Manifestation by Lazuli Kat



Chapter 27 Heaven

It had felt like a long night, certainly in respect of prising Spike from his bolt hole in the bathroom and back to the vicinity of the bed.  Bearing in mind what Spike had insisted he wanted, Xander was nevertheless unsurprised when all sexual advances were shakily rejected, Spike feebly joking about the monstrous whore belatedly mending his ways.

Xander was left ruminating over family and the power of blood ties, the lifelong consequences of mistreating a child, all displayed here in vivid and painful clarity.  With his presently biased sensibilities it was heartrending to see William the Bloody, Master vampire and once scourge of Europe, reduced to a quivering wreck by a malicious rant from his long dead and clearly still unbalanced earthly father and, despite Xander’s education and belief in tolerance and acceptance, if he could have found a way to punish Edmund he would have done so without a second thought.

Well, okay, maybe a second thought, and possibly even a third, but no internal arguments in Edmund’s defence would have been seriously considered, and there would have been very little danger of leaning toward objectivity in any shape or form.  Xander knew he was dangerously ‘heart over head’ right now, and so pro-Spike that it made him smile at his irresponsibility, tingle with varied kinds of excitement, and be scared him silly, all at once.  It definitely brought out the best and the worst in him, and that worst would need to be addressed.

Weighed down by his part in Spike’s troubles and, thanks to Edmund, feeling a level of vindictiveness and disharmony that was thankfully alien to him in his usual life, Xander crept from the bed once he was certain that Spike was finally asleep, and composed himself for some much-needed meditation in a bid to re-establish his emotional and spiritual equilibrium.

Xander found himself smiling as he emerged from his meditative state, knowing from the silence that Spike was near to him.  Anticipating the usual kind of welcome back he received, he was surprised to open his eye and find Spike sitting cross-legged and motionless before him, apparently employing Xander’s technique for pursuing peace.  He didn’t look like he’d arrived there yet, going by the deep creases lining his brow, and by now it was customary for Xander to smooth them away with gentle touches.  It wasn’t easy to keep his hands to himself, so better to move before temptation became action, he grudgingly admitted, but the moment he stirred Spike muttered,

“Don’t go.”

“I don’t want to disturb you.”

“I like the way you disturb me,” Spike said with a hint of smile.  “In fact, I’ve rarely enjoyed being disturbed quite so much.”

The vampire’s eyes slowly opened and he blinked a few times, focusing just in time to see Xander’s crawled approach, and letting himself be pushed back onto the floor and pinned there by Xander’s body as his mouth was sought and ardently kissed.

“How are you feeling?” Xander interrupted the kissing to ask.

“Right now…”

“And don’t race directly to sexual innuendo, take the scenic route that passes through deep thought and scary honesty.”

“Bit difficult to concentrate on more than sexual innuendo when you’ve got me flat on the floor and you’re rubbing yourself on me.”

“I’m not—  Ah.  Yes, I am, I didn’t realise.  It’s apparently become second nature to mindlessly hump the vamp.”  One last protracted kiss and Xander reluctantly climbed off Spike and stood, offering a hand up and still holding on when Spike was vertical and facing him.  “How are you feeling?” he repeated.



“Pre-horny was…the first day at Chrissie’s.”

“The most recent lull in horniness?”


“How are you feeling if horniness is taken out of the equation?”


“That’s the same.”

“No, it’s not.”

“It is.”

“It isn’t.”

“How are you feeling if any kind of sexual physical response is taken out of the equation.”

“You sure you want to know what’s going on in my head?”


“I’m thinking…  Bloody hell, you make me horny.”

Xander tugged Spike close enough to kiss his cheek, then let him go and beat a quick retreat.

“How’s this?” he asked from across the room.

“Good to look at.  Lovely strong legs, wish I was between them.”


“Shag’d help me concentrate on the rest, y’know.  Take the edge off and…”


“No?  Not even…”



“Because…  Because I’m really uncomfortable right now, thinking that I’ve fucked you up, and fucked me up, and fucked us up.”

“All that fucking and no getting off.  Hard life.”

“Can you please take me seriously?”

“Doesn’t it reassure you that I don’t have to?  That’s the ‘us’ that isn’t fucked up, surely?”

“I…  Yes, I guess.  But…”  He sighed and shook his head.  “Please, Spike.  Please just talk to me.”

Spike matched Xander sigh for sigh.

“What do you want to know?  You want to pick me apart about Koga, or about Edmund?”

“I don’t want to pick you apart.”

“Yes, you do.  You think you can pick apart all the pieces of this soiled and despoiled Spike, clean out the shit, and put him back together again, all spotless and shiny.”

“What if it’s far less altruistic than that?”

“As in…?”

“What if I just want to find out how much damage I’ve caused us because I don’t want to be the one who ruins the fun we’ve been having together.”

Spike paused in thought.

“I’d like it to be as simple as that, and I’d actually enjoy your selfishness.  But it isn’t, is it?  This is about you hurting ‘cause you think I’m hurting.”  Xander turned awkwardly away, shrugging loosely.  Spike’s voice softened…  “I’m not hurting, Love.”  …and Xander’s head snapped back, a plea for Spike’s statement to be true eloquently written on his face.  “I’m not hurting.  And you…ask away.  Ask me whatever you like.”

Xander took a couple of steps toward Spike, mind racing.

“Last night…  I really wanted to comfort you but it was impossible, you wouldn’t let me near you, not emotionally.  What was it that touched such a nerve?”

“From Edmund?”  Xander nodded.  “His hatred, naturally.  Like you said, I’m still his kid, whether I want to be or not, and I don’t know how but he seems to talk directly to William.  He makes me William again, and that degree of hatred from my father…  Then there was that reference to hell.  My eternity.”

The interest on Xander’s face turned instantly to remorse.

“I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

“How can you say that?  If it wasn’t for me forcing you to go after Tania…”

“Let’s not fool ourselves, eh?  You couldn’t force me to do anything, not really.”

“Okay, want me to rephrase that?  I put myself in a position that gave you no choice…”

“Don’t torment yourself, Xander, I always have choices.  We established that, didn’t we?”

“Yes, but…”

“And, if I’m honest…”  Now Spike was the one to look guilty.  “If I’m completely honest…  Bugger this, do you really want me to be completely honest?”  Xander nodded an emphatic yes.  “Well, after lengthy consideration it seems that…  Any desire I have for heaven…is nothing more than a way of avoiding hell.”

“You—  But…  No.”

Xander stuttered to a halt, mouth opening and shutting several times in speechless protest.


“But…  Yes?  Really?  Spike, really?”

“Really.  No great longing for salvation, just a chance to miss out on what I’ve spent a century and some earning myself.”

Once again Xander drew breath to speak, stopped, started, stopped.  Paused.  Sighed.

“Fuck.  Fuck.”

“Umm…  Sorry?”

“If that’s true…”

“It is.”

“Then that…  I guess…that helps, that has to help.”


“You could have told me that, you could have been honest with me from the start.”

“Yeah, but I had to be honest with myself first, didn’t I?  I am scared of hell, that’s completely honest too, that’s natural.  But I don’t know if I’d managed to convince myself that the prospect of going to heaven really mattered to me, and I was being stroppy about it ‘cause I always want things my own way and wasn’t going to get that, or…if I was just enjoying the attention from you over it.  But it was hard to give it up.  Harder still when it was Edmund telling me I was damned, ‘cause I desperately wanted heaven then simply to prove him wrong about me.  I can’t exactly think straight where he’s involved, you might have noticed.  And there’s a tiny bit of spiting the old bastard creeping in there, I admit.”  Spike flicked a tentative glance at Xander.  “Pretty daft, eh?  All that fuss over nothing.  Well, not nothing, but…  S’pect you’re…”  Another glance.  “…cross with me?”

“Cross with you,” Xander considered, voice surprisingly light as he now actively embraced the calming techniques he’d needed less and less over the past couple of weeks.

“For not being honest.  Abusing your good nature.”

“Not so much cross with you as…fucking furious.”

“Ah.  You don’t sound fucking furious,” Spike pointed out.  “You sound…reasonable.  Which should probably worry me, shouldn’t it.  Shouldn’t it?”

“Two choices: gimme five minutes to get this in perspective, or gimme something blunt to pound your stupid, irresponsible, selfish head with.”

“Take five,” Spike generously offered, and he stood aside, reflecting on his unpredictable nature while Xander paced and reflected on Spike’s should-be predictable unpredictableness.


Closer to two hours than five minutes, but eventually Xander shook his head hard and turned to Spike.

“No.  You cared about this, more than as a way to avoid hell.  I know it mattered.”

“Sorry, Love,” Spike shrugged, “but no.  Bit too convincing for my own good, eh?”

Xander drew a massive breath and slowly exhaled.  Then he did it again and paused for more thought.  This time it was only five minutes until he was asking,

“You’re being honest with me now?”


“Absolutely honest?”


“Then…  I’m relieved.  I am…relieved.  I still want there to be a way to stop you heading for hell, but I’d much rather it was about saving your skin than missing out on redemption.  As for the rest…  I can’t blame you for abusing my good nature if I led you there by the nose, can I?”

“Is that what you did?” Spike frowned.

“Oh, yeah.  I sometimes think the streak of ‘nice’ in me is my greatest failing.”

“Don’t say that, Xander, not on my account.  I’m meant to be wicked and exploit you.  That doesn’t indicate a failing on your part, just means I’m good at my job.”

Xander smiled at that, much to Spike’s relief.  Despite the encouragement, when Spike gave up on not going to Xander he approached with a guilty slink rather than a jaunty step.

“It’s a big deal,” Xander told Spike quietly when the vampire was a spilt-second away from the next ingratiating snuggle.  “Does this mean I have to start questioning everything you’ve told me?”


“Spike…  It’s a big deal.”

Spike swept Xander into his arms and squeezed, undeterred by Xander’s non-reciprocation.

“You know you can trust me,” he whispered into Xander’s ear as he nuzzled his cheek.  “Deep down…  You know.”

“You’ve been pretty quick to remind me that I don’t know you at all.  You’re right, of course, absolutely right.  It isn’t that I don’t trust you, I just…”

“You don’t trust me.”

“It isn’t…”

“You don’t trust me, and I deserve that.”

Spike grudgingly released Xander and stepped back; it was Xander who refused to let all physical contact be lost, and he took Spike’s hands and held them tightly.

“Nothing’s that simple.”

“Well, let’s see if I can help you with it, simplify it further.”  Spike yanked his hands out of Xander’s grasp, and reversed a few more steps.  “Because I’m done thinking, and I’m ready to talk.”

“Good.  That’s good.  Isn’t it?”

“I thought a lot about what you’ve been saying to me, and I know you meant William when you said I haven’t changed so much over the years, but you were spot on.  And…”  Spike turned and strolled away.  “I want you to think well of me but I don’t want to lie about this.”

“About what in particular?”

Spike spun to face Xander, straight-backed, head high, and as arrogant as Xander had ever witnessed.

“Koga.  Like I said, you were spot on: I haven’t changed.  I’m still Spike and, however I try to gild that particular lily, I’m still a demon.”


“I enjoyed killing him, Love.  Relished it.  After what I’d learnt about him I’m only sorry I couldn’t extend his final moments into hours and make them as agonising as he deserved.  I know you can cope with his death but that snapped neck makes it easy for you, doesn’t it?  Swift and clean.  When, if there were any justice in this world, he should have been tortured until he begged to die, bent and broken and fucking peeled, he should have croaked his last squirming on the end of a branch while I booted it through his worthless guts and into his black heart.”


“Know where all that hating really came from?  All that rage I felt?  It came from being dishonest about that nonce: being so glad about killing him and thinking I wasn’t allowed that any more, thinking I had to be better than that, and I hated us both for it.  All I could see for a while there was that you led me to betray myself, and I just got on with it like I had no mind of my own.  But…bollocks.  All bollocks.”


“And certainly no regrets, not a single one now I’ve faced the truth about escaping hell rather than wanting heaven.  He was going to hurt you, so where the fuck would regret come into it?”



Spike’s eyes flashed gold at the shouted interruption, and he tensed as Xander approached, surprised – no, shocked – when the outcome was warm hands caressing his teetering-on-demon face and a soft kiss to his mouth.

“Okay.  Carry on.”

Xander went and sat in the armchair, giving a good impression that he was ready for whatever next.  Spike shook off the internal onslaught of XanderXanderkissminefucktakehavewantwantwant with some difficulty.

“You want to be careful,” Spike warned.


“About what kind of message you send me.”

Xander nodded.

“That’s right.  I do.”

“So…  That.  Just then.”

“Thank you for saving my life,” Xander said, very sincerely.

“Oh.  Right.  Good message,” Spike finished quietly, the lust induced by that single, simple, heartfelt kiss twisting into something far more sentimental.  “Might be one of the best things I ever did.”

“Might be.  We have to save the world, after all.”

“There’s that as well, yes.”


Xander looked on in silence as Spike wandered the room, the vampire’s arrogant persona demolished by the lack of condemnation.  When Spike turned and studied the human, finally giving him a warm smile, the one Xander returned was equally affectionate.

“Nothing’s that simple,” Spike recalled Xander’s earlier words, appreciating that Xander’s trust may have been dented but it wasn’t broken.  Appreciating the ‘big deal’ but no longer afraid that any lost trust would be impossible to restore.  He gestured to Xander’s easy posture.  “Still works then: the mental time out.”

“It still works.”

“I’d be pretty grateful to the bird who taught you if it wasn’t for the fact any thought of you with her makes me want to track her down and hack her into bite-sized pieces.”

“Talk.  About what matters.”

Spike’s wandering stilled for several seconds, then he moved to sit on the end of the bed, facing Xander.

“This whole situation…  It’s been a revelation.  It’s made me take a long, hard look at what I am, what I’ve become.”


“I’m not defined by the soul.  It may be a part of what I am, just like the demon is, but…  I’m the sum of my parts, just like any other flawed individual.  I’m Spike.  A Spike who’s finally coming to terms with William rejoicing in his father’s death.  A Spike who killed Koga and would do it again without hesitation if it meant keeping you safe, but a Spike who doesn’t want to slaughter innocents for the fun of it.  A Spike who doesn’t want to make excuses, to himself or anyone else.  A Spike you’re somehow able to care for, in all his imperfect glory.  This Spike.  The one who’s thinking about his choices and being true to every facet of himself for the first time in—”  Spike shrugged.  “Too long.”

“Since the soul, maybe?  I think the soul was you being true to yourself.”

“Yeah?”  Xander nodded, and Spike dwelt on that for a while.  “Yeah,” he ultimately agreed.  “Although I wish…”

“Don’t!” Xander warned.  “Not the W word.”

Spike gave a chuckle and took that timely advice on board.

“All right.  I…would have preferred to have done that for you.”

“You—”  Xander swallowed hard and adamantly shook his head.  “You did that for the right reasons, at the right time, and for the right person.”


“Deserved it.  And you deserved the way she came to trust and depend on you.  The two of you may have been bad for each other, but you were also good for each other when it mattered.  History doesn’t need re-writing just ‘cause of who you presently have the hots for.”

“Any chance you can appreciate the sentiment and chalk one up to me?”

Xander pretended to think about that.

“Consider it chalked.”

With a satisfied nod Spike rose, stretched, stretched and sat.

“We done?” he asked.

“I think that’s up to you.”

“Then we’re…  This heaven business, Love.  I’m not mourning the loss, know that.  In fact I’m rather relieved that where next is settled – not that I’m planning on attending where next for a very long time.”

“There’s still maybe a chance that…”

“Remember you once said to me that there had to be genuine repentance?  I don’t feel it, not on this occasion, not even with the soul.  The bloke deserved what he got and nothing will make me think otherwise, and I’m more than satisfied with that.  Anyone else tries to hurt you they’ll go the same way and I won’t give a damn about them either, or the consequences for me.  I don’t and won’t repent, and it’s very liberating.  Cheers for that.”

“Have I remade a monster?”

“Would you applaud or condemn the law-abiding citizen who picks up a gun to defend his family from a gang of thugs?  It’s all about the circumstances and what they dictate.  I was happy enough to knock about those blokes who hurt you because of Toby, I didn’t need to kill them.  Koga was about to cave your skull in so I stopped him dead.  Literally.”

“Circumstances, okay, yes, I see that.  I shouldn’t doubt you.  I don’t, actually.”

“Good.  I’ll allow you any number of knee-jerk reactions providing you make it up to me nicely.”

“I’m not convinced I’d know where to draw the line if I were in that position, and with so little time to think.  What if it had been the other way round?  If I’d been the one behind Koga and he was swinging that wrench at you and Tania.”

“You’d do whatever you had to, we both know that.  Know what else?  No jury in the civilised world’d hang you for it.”  Spike frowned.  “Isn’t this your argument from yesterday?”


“Rather than go round in circles, shall we skip straight to the bit where you make it up to me?”

“You don’t want to…”

“Unless that sentence ends in ‘shag’, I don’t want to, no.”


“Doesn’t my over-protectiveness usually make you horny?  Let’s face it, as we’re talking about the ultimate in over-protectiveness, we should be looking at the ultimate responsive horniness.”

“Er…big picture, Spike.”

“Sod the big picture.  I’m done thinking, I’m done talking.  What I need now is you, still wanting me, proving my frailties are as acceptable as yours.  I need your sweetest words, your unbridled passion, your hot, naked body under me, over me, beside me, your choice, but there, with me and for me.  Want me, take me, let me hear my name on your lips when you come for me, whether it’s a gasp or a scream, and let me make it happen again and again.  I need your desire.  I need you.”

“What you need,” Xander confirmed, big picture being usurped by the series of saucy naked-vampire dominated postcards that had popped into his mind.  “If it’s…if it’s…uh…what you need…”

Pretending that the general glazing over and incipient drooling hadn’t assured him that Xander’s compliance was in the bag, Spike flexed his persuasive skills, donning his prettiest, most imploring, superbly manipulative face, gazing into Xander’s eye and whispering a tentative…


“How did I ever say no to you?”

“You managed well enough, but now…I don’t want you to remember.”

“I can’t remember, and…  Who am I kidding?  I don’t want to remember either.”

Xander was up from the chair in an instant, literally throwing himself at Spike and rolling them over on the bed, leaving Spike above him, straddling his hips and leaning down to kiss him roughly enough to nick his top lip on his teeth.  Spike’s tongue probed urgently into his mouth as the faint scent of blood struck his acute senses, and the vampire groaned in delight as he experienced the purest essence of Xander, right up until the moment when he was eased away to facilitate Xander’s inconvenient need to breathe.

“Love…  Let me have you,” Spike cajoled.  “I’ll do it nicely, won’t hurt you, I promise.”

“You say that as if I’m putting up a fight.”

“You’re not, are you,” Spike grinned, “even with me rejoicing in that bastard’s death.”

“I got there first, remember.  Not rejoicing, but…realistic.”

“Same meat, different gravy.  It begs the question: which of us is the biggest monster?”

“Nuh-uh, no monsters here; nothing crawling down the paintwork and I even checked under the bed.”

A slight shift and Spike was able to grind their confined erections together.

“Ah, that’s nice,” Spike appreciatively groaned.  “That’s nice.”

“Yeah, keep doing that.”

“Ever comes to it, I can tell Angel you led me astray.”

“Tell him whatever you like.  And…  Remind him that…  Spike, get me out of these clothes.  Remind him that we’re all trapped somewhere between good and bad.  No.  Actually, not you.”

“Not me?”

“No.  You’re somewhere between good, bad and totally hot.”

Spike obligingly stripped Xander bare with practised ease, gloating over the fact that Xander was practically panting with lust by the time Spike finished teasingly revealing his own body.  He gazed at Xander with equal admiration, eyes naturally drawn to one of his favourite parts of this alluring form.

“Your mouth,” he told Xander, “is perfect.  Perfect.  I’m always torn between the desire to kiss it, and the longing to fuck it.”

“I’m good for either.”

“You certainly are.”

“No, I mean…”

“I know what you mean, and of the two of us, my interpretation is the right one.”


Xander rolled his eye and grinned as Spike sprang onto the bed to join him.

“Shame that bloody camera is cursed, we could set it up with the laptop, watch ourselves go at it.”

“We could?  It works like that?”

In perfect synchronicity they turned to stare at the camera sitting innocently beside the computer on the table.

“Be a bit of fun, eh?”

“What if we stay together so I don’t hear a voice till we’re done with this?”

“I’d risk it if I didn’t need you so badly.”

Xander’s attention zoomed back to Spike and Spike alone, and he reached out, pulling him close.

“Then maybe it’s safer if we concentrate on undocumented fun.”

“Just want one picture of your mouth on my cock, that’s…”

The remainder of that suggestion was muffled by a kiss, but a fast kiss as Xander was moving down Spike’s body within seconds.

“Memorise this.  Watch every move and…”

“Is that what you do?”

“Uh-huh.  I try not to miss a thing ‘cause, y’know, Dead Guy could be any time so each time we do this it could be the last and…”  Xander eeped in surprise as his progress was halted and he was bodily thrown onto his back.  “Spike, I—  I don’t know what.”

“Let you do that now and in my head it’ll be the last time.”

“I didn’t mean for you to take what I said like that.  Let me carry on.”

“It might not be what you meant but it’s in here now…”  Spike tapped his temple.  “…and I need a little distraction.”


“All consuming pleasure might do the trick.”

“Whatever you want.”

“You say that, and then you make a fuss over…”

“I won’t, I won’t, whatever, I promise.”

“Promise?” Spike asked with a smile that widened just far enough to nudge Xander’s in-built panic button.

“Uh…shouldn’t I?”

“D’know.  Let’s find out.”

With another of the abrupt moves that left Xander flummoxed and giggling, Spike was down the bed and encouraging Xander’s legs to part.

“We still dealing with what you need,” Xander attempted to establish, “or am I simply looking at a good time?”

“Both.”  Xander’s knees met his ears and, with relatively blunt human teeth, Spike bit the inside of the newly exposed left thigh, firmly enough to leave indents but not break the skin.  “If I scarred you there it’d rub every time we had a shag.  Drive you bonkers.”

“Oh, fuck, I want to say do it.”

“Don’t,” Spike insisted.


“That’s right.”

“I just want to.”

“Don’t,” Spike insisted for a second time.


“’Cause I will.”


“Yeah, getting there.”

“Fuck me.”

“This first, I know how much you like it.”


“That much, yeah.”

Spike’s tongue trailed teasingly over Xander’s perineum, causing much wriggling, twitching, and pleas that rapidly became demands; Spike burrowed between Xander’s cheeks and concentrated his attention on the sensitive flesh of Xander’s opening, and he chuckled at the garbled encouragement his actions induced, any attempted words disintegrating into lusty noises as Spike proceeded to fuck Xander with his tongue as his fingers sought out and delicately tickled the tip of Xander’s cock.  A vampire’s strength prevented Xander humping the tormenting hand for yet more stimulation, and it wasn’t long until Spike was being pushed away.  Xander leant up on his elbows, stared accusingly at Spike’s typically innocent expression, and attempted to catch his breath.

“You’re going to drive me insane.”

“I’m only playing.”

“Playing at driving me insane.  God knows what’d happen if you were serious about it.”

“I want to see how little I can do and still get you off.  You’re so…responsive.”  Spike blew along the length of Xander’s cock; Xander grit his teeth and pretended to bear it for all of two seconds before swatting Spike around the head.  “Any more of that,” Spike warned, semi-seriously, “and I’ll be obliged to tie you down.”

“You think?” Xander challenged, betrayed by the dilation of his pupil.

“How’d that be, eh?  Just having to take it?  Me brutally pleasuring you for hours on end and you forced to come and come and keep coming until I was done with you.”  The lust-filled gaze was there, and gone; Xander fell back onto the bed and covered his face with his hands.  “Love?”

“I don’t want to be here.”

“Just ‘cause…?  I was only teasing, Petal, if you didn’t want me to…”

“It’s not—  There is no ‘didn’t want’.  I’m happy to be with you, doing this with you, but I want to be at home, safe in my own bedroom with none of this other shit going on, and where you could do what you want without me thinking…what if I’m tied down and there are bugs, or there’s some full-blown uber-nasty participation.  Sexually, I’m no coward: right place and time and you get to do whatever I can take without heart failure.  Rest of my life…”  Xander sighed in disappointment and dropped his hands.  “Bugs,” he said contemptuously, adding an involuntary shiver for good measure.

Spike thought as he nuzzled the reddened skin of Xander’s inner thigh.

“Here, what if…  When this is over…”

“If we’re still alive.”

“If we’re still alive, what if…”

“This would be before it’s over when it’s over?”

“If we’re still alive and before it’s over when it’s over…”  Spike paused for the expected interruption, but smiled at the lack of.  “What if…we take off somewhere.”

Up on his elbows once again, Xander peered down his body to where Spike was ensconced between his legs.

“Somewhere like…?”

Spike shrugged.

“England?  I said this before but you didn’t think I was serious: now you know I am.  You said you’d like to find the tree that was planted for William.”

“That’d be…”  Xander’s momentary excitement faded fast.  “Expensive.”

“My treat.  Consider it a thank you.”  Spike finally made himself meet Xander’s eye, finding exactly the expression of doubt he didn’t want to see.  “Why not?”

“It would be…us.  Not us against inter-dimensional war, just…us.”

“Us isn’t so bad, is it?”

“I, um…”

Spike returned to his initial task, pressing his tongue back into Xander’s body and putting an end to any practicalities or common sense that Xander might be tempted to bring into the conversation.  Making himself comfortable, Spike’s hands cupped and squeezed Xander’s buttocks before sliding over his hips and resting on Xander’s belly, gently dragging his fingernails over flesh that quivered in response.  It wasn’t long before Xander’s fingers were tangling with his, exactly as he’d hoped; his grip tightened and Xander – if he cared to play along with this – was as good as tied.  Spike felt the moment that Xander realised it, the subtle attempt at withdrawal as the hold was (un)severely tested and (chosen to be) found to be unbreakable; Spike revelled in the groan of acceptance as Xander gave himself over, a tremor of pure excitement rippling through Xander’s body as he stretched his legs open, thighs leaning heavily on Spike’s arms.  Leisurely humping the bed to temper his own need, Spike exploited the further accessibility Xander’s move afforded him, probing deeper and treating the man’s engorged prostate to an explicit demonstration of why a vampire’s long, muscular, extremely flexible tongue was so highly prized by anyone fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of this particular kind of stimulation.

Holy fucking hell, how do you—”

Xander protested and squirmed, wanting less and more and feeling quite desperate to come, way too soon, as if that was any kind of surprise when Spike…was Spike.  Xander pulled and pushed at Spike’s hands, trying to free his own or move Spike’s to where he could rub his cock against them, just for the vital scrap of stimulation that would take him over the edge before he popped the blood vessel that was throbbing in his temple.  He caught his breath with a gulp as Spike withdrew his tongue and began nibbling Xander’s balls, a single finger freeing itself to dabble in the flow of clear liquid dribbling from Xander’s cock.

“How?” Spike asked.


“With my tongue in you, my fingers, my cock…?  You choose.”

“Get me off, do it, just do it.”


“You mean bastard!”

Xander wrenched his hands free, leant down and grabbed Spike by the biceps, yanking him up the bed to bring them nose to nose.  Groin to groin.

“You seem a little tense,” Spike sweetly smiled, and as Xander gritted his teeth and glared, Spike wriggled his body between Xander’s legs and nudged the tip of his cock at the man’s saliva-slicked cheeks until it was verging on penetration.  “Shall I fuck you?” Spike enquired, still smiling, voice still sickly sweet.  “Would you like that?”

Yes.  Just…just…fuck me, damn you.”

“Say it nicely.”

Xander stifled the screech of frustration and seized Spike’s hips, urging him on.

“Please.  Spike.  Please.”

Raising himself to arm’s length, Spike slowly, slowly entered Xander’s body.  Spike’s position gave Xander the opportunity to observe, and he eagerly watched the penetration, unbearably aroused by the experience of seeing and feeling, eventually clenching his eye shut and stilling Spike’s progress in a bid to prevent the conclusion he’d previously been demanding.

“So responsive,” Spike whispered appreciatively, dipping to gently kiss Xander’s mouth.  “Look at me, Love.”  Xander did as he was asked, eye black and glazed with lust, the harshness of the gaze softening when Spike quietly spoke.  “I did it for you.  Only you.”  Xander turned his face away; the hold on Spike’s waist left, dithered, returned, hands squeezing then stroking.  “Only for you, Xander.”  Xander jerkily raised his hips, impaling himself further onto Spike’s unmoving cock.  “Tell me you know that.  Accept it.  Tell me you accept what I did for you and then I’ll give you what you want.”

Xander’s head snapped back, and the troubled expression on his face led Spike to believe that the words ready to spit from his lips were those of condemnation rather than any kind of acceptance.  Spike tensed in expectation and Xander, feeling that change in the body beneath his hands, hesitated.


“Not asking for too much, am I?”

“Maybe.  If you didn’t do any of this for Tania…”

“I do feel for her but…not like I feel for you.  I’d do anything for you,” Spike finished sincerely, only half-aware of what a scary prospect that was for Xander.

A few calming, gentle kisses and the scariness dissipated to be replaced by logical thought.

“Anything for me can mean not hurting people, rather than…what happened to Koga.”

“He deserved it.”

“Yeah, but…”

“I know, I know.  That was extreme.  I’m not about to fillet the git who puts a dent in the Mustang’s bumper.”


“Accept.  Accept what I did for you.  Accept…me.”

It was easier for Xander to nod and kiss Spike than battle through the emotions that were constricting his throat.  The nod was good enough though, and Spike growled with satisfaction as he, in turn, accepted, and sank himself deeply into Xander’s body with one powerful thrust, muffling Xander’s yelp of surprise with an equally demanding kiss.  Xander shook his mouth free to gasp,

“Take it easy.”

“Not about to hurt you, Love.  But I’m going to take you, have you, make you mine all over again.  Make you mine and know you’re mine.  What I am, how I am, and no excuses, remember?  That’s thanks to you.  You, Xander.  You’re mine and I don’t care what you think of that, you’re fucking mine.”

“Again.  Say that again and…”


“…reverse it.”  Spike’s ready proclamation stuttered to a halt.  “Yeah, reverse it,” Xander challenged with a wicked grin, “see how easy it comes then, you demonic chauvinist pig.  Tell me you are mine.”

Spike stared at Xander in disbelief for an instant before reminding himself that the man wouldn’t suspect for an instant the implications of what he was suggesting, how intensely the words would rouse a demon’s bonding instincts.  There were reasons that vampires clung possessively to their childer, their sires, their mates: a reflection of the old days and older ways, obeying or humouring customs and impulses that preserved the race when it was turned upon by other species with rash ideas of dominance, and then again when demonkind was pursued by an indiscriminately murderous mankind.  Old ways, and bonds that, under the right circumstances, could be created with astonishing simplicity, but would then be nigh impossible to negate.

Bewildered by the strength of his immediate, involuntary reaction – a heart-clenching, gut-roiling surge of wanttakehaveGIVE - Spike took a moment to wonder how the hell they had arrived at this point in a mere three weeks.  How had they got to the point where, despite the words being a joke to his dearest, occasionally-naïve-to-the-point-of-stupidity human, a deadly serious Spike was weighing up the possibility of succumbing to ancient instincts that had seemingly sprung out of nowhere, and offering himself?

Blissfully unaware of the turmoil he had created in Spike, Xander still had that same provocative smile on his face, the one that barely concealed the joke he would have at Spike’s expense when the vampire refused to offer himself up.

“Tell me you’re mine, Baby.  Or do I get the ‘demons take, they don’t give’ lecture?  Or maybe you’re just a…big ol’ scaredy cat?”

Teasing, Spike appreciated, but Xander was right about one thing: demons did usually take rather than give, especially when this level of intimacy was involved, more especially still when any earnest declarations would be binding in a way that made the average human’s devoted commitment to a life-long partner look like a mild fling.  Here, now, mid-copulation, the man beneath him wearing his mark, his blood tribute to Xander having been acknowledged and with Xander accepting the gesture, if Spike gave himself freely they would be teetering on the verge of an unholy covenant that Xander, despite his acceptance and toleration of most things, would undoubtedly have a difficult time understanding, let alone wanting.


“See?  Not so easy when it’s you as property, huh?”

“Xander…  Y’know the trouble you had coming to terms with any hint of my possessiveness?”

“Stop changing the subject.  Say it.  Say it.”

“If I—  Bloody hell, Petal, you don’t have a clue.”

“C’mon, you big coward,” Xander genially, mistakenly taunted, “say it.”

A renewed blast of intrinsic longing hit Spike in a heady rush, and he stared greedily at the scar on Xander’s neck.

“Is that really what you want?” Spike asked, toying with his own emotions and growing unbearably harder for it; fighting to sound composed yet barely able to keep his true visage under wraps as Xander ground up against him.

“You think it’s all about me belonging to you?  How about if you belong to me?”

“Yeah,” Spike growled.  “How about that?”

Knowing he had to put a stop to this line of thought, Spike began to move, a leisurely roll of the hips that would hopefully distract Xander – both of them – from this glorious insanity.

“Knew you wouldn’t,” Xander laughed breathily as he matched Spike’s movements.  “Maybe we should turn this round.  Let me fuck it out of you.”


Spike laughed too now, but for obviously different reasons.  This was getting worse and worse: absurdly, his demonic core was ready and willing to belong for the first time since Dru had walked away, and Xander didn’t realise the significance of what he was offering, and…what an offer.  Claimed rather than claiming.  Xander might even be persuaded to bite him, take a little of his blood to seal the union.  Not the most common of romantic dreams, but Spike’s, certainly.

“Want me to fuck you, Spike?  Huh?  How d’it go?  You’re mine and I don’t give a damn what you think of that, you’re fucking mine.”

“You should shut up now,” Spike told Xander urgently before the first of the fervent, silencing kisses.

“But—”  Kiss.  Kiss, kiss, kiss.  “Spike…”

“Less talking, more shagging.”


A punishing volley of thrusts followed that Xander gave up trying to match, taking it and grasping at Spike, breathless with desire, thoughts of provocation giving way to far baser needs.  As his hand moved swiftly toward his cock, Spike shifted and grabbed his wrists, first the right then the left, holding them above Xander’s head and pinning him down.

“Naughty, naughty.  No touching.”

“I need…”

“I know.  And I’m going to get you there.”



“Not asking, telling.”

“Would you be like this with a woman?”

“A woman wouldn’t be driving me crazy with her dick up my ass!”

“I asked you once didn’t I?  And there’s the answer at last.”


“Anya.  Didn’t ever strap one on and—”

Giving his own version of the vampiry growl, Xander snatched his wrists from Spike’s grasp and, with an almighty heave, rolled them over.


The change in position made him acutely aware of the cock inside him and, hands pressed hard to Spike’s chest, he slowly sat up, mentally recording every sensation, any intention of coming hereandnow deferred by this new experience.  Spike’s fingertips trailed over his thighs, up, down, round in circles, tickling and arousing, sending tingles to his groin that accentuated the extraordinary sensation of being stretched and filled by the vampire’s erection.  It took a while, but eventually Xander focused beyond where they were so intimately joined, staring at Spike’s constantly moving fingers, following the beautiful arms to the beautiful body, and up to the equally beautiful face.  Spike was watching him closely, that brief, unfathomable, and extremely disconcerting expression of anxiety thankfully gone; now he was relaxed again, almost smiling, appreciating every telling emotion that flitted over Xander’s expressive face.

“This is…” Xander started, feeling as if he had to say something, but ‘this is’ proved to be all he had to offer.

“Tell me.”

“I…  It’s…”  Still lost for words, Xander shrugged once, then for a second time.  His hands flexed on Spike’s chest, fingers digging into the silky skin, appreciating the steely vampiric muscles beneath the surface.  “Nice view,” Xander said on a brief laugh, taking a safer route, veering from the tumult of mystifying feelings that had unaccountably struck him.

“Yeah,” Spike agreed.  “Nice view.”

Spike’s thumb trailed lightly along the underside of Xander’s rigid cock, swiping off the latest dewdrop of pre-come that was threatening to drip onto his belly, bringing it up to lick away and chuckling at the groan from Xander in response to that simple act.

“Do I just…”  Xander rose a fraction and settled on Spike’s hips again.  Rose.  Settled.  “Wow.”

“Sit up,” Spike encouraged, hands on Xander’s hips and lifting.

“Am I doing this wrong?”

“No.  Stay put for a minute.”  As Xander remained poised on the very end of Spike’s cock, Spike reached out and grabbed a tube of lubricant, spreading some on his fingers and quickly transferring it to his shaft.  “There you go.”  Spike flicked the tube aside.  “Want more than a bit of spit.”  Xander nodded in appreciation and let Spike’s hands sit him back down.  “Not about to bounce around like a maniac then?  You’ve got a lot more restraint than I had the first time.”

“I want to kiss you,” Xander whispered, and Spike immediately responded by pushing himself up onto his elbows, gesturing Xander to him with jerk of the head.  “I don’t think I can move.”

Spike nudged up with his hips and Xander gasped and fell forward, catching himself on his arms, and in a convenient enough position for Spike to be able to close the gap between them.  As Xander made the most of what he’d been given, kissing Spike, exploring his lips and mouth as if this was the first kiss they’d ever shared, Spike leisurely fucked him from beneath, appreciating Xander’s emotional rather than physical vulnerability and taking care to be gentle now.

Leaning on one elbow, he freed a hand to wrap lightly around Xander’s erection, not stroking or squeezing, just holding, and enjoying this hot and heavy illustration of the man’s desire.  Xander tentatively began to move on him, borrowing Spike’s rhythm, and creaking in his throat when the vampire’s hand went with him rather than remained still to be fucked into.

“Oh, God, I wanna come,” he murmured against Spike’s lips, and Spike, tightening his grip on Xander’s cock, began a slow, firm pump.  “No, don’t, don’t, I don’t wanna come yet.”

Spike laughed at his indecisive friend before making the decision on Xander’s behalf; effortlessly, he flipped them back over, ignoring the feeble protest, pressing himself close to Xander’s body and fucking with short strokes that battered Xander’s prostate.  More kisses: hard and demanding now; once again Xander’s wrists were seized and pinned above his head by one of Spike’s strong hands, but the grip soon changed to something incongruously tender, their fingers playing and entwining.

Xander raised his hips, rubbing his erection on Spike’s belly, wanting yet fighting his impending orgasm; it was only seconds before his body was tensing and tightening on Spike’s cock.  Spike eased up, and Xander gave a manly whimper.

“Forgotten, have you?” Spike whispered as he laid his head on Xander’s right arm.


“That I’m making you mine.”

Xander’s left hand escaped the knot of fingers and headed groin-wards; Spike snatched it back, held it firmly now.

“Fuck me, Spike.  Spike.”

“You’re mine.  Know that.”

“Yes, already!  In bed.  In bed I’m yours.  For now.”

Spike considered the less than adequate offer and exhaled a hard done by sigh.  Xander opened his eye just in time to see the cheeky smile on Spike’s face.

“That’ll do.”

Xander let out a triumphant yell as Spike suddenly jerked into him, back to fucking him at a furious rate, battering the climax from his sensitised body within seconds.  The delicious sensation of Xander’s semen spurting and smearing between their bellies was all that Spike needed to bring about his own release, and knowing that Xander could feel this inside him, feel the demon’s cool seed penetrating and owning him, made the orgasmic spasms unbelievably fierce.


Not aware of dozing off, Xander woke as Spike moved to his side and a handful of sheet wiped his stomach dry.

“Us…” Xander murmured.  “Just us…not so bad.”

“Not so bad,” came the equally muted reply, Spike’s voice betraying little of the disappointment he now felt, the horrible sensation of utter failure.


They both semi-dozed for a while, until Xander stirred and stretched, wrapping his arms around Spike as he re-settled.

“Sometimes…  Sometimes this is kinda scary.”


“You touch me in ways…”  Xander shrugged.  “You okay?”  Now Spike shrugged.  “I mean, after what we were talking about.”

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”

“Spike…  I didn’t lose heaven.”

Spike snuggled in and kissed Xander’s neck.

“This’ll do for me, Love.  This is heaven.”

“Jeez, you’re so corny,” Xander scolded, but it was with the biggest grin on his face.  “Heaven, but…”  He quickly adopted his best faux despondency.  “You wouldn’t say it.”

“I couldn’t.  There are reasons you…”

The smile reappeared, and Xander hugged.

“That’s okay, really.  I never expected you to, not seriously.”

“I wanted to.”

“Sure you did,” Xander teased.

“I did.”

“You ever…  No, doesn’t matter.”

“What?  Xander, what?  Did I ever…?”

“You ever…say it to Buffy?”

Spike shifted uncomfortably: the last thing he wanted to do with Xander was talk about Buffy.


“Why not?”

“Because…  Because…”

Another shift; Xander got what he thought was the message to butt out and attempted to respect it.  Attempted.

“It’s okay, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No, you bloody-well shouldn’t,” Spike grouched.

“But if you loved her…”

“It isn’t about love.”


“Love’s the easy bit, isn’t it?”




Yes.  You can love someone without liking them, can’t you?  You don’t unequivocally offer yourself up to someone you don’t always like.”

There was an edgy, thought-filled pause as Xander jumped – nay, bounded – to the wrong conclusion.

“So…you don’t like me any better than you liked Buffy.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to say it, you just showed me well enough.”

“No, Xander.”

“You couldn’t even play along, you couldn’t even humour me when you had to know I was joking.”


“What would I have to do to get more out of you?  Beat you up?  Treat you like a worthless piece of crap?”

“You’re the complete opposite of Buffy.”

“I’m—  That has to be right, sure, I see that.”

“You do?” Spike asked hopefully.

“Yes.  You respected her.  Maybe you didn’t like her, but you respected her.”

“Sodding hell, it’s not…”

“Do you respect me?  Let’s think about that.  How many times have you just taken what you wanted?  No stopping in the nick of time with me, huh?  No rushing off to Africa to the soul doctor to figure out if there’s a fault.”


“Me, you appear to like, but anything more is just sex.  Which you said was better than with Buffy but maybe that’s what you always say when you want to keep the person you’re fucking sweet.  After all, it wouldn’t be as big a lie as the heaven lie, and you totally screwed me over on that.”

Spike hugged the tense body, wishing he could explain…anything.

“Ah, Love…  How did we get here?  Bloody glorious bout and now…”

Bout,” Xander snapped.  “That how you see it?  Every time you fuck me you’re winning a round?”

“Now you’re being ridiculous.”

Even as Spike said it he knew it was the last thing he should have said; he let himself be shoved away and watched Xander’s back turn on him.  This time it certainly wasn’t an offer to cuddle up.


An hour slowly passed, but neither man slept.  Both lay in silent thought, trying to figure out what was going on here.  Xander found himself unhappily but, at last, honestly acknowledging his very deep, very real insecurities about following in the footsteps – or should that be bed-space – of a women he had both mindlessly lusted over and mindfully adored.  Surely he was allowed to feel inadequate sometimes, with his maimed face and inelegant body?  Surely Spike could play along and make him feel good in the middle of a fuck, generally a time when you could say any kind of stupid, romantic thing knowing that, post-orgasm, it was written off as heat of the moment?  Still willing to make excuses for Spike?  Oh, yeah.  Seeing as it was generally, erroneously, accepted that men didn’t need that kind of fluffy stuff, did Spike even know he could promise Xander the Earth and not be expected to follow through?

Spike, being marginally less dense than he often appeared, had arrived at the post-Buffy syndrome quite rapidly, and understood Xander far better than Xander would have believed, maybe even better than Xander understood himself: after all, try following Angelus in Drusilla’s affections.  It hurt that he couldn’t give Xander what he wanted, but how could Spike explain any of the complex issues at hand while Xander’s trust in him was still shaken and, more importantly, the man was determined that they, as a couple, would be over once this was over?  Xander, in a show of admirable and irksome sense, had made up his mind.  However hard Spike tried to fool himself, and despite his attempts to prolong this affair with bribes – initially the trip to London but then who knows what – Xander seemed positive that they as a couple would be concluded along with the mission.  Right now Spike – and this would be a Spike who was still overwhelmed and a little frightened at the strength of his desire to give Xander anything and everything he asked for - couldn’t say the simple words that Xander understandably wanted, not without dire consequences for both of them.  Even if this relationship did miraculously last, Xander might never be able to accept the intensity of bonding that Spike – that a demon – was bound to offer.



“Do you know you can say…whatever when we’re fucking, but I won’t expect it to mean anything when we’re done?”

Spike sighed, bracing himself for Xander’s disappointment.


“Oh.  Okay.  There goes that excuse.”

“Xander, I know I shook you up with the things I said earlier, I know I let you down over the heaven business and now you need some kind of reassurance…”

“It isn’t that.”

“Let’s pretend it is, eh?  Then I can heap affection on you, and…”

“No.  I’ve heard enough lies.”

“What if the truth isn’t something you want to hear?”

“What if…?  Fucking hell, not again, just…  Kiss my ass.”  Xander felt the covers tug at him and snapped, “Not literally.”  Spike came back up the bed and, regardless of the lack of encouragement, snuggled.  “Think I want this?” Xander demanded, attempting and failing to shrug Spike off.

“Yes.  I think you do.”

In the ensuing quiet, Spike felt Xander gradually relax into his embrace, and he adored this man for his enduring trust, especially when he knew he didn’t particularly deserve the honour.

“It doesn’t matter…” Xander eventually said, softly, sleepily.  “It doesn’t matter if this is temporary, or insane, it doesn’t matter if this isn’t destined to be the greatest love affair of our lives, I’m not what iffing, and it doesn’t matter…  The words don’t matter.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  Words don’t matter.  What matters is…we’re good together, and…I’m not so good alone.”

“Me neither.”

“But…can’t you afford to humour me if I’m going to be dead before Christmas?”

“No,” Spike answered with genuine sadness.  “I can’t.”


“No.  I will explain.”


“Tomorrow.  You sleep now.”

“Should get up: it isn’t even late.”

“You’re knackered, Love.  Sleep.”

“And you’ll explain tomorrow?”

“I promise.”

Xander wriggled his hip away from Spike’s caressing fingertips.

“Tomorrow.  That too.  Tomorrow.”

“Fair enough.  I s’pose I can wait.”

Xander wriggled back, wanting to be held, needing proof that as far as nightly cuddles were concerned, normal service had been resumed; Spike willingly obliged.

“I could sleep for a week,” Xander yawned as his consciousness drifted.

“Do that.”

With a dopy nod, Xander was gone, leaving Spike awake and pondering the wisdom of sharing more truths, truths of a variety that could drive a massive wedge between them.  It was unintentionally amusing, bearing in mind how much Xander had admired his honesty; funnier still to Spike’s often perverse sense of humour was Xander demanding the last thing he actually claimed to want.

“Give you a vampire for Christmas, shall I?” Spike whispered into Xander’s hair.  “Blow over when it’s over right out of the water?  Say what your insecure little heart wants to hear and saddle you with this grabby old demon for life?”

“Turn around, you’ll see,” Xander unconsciously mumbled in response, caught in the midst of a dream and growing fretful.  “There.  See there.”

“What’s there, Love?”

“Heaven, getting away, getting away,” Xander groaned, disturbed and disturbing, and it was with some difficulty that Spike shushed and stroked him back to the calm place.

“Doesn’t matter, forget it, forget heaven.”

Heaven.  It seemed a long time since that had mattered.  Spike had been pleasantly surprised by Xander’s reaction to his announcement about heaven – it was actually calmer than his own when he’d finally figured out why his emotions were so haywire on the subject.  The emotional fallout – and not to mention feeling like a gold-plated idiot – would certainly make him think twice in future about indulging in lies that even he didn’t know were lies.

The untimely amusement resurfaced.  Damaging lies; damaging truth.  This relationship was fated and Xander Harris would go down in demonic history as the human that dusted William the Bloody, not for his evil ways, but for being bloody honest.  Spike would explain and Xander would freak out, reject him, heap scorn upon the old ways and…

Pretty much as Xander had predicted, the right provocation and the latent anger that Spike harboured toward him re-emerged, startling Spike with its ferocity and wiping out any trace of good humour.  For a split second, all Spike could think about was escaping the bed and the room, but…no.  He wasn’t about to leave this desirable spot, not tonight, not when Xander was clinging to his arm and, even in his sleep, actively pressing into the comfort of Spike’s body.  No going anywhere, and Spike forcibly quelled the negative emotions before setting himself the task of manufacturing an explanation for the following day, hopefully one that would satisfy but not terrify Xander, and leave himself free to fantasise over saying the words with no real danger of committing the pair of them to an impossible reality.

After all, this, allegedly, was not destined to be the greatest love affair of their lives, and bearing that in mind, their immediate future boiled down to a few more fabulous shags and then a period of damage limitation, post-over when it’s over.  No point in ruining what little time they had left by…

The anger returned in a sickening rush, and if over when it’s over had been a beast that Spike could lay his hands on, by now it would have consisted of several steaming piles of its dismembered parts.

“…it doesn’t matter if this isn’t destined to be the greatest love affair of our lives…”

Blue eyes flashed gold in the dark, and a low snarl escaped the vampire.

“It matters, Love.  It matters.”





Chapter 28 Whatever It Takes

Crunching, barefoot, across a carpet of bugs.  Had to be a dream.  Not the first of the night either, nor the most emotionally destructive.  Or maybe the other one had been the dream and this…

This was a dream.  At least Xander was counting on it being a dream as he vigorously shook off one enterprising creepy-crawly that began to venture up his leg.  His left eye agonisingly un-popping reassured him, and his now twenty-twenty vision sought a few clues.

Cave?  The ceiling, walls and floor were a sea of shifting black bodies, heaving and drifting; hard to tell if this was a cave.  Koga’s cave?  Great, shouldn’t have let that stupid idea enter his head, because he’d had something similar to this before, and however much he put up a fight…

Koga was there, instantly, surrounded by heaps of body parts, the remains of all the victims that Xander had somehow failed to save.  No longer trampling insects, Xander looked warily downwards to discover he was standing on a rug, animal skin, head still attached.  Animal…  No.  Human.  Human, and…  The head – Tania’s head – turned to look at him, face mutilated almost beyond recognition.  Xander screamed within this…  Oh, God help me, it has to be a…  …dream, backing off the skin rug, backing into a solid form that wasn’t going to be Spike despite the silent prayers that followed the scream.

He turned around, face-to-face with Koga, and this was old, this he knew, as the man’s hand rose to the level of Xander’s face and…  Another scream as his eye was destroyed once more, and his stomach churned as he felt himself falling, knowing he was being thrown into that shaft in the cave, that he’d never escape it and he’d die there surrounded by rotten food and rats and shit and…

He landed upright, against a wall that teemed with bugs, and they crawled over him, into his clothes, ears, mouth, throat, but as he vomited them out he cried with relief despite his revulsion because this wasn’t the shaft, or the cave, and that excruciating pain in his head was his eye reforming.

He jerked away from the wall, shaking off the suit of insects, aware of the crunch underfoot that was horrific but so much better than smooth human skin.

“Koga’s dead,” he said aloud, spitting out a last bug on the final consonant.  “Koga is dead.”

Koga obligingly appeared, very dead now.  Unfortunately still moving as he strolled toward Xander, flesh sloughing away from his rotting body, hand rising and…

“Spike won’t let you,” Xander explained calmly.  “He’ll only kill you again.”

Koga fell still.

“Spiiiiiiiiiike,” he groaned, and his head abruptly sagged and rolled on its broken neck.

“Yeah, that’d be Spike.”

The disintegrating corpse began to laugh, a cruel, taunting laugh that set Xander on edge because he’d heard it too many times in the past when he’d missed something, when he was the unknowing butt of some joke, when he was being made a fool of.

“Spiiiiiiiiiike,” Koga cackled for a last time before his face exploded into more insects, and Xander panicked, barely able to move and needing the greatest effort to wade away through the shiny black sea.

Door.  Good idea?  Bad idea?  Door and…he recognised the strange little dream catcher pinned to the panel: his bedroom door, and the first affectionate gift that Simone had given him.  Homesickness swept over him and he collapsed against the familiar setting, clinging to the door’s reassuringly substantial wooden frame and almost weeping with longing for his home and his friends.

Quiet laughter distracted him from his misery, laughter behind the door, barely distinguishable from the drone of the insects but still carrying that taunting quality; Xander knew he had to go in and, even as his steps backed away, his body moved forward, forward and through the un-opening door, forward and into the calm retreat of his New Forest bedroom.

He looked at the floor.  Carpet.  Not bugs, but carpet.  Carpet that he knew well, a little threadbare in places but he’d refused to have it replaced because he loved the idea of the carpet being older than him.  His carpet in his room.  Safe.  Should be.  So…?

A snigger came from the direction of his bed.  Huge, rather ugly old-fashioned frame dominating the space, bearing the luxury mattress that the Colby’s had gifted him in a bid to help him sleep.  His bed, and it was sniggering at him?  A step closer and the covers billowed.  Spike.  Leaning up to stare at him.  Laughing.

“Spike?” Xander whispered, relieved by this presence but growing distressed by the tone of the laughter.  “Spike?”

A lighter giggle and the covers bulged and withdrew to reveal, rather predictably, Buffy sharing this space, Xander’s space.

“Don’t do this,” Xander told them reasonably as he watched Spike gloatingly roll onto and into Buffy’s body.  “My bed,” came the pointless explanation.  “Spike, you said I could join you next time and kick her skinny ass out, and this is…”  As Xander drew closer Spike’s head snapped up, game-faced and furious with the suggestion.  “But you said…”

“Fucking idiot.”

“No, I’m not, this is what you said…”

“Xander, can you help me with this?” Buffy asked, and Xander noticed she was holding the puzzle book, frowning over the contents and ignoring the fact that a vampire was enthusiastically fucking her.

“I can…”  Xander’s voice trembled to nothing.  He cleared his throat.  “Yeah, I can help you, but…”  He gestured to Spike.

“He won’t notice,” Buffy explained with a smile.  “Like he didn’t notice when you needed him the most.  Remember?  The uber-nasty was torturing you but all he wanted was to stay in LA and fuck my ass?  Wow, we laughed about that.”

“I remember.”

“What’s the answer to this?”  Buffy handed the book over, and Xander stared at the page.  It bore a simple: ‘2 + 2 =’ and it baffled him.  Buffy started to giggle again.  “I didn’t believe him when he said you couldn’t put two and two together.”

In a sudden fury, Xander dropped the book and reached for the bedclothes, tearing them away from the bed, immediately wishing he hadn’t when he discovered Angel sandwiched between Spike and Buffy, fucked and fucking.

“Spike,” Angel gasped as his grandchilde pounded into him.  “I think you’re making Xander feel a little insecure.”

“Do I look like I care?”

Spike peered over his shoulder at Xander, human features distorted by a spiteful grin.  The laughter resumed, increased, and Xander’s hands found themselves in possession of a matchbook.  Xander watched himself, watched with passive distress as he lit the entire book and casually tossed it onto the bed, igniting the three writhing forms, watched Spike’s gorgeous body explode into ash.

Xander jerked awake, really awake, awake but thoroughly disorientated.  The drone of spirits overwhelming him, hand searching for Spike and finding cool, empty sheets.  Despite the voices and the adrenalin rush, reality didn’t want to stick around, and Xander slipped back, at his bedside as Spike, alone and surrounded by flames, reached out for him.

“Why are you punishing me, Xander?”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“Not my fault, is it?  That you’re barely better than nothing.”  Chuckling once more at Xander’s undisguised grief, Spike thrust a hand into his own chest and yanked out his heart.  “Here…”  He threw it in Xander’s direction.  “I don’t need it.  Not here.  Not with you.”

Sobbing now, sobbing as Spike laughed heartily at his suffering, Xander ran forward, feeling himself catch fire as he desperately tired to push Spike’s heart back into the gaping chest cavity, burning his lungs as he whooped in air, tasting the ash as—

Up and out of the bed, Xander collided with the wall and stayed there, panting and trying to control his panic.  No Spike.  Why no Spike?  Mingling with the voices in his head was Spike’s, and maybe that was it, maybe Spike was dead and in his head and…  Xander shook that nonsense away, listening for Spike, edging forward, scared of the bed catching alight and the possibility of bugs underfoot and Spike not…being.

Laughter.  His name, Spike’s voice, Spike’s laughter.

“Fuck, I’m still dreaming.”

He stared at where the partition wall was cracked open, and wondered if this was a dream or if it was real and, if it wasn’t real, what the hell was waiting for him behind that wall.

“Will you stop worrying about what’s happening here and fix up everything at your end?  I need this over with as soon as possible.    Less excuses and more action, eh?    No, the freak show’s fine, he’s just suffering from cabin fever.    I told you I’d keep him sweet, didn’t I?  You know how persuasive I can be, even with moody bastards like him.  I’ve had the practise with you.”  Spike listened and laughed.  “Yes, I know, I know, whatever it takes: I’m already doing whatever it takes and more.    Bloody idiot’s fallen for every line, I’m only sorry we didn’t have a bet on this.    Right now?  Either waking up and expecting me to give a toss about his sodding dreams, or preparing himself for another day of playing piss off the vampire.”  Once again Spike listened and laughed, good humoured with Angel because the freedom to be unnecessarily mean was a relief after a night of feeling so bitter and hard done by over Xander, over someone he shouldn’t want and couldn’t have and who taunted him with…  “What?  Wasn’t concentrating.    No.  Like I said, you stop worrying about…    Hardly.  Not much to out-smart, is he.  I promise you I’ve got that simpleton wrapped around my little finger.”

Xander paused with his hand on the partition wall, stung by what he was hearing, by the tone of Spike’s voice as he spoke of him, almost hoping that this was a dream because real Spike wouldn’t sound like that, wouldn’t say those things, unless…  Whatever it takes?  Whatever it takes?  A wave of nausea hit hard, and Xander took several deep breaths to settle his guts.  Had this all been about whatever it takes?  And had he suspected - known – all along, hence the dreams?

Spike was laughing again, and it sounded crueller than ever, and Xander’s name was in there, and…  He felt compelled to put an end to this, dream or reality, to stop Spike’s derision, but it was so difficult to move.  Did that mean he was still dreaming?  No bugs.  No Koga.  No Buffy.  No fire.  No…eye.  Real?  Real and…his only comfort was ridiculing him in the next room.

“Fuck.  Oh, fuck.”

Xander yanked the partition open two feet and stumbled into the living room, startling Spike, whose expression turned to alarm at the sight of his distressed charge.

“Gotta go,” Spike snapped into the phone, words barely out of his mouth before the connection was cut and the cell was in his pocket.  “Xander?”

“Whatever it takes,” Xander murmured, interpreting the shock on Spike’s face as a reaction to being caught out, and being further upset as the vampire’s shock turned not to contrition, but to irritation.

“What?  What did you hear?”  Xander ignored the terse question as he shakily checked around for bugs, lifting his feet one by one to be sure.  “You still dreaming?” Spike asked.

“It was Koga who blinded me.”


“And Buffy didn’t believe you when you said I couldn’t put two and two together.”

“This precise moment she’d be right, wouldn’t she.  Come and sit down.  Wake up.”

“I am.  I think.  This is real.”

This is real, yes.  Not Koga or…”

“And…and…we’re…  You and me, we’re…whatever it takes.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Spike grouched, approaching Xander fast and making him clumsily flinch away in his dazed state.  This spectacularly unsympathetic and barely recognisable Spike clapped his hands in Xander’s confused face.  “Wake up.  Wake up.

“I am.  I think.”

“I’m warning you, Xander, I’m not in the mood for this.”

“My head hurts…”

“Take a pill.”

“…but it’s not my eye coming back.”  Xander peered suspiciously at Spike.  “I must be awake.”

With a sigh, Spike stomped across to the kitchenette.

“Sit down, I’ll make you some coffee.  Very hot, very strong, blast you into consciousness.”

“I’m barely better than nothing.”

“Did I say that?”


“Figures.  Dream Spike’s far smarter than this version.”

“No.  He’s cheating on me.”

“He is?  Well, let me guess,” Spike said acerbically, “after last night’s conversation, that’d have to be…”


“Angel?” Spike repeated in a bark of humour.  “You think?”

“Buffy first but…  That I understand.  ‘Cause…Buffy.  At least she learned to respect you.  But him…”

Him’s not so bad.  Just because he thinks you’re a waste of space doesn’t make him so bad.”

That shook Xander, whatever state his mind was in.  Spike defending Angel.


Xander checked under his feet for bugs as Spike resumed his coffee-making.


No bugs.  It didn’t make sense.  Xander nodded hazily despite agreeing with nothing, and he turned his back on Spike to head for the bathroom, very deliberately locking the door behind him for the first time since Chrissie’s.

Spike glanced over his shoulder at Xander’s disappearing form and smacked the mugs down onto the counter, banging his fists alongside them and pausing there, taking a few deep, futile breaths, a parody of a long-lost calming act.

“It’s not his fault,” Spike told himself crossly, which was perfectly true but didn’t help assuage the anger that had been continually rumbling inside him since the previous evening, the product of wanting too much and very sensibly denying himself.  The product of Xander being beyond his control and that being…exactly as it should be.

Spike tried to be worried instead, but he’d seen Xander like this before, awake but still dreaming, and it was harmless.  The man would soon come to his senses and the dream might be discussed, might not, and life would rapidly return to normal, whatever normal happened to currently be.  Spike wanted to be worried rather than angry.  Spike wanted to be anything rather than angry.  He certainly didn’t want to spend what time they had left together sulking about things he couldn’t have and, in his heart of hearts, probably didn’t really want.  Probably.  In his heart of hearts.

This time the mugs smashed as he snatched them up and brought them back down, jagged edges cutting into his palms as he ground them into pieces.  He stood there, motionless, for what seemed a long time, concentrating on the welcome pain in his hands, the manageable pain.

“Whatever it takes?”  The voice from behind Spike was soft but it made him jump, and he spun about to see a fully alert and freshly showered Xander staring at him with a disturbing mixture of sorrow, confusion, anger and…nothing.


“You said…”

“You dreamt it.”

“No.  This was you.  To Angel.  Apparently I’m a bloody idiot falling for every line and…and…this…us…this is…whatever it takes.”

Spike sighed and wiped his blood-streaked hands on the kitchen towel.

“I’m not about to tell him the truth, am I?  You didn’t want me to.”

“No, don’t try to turn this around.  Not telling Angel about us didn’t mean talking about me like I’m…”

“You don’t know what you heard.”

“I do know.  Freak show; moody bastard; simpleton.  And…  Whatever…  It’s why this has been so good,” Xander said in flat-toned revelation.  “You’ve been doing…whatever it takes.  You’ve been faking it.”


“You’re faking it.”

“Don’t be daft, I simply wasn’t about to tell Angel…”

“I can’t believe I fell for it.  Any of it.  All of it.”

With a petulant shrug, Spike turned away and began sweeping what remained of the mugs into the sink with the edge of his hand, aware of Xander returning to the bedroom and, when he listened, he could hear the sounds of rushed dressing.  He quickly re-ran the conversation with Angel in his mind, trying to be Xander, wearing Xander’s acute vulnerability, and…finally realising how damning it sounded and how genuine Xander’s concerns were.  Despite his lingering resentment, Spike rushed to the bedroom.

“Xander.  We’re going to talk this through and you’re going to understand…”

Xander looked up from tying his trainer laces and glared, eye glittering with moisture.

“What?  Understand that for some perverse reason you absolutely needed to do this to me.  Make such a fool of me when all I wanted was to help you and – and…not be hurt, not get attached.”

“It isn’t like that.  C’mere and I’ll…”

Spike reached for Xander but Xander straightened up and quickly backed away.

“I don’t want you to touch me.  I never wanted you to touch me.”

“Get over it.  You know you got what you wanted.”

“I kept telling you no, and…  I can’t do this.”  Xander’s voice shook apart and he made a couple of quick, searching moves before hurrying to the living room, grabbing up his coat and wallet, and heading for the exit.  In less than a second, Spike was blocking his way.

“You’re going to listen to me and you’re going to understand,” Spike insisted despite not having a clue how he could reasonably explain his behaviour away.

“You’re right, you know, I am an idiot.  I let you treat me like a total jerk over heaven, I let you do that and right now I can’t remember why.  I do know it isn’t going to happen again.”

“What I said to Angel…”

Xander gave a tearful, humourless laugh.

“Oh, yeah, isn’t that the final humiliation?  Angel being a part of this?  Fucking Angel.”

“Oh, for—  For Christ’s sake, listen to yourself!”

Spike saw Xander’s hands clench into fists and knew he was going to be hit and…okay.  But however much Xander might have wanted to hit Spike he couldn’t do it, couldn’t physically hurt someone he’d grown to care for, whatever the present circumstances.  Naturally it was in the vampire’s nature to exploit the perceived weakness, and he slowly approached…

“C’mon, Love.”

…only to find himself shoved aside and, in the moment it took for him to recover, Xander was out of the room and protected from pursuit by the bright winter light.


Xander paused outside, panting because he couldn’t seem to catch his breath, feeling completely lost.  No car, no money, and it was only Spike calling him from the doorway, furiously demanding his return, that made him move, wanting to be away from the pain and the reminder of how ridiculous he’d allowed himself to become.  To be made.  And didn’t that just prove Spike’s point?  He really wasn’t much to out-smart.

Striding purposefully away now, he got ten minutes along the isolated road before slowing to a gradual halt.  Where was he going?  Not a clue.  He didn’t know where he was, or how to get home, and he was out of contact with his friends, unable to call them out of fear of leading the wrong people to them.  He stared hopelessly about himself: not a car to be seen, not even if he was prepared to risk returning to New Forest and taking the uber-nasty along for the hitched ride.

Self-pity surged and receded, and Xander slowly turned in the direction of the motel.  Two choices: a) go back to Spike and spend the rest of the day/week/month/time until death hating him; b) don’t go back to Spike at all.  Or at least not until the Dead Guy event.  Or at least not until they could talk without Xander wanting to lash out.

He started walking.  A room of his own, the luxury of privacy, and a month of meditation should do the trick.  Not that he was sure he’d ever understand why this had happened, why Spike had felt the need to…  To what?  Exploit the closest body?

“I’d get that.  If that was it.  If that was all.”  Xander felt a vague expression of consolation from Jesse and smiled weakly at that.  “Hey, Jesse.  You ever think I was this dumb?”

Opening himself up to Jesse was seen as willing participation on Xander’s part and the dull rustle of voices became a roar.

“Okay, okay, one at a time.    Saul?    Okay.”  The tangled mass of dialogue began to loosen and single voices emerged; this was what Xander was about, and being used by someone other than Spike was a vast consolation.  “Okay…  You can talk to me, there’s only me.    Okay?    Yeah, I know it, I’m just about there.    You did?    Well, what motel doesn’t have guys having heart attacks on top of their secretaries…”

Back at the motel, and eyepatch in place, Xander went directly to the reception area.  The blandly polished young woman behind the desk gave him a cool smile and he could imagine what she was thinking, what she’d guessed about him and Spike, what she probably knew from gossip over the state of their sheets.

“Hi,” he said with forced brightness.  “Can I have a room, please?”

Professional interest was clearly piqued.

“You’re not happy with your room, Sir?”

“The guy I’m sharing with…  He snores, talks in his sleep, has disgusting habits,” Xander finished with a grin.  “I really need my own space.”

“Of course.”  She clicked a few details into the computer.  “Twin or double?”


“We usually issue a double for a single.  I can reduce the rate slightly.  Unless your…friend will be joining you?”

“No, he’s staying exactly where he is.  Bad, bad idea sharing.  With him,” Xander added as a hopeful afterthought, wishing she’d see some gorgeous guy she wanted to fuck instead of freaky, one-eyed, desperate him, wishing she could be the last person he’d slept with rather than Spike, wishing…  “Sorry?”

“I asked if it was being charged to the same credit card.”

“Uh…  Yeah.  Guess so.  Charged to the firm.  Not to…”  Xander nodded in the vague direction of his and—  The direction of Spike’s room.

“Thank you.  That’ll be number…thirteen.”  Her smile was finally genuine as Xander chuckled wryly at that.  “Are you superstitious?  I can give you fourteen.”

“No, don’t worry.  I think I’ve had about all the bad luck I’m going to get in one lifetime.”  She handed over the key, and Xander drew breath to speak, hesitated, nervously went with it.  “Any chance you’d like to bring me some good luck?  Have a drink with me tonight?”

Definite interest, but Xander wasn’t fooling himself, it was more of the ‘source of gossip’ variety than romantic.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but the staff aren’t encouraged to socialise with the guests.”

“The curse of thirteen,” Xander joked, allowing her the patent lie, and he got out of there before he could embarrass himself any further.

Once he figured out that he had to walk past their – Spike’s room to get to his own, Xander decided to leave settling in until later.  He managed to find enough loose change in his pockets to buy himself a coffee, and hoped he could drag that out for the rest of the morning.  Maybe if the diner was empty he could read for the waitress or the cook, just so they wouldn’t mind him hanging around the place.

Two steps in the diner’s direction and it hit him, hard.  Whatever it takes.  The wonderful friendship, the relationship he’d built with Spike had been whatever it takes, fabricated by Spike at Angel’s instruction, simply to manipulate him into doing their bidding.  Over when it’s over had been due to feel bad, but this…  Tears welled in Xander’s eye and he furiously blinked them away, trying to refocus on the voices, trying not to feel as if his chest was as hollow as Dream Spike’s had been when he’d ripped out his own heart.

He stared at the diner; he couldn’t face people; he chose a new direction and began to walk.

The stupid thing was that he’d always known that any kind of involvement was foolhardy, and even with that knowledge he’d let the comfort become sex and the sex become—  No.  No, this wasn’t about having his heart broken, this wasn’t about love and, disappointingly, that wasn’t as big a relief as it should have been.  This wasn’t about love it was about trust.  It was about attachment, and the fear of.  It was being close.  Close.  Closer.

A sudden flashback to that first time, the appalling, violent sex made necessary by the entity that haunted him, and the pain of it whizzed past, leaving him to remember Spike afterwards, scared for Xander and so caring.  Tender.  Spike had held him and been tender and…it wasn’t real?

“Why can’t I be angry?” Xander asked the crisp morning air.  “Angry would be good.”

No anger.  Simply the anguish of feeling so betrayed, and the excruciating, overwhelming sensation of loss.

Xander lost track of where he walked, and for how long, experiencing moments of disorientation when he wasn’t even sure if he was awake, moments when he wasn’t sure if any of this was real, but eventually he found himself at the far edge of town.  There was a pond, and ducks, and a roughly fashioned bench.  He sat and watched the stocky birds, thinking of the tinier varieties that visited his garden at home and how oddly fond he’d grown of them bearing in mind that their only contact was him supplying scraps and birdseed, and them visiting daily for their lunch.  Familiarity.  He liked familiarity.  So did the ducks apparently – they were gathering expectantly around the bench as if…  A glance to his right confirmed Xander’s theory.  An elderly woman from the nearest house was coming along to feed them.

As she drew close she smiled a hello at Xander – which he reciprocated -  and then proceeded to feed her feathered friends.  Bread supply exhausted, she sat alongside Xander and observed that he was a stranger in town; he tried his best to brighten up a little, not wanting her to think his dourness had any sinister connotations, and they talked about the area, the ducks, Christmas, families.  A voice became clear in his head and he didn’t think twice before repeating the message.

“Your sister says the ring that you’ve been going crazy looking for fell off the dresser and is wedged between two floorboards.”

“My – my…sister?” the woman stuttered in surprise.

“You have a red rug?  Red with a kind of swirly pattern?”

“Umm…  Yes, yes I do.”

“Close to the edge of that, right end of the dresser, look in the crack in the floorboards.”

“Oh…”  Her hand rose to her chest and patted.  “Good gracious, what a shock.”

“You okay?  I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have…”

“My sister passed away a long time ago.”

“She likes to keep an eye on you.  On your family.  She’s thrilled about the twins because there haven’t been twins since Great Aunt Edith and…”

The woman whimpered and left without another word.  Xander berated himself for his clumsiness, but didn’t feel his mistake as keenly as he would have a week ago.  A few days ago.  Any time before he was so full of his own ignorance and unanswerable questions and hurt.

He was still on the bench at sundown, barely noticing that he was bordering on frozen.  He wasn’t surprised when the Cadillac drove past and swiftly returned, parking up, the driver out of the vehicle and approaching within seconds.  Spike sat beside him, occasionally throwing a glance in his direction, but saying nothing.

“I thought about going home,” Xander eventually broke the silence.

“What did you decide?”

“I’m still here, aren’t I?”

“I thought that might be immobility through hypothermia rather than choice.”

“Yeah.”  Xander finally noticed.  “Guess I’m a little cold.  I should…”

“Look,” burst from Spike, “what you overheard…”

“Was exactly what I needed.  I’m put off, turned off.  It’s forced me to come to my senses, now all I want to do is fulfil my commitment, get the job done, and…  I’m looking forward to going home.  I want to go home.”

“You think I should have told Angel what was happening?”

“It doesn’t matter now.”

“I don’t trust him not to take advantage of you because of us, or…”

Us?  There isn’t remotely an us.”

“That’s not how he’d see it.”

“And how the hell can he take advantage of me when I’m already doing what he wants?”

“What he wants comes in degrees.  Things get too dangerous and I wouldn’t want you to put yourself at risk.  Further risk.  If he thought there was anything between us he’d play the ‘do it for Spike’ card without a second thought.”

“You said once that you’d delight in telling Angel.”

“We were talking about dating.  This isn’t dating, is it?”

Xander gave an ironic laugh at that and shook his head.

“It certainly isn’t.  This is whatever it takes and I’m the bloody idiot who’s fallen for every line.”

“You don’t believe that,” Spike growled.  “You know how I really feel.”

“I don’t know anything anymore.”

“Then come back to the motel with me.”


“In the light of what’s been said I want you to judge for yourself whether or not I was faking it.”

“Great, another stupid choice, more inappropriate sex.  If all you want is a fuck I know you have the money in your pocket to pay for a hooker.  Even the most expensive whore in the county.”

A stiffening of his posture and Spike positively radiated fury but returned to saying nothing.  He simply stood, fished the car and room keys out of his pocket, dropped them into Xander’s lap, and stalked away into the darkness.

When the bright blond of the vampire’s hair finally faded from view, Xander creakily rose and flexed his cramping muscles before stiltedly making his way to the Cadillac, dropping into the driver’s seat and turning over the engine.  He groaned in pleasure as warm air pumped around his frigid limbs.

The increasingly familiar ache in his chest returned when he noticed the coins on the dashboard, casually thrown there after their shopping trip; it had been enormous fun and so much about the two of them and their togetherness.  He hadn’t imagined it, he wasn’t being fooled.  He didn’t think he could bear the truth if it was all so calculated and cruel and—

“Oh God, I sent him to someone else.  Oh God.”

Xander allowed himself to get angry as the first twist of jealousy rearranged his guts.  It didn’t matter that Spike had manipulated him into this state of possessiveness, every instinct said that Spike was his.  Right now the vampire was his partner and Xander didn’t share.  Ever.

But what could he do?  Presently?  Nothing more than grip the steering wheel so hard it squeaked, be horrified at how much the thought of Spike with someone else hurt, and be amazed at how deeply Spike had touched him.

“We were happy.  He made me happy,” Xander accepted, words faltering on hitched breath.  Just a short, spectacular while of peace and consolation and affection.  However fake, Spike had made Xander happy.

Whatever it takes.

Xander leaned his head against his hands and grieved.

Spike stayed out of sight just long enough to make Xander think he’d been abandoned, then he lurked in some shrubs and waited for the Cadillac to head back toward the motel; if Xander followed the one main road through town, Spike was certain that he’d have no trouble finding his way there.

When the car eventually drove off, Spike sprinted after it, glad of the physical exertion after spending most of the day confined to quarters, tense and pacing; he fell a little behind when Xander unexpectedly and uncharacteristically put his foot down, but his fears about Xander taking this opportunity to bolt for home were assuaged when he arrived at the motel to see the lights on in their room and the front door slightly ajar.

He continued to watch from a distance as Xander proceeded to move his own possessions to a new room.  Spike was, at first, aghast and shocked into inactivity, but then too livid to object or obstruct, unable to make a reasonable approach to talk this whole ludicrous business over calmly, worried that he might become too heavy-handed or demanding with Xander.

He’d had hours to think about his own, wildly out of proportion emotions the previous night, and the derogatory remarks he’d made regarding Xander, eventually concluding that he didn’t blame Xander for either his playful demands during that fateful shag, or for being so upset over what he’d overheard.  But, despite the rationality, the rage building in Spike’s gut was starting to make the vampire unhealthily fixated and irrational.

He refused to lose Xander.  He wanted, and he’d take.  Want.  Take.  Have.  The demon’s way.



Spike shuddered and began to back off, reversing along the road, away from the danger he presented to Xander.  Xander, who trusted him, had trusted him, but now justifiably believed himself to be a gullible, exploited fool.  Xander, who, despite everything, probably still trusted Spike more than he trusted himself.

Turning on his heel, Spike leapt from stroll into gallop, breathing in deeply to scent prey and hurtling away in the direction of a distant big cat, hopefully something ferocious enough to supply the requisite fight for his life.

“He’s meant to be wicked and exploit me,” Xander said to his latest temporary home, quoting Spike’s recent words.  “That doesn’t indicate a failing on my part, that means he’s good at his job.”

The new room had heard all about it: the mission, and the adventures it had brought with it, the highs, lows, murders and kidnappings, the vampire – God, this room had to be sick of hearing about the vampire.

“This is my fault, I know that.  He said it was just sex but I assumed it was more.  I assumed it was more because I always do.  I was wrong.  I was wrong.  So that’s something I can’t blame him for.”  Xander wandered yet another circuit of his room.  “Except he said it was more.  He said he thought the world of me.  He said I was bloody gor—”  Xander choked on that, rushing to the bathroom and forcing himself to look at the image in the mirror.  Scruffy hair to scruffy chin, unstyled, unshaved, framing the blotchy face that was still recovering from the cold, the maimed features, the mouth…the perfect mouth…  Xander tried to ignore the tears he saw welling in his eye as the pain redoubled: if he’d listened, really listened, to what Spike was telling him, he’d have known it was all an act.  Gorgeous and perfect he was not.

Stripping off, he stepped into the shower, determined to warm up and, at the same time, wash away the last traces of his humiliation, but his mind focused on the inevitable: shower, Spike, the touches, the affection, the sex.  The sex.  Xander was sporting an involuntary erection before he knew it.  Trained, he reminded himself with an irresistible smile.  If he lived through the Dead Guy event, someone might appreciate the training, because he would find someone, it’d too hard to be alone again, and he sure as hell wouldn’t have Spike.

Hand wrapping around his cock and stroking, he tried to remember what he’d jerked off to before Spike, but all the alternative fantasies were fleeting, and he returned time and again to that beautiful pale body beneath him, moving together with nothing more than pleasure as they re-wrote their first time.

And he had sent Spike to someone else.

The lust faded, erection wilting as the sense of loss overwhelmed…everything.

Spike let the mountain lion live, because it was what Xander would have wanted.

It didn’t stop him tearing a claw from the battling feline though, satisfying the need to bring yet another, indisputably unwanted, trophy home to his mate.

Xander, meanwhile, had gone to bed and was soon reminded of how hard he’d always found it to sleep with the continual drone of voices filling his head.  More than that, the disorientation he’d been suffering from all day was exacerbated by his growing exhaustion, and despite being too tired to think straight and too disturbed to so much as nap, he tried to figure out what had really happened that morning.

The bugs were real.  Something in his head insisted that the bugs were always real, even when they weren’t.  Just because he was usually the only person who could see them – or…was that in the dreams?  Whatever, it didn’t make them any less real.

Spike with Buffy was real.  Maybe not.  It still felt like it was real, but was that because of his preposterous jealousy the previous night?  Unless he’d dreamt that too?  No, that was really real, Spike refusing to play along with him and then including him with Buffy in the people you don’t always like category.  That should’ve been a big enough clue as to Spike’s feelings, even before the revelation of whatever it takes.  But, that aside, Spike had been…odd.  During; afterwards.  Odd.

“Or did I dream that?”

He’d dreamt of Koga, and of Tania, and…his mind shot off on a tangent as he recalled the condition of the poor girl when he’d found her, and hoped that she was recovering; he knew he’d have to phone John Randall to find out, tell his truthful lie about Koga now being in spirit.

Spike with Buffy was not real.  Because of Angel.  Not real.


Xander hadn’t burned any of them; he was selectively pleased about that.

Last night.  Spike with…him.  Real.  So real, hornily real, now painfully real.

Once again his Spike-sensitised body responded and this time he focused on the good memories, persuading himself to a joyless climax in the hope that hormonally-induced sleep would follow.  But no.  No satisfaction, no peace, just the loneliness that he’d feared, the emptiness, the longing for someone to hold onto, all the great reasons why attachments could not and would not be formed.

Too disappointed in himself to remain in bed and dwell on it, Xander rose, dressed, thought about going for a walk, smiled weakly at what he knew Spike’s reaction would be if he could read Xander’s mind, and felt glad that he didn’t experience some huge spite-filled reaction to that, and to Spike.  Fatigue was probably to thank, but he hated the thought of becoming bitter toward Spike over something that wasn’t his fault.

This was no-one’s fault.  Spike had been honest: just sex.  Xander had been honest: he couldn’t do just sex.  They should’ve had more sense and been friends.  They might have been very good friends, and if that had happened he wouldn’t be alone now.  But he would have missed out on a glorious time with Spike, the best fun he’d had for years, and he wouldn’t have missed that for anything.  Even the present misery.

He pulled on his coat, looked around for his gloves.  Spike had insisted on buying him gloves when they were at the mall, passing over the tasteful leather items that Xander had indicated in the hope of retaining a little credibility, but selecting the Christmas edition, Frosty the Snowman red fleece variety that Spike somehow guessed that Xander was secretly coveting.  They reminded Xander of the past, and of a tiny Willow in huge red woollen mittens.  They made him think of Simone’s dreadful Christmas cake with the traditional jolly little snowman perched on top, and always wonky.  But Spike didn’t know any of that, he just knew that Xander wanted the Christmas edition, Frosty the Snowman red fleece gloves and that’s what he bought, without so much as a smirk.

As much as Xander didn’t want to return to his previous room, he wanted his gloves, and if he wasn’t prepared to recognise that it could be construed as an excuse to see if Spike was back and unfucked, then that was fine.

After Xander had relocated his belongings earlier that evening, the door to Spike’s room had been left unlocked, the key placed unmissably on the kitchen counter; Xander found he was still able to walk straight in to the quarters they’d shared, leading him to assume no Spike.  So…gloves, just gloves.  Okay.  This was about gloves, and not Spike.  But Spike emerged from the bathroom as Xander walked in, and the flash of relief on the vampire’s face rapidly morphed into his well-worn inscrutable expression; Xander was more concerned by the fresh scratches.

“What happened to you?”

Spike shrugged, strolled a little closer.

“That whore you sent me to.  Saw the fangs and put up a fight so…”

“You’d better be joking,” Xander warned.

Knowing better than to prolong the teasing on this occasion, Spike dipped into his pocket and brought out the claw, offering it to Xander and luring him near.

“That’s…  Not bear, that’s…?”




“You’re lucky it’s just a few scratches then.  It is…just a few scratches?”  Spike nodded, studying Xander’s face as the man stared at the lethal-looking claw.  “You killed it?”


Xander looked up in surprise.


“For you.”

Spike saw a level of suspicion on Xander’s face that he’d hoped never to witness again, and without thinking he reached out to reassure him, or comfort him, whatever was needed to stop Xander looking that way, only to have him back off.

“I forgot my gloves,” Xander explained as he began a quick search.  “Thought I might go for a walk and…”

“Not alone.”

“That’s not up to you.”

“It’s still my job to keep you safe.”

“I don’t want to hear it.”

Xander spotted where the gloves had fallen off the day bed and been knocked underneath, and retrieved them.

“If I don’t keep you safe I won’t be able to live with myself,” Spike told him, the defensive edge gone from his voice, an unquestionable ring of honesty unravelling Xander’s defences.  Spike couldn’t fail to see.  “Xander, can I…”

“I’m going, not to walk,” Xander assured in a fluster, “I won’t walk, I’ll…  Go, I’m going.  To my room.”

“Don’t leave.  Please?”

Xander turned his back on the vampire, attempting to hide the too obvious feelings on his face, but when Spike came close he let himself be coaxed around.  He wanted to be angry.  Right now, staring into concerned blue eyes, anger would have helped.  But…

“I can’t stay.  I’m so…sad.  Too sad.”

“You don’t have to be.”

“I am, Spike, and what do you expect?  Not telling Angel about us was one thing, what I heard you say was…”  Xander’s upset voice trembled to a halt and Spike had the decency to look thoroughly ashamed of himself.  “The guy I thought I was with had more loyalty,” Xander whispered, “he was so much better than that.  I’ve lost him and I’m…  Sad.  I don’t have the strength right now to be anything more.”

“Me too.  Or you know I’d be fighting you all the way.”

Yes, Xander could see the exhaustion in Spike’s eyes.

“I guess.”

“I’m low.  Worn out.  I need you.”

“And I need to be left alone, so…  You have to leave me alone.”

Completely ignoring Xander’s request, Spike gathered the man’s rigid form into his arms and cuddled him.

“Will you let me explain?”

“More lies?”

“No.  But when I’m done you might find you’d’ve preferred a few lies.”

Xander smiled grimly and shook his head, leaning against Spike for the briefest moment and longing for the permanent return of his comfort zone.

“I wish…”

“No wishes.  You said.”

“I wish this was over,” Xander persisted, waiting in hope for a supernatural intervention that was never going to happen.  More than disappointed, Xander prised himself out of Spike’s grip and crossed very slowly to the door, staring at the floor as he went.

“I don’t want you to leave, Xander.”

“Sure.  But I have my own room, and that’s where I’ll be until we move on.”

“You don’t have to…”

“Gimme a break.”

Spike did, and a long, silent moment passed.

“I won’t lock this door.  Come back if you need to.  Y’know, your ghosts,” Spike finished lamely.

“There were times when I didn’t want this to be over.”  Xander’s voice was so quiet Spike had to strain to hear.  “Now…I can’t wait.”

Xander walked away.  The door was left as it was found, slightly ajar.  Spike stared at it and waited, in his gut the utmost conviction that Xander would return.

His gut was wrong.

The night was painful and lonely, and the following day was tedious and lonelier still for them both.

Xander attempted to write up more of his notes but found his mind ceaselessly wandering back to Spike, to how happy they’d been such a short time before.  No.  He’d been.  He no longer knew about Spike’s true feelings.  Idiotic, maybe, to have been so happy bearing in mind who the focus of that happiness was, but he had been.  Genuinely.  Not settling for, not simply needing, but wanting Spike.  Having Spike.  He kept catching himself teetering on the brink of ‘what if’, and each time briskly reminded himself that he was back to being alone, that this was his way, his lot in life, business as usual, and he could do this.  Again.  A little adjustment and it’d be as easy as it ever was.

Except that it had never been easy: being alone was wholly unnatural to him.  In his head he heard Spike’s words: ‘You never struck me as a loner.  Undeniable pack animal, the Xander Harris I knew.’  That’s how obvious it was, and that’s what he’d lost, time and again.

He’d stick to his plan: when he got home – if he got home – he’d make an effort, find someone uncomplicated and human to replace Spike and—  Why did it feel impossible to replace Spike?

Why was it impossible to replace someone who had hurt him so badly, who knew that he had, and yet couldn’t bring himself to say sorry?

Xander would’ve settled for a few lame excuses, other than the one he himself had given Spike.  It no longer mattered if Angel knew: if Angel thought the worst of Spike over this, then so be it.  Maybe later they could get together and Xander would explain—  Explain something that was entirely irrelevant now?  What would be the point?

“Just give him another chance to point out how stupid I am for thinking any of this mattered.”

Still nowhere near as furious as Xander thought he ought to be at this point, he nevertheless experienced a welcome twinge of irritation.  Attention back on the computer he found his goodbye letter to Spike and set about constructing a little payback.  Ready to attempt some malicious editing, he began to read, and the more he read, the more he missed rather than despised the vampire.

“‘…another time and place…’” he quoted in a whisper to the otherwise empty room.

He closed the unaltered file and turned to the media player, selecting the CD that was permanently in the drive.  A few clicks and Xander wrapped his arms around his wounded self, battening down the emotions that he knew would hurtle to the surface.

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

Spike watched TV without watching, listened to music without listening; the only distraction that brought him any pleasure was destroying the bible that he’d found in the top drawer of the bedside cabinet.  Xander’s side.  Xander must’ve kept it out of his way so he didn’t do precisely what he’d done since.

He thought about Xander without thinking about Xander, and when he caught himself thinking, he’d curse and try not to kick the furniture because he didn’t want to be living in a heap of potential stakes and splinters.

When he finally arrived at the point of allowing himself to think about Xander, he rationally accepted that Xander’s move had been a good one, they needed a little distance between them.  The relationship was doomed and they both had to get used to the fact that, as a couple, they were…not a couple.  Regardless of what had been stirred in him by this extraordinary man, Spike knew that he had to calm down, back off, return the prerogative of ‘what iffing’ to Xander, and certainly not fixate on the way Xander looked and laughed and spoke and shared and smelt and tasted and moved and the way he touched Spike so caringly and looked at him with such fondness and enjoyed him with almost demonic intensity and—

Distance, yes, good.  Not obsessing over what he couldn’t have.  Distance.  Good.

At dusk he’d pay Xander a visit, re-establish a decent working partnership, explain…  No, he wouldn’t explain, because that would make things worse, make Xander trust him even less than he did now.  The predictable, and by now highly tedious anger over losing control of this situation hit Spike full on, and for a moment it looked as if the armchair would be recycled into matchwood, but he fought the destructive urge, not wanting Xander to hear, come running because he was worried, or, even worse, not come running because he wasn’t worried.

Xander might come running, look at the wreckage, and ask why.


“Look in the mirror, Petal.  Imagine that bloke walking away forever.  That’s why.”

Spike frowned at the distant sound of music and it took a moment for him to place it.

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

Originally the offering had been meant as ironic, but over time it had adopted a far greater significance; now, thanks to his own foolishness, he’d forced an answer to that eloquently delivered and poignant question.

At sundown, and after two hours of listening to the muted strains of every depressing song in Xander’s collection, Spike knocked at the man in question’s present, and highly resented, abode and waited to be rejected.

Xander cautiously peered around the door before swinging it open and allowing Spike inside.

“Thought you might fancy a stroll,” Spike suggested.

“Yeah, that’d be good,” Xander answered without pause for thought, grabbing up and shrugging into his coat.  “I was hoping you’d come by so we could get out for a while.”

“Pub?  Restaurant?  We could drive into town and…”

“I’m not hungry.  Just need some exercise so I can sleep tonight.”

Xander ignored Spike’s derisory snort at that, fetching his gloves from their place on the heater and slipping his hands inside their toasty warmth, determinedly not meeting Spike’s eye as he marched past him and into the darkness.


They walked for an hour before another word was spoken.

“Any news?” Xander asked.  “About the Dead Guy event?”


“Any news at all?”

“Not really.  Nothing that concerns you.”

“I’m starved of gossip, I’ll listen to anything,” Xander prompted.

“Yeah.  Like you really want to hear about Angel’s week.”

“Spike…  Are the two of you…y’know…together?”

“Bloody hell, no!  Where did that come from?”

“The way you sounded when you were talking to him.”

“Don’t mistake familiarity for intimacy,” Spike warned, cross enough to shut Xander up for another twenty minutes.


“Can I ask you something?”

“Is it as ridiculous a question as the last one?”

“Maybe.”  Spike waved the question on.  “When you went to LA, did you sleep with Buffy?”  Spike stopped and stared at Xander in astonishment.  “It’s what she said.  You didn’t notice when I needed you most ‘cause you were too busy fucking her.  I was being tortured by the uber-nasty and you…  The two of you found it funny.”

A few more seconds in wordless shock, then Spike shook his head.

“She wasn’t in LA, I told you that at the time.  And I wouldn’t have—  She wouldn’t have.  Xander…  Xander, you haven’t even spoken to Buffy.”

Xander considered.

“That was…that had to be a dream then?”

“Oh, Love, come on: once demon of the week had been dealt with, the only thing that held me up in LA was buying you presents from the joke boyfriend.  You know that.  Whatever else I’ve screwed up, you know that.”


“Is it?  What other fantasies are you condemning me for, what else have you dreamt that you think is real?”

“That call was real,” Xander said quietly.  “Whatever it takes was real.”

Spike began to walk.


Xander, not looking forward to this particular discussion, took a few seconds out before catching Spike up.

“It’s true then?”


Xander waited.

“Is that all you have to say on the subject?”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Something…  I don’t know.  But if what we have is something you had to manufacture, and if what you said to Angel is how you really feel about me…”

“You don’t believe that.”

“You think?  ‘Cause it was pretty convincing.  You certainly sounded like you meant it, and it makes more sense than a genuine us.”

“No, it doesn’t.”


“I can’t fix this, all right!” Spike suddenly shouted.  “There are things you don’t know, that I can’t tell you, things about you, us…”

“You said you’d explain.  You never did.”

“Never got a chance to.  I was too busy either being in a rage or…or…feeling sorry for myself, or fucking us over, wasn’t I?”

“Explain now.”

“No.  There’s nothing I can do.”

“You could apologise.”

“I don’t know how to, not this time.  This wasn’t the usual thoughtless ignorance you can forgive me for, it was deliberate and vindictive, and…  What can I say to put that right?”

“You can say sorry.”

“Is that enough?”

Xander considered that, and smiled sadly.

“It’d be a start.”

“Are you prepared to take another chance on me?”

“Like we have been?  I don’t think I can.”

He may have been anticipating that answer, but Spike flinched before grabbing at Xander, pulling him into a hug, or at least trying to before Xander struggled free.

“Don’t do that,” Xander yelled, ire finally rising.

“All right, shouldn’t have,” Spike admitted sullenly; still no apology.

“Why do you think you can do that?”

“I don’t think I can.”

“Then why…”

“Can’t be sure until I try and I want to try.”

Another atypically clumsy lunge and Xander stumbled away from Spike’s grasp.

“Stop it.  You…stop it.  You don’t have the right anymore. You blew it.”

“I just want to hold you.  That’s all.  You can trust me that much, surely?”

“Trust you?” Xander laughed bitterly.  Trust you?

Xander tugged off his glove and his hand rose, displaying the measure of trust they had used in early days, finger and thumb held inches apart before the digits were abruptly snapped together.  The point was made: Xander, betrayed, was all out of trust.


They remained jittery and prone to glaring as their walk resumed, but once the icy air shrouding them seeped through to Xander’s skin and he began to shiver, Spike ignored the predictably skittish response as he moved close, taking Xander’s hand and squeezing.

“Let’s get you back in the warm, eh?”

Xander agreed with a shallow nod, absurdly glad that Spike’s hand wasn’t withdrawn as they turned and walked back in the direction of the motel, already unhappy that they would part ways when they arrived at their destination.

“You’re right, of course,” Spike unexpectedly told him.

“I am?  About what?”

“Trusting me.  You can, but you can’t.”

“Is it dumb that I still want to?”

“Not dumb so much as…touching.”

“I can’t stay angry with you.”

“I’m glad.  It’s a bad feeling.  I’m pointlessly angry with you; more angry with myself, but at least that’s fair.  And you were right about me wanting to control you, I don’t feel you’re entirely safe unless I can.”

“You can’t.”

“I know.”


Deep in silent thought they arrived at Xander’s door.

“I won’t ask you in,” Xander said firmly, as if he were trying to convince himself that this was what he wanted.  “Maybe, tomorrow night…”


“Spike…  I don’t want to say this, but I have to.  Why, when I ask you about what happened is the answer always that I know better, or I know how you feel?  You’ve repeatedly reminded me that I don’t know you at all, so why don’t you just give me a straight answer?”  The only response was one of Spike’s infuriating shrugs.  “Okay.  Was this – were we – whatever it takes, just sex, or something more?”

Spike sighed and began to turn away.

“I don’t want to talk about this.”

“You know I’ll draw my own conclusions?”

Spike looked back.

“What do you mean, you will.  You already have.  And…I don’t blame you.”

“Tomorrow, can we…”

“Go and get some sleep, you look done in.  We’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.”

“Right now I’d settle for hearing it was just sex rather than cold-blooded manipulation.”

The low laugh as Spike walked away stung Xander and it was all he could do to stop himself following the vampire and giving him a swift kick in the ass to relieve the wave of hurt and frustration it provoked.

But he was shaking again, and whether or not that was about the cold, it was better to get inside and throw the lock, feel pretend safe and warm up with the bottle of JD he’d liberated from the last duffel, the bottle he bitterly thought of as his moving out present.  Better still was to get excessively, numbingly drunk and make believe that none of this had ever happened.