Chapter 37 Home
The latest of the fabled Mr Lincoln’s houses was as different, yet equally as impressive, as each of the others; Xander walked about its rooms in dumbstruck awe that he could, with a single word, be living here with Spike. Snazzy, yes, but not too large for two, and the interior was deceptively cosy in contrast to the stark, modernistic exterior.
“Not bad for a rental,” Spike joked as he waited for Xander’s decision with faux patience. “Doesn’t have to be this, of course. We can look at houses in town, if you like.”
After sleeping all afternoon, Xander appeared fit, healthy, as bright as a button. Spike wanted to throw him onto the nearest sofa and have his wicked way, but…again with the faux patience. Oblivious – well, almost – to the barely contained lust that was focused in his direction, Xander studied and considered and paced and actually made up his mind long before he decided to put Spike out of his misery.
“It seems to be quieter here.”
“I hoped it might be, away from the town.”
“I’m probably imagining it.”
“Didn’t you find that with the motels though? The ones that were a bit more remote?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Lucky that I do then.”
“You so set this up,” Xander grinned.
“No.” Xander stared a meaningful stare. “Oh, all right, maybe I thought it was an option. For you, though, for your peace of mind.”
“How were you going to convince me if I’d wanted to stay where I was and I hadn’t had audience issues?”
“I wasn’t going to convince you. Like now: still don’t have your answer, do I?”
Xander leaned against the nearest wall and, once again, scrutinized his surroundings.
“Can you really afford this? You know I can’t help out much.”
“Not a problem.”
“But if it means you going back to LA to work, and that means…”
“Don’t you worry. Once Angel gets a reminder of being Spike-free, he’ll be paying me to stay away.”
“Good. That’d be good.”
“You need me to make my mind up now?” Xander asked, playing at indecision and playing it very convincingly if the strain on Spike’s face was anything to go by.
“Take your time. Big decision.”
“You like it, though?”
“You’d fuck me here?”
“That. I like that most.”
Not fooled for a moment by Spike’s show of superficiality, Xander went and hugged him.
“I love it.”
Spike hugged Xander back, so tightly that he squeaked.
“One call and it’s ours.”
“Make the call, Baby.”
Xander returned to strolling as Spike made the call, and he could overhear it was an easy one filled with good humour rather than hard bargaining; the generous Mr Lincoln intrigued him, and he looked forward to meeting the man and shaking him by the hand. Or whatever one shook that particular kind of demon by. When Spike finally bounded into the kitchen to join Xander he quickly confirmed that the deal was struck.
“So…” Xander began, gazing at his shiny surroundings, “we did it.”
A reference to much more than the house and Spike knew it.
“Against all the odds,” the vampire added, taking Xander’s hands and drawing him close. The desire had temporarily receded and what Xander saw when he looked into the sparkling blue eyes that were so attentively fixed on him was excitement. Hope. Adoration. He imagined that Spike was seeing much the same.
“I’m so happy I’m scaring myself,” he confessed.
“That’s the spirit!” Spike laughed as he planted a smacker of a kiss on Xander’s cheek. “What’s next then? We start packing?”
“Next… The Stokes’.”
“Ah. That should be jolly.”
“You want to leave it for another day?”
“Nah. I need to start persuading them that I’m here to be with you, not here to take you away from them.”
Spike linked Xander’s arm in his and guided them toward the door.
“I want my friends to like you, Spike, that’s very important to me. So when you pretend to like them, I want you to pretend really well.”
“Not a problem, Love.”
“Thanks to Uund’d’tar, I’ve got six-and-a-half grand in my pocket. You’d be surprised at how much goodwill that can buy.”
“They’re not that kind of people.”
“I admire your faith, I really do. But when you have old ladies whinging about parking their bony arses on uncomfortable wooden seats, and the cash solution walks in the door, everyone is that kind of people.”
Halfway down the drive, and in perfect synchronicity, they stopped and turned back to look at the house.
“What do you think?” Spike asked as they studied the compact frontage, pristine white walls and blue stained glass that virtually glowed in the moonlight. “Posh? Or plain barmy?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care.” Xander put his arm around Spike and hugged him close. “It’s home.”
At Xander’s direction, Spike drove a long, meandering route back into town.
“Why d’you need to put this off?”
“I’m not putting it off, I need a little more thinking time, that’s all. They’re going to be shocked enough by the way I look, I don’t want to scare them any more by making it sound like I’m leaving them rather than just leaving the house.”
“I still have your patch,” Spike offered. “Might make the timing a little easier. Wear that and you can whip it off when everyone’s been primed.”
“Yeah,” Xander said thoughtfully. Glumly.
“You want my advice? Go for it. No pretence, no pussy-footing. Seems to me, the harder a fellow tries to get things right, the more inclined things are to go wrong.”
“I think that might be just us.”
“But no patch. Okay. Okay.”
“You’ve not seen anyone at all since you’ve been home?”
“No, not yet.”
“I’ve spoken to them, but… I asked to be left alone. Asked,” Xander snorted, amazed by his own rudeness. “I told them to back off.” Spike glanced questioningly over. “I needed time to… I’ve been trying to get over you, to get used to the idea of people asking about you, especially after what I wrote in my letters.” Spike bit his lip and kept quiet about the shouldn’t-have-been-mailed, Dead Xander letters. “I didn’t want them to feel bad for me, and I wasn’t sure I could cover up how losing you had left me feeling.”
Xander reached across and squeezed Spike’s thigh, needing a solid reminder that this was real, that Spike was actually here. Spike flexed his muscles beneath Xander’s clenched fingers.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Spike promised him, leaving Xander wondering if he’d inadvertently spoken aloud of his need, or if he was simply too obvious for words.
“Except for LA,” Xander corrected.
“Would you not trample all over my sentimental gestures?”
“Sorry. You’re not going anywhere.”
“Except for LA.”
Xander glared and Spike snickered.
“Are we moving before you go?” Xander asked. “Or after you go…?”
“Up to you.”
“If it’s up to me, I think…I think it depends when you go.”
“When would you like me to go?”
“That’s up to me too?”
“Then…go as soon as possible. The sooner you go, the sooner you get back. You said you’d be gone a couple days?”
“Something like that.”
“It would give me the chance to get packed up and ready to move. It would also give me the chance to wrap my head around the fact that this is actually happening.”
“But if I leave you won’t look after yourself properly, and you’re still not entirely fit.”
“Two days, Spike. I’ll be okay for two days.”
“Maybe I don’t want to take any chances.”
“Hey, c’mon, I’m…”
Spike angrily thumped the steering wheel.
“You died. Remember? I’m still trying to get over how bloody useless and helpless that makes me feel, so you’ll have to deal with me refusing to risk your wellbeing.”
Taken aback by Spike’s vehemence, Xander patted the vampire’s thigh until he looked over, clenched jawed and watery eyed.
“It’s okay, Baby,” Xander soothed. “It’s okay, I’m okay.” Spike swallowed hard and briskly nodded, turning his attention back to the road. “I wasn’t dismissing your feelings over what happened, but… I don’t want to feel weak either.”
Spike’s hand dropped onto Xander’s.
“Course you don’t. Sorry.”
“We’ll heal. Together. We’ll be okay now we’re together.”
“Fucking hell, I am so embarrassed that I actively want to hear this namby-pamby rot from you.”
Xander’s turn to snicker; Spike’s turn to glare.
“Maybe you’re just pretending to in a bid to get laid,” Xander helped him out.
“Cling to that, can I?”
“Yes, you can.”
“When do I get laid?”
“If my house is out of the question we’ll need to find a romantic little back alley and…”
“When we’re done at the Stokes’, we can nip over to yours for a few essentials and then go to the— Then go home. Christen the place.”
“Go home,” Xander repeated to himself, still not truly able to imagine the white house being theirs. “Weird.”
“Not coming to your senses, are you?”
“No. I mean… Yes, that sounds like a good idea. Maybe this will start feeling…real.”
Spike could appreciate that, but now he was on a promise, he turned his thoughts to what had to be endured before he could claim his prize.
“The chapel,” he said. “How’s this going to play out? Your friends will be happy to have you back but pissed off that I’m with you?”
“Happy to have me back and, hopefully, happy that I’m happy.”
“Will Medusa cry?”
“God, no. H’ll cry. And me, I’ll probably cry.”
“Any last words of advice?”
“With anyone else I’d say just be yourself. But with you…that’s kinda what I’m afraid of.”
They paused for a moment outside the chapel: Xander ecstatic to be back but nervous nevertheless; Spike determined to make a success of the evening for Xander’s sake. This very spot held certain memories, and Spike smiled as he recalled.
“This is where I came in.”
“And this is where I come out. Wish me luck.”
“You don’t need luck, you have charm, talent, friends and me.”
“Damn it. Gimme the patch. You were right about timing.” Spike reluctantly handed the patch over and Xander tugged it on. “I hate this thing.”
“Don’t be like that.” Xander looked irritably to Spike. “Nowadays it’s too inconsequential to hate. For a man, like yourself, with two eyes, it’s little more than playing pirate. And I know you’ve done that, in fact, I think Anya might have mentioned…”
“Yes, okay, enough! Thank you. Inconsequential. Okay.”
“You still have the rest of the outfit?”
“No,” Xander snapped. Spike grinned wickedly and Xander relented. “But it’s an easy one to make up.”
“Meanwhile it’s just as well that I nicked that white coat and stethoscope from Bunny, eh?”
“I don’t…” Xander frowned.
“What? You can’t see the potential in having Doctor Spike call by to give you a thorough examination?”
Xander glazed over.
“When we’re done here.”
“Fuck, fuck, fuck…”
Hugs and excitement greeted Xander once they were inside, and it took nearly half-an-hour to get past the front of house volunteers and into the auditorium, where they sat in the back row and watched Douglas at work. The fact that the medium’s arm was out of plaster and apparently fully functional was a great relief to Xander, but made the uber-nasty’s violent attack on this quiet little place and its harmless inhabitants much harder to accept. The start of this adventure had been horribly unbelievable and the end… Xander glanced at Spike, who was as fascinated as ever by the readings and unaware of Xander’s attention. The end was wonderfully unbelievable.
Xander took Spike’s hand and squeezed, being shot a happy smile before Spike turned straight back to hang on Douglas’ every word as he delicately picked through a very complicated and equally entertaining evidentiary statement.
Staring around the place, looking for nonexistent changes and seeing instead dozens of recognisable faces, Xander could feel the difference in himself. The tranquillity that came from belonging to this particular community, a renewed faith in humanity engendered by being in the company of some of the kindest, most trusting people it had ever been his pleasure to meet.
“I love this place,” he murmured, and Spike distractedly rubbed his fingers.
He’d live and die here, and be happy to do so, even if it was the kind of uninspiring backwater that Spike had belittled. He’d had his turn in the spotlight and what a great learning curve that had proved to be. Having discovered himself to be, in most respects, a rather sensible individual, the closest he wanted to be to that spotlight in future was occasionally polishing the bulb.
A wave of laughter and an outburst of applause greeted the conclusion of Douglas’ reading, and Xander grinned at the stage when he saw Douglas shaking his head and laughing along having battled to the end of the intricate communication.
“That’s about it for the night, but I do have one last message,” Douglas told the audience, and with a fond smile his focus settled on Xander. “It’s for Xander. Welcome home; we’ve missed you.”
Another burst of applause greeted that, and Xander half-rose, gave an embarrassed wave, and quickly sat again.
“Nice sentiment,” Spike coolly observed.
“I know, I was just saying…”
“Naturally. You think I’m going to do anything to risk a shag tonight?”
Xander tutted and bowed his head, automatically responding to the blessing that Douglas recited to end the evening’s session. Non-religious and all-encompassing, Spike let the words flow over him and willed himself into his new role as Xander’s…whatever. That felt good, acknowledging himself as Xander’s…whatever in the chapel, mentally staking his claim on the man in this place, where just about everybody had a head start on him when it came to Xander’s affections. Yes, okay, they had a time advantage, but none of them were as gorgeous and glorious and irresistible as…
“Spike. You want to move?”
Spike glanced around at the gradually clearing hall, and the cluster of regulars waiting to personally welcome Xander home.
Spike stood and let Xander past, watching with satisfaction as the fan club genteelly mobbed his bloke. Bit of a boost to Xander’s confidence, and a confident Xander was a horny, wild and willing thing.
It was obvious that the Colbergs were hanging back until the competition for Xander’s attention had left the hall, and Douglas had disappeared somewhere backstage. Simone and Henry were discussing Xander’s dodgy choice of companion, Spike could tell, with their worried faces and surreptitious glances, and he gave them a cheerfully cocky wave. They managed to smile back, plainly Making An Effort, and then Henry made a comment that Simone obviously chided him for. Spike snickered to himself. Nothing like causing a little disharmony in the opposition ranks.
Then Xander was free of his fans and rushing forward to greet his friends, throwing himself into two sets of open arms and enjoying the kind of three-way hug that rang of old times. Spike strolled down the aisle to join them, being amiably greeted by Douglas as he emerged from a side door, and having his hand thoroughly shaken.
“It’s wonderful to see you both,” Douglas enthused, and he oomphed as Xander switched his attention, driving the air out of his mentor with a huge hug.
Having made up his mind to get the new eye revelation over as soon as possible, Xander dithered away from Douglas, shared a fortifying look with Spike, then turned to his friends.
“I have a surprise for you. Shock, maybe. Good shock. And…and…”
“Get on with it, Love.”
Xander took a deep breath. Then another.
“Should we be sitting down for this?” Henry asked.
Xander grinned nervously and shrugged and took a further breath.
It was, understandably, quite a moment when Xander removed the patch, and Spike observed the reactions keenly. He read in their expressions how well these people appreciated the momentousness of what had occurred, and how much they felt for Xander. Delighted amazement from Doug, fiercely controlled emotion from Simone although she virtually shook with the effort, and, much as Xander had predicted, it was Henry who was completely overwhelmed and burst into tears. Xander grabbed and cuddled him while the others joined in with general fussing.
“But how?” Henry demanded, “and why only now?”
Xander wavered over his answer, unsure of how much he was allowed to divulge.
“It’s a new procedure,” Spike intervened, sounding terribly official. “Unfortunately, we’re not permitted to tell you any more than that.”
“As it if matters how,” Simone dismissed the subject. “It’s done.” She guided Xander around to face her. “You can see? I mean, it’s not just cosmetic?”
“I can see.”
Her gaze turned to one of utter glee.
“This is so…right.”
“You mean a second eye doesn’t appear ostentatious?” Xander teased.
“I mean you deserve this.”
Fed up with the intense jealousy stirred by seeing so many hands on his mate, Spike wandered off to the rear of the auditorium, reading notices on the boards, studying leaflets on tables, trying to fool himself that he wasn’t eavesdropping every word, every breath. One of the chapel’s huminions was bringing around refreshments and, having helped himself to a mug of tea, Spike took a booklet on the Stokes’ and its group from one of the neat piles, and sat to read. Unlikely as it seemed, he was soon engrossed. The prospect of another road trip loomed large: he wanted to take Xander to all of these venues and show him off. Spike was just analysing ways of changing Xander’s mind about more prominent exposure of his psychic talents, convinced that Xander’s abilities, plus his looks and appealing personality, would make him the perfect TV medium, when a passing hand landed on his shoulder and he glanced around just as Douglas took a seat along the row.
“Thank you, Spike. You said you’d take care of Xander and you obviously did an excellent job of it.”
“That’s his version, I take it?”
“Yes. But…he’s very reluctant to talk about more than his psychic experiences.” Spike nodded his understanding of that. “We would – or rather would we – be told if he was anything other than as fine as he protests he is?”
“You’d know: he’s like an open book.”
“I do worry. Well, we all do, we can’t help it.”
“No need any more, he has me.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Douglas dismissed the suggestion, continuing before Spike could take offence, “We’ll simply find a reason to worry about you too. Jenny – that would be the lady with the refreshments – already thinks you’re way too pale.”
Spike chuckled at that, determined to find the concern amusing rather than irritating.
“Natural pallor. She’ll need to find a better excuse for her concern.”
Douglas hmmed, studying Spike curiously, but not offensively. Convinced by Xander of this man’s skills, Spike wondered if he could somehow sense the demon, or if he was looking at a Spike surrounded by a host of spectral victims. Or maybe he saw the soul. Or maybe…
“Have you noticed a change in Xander?”
Presumably, Douglas didn’t mean the sideward step, pseudo-straight boy to unabashed homo-flexual.
“What kind of change?”
“In his work. I no longer see him struggling for control, and he feels…”
“Oh, right, that. Yes. He’ll probably choose to deny it but he’s definitely sharper now: I’ve seen him improve with every reading.”
“Why should he choose to deny it?”
“Because…” Spike paused, sure that the uber-nasty’s intervention had made the difference, but unsure if Xander wanted to admit that fact, let alone share it. “There’s…stuff…involved,” Spike said cagily.
“You too,” Douglas sighed. “Xander’s been tight-lipped about what happened beyond his psychic experiences and it makes me…. Back to worrying, I’m afraid, I told you it was unavoidable.”
A twinge of pity at the unease on the medium’s face, and Spike made a swift decision.
“Up to me to put you out of your misery then. Short version, to be kept to yourself: we left here, found a murderer, Xander almost got lynched, and then he was practically eaten alive by non-existent bugs. Some woman with an undead dead husband made a pass and forced Xander and me to have sex, then Xander almost got snatched, we sorted out a kidnapper, I fell in love, Xander saved the world, and I saved Xander by killing him. Non-permanently, as you’ll have noticed.”
Douglas blinked hard.
“See?” Spike grinned. “Nothing for you to worry about.”
A moment or two for all that to sink in, and then Douglas, tongue firmly in cheek, couldn’t resist asking…
“What did you do on your days off?”
“There was time, actually, to write up some reports. Between the squabbling and shagging. He’s going to get paid for them too. That’ll be good for him, self-worth and all that.”
Douglas smiled, and Spike wasn’t sure at what, but the next question was the giveaway.
“Did Xander fall in love too?”
The blasé response that Spike longed to give came and went.
“I don’t know. He fell out of hate. Into friendship.” Spike shrugged. “For whatever reason, he wants me here. He’s…attached. That’ll do for starters.”
There was a long, thoughtful pause before Douglas rose to go.
“I hope you’ll be very happy together,” he said sincerely, and patted Spike’s shoulder once again on the way past.
“Hang on.” Douglas turned back. “Are you in charge here?”
“Yes, jointly with…”
“I have something for you.”
Spike reached into his coat and brought out a tightly packed envelope bearing a Vree’vathet seal. He immediately handed it over.
“Little pressie for this place. Happy Christmas.”
“You’re leaving?” Simone was asking Xander elsewhere, aghast and upset at once.
“No, no, no,” Xander assured her. “Moving, I’m – we’re – moving.”
“How far away? Will we still get to see you?”
“It’s not that far out of town, about twenty minutes from you. You ever notice a big pair of gates set back from the road on the way to Farringdon? You know that really sharp curve? Just after that, on the left. Trees, loads of trees, and there are these gates.” Simone thought, sighed, and shook her head. “You have to come see the house, it’s so cool. It belongs to a friend of Spike’s and he letting us rent at a really good price, and…” Xander’s enthusiastic spiel came to an abrupt halt. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Have you thought this through? It all seems such a rush.”
“The house? Or Spike?”
“I have not said one word against Spike,” Simone told him crossly.
“No, I know.”
“I’m just concerned that you may be cutting yourself off from…”
“Hey, wait, I’m not doing that, and it isn’t anything Spike wants. One of the reasons he has for moving here is to support my work, he respects what I do. And…as for rushing things… Okay, yes, this happened fast, but it only happened too fast if you’re on the outside looking in, I promise you. I feel as if I’ve been standing still for years. Emotionally. I’ve been too much of a coward to take any chances, to believe that anyone could want me despite the eye, despite the disruption from the voices, despite me being…a loser.”
“Xander! You are not…”
“Emotionally, yes, I was. One day I’ll tell you more about my past and you’ll understand. But right now, I have to do this, it’s like I’m finally acting my age, I’m ready to take a chance.”
“Spike’s the one?”
Xander smiled a huge smile.
“Ah, he’s great. I was terrified to get involved with him, I kept putting him off, and he kept coming back, and he made me accept a lot about who I am. Sometimes I need somebody who won’t be as diplomatic as you and H and all my other friends here. What’s more… C’mere, feel this.” Simone moved a little closer and Xander took her hand, placing it on his chest. Then he looked across the hall to where Spike sat in conversation with Douglas. Predictably, one look at Spike and his heart began to race. Simone felt it and her brow crinkled with barely concealed emotion; she rapidly gave up on trying to find the right words, simply giving him a quick hug before attempting to regain her composure. “I’m not a loser anymore, Simone. I deserve to feel like this.”
“Yes, you do,” Simone agreed as she finally found her voice.
“I’m not a big enough fool to think that Spike’s going to stick around indefinitely, but some decisions are irresistible. Being with Spike now – which I’ll probably be convinced is the stupidest of all stupid decisions when he eventually goes – feels fantastic. I feel fantastic.”
“I hope he appreciates what he’s got.”
Xander placed an arm around her shoulders and grinned.
“Isn’t that where you fit in?”
Simone perked up.
“You feel the occasional reminder would be appropriate?”
“Go for it, terrorise him all you want in the name of friendship. He thrives on friction and I don’t want him getting bored.”
“Xander… You know me well enough to understand that I have to make up my own mind about Spike.”
“I don’t expect anything less. But if you never get to like him I hope you’ll respect me enough to keep that to yourself. At least…as best you can.”
“I will never put pressure on you over a choice of partner. Of course, Kirsty may not be so forgiving.”
“Hey, I’ve been a good boy for years, I deserve a love triangle.”
With a chuckle, Simone brushed him off and marched away to complete her post-session duties. Xander looked around for Henry, wanting to check that he was recovered from the earlier shock, but instead of catching sight of him, he saw Douglas, post-Spike, staring at something in his hands and looking utterly stunned.
They both began walking and the moment they met up Douglas was thrusting an envelope full of cash in Xander’s direction.
“Have you seen this? From Spike.”
“He told me he was making a donation, yes.”
“Six-and-a-half thousand dollars, he says.”
“Yup. A client of his left it to him,” Xander explained, offering a publicly acceptable version of the Uund’d’tar saga.
“Take it. Really.”
“He wouldn’t give it away if we needed it. Plus, he has a good argument about old ladies asses and uncomfortable seats.”
“Old ladies asses. That’s a unique entry for the donation ledger.”
“Okay, now that he’s bought your affection…what do you think of Spike?” Xander joked, before adding, earnestly, “I know he can be a little blunt, but he’s a good guy.”
“I can see that. There’s nothing wrong with blunt, either, blunt can be quite refreshing.”
“Yeah, but don’t encourage him or he’ll scare H to death.”
“And he loves you, which is good to know.”
“He…uh… You shouldn’t presume…”
“I’m not presuming anything. He told me.”
“He told me. He’s in love with you.”
They shouldn’t have been such a bombshell, or such an emotional wrench, but those words were all that was needed to fulfil a little more of Xander’s earlier prophecy: his own tears were most definitely on their way.
Spike returned from chatting up the front of house contingent to witness Xander being cuddled by his mentor and, whatever promises had been made, alleged nice guy or not, this was where Douglas met his.
“What are your plans?” Simone’s voice came from his left before he could take a step. “Are you staying with Xander?”
Spike postponed the intimidation of Douglas and considered his answer, knowing that this could be a pivotal moment in how much flack he would take from Simone in the future. How much grief Xander would suffer at having Spike constantly at odds with one of the cornerstones of this life.
“My plans…” Simone stopped the shuffling of two handfuls of papers bearing spiritual healing requests to look at Spike, scrutinizing him with not entirely masked anxiety. Anxious for Xander, caring for Xander, and didn’t that put them on the same side? He forcibly set aside his natural inclination to tease and antagonise her, consoling himself that, going by the hostile looks he’d been shot, he would always have the pleasure of tormenting Henry. Spike decided to try what had been so successful with Xander. Honesty. “Yes, I plan to stay with Xander. For as long as he’ll have me.”
“Or until you get bored?” Simone challenged.
“I don’t, strange as it may seem. When I fall I fall hard, and I’m the faithful type. It’s usually me that gets dumped or deserted.”
It was a more astonishing sight than anything Spike had encountered in the last months: a flash of sympathy from Medusa. She went back to her shuffling.
“He looks wonderful.”
Spike stared across the hall at Xander.
“Mmm,” he agreed distractedly. “He is. Does,” he corrected himself, but Simone was already smiling at him, and that was peculiarly nice, if a little disturbing.
“I’m sorry if I misjudged you.”
“I was misjudged? Oh, that’s a shock,” Spike said flatly.
“I’m prepared to admit my mistakes if you’re prepared not to be one.”
Spike swallowed down a growl.
“I am the best thing that’s happened to Xander in years, and…”
“…and…and… You do? What then? You’re just taking my word for it?”
“Your word, Xander’s judgement.”
At Spike’s quizzical expression, Simone set the papers aside, collecting her purse from a nearby drawer and rifling through its contents before bringing out a letter. Spike recognised his firm’s stationary immediately.
“I shouldn’t have sent that, didn’t mean to scare you.”
Simone dismissed his apology with an airy flick of the hand and scanned the letter until she found what she’d been looking for. She quoted:
“‘Unlikely, I know, but this guy turned out to be so special. I had such a great time with him before the end, I remembered what it was like to have fun, I got to have someone to hold me all night and give me peace. He was never freaked out by what I am, or how I looked. He didn’t see the damage, he saw me. I found someone who didn’t have unrealistic expectations of me as a person, regardless of what he expected from the medium. I’d have to be crazy not to love him and right now I might just be the sanest person in the vicinity.’”
Contrary to Xander’s beliefs, Spike had not read his goodbye letters, and had taken great care to protect Xander’s privacy while printing them out. He felt a swell of emotion at hearing Xander’s words, his praise of the vampire that had killed him.
“The affection… Mutual,” he muttered.
“I’m not blind, Spike.” Spike nodded, astounded that she’d noticed, and that had to have been before she’d demanded to know his intentions. Still, he was resigned to the fact that it was always the women around Xander who were the hardest work. “I have this…” Simone waved the letter, “Xander’s assurances tonight, and the knowledge that if you hurt him I’ll hunt you down and shoot you like a mad dog. Be smart enough to see that it isn’t an empty threat.”
“You haven’t met Willow yet, have you?”
“She called. We spoke for a while.”
“Then I’m surprised any of us blokes have balls left.”
Xander appeared at Spike’s side.
“Yeah. I was just telling Simone how much she’d like Red.”
“Christmas!” Xander suddenly exclaimed. “We’re having Christmas, Simone, would you and Henry…”
“We’d be delighted.”
Xander saw a sad memory pass behind Simone’s eyes.
“Xander… We didn’t open your gifts yet. We wanted you to be with us when…”
“After all the bloody time and trouble I went to getting them here for the day!”
“Spike,” Xander snapped.
“What?” Spike snapped back.
“I’m sorry, Spike,” Simone interjected, “but we…”
“Don’t apologise to him, it’ll only make him worse.”
“Him’s standing here, Pet.”
“Is there a problem?” Henry asked as he arrived.
“Hey, H! You okay?”
Henry gave Xander a warm smile.
“We’re having Christmas!” Xander and Simone announced together, breaking into laughter and nudging one another like school kids.
“This bonhomie is sickening,” Spike announced, stepping out of the group and strolling away.
As Henry pursued him, Xander and Simone shared a knowing look.
“Such rudeness isn’t necessary,” Henry was protesting to Spike’s back.
“Says who!” Spike swung back. “Y’know, Henry, I am so relieved you don’t like me.”
“Really?” The man sounded genuinely taken aback.
“I won’t have to make any kind of effort with you because whatever I do will be wrong.”
“Yes, yes, I see that,” Henry agreed, nodding thoughtfully.
They stared at one another for a long moment.
“So…” Spike said cheerfully, “Oxford, wasn’t it? Which of those fine establishments are we talking about?”
“Actually, it was Christ Church, I studied Economics.”
“More to the point… King’s Arms, or White Horse?”
“You had to discuss every bar in England before we could leave?” Xander grouched as he let himself into his outgoing domicile.
“Pub. They’re pubs. The bar is in the pub, it’s where you get served.”
Xander limped into the living room and gingerly lowered himself into his armchair.
“My knee isn’t used to this much exercise, but it’ll be…”
“You should have said something. Let me see.”
“There’s nothing to…”
Spike already had Xander’s jeans unfastened and half off his hips.
“Really, Spike, it won’t look any different to…”
“Lift. Or I throw you over my shoulder and…”
Xander lifted his hips and his jeans were quickly tugged down to his ankles. Spike studied the aching knee, gently removing the brace and examining the joint from all angles. It looked perfectly normal.
“Told you so.”
Spike placed his hand over it.
“Bit hot. And there’s nothing I can do to help the inside,” he said regretfully.
“I just need some rest.”
Spike grinned lasciviously.
“Or maybe you need Doctor Spike.”
“Oh, no, no, no. Not even attempting to start something I can’t finish.”
Xander prodded Spike away and struggled to his feet, jeans still around his ankles as he shuffled off to the kitchen for a bag of frozen peas to use as an ice pack. When he returned he found that Spike had discovered the book on England he’d been studying.
“Still fancy the trip?” Spike asked.
“I, umm…” Xander sat back down and shuddered pleasurably as the ice touched his knee. “I wasn’t assuming…”
“Do,” Spike insisted. “Assume.”
“Then… How soon is too soon?”
“Your knee has to be fully fit, which means… Late spring, summer. Or can you wait until the nights are longer?”
“Autumn. How about September? September’s nice in England.”
Spike sounded quite wistful, and Xander could and couldn’t wait to see him back on home ground.
Setting the book aside, Spike gave Xander a touching smile.
“I wish you had assumed. Rather than writing us off so easily.”
“You left me.”
“You’re the one person I would have expected to see right through my histrionics.”
“Yeah, that was incredibly selfish of me, being too confused and miserable to think straight after being publicly bawled out and dumped. Next time…” Spike stared hard and waited for the remainder of that sentence; Xander hesitated, remembered, smiled to himself. “There won’t be a next time. Apparently…” Now the smile was for Spike. “We’re inseparable. There is a thread, woven into time and matter that binds us.”
Spike rolled his eyes.
“Bloody Zooza. For a moment there I thought you were going to come out with something credible.”
“What would you rather believe, Spike? Now, this very minute. That our very unlikely relationship will be riddled with next times and we’ll have permanently broken up before the end of the year?”
“No,” Spike quietly replied.
“No,” Xander repeated. “Good answer. I can get into the whole non-credible thread concept if there’s a chance of a little happiness.”
“Or a lot.”
“Or a lot,” Xander repeated that too. “We deserve a lot. I don’t want to stop believing in us, especially since I’ve barely started. I’ve been walking around since you got here, convinced I’m in a dream.” Xander paused, scrutinised Spike. “I don’t think you have any idea of how much I want this to be real.”
“I do. And you know I do.”
A sigh, a rueful smile, and a nod, then Xander dropped the bag of peas and strapped the brace back on.
“What do we need? At the— At home.”
“Food. Change of clothes.” Spike gazed hopefully at Xander. “Slick?”
The lighter tone worked like a starting pistol: Spike launched himself across the room and in less than a second was pressing Xander back into his chair, grinding his body against his lover’s – yes, his lover’s – as he kissed him with breathtaking ferocity. Xander objected for all of…no time at all, seizing a firm vampire buttock with each hand and kneading in time with Spike’s urgent thrusts. The pair of them had been on the verge of grab and take all day, waiting in keen anticipation for the trigger, for this.
“You wanted me to take the choice away?” Spike panted. “Consider it taken.”
“No, I didn’t mean…” Spike wriggled a hand between them and indelicately grabbed Xander’s erection. “Oh, fuck.”
“Whichever, whatever, I’ll ride you, fuck you, suck you dry…”
“Tell me, Love, c’mon, before I fill my jeans.”
“The house!” Xander desperately exclaimed.
Spike leaned back, astounded.
“I’m offering you the hottest body in this hemisphere and all you can think about is the house! It’s not going anywhere, for Christ’s sake!”
“If we can have sex here then we have no reason to move, and I want to move. I want the snazzy house that will impress all my friends when we have parties there. I want to be the cool guy with the snazzy house. I want Willow’s jaw to drop so hard it dislocates, and Buffy’s brain to explode with disbelief, and…and…Dawn’s hair to wilt with sheer jealousy.”
“And don’t forget Rupert,” Spike taunted, pissed off at being tormented by the Scoobies, years after he’d successfully escaped them.
“He’ll, uh…he’ll like the, umm… Library! We’ll have a library! With books!”
Spike pushed himself off of Xander and stomped away.
“It’s only a bloody house, it’s not that flash, it’s nothing compared to the others. If you look at it next to the cabin…”
“How about next to a basement?”
Immediately concerned by the bitterness in Xander’s voice, Spike spun back to face him.
“That was a long time ago, no-one…”
“When we left Sunnydale, before I went to Africa, we rented this big house in Cleveland, it was beautiful, light and modern and… I can see from your face you know where this is going.”
“Another bloody basement.”
“It was the most practical solution because the size of the upstairs rooms made them suitable for dorms, and we constantly had slayers appearing on our doorstep who needed taking in. But I hated it. I hated it.”
“I wondered why it was so easy to dispatch you to Africa. You were insanely protective of your girls, it wasn’t like you to leave them to fend for themselves, even if…y’know…”
“Yes, I do know: even if they usually ended up protecting me. Yeah, well… Everyone was growing and moving on and up and I was back in the damn basement.”
“They should have realised.”
“Why? Xander’s dumbass happy act was pretty bullet-proof. And it wasn’t a bad basement, in fact it was luxurious compared to my parents’, but it was the basement. My friends probably— No, they did, they thought they were doing me a favour: more privacy; time and space to deal with what had happened in Sunnydale; somewhere secluded to go insane if the voices in my head were anything to go by.”
“No, I don’t want sympathy, or pity, and thank you for the noticeable lack of snark.”
Spike hurried over, and within seconds Xander was dressed and on his feet, sentimentally rather than passionately kissed and hugged, and being urged to go and find whatever he needed for their overnighter. Spike started to follow, then stopped, realising he didn’t know what to do with himself. One tale of semi-woe from Xander and he was feeling over-protective and sad and cross and…what he did know with absolute certainty was at that precise moment he would have done anything Xander wanted, anything for him. And with that certainty, every last denied doubt over his move to New Forest, his being with Xander, evaporated in an instant. Unfortunately, it was also the perfect opportunity for all the old longings to resurface, and that couldn't be good. Or could it? Or…
“What? Oh. Were you…”
“Yes, I was. I appreciate that I’m not talking about anything that appeals to your imagined better nature: no death or gore or sex, but…”
“What did you say?”
“I was asking— Are you okay?”
“Yes,” Spike snapped defensively. “What did you want?”
“Oh, great, bipolar man has emerged from the booth. Or, in your case, should that be the swiftly revolving door?” Spike simply stared. Xander tutted and wandered off to the kitchen to continue packing supplies. This time Spike did follow. “I asked if the girls gave you a hard time when you got back to LA.”
“No.” Xander waited for more information, Spike sighed and obliged. “They were already gone, they were all gone.”
“That was probably just as well.”
“Not that they’d have any right to start a fight but it doesn’t seem to stop them. Of course, it wouldn’t stop me either if it was the other way around.” Xander waved a McVitie’s tube at Spike. Spike nodded, Xander packed. “You okay?” Spike shrugged. “Have I somehow managed to piss you off?”
“Nah, Love. Same old, same old.”
“Same old…” Xander speedily realised what Spike was referring to and immediately tensed up. “The never fully explained stuff that always leads to misery? That’s about as cool as it doesn’t get. Am I looking at more obnoxious?”
Spike surprised Xander with a tender half-smile, accompanied by the dangerously endearing head-tilt.
“Are you mine?” The question was softly spoken, deceptively composed. “Are you, Xander? Will you ever let yourself be?”
Xander fell still, forbidding himself the luxury of a joke or a knee-jerk dismissal. He remained immobile until his leg began to ache. Even then the only move he made was to go to Spike, to put his arms around the vampire and soothe the worst of the tension from his body.
“It’s what you need, isn’t it,” Xander confirmed.
“You know that I want to give you what you need.”
“But you’ve always said…”
“This is different, Spike, you know it is.”
“It scares you.”
“Not as much as being alone does. Not as much as the thought of watching you walk away again.”
“What if I promise to stay whatever you decide? Not leave unless you’re begging me to go.”
“You’d do that, despite what you need? Make that promise? Keep it?”
“If I have to.”
“Then… You don’t.” Xander caressed the back of Spike’s neck as he leaned their brows together, savouring the intimacy and trusting his instincts completely on this matter, but still needing a moment to steel himself before taking the ultimate step. “I’m yours. As much as I can ever be anybody’s, I’m yours. Please don’t hurt me.”
“Xander,” Spike groaned. “You really think I could?”
“Yes. Too easily. Then I’m screwed, my work is screwed, my whole fucking life is…”
“Shh, shh, shh.”
A brief kiss to Xander’s mouth and then Spike’s lips were making their way across Xander’s cheek, pausing on his jaw, progressing down his neck to the scar. With a low, snickering growl, the demon emerged.
“Ah, shit,” Xander laughed, breathy and apprehensive, “what have I agreed to?”
“Shh, shh, shh.”
The tip of a single incisor made the tiniest scratch on the scar, just enough to release a hint of Xander’s blood before the healing properties of Spike’s saliva sealed the wound. The experience was nevertheless enough to leave Xander trembling and clinging, and he let himself be gathered up and sat on the nearest counter. Standing between Xander’s knees, and still in full game face, Spike gazed into Xander’s glazed eyes and pointedly licked his lips.
“You’re mine, Xander.”
Xander gave a shaky nod.
“I didn’t hurt you.”
“Scared or horny?”
Fumbling for Spike’s hand, Xander grabbed it and held it to his bulging groin.
“Go figure,” he croaked.
Deft fingers had his zip open and boxers aside before Xander could exclaim another ‘Not here!’, and as Spike’s mouth closed over the head of his cock, Xander sank back against the wall and decided that for a fleeting moment – which, he suspected, was about all it would take to get off – here was entirely fine. Through slitted eyelids he watched that scary demonic face take the greatest care over sucking one of his most precious possessions, felt that muscular tongue swirling and teasing and coaxing; golden eyes brimming with desire flicked up to meet dilated brown, locked and demanded. Xander was powerless to resist his body’s automatic reaction; with a wordless exclamation he shuddered and came. Spike gave another of those peculiar growls as he closed his eyes and relished the hot spurts of semen filling his mouth, not about to touch himself, taking his satisfaction from Xander’s. Blood and come and words. He wanted to hear the words again. Releasing Xander’s softening cock, his head rose and he gave an encouraging nod; Xander understood and smiled lazily.
“I’m yours. My dick and I are very, very yours.”
Spike morphed back to his human face, leaning in for an intense kiss before moving his mouth to Xander’s ear.
“And how about your heart?” he whispered.
“Entirely,” came the answer, no hesitation and husky with emotion. “Entirely.”
Easing Xander to the edge of the counter, Spike held him for a long time, waiting to see if Xander’s compliance had settled his inner cravings. Barely was the unfortunate answer, and that called for a monumental decision on his part. So…more time; more thought. Nowhere near reaching a conclusion, it was only when Xander’s hands began to creep toward Spike’s persistent erection that the vampire relinquished both his dilemma and his partner and stepped away.
“We should leave.”
“Don’t you want me to…”
“When we get home.”
Xander grinned at Spike’s casual use of ‘home’, the term emerging so easily whilst Xander was still having to think twice every time he used it in its new context. Not knowing or caring about the cause of Xander’s good humour, Spike smiled back, and Xander doubted that he’d ever see enough of that after witnessing Spike’s depression when they were in LA.
“I love it when you smile,” he shared. “Even if it is because I’ve made one insanely possessive demon very happy.”
“That you have, Love.”
Xander gestured to the straining material at Spike’s groin.
“I could make it happier still.”
“Home,” Spike insisted. “Look forward to being shagged silly.”
“Has this put an end to the obnoxious? Me saying what you want to hear.”
“It’s helped,” Spike said cagily.
“It’s helped,” Xander repeated thoughtfully. “We back to what you can’t say? You can’t say you’re…”
“We’re back to what you don’t want.”
“You have to spell it out, Spike. Give me all the gruesome details and let me figure out for myself if I want it.”
“Give you a dozen reasons to throw me over? I don’t think so.”
“I can handle this. Nothing for you to worry about so let it go.”
“Anything else you need before we leave?” Spike interrupted, putting a very definite end to the conversation.
With a discontented sigh Xander grudgingly accepted that Spike just might know what he was talking about on this subject. Besides, with a potentially bright future before them, Xander didn’t want to bring it crashing to a halt before it started by picking Spike’s decisions to pieces. Reckless maybe, naïve certainly, but he chose to turn a figurative blind eye, and concentrate on the chance of happiness he’d been offered.
“I think it’s all packed. Though… Sorry, no lube.”
“I should hope not,” Spike teased, “respectable young gent like yourself.”
“I’ve got some. More than some. Bucket-load. Nothing respectable about me, and we both know you’ll soon be very grateful for that.”
Spike picked up Xander’s duffel and cheerfully left the kitchen. As the familiar voices crowded back in Xander felt horribly exposed, in more ways than one. Maybe here was not so entirely fine, the very Spike-ish approach of getting Xander ‘so bloody horny you won’t give a damn where you are providing I’m doing wonderful things to your prick’ obviously having severe post-coital flaws. Xander slid off the counter and quickly rearranged his clothes, scuttling off in pursuit of Spike, blushing and muttering senseless apologies to spirits that paid absolutely no heed to his behaviour.
It may have started as a joke, Spike carrying Xander over the threshold, but it certainly made Xander powerless to resist Spike’s passage straight to the bedroom. He tossed Xander onto the bed and, after taking all of two seconds to strategically position the lube from his pocket and discard his own clothes, turned to his lover with a lusty growl.
“I’m going to make you very naked, and then you’re going to be very fucked,” Spike explained.
“Oh,” Xander responded breathlessly, “okay.”
Despite his impatience, Spike took his time undressing Xander, touching, kissing, experiencing every inch of him as he progressed toward his ultimate goal of a naked, quivering, aroused beyond reason lover. He took extra time over the left elbow and knee, the scarred stomach, filling his attention with affection rather than guilt, and finally comprehending what Xander had been trying to tell him: the scars had healed well and were fading fast. Unremarkable and forgettable, not as interesting as the other minor marks and blemishes that told the story of Xander’s life.
“Remember that demon with the spare head?”
“The, uh… Yes. Sharp claws.”
“It’s a cool scar. Not everyone has a scar like that.” Spike agreed, admiring the pearlescent spiral on Xander’s right inner forearm. “Even my dad, who was famous for not noticing much beyond the TV and a beer when he got home from work noticed that one. For a moment I thought he was going to give a damn, but luckily no. He just said ‘Cool scar’ and I agreed. That was a damn good conversation for us,” Xander finished with a grin.
Spike smiled too, but thoughtfully.
“Xander… My father recognised Spike, didn’t he? All those names he called me…”
“Don’t think about…”
“I want to. Because he shouldn’t have known about the demon, he should only have known William. His son.”
“He— Oh. Yeah. That’s…that’s… Wow. Never thought of that.”
“Does that mean they all know? My mum, my aunt, cousins, everyone?”
“Maybe they do. Maybe it’s proof of how far toleration and acceptance can go.”
“Or maybe it explains why they stopped coming through for me.”
“It’s hit and miss, you know that. Give it time.”
“I’d like them to know,” Spike admitted. “About the demon, about me. Even if they never come back.”
“I think what Anya said is more pertinent. There’s a place for you. You’re going to see all your family again one day.”
“They may not accept me.”
“Then there would be no point.”
“So… You think…?”
“I think there’s pretty much always a point.”
A moment of intense contemplation, then Spike was back to the business in hand, to leisurely examining every inch of Xander’s body, once again kissing the damaged knee as he passed by, progressing until he eventually found an untidy scrape on Xander’s left ankle.
“Not so cool. Jesse stole some of his pop’s beer and we got drunk on a sniff each. I fell off the wall I was tightroping, took most of the skin off, ankle to knee.”
“Poor love. And to think, one long lick from me and…”
“Uh, okay, about that long licking…”
“Hmm?” Spike enquired lightly as he cruised up Xander’s body, wriggling his erection up the leg of Xander’s boxers and rubbing their cocks together beneath the damp-spotted cotton. Xander leaned up to observe the material ripple and bulge.
“God, that’s hot. Everything with you, everything is hot.”
Spike all but cackled with satisfaction at that, easing Xander’s legs apart and kneeling between his thighs. As he sat back his cock sprang free from the confines of Xander’s boxers, and he relished the open admiration of his lover. Lifting Xander by the hips…
“All right, Love?”
“Yes, yes, yes.”
…he shuffled forward on his knees until he could rest Xander in his lap. For a short while he played with Xander’s erection through the thin material, but it wasn’t long before he felt the need to peel the cotton away, tearing it apart strip by revealing strip. One band of wrecked cloth was tied around the base of Xander’s balls, another was looped beneath the head of Xander’s cock, both fastened with bows.
“Pretty,” Spike smiled, teasing Xander’s glans as he dragged the bow in a complete circle. “All it needs now is a label. Spike’s.” He gave the swollen head a tweak. “Spike’s knob.” Collecting the pre-come that had pulsed from Xander’s flesh at the stimulation, Spike sucked it off his thumb. “Spike’s nectar.” His nails trailed down the thick shaft as Xander groaned and tried to thrust into his hand for more attention. “Spike’s prick. Spike’s balls.” He fondled the soft skin, gently pulled at the hair. A slightly firmer squeeze. “Spike’s spunk.”
“Any chance you’d like to liberate a little of that?” Xander pleaded.
“All in good time.” Spike’s fingers stroked over Xander’s perineum to the crease of his buttocks. “Spike’s very splendid arse.” A single finger wriggled between Xander’s cheeks and tickled the puckered skin of his opening. “Spike’s…heaven.”
Xander scrabbled for the tube of lubricant, expression and actions manic as he tore the cap off and squirted a stream in the direction of Spike’s hand.
“Fuck me. Stop tormenting me and fuck me. Spike…”
Xander’s protest became a gasp as Spike’s slippery finger breached his muscles, probing deep into the tight heat, the vampire releasing his own moan of delight.
“Ah, Love, sometimes I forget just how…”
“Shut up and fuck me, Spike. Shut up and fuckmegoddamnit.”
Spike smirked and transferred plenty of the lube to his own cock.
“Missed me, have you?”
“You have no idea,” Xander whined, falling back and covering his face with crossed arms.
“What have you missed most? Sheer sensation of my prick stretching you open and filling you up? Being all cool inside you, making you tremble with the cold when I shoot my…”
“Or is it…”
“Shut up and do it!”
“Your seduction technique needs a little work, Petal, there’s nothing sexy about being nagged. What?” Xander was peering at him with the non-sexy, pissed off face that was enough to wilt a hard-on sculpted in marble. “What?”
“What about me?”
“I’ve missed you the most. You. This isn’t about the sex, it’s about you. You wanted me to want you, and I want you. I’ve missed you, and I want you, and I want to be as close to you as I can be, and please, please…fu— Make love to me.”
“Clever,” Spike conceded, “and rather sneaky. I’m proud of you.”
“I mean it. And I have to nag to get it, ‘cause if I turn to all-out smush the past couple of months are going to rear up and transform me into an overemotional, hormonal bomb of a teenager who’s been dumped for the worst time and can no longer pretend he coped.”
Xander’s chest heaved as he fought to keep suppressing the worst of what his time in LA minus Spike had left him with. Without another word, Spike lined up his cock and pressed forward into Xander’s body; Xander murmured unintelligibly as the head popped in and Spike relaxed; Xander reached for him, needing more.
“Closer,” Xander urged, and Spike shuddered with some fairly traumatic memories of his own.
Xander’s left leg was lifted onto Spike’s shoulder, better to rest it, and Spike carefully manoeuvred himself nearer, parting his own legs so Xander was more comfortably settled and smiling at Xander’s tirade of appreciative yes’s when his cock was buried to the hilt. Spike turned his head and kissed Xander’s knee, stroking the thigh and feeling muscles twitch expectantly beneath the surface.
“I’m here now, Xander. Forget LA, forget it all.”
“I don’t want to…”
“The bad bits, all right? Just the bad bits.”
“But even some of the bad bits…”
“Stop being a git and…tell me you’re mine.”
“Wait. I wasn’t supposed to forget that?” Xander teased, and Spike went back to winding the strip of cloth around and around the man’s cockhead. With a groan and a wriggle, Xander’s memory improved greatly. “I’m yours, Baby. Do something to make it worthwhile, huh?”
“Oh, yeah, you’re mine,” Spike smugly reiterated, rolling his hips and delighting in Xander’s obvious pleasure. “You’re mine.” The words, again and again as he very deliberately dragged his cock back and forth over Xander’s prostate, no real thought other than his partner’s enjoyment but he might have known, at the back of his mind, it was also about creating an association. Being Spike’s meant great rewards of a sexual variety. One day all it would take was a whispered ‘You’re mine’ and Xander would be instantly, involuntarily hard and ready for his mate. But right now…
“More,” Xander urged, gesturing Spike to him, “more, here, now, kiss.”
“I was minding…”
“Knee’s fine.” To prove the point, Xander jerked his leg aside and off of Spike’s shoulder. “Now, here.”
Spike stretched out over his lover and happily supplied the demanded contact and kisses, soon caught in the wave of Xander babble, the ‘more, now, harder, faster, more, fuck me, want you, fuck me, Spike, fuck me’, that led him to the brink of orgasm as he thrilled at being so desired, so potent, and all he wanted say in return…he couldn’t. I’m yours. Still afraid of what kind of insane and uncontrollable demonic overreaction he’d be imposing upon Xander, the thought nevertheless excited him to a point of destroying his control, and he pushed his hand between their bodies, fisting Xander’s erection and being reminded of the cloth tied around it.
“Fuck it,” he muttered, picking at the damp bow, unwittingly stimulating Xander’s already over-sensitive cock.
“Leave it, it doesn’t… Oh, fuck, Spike, fuck me, come, let me feel…come…”
Spike tore the strip of cotton away and Xander yelped, bucked, forced Spike deep into his body and hollered when he felt Spike’s ferocious shudder as the demon emerged; the delicious sensation of a flood of cool seed inside him triggered a furious orgasm that seemed to last and last and last.
“I’m…” Spike gasped, breath hitching as he rode the spasms that wrung out his body, filling and possessing his mate. “I’m yo…”
Xander pulled him into a fervent kiss, attacking his fanged mouth with mindless passion as they twitched and trembled through the aftershocks of their respective climaxes, successfully silencing any inconsiderate heartfelt words.
After which they collapsed: under the circumstances, it was the only sensible thing to do.
“Wow,” Xander eventually had the energy to moan. “Spiiiiike.”
Spike gave a weary laugh and forced his eyes open, sated gold meeting the drowsy black/brown of Xander’s.
“You’re so good, you’re just…just…so…good.” Xander’s hand came up to fondle Spike’s vampiric ridges. “And…demony.”
“No. It’s actually kinda stunning. To these human eyes.”
“Doesn’t put you off?”
“Nothing could put me off you. This is the most turned on I’ve been in my entire life.”
Xander nodded and stroked some more. No hiding the demon away, Spike slumped back onto Xander’s chest, deeply inhaling and letting out the breath slowly until it became nothing.
“Can I ask you for something ridiculous?”
“No, not… Actually, that’d be fun, wouldn’t it. But…no.”
A big deal, a huge deal, and Xander took a few minutes to work up the courage, only able to manage a whisper when he suspected Spike might be too dozy to care.
“Please…never leave me.”
“Never,” Spike murmured.
Xander carried on stroking. Thinking. Thinking about a promise that had to be unkeepable.
“How can you do that? Make a promise about never?”
Easy-peasy. Spike sighed and snuggled and sleepily stated the obvious.
Chapter 38 Love
Xander froze. Wasn’t that the one thing Spike wasn’t meant to say? Wasn’t meant to say in a very big important way?
“You said… Uh… Maybe I misheard.”
“Well, you said… No, you didn’t, I…”
“What did I sa—”
Spike matched Xander’s freeze. He remained frozen as a jumble of fears and hopes and the requisite anticipation of great disaster rushed through him.
“Spike… You…you… Did you really say it?”
“Oh. Okay. Should I start running?” Xander asked, only half joking.
“Maybe, ‘cause you weren’t really awake, or…or…”
“I said it, didn’t I?”
“You…er…kinda…seemed to. But you were sleepy, you didn’t mean it, and…”
“I meant it.”
“Should I be scared?”
Spike leaned up and shook his head, bringing back his human face. He stared at Xander and Xander stared guardedly back. With great trepidation, Xander touched a single fingertip to Spike’s chest.
“What?” Spike asked.
“Precisely. In there. What’s happening?”
“You seem…calm. Too calm. Which worries me.”
Spike thought and felt and blinked and swallowed hard.
“I’m yours,” Spike said definitely, in a bid to provoke a further reaction within himself.
“Don’t make it worse,” Xander urged, “don’t…don’t…don’t…” Xander paused. He frowned and gave Spike’s chest a harder prod. “Isn’t anything happening?”
“Where’s the terrifying stuff that makes the obnoxious worthwhile?”
“I… Stop prodding me!”
“Or what? You’ll tear me limb from limb? Skin me alive? Eviscerate me with your claws?” Spike grabbed Xander’s hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing the fingertips. “Now you are truly scaring me. Spike…”
“I can’t believe this.”
“What? You can’t believe you’re not kicking me to the floor and making me your slave?”
“There are…fireworks in my heart, there’s a rollercoaster careering through my gut, and I could use my prick to chisel you a love letter in granite.”
“That’s…that’s…uh…impressive. And deep down demony you?”
“I expected…I d’know…some kind of uncontrollable, wildly dangerous, over-possessive madness if I ever did it. If I ever gave myself to you.”
Spike paused in confusion as he analysed his feelings for the umpteenth time.
“Peace. I think the fireworks and roller-coaster are more about the soul. Give that bloody demon what it’s been screaming for and…just like that: peace. Sort of smug bastardy ‘bout bloody time too peace, but…peace.”
“That’s…that’s… No, wait. This is it? This is it? Peace? You mean…the obnoxious was for nothing?” Xander demanded with mounting indignation.
“Yes. I mean, no. I… Love… This is…”
“You broke my frigging heart for this? Whatever it takes was for this?”
“Obnoxious? You wait, I’ll give you fucking obnoxious!”
“Xander! I thought… I didn’t know what to think, what to expect, and…whatever happened, you were going to hate me for it, for inflicting myself on you for ever, and I mean for ever. You’d hate me and you’d tell me to go, and that would send me out of control and then I’d hurt you, seriously hurt you – none of this lightweight obnoxious bollocks – and maybe even turn you against your will. I thought I’d destroy us. Destroy us in every sense. Fucking hell, Xan, it’s been torture,” Spike concluded in a shaking voice.
“Oh, sure, but—” Xander fell abruptly silent as his brain caught up with his mouth. “For…ever?” he asked in whisper.
“See! I bet you’re already thinking about how you’re stuck with me and…and… I’ve been trying so hard not to say it, Love. You’re all I want and I couldn’t risk losing you, I couldn’t…”
Xander grabbed Spike and cuddled him close.
“You’ve got me. It’s okay, you’ve got me. More to the point…I’ve got you. I want to be stuck with you. For ever’s good. God, I’m such a selfish bastard. I don’t care if you’re traumatised so long as I get what I want.”
“Works both ways.”
“Not true. You’ve been looking out for me. I told you, didn’t I? Your goodness is less questionable than mine. Jeez, I’d hate to inherit a new soul, the old one took enough running in.”
“Does this mean…”
“I’m happy. You’re mine, and for ever, and I’m…I’m… There isn’t a big enough word for how happy I am.”
The tension drained from Spike’s body and he slumped into Xander’s embrace; this much honesty was more than exhausting. Plus fireworks, rollercoasters, and—
“It almost makes sense. The peace.”
“It does make sense,” Xander agreed, “and it’s wonderful. But will it last?”
“D’know. I do know the obnoxious is a thing of the past.”
“That’s a relief.”
“And I know I’ll never hurt you.”
“That’s a bigger relief. I’m a coward as well as a selfish bastard.”
“Good. They’re the kind of qualities that’ll keep you alive.”
Xander chuckled and moved Spike into a kissable position, taking full advantage of it, neither of them realising they’d fallen asleep kissing until they woke the next morning.
“Oh, shit, fuck, no, no! Spike!”
Spike woke with a jolt to find himself smothered by bedclothes and boyfriend, with said boyfriend suffering from sheer panic.
“Wait, you’ll be okay, I’ll fix the drapes, I’ll…you…fuck, how could I have been so careless!”
“Xander…” Spike struggled from Xander’s protective bundle. “Special glass, Love, remember?”
“Spe…spec— Oh. Oh. Yes. Fuck.”
With an unsympathetic snigger Spike sat up and attempted to pull Xander to him, being quickly and thoroughly slapped away.
“Petal. Think I was about to spontaneously combust?”
“Well, what do you expect? There’s me, romantic soul that I am, expecting the first waking moments in our new home to be all sweet and fluffy, and instead you’re trying to smother me.”
“Sweet and fluffy, my ass,” Xander grumped. “And don’t go there!”
“But it is…”
Xander hurled himself at Spike, tackling him and aping the vampire’s growl, but the irritation quickly turned to euphoria, and the tussle became one enthusiastic smooch.
“You’re here. Spike, you’re actually here. That was never gonna happen, not in a million years.”
“It was always going to happen.”
“I have taken this way too calmly. Today…today it’s sinking in and I’m gonna be…unbearable.”
“Unbearable? Why? Can’t you think of something new?”
Xander whapped Spike with a pillow and squirmed off the bed, thinking he’d escaped Spike’s revenge until he was two steps from the bathroom door and suddenly snatched up, twisted about, and found himself sitting in Spike’s arms with his legs wrapped around slim hips that were already moving suggestively, jabbing Spike’s erection at his buttocks.
“What are— We can’t, not like…”
“Tell you what… Let’s have a nice shag and then we’ll discuss whether or not it’s possible.”
“Spike! Let me down! You’ll drop me or…”
“No, I won’t. Hold on tight and I’ll secure you with…this.”
Spike positioned Xander over his cock and lowered him, too fast for objections or a successful struggle. With a shuddering gasp Xander accepted the vampire’s erection into his body, still slick and sensitive from their previous session. Flinging his arms around Spike’s neck in an attempt to find that elusive tight hold, Xander eventually found the best grip, fingers wound firmly into Spike’s hair. It stung, that grip, and Spike delighted in it, grinning madly as he held a deliciously round buttock in either hand and excitedly bounced Xander up and down his rampant prick.
“Too much,” Xander panted, “Spike…too much.”
“God, fuck, no, but…”
“On fire, aren’t you? Inside.”
Xander nodded frantically and made incoherent pleading noises, but Spike didn’t pause for a moment; no mercy for Xander’s delicate prostate as it was pounded into a state of extreme arousal.
“’S’all right, Love, you know how I’ll cool you down.”
“Yes, you can. Kiss me.”
“When I can’t fucking breathe?”
“Best time,” Spike laughed, catching Xander’s mouth with his own, easing his pace a little to humour Xander’s need for oxygen.
Xander’s initial panic passed and he trusted Spike not to drop him, as precarious as this felt. It was extraordinary to be out of control to this extent, knowing Spike’s strength, his determination, and being hopelessly turned on by the knowledge that an orgasm could be battered from him whether he wanted it or not. Which he did, naturally. On his own terms. Or maybe Spike’s. But surely…
The mental debate was irrelevant. Spike was picking up speed again, effortlessly and relentlessly guiding Xander’s body up and down his cock until the human was a gibbering wreck once more. Spotting the perfect tool with which to stimulate Xander’s voyeuristic tendencies, Spike took a few steps across the room, positioning himself perfectly.
With a mighty effort Xander opened his eyes, just enough to see his reflection in a vast mirror that ran from floor to ceiling. No Spike in this un-hexed glass, and Xander caught his breath as he saw himself floating in mid-air, flushed and sweaty, erection rigid and straining, glossy with pre-come, his balls tight to his body, ready to shoot, his ass stretched and open, appearing to pulse as Spike fucked and fucked.
An erotic overload; Xander reflexively tightened his grip on Spike, crying out and coming despite being untouched, his semen spraying between them as Spike continued to work his lover on his cock, keeping up the pounding rhythm even when Xander was on the verge of passing out.
“Please,” Xander gasped, and that entreaty was enough, Spike roaring triumphantly as he permitted himself to come, quenching the fire inside Xander with chilly spurts of semen that made Xander’s ass reflexively clench around him, milking him until his knees were trembling with the effort of remaining upright.
Staggering to the bed, Spike fell onto it, Xander still clamped to him.
“Knee,” Xander moaned, and Spike lethargically rearranged their bodies, straightening Xander’s left leg and giving the joint a quick, apologetic rub.
Flopping at Xander’s side he threw an arm around him and squeezed.
“I’m yours, Xander.”
No panic as Xander woke up this time around. He wriggled out of Spike’s grasp and finally made it to the bathroom, taking his time over his ablutions and cosseting his poor, abused backside before wandering back into the bedroom and gazing out of the picture window. He watched the birds in the grounds and wondered if any of his regulars would know to follow him here, and he considered the move, whether this really was the right choice for him. He looked around the bedroom with its plush fittings and pristine fixtures.
“Not exactly me,” he sighed, although he wanted it to be him, he wanted to be the lucky guy with the snazzy house and the fabulous boyfriend.
“You’ll grow into it,” Spike told him as he rolled and stretched out across the bed.
“Did I wake you?”
They smiled at one another, and Xander joined Spike, sprawling over him and nuzzling his neck. Kisses and cuddles with the fabulous boyfriend in the snazzy house: things could be a lot worse.
“Thank you for last night,” Xander murmured. “I appreciate how difficult that must have been for you and I’m grateful that you made such an effort. I think even H may like you eventually.”
“Ah, no, don’t spoil our fun. I miss the old Rupert, y’know, the one that thought I was utter shite. Mr Christ Church, Economics, was obviously contaminated with a Watcher-esque brand of inane pomposity at Oxford and I rather like that.”
“I’m sure he’d be very flattered to hear it.”
“I like a challenge.”
“That’s what Simone’s for.”
“Nah. Bloody pushover, just like you. The whole gig was easier than I expected.”
“You think you can be happy here?”
“Can you? Still want your old place?”
“I want this place but, like you said, I need to grow into it. I want this house, and I want you, and I’m gonna be very happy.”
“Nice,” Spike chuckled. “Count me in.”
“Money. I want my own money. I think maybe I could take on some carpentry work. If I’m sleeping well my concentration’s going to be better, I could go back to that now.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I’d like to. I want to buy you more than tea at the Savoy when we go to England.”
“What about your reports?”
“They’re not going to provide a regular income.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, it does.”
“Oh, whatever,” Spike grouched. “Just don’t desert me every day for hours on end.”
“I won’t do that, I don’t want to. It’s just that the reports… You’ll help me, won’t you? To write the report about Escolet?”
“And I’ll make sure you get a small fortune for it. Then you won’t need to…”
“Yes, I will. Occasionally. Does that sound better than regularly?”
That’d do as a yes. Xander sighed contentedly and snuggled. Wrapped in Spike’s embrace it was easier to think about the uber-nasty’s invasion of his person.
“What do you remember most about the Dead Guy Event?” he asked Spike. “I know there’s a lot to choose from but…”
Spike gave a caustic snort.
“For you, maybe.”
“Do you remember when he took you over? Or rather, what do you remember from then?”
“Very little. It was like…he had the run of the house, and I was locked in the attic.”
“You don’t know what he said to me?”
“No.” Xander had the mandatory bad feeling about this. “Do I want to?”
“I doubt it. But… No, doesn’t matter.”
“It obviously does.” Xander prised himself from Spike’s increasingly tense hold and leaned up, reaching across and turning Spike’s face to him, seeing the distress there. He was suitably appalled. “You have to tell me. You have to.”
“Honestly, what’s to tell? He was a sly, manipulative bastard, you can guess what he said.”
Spike pulled away and sat up, swinging his legs off the bed and reaching for his jeans.
“Fancy breakfast? I’m not much of a cook but I’ll have a go if you like.”
“Spike, you have to…”
“What?” Spike snapped. “I have to be made miserable just to satisfy your curiosity?”
Xander was rapidly at Spike’s side, arm around him despite the ‘fuck off’ attitude.
“If there’s something making you miserable I want to know about it.”
“I didn’t say…”
“Yes, you did. However you phrased it, yes, you did.”
“I’m not prepared to…”
Spike began to stand but Xander was ready for that, quickly toppling Spike back onto the bed and straddling him, hands pressed flat to Spike’s chest as if, by some miracle, that could keep him there if he really wanted to escape. A tinge of gold in his eyes, Spike glared meanly.
“You know what a nuisance I can be if I want something,” Xander reminded him. “You may as well get it over with.”
This was actually, Spike reasoned, a good position to be in, especially if there was a possibility of distracting Xander from his interrogation. He very pointedly began to study Xander’s body, gaze meandering down the man’s smooth skin, until— Scars. Oh, fuck. Scars. No wonder Xander hadn’t tried to put a halt to the wandering attention, he had Spike exactly where he wanted him. Spike looked back up to Xander’s face and saw. Xander knew him, knew how his mind worked, knew when to let him hang himself with his own rope. Pleasantly weak from that, from the thrill of being known, Spike was no longer prepared to fight; he tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling.
“He could see straight through me,” Spike confessed with some difficulty. “Escolet. He could see how desperate I am. Desperate to belong, to stop losing. More than desperate not to lose you.”
“You didn’t,” Xander assured, “remember you didn’t.”
“But I could have. And…when he said he was keeping your body, he said… He told me he’d keep me too, and that way I’d never lose you.”
“What an asshole, did he really think…”
“That I’d be tempted? Yes. Yes. I was, Xander. For one terrible, self-centred billionth of a second I was tempted.”
“That long, huh?”
Making a joke of it for Spike’s sake, but Spike could hear that Xander was shaken by his admission. Honesty. This needed honesty. More honesty. However much it hurt.
“He said he’d learn to love me. Something I’d never get from the real you.”
“He— Tell me you didn’t believe that.”
“I’m telling you now, don’t believe that,” Xander insisted, emphatically and with a thump to Spike’s chest as if he could pound reality into the vampire.
“We’ve never said…”
“That’s right, we haven’t, because we know all about tempting fate. But I mean what I can say. I’m yours. Mind, body, soul, heart, entirely, yours.”
“And I’m yours,” Spike added softly, still in awe of those potent words.
“Yes. He was wrong, he was very, very wrong.” Xander climbed off Spike’s lap and pulled the vampire to his feet, holding and kissing him, kissing him and, more than ever, meaning it. “C’mon. I’ll make breakfast. We can talk about moving furniture around and spare rooms and making a library to impress Giles and…”
“Not talk about Dead Guy?”
Xander paused in thought before venturing,
“How about we ditch the report? I’m a medium, not a writer.”
“I write, you edit.”
“You write, I edit, you re-edit.”
“I write, you edit, I re-edit, we make a huge pile of dosh,” Spike concluded.
“Tell Giles…we’ll take a cheque.”
“You’ll soon settle in,” Spike assured Xander over their very late breakfast. “At the moment there’s nothing of yours here…”
“Except for you,” Xander smugly interjected.
“Except for me,” Spike agreed. “Once you have your own things around you…”
“How about yours? Do you have stuff? I don’t even know where you live in LA.”
“I have a few mementoes. Nothing too offensive,” Spike grinned.
“Oh, joy. Don’t tell me, surprise me.”
“What we need is a nice local.”
“A nice local what?”
“A local. A pub. Bar. Beer, pool, darts, music, somewhere we can adopt and piss off the regulars. I know you didn’t go out much before, but if I’m with you…”
Xander was already nodding.
“Yeah, that’d be good. I used to like The Bronze. No having to think where to go, it was automatically The Bronze.”
“Don’t know what there is around here, but we can investigate.”
“Walking distance would be nice.”
“We’ll have a look around.”
Xander nodded again, and finished up his coffee.
“How soon is too soon to start planning for Christmas?”
“Whenever you like. There are a lot of people to coordinate so…”
“You think they’ll all come?”
“I don’t think you could keep ‘em away with exploding fortifications.”
“Taking nothing for granted here: does this house actually have exploding fortifications?”
“There are some buttons in the basement it might be fun to play with.”
A mischievous look passed between them, but before they had a chance to act on it, Xander’s cell phone rang. Leaving the table and following the ringtone to his coat, Xander retrieved and answered the phone, turning his back on Spike as he wandered away, taking a monosyllabic part in what appeared to be a very one-sided conversation.
Once Xander was out of sight, Spike took one of the unused linen napkins from a pile they’d discovered, rummaged in the kitchen drawers for a pen, and then began to write. He may have destroyed the crap poetry but he hadn’t forgotten it. Listening carefully to ensure that Xander was still occupied, he wrote down the only verse that he felt had any merit – and that would be emotional rather than technical – then went to the bedroom to hide the napkin in Xander’s duffel. Xander would appreciate the gesture, Spike knew, earning him a few good boyfriend points. He also knew that Xander wouldn’t notice the flaws, he’d only see the words and the sincerity behind them.
This room already held some rather splendid memories; Spike lounged on the bed and rubbed himself through his jeans as he closed his eyes and re-lived having Xander at his mercy, trapped on his cock. He’d have to get Zooza up here at Christmas, let him hex the mirrors. Spike thought about him and Xander watching themselves fuck one another silly and rubbed a little harder.
Spike slitted a single eye, peering at Xander’s gloomy face.
“I have to go,” Xander said as he hurriedly began to pack.
“Why? Or rather, who?”
“Nobody you know.”
“One of your bony-arsed fan club then,” Spike grouched.
“Yep,” Xander agreed, quickly gathering up the last of his belongings. “I’m sure they didn’t do it just to inconvenience you, but one of the friends I’ve made here is at death’s door and the family would like me to pay a visit.”
“Oh. I didn’t realise.”
“No, you didn’t. I have to go.”
Spike watched, sour-faced, as Xander strapped on his knee brace and finished dressing.
“Urgent, is it? I thought we could…”
“Spike,” Xander snapped. “My friend has had three strokes in the past year, this latest one was massive and he’s dying. I want to say goodbye.”
“But you can speak to him anytime.”
“For fuck’s sake! Don’t be so damn selfish.” Spike gave a dismissive shrug. However much that irritated Xander he refused to get into a row, not when he had more important things on his mind. “If you’re staying here, gimme the car keys.”
“I’ll drop you off.”
“If I was at home I could’ve walked in ten minutes. Maybe this place is a bad idea.”
“Oh, fine. Fucking fine!”
Spike stormed off and Xander glared after him, resenting the attitude, upset at the news, and itching to call Henry to ask to be collected and taken to where he really should be.
“I have responsibilities,” Xander said to the absent vampire.
“I know,” Spike agreed as he walked back into the room and fished under the bed for his boots. “And I’m a contrary, self-centred bugger. You keep your priorities in the right order, don’t let me try to take over or you’ll end up hating me.”
“You are a priority. But you’ll still be alive tomorrow.”
Spike slung the duffel over his shoulder and they walked down to the garage in silence, both caught up in their own thoughts. Not a word was exchanged until Spike needed directions, and then nothing more until they were sitting outside the home of Xander’s friend.
“Where are you going now?” Xander asked. “You need the keys to my house?”
“No. I’ll go to LA, like you suggested, finish up there.”
“You’re coming back?”
“You want me to?”
“Do I even have a choice anymore? Since you said…what you said.”
“You can say it, Love.”
“Maybe it’s been said once too often.”
“Don’t you want me to come back?”
“Yes. Of course I do.”
“Then…I’m coming back. And there’s nothing to be scared of.”
Xander turned in his seat and pulled Spike into a hug.
“I’m upset right now, I can’t think straight. But I’ll be okay, and we’ll be okay.”
“It’s the best thing for us, me being able to say what I feel.”
“Yes, I know, I want that. We need to talk…”
“Or maybe we don’t. Why can’t we try taking it all for granted?” Xander agreed with a quick nod, soaking up the comfort of Spike’s presence and dreading being without him for as much as two days. “I’ll miss you,” Spike said, pre-empting Xander’s own words.
A brief kiss and Xander forced himself to act, moving to leave the car.
“Is there something I should say?” Spike asked. “Y’know: your friend.”
“No.” Xander gave him a sad smile. “No set text.” Another quick kiss. “I’ll call you as soon as I can.”
“I may need to talk about…” Xander apologetically warned Spike, gesturing to the house.
“I’ll listen,” Spike assured.
Xander climbed out of the car and collected his duffel from the trunk before making his way up to the front door of the shabby little house. Spike observed as an equally shabby, stick-thin old woman greeted him and was compassionately embraced. Jealousy came and went, as Spike knew it must, because this was Xander, and this was what Xander did. Hard to be possessive over a man who had to constantly give a share of himself away, be it time or attention or affection. Hard not to be possessive when Spike wanted it all.
“You’re mine,” Spike whispered at Xander’s disappearing back, disgruntled, yet appreciating why there was no last look in his direction. “And I’m yours.”
Still astounded by the peace that statement – that sentiment – brought him, Spike repeated it to himself as he drove away and concentrated on the lonely road that took him back to LA.
“Hey, Baby. It’s…nine-forty…something in the morning, just got home. … You must be sleeping. I’m going to try. That’s probably a joke. … Wish you’d answered the phone, I could really do with hearing your voice right now. … Albie – that’s my friend – he’s gone, it was all very calm and quiet and I’m glad I was there. Specially for Rita. His wife. I know we were all expecting this, but it’s heart-breaking. She’s devastated. … Can’t imagine how that feels. To love someone for fifty years, to be together for fifty years, and then…no more. I was falling apart losing you after a couple days. … Makes me think of you and Dru and…I don’t know if I can help, if there’s any way I can bring her through for you, but I’m willing to try if it means finding you some closure. … This is… I miss you, I want to be with you. I feel so lonely. … You’re coming back, right? Please come back, Spike, I know I wasn’t that nice when you left, but… … Okay, you don’t want to hear me whining. I’m going to try to get some sleep, and I promise you I’ll eat later, I won’t go straight back to what you hate me doing. … And I’ll pack. That’s…positive. I’ll pack. New home. Cool. Make sure you ask people when they can make the party. … Okay. … Okay. … You’d think I’d be used to being without you after the past few weeks, but I’m not and I hate it. Even knowing you’re coming back. ‘Cause you are, I know that. I do know that. But this is… … Where did you go when I was in hospital? Where were you when I came home without you? I was never going to ask, I made up my mind to respect your privacy unless you offered to tell me, and if we were face to face I wouldn’t ask, I know. But… … Sorry, none of my business. … Okay. … I’m really going this time. … I miss you, Baby. … Bye.”
“Bloody voicemail. S’pose I can live with it if it means you’re asleep. … Xander… I should’ve stayed, shouldn’t I? Just plain sodding ignorant to drive off when you’re going to be needing me, and why didn’t I figure that out? I’ve got a lot to learn, haven’t I? … I will, Love, know that. And of course I’m coming back, and I’ll show you how it feels to have someone for fifty years without losing them. Take that as a threat if you like. … Why does it matter where I went when I wasn’t with you? There’s nothing to be scared of, nothing that’s going to lure me away from you. No questionable liaisons I forgot to mention. And you know I had to deal with the Vree’vathets, so I was with them for a bit. … You don’t really need to… … I went away, nowhere in particular, just got myself lost. I needed time to figure it all out, deal with my weakness. … It didn’t take long to realise that I’d walked away from my strength. … Love, I… … I left you— Empty your bag after you hear this, I left something for you. Had a fit of wishing I hadn’t, and now I’m glad I did. Nothing much, but…something. … Damn it, I’ve got to go, there’s this meeting that’s a big deal for some reason they won’t tell me yet, but I promise you I won’t get involved in anything that’ll stop me coming home, all right? Nothing will stop me coming home to you. … You’re everything to me, Xander.”
Barely conscious, having slept due to sheer exhaustion brought about by emotional upheaval, Xander groped for his phone and switched it on. Delighted to find that he had a message from Spike, though frustrated to hear that he hadn’t missed him by more than half-an-hour, Xander listened intently before re-playing the call several times, hanging onto every word and longing for his partner’s return.
He made coffee and allowed himself to wake a little before collecting his duffel bag from where he’d abandoned it that morning and up-ending it on the living room floor, flicking his own belongings aside and looking for whatever Spike had left him. A napkin. He’d left a napkin. The huh? moment passed, and Xander investigated further, finding Spike’s words and reading. Reading again. Wiping his eyes and reading, hoarsely, aloud…
“You touched this wounded
Xander clutched the napkin to his chest and rocked.
“Hey, Baby, I know you’re in your meeting and won’t get this message yet. I wanted you to know I found what you left for me, and thank you for sharing that, and… … Don’t worry about me, I’m not crying, not really, I’m just… Over-emotional. You should be glad you’re that far away, after all. … But…me too, Spike. Kinda. I had my friends and my work and my home, but I didn’t have what I needed. I didn’t actually know what I needed but it turned out to be you. I couldn’t even see what I’d lost until you showed me. You’re my healing, and I— … Sorry. … ‘Kay, pulling myself together. … Okay. … I didn’t mind you leaving, don’t feel bad about that. I think if I’d said something you would have stayed. We both have a lot to learn. … About the house – home – I was thinking if we— Ah, fucking hell, I can’t do this any more. I don’t care if it’s tempting fate, you promised me fifty years and I’m going to hold you to that. … I… … I love you, Spike. I love you. More. I’m crazy about you. It’s scary and unquestionable and intense and… I’m so in love with you. You must already know that. I hope you already know that. I love you. … Now I’ve gotta go and be weepy and pathetic. And pack. … Bye. Again. … I love you.”
“Hey, you. Aren’t you supposed to be in a meeting?”
“I was thrown out.”
“’Cause I got your message and made a bit of a fuss.”
Xander could hear the laughter in Spike’s voice and laughed too.
“Xander…that’s about the best thing anyone’s ever said to me.”
“Don’t sound so worried.”
“I’m not, I’m…I’m… I don’t know what I am.”
“Not in a ‘I don’t know what I’m saying’ sense.”
“I know that. But you’ve been through a lot the past few months, now you’re in mourning, and…”
“I’m fine, Spike, really.”
“I’ll be home soon to make a bit more of a fuss. Apparently, it’s what I’m good at.”
“I… … Bugger, they’re calling. I’ve got to go back in, Love.”
“There’s something I want you to think about, though. This is destined to be the greatest love affair of our lives.” Appreciating the reference and too moved to respond, Xander gave up trying to control his raging emotions and pointlessly nodded as he mopped his eyes. “You all right?” Spike asked, although he could guess the cause of this temporary silence.
“Yeah,” Xander croaked. “Strange brand of happy.”
“Good, you stay that way until I get there.”
“And, Xander… I love you too.”
“Does this make us cowards? Saying what matters most when we’re miles apart?”
Xander gave a tearful laugh.
“I don’t know and I don’t care.”
“Very sensible. I’ll see you tomorrow, Love. Meantime, look after yourself.”
“Love you, Spike.”
Spike sighed contentedly.
“And if they think they’re going to get any sense out of me today…”
Spike could hear music playing as he walked up to the house and he smiled to himself, relieved that it wasn’t something sombre and maudlin, knowing that Xander would be feeling the benefit of the upbeat melody and hopefully agreeing that, yes, his baby did care just for him.
It was terrifically important to Spike that Xander had managed to hang onto the strange brand of happy and, although he’d been reassured by the necessarily brief and superficial conversations they’d had since the conversation, it made him feel so much better to be here and able to judge Xander’s state of mind for himself. Talk to Xander and the man always swore he was fine, even when he was falling apart.
Stomach a mass of knots, Spike rapped on the front door and only had to wait seconds for the door to be flung open and his arms to be full of kissing, hugging boyfriend. Initial welcome dealt with, Xander danced Spike into the living room, navigating their way through the bags and boxes that contained Xander’s previous life.
“Hi,” Xander said, somewhat breathlessly. “I didn’t know when to expect you but…” He gestured at the clutter. “I’m ready to go.”
“Have you slept?”
“No,” Xander replied perkily.
“Fair enough. You’re looking well for it.”
Xander laughed and jubilantly hugged Spike again.
“I’m so excited.”
“You’re sure then? About the move.”
“’Cause I’d come to terms with living in this dump.”
“No. Me: lucky guy, snazzy house, fabulous boyfriend. I want.”
“You want, you get,” Spike promised, and he drew Xander close and kissed him gently. “Even the trampoline.”
“Shall we go? It’s probably only one trip, I don’t have that much to move.”
“First…” Spike waited until Xander stopped fidgeting and met his eyes. “I am sorry about your friend, Xander. I got that all wrong…”
“Yes. But I’ll learn – I have learnt. Hardest part is…I hate to see you hurting.”
“That’s life, Spike. Death. It’s natural. Painful, but natural. I know you worry about me, but I really am okay. And I’ve spoken to him today – to Albie – and to Rita, and… Remember you said that you thought I was better at what I do after the uber-nasty? Total overreaction to that at the time, but I think you’re right. I can’t really explain the difference, but the contact with Albie was effortless compared to how it would have been six months ago.”
“Like the uber-nasty…de-furred your psychic pipes?”
“Uh… You know that no-one else in the entire universe would’ve put it like that and…possibly, yes.”
“Does this mean the ghosts can bother you more easily?”
“No, it means I can communicate more easily.”
“Think you’ll ever learn to keep them quiet?”
“Probably not. But I have no real idea of what’s doable.”
“I hope not, actually, or I’ll be redundant.”
“That better be a joke.”
“Oh, it better, eh?” Spike challenged. “Why? What you going to do about it?”
“Umm… Maybe…” Xander cupped Spike’s face in his hands and leaned in for a kiss, taking his time and exploring unforgotten territory. “How’s that?”
“That’s…that’s… Yes, let’s go. We can’t shag here.”
“My guy – straight to the point! You deal with boxes, I’ll walk around, make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.”
While Spike packed the Mustang and his own Cadillac, Xander checked the house, room by room. Lastly, he switched off the laptop, feeling the silence fall heavily as the music disappeared. He could somehow separate the voices from the silence, that was new too, and rather unnerving. Perhaps after years of craving quiet it was, in truth, the last thing he wanted. Hadn’t he suspected as much during the temporary hiatus in hospital?
“Ready?” Spike asked from the doorway.
“Yes. And no.”
“I got a bellyful of butterflies, coming here,” Spike confessed.
“It’s only natural, I guess. A little anxiety. Just a little.” They exchanged a long look before Xander picked up his coat from the back of the nearest armchair and pulled it on. He tucked the laptop under his arm. “I have to drop off the keys.”
“It’s gone three in the morning.”
“I’ll do it quietly. And then it’s done. The Xandman is movin’ on!”
“I could follow you ‘round.”
“No. You just… I’ll meet you at…home. Home,” Xander repeated with a smile.
Another protracted look, full of the deepest affection.
“I love you,” Spike said, because he had to.
Xander’s face crumpled with emotion and he hurried across the room, throwing his free arm around Spike’s neck.
“Thank you,” was all he could say. “Thank you. Thank you.”
Impressed that the gates and garage door magically opened for him as he approached, and oblivious to the little black box of technical wizardry that Spike had left in his glove box to trigger aforementioned portals, Xander re-entered the new house feeling as if he’d had some kind of cosmically decreed welcome.
He found Spike sitting on the living room floor amid his own assorted baggage, and surrounded by music downloaded from what was once Xander’s personal stereo.
“The sound system is great,” Xander said as he turned a circle on the spot, trying and failing to locate the cleverly concealed speakers.
“I thought you’d like it. Wait till you see the telly.”
Xander couldn’t trace the TV either, so he turned his attention to Spike’s belongings, fighting the urge to instantly begin prying into various packing crates.
“I had everything delivered,” Spike stated the obvious. “I wanted to travel light.”
“What is all this stuff?”
“Most of it’s chess sets, thanks to you.”
Xander chuckled and knelt beside Spike.
“How about the rest? Fifty pairs of jeans, all black. One hundred t-shirts, also, coincidentally, all black.”
“Are you criticising my haute couture?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“And it’s not all black. I have a red shirt somewhere. It might’ve seen better days, but…”
“Can I buy you something to…”
“No,” Spike responded with the speed of a slamming man-trap. “I’ll dress me, you concentrate on…undressing me.”
“My clothes sense has improved greatly over the years,” Xander pointed out, pretending to take umbrage.
Spike turned a scathing look on his partner.
“Now, how would you put this? You are wearing the ugliest shirt since shirtville had an explosion at the ugly factory.”
Xander’s hands came up to spread protectively over his chest.
“Kirsty chose it for me. She likes green.”
“Okay, she likes bright, and she likes lime.”
“She likes slime? That explains a lot.”
“She. Likes. Lime,” Xander over-enunciated. He removed his wallet from the back pocket of his jeans and fished out a photograph of the little girl in her last Halloween costume. “See?”
“Didn’t anyone ever tell her that green fairies are the evil ones?”
“I need a photo of you. I need to carry it everywhere and show it off and bore people rigid with it.”
“The kind of pose I have in mind won’t be boring, Petal. Although, rigid might be a side-effect.”
“Nuh-uh. There will be no sharing of the private pictures of the private parts. Capisce?”
“Hmm, you know capisce, I know ciao… How about we hit Rome and flex our extensive Italian vocabularies?”
“I don’t have— Rome? Rome in Italy? Seriously?”
“Why not? No raiding the domestic budget, so you wouldn’t have to worry about that. I pull a few strings, earn some extra dosh, we spend it. What could be simpler?”
Xander looked away, suddenly self-conscious. He spoke quietly.
“Simpler would be…you stay at home, out of danger, and humour my fear of losing you and us and…at least until I get used to this whole situation.”
Spike took a serious look at Xander, trying to judge if any of that statement was flippant. No. It wasn’t.
“I can do that,” he said, and Xander’s warily glanced back. Not entirely sure whether or not his worries would be arbitrarily dismissed, Xander was pleasantly reassured by the sincerity he saw and heard. Spike gave him an understanding smile. “Be nice to have some settling in time, eh? Plus I need to worm my way into your friends’ affections so they’ll help me persuade you to go on the telly.”
“That is never going to happen.”
“And in the very next scene…” Spike taunted, recycling a line of Xander’s and reminding him of a moment in Lestor, when the very next scene, and the next, and many, many nexts, had featured Spike doing exactly what Xander had needed, and doing it brilliantly. So what if Xander was vaguely aware that plenty of questionable words and deeds had been discarded from his memory, he was a man in love and selective amnesia was entirely appropriate.
“I’ve got it so bad,” he groaned, knocking Spike flat on the carpet and dropping onto him.
No argument from Spike, and certainly no objection to the passionate kisses that ensued.
“You think you’ve got it bad,” Spike said as he rolled Xander onto his side, determined that any pressure be removed from Xander’s left elbow. “That meeting I got thrown out of: I know it was important, but after I heard your message all I could think of was you saying you loved me. If they’d’ve told me the world was ending in four minutes I wouldn’t have cared because, for those four minutes, Xander Harris would be in love with me.”
More kisses, naturally.
“Did you ever find out what the meeting was about? If it is important, will you have to go back?”
“I agreed I’d be staying at home, out of danger…”
“That’s fine in principle, but I know…”
“I’m staying put for now. Besides, I’ll give Dylan a call, and it’ll be all the usual twaddle, you wait and see. Just because Wesley turns up and…”
“That’d be the one.”
“You never thought to mention this?”
“I told you everything went out of my head when I got your message.”
“And it’s stayed out of your head ever since?”
“I was chuffed to see him, but… He’s not in love with me. Priorities, Xan,” Spike grinned.
“And Wesley turned up to— Doesn’t anyone stay dead any more?”
“Apparently not. Much more of this and you’ll be out of business.”
“That would be terrible.” Xander gave Spike a seductive smile, his hand wandering to Spike’s waistband and pinging open the button. “I’d have no other option than to exist purely as your sex toy.”
“You’re not expecting any fake sympathy around now, I hope.”
“Nuh-uh. Every cloud, silver lining, yadda, yadda, yadda.”
“Always the great philosopher,” Spike chuckled as he leant in for more kisses, but both men came to an abrupt halt as the opening notes of a new song surrounded them.
They stared cautiously into one another’s eyes as memories swept back.
‘Take me now, Baby, here as I am.
“I’ll turn it off,” Spike said edgily as he twisted onto his hands and knees, crawling toward the player.
Xander tackled Spike, dragging him around, face to face.
“No, you won’t.”
“You think I’ve forgotten the connotations of this song?”
“Tell me it doesn’t remind you of me taking advantage of you. Again.”
Shaking his head, Xander took both of Spike’s hands in his and held on tightly.
“Remember in the hospital, that night when you told me you had to fuck me and I had to let you?”
“That’s right, put the boot in,” Spike muttered sourly. “Any other examples of me being a total cunt you want to resurrect?”
“You want to forget certain arcs of our learning curve. Why?”
“Don’t be dense.”
“Is it because it makes you feel bad, or because it turns you on and you think it shouldn’t?”
“Fuck off, Xander.”
“You don’t meant that,” Xander insisted, squeezing Spike’s hands.
“No, I don’t. Maybe…‘shut up and kiss me’ would have been more appropriate.”
Xander shuffled a little closer, pressing a kiss to Spike’s cheek, feeling the lean as the vampire gratefully accepted the gesture.
“Gonna answer the question?”
Spike shrugged, took his time.
“Both,” he eventually admitted. “I shouldn’t have pulled that with you – the scar – but… To just…have you…” Spike sighed defeatedly. “Ah, bollocks.”
“Hey, Baby, you’re not screwing things up for us. I promise.”
“I have mixed feelings about this song too. I’ve always felt bad that you had to use the scar to…”
“Why should you feel bad? I exploited the weakness I warned you about, something I warned you not to buy into.”
“I don’t care that you simply took what you needed, and… Spike, I don’t want to see that expression on your face, and… Look at me.” Spike begrudgingly did as he was ordered. “I care about giving you what you need, I want to do that. I want to be the one you need, and that moment…that was the point in time when I knew it, I absolutely knew how much you needed me. Besides…you know if I really mean it when I say no.”
“Do I? You say it and…”
“Half the time I’m still trying to make up my mind about what I want. You kinda…cut to the chase.”
“That’s not right.”
“Says the soul,” Xander exclaimed sarcastically. “I think the demon has better instincts. Maybe your inner demon appeals to my inner hyena, and… Why are we even discussing this?”
“All I ever want to do nowadays when I hear this song is fuck. It makes me feel strong, and needed, and horny, and…I want to fuck. You. I want to fuck you and make you feel like you made me feel.” Xander took Spike’s left hand and ushered it beneath the slime green shirt, holding it to the very solid erection that was impatiently demanding attention. “Does that convince you at all?”
Spike didn’t have a chance to reply before Xander was pulling and shoving him about, yanking his jeans down to be trapped around his ankles by his boots and clambering between his legs; Spike scrabbled to unfasten Xander’s fly, pushing his pants to his thighs and groaning as their naked bodies were soon touching in exactly the right places.
“Do it, Love, fuck me, fuck me now.”
“Shit,” Xander gasped between frantic kisses, “no lube.” Spike quickly bit into the base of his own right thumb, manoeuvring Xander so there was space to dribble blood along his rigid cock. “That’s…that’s… It’s fucking horrible and…and…do I care?”
“Don’t care,” Spike panted. “Fuck me. Don’t be gentle. Fuck me, Xander. Need me. Fu—”
Spike’s words morphed into a throaty groan as Xander unceremoniously breached tight muscles to force himself deep into Spike’s body. Sucking and gnawing at Spike’s neck, Xander began to drag his cock in and out of the vampire’s tightness, grinning against grazed skin when he felt a bundle of material and leather at the back of his thighs, Spike urging him on to a frenzied pace with his trapped feet.
“I love you,” Xander whispered, slowing his movements. “I love you, Spike. That song… I think that’s when I knew.”
“You should have said.”
“I didn’t absolutely know I knew.”
“No. We got this right.”
“But I was already…”
A distractingly hard and fast fuck resumed; emotions swept aside by glorious sensation, Spike moaned and thrust up against Xander, rubbing his dripping erection on Xander’s belly.
“How does this feel, Baby? Huh? Good?”
“Good. Good. Great. Fuck me, Love.”
“Does it feel even better now you’ve said what you wanted to say?” Xander asked as he fucked more enthusiastically still, gazing into Spike’s face and willing Spike to be himself, wanting him to know he could be without hesitation.
“You’re mine, Spike.” An extraordinary sound, a cross between a snarl and a whimper escaped Spike’s throat. “Mine. Jesus, that thought goes straight to my balls.”
Watching beautiful blue eyes become a stunning gold as Spike’s true face appeared, Xander’s rhythm wobbled and faltered.
“Do I scare you?” Spike had to ask.
“Uh-uh. It’s all I can do not to come.” Inner muscles clenching on Xander’s heated flesh, Spike rolled his hips. Xander shuddered, eyes screwed tightly shut as he fought for control, determined not to let this wonderfully wicked man draw the orgasm from him quite yet. And he wasn’t above retaliation. “Spike. Tell me you’re mine,” he crooned, and that worked perfectly, Spike trembling to a halt as he zoomed to the brink of his own climax.
They stared at one another, flushed with lust, but caught up in the humour of the situation.
“We’re good,” Spike smirked.
“Oh, yeah,” Xander agreed.
Spike’s brows twitched suggestively.
Xander nodded, glazed and breathless as Spike’s hips gave another tortuous revolution.
“You think we can leave the gloating till later?”
“Go for it, Love. You fuck your Spike.”
With a yell of pure elation, Xander abandoned all restraint and slammed into Spike at just the right angle: the vampire’s exultant cry and arching body, the spatter of cool semen across their bellies and chests being all the encouragement Xander needed to grind deep and give himself over to the manic ecstasy of his own release.
“I love you,” he whispered, again and again, his message, movements and kisses gradually transforming from frantic to tender. Spike’s fingers dragged through his sweat-damp hair, persuading unruly strands away from Xander’s face and out of their kisses. “I love you, Spike,” Xander sighed a last time, indulging his hormones and letting consciousness drift as he felt himself cuddled into a secure embrace.
However tempted he was to doze with Xander, Spike remained awake and enjoyed his developing feelings for his recently bonded mate, recognising the instinctive need to stay protectively alert in these insufficiently familiar surroundings. It would be very satisfying, he considered, to learn to accept this house as his own, with Xander at his side. Very satisfying and…exactly what was going to happen. As if by some creepy mystical intervention, The Impossible Dream was next on the playlist, and Spike sang to Xander, tears moistening his eyes as he realised quite how ferociously he loved the man he had almost lost on so many occasions. Looking back he couldn’t understand the anger he had felt at times, how he had risked hurting and alienating Xander for… What? To this Spike, here and now, it made so little sense he couldn’t even construct a working hypothesis.
“It’ll never happen again,” he promised Xander. “I’ll never hurt you.”
Xander stirred and blearily blinked himself to semi-consciousness.
“Is it morning? Tell me it’s not morning.”
“Shall I put us to bed?”
At Xander’s weary nod they began to untangle themselves, Xander wincing over his reddened joints.
“My knees have rug burn.”
“Yeah, and you don’t want to know about my arse.”
“I love your ass.”
“Even when it feels like it’ll glow in the dark?” Jeans still at his ankles, Spike turned his back to Xander, displaying his shapely posterior and running his hands over the abused skin. Xander took a good look, and his body twinged from brain to balls. “Not big on sympathy is it, your knob,” Spike commented smugly as he turned back to see the effect he’d had on Xander.
Spike drew up his jeans, leaving them unfastened and with his half-hard cock hanging tantalisingly out the fly.
“Bed,” Xander agreed.
Xander gave Spike the most wicked look; the vampire’s cock sprang from half-mast to full salute. Xander saw and smiled.
They barely saw daylight the next day, rising late enough to be officially on vampire time. Spike’s idea of personalising the living room proved to be the initial stage of moulding the sofa in front of the TV to the shape of his much admired backside, but Xander wandered around, taking care to place his few belongings where they would most effectively assist him in coming to terms with the fact that this was now his home, and this was the beginning of a newer, shinier life.
Finally returning to the living room, he found Spike wide-eyed with horror and disgust at what he was watching. Concerned, Xander rushed to check out what Spike had discovered, tutting at his own alarm and prising the remote from Spike’s grip to switch Van Helsing off.
“If you’d asked I could have warned you. Now you have no-one to blame but yourself.”
Spike shuddered back into mobility.
“Bloody hell, Xan. A film full of skinned bollocks hanging from the rafters and they’re blaming the likes of me.”
“This not the best time to discuss marriage and babies then?” Xander teased. “That’s a shame. I was hoping to invite proximity to the wedding. Proximity still has a lot to answer for.”
Spike simply shuddered again before giving in to Xander’s ensuing demands and ripping the lids off packing cases, setting aside the green and white marble chess set Xander chose for himself, and then making a quick phone call to arrange for the others to be taken away for auction.
“You play chess?” he asked doubtfully as he watched Xander set the board up and place all the pieces in an attractive yet unrecognisable configuration.
“Want to learn?”
“It’s cool. And it’s pretty. It goes with…” Xander scanned the room and found nothing to match the set. “…stuff.”
Spike picked up a chunky piece and studied it.
“Bishop’s rather phallic. Ever fancied a marble butt plug?”
“I can’t say I’ve ever considered sticking a chess piece up my ass, no.”
“Shall we give it a go?”
“No, we shan’t. I know most of the staff at the ER and…and… Did you seriously steal Bunny’s coat and stethoscope?”
“They’re around here somewhere. Got a problem for Doctor Spike, have you?”
“Uh… I may have a swelling he can help with.”
As one they began to search through the remaining boxes, Spike triumphantly producing a white coat just as Xander’s phone rang.
“Don’t answer it,” Spike all but pleaded.
“I have to. Sorry. It may be nothing.”
Spike hurled the coat back into the box he’d retrieved it from as Xander went into the hallway to take his call, sulkily dropping back onto the sofa and returning to the TV, flicking and flicking and growling at the lack of entertaining death and destruction.
It was a good half-hour before Xander returned. Spike tried to ignore his troubled expression, focusing on MTV and managing this false detachment for all of a minute.
“What is it, Love?”
“I have to work tonight.”
“This isn’t your usual stint. What’s happened?”
Xander sat alongside him and once again switched off the television.
“One of the other mediums can’t make it and Doug’s working late so…”
“There’s more, what is it?”
Taking Spike’s hand, Xander played with his fingers while thinking something through, finally turning to face him with an anxious smile.
“Flora. You haven’t met her yet, she was meant to be taking tonight’s reading. You’re going to love her when you meet her, she’s the sweetest…”
“Don’t make me jealous,” Spike warned.
“Spike, she’s in her seventies.”
“Okay, I’ll give her a little leeway. You were saying?”
Xander took a deep breath, a mental step toward the calm place, and continued.
“Last night some punk ran into her with his mountain bike, broke her hip and stole her purse while she was lying on the sidewalk in agony.”
Spike bridled on Xander’s behalf.
“Everyone knows who did it but this little bastard has an alibi so the cops can’t touch him. He always has a frigging alibi.”
“I, er… I want you to have a word with him. Like the word you had with Toby’s pals?”
Spike sat back in amazement.
“I can’t believe you’re saying this.”
“Neither can I. But this kid is totally out of control, and it’ll do him good to have the shit scared out of him.” Xander paused for brief, superficial thought. “You’ll do it, right?”
A slow grin broke out over Spike’s face.
“It’ll be my pleasure.”
“Just don’t get caught.”
“Remember who you’re talking to, Love.”
“Yeah. And try not to be seen. You’re pretty distinctive.”
“Then I’ll…undistinct myself. Easy enough to do.”
“Good.” Xander snuggled up to Spike, squeezing his hand tightly. “Good.”
“You sure about this? You seem…”
“I’m upset about Flora, but I’m sure about the bastard who hurt her. You scare some respect into him and he may even reach seventeen. He deserves— Am I wrong to exploit you like this?”
“I’ve never expected you to be all soul and no demon, but I guess I shouldn’t…”
“Don’t think twice about it. Ask now, ask whenever. Between the soul and the demon I have the makings of a great vigilante,” Spike grinned, leaning in to kiss Xander.
The simple kisses quickly became heated, and Xander was barely able to break away.
“I have to go. Work.”
“I know, I’m not trying to stop you.”
“I haven’t meditated in days, I’m not focused, I’m gonna be…”
“Brilliant. You’re going to be brilliant.”
Spike sprang to his feet, Xander grabbed him and hugged him hard.
“Xander… You’re going to be brilliant.”
Spike watched Xander from the rear of the auditorium, enjoying the king of the double-handed gesture at work, grinning at this particular favourite manoeuvre as Xander’s hands circled one another like the peddles on a bicycle.
Seeing as he’d only visited the chapel a few times, Spike was surprised by both the welcome he received from Xander’s friends and co-workers, and how comfortable he felt in this homely little place.
At the risk of sounding like Xander, it didn’t seem real. He’d first walked into this hall a lonely and angst-ridden man, plodding through life and playing his increasingly miscast part with meagre pleasure and growing unease. He’d returned…not a changed man, but an honest man, an incurable romantic harbouring a demon, and he was flourishing thanks to the consideration and affection of a man who offered a reciprocal love and respect that Spike had never known before. In fact, he could readily acknowledge a feeling of contentment that, a few short months ago, he wouldn’t have imagined he was capable of experiencing.
Spike tore his attention away from the stage and took a good look at the members of this audience, learning exactly who he was going into battle for. Character flaws or, as Xander saw them, useful tools, his skills wouldn’t be wasted here. Sometimes the streets of a country town needed saving more than the world as a whole; spiteful teenagers who hurt old ladies would soon learn to lead more civilised lives and, if necessary, they’d learn the hard way.
A ripple of comment and applause, and Spike turned back to the stage; initial reading concluded, Xander was already moving to the next spirit, fingers compulsively twitching as he urged this one forward.
“O…kay… I have a mother…grandmother… Both, same person, so there’s a child and a grandchild involved. This is about… … Thank you, yes. This is about…a dolls house.”
There was an immediate reaction from the second row and Xander turned his focus on one of the women there as she took a microphone.
“Hi, Lise, you okay?”
“The dolls house… There are some problems with… … It’s a toy, not a treasure. That’s from your mom. Let Emmy play with it, it’s a toy not a treasure.”
“Yes, that’s just what she’d’ve said.”
“Your pop made that for you when were younger than Emmy and…”
“I didn’t wreck it,” Lise pre-empted.
“Sure you’re not the medium here?”
“I can hear her as if I were. Good reminder, thank you, Xander.”
Once again Xander concentrated.
“Yep, that’s it, all she wanted to say.”
“You notice she only ever turns up to wag her finger at me?” Lise chuckled as she passed the mic away and sat once again.
“She’s your mom, and whatever the message is, she’s here ‘cause she adores you and Emmy,” Xander smiled, tapping his chest. “I feel it.”
Spike admired the view as Xander moved upstage for a quick gulp of bottled water and a few muffled words with whoever was lurking in the wings on this occasion. He was barely into the fantasy of shagging Xander centre stage when the man in question swung back, evidently in strong contact with a new spirit. Serious and focused and gorgeous with it, Xander listened closely, practically vibrating with excitement.
“This is… Yes. … I have a lady connecting with me, and… Oh, wow. Love. This is all about love… … Thank you, Saul. Okay.”
Xander scanned the auditorium and rapidly homed in on Spike; their eyes met and Xander’s tender smile touched Spike’s soul; in a heartrending instant the vampire’s lusty preoccupation with his partner was replaced by a son’s desperate hope and longing.
“I have a message…” Xander continued with great satisfaction. “For William.”