Chapter 21 Belief
Xander had a plan. Not a grand plan in the scheme of things, just one that involved getting to their room first, into the shower, luring Spike in and seeing how it felt to have that spectacular body wet and soapy and sliding deliciously against his equally wet and soapy skin. Purely coincidental that he’d be able to wash the gel out of Spike’s hair under the guise of foreplay.
No part of the aforementioned plan involved entering their room and being snatched into the darkness before he could find the light switch, momentarily struggling against a less than human intruder but soon freezing as the cold hand covering his mouth was joined by another holding something unpleasantly sharp to his throat. Xander vainly clutched the intruder’s wrist, feeling the strength and doubting he could prevent his throat being cut if that was the serious intention.
A flurry of disjointed thoughts rushed through Xander’s terrified mind, coming to a screeching halt when the Spike factor was introduced. Was Spike’s presence what this assassin was waiting for? The vampire had to witness the murder for some perverse reason? It would destroy Spike, Xander knew that, and all the pretence about degrees of closeness was temporarily abandoned as a streak of fury shot through him at the thought of being used to emotionally wound… His Lover. The anger gave Xander energy and impetus, and he noisily renewed his struggles, assuming that if he were badly hurt Spike would turn him, and they’d get the job done that way. Turned and he’d learn to cope, fight for his soul, never have to see Spike’s face when— Xander whimpered as the knife sliced into him, and the following seconds were lost primarily to shock, the understandable panic of not knowing how severe the cut was, and secondarily to being hurled aside to painfully collide with the wall, an action which coincided with an explosion of vampiric fury as Spike arrived and dealt.
Xander curled up where he landed, clutching his bleeding neck and thankful that the wound felt worse on the inside than it did on the outside. There was crashing about in the darkness; there was snarling that raised every hair on Xander’s body; there was…silence. Suddenly. Almost. Not quite silence, not with Spike’s breathing filling Xander’s acutely tuned-in senses, not with the voices that had rushed in when he’d been freed and… When he’d been freed?
Xander picked himself up and groped his way to the light switch, and as the room was illuminated he found exactly what he’d assumed he’d find: Spike and Angel facing off, both a little battered from the fervour of Spike’s rescue attempt.
“You’re getting careless,” Angel said grimly, flicking his switchblade shut and dropping it into his pocket.
“I’m—” Spike’s retort was reduced to a glottal catch when he saw Xander, and he rushed over to inspect the damage. “You cut him. You fucking cut him!”
“I’m okay, Spike. Really.”
Xander saw the anguish, the need in Spike’s eyes to put this right, and knew if they were alone Spike’s mouth would already be on him; if he hadn’t wanted to kick Angel into next week prior to this moment he certainly did now. But he simply waited patiently as a fleeting examination assured Spike that the cut was superficial.
“Yes,” Spike muttered, “yes, you are okay. Bear with me, Mate,” Spike told Xander, playing at less than they were, approving of the disgust on Xander’s face when he repeatedly wet a finger with saliva and smoothed it along the cut.
“What are you doing here?” Xander demanded of Angel as he played along, barely tolerating Spike’s attention.
“Finding out how easy it would be to kill you,” Angel told him conversationally as he strolled over to view the results of Spike’s ministrations, stopping short at a snarl from his grandchilde. “And…very easy, I’m afraid.”
“You’re right,” Spike admitted, thinking back to a clumsy boy in a cinema restroom, his interest going undetected thanks to Spike’s infatuation with his current obsession. “I am getting careless.”
“Smells like you’ve had other things on your mind.”
Xander tensed but Spike gave him a surreptitious, reassuring pat.
“Night out, that’s all, we needed it. Pictures, club, couple of drinks, couple of girls, all harmless enough.” Spike turned to confront Angel. “Both of us have had a bad feeling about this case and we thought we’d like to live a little before we died.”
“That’s a poor excuse.”
Xander edged past Spike, crossing to the room’s tiny kitchen area to make coffee, semi-escaping Angel’s apparently too-knowing scrutiny.
“It’s my fault,” he insisted as he went. “Spike’s humouring me. I can’t cope with being trapped inside twenty-four/seven, and…”
“Of course it’s your fault,” Spike snapped accusingly at Xander before turning on Angel. “He’s an absolute pain in the arse.” And here came the cruel smile. “How about you take a turn in the field? Spend some quality time with the git and…”
“Hey!” Xander protested. “If anyone is a git around here it’s you. Followed closely by him.” Forsaking his preparations to glare at Angel, Xander pinched his bloody shirt and held it away from his body. “You realise if I tell Buffy about this she’s going to relocate your balls.”
“Not stopping, are you,” Spike told rather than asked Angel. He swung a kick at a newly arrived duffel bag before counting off Angel’s supposed ‘to do’ list on his fingers. “Deliver breakfast; antagonise the business partner that actually does the bloody work; slice up the hired help…”
“You got anything new for us?” came Xander’s timely interruption. “Anything about the prophecy?”
“A fresh translation.” Angel dipped into a pocket and brought out a folded page that he handed to Spike. “No revelations. We’ve noticed that several of Escolet’s acquaintances have disappeared over the past couple of weeks, although…”
“Escolet?” Xander said curiously. “Is that Dead Guy?”
“That’s the man we need you to contact, yes.”
“Dead Guy has a name,” Xander said to himself, surprised that it was a surprise. “Escolet.”
The remainder of the conversation drifted past Xander as he washed away the worst of the blood from his neck and hands, made his coffee and absently put mugs out for Spike and Angel, then went to sit as far from the vampires as possible. He gave Dead Guy’s real name to Saul, and between them they searched for connections or references, sifting through the voices that surged with a little encouragement.
“Okay,” Xander abruptly said aloud, securing Spike’s and Angel’s attention, “bring them through.”
“Who?” Spike asked, barely able to keep a straight face as Angel’s eyes widened in alarm.
“Not Dead Guy, but…victims. Escolet’s victims.” Xander listened. “Okay. … Okay. This is Ezequiel Escolet, right?” Angel nodded. “Because his family is responsible for a lot of deaths. … Ezequiel, Saul, just him. … Okay.” More concentration and then Xander was shaking his head. “If he’s there no-one’s about to help him come through. And…it doesn’t appear possible to find anyone who was associated with Ezequiel alone, the family… … Yes, thank you. … Savages. … The family’s power came from them being together, they didn’t have individual victims. Victims individually, I mean.”
“Could be why those blokes who tried to nab you were so inefficient. If it was the family and they’re weakened by being separated…?”
“There’s very little information I can get this way, and no sense of contact with Escolet at all.” Xander turned to Angel. “Maybe if…” He stopped talking and chuckled. “You don’t have to look so worried.”
“I’m not worried. This…” Angel vaguely gestured in Xander’s direction. “…makes me…uncomfortable.”
“Funny. It doesn’t bother Spike,” Xander genially taunted. “But then again, I guess it’s down to strength of character.”
“No worse than Dru,” Spike added helpfully. “But then again…you could control her, eh?”
Angel ignored the implications and pressed on.
“The Escolet family is immaterial to this case. Ezequiel is the only one with the information we need.”
“Doesn’t that strike you as odd?” Xander asked. “The family is that close yet only one of them knows this stuff?”
“This wasn’t family business. Each individual within the family has their own sideline, and Ezequiel liked to buy and sell information.”
“What do the others do?”
Angel went to speak, then hesitated.
“You don’t want to know.”
Xander’s imagination ran riot for several seconds before he accepted that advice with a nod.
“Any idea how soon now? The Dead Guy Event?”
Both relieved and disappointed, Xander went back to his voices.
“Done here?” Spike demanded of Angel, putting the page aside and shrugging off his duster.
“Will Xander be alive when we need him?”
“Yes, he will, you’ve made your point.”
“Then I’m done here.”
“Good. Sod off. And just so as you know: hurt my charge again and it won’t be Buffy relocating your balls. And I’m talking interstate.”
Angel gave them both an infuriatingly obliging smile.
“Sure.” He indicated the duffel. “Blood for you, Spike. Clothes for you both, books, money. Letter for you, Xander.”
“For me? Who from?”
Angel ignored the question and headed for the door.
“Wait,” Spike stopped him. “I have something for you.” Angel watched with interest as Spike probed the pocket in the tail of his coat, bringing out the brooch and holding it up for Angel to see. Xander shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Recognise it?”
“Dru’s,” Angel said quietly.
“Yeah. I thought it was from her family, an heirloom.”
“No. I remember when she came across it, it was…”
“We know. I was stupid enough to let Xander hold it and we know.” The harshness in Spike’s voice made Xander cringe. “In fact Xander had a crash course in Aurelian history, one that didn’t do him any favours, so…”
This time it was Spike ignoring Xander, fiddling with the brooch before offering it to Angel. The older vampire held out his hand and grit his teeth as Spike drove the pin into his palm; Xander looked away as the point emerged through the back of Angel’s hand, blood beading and ready to drip. Angel studied the brooch with a grim smile.
“I’ll treasure it.”
“Fuck off,” Spike growled, stalking to the door and flinging it open.
“Goodnight, Xander,” Angel threw over his shoulder as he started to leave.
“Angel…” The vampire paused, not bothering to look back. “Do you remember Florence MacMahon? ’Cause she remembers you.” Xander enjoyed the way Angel’s entire frame tightened in discomfort. “She says… Go dtachta an diabhal thú,” Xander carefully, phonetically, repeated the message he was given, noticing Spike’s smirk and grinning at Angel’s less than sweeping exit.
The two men barely moved until they heard Angel’s car drive away, then they turned to one another, strangely awkward in the wake of Angel’s visit.
“What did that mean?” Xander asked, for the sake of having something to say.
“‘May the devil choke you’,” Spike said with satisfaction. “Nice turn of phrase.”
“You had no idea…”
“No idea at all that he’d turn up. He’s right though, I have been getting careless.”
“That’s my fault.”
“I know my own mind, Xander, and it’s been my choice to let it be full of you in the wrong way.”
Another pause, slightly tenser, feeling like it was going somewhere. Or at least Spike was: he hurried over to Xander and dropped to his knees, prising Xander’s thighs apart and pressing close; not about lust this time, it was about Spike being able to properly tend to the cut on Xander’s neck, and Xander simply leaned back and relished the attention as Spike’s tongue trailed over his damaged skin, licking away the last traces of his blood.
“I should be freaked, but… It’s like I’m slipping back into Sunnydale mentality, taking this kind of thing in my stride. Sometimes I look back and I can’t believe the shit we took for granted.”
“If this’d been worse I’d’ve ripped his heart out, I swear.”
“Hey… Don’t get upset, I’m fine.” The licks became kisses that inched up Xander’s throat, over his chin, onto his mouth. Xander avoided a couple to ask: “Think he knows? About us?”
“Why should he?”
“You tell me, you’re the one with the heightened senses.”
Spike stopped his pursuit of Xander’s lips, and sat back on his heels. He stopped breathing for a full minute before inhaling deeply.
“We smell like we should. Like we’re living together, we’ve been in a new car, been to a pub, danced with a couple of girls… Problem would have been me smelling of you so lucky you used that rubber.”
“You don’t smell of me? Y’know, that way?”
“’Cause of that very nice rub down you gave me I stink of my own juices. Did I thank you for that?” Spike smiled provocatively. “I should thank you. Thoroughly.”
“Would it have given everything away if I’d hit him? ‘Cause I so wanted to hit him.”
Spike’s gaze flickered onto the cut.
“Don’t blame you.”
“No. It’s what he did to you.”
Smiling at Spike’s confusion, Xander reached out and caught the neck of Spike’s tee, drawing him into more kisses, in turn letting himself be drawn, to his feet, toward the bed. He winced as Spike lowered them.
Xander flexed his shoulder several times.
“Just stiffening up in the not so much fun places. Where I hit the wall earlier.”
“Sodding puny human,” Spike growled, grabbing and tugging and turning the bedclothes inside out to cover Xander up without moving him.
“Yeah, you’re always bloody okay.”
“Well, I am.”
“Sometimes okay isn’t enough.”
“Isn’t enough for…certain practises, is that what…”
Spike tried not to smile as he snuggled.
“Shut up and go to sleep.”
“Want me to…”
“Shut up and go to sleep, yes. Don’t worry about me. I doubt this hard on will kill me seeing as I’ve survived all the others.”
“You don’t really want to take that risk, do you?”
Now the smile was unstoppable.
“What do you want?”
“To watch while you jerk us off together.”
“Like that, don’t you?” Spike observed as he deftly freed them from the confines of their jeans. “To experience it from all angles. Watching my cock leaking all over yours. Touching where your prick is buried in my arse.”
Xander groaned and tilted his hips, hoping to encourage a firmer grip than the fingertips delicately trailing over his rapidly growing erection.
“I’d love to really watch us. Sit back and watch us fuck, and still be able to feel what we were doing. I wish you showed up in mirrors.”
“Has a camera.”
“It’d be…art.” Spike pushed the covers aside and straddled Xander, holding their erections together with one hand and joining Xander in admiring the view. “Or… We could buy some ribbon, wind it around our pricks and bind them together like this, tie a nice bow. Take the picture and there’s the personalised Christmas card.”
“Art,” Xander laughed breathily, doing his best to fuck Spike’s fist.
The fingers of Spike’s free hand dabbed at their swollen glans’, encouraging the pre-come that he transferred and mixed and arranged in glossy threads that clung to and joined their bodies.
Spike offered his fingers to Xander, who predictably hesitated, then unpredictably accepted, signalling with a tilt of the head for Spike to continue. Utter torment for Spike, really, penetrating Xander’s body in any way other than the one he’d been promised before they left the club, and as Xander closed his eye and happily fellated Spike’s fingers, Spike smoothly changed position, laying along Xander’s body so he could grind their cocks together and they could share kisses that carried the barest tang of their sexual juices.
“Let me see,” Xander was gasping before too long, and Spike obligingly held himself on one arm as his hand resumed its previous hold and determinedly pumped, and they watched, transfixed, as the vampire’s actions speedily brought them both to climax.
Slumped in a tangle of covers and disordered clothing, Xander repeatedly stroked his fingertips through the few movable strands of hair at the nape of Spike’s neck.
“You must be disappointed.”
“You didn’t get what you wanted.”
“You… Did I miss something?”
“You always miss something,” Spike said as he shuffled into a position that was far more conducive to intense snuggling.
“What did I miss this time?”
“And…what was the truth exactly?”
“What I told that little tosspot at the pictures.”
Spike was left to fall asleep in peace as Xander thought back, slowly reconstructing that sentence word for word.
‘Xander, on the other hand, is bloody gorgeous, thrill-a-minute and, whether he likes it or not, presently owns me, body and soul.’
Xander let himself be shocked. He let himself be scared. He let himself be moved.
But not for a moment did he dare let himself believe it was the truth.
Barely four hours sleep, but Xander was awake and doing his best to escape from Spike’s clutches without waking him. Not the baddest of bad dreams but this one had left Xander feeling prickly and anxious and he wanted a long shower, strong coffee, the local paper, and most crucially, some alone time.
Shushing Spike’s grumbles with promises that he was just visiting the bathroom, Xander achieved the shower, cutting it short because every minute he spent in there gave Spike more chances to wake up and confine him to quarters. He did however spare a few seconds to stare at his neck in the mirror, impressed that the wound was virtually healed, and vaguely glad that he was too preoccupied to put any real effort into his renewed dislike of Angel because it took energy he simply didn’t have.
As he picked his way through the scattered remains of the fight between Spike and Angel, Xander paused, staring at the car keys and wondering if he dared take the Cadillac. He balanced the thought of Spike freaking out when he realised Xander was gone, versus Spike freaking out when he realised Xander was gone but seeing the keys and being reassured that he hadn’t wandered far.
Into the duffel that Angel had brought along, and Xander found his letter, along with the usual roll of dollar bills; he took two fifties and guiltily tucked them into his pocket. Expenses. Fine. No. Not fine.
Back to stare at the keys for several minutes, starting to leave, returning, staring. Taking them and leaving fast.
How Xander saw it, his return could be reacted to in either of two ways. One: he’d walk in and Spike would be furious and explain that in no uncertain terms. Two: he’d walk in and Spike would be so angry he wouldn’t even be able to look at him, let alone speak to him. The third option, the ‘Spike welcoming him with a concerned hug and quietly ensuring everything was okay before not making a big deal’ didn’t cross Xander’s mind for a moment.
Good thing too.
“Are you fucking insane!”
Proving the validity of Xander’s distinct lack of enthusiasm as he plodded over the threshold. He offered a flat:
“Where did you go? What was so important that…”
“Leave it, huh?”
“No, I will not bloody leave it!”
As Spike paced and ranted, Xander returned the car keys and eighty-seven dollars, shrugged off his coat, kicked off his shoes, and found himself a little space off of Spike’s circuit. He knelt down and made himself as comfortable as possible, still troubled by the bruised shoulder and side but knowing he could tune those aches out, given a little calm.
“Hey. Spike. Hey!” The shout did the trick: Spike interrupted the tirade to turn and glare. “Think you can be quiet? I need…”
“Tell me what happened,” demanded Spike. “Before you head for fairy cuckoo land, you tell me…”
“Ah, yeah, that sure presses the caring, sharing button. I’ll talk to you after I’ve meditated, if I feel like it.”
“You’ll feel like it, I promise you.”
“Spike… Give me some space,” Xander wearily sighed, “give me some peace. Please.” Spike seethed for a few seconds then stalked over to Xander, sitting cross-legged, directly in front of him. “That’s hardly space.”
“Yeah, but it’s peace.”
“I didn’t mean that kind of peace.”
Xander warily let Spike take his hands, confused as to why he’d want to, but Spike had unexpectedly ping-ponged from loud and obnoxious to quiet and thoughtful.
“Not that kind of peace,” Spike mused. “If it’s not about the voices…” He gave Xander the most curious little smile. “It’s about the company.”
Xander squeezed Spike’s fingers, tried to meet that troubling smile with a more positive one of his own.
“I meditate, we talk. I need to do this.”
“Are you getting ready to tell me you’re walking away? Did Angel put the wind up you? Did I?”
“I’m not going anywhere until we’re done.”
“I’d be shockingly understanding if you said yes.”
“No. I’m saying no.” Xander waited to see if that was reassurance enough for Spike, and if he’d find something else to occupy himself with for a while. No chance. “Want to give me some space here?”
“Can’t you do this later?”
“I’m bored, I want company.”
“If you’re bored, how about you tidy up in here? Really quietly. Or try to get the blood off the wall. And the doorframe. And the…”
Spike rolled his eyes and finally moved away, not likely to clean up the room but at least prepared – however grudgingly – to respect what Xander needed.
As Xander prepared to re-engage with the real world the silence told him that Spike was close. And the rush of voices that swept back the moment Xander gave signs of re-engaging told him that Spike had scooted away before he was caught being the state’s most considerate stalker.
When Xander opened his eye Spike was comfortably ensconced in the armchair, reading the paper Xander had brought in, giving his best impression of having been occupied with this for hours.
“Fraud,” Xander smiled. Spike looked over, eyebrow querulously raised. “You’re not fooling anyone.”
With a snicker, Spike tossed the paper aside and slid out of the chair, crawling across the floor and stopping when he was nose-to-nose with Xander.
“I do seem to be.”
“Gi’s a kiss.”
Xander obliged, briefly closing the gap between their mouths.
“Get me up.” Spike’s hands instantly went to Xander’s fly; with a chuckle, Xander caught Spike wrists. “I meant all of me. Sodding puny human seems to have set.”
Spike sprang up and carefully hauled Xander to his feet, proceeding to gently massage the stiff shoulder joint.
“He’ll pay for this.”
Spike’s fingertips glided over the healed flesh of Xander’s neck.
Xander looked around with a growing smile.
“You cleaned up.”
“He’ll pay for that too.”
“I appreciate it.”
“Him paying or…”
“You doing this.”
Pause. Spike gestured encouragingly.
“Come on. You’re supposed to say you appreciate it…”
“…and then…show me how much.”
“Later,” Xander dismissed, and Spike muttered discontentedly. Xander studied the last faint traces of the bruises on Spike’s face. “Were you surprised that Angel went so soon?”
“No. We successfully work together, but that relies on us avoiding being in the same room at the same time, as far as it’s humanly…demonly possible.”
“So he’s not likely to come back?”
“That something you’re worried about? Being sprung by the bogman mid-shag.”
“No, it’s not— And that’s a whole new horrible thought. Thanks, Spike.”
Mindful of the aches and pains, Spike gave Xander a chary hug, pleasantly surprised when it was returned with gusto. Time to abuse the good mood Xander appeared to be in.
“Want to tell me what happened this morning?”
No dismissal, no bluster, just a sigh that told Spike he was getting his way. Xander crossed to the bed, stacking up the pillows and lounging; Spike followed, sitting at Xander’s feet and massaging his sock-clad toes.
“This morning… I had a bad dream and…”
“You had a bad dream! I dreamt that I woke up and you were gone and it wasn’t a bloody dream!”
Xander paused. Spike shut up.
“I had a bad dream and…”
“You should have woken me.”
“I didn’t want to wake you. I’m not a child, Spike, I can cope with bad dreams, I’ve been doing it all my life.”
“This one had me in it then?”
“Not everything is about you.”
“Did, didn’t it?” Nothing from Xander, and that was answer enough. “Past? Present? Considering what we had in mind for when we got back here, something to do with what happened when I… When I didn’t rape you?” Nothing from Xander. “Why d’you run away? I’m not about to force you…”
“I know that,” Xander snapped crossly, “you think I don’t know that? Can you not start pandering to my subconscious? And I didn’t run away because of that, it wasn’t running away, period.”
“Where did you…not run away to?”
Xander creakily shrugged.
“Just outside of town. Somewhere I could get out of the car and walk without being disturbed by any voices that weren’t in my head.”
“Still sick of the sound of my voice,” Spike grinned.
“I take it back, it is all about you,” Xander replied in kind, finishing with an enormous yawn and fidgeting into a more comfortable, more prone position. Spike was alongside him before Xander registered movement, head propped up on one hand, the other stroking Xander’s stomach. “If I live to be a hundred, anyone ever touches me like this I’ll think of you.”
“’Cause it’ll probably be me. Ferrying you between the changing table and the anti-senility drugs.”
“Since you showed up at the Stokes’ it’s been…what? Three weeks? If we’re still alive in another three whatever there is between us will have burned itself out and you’ll never want to see me again.”
“So am I.”
“At times this seems so…unreasonably intense…”
“Don’t mind if I change the subject, do you? Before you plummet any further in my estimation.”
“Yes, I do mind.”
“Tough. I’m not about to let you give me notice. You wait and dump me when the time is good and proper, not a moment before.”
“I wasn’t talking about dumping you, and besides… Dumping you implies there’s more to this than you having just sex, and me confusing just sex for…whatever.” Spike shuffled a little closer, sharing the pillows, kissing the skin below Xander’s ear. “Don’t say anything nice now,” Xander warned.
So Spike kept quiet, just carried on nuzzling and stroking, expecting Xander to be asleep in minutes but gratified when he wasn’t, even if it did mean he had something unsettling on his mind.
“I was…” Xander started, faltered, thought a while longer. “I’ve been trying to raise the courage to ask Jesse about being a vampire. I thought, earlier, that I was ready to do it.”
“But you didn’t?”
“I’m scared that I might remind him of something that he shouldn’t remember. Or maybe telling him would… I don’t know, change things for him somehow, where he’s entitled to be. What if the knowledge alone sent him to that – that…purgatory you thought might exist.”
“Then you were right not to say anything to him.”
“I was…! I’ve spent hours and hours thinking this over and you give it two seconds thought before brushing it off.”
“Very occasionally things can be black or white, Xander. Not everything has to be all shades of grey and methodically picked to pieces because of it.”
“You don’t think this is about me being a coward for my own sake? ‘Cause I am frightened that it would force him away from me if I… I’d have to tell Jesse that I…what I…”
“You’re no coward.”
“You called me a coward last night.”
“Yeah, for effect, it wasn’t meant. If you thought it was best for Jesse to know who staked him you’d tell him. But it shouldn’t come to that. Leave the poor bloke in peace.”
“But he might give us a clue about what would happen to you.”
“That’s not his problem, Love, is it? Or yours.”
“It feels like it is. Mine.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Who was the letter from?” Spike very deliberately interrupted. “I was sorry you took it with you, I fancied a read.”
“You’d’ve read it?”
“Yeah, no scruples about violating people’s privacy. Can I read it now?”
“Who then? Red? The Bit?”
Spike eased himself away from Xander before turning and picking up speed, zipping over to Xander’s coat and rummaging through the pockets. Xander thought about protesting, but not for long.
“Medusa? How the bugger did she manage this?”
“It’s in there. H’s card was hand-delivered and she caught the guy doing the delivering and made him wait while she wrote that.”
Spike was nodding along with the explanation, having already got to that part of the letter, and as he continued to scan the page he was touched by what was easily readable between the businesslike lines.
“She loves you,” Spike said quietly.
“She’s my friend,” Xander replied, very simply, because what was a revelation to Spike made very simple sense to him.
“It never occurred to me.”
“Why?” Spike didn’t answer; he read and re-read the letter. “I didn’t give up when I lost what I knew,” Xander eventually said, knowing he was venturing onto shaky ground. “I can’t be like you, cutting off when…”
“Yeah, about that…” Spike tucked the letter back into Xander’s pocket and hurriedly returned to the bed, snuggling up tight, letting Xander hold him, however awkward it was with the achy shoulder. “When I lost my people… I didn’t make a choice to give up, it wasn’t a conscious decision.”
“You’ve consciously made the choice to change now. That’s good.”
“No. It’s you. Just you. And…”
“I’m an original,” Xander remembered from their earlier conversation on the subject.
“Still what I need.”
“That’s okay. I can be that. I won’t let you down.”
Spike marvelled at how easily Xander made that promise, and shocked himself with how equally easily it was believed.
Xander prodded the remains of his half-eaten dinner around his plate and sighed.
“I keep finding myself fantasising over the memory of Simone’s vegetarian lasagne. Think there’s any hope for me?”
“Good cook, is she?”
“No. By her own admission she’s crap. That makes it twice as tragic, I guess.”
“Sounds more like an appetite for home.”
“If we’re not done…” Xander braced himself. “I’m going home for Christmas.”
“Am I invited?”
“You’d let me… You’d want to come home for Christmas? With me? Come home, with me, for Christmas?”
“Any one of those, yes.”
“That’d be—” The happy face turned sour. “Ah. Okay. Not about to happen, right? You’re just…”
“No sign of Dead Guy and you get Christmas at home. It’s a promise.” Xander nodded, head dipped down to cover what he feared was rather childish excitement. Spike watched, didn’t miss a thing; his booted foot poked Xander in the shin. “What kind of Christmas is it? With Medusa and— Here, does she do the cooking?”
Xander rearranged his features and looked up.
“No,” he chuckled, “H cooks, and the rest of the family help when they arrive.”
“A son and a daughter, both married, both with kids. Sometimes a niece or nephew, and...there’s a couple I still can’t figure out, but they’re all good people.”
“Anyone got their eye on you?”
The instantaneous denial was brought to a halt by a memory that made Xander grin from ear to ear.
“I do have a not-so-secret admirer.” The coffee cup in Spike’s hand creaked. “Yeah, she’s gorgeous, she’s fun, and she’s four— No, wait, she must be five now. Obviously. Kirsty. Last year I let her draw fake tats all over my arms; she either thinks I’m a really cool uncle, or a badly misshaped colouring book.” Spike hmmed grumpily. “She’ll like you.”
“’Cause she likes pretty things,” Xander teased, enjoying the turnaround as Spike visibly preened.
“You’ll need presents.”
Xander’s face dropped. A moment’s realistic thought and he shrugged.
“They’ll understand that I can’t…”
“Expenses’ll cover it,” Spike said casually, waiting for objections when Xander figured out that these particular expenses would undoubtedly be covered by Spike rather than the firm; he saw the moment come and go, Xander guessing, and Xander quickly coming to terms.
“It wouldn’t cost much, just…y’know…token gifts, nothing…”
“Whatever.” Xander glanced away and swallowed hard; Spike hoped that it wasn’t the man’s pride that was proving so difficult to get down. “How d’you usually manage? You were broke when we started, you’re twice as broke now. No plastic in your wallet so no trips to ATMs; don’t you get paid?”
A deep breath and Xander turned back.
“It isn’t like that. Most mediums have jobs and they work for the chapel in their spare time.”
“You said you still did some carpentry.”
“I do, but it’s not…” Xander stopped, sighed, turned a grim, self-conscious smile on Spike. “I’m different. ‘Cause of the voices I can’t keep a job. I’ve tried, and I get distracted, I’m always tired, and… The carpentry is for friends and parishioners who understand that I take twice as long to get stuff done as…normal people. So…I’m the chapel’s charity case. They let me live in a house that was left to them by one of our congregation, they pay the bills, Simone stocks the fridge, H leaves some cash in the kitchen drawer in case I need it.”
“They know you’re special enough to warrant it. That’s nice.”
“It’s nice, yes, nice and…humiliating.”
“After everything that you’ve done for mankind, don’t you think they owe you?”
“I can’t see it like that.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed that blind side of yours comes in pretty handy.”
“It’s one of the reasons I don’t drive the Mustang. Why should they have to pay for the gas?”
“They begrudge it? Any of it?”
“And neither do I when it comes to buying Christmas presents for your friends. Splash out, eh? None of this ‘token’ nonsense.”
“That’s right, do that. Don’t have to like it, just…appreciate it.”
The twinkle in Spike’s eye forced a half-hearted smile from Xander, but it didn’t last long.
“While you’re feeling generous, I’m going to tell you something that you may not like but you’re not going to make a fuss over, how’s that?”
“Hmm, I’m intrigued.”
Xander once again braced himself.
“’Kay… I’m going back to the chapel tonight, and you’re not coming with me.”
The cup in Spike’s hand cracked down one side.
“You may want to rephrase that. Try something like: ‘Please excuse my being a moron, I’ve suddenly recalled the point Angel was making and will not be going anywhere alone as I don’t want to die just yet’.”
“The most danger I’ve been in was the supposed good guy with a knife at my throat.”
“Someone tried to kidnap you, have you forgotten?”
“And because of that I’ll be on my guard.”
The conversation took an interlude as their waitress stopped by and mopped up the coffee from Spike’s leaking cup. Spike deliberately ignored her, rudely turning away to prevent any chance of the interest that seemed to stir Xander’s insecurities about his own looks. Spike needn’t have bothered: the girl took away the old cup, brought a new one and topped it up, but it was Xander she smiled at, every step of the way. It was a shame that Xander didn’t notice, eager for her to be gone so he could resume his argument.
“You hated being there last night, it was offensive to you. You had to wait outside until I was done.”
“That wasn’t about being offended, it was—”
“Yes?” Xander prompted, trying to glean a clue from Spike’s less than telling expression.
“What sounds less damaging? Jealousy or possessiveness?”
Despite wanting to slap Spike for his stupidity, Xander tried his best to inject a little compassion into his voice.
“I do understand the possessiveness, but you only have to share me for a couple hours.”
“And can’t you stop cuddling people?”
“Hugs are a part of the way I do my job, Spike. Some people need that contact, they need comfort. That’s all it is. Comfort. Anything else…” A tiny burst of self-conscious panic came and went. “Right now, and however it’s defined, I’m…I’m…with you.” Xander barely paused for breath before quickly adding, “Not what iffing, just getting on with the here and now.”
“With me,” Spike said to himself. “With me, and terrified anyone will find out. How…familiar.”
“Not anyone, I just didn’t want Angel to know.”
“Do I have to spell it out?”
“Bastard. I know his opinion of me,” Xander stated crossly, “and I don’t want him thinking you’re an idiot.”
Spike’s mood lightened a little.
“You’re saying…we go to yours for Christmas and you’ll tell everyone about us?”
Xander paused. Thought. Spike appreciated that the reply was considered.
“With my friends… I’d have to force myself not to tell them. Hey, if by some miracle the Dead Guy thing is done by the end of the week, and even if we’re over when it’s over, still come home with me? Just for Christmas?”
“Might be fun, I s’pose.”
“Yeah, will be.”
“Better than being stuck in LA.”
“Few days, that’s all. You can survive the boredom for that long.”
“No-one’s shared that bed with you?”
Xander shook his head.
“Would that have been a problem?”
“I was thinking more along the lines of…after Christmas, every time you looked at that bed, you’d remember I was the first person to have you there.”
“Oh. That. I’d…umm… Like that.”
Xander’s rather breathless understatement made Spike tingle in all the right places; the night promised to go very well for him once the visit to the church was over and done with.
This wasn’t so bad. Sitting closer to the front than usual, a little to the side, Spike had a good view of both the proceedings and the people who had unwittingly pissed him off on his previous visit. He divided his attention between watching the mediums at work, and fantasising how he’d like to kill various individuals, giving his imagination an invigorating workout and wearing some kind of giveaway expression on his face if the way Xander kept glancing disapprovingly at him was anything to go by.
Just time for a last warning look in Spike’s direction, and then Xander was introduced to the congregation. The first reading was mundane by Spike’s standards – one elderly chap wavering between tears and laughter as Xander passed on messages from his late wife was much like the next – and Spike found it more fulfilling to watch the audience and their reactions to the newest medium on this particular circuit. Spike swelled with pride for Xander as he witnessed the rapt attention and unguarded emotion, every face full of hope that the next contact would be one of their departed loved ones.
A latecomer arrived and sat at the back of the nave; Spike’s heart sank when he saw who it was, and he quickly checked to see if Xander was aware. No indication of anything other than a complicated evidentiary statement occupying the man’s thoughts, but Spike knew it was only a matter of time before life turned a little more pear-shaped.
“John Randall’s outside.”
Xander peered from the folds of his blanket and gave Spike a sympathetic smile.
“Yeah, I know you know. If I thought you didn’t know I wouldn’t be telling you.”
“Mmm, I kinda know that too.”
Spike poured some coffee and brought it to Xander, his hand brushing Xander’s as he handed over the hot mug and feeling the post-reading chill that seemed to exude from his companion. He gave in to the need to rearrange the blanket to cover more cold body.
“I’m warmer than you and I’m dead.”
“Seems worse today. Maybe the heating’s not so good in this building.”
The small talk ground to halt and Spike dragged a chair over and sat beside Xander. They both knew what he was about to say, but Xander waited patiently as Spike worked his way around to it, wasting a few seconds with more tucking in.
“He wants to talk to you.”
“Did you remind him he’s in a building full of mediums? Most better than me.”
“He doesn’t want to talk to anyone local. And they’re not better than you.”
“He’s already outed himself just by turning up here, so…so…” Xander stopped and sighed. “I’m sorry, Spike, but I really want to talk to him.”
“You’ve already said you don’t know how to help with his case.”
“Just because I don’t know doesn’t mean I can’t find out. I doubt that Randall would want me to talk to Walt about this, but I could call Doug.”
“Every assurance you give me is worthless, isn’t it? Next place we stop you’ll behave, low profile…”
“This is about a young woman’s life…”
“And it could be about yours.”
“I don’t need reminding. Look, Spike, I just want to talk to the guy, it’s—”
Spike was already gone.
Minutes later he returned with John Randall, ushering him in without a word but with an attitude that guaranteed Xander that, boy, he was going to pay for this later. The undersheriff seemed smaller, older, out of uniform and unofficial, and Xander felt the same sympathy in person as he had when viewing the man on TV. He rose and crossed to him, warmly shaking his hand.
“Hi, Mr Randall, how’re you doing?”
“It’s John. And…not so good.”
“Sit down, let me get you some coffee.”
Randall sat and Xander appropriated Spike’s unused coffee mug for him; Spike stood at the window, back to the proceedings but watching through the reflection. Xander handed over the coffee and sat back in his chair, waiting for Randall to make his intentions clear.
“I hope you don’t mind me coming here.”
“No, of course I don’t mind, but if you didn’t want anyone local to know you were talking to a medium you could have called, you have my cell number.”
“He wanted to check you out,” Spike interjected. “Make sure you were the real deal.”
Evident really, and Xander was disappointed that it hadn’t occurred to him.
“Is that right?” Randall gave a slow nod. “And…am I?”
“I think you may be able to help,” Randall said after a moment’s pause for thought.
“You don’t have to be so guarded,” Spike told him impatiently, “Xander’s one of the good guys, he’s not going to sell your every word to the press.”
“It’s okay, Spike,” Xander assured, “it’s not a problem.”
“It is a problem, it’s called due respect, and if you don’t get it…”
“Real deal,” Randall stated firmly, evidently appreciating Spike’s stand. “I was very impressed.”
“There are more experienced mediums here.”
“The communities within this area are pretty close, everybody knows everybody.”
Randall didn’t really need to say more, and Xander remembered the atmosphere when the congregation had prayed for Tania Varley’s safe return at the beginning of the evening.
“I still may not be the right person to help you. Have you any idea what you want me to do?” That stumped Randall, and he gave Xander a rather hopeless look. “And that’s exactly how I feel,” Xander told him with a kind smile. “Let me talk to my mentor at the Stokes’ and then I’ll get in touch with you.”
Randall agreed with a shallow nod, but rather than taking that offer and leaving, he sat and quietly finished his coffee; as Spike observed, he understood the whole comfort thing a little better, and it wasn’t as obvious as it sounded. Xander did nothing more than keep Randall company, sipping his own coffee, and so relaxed it was reassuring; that seemed to filter through to the undersheriff, and Spike could see the worst of the superficial tension draining away.
Nothing more was said until Randall stood up to leave.
“Thank you for this,” Randall said, somewhat ambiguously, and Xander shook his hand again, holding it within both of his own for a few seconds.
Healing, Spike thought, healing hands. He didn’t know if that was true, but he didn’t want to ask, didn’t want to be disillusioned if he was wrong.
As Xander saw Randall out, Spike picked up the business card the man had left, tapping it with his thumbnail as he considered ripping it up. That wouldn’t stop Xander, naturally, it would be little more than a minor inconvenience when he needed the telephone number, but Spike was into gestures, grand or humble, providing they made a point. No point to make here: Xander’s face when he re-entered the room said it all, that he knew how Spike felt about this, that he was sorry for being the cause of those feelings, but he had to follow his conscience.
Xander tried to take the card from Spike but it was quickly tucked away in the back pocket of the vampire’s jeans; Xander attempted an apparently un-winning smile and felt the hefty weight of Spike’s disapproval.
“We going?” Spike asked flatly.
“Yeah. Just fetching my coat.”
“Are we coming back?”
“Umm… Right now, I have no intention of coming back.”
Xander began to move away but swerved in Spike’s direction, snatching up his hands and moving in close, pressing his cheek to Spike’s.
Unsure what the please was about, but suspecting it was more a plea for support than permission to carry on with the latest insane plan, Spike couldn’t respond as Xander wanted him to, so he didn’t respond at all. Xander’s head turned a little, his lips brushing Spike’s skin, again and again as they made their way to his mouth, and the contact became about need rather than support or permission or any other ridiculous notion. Spike kissed Xander back, hard and possessively, wanting to own him in this place, longing for this ownership to be witnessed, wishing someone…
“Oh, goodness, I’m so sorry to interrupt.”
…would prove that wishes…could indeed come true.
“I’m sorry, Hillary, we shouldn’t be doing this here,” Xander apologised as he extricated himself from Spike’s grasp, desperately hoping that Spike wasn’t going to overreact to any overreaction.
“You’re only young once,” the round little woman dismissed as she came to Xander and threw her arms around him in a mighty hug. “I was worried I’d miss you and you’d leave before I got a chance to say goodbye. It’s been wonderful to meet you, thank you for visiting us.” The hug transferred to a rather stunned Spike. “You too, Spike, I hope we didn’t make you feel too uncomfortable.”
“Er…no,” Spike lied, completely undermined by this show of affection.
“Xander, you must see Walt before you go.”
“I’m on my way now.”
The hug returned to Xander for a last squeeze, and then Hillary and Spike were left alone.
“Xander has such potential,” Hillary immediately enthused. “You must encourage his belief in himself and his abilities, he has it in him to be very special.”
“Special, yes,” Spike agreed with an uneasy smile: it was difficult to judge just how much encouragement would get Xander killed.
The visit by Hillary had thankfully managed to shift the inevitable fight over helping Randall onto the back burner, and the short journey to their motel was filled with discussion over the night’s readings, and Spike’s derogatory assessments of the other mediums. It felt completely disloyal, but Xander was still laughing when he climbed from the car and wandered off to stare out over the open land that flanked the motel.
Spike saw Xander’s fingers twitch in the familiar gesture of encouragement, and he strolled closer, always hoping for a visit from his mother but never allowing those hopes to build too high. Xander was aware of his approach, and moved away, step for step, keeping a greater distance than usual between them, unconsciously indicating to Spike how precarious this contact was.
When Xander eventually fell still, Spike waited a full five minutes before approaching.
“Paige. Covington. Willis,” Xander slowly spelled out.
Spike thought that over and shrugged.
“Tell me then,” he prompted. “Who or what is Paige Covington Willis?”
Xander hesitated momentarily before turning a devastated expression on Spike.
“The second victim.”
Chapter 22 Trust
Xander was silent for the best part of an hour, lost to his thoughts, to whatever the serial killer’s victim had put in his head. Spike ushered him inside and watched the turmoil on his friend’s face, pointlessly angry because, in his view, Xander was being exploited; he didn’t care if he blamed a dead girl or a live cop, and he would certainly have had no qualms about bundling Xander into the car and driving him out of this situation if there’d been a cat’s chance in hell that could happen.
Refusing to meet Spike’s eyes, Xander asked for Randall’s card, and Spike’s phone. There was a predictably frigid moment while he quietly waited, apparently never doubting for a moment that Spike would comply, and he was right: Spike eventually handed the goods over and proceeded to blatantly eavesdrop on Xander’s side of the conversation with the undersheriff.
“He’s on his way over,” a very subdued Xander told Spike as he handed back the phone.
“You think that’s wise?”
“I don’t know.” Xander paused uncomfortably. “Are you going to be…difficult…when he gets here?”
“What do you think?”
“Okay. Can’t blame you. I’ll go talk to him in his car.”
“No, you bloody-well won’t, I want to hear what you’re getting us into.”
“Me. Getting me into.”
“Very nice. Heaping ignorance upon stupidity.” Xander didn’t have the energy or the will to fight, he simply shrugged and went to look out of the window, waiting for Randall. “What did she say to you?” Xander’s tension level visibly stepped up and he gave a stiff shake of the head. “Horrible, was it?”
Spike heard the swallow from across the room.
“Yes,” Xander admittedly weakly.
“No passing out though?”
“She likely to come back when Randall’s here?”
Xander crossed and picked up the local paper, holding it out to Spike with a shaking hand; Tania Varley smiled at him from the front page.
“Right now—” Xander’s voice cracked and he took a sharp breath before trying again. “Right now she’s being tortured. Physically and mentally. She’s being raped. Physically and mentally. He will take her to the brink of death again and again to enjoy her continued terror. When he has broken her mind as thoroughly as he has broken her body he’ll kill her and…and just…dump her. He’ll—” Xander carefully folded the paper so Tania’s picture was obscured. “He’ll rape her with a broken branch, keep kicking it into her until…” Tears welled in Xander’s eye, and he turned his back on Spike. Despite being curious about the vampire’s continued silence, he couldn’t bear to look and see something that would destroy his faith in Spike. But he had to know. “You getting off on this?”
“Remembering what you said about Dawn, actually. Thinking that, under other circumstances, I’d like to get my hands on this…person.” Xander jumped as Spike’s fingers rested on his biceps, thumbs caressing, just for a few seconds before he enveloped Xander in a hug, leaning his chin on his shoulder. “I don’t object to you asking that. Just so’s you know.”
Xander appreciated the strength at his back and gave himself over to Spike, creaking in satisfaction as the embrace grew a little firmer.
“I must try to help her. If I don’t I won’t be able to live with myself.”
“I wish you felt it too. That need.”
“I do, and if I were here by myself I wouldn’t hesitate to get stuck in. But I’m not by myself, and you matter more.” Xander tilted his head and kissed Spike. “What’s that for?”
“You want to shout at me for being stupid and instead you’re having to be reasonable. And…nice.”
“Oi, less of the nice. That’s a rotten thing to call a demon.”
Xander squirmed around and returned the hug, holding Spike so tightly – desperately tightly – that Spike couldn’t prevent the low rumbling growl that accompanied the surge of protectiveness.
“Can you not make sex noises while I’m having a breakdown?” Xander requested politely, causing Spike to chuckle as he buried his face in Xander’s neck. “In twenty years time,” Xander continued, “when I finally get another date, it’s going to last as long as it takes for me to say, ‘And when we fuck, can you go…grr?’”
Spike forced aside the obvious reaction to Xander’s potential unfaithfulness two decades hence and leaned back to meet his eye, running his fingers through the man’s dark hair and linking his fingers at the rear of his head, easing him into an affectionate rather than passionate kiss.
“Do I do that then? Much?”
“Some. When you forget not to. Goes with the flash of yellow in your eyes before you remember not to show more of that face.”
“Do you mind?” Spike asked, certainly more nonchalantly than he felt.
“I’m getting used to it.”
“Do you mind having to?”
Xander shook his head and pressed himself back into a tight hug.
“It’s what gives me peace. Keeps me safe. And it’s…you. The real you. I’m always aware that this mask isn’t the real you, and I don’t like that you think you have to hide from me. I know how that feels.”
Xander was reluctantly eased a few inches away, to be confronted by Spike in full game face. It was the first time that Xander had been this close to the demon’s true appearance and given time to study the distorted features; he did so with undisguised interest, smiling at how scared of this he’d been, once upon a time.
“Tell me. Am I hot, or have your balls crawled back into your body?”
“Hey, whatever, you’re still prettier than me.”
Not. Going. There.
“State the obvious, why don’t you? I was always prettier than you. With my head in a bucket of pig shit I’d be prettier than you. If I wiped my face down with the contents of a diseased chicken’s gizzards I’d be…”
“I get it, yes, stop,” Xander insisted with a suitable grimace.
“But am I hot?”
Xander considered that.
“I guess.” He closed the narrow gap between them and tried a light, experimental kiss. “I guess…you’re always hot.”
Xander started at the rap on their door; Spike kept hold of him and the once again human face gave him a reassuring peck.
“And just when you were being nicely distracted by my magnificent phizog.”
All of Xander’s good humour had evaporated, and he nervously found and squeezed Spike’s hands.
“Wait till he’s gone to give me a hard time. Please?”
“That’s not an easy ask, Love.”
“This meeting will be five minutes at most, you can wait five minutes.”
Xander’s eye pleaded, and Spike caved as far as he was going to in the circumstances.
“I’ll do my best.”
Xander settled for that and, taking a deep breath, crossed and opened the door for John Randall, shaking his hand and drawing him inside. The undersheriff gave Spike a grim smile as he entered the room, following Xander’s anxious gestures and sitting in the room’s single armchair, refusing an offer of coffee and staring expectantly at the medium.
“Paige Covington Willis,” Xander said as he sat on the edge of the nearest bed. “No-one ever uses the Covington, do they? It hasn’t been in the newspapers or on the TV. I think she gave me that as evidentiary material.”
Regardless of what Randall may or may not have been expecting, he looked quite stunned.
“You’ve spoken to her?”
“She’s spoken to me.”
“Did she say who…”
“It was a short contact, short but…explicit. Her greatest need was to relay her passing conditions.”
“You didn’t ask her about the man?”
“It doesn’t really work that way.”
“Did she say…”
“If you’ll shut up and listen,” Spike couldn’t help snapping, “Xander will tell you what happened.”
“I need answers.”
“You might get some if you let Xander get a word in edgeways.”
“Guys!” Spike and Randall fell quiet, and they exchanged a tense look before Spike dropped onto the bed, lounging behind Xander and belying his relaxed body language with the steely glare he fixed on the cop. “Finished?” Xander asked, dividing the question between the two, not inclined to be disrespectful to Randall, but too uptight to be pressurised or squabbled over. “Okay.” Xander’s attention switched exclusively to Randall. “I appreciate the urgency, why else would I have I called you tonight? But I get what I’m given and right now there isn’t anything that appears to be any use in catching the killer.”
“Why am I here then?”
“I’m fairly sure I’ll get more, and want to know how you’d prefer me to proceed if I do. Do you need me to talk to the sheriff? You implied he’d be less than sympathetic to this approach.”
“There are certain…issues…with the sheriff.”
“He doesn’t like psychics,” Xander accepted.
“Beyond that…” Randall looked appraisingly from Xander to Spike and back. “Would I be right in thinking that the two of you are in a relationship?”
“What makes you think that?” Xander asked, trying to be ambiguous but knowing exactly how obvious it was, especially here in this room: one bed for sleeping, the other effectively a storage facility.
“What are you about to tell us?” Spike asked. “That you still lynch homosexuals in these parts?”
“The sheriff, although he’s a fine man in many respects and good at his job, is not what you could call open-minded.”
“So…” Xander extrapolated, “it’d be bad enough having a medium on the case, but having a gay medium…”
“We’re on the same page,” Randall finally smiled. “Now, no-one can blame two people who are completely comfortable with one another…”
“We’re not about to out ourselves, accidentally or otherwise,” Xander assured, “if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“How about we simply avoid him?” suggested Spike. “Neither of us wants to get publicly involved so, as far as possible, we’ll stay away from the main enquiry, only deal with you.”
Randall looked positively relieved that Spike had offered up the solution he himself was getting around to, and he rifled through his pockets to find a different card to the one he’d previously handed over. This had his cell number, plus his home phone and address.
“You may think I’m pandering to his prejudices, and…yes, I am. But if you discover anything that will crack this case I want it taken seriously. I’m the man who’ll do that, not the sheriff.”
“Want me to move?” Spike asked Xander quietly. “So you can check if she’s around now?”
“No, it’s pointless. What Paige showed me… It’s left me upset and unfocused, I’m not going to be any use until I’ve had time to meditate, clear my head, sleep, find some energy, you name it, I probably need it.” Xander’s attention went back to Randall. “Did you mind me asking you to come here? I didn’t want this conversation on the phone.”
“No objections at all. In fact…I’m daring to feel a little hopeful.”
“I’ll try not to let you down.”
Spike saw Randall out, walking him to his car, lingering to discuss various points of the case. Xander got into the shower and distractedly washed himself, feeling so much better now he’d spoken to the undersheriff and allowing himself to be preoccupied with being ‘in a relationship’ with Spike, and fairly obviously if Randall’s observation was anything to go by. Although he was a cop, and paid to be observant. Still. ‘In a relationship.’ Xander loved that, hated it, was truthfully quite afraid as all the attachment fears resurfaced and doubled and trebled because there didn’t seem any easy way back from the point he’d got to. Loved it some more as he thought of Christmas, with his friends, with Spike, going home at the end of the evening and not alone for the first time in years. Hated it some more when he thought of the first bleak and lonely days of January, with Simone’s knowing looks, and Henry fussing over him and asking where Spike was and Xander having to explain the painful obvious.
In a relationship. Nonsense, of course. Friends who fuck was closer to the mark. Then why did it give him such a thrill when he imagined being in his own bed with Spike, and fu… And making love with him?
“Because it’s a fantasy,” he whispered to himself. “And fantasies thrill. Real life…”
“What about it?” Spike stepped in behind Xander and resisted pressing his near-freezing body against Xander’s, deciding that shocking the man to death would rather ruin his night. Xander finally stopped swearing under his breath. “Sorry. Make you jump, did I?” Spike grinned. “Least I kept the cold to myself.”
“I used to say to the girls, the way Angel crept around, he needed a collar with a bell. I may have to put that into practise with you.”
Spike risked Xander’s reaction and closed in.
“Fuck! You’re a popsicle, get off me!”
“How about some fancy scrap of leather tied round my balls?” Spike purred as Xander’s resistance crumbled. “To match my collar? Or maybe match those fantasies you were thinking of.”
“I wasn’t thinking about that kind of fantasy,” Xander admitted, braving the chill factor and leading Spike’s hand to his stiffening cock. “It was stupid smushy stuff.”
“I can be smushy. What do you want?”
“Oh, y’know… The house with the white picket fence, roses around the door, beautiful wife who adores me, lots of cute babies…”
“I know where we can buy some babies,” Spike helpfully offered.
Xander ignored what he suspected was a genuine proposition and concentrated on the sensation of Spike’s slippery fist slowly and fastidiously working his erection, trying not to be sidetracked by words, or the fresh rash of goosebumps that rippled over his skin when Spike gently bit on his nape, or the stiff cock that was rubbing itself in the crease of his buttocks. But the stiff cock won the day.
“Are you going to fuck me, Spike?” Xander asked breathily, perversely enjoying being both scared and excited as he felt Spike’s rigid flesh twitch against him at the proposal.
“No simple answer to that.”
“You want to?”
“Only to the extent that I could come right now, just at the thought. Unless this is your way of deferring the row we’re supposed to be having.”
“I say don’t help Randall, you say bugger off, I pace and shout, you whinge and glare, I accuse you of acting like a stroppy bint, you call me a Neanderthal, I go on about the mission, you go on about mankind, I shut up and sulk, you say it’s so typical: my way or no way, I protest that I’ve been a pushover at every turn, you say you’ll be glad when this is over so you don’t have to put up with me any more, I say you don’t mean that, and you pin me to the wall and insist that you really…really…really… Don’t.”
“Wow. I’m just glad I finally made up my mind.”
“Although there’s always a chance you could be trying to fuck your way back into my good books.”
“And I’d have to be very cross about it.”
“You’d turn down the sex?”
“Steady on, I said cross not insane.”
“So you are going to fuck me?”
“No simple answer to that,” Spike reiterated, arriving back where he started.
“You sure you’re not insane? We’re not insane? I think I must be.”
“Do you like sex with me?”
“Then no, you’re not crazy, you’re a man of impeccable taste.” Spike gave Xander’s cock a last squeeze before letting go, ignoring the moan of displeasure and sliding his hands onto Xander’s buttocks, hearing the moan become a gasp as he tightened his grasp and prised the muscular cheeks apart. Dipping his body, Spike lined up the tip of his cock with Xander’s opening, resting it there and admiring the view. “Think about it, Love. Soon I’ll be licking you, opening you up so my tongue and more can have you; playing with you…” His fingers flexed. “…until you’re far beyond simply being ready to take me, you’ll be desperate to feel my prick inside you.”
“I know. I know you’re right.”
Xander’s hand had already taken up where Spike’s had left off and he was caught between waiting and sharing, and the pressing desire to climax, fighting the need to stroke just a little harder because, right now, just a little was all he’d need. He snatched his hand away as he felt Spike begin to rub against him, glans sliding in a slicker liquid than water. And, talking of water, where did it go, when did Spike— Ah, who gave a damn?
“I can feel your excitement. Tiny shudders, spasms in your muscles when I…” Spike added a slight pressure and Xander fought the automatic reaction of his body that insisted on repelling this invader. “Touch yourself.”
“That’s all right. I’m going to come all over you any second.”
The touches resumed, Xander’s body angle and attitude changing as he leant his free arm against the wall for balance, unintentionally offering Spike a little more access.
“Any second?” he whispered hoarsely.
“Seeing this, my prick ready to own your arse. Oh, Love, want to be inside you. Want to feel you come on my cock.”
“Oh, yeah, any second,” Xander half-laughed, half-choked as he battled to retain the last of his self-control.
“Xander. Xander. Going to fuck you so well.”
Spike couldn’t resist the nudge that allowed the head of his cock to make a very minor breach, and as the tip penetrated wrinkled flesh his left hand urgently shifted from Xander’s cheek onto his own cock; in three furious jerks the semen was pulsing out of him, the cool, creamy jets trying their best to pummel a way into Xander’s body and, as Xander felt that, he couldn’t stop himself squirming against Spike as he urgently pumped himself, succumbing to the extraordinarily erotic sensation and spattering his own release over the tiles.
Clenched muscles loosening in a hormonal rush, Xander collapsed against the wall, barely holding himself up as his head fell heavily forward onto his forearm, and certainly unable to find the energy to pour scorn upon the pathetic noises that emerged from his throat as Spike exploited his lassitude and gently probed his body with a delicate touch, finger slippery with spent semen.
“You feel that?” Spike spoke quietly as he moved his finger; Xander moaned. “That’s me, inside you. Not so scary, eh?”
“Doesn’t hurt, does it?”
“Bit weird, yes, to start with. Then you get used to it. Then you get to like it. Get to love it even, when you’re done as nicely as you do me.”
“When first? For you?”
Spike’s finger was withdrawn and his hands encircled Xander’s chest, prising him off the wall and holding him close.
“Little while after I was turned. Dru liked to watch, and she always got what she wanted.”
“Not him, no. She couldn’t order Angelus about, could she? No pecking order working in her favour there.”
“Never with him?”
“Well…one time, when he lost a bet to Darla, but it was just a fumble, nothing more.”
“You mean— Tell me you weren’t the actual stake.”
“Don’t take umbrage on my account, it was all a laugh back then.”
“What did you have to do for him?” Xander asked charily.
“Nah, Love.” Spike grinned wickedly to himself. “He lost the bet, remember.”
“Oh. Ohh. Okay. Okay. No, still not okay. Not okay but better. I guess. And these men that Dru wanted to watch you with?”
“Just blokes she’d pick up. If her William had been a good boy he got to top, if he’d been a bad boy he’d get fucked.”
“So horrible that I enjoyed every minute. Don’t underestimate how flexible I am.”
“No, I mean that she’d pick up complete strangers and…and…make you do stuff.”
Spike turned Xander around and tried to stroke the concern from his face.
“Listen, it wasn’t a problem.”
“No. No but.” Spike gave Xander a sympathetic kiss. “Bloody venereal diseases. You never got the chance to put it about like a cat on heat, did you? There’s something very liberating about mindless sex with a string of people whose names you never discover. Even if you don’t use their blood supply to satisfy the post-shag munchies.”
“Doesn’t appeal to me.”
“But when you were…seventeen?”
Xander thought and sighed.
“Thank God I’ll never be seventeen again.”
Spike inched them aside and turned on the water, guiding Xander back under the stream when it was warm and pouring a handful of soap to wash him with.
“I think we can safely say that I am going to fuck you,” he told Xander in a considered tone, and Xander simply nodded. “Not going to make a fuss?”
“Probably. At the time.”
“Thanks for the notice.”
Xander pulled Spike into a kiss, hands rising to set about what they’d been itching to do for days: demolish the gel that kept Spike’s hair in place. Even damp it proved to be a fruitless endeavour as this appeared to be industrial grade, and Spike resisted the attempts to bring him further under the spray.
“Let me wash your hair,” Xander requested the moment their lips parted.
“I look like a sheep.”
“You look like an angel, you ass.”
“An angel?” Spike repeated with surprise.
“Obviously not the Angel, seeing as you’re missing the brow that small children shelter from storms under.” Spike laughed and Xander almost did, his broad smile fading to something far more sentimental as he continued. “That morning after the Marcie business. I woke up and just…stared at you. No gel you. It’s the greatest irony, it’s a…a…mockery of all that’s sacred, but you, Spike, hair gel surgically removed, have the face of an angel.”
“Like it, do you? The face?”
Xander brought his hands forward to delicately trace the vampire’s eyebrows and cheekbones. Jaw. Mouth. Following the path of his fingers with an appreciative gaze.
“It’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful face.” Spike may have been teasing when he pressed for compliments, but he was genuinely moved by Xander’s sincere response, and he hugged the man to him in a bid to disguise his emotions. The tense hug soon softened into a cuddle, and Xander grinned to himself as the vampire snuggled and rocked. “Can I wash your hair before we’re out of hot water?”
“If you won’t think I look a fool.”
“I can honestly say that’s not what I’ll be thinking.”
Xander wet Spike’s hair and poured a fifth of a bottle of shampoo directly onto the white-blond cap, working up an overabundant lather and massaging with his fingertips, concentrating on liberating every strand. Spike stood patiently, head bowed forward and hands on Xander’s waist, anxiously analysing why this felt more intimate than most of their sexual encounters.
“What will you be thinking?” he eventually asked, just to get past the moment.
“I’ll be thinking… How good it is to touch your hair without breaking any nails or grazing my knuckles. Or… How much you trust me ‘cause this is a big deal for some reason I probably don’t want to know. I’ll be thinking…”
“Baaaaaaa,” Spike bleated, and Xander laughed.
“Or maybe I won’t be thinking at all, I’ll just be drooling over the pretty guy about to fuck me.”
One of Spike’s hands left Xander’s waist to pay a little attention to his cock and balls, a stroke here, light scrape of nails there, and Xander was practically dancing a rumba to avoid the persistent fingers.
“Don’t you like me doing this?”
“I’m trying to concentrate.”
“And I’m trying to train your prick.”
“Gradually cutting down your recovery time, haven’t you noticed?”
“I, er…” Xander thought about it as he brought Spike back under the water and thoroughly rinsed his hair. “Yeah,” he agreed, not having much choice as he was already hardening again in Spike’s hand.
“When I’m trying not to blind you with shampoo? Kinda.”
Xander sucked in a sharp breath as Spike rubbed the particularly sensitive bundle of nerves below the head of his cock.
“Oh, fuck… Who am I fooling? Welcome to Blind Club.”
“Am I done?”
“Uh… Uh-huh.” Xander’s hands accompanied Spike’s hair downwards, and this was as good as he’d imagined, being able to bury his fingers in the loose waves as Spike sucked him. Trained him? “You really think you can train a penis?” he asked, somewhat breathlessly. “You figure out that equation and there are a few million teenage boys who’ll pay for it.”
Spike released Xander's cock with a wet slurp.
“Course it’s trainable. It’s got a head…” His tongue tickled Xander’s glans. “…so it must have a brain. If it’s got a brain I can teach it.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. How many times have you heard a guy say their dick has a mind of its own?”
Spike stood and turned off the cooling water.
“Give me a week or two and I could train you to last six hours. Last six hours and be ready for more in half-an-hour.”
“I don’t want to last six hours. And I really don’t want you to last six hours. I’m actually enjoying not having to worry about stuff like that.”
“Like what?” Spike asked, knowing full well.
Xander wrapped his hand around Spike’s erection and relished the feel of this unequivocal statement.
“Like… Knowing you’re horny. Not having to hope or guess or work at it for an hour before you decide you’re not, just…knowing. Knowing, too, that you’re going to come, simply because it’s so damn easy to make a guy come.”
“Shall we get out of here so you can prove it?”
Xander began to slowly pump Spike’s cock.
“You think we need to go anywhere?”
“I like you on the bed, that’s all.”
“Nice and safe,” Xander grinned. “Not about to pass out with lust and bust my world-saving head on the tiles.”
“Something like that.”
They dried off, Spike deliberately taking his time so he could watch Xander’s naked form wander over to the bed, appreciating the play of muscles as Xander rotated his shoulder, loosening up the healing joint before stretching up to test his sore side. A slight wince and groan before he relaxed and climbed onto the bed, falling onto his front and…surely that beautifully available backside was an open invitation?
Spike left his hair dripping, not wanting to encourage the curls by towelling it dry, and followed Xander, lying alongside him and stroking his back, shoulders to the enticing dip above the swell of his buttocks. He couldn’t fail to miss the huge waves of apprehension Xander was exuding.
Spike tugged on Xander’s hair.
“Turn your head.”
Xander did as he was asked, but his eye remained tightly closed.
“Open your eyes. Eye. Sorry.”
“It’s okay, I still think eyes.”
“Open your eye.”
“No. I’m pretending you’re Johnny Depp.”
“Warning you now, you’re on very thin ice.” Only a playful threat; Xander opened his eye and matched Spike, grin for grin. “Have you changed your mind?” Spike asked as his smile softened.
Xander immediately turned his head away again.
“No,” he replied without conviction. “I mean…you won’t hurt me.”
“And you’ll stop if I ask.”
“We don’t have to do this.”
Xander shuffled around to face Spike, slipping an arm around him and hugging him tightly.
“I want to do this for you.”
“Not for me. It has to be for us, Love, or what’s the point?”
“Us. I meant us.”
“I’m not going to hurt you. Or make you feel you have to have me.” Spike stroked Xander’s side, keeping his caresses affectionate but non-sexual. “Haven’t you noticed? You mean the world to me, Xander.”
“Don’t say that.”
“But it’s true.”
“It’s what iffable, and I can’t have that.”
“Over when it’s over. Say it, remind me.” Spike vehemently shook his head. “Over when it’s over.”
“Doesn’t mean I can’t care about you while we’re…”
“No!” Xander snapped, pulling away to the far edge of the bed and successfully fending off Spike’s attempts to reconnect. “Stop that, I can’t think that there’s the possibility of anything more to this. No what iffing, I promised myself.”
“What if I want to be what iffed?”
“How does that work out? You fool around with my emotions and have me what iffing like crazy, then it’s over and we’re over and you’re done with me ‘cause, faced with the real me and my real life, you’re bored, and you take off and I’m left feeling more fucked over than fucked. My way is better.”
“I’m not going to…”
“Any more of this and we’re not even in the same bed tonight.”
“For fuck’s sake…”
“Say it, or…or…I get my own room.” Spike glared at Xander, sullen and sexy and missing the fact that the pout alone could guarantee him Xander’s cooperation if it were exploited. “Say it,” Xander insisted with demonstrably less surety.
“Over when it’s over,” Spike muttered, unhappily tense now. “Over when it’s over, and if you believe that you’re a bigger idiot than I ever thought you were before I didn’t think you were.”
“Er…okay. I think.” Xander replayed Spike’s last sentence. “Yeah, okay.” He closed the gap that he’d created between them, and his fingers toyed with the light treasure trail of hair that descended from Spike’s navel. “So… We having some of that no longer just sex? Or are we…”
“If you’re being that inflexible with me, then I’m going to fuck you. Because you said so, and what you say apparently goes. Want to argue over that now?”
Shock flickered over Xander’s face, but only momentarily.
“No. And…yeah. Yeah, you’re right.”
“Of course I’m bloody right.”
Pressing Xander onto his back, Spike leaned in to kiss him, hard, distracting kisses as he started to play with Xander’s cock, rapidly renewing the man’s interest. An equally businesslike fondling of Xander’s balls was followed by the first touch to his perineum, careful pressure stimulating the root of his cock and his prostate. Xander jerked out of the kiss to let himself gasp in a few very necessary breaths, forcing himself to calm down so he didn’t miss a second of the vampire’s progress. He felt Spike hesitate and that alone ousted the potential panic attack.
“I trust you, Spike. You promised you wouldn’t hurt me, and I trust you.”
A very minor trust perhaps, when compared to the huge trust that was Xander trusting Spike to keep him alive and safe, but at that moment, equally as crucial. It was Xander that reached for the lube, shakily opening it and spreading it on Spike’s hand; it was Xander who opened his legs and, however difficult it was, dodgy shoulder shouting out, insistently pushed Spike’s fingers into the crease of his buttocks.
“This’d be a lot more erotic if it felt like lust rather than desperation.”
“It is lust.”
“No. I’ll show you lust.”
Spike pushed Xander’s hands away and settled between his thighs, wiping the lubricant off them both with a handful of sheet.
“What? You think I’m going to fuck you dry?”
“I don’t know what you’re doing.”
Xander’s legs were pushed up to his chest and he firstly sucked in a breath at the feeling of being so exposed, secondly because of the truly erotic sensation of Spike’s tongue lapping at the entrance to his body.
“Fuck, yes, more.”
“Where are your manners?” Spike teased.
“Please. Please. Pleeeeea—” The word was swallowed by a moan as Spike’s tongue penetrated the outer ring of muscles; gripping a buttock in each hand, Spike spread Xander as far as possible and began to very deliberately fuck him with his tongue. “Oh…fuck. Spike. Yes. Lust, get it.” Spike’s fingers slid across and, once again, massaged his prostate through his perineum. Xander tried not to squirm at the sensory overload, wanting more of Spike, either to touch him or kiss him or… “Fuck.” The thought of having Spike’s cock in his mouth was almost too much. “Stop, stop, stop.”
“Problem, Love?” Spike asked innocently as his face popped into view.
“Jesus, fucking hell, yes!”
“Two minutes and you’re a quivering wreck. How’re you going to be when I’ve done this for an hour?”
“Dead. I’ll be dead.”
“Is this your overly melodramatic way of asking for a breather?”
“I want more of you. I – I want to suck you.”
“Well…okay. But bear in mind that the next time you suck me I intend to come in your mouth so I can taste myself there.”
“Make up your mind.” Spike’s tongue flicked at Xander’s opening once again, and Xander manfully whimpered. “Make up your mind or I’ll make it up for you.”
“My decision and I’m going to have this wonderful arse of yours, you know that.”
Xander gave a frantic nod.
Spike’s finger probed the loosened muscles, gently fucking for a moment before rubbing over Xander’s prostate.
Spike’s thumb pressed on Xander’s perineum, and he gently squeezed the swollen gland from inside and out.
“Nice that, innit?” Xander gave up on restraint, letting his legs drop and reaching for his cock, only to have his hand smacked away. “That’s a lovely hard prick you’ve got there. And it’s all mine, so…”
“Now you’re getting the idea.”
“I am? Ohh… Right,” Xander panted, lust-addled brain finally having figured it out. Consent. “Please, Spike, fuck me.”
Spike found the tube and dripped lubricant on his finger as it slid in and out, and when there was enough he added a second finger, and finally a third, listening to Xander’s vast array of huffs and puffs and indescribable little noises that denoted sexual pleasure, feeling each and every one in his heart and his groin. Xander had struggled to watch the process but had soon given up, eye clenched shut as he laid back and wallowed in the new sensations, and Spike knew that it would be a mean thing to turn the man over to fuck him, even if it would be easier for him that way. Besides, he was as bad as Xander on this, he wanted to look into the face of the man he was fucking and see— Anything other than what he’d seen the last time he’d been inside him.
He eased his fingers out and knelt between Xander’s thighs, generously preparing Xander’s body with yet more lubricant before dousing his own cock. Xander was leaning up and watching again, chest heaving, eye black with desire and shining in anticipation. Spike gave Xander a tight, horny smile, and received a charged look in return: it was all he could do not to come on the spot. A couple of shuffled steps on his knees and he was touching the tip of his cock to Xander’s body; Xander immediately reached for him, wanting to be closer than this, and Spike obliged him by falling forward onto one elbow, reassuring him with a kiss before gradually pressing his hips forward, experiencing Xander’s tremor as he was finally breached. Spike paused as he felt the man’s muscles spasm around his cock.
“I am. I am.”
Xander shook his head.
Spike did, taking his time to slide into the searing heat, and he was breathing as hard as Xander by the time their bodies touched.
Xander shook his head again, more emphatically.
“I could come from just…knowing,” Xander tried to explain what he was feeling, and Spike, experiencing a whole lot of empathy, understood perfectly.
The first tentative movements and Xander was clinging to Spike, kissing him feverishly, fingers knotting in the sensually damp hair, not fully comprehending his physical and emotional reaction to this intrusion but knowing he wanted more and hating it as Spike’s cock started to withdraw. Not for long though: he tilted his hips up to meet Spike’s slow, slow inward stroke and that was… “Fuck!” …pretty good, and he laughed into the kiss.
“Nice?” Spike smiled as he pulled back a little to witness Xander’s pleasure.
“Nice,” Xander confirmed, gasping, giggling, stroking his fingers through and through the loose waves that framed this wonderful face, and deep inside, far deeper than Spike’s cock, adoring this man, vampire, demon, whatever, adoring him for this moment alone.
“Good. I think…” Spike said, giving a thoughtful nod, “I think I’ll make you come now.” Xander laughed and Spike grinned. “Bear that, could you?”
“Oh, Baby,” Xander sighed, and Spike laughed too.
Keenly watching Xander’s reactions for any sign of discomfort, Spike began to move again, gradually building up speed but never force, and it was only when Xander instinctively bucked up to meet him that he took his own advice and began to relax, lowering his body onto Xander’s and experiencing an enjoyable twinge when he felt the wetness on his belly from Xander’s leaking cock. Several kisses were missed before he realised that Xander had very deliberately turned his face aside.
Xander mindlessly rubbed himself on Spike until a hand on his hip prevented him.
Even now Xander’s head didn’t turn back.
The hand left Xander’s hip to cup Xander’s chin and bring his face around; the resistance was impossible to miss.
“Look at me.” Xander did, warily. “Love… You may be refusing to notice it, but I am mad about your body. Every hair on your head to every toenail, all the bits in between, every inch, every fraction of every inch. There’s nothing you need to hide.”
Xander was already turning away again.
“It’s so ugly close up.”
“No.” Spike brought Xander’s face back, and he gently covered the damaged socket with his palm to make this easier for Xander. “Want a little of that honesty you used to like so much?”
“I— I don’t know.”
“Handsome as you are, it isn’t physical beauty that draws me to you.”
“See, now you’re saying I’m ugly,” Xander weakly joked.
“I’m saying…the way you look is a bonus. Big bonus.” Spike removed his hand, taking his time to stroke Xander’s brow with his thumb, leaning in to place a kiss at the outer corner of the withered lids. “You have no reason to doubt me.”
Perfectly true, but not something Xander could accept in an instant. He shook off Spike’s attentions and reached down to grab his backside, squeezing encouragingly.
“Make me forget about it,” he demanded. “Fuck me.”
Spike rolled and thrust his hips and Xander was soon transported to a much happier place, back to his gruff, horny noises as Spike pushed a few boundaries and found Xander as resilient and obliging as he’d suspected, matching every action with an energetic and enthusiastic response. It seemed barely any time at all before Xander was yanking on his own cock, arching his back and freezing as his orgasm ripped through him, all the encouragement Spike needed to ditch the self-control and let himself come too, and he joyfully fucked the essence of his ownership deep into Xander’s quivering body.
Spike woke an hour later because he knew he was alone. Out of the bed and ready to kill, he found Xander wandering outside and was immediately ushered back to their room.
“Clothes, Spike, clothes. Indoors: naked; outdoors: clothes,” Xander spelt out.
“What were you doing out there?”
“Listening for Paige.”
“You should be sleeping.”
“She didn’t come back, thanks for asking, and I’m only totally concerned that she may not manage it at all.”
Spike debated bed versus clothes, and grumpily pulled on his jeans.
“She’ll be back.”
“Yep. It’s the last thing I want so of course she’ll be back.” Xander took off his coat and hung it up, wandering restlessly around the room as Spike scrutinised the body language that announced Xander’s tightly wound state. “Want to go out somewhere? There’s a few hours before sun-up.”
“Want me to keep out of your way?”
“Want me…” Spike shrugged and Xander smiled again. “Want me?”
The restless wandering brought Xander to Spike, and he took the vampire’s chilly fingers and briskly rubbed them. Then, having been paying close attention to the lessons Spike unknowingly taught, brought them to his mouth and kissed them. The last question still lingered in the air between them, was held in Spike’s eyes; Xander couldn’t avoid answering.
“I, um… I can’t imagine not,” he said stiltedly, immediately wondering if that sentence made sense.
Spike casually moved a little closer, seductively dropping his voice.
“Did you enjoy me?”
The turn of phrase made Xander tingle, and he had to concentrate hard on answering.
“You. It. It was…” Xander stopped to think, groping for the right word. “Powerful,” he settled for. “It was so…powerful.”
One hand freed itself to stroke Xander’s jaw.
“You feel all right? Physically?”
“I’m a little sore, which is okay. And inside I kinda…ache.” Xander saw Spike’s concern. “And that’s…that’s…great.”
“I wanted to have sex with you, and I wanted to know it. I kinda…ache, and that’s fine for me, and…and…letting the subconscious know who’s the boss here, that’s good too.”
“Yes, the sooner it knows it’s me, the better.”
“Funny guy. I hope. How do you feel?”
“How possessive, you mean?” Xander gave a shallow nod. “I feel…” The glib reply that was meant to reassure Xander refused to make its entrance. “I feel…” Oh, fuck, honesty. This is not the time for honesty. “Instinctively it was there: the knowledge I was staking my claim, making you mine.”
“Okay,” Xander said quietly. “You told me that would…”
“Wait. I…” Spike gently kissed Xander and gave him a hug, kept hugging him until some of the tension dissipated. “Your acceptance of me,” Spike whispered, “willing acceptance, your affection— You don’t mind if I say that?”
“Say the truth? No. My affection…?”
“Beyond my instincts, the urge to possess, the need is…is….nothing, it’s dwindled to nothing.”
“Does that mean…” Spike could hear the confused frown in Xander’s voice. “That you, demony you, doesn’t wa— No, you do want me, I know you do. Umm… You do, don’t you? You want to fuck me again?”
“Do I…? Is this a trick question?”
Xander eased himself far enough away to see Spike’s face, searching it for clues.
“What does it mean?”
“Bugger,” Spike sighed. “Brace yourself for smushy.”
“Smushy I can deal with right now, I’m just not looking forward to you telling me that you instinctively own me but, in a remarkably badly timed show of demonic fickleness, are dumping me.”
“What I’m trying to say… You accepting me, giving yourself willingly, it’s…it’s… Fuck! I can’t do this.”
Spike began to pull away but Xander jerked him back.
“Tell me. I want to hear this, I promise no what iffing, I simply…”
“I’ve never had anything quite like this before,” Spike admitted crossly, “and I appreciate the fact that you don’t have to own me, or have an ulterior motive, or be a possession to be with me, all right?”
“And you’re mad about that?”
“Then stop sounding mad about it. I want my smushy to sound smushy!”
Spike scowled and Xander glared, but it wasn’t long before the corners of Xander’s mouth began to twitch, and the effect was highly infectious. Spike shook his head and laughed at himself.
“Right, I’m taking requests.”
“Tell me the sex was good.”
“The sex was great.”
“Yeah?” Xander grinned. Spike eloquently twitched his eyebrows; Xander inched in, gradually bringing him and Spike back together. “Be better still with a little more practise.”
“And it would be churlish of me to stand in the way of your quest for perfection,” Spike agreed with perfectly delivered benevolence.
The last of the gap between them disappeared instantly, and they contentedly teased each other with fleeting kisses and touches, giggling as they made their way to the bed.
“Wanna play with the camera?” Xander asked, and his face was such a picture of sheer naughtiness that Spike barely resisted throwing him down and having him on the spot.
Spike jumped onto the bed and turned back to bombard Xander’s senses with his photogenic gorgeousness. But Xander’s senses were already on full alert, his expression was completely focused – and not on Spike – fingers flicking as he invited a spirit to come forward.
“Come on, Sweetheart, you can do this, you can do it. … Help her. … C’mon, Paige, be strong for me, come on… … That’s right, you can, I’m here for you, I… … Paige? … Saul, please…” Spike briefly witnessed the despair on Xander’s face before it morphed into determination and the man was rushing from the room. “I’ve seen that, I’ve seen it, somewhere along the route we took to get here, I’ve seen it.”
“Wait.” Spike caught up and grabbed Xander’s sleeve, pulling him to a halt as he headed for the road. “What have you seen?”
“She showed me. There’s a…a…formation, a formation, rocks, trees, quite distinctive, I saw it on the way here, I’ll figure out where it was, it has to be our starting point.”
“Xander, the idea was for you to advise, not go wandering off…”
Xander tugged his arm free.
“I’m going to help Tania and I don’t care what it takes.”
A long, tense pause followed, neither of them able to look at the other, until Xander took an audible breath to speak and Spike simply snapped,
“Paige trusts me.”
“For fuck’s sake, Xander!”
Annoyed, yes, but Spike’s voice was tinged with a fatal hint of weakness. Xander pounced.
“Hey,” he started, overly brightly, some might say desperately, “you know you get those moments in a movie when one character says to another something like, ‘I will never, never, never let you do that in a million years’, and in the very next scene…”