambled away, pulling down his t and struggling with his boxers before starting to gather up any and all clothes. “Going out, yeah? Cold night air sharpening the senses, that’s what we need. Spike. Move, Spike. Move.”
“All right, all right. Up and at it. Couple of hours at the chapel should fuck us up nicely.”
“No, I won’t let anything—” Xander stopped dead and turned to Spike, resurrecting the scarily open look that was becoming more and more familiar to them. The clothes gradually dropped to the floor. “Oh…shit.”