Wilderness by Reremouse

Chapter 6

Spike believed in the power of wishes.

He believed in it like he believed in the power of frisky and poisonous snakes to twist around and sink indiscriminate nasty fangs into him.

Recent events had only strengthened his belief.

So what in fifteen bloody buggering sodding fucking hells had he been thinking wishing Harris was well enough to get his own bleeding fags?

"You're an idiot, Spike."

Spike turned on his heel and stalked toward the refrigerator. Empty except for a carton of stale white rice.

Worse, he couldn't argue with himself. He was an idiot. And soon he'd have to call Rupert and admit it if that was what it took to get Harris back under his roof, safe and sound.

"I'd sooner feed my bollocks to a dog."

"They'd grow back. And it's not worse than what the witches'll do if they come home to find he's scarpered."

"Sod off."

"I can't sod off. Git. I'm you."

Soon, they'd reach the 'your mother!' part of the argument. Spike hated going there with himself - too much bloody ammunition.

"Call Rupert. Xander's well-being is more important than your bloody pride," said the voice in the back of Spike's head. The one with the Oxford education and soft heart. The one who was his personal Jiminy Cricket. Sod it.

"Your mother," he grumbled at it. Somewhere in the scatter of takeaway and delivery menus was Rupert's number. Scrawled on a menu for Mitzi's Blintzes.

Spike snatched up the offensively pink page and stalked to the phone.

Then Harris opened the door and stepped in as if he'd only been out for a Sunday stroll 'round the neighborhood.

Was it Sunday?

Spike stared at him, scrunched menu in one hand, phone in the other.

"Cherry blintz for me. Here." Harris tossed a packet of Marlboros onto the kitchen counter and slouched onto the sofa, a foot propped up while he rummaged in his bag. "The shop down the road was out of reds and what good are lights if you're trying to kill yourself?"

"I'm already dead," Spike's auto-pilot replied.

"And I'm trying to kill myself." Xander pulled another packet from the bag, unwrapped the cellophane and lit up. He stuck the cigarette in the corner of his mouth and went back to rummaging and pulled out doughnuts. "Doughnut?"

Spike ordered blintzes.

They fell into a lazy pattern which was fine with Spike. As patterns went, lazy wasn't bad. It was like stripes - subtle, classic and went with everything.

Every conversation was one of an infinite number of variations on the theme.

"Pass the fags."

"Where's the lighter?"

"You lost the bloody lighter?"

"Hey! At least I didn't lose the remote. In the bathroom."

"Thought you were drowning again, didn't I?"

"Wanted to see me naked again."

"You're always naked. Were you adopted by sodding chimpanzees in Africa?"

"That doesn't make any sense."

"Whatever. Get up and help me find the bleeding lighter. Tarzan."


"And don't do the fucking yell again."

Bottom line, it was becoming easy living with Harris. Sure there was the whole gloom, doom and death pall hanging over their heads, but strip away all that silly hate the vampires will to live Harris had before and he was a decent bloke.

Good company.

Filled out nicely about the shoulders and buttocks once he'd had some decent meals.

Rupert hadn't stopped by again and Harris hadn't mentioned what they'd talked about. Paychecks in Xander's name had started arriving immediately after and were all deposited into the vice fund and Spike and Xander lived in a luxurious squalor of takeaway, booze, cigarettes, rolled joints with sweetly heavy scent, video games and DVDs.

They were running out of the sort of lazy vices that wouldn't send a good Scooby running away.

So when Spike had come home with a laptop computer and turned it on to discover their next door neighbor had an unencrypted wireless connection, there had been porn. No questions asked.

The first package arrived a day later by courier and Spike tossed it into Xander's lap, fiddling with the television and game console, tossing the game onto the floor when he couldn't find its case.

"You know, I expected your taste in porn to be..." Xander gestured, a vague up and down, staring at the DVDs in his lap.

"What? Low-brow?"

"No. More..." Xander gestured again, a sideways motion across the chest.


"What does French have to do with - okay. So not wanting to know."

Spike shrugged and took the movie. "What? DreamBoy's a classic, it is. Two British lads go on a grand adventure in search of fun, frolic and good rogerings. There's a scene with the German border police where - "

"More straight!"

There was a kick in the boy's heartbeat, a spicy scent on the air that didn't smell anything like fear. "Got a problem with the selection?"

Xander flipped through Hot Rodz, Rear Admiral and Bombardier. Then the look filtered over his face - the look that meant Harris was doing his 'gonna die' speech in his head. Spike waited for the part that always followed, the part where Xander threw caution to the winds. He didn't have to wait long. "Nah."

"Right. Now be a mate and pass along Dream Boy."

There wasn't an agenda to his choices, Spike told himself.

He'd made the pick because a bloke could only watch plastic bints fake their way through orgasms with great sodding bears of men for so long before it all got depressing.

And anyway, he had a bloke in his flat. Spike didn't believe in senselessly torturing himself with what he didn't have around.


He pressed play and settled back on the couch. "Cheer up, mate. In a week, you could be dead."

And when Harris was watching the screen with glazed eyes and kneading his fingers into the couch cushions - and Spike reached over to rub the heel of his palm over the straining human prick - Xander shuddered all over, squeezed his eye shut and hissed in air through his teeth.

But he didn't pull away. Didn't ask Spike to stop.

Hell - didn't look at Spike and that'd have to change.

For now, they'd watch the movie together. Spike's left hand wrapped around Xander Harris' cock, jacking him slow, jacking him fast - jacking him until he stiffened and came all over his belly.

Spike passed the napkins and flipped open his jeans then settled in for a slow wank in Xander's come, human musk and warmth rising from his crotch.

"Thanks," Xander said, breathless enough to make Spike's cock twitch.

"Pass the beer, mate."

It took Xander several minutes to find his legs - and another several to find the beer.

He came back to the couch with his eyes a little more alive, his blood pumping harder in his veins. Spike wanked to the sound of his heartbeat and two British lads being buggered within an inch of their lives on the telly by a man dressed as a Customs official.

After that, porn was the vice of choice and everything else filled the in-between times.

"We should put a television in the bathroom, cut down our clean-up time."

"What is it with you and baths, Harris?"

"Well you see Spike, traditionally one takes them to get clean."

"Not five sodding times a day one doesn't."

"Call me Lady Macbeth."

Xander slouched into the couch, flipping through Boyz Town, Glamfucker and Orgy At The End Of The World which they'd ordered out of twisted nostalgic humor.

Good times.

"Lady M, eh? Whose blood is on your hands, pet?"

Xander got up and put Back Room into the player then came back and wriggled onto his knees between Spike's thighs, peeling open Spike's zip. "Who says it's blood?"

"Fucking Christ," Spike gritted then clenched his hands in Xander's hair and took the offered ticket to a better place.

Wasn't the first time Harris had sucked his way out of a difficult question and Spike hoped to the god of bad little vampires it wouldn't be the last.

Harris was a man of talent.

And indefatigable oral muscles.

When the room stopped spinning and Spike could feel his toes again, he loosened his grip in Xander's hair to something approximating an affectionate pet and asked, "What about all those baths then?"

He'd get an answer or another blow job. Either way he came out ahead.

This time Harris chose to answer. "I still feel the bugs." He scratched with one hand at the neat short beard - all that was left of his bristling bug farm.

"Could shave the rest," Spike said and tried not to be disappointed. He'd grown to like the prickling on his balls and thighs when Xander went down on him.

"Nah." Xander stood up and scratched at his throat, looked between the telly and the bath like a man making up his mind. "We should put a TV in the bathroom," he said on his way to the bath. "The oil's in there."

Spike turned off the telly and followed him.

The boy made a persuasive case.


Chapter 7

Spike traced the scars over Xander's back with a fingertip, like a doodled map of places no sane man went.

This road went to Kenya.

This road went to Oxnard.

This road went down the basement stairs.

"And see ye na yon narrow road, sae thick beset wi' thorns and briers?" Spike's fingers tiptoed from one scar to another, choosing the right one, nasty and long. "That is the path of righteousness, though after it but few enquires. Stupid git." He followed it with a fingertip until the curling silver line disappeared under Xander's armpit, making him snort and whuffle into the pillow.

Harris was ticklish?

"Are you done?"

"Could be. Haven't got to the braid braid road of wickedness." Spike rocked his erection against Xander's right hip .

"You braided it and you're calling me a git?"

"Pillock. Means broad in the poem."

"Aren't we full of ourselves?" Xander slithered down the mattress and Spike let him.

"Rather be full of you, mate."

"God, are all you vampires this needy?"

"Only me, pet." Spike wove his fingers into Xander's hair, spread his legs for the rough stubble scratch of human jaw rubbing against his thighs like a bloody cat. "Only me."

And he threw an arm over his face when Xander lifted his legs and stabbed that hot human tongue straight into him.

If Spike clutched his knees and spread wide in an unseemly amount of time for a man over a hundred and twenty five, it was his own sodding business. Because for a man of only twenty-five, Xander Harris had talents.

And a bloody fine cock.

"And anyway," he croaked, "who said the braid braid road of wickedness is anywhere on me?" Which was a bad idea in hindsight because it made Xander stop and lift his head like a confused Labrador.

"You're the vampire," Xander said casually, casual fingers replacing casual tongue with casual lube. And Spike was going to go casually round the bend if Harris didn't engage his casual cock right bloody now. "Ergo, wickedness."

"Least I'm not a sodding tease."

"There is that," Xander conceded and kept teasing.

Spike was still trying to hold off coming, to remember what came after the fair elfland verse, by the time Xander entered him with a slow, stretching burn. Their bed was only big enough for two sodding fairies. Elfland could fuck off elsewhere.

So of course the way Spike's luck was running of late, the telephone rang. And the way his soul was running of late, he answered it.

In hindsight, this was another mistake.

He'd have to start keeping a list.

Because the way Xander only slowed down, gave him the in-out-roll business, all Spike would remember of the conversation was 'hello'.

"Yeah? What?"

Bloody Watcher. Blah blah 'Buffy' blah blah. 'Yoronos, God Of Obliteration' Blah blah sodding blah. 'Apocalypse' blah.

"Right," Spike said and hung up with an uneasy feeling he should have listened more closely.

Spike really shouldn't have been surprised when Rupert showed up at his door with Dawn, Buffy and Willow in tow. Not only were they there, not only were they seeing Harris, but they were seeing a lot more of Harris than anyone but Spike ought to - and with growing looks of shock and horror on their faces.

Which matched the look on Spike's face when he heard the quiet, oh so very quiet thump behind him.

Spike slammed the door. "Fuck off!"

"Spike! Open this door now!"

"Fuck off!" His voice cracked - didn't crack - oh sod it, cracked and the world was fucking blurry and Spike dropped his head into his hands.

In the hall, the witch began to chant and Spike threw himself at the door, taking out his fury on the wood instead of the people behind it. "Fucking fuck off and leave us in peace!"


"I'm not dead."

Spike stared at the door and the door stared back. It had a boot-sized dent in it.


"I'm not...dead," Xander said again in a key of hysterical wonder. "I'm not dead?" he asked, variation on a theme.

Spike had to turn around to answer it. He did.


And drew a fast, hard breath, took in the freshly-showered human scent, healthy blood beneath healthy skin. Seventy-five percent eye contact crackled between them and Spike let out his breath. Went to the table, picked up his cigarettes and completely failed to light one with shaking hands.

Completely failed to stay standing with shaky knees.

"Looks like," he said casually.

Then dropped the lit lighter into his lap as his door exploded inward on a cloud of sparks and splinters and angry red-haired witch.

"You - get some clothes on, mister." Willow pointed at Xander, who didn't move. He sat there with his mouth and legs gaping, goods dangling in the breeze with a coating of door dust - which was coming out of the Council's security deposit. Spike lit his cigarette and began to feel better.

Dawn pushed past both of them and came back with his robe, sliding it over Xander's shoulders and patting him. "That's better."

*Still too skinny,* Spike thought with a flash of guilt. Then stomped on the soul till it shut up and crawled over the back of the couch to take care of business. "Come on, Harris. Up you get. Have a drag." He held the lit cigarette to Xander's lips and thank god it was the right end.

"Xander doesn't smoke!"

They all watched as Xander lifted a shaking hand to claim the cigarette and smoked it desperately down to the filter. "Few things changed in Africa, Red." Spike helped Xander around the end of the couch like an invalid. When they sat down, Xander lit up again immediately and passed the packet to Spike. "Why're you here?" Spike lit up, squinted at them through the smoke.

Red looked like she could use a drink. Buffy and the Watcher looked like they could use a good night's sleep and Dawn looked like it was Christmas Eve. Spike did the figures in his head and they added up to one thing.

"Time to saddle up the heroes again, is it?" Spike blew out smoke and propped his boots on the table. He slung an arm over Xander's shoulders. "Well you can saddle up elsewhere. Harris isn't well enough to go galloping off to the latest big battle."

He and Xander had some celebrating to do -

Except Harris wasn't following the script. Spike looked in confusion at the empty space in the crook of his arm where Xander was supposed to be, then at the man himself struggling off the couch. "Give me a few minutes to get dressed. I'll be right there."

"You sodding well will not!"

A cat - that's what Harris was like. A bloody cat.

Tell him no and what does he do?

Shreds your bloody curtains and pisses on the sodding rug.

"Fuck off!" Spike grabbed one of the shaggy demon minions of Yoronos, God Of Obliteration around its throat and dashed it down on the wrought iron fence surrounding Kensington Gardens.

Once it was stuck - squealing and splattering blood - it was someone else's problem and Harris had disappeared again like the once and future idiot fighting his way toward danger like those bloody snack food commercials where the rainbow of flavors danced straight into the waiting, drooling jaws of a prepubescent sugar-addled fiend.


Spike jabbed his elbow into a demon's face with a snarl. Too much television. If Harris survived this, Spike was cutting off the cable and they were watching nothing but porn and box sets.

"Behind you!"

"Fucking hell." Spike went down beneath a minion, its neck a satisfying crack in his hands but he'd lost sight of Xander. "Harris!"

He scrambled up, plunged through a throng of Slayers and into the demons, grappling for human flesh beneath all that fur - coarse and shaggy-curly like poodles gone to seed.

Poodles with sticks - and great big nasty spears an enterprising vampire and Slayer could snatch up and charge three of them at a time with, leave them writhing on the ground like great hairy kebabs.

"Obliterate this, Yoronos!" One of the witches (sounded like Dawn) screamed and there was a flash of light - sharp, lurid green that left pinwheels and sparklers in its wake.


A warm and skinny bundle of bones hit Spike from the side, knocked him off his feet and into the fence - he could smell demon blood, the iron and aged wood tang of their spears and - Harris.


Spike pried open his eyes to find Harris crouched above him on all fours, face bloodless pale. They both looked down to see the tip of a demon's spear protruding obscenely from Xander's chest, the point a finger-width from Spike's and shuddering with every shallow, human breath.

"Hey, Spike." Xander licked his lips, breathed hot air in Spike's face that smelled like tobacco smoke and beer.

*No no. Sodding no!*

"Told you I was dying."

Chapter 8

Xander had told Spike he was dying.

All fair and proper.

Told him at least three times now.

Which meant one thing.

"Your follow-through is shite, mate."


"Serves you bloody right, doesn't it? Jumping in front of a spear like that."

"I said ow."

"Heard you the first time. Git."


"Pillock," Spike said and his voice shook.

The world was fucking wobbly lately. All...blurry. And wet.


And there were hands on him and then he was mushed against a bony chest with a collar knob poking him in the temple and Harris was petting him.

Petting him like some kind of -

Like a sort of -


Couldn't be any harm staying there for a few - minutes.

Harris smelled all right. Shower and blood and smokes.

Spike licked his lips and stared down at the spear.

Its truncated length stared up at him, shuddering gently with Xander's breath.

"Can we get back to the unimpaling of me? Feeling like an hors d'oeuvre here."

"Yeah." Spike sat up and found his tweezers again. "All right."

He slid another splinter out of Xander's chest and watched the skin heal over the moment the splinter was gone.

"Ow," Xander said - another splinter, another healed patch of skin.

"Y'know if you really want to die, you're going about it all wrong, mate."

"I didn't say I want to die."

Spike gave him an eyeball so hairy it needed grooming.

"Okay. Fine. What am I doing wrong?"

"Living." Spike jerked a large splinter of spear out of Xander's chest and a patch of hair with it. "Gets in the way of dying."

"Let's take 'ow' as read." Xander rubbed at his chest and reached over for the cigarettes, fumbling one from the packet and lighting it while blood seeped out around the spear.

"Bloody hell. Hold still, will you?"

"Worried about the carpet?" Xander ashed into the pile of bloody splinters taking up his ashtray.

"Hate to see the waste," Spike said and considered approaching the topic from an angle of a mid-morning snack break.

Xander snorted and puffed smoke from his nostrils.

And his chest.

"Right then," Spike said to the spear. "Time for this to come out."

"I've only been saying that for - " Spike propped a foot against Xander's chest and yanked. "Ow!"

Spike handed Xander the whiskey.

Xander drank.

"Want to keep this?" Spike held the bloodied spear, snapped off at one end. He flicked a piece of lung tissue from it.

"Sure. Why not? And Spike?"


"The finger-licking? Really gross."

"Don't look so glum," Spike said to his cigarette, lighting it. They were both flat on their backs, sticky and sweaty - and wet in rude places. And Spike was contentedly smoking and listening to Xander's heartbeat.

Life or something like it went on as it tended to do.

Spike shifted out of the wet spot and considered asking the council for reimbursement.

Order: one set of Queen bedding, damaged in...in... Spike smoked pensively and squinted at the cherry on the end of his fag. Damaged in the aftermath of battle, tending to the wounded.

That sounded right.

"I'm not glum," Xander said and dropped his hand between Spike's thighs, fishing around for the cigarette packet and taking the last cigarette.

"Pull the other one, pet. You look like someone stole your pony."

"I don't have a - okay not exactly on topic." Xander muttered around his cigarette and lit up. "And what kind of word is glum anyway?"

"Sacrificing yourself to the demon for your friends was bloody heroic, mate."

"In case you missed the summary for last week's show, there was no sacrifice, Spike. Still alive. He welshed."

Spike groped vaguely for Xander's thigh and gave it a reassuring pat. "It was a nice gesture."

Xander snorted smoke and flopped over onto his belly making the bed bang against the wall. Nobody banged back anymore.

Spike wondered if his neighbors had moved.

Or gone deaf.

How long since he stomped down to Africa to fetch back Harris the amazing unkillable tosser?

"I could drain you," Spike offered when the idea came to him. He was pretty sure Harris couldn't die. And he was feeling a bit peckish. He wondered if Harris would taste different now - gamier.


"Drain you. Sink in the fangs and suck till you're a husk. Maybe you'll die," he said in his jolliest encouraging voice.

Xander flailed against the surface of the bed side table and grabbed a handful of menus. Dropped them onto Spike's chest. "If you're hungry, order in. Blood loss makes me queasy."

Spike rifled discontentedly through the menus. "One order of - " he squinted at the blurred and beer-ringed printing, " - Falafel Farookh's Full Fare Fiesta?"

"Make it two."

"Thought you were queasy."

"Might as well have plenty to bring up."


Xander threw an arm over his eyes and a wrist onto Spike's chest. "Mi sangre es su sangre, pal. But I want to be wined and dined."

Spike ordered.

Spike watched his blood circle round and round in the microwave, counting down the seconds for the cheerful ding!.

"Thought you liked it better fresh from the tap."

Spike downed a gulp, shuddered. "The aftermath puts me off my feed, mate. Can't imagine why."

"Told you it made me queasy."

"You brought up things you never ate. It's just wrong."

"The purple stuff?" Xander thought about it and absently scratched the pink spot on his chest where the spear had gone out, squinting at the ceiling like a man contemplating the last time he'd eaten something purple. "Yeah that was pretty weird. I was never a candidate for Red Cross Donor of the Year."

It'd been like that since the spear went in. Spike tried to remember the stages of grief and whether they applied to a bloke discovering he wasn't dead - and wasn't going to get deader any time soon.

Denial. Denial was on the list. He watched Xander wander into the kitchen and come back with two beers. Course, denial was a tricky one. Harris didn't deny anything. He just went on.

And how the bloody hell a bloke was he supposed to tell denial from acceptance?

Spike had to stop reading the pamphlets Willow left with him. She was worse than a Jehovah's Witness.


"Cheers, mate." With moderate horror, and no permission from himself, Spike heard himself ask: "Given any thought to what you're going to do with your suddenly prolonged life?"

"I thought I was doing it." Xander lifted one hand. Cigarette. The other. Beer. Then jerked his chin at the telly. Spike had to admit he had the essentials.

So when he kept talking, Spike seriously considered finding out how many times a vampire had to pound his head against a wall before he couldn't talk anymore. "Can't do that all your life," he said and blamed the soul. And the pamphlets. Then he had another drink.

"Cutting me off?"

Spike grappled his soul into a full nelson and shoved its head in the loo. "Nah." From the watery depths, it spoke. "Bit of a waste, isn't it?"

Brown-nosed little git.

They compromised. "Listen, Harris. You're alive and there's a whole great big world out there. So fucking stop faffing about and find something to do with your life."

"Something to do."

"That's right. Like a hobby." Spike looked around for his cigarette and spotted it in the ashtray. It'd gone out amongst the blood and splinter muck.

"A hobby."

"Sure." He mumbled around the filter, trying to light it again. Wouldn't take. Tasted like piss.

Spike tossed down the cigarette and took a fresh one.

"Death is my hobby?"

"You're a miserable fucking failure at it. And depressing, besides."

"How about needlepoint?"

"You'd look a right ponce doing needlepoint, Harris. Choose a manly hobby."

"Porn marathons and big gay sex aren't manly?"

Spike scowled at his cigarette - and Xander.

"I get it, Spike. I do. Unkillable Xander Harris. Kinda lame sitting around waiting to die."

"Got it in one." Spike reconsidered that, frowned. "Well, two. Or ten. Words - "

"Of course, the sex is pretty great."

"Oh. Yeah, absolutely."

"But here's the thing. I've still got a deal with that demon. What happens if I make a nice little life. You and me, crime fighters of the century! Super Bleachy Vamp and the Guy Who Lived - "

"That one's been taken, mate," the happy little tremor in Spike's heart who'd always wanted to be picked first for cricket said.

"Unkillable Man," Xander corrected himself. "We're out there, fighting crime, killing demons, stopping unstoppable evil from taking over the world. Then, one night - or maybe in the middle of a fight - the demon shows up and collects. What then?"

"You die," Spike admitted. Pretty much had to. "But the folks you saved go on living. Harris I knew would've been into that."

"The Harris you knew didn't have a death sentence."

Spike squinted. Leaned forward and put out his cigarette and fixed Xander with a laser beam of you sodding idiot.

He enunciated. "Every human has a death sentence, mate."

Then Spike stole the remote and changed discs. They had another forty minutes of Wilde Nights to watch and Oscar was still looking for the buggering of a lifetime.

Oscar was having tea with Jack and Algernon - if a bloke can call it tea when it's being taken bollocks naked and they're eating it off the guest - when Xander spoke again. "It felt good."

"Yeah," Spike said, rubbing his cock absently with his mostly empty beer bottle, full attention on the screen. "It does."

"Not that."

Spike swiveled his head. "Trust me, Harris. That feels fucking fantastic."

"Okay. But not what I mean. It felt good helping save the world again."


"Would that be a hobby?" Xander asked and drained his warm beer without a grimace.

There was hope for the boy yet.

"Could be."

They subsided, watching Jack lick clotted cream from places Oscar couldn't reach - which was everywhere with his hands tied to the table like that with Algernon's tie. It was quickly becoming more sticky than erotic so when Xander stood and disappeared into the bathroom, Spike followed him before the water ran hot.

He considered asking the Council for a bigger tub.

For...for tending to the wounded after every battle. Harris might be unkillable but he was still a clumsy git. And he'd need Spike to look after him - pull bloody great spears from him and stitch bits and pieces back on when he got them chopped off.

"Budge up and give me the shampoo."

Spike's hindsight was better than twenty-twenty. It was twenty-sodding-fifteen.

But Spike's foresight was blind as a bloody bat and saw him stomping barefoot and soapy to the door and wrenching it open when someone knocked.

His life would be better the day he bought Harris a hammer and nails and told him to nail the front door shut.

Rupert would stop visiting them then.

"What?" Spike asked around the door - not a bit like a nervous washerwoman with a masher on her stoop, dripping guava-papaya hair suds down his shoulders and onto his toes.

"Is Xander there?"

"He's busy. Shove off."

"Yes. Well. There's someone here to see him who's come rather a long way to be here."



"Oh fuck me." Spike opened the door wider and mentally gave up on the hammer and nails - already fantasizing about visiting the home improvement store for bricks, trowels and fast-set cement.

"How's the soul been working out for you, William?" asked the demon from the desert.

Chapter 9

"Pass the salt, mate." Beat. "Ta."

"Pass the ketchup."

"That's disgusting." Beat. "Pass the vinegar."

"And you call me disgusting." Beat. "Have we got that white creamy stuff?"

Beat. Beat-beat. Beat-beat. Beat-beat.

Spike listened to Xander's heart beat and considered sinking low enough to make the easy quip.

He decided he was too sober. "Salad cream is vile, Harris," he said instead.

"Then pass the ketchup."

Spike did, and lit another cigarette, smoking peacefully to the sounds of Xander chewing, swallowing and digesting. Solid, reliable human sounds, hundreds of wet and squishy little machines going about their business inside him.

Reliably. Constantly. And for a bloody long time to come.

The demon was a soul-giving bastard but Spike supposed he could be magnanimous.

Hadn't he bought the big bloke a pint and gracefully lost a game of billiards to him? He'd thrown it, of course, but the demon didn't have to know that. Couldn't be many billiards tables in the middle of the Namib.

And Spike had trounced him at darts.

Something about the claws.

Got in the way.

He took a pull of his beer, draped an arm casually off the back of his chair and tipped it back on its legs while Harris struggled with the glass bottle of Heinz. "Are you sure the Spar guy who delivers our groceries isn't evil?"

Spike considered the carton of Marlboro Ultra Lights delivered on Monday and had to concede it. "Could be."

Xander grunted and smacked the bottom of the ketchup bottle, turning his chips into a killing field. "Shit."

"Should learn to like them with vinegar, mate."

Xander flipped him the bird and went for another beer.

"So, immortal now. How's that working out for you?" Spike asked his back.

"Still king of the smooth transition, Spike. Beer?"

It was a rhetorical question. Xander returned with two. The cabinets were stocked like a small brewery.

It'd been that kind of week.

Spike waited for Xander to fork a gory chip into his mouth and went on. "Xander Harris, White Knight and Great Protector of his loved ones - bloke who keeps them happy and healthy." Spike paused for effect, pleased when Harris stared uncharitably at him and waited for him to tip back his beer. "Bloke who doesn't know how to phrase a bloody wish to a bloody dangerous demon."

"You just don't like him because he tricked you into a soul." Xander swallowed. "And beat you at darts."

"He did not win at darts. That last throw was disqualified. The point is," Spike said, beginning to feel he was losing the thread of the conversation, "you said you'd give your life to see them happy and safe again. So now life's forfeit, indentured to The Powers That Be, lifetime of servitude championing puppies, kittens and apple-cheeked children. For so long as your loved ones shall live."

"And then I get to die. Yay for me!" Xander lifted his beer in a toast and drained it.

"You're a morbid little shite, Harris." Spike said but he didn't mind it. Really. Giles had another good thirty years in him or more. The Slayer and witches? Bloody near unkillable with their mojoed up white knight to look after them.

Spike twisted open his fresh beer and sat contentedly, listening to the gurgles and thumps and whooshes and glugs that made up a living, healthy human being. Watched Harris methodically pick his way among the wounded chips, cutting a bloody swath through - "Spike?"


"The staring? Kind of creepy."

Spike cleared his throat, thumped his chair forward onto all four legs and assumed a pose of careless masculinity, legs spread wide and elbows solidly on the table. "Got any plans for your new and improved longer life, then? Other than saving the world a time or two, course."

"Let me think about that," Xander said and went on without pausing to think at all. "First I'm going to find Angel and kill him for leaving the powers short a champion and giving them time to get big ideas about finding a replacement."

"'I see you haven't thought about this at all."

"Now why would you think that?" Xander scraped ketchup off a chip and ate it, talking with his mouth full. "He's human - I figure I'll take my time and scare him to death. Should take a couple of weeks." Pause. "Is he afraid of clowns?"

"Dunno. Doesn't much like mimes," Spike said because Xander would never follow through on it.

Well - was reasonably certain he wouldn't.

Mostly sure.

Spike gave it a mental shrug and tapped out a cigarette. Angel was a brooding ponce anyway. Harris would be putting him out of his misery.

Doing him a favor.

Spike watched Xander suck a glob of ketchup off his finger and reflexively licked his lips.

Or Spike could do his filial duty and keep Xander too occupied in England to go looking for Angel to exact his revenge.

Spike allowed himself to feel a glow of altruistic pride. Angel should thank him for saving his fat arse again. And there were worse ways to save innocent lives than shagging Harris into the mattress. Table. Couch. Door. Floor.

Council-funded double bathtub.

"I know that look."

"What look?" Spike wiped it immediately off his face and went for something from the glossy cover of Badass Monthly.

"That look." Xander gestured to Spike's face.

"Haven't got a mirror. Not that it'd do me any good if I did," Spike said through a plume of smoke and found it stolen by warm lips and ketchup, salt and grease.

"Brush your bloody teeth. You taste like Ronald sodding McDonald," Spike said some time later.

His cigarette was a long column of ash.

"Really convincing, Spike. Four star performance." Xander took two cigarettes and lit them both, passing one over, and Spike decided to keep looking after him.

It would hardly be fair to turn Harris out into the great wide world on his own after all he'd been through. Who would pull the spears out of his chest and stitch his insides back in when they found their way to the outsides? It was a gruesome long-term job to fob off on an unsuspecting Witch. Couldn't do that to Red or the Bit.

Spike sucked thoughtfully on his cigarette and rolled the taste of Xander and tobacco smoke around on his tongue.

Harris was his responsibility really. The soul wouldn't have it any other way.

Bloody council had better pay him well for this - spending the better part of a century looking after one Alexander bloody stupid middle name Harris. All because Rupert Giles sent Spike down to Africa to look for him, and now he was stuck with one unkillable, smoking, drinking, wanking, swearing, sweating git of a human being.

For whole lifetimes.



"Staring again. Still creepy."

Spike began to smile.

Chapter 10

"So what's the duration for a human soul, these days?" Xander asked, staring at the scrolling infotext above the triage station. Even Xander was bound to pick up a few fancy words like 'duration' over the course of sixty years. "I mean, how long are they built to last?"

Spike wished Harris would shut up.

He lit a cigarette and glared at his own bouncing knee. It stopped. He blew out smoke under the 'No Smoking' sign. "It's a soul, Harris. Not a sodding house."

And Spike didn't feel like getting metaphysical or poetic about souls. They hurt. Full stop. Sometimes they hurt less. And sometimes the hurt went away for a bit. But it always came slamming back home and bringing its little friends.

In hospitals.

And at funerals.

One after the sodding other.

Spike glared at a young girl and her boyfriend on the cheap plastic waiting room seats opposite.

The girl glared back and lifted her chin.

Spike cataloged all the ways he would have killed her once upon a time until an elbow in the ribs interrupted his train of thoughts. "Stop plotting the murder of the nice girl across the way."

"Sod off." They were starting to sound like a bloody pair of old marrieds. "And if you don't stop grinning at me, I'll bloody well make you stop."

"Okay, okay. Geez. Who poured the ferret blood over your Wheaties this morning?"

The girl and her boyfriend moved several chairs away. It was a sad fucking day when blood and Wheaties trumped the big bad glower.

Harris was shuffling around in his chair, not quite sulking but getting on Spike's nerves. He turned his face away from Xander, muttered and patted at his coat for cigarettes. "People die here, Harris. Show some fucking respect."


Not Slayers.

Spike jerked the empty Marlboro packet from his coat and dropped it on a formica end table in disgust. Sixty sodding years, and everything was still bleeding formica. "I need a fucking fag."

Xander passed his pack.

Spike sneered at Xander's plastic disposable lighter and lit up with the snick and rushing flare of the Zippo. "Bloody gift shop didn't have any," he mumbled around it.

"Hospital gift shop without cigarettes," Xander said. "Can't imagine why."

"Fuck off."

But Xander didn't fuck off. Never fucked off. And Spike was pathetically grateful because life was bloody boring before Xander, but it'd be interminable after he was -

Spike stood abruptly and killed an hour pacing back and forth along the length of the waiting room until an orderly who reminded him of Charlie-boy told him to sit down or leave because he was making people nervous.

Jesus Christ, who wouldn't be nervous in a place like this?


"That's me." Xander was standing, going to the big locked doors that beeped when they let somebody through and Spike attached himself to Xander's back with a glare that worked as well on orderlies as it didn't on teenaged girls. "And him," Xander added.

"Your grandmother is resting in the ICU for observation. If everything goes well tonight, we'll move her to the Cardiac unit in the morning."

Resting. Bloody stupid euphemism. Recovering was 'resting' - and so was dead.

Spike fiddled with a cigarette and stuck it between his lips unlit, vaguely aware of the whoosh of ventilators and the hiss of oxygen tanks. And Xander asking if she was awake.

No, not awake.

She didn't even wake up for her own heart attack.

"That was the hospital," Xander said, and Spike didn't tense because Spike never tensed at these things.

If Buffy was dead, he'd know.

For one thing, he'd have another corpse on his hands seeing as all Harris' other little Scoobies already kicked it. Should've turned the niblet when he had the chance. "Tell 'em we gave at the Red Cross."

"Hmm. No. No. That joke's old but not old enough to be funny again."

"Fuck off." Spike flicked his fingers at the telly, switching through the channels. Two thousand three hundred and fifty four channels, and there was still nothing good to watch.

"Your mouth says fuck off but your body says - "

Spike felt his muscles tense from the neck down then up into his jaw and glared at Harris.

"Okay, your body says fuck off too." Xander shrugged and dropped onto the couch where Spike didn't want him. Him and his cheer and his heartbeat and his sodding humanity. "Want to know what the hospital said?"

"No." They always said the same bloody things. Worse than a rerun of I Love Lucy.

It's only a matter of time.

She's a vegetable and why won't her grandsons pull the plug?

I'm sorry. There's nothing more we can do.

Do you need to talk to someone?

"Fuck off," Spike said again, softly, and slouched down for a rerun of Gang Bang Gary. There were perks to living until the future became the present and cheap cable porn was one of them.

Porn never got old.

Porn never died.

"Pass the sodding smokes."

Xander passed the smokes and wedged his fat arse in between Spike's hip and the end of the couch.

Spike didn't move - pillock could have gone 'round to the other end.

Xander wiggled.

Spike held firm.

Buggered if he'd move for any man's arse.

Spike reviewed the last thought in his head and motioned for it to be struck from the record.

The motion was immediately and unanimously approved.

And there was a hand on his thigh. Rubbing.

Spike glared at it - in the Big Book Of Plans, the hand was supposed to be snatched away by its flustered owner.

The sodding thing kept rubbing.

If it didn't stop, Spike would be forced to speak up like a bloody woman who wasn't in the mood.

The hand swept up and down the inseam of his jeans the way Spike liked.

Felt nice.

He glared at the television screen instead because the hand wasn't paying attention and he wasn't about to talk to it.

Xander reached over to take the cigarette and Spike let him, the fucking figures on the screen going blurry and vague - and Spike never had much control over his base impulses.

The hand slid upward to get friendly with Spike's fly and he slouched and glared at the ceiling for a change of scenery. "Want one more for the road, do you?"

The ceiling didn't say anything - neither did Xander. He only tugged down Spike's zipper and wrapped bloody warm lips around Spike's idiot prick and sucked it deep, hot, wet.

And Harris was making those little sounds around it. Sounds like mmm and grnh and whimpery more sounds until the tip popped down his throat and Xander struggled to breathe for the seconds until he remembered he didn't have to. He still forgot, still gasped wetly around Spike and got hungrier and messier and -

Spike buried his fingers in Xander's hair and twisted until his eyes burned.


Sixty fucking years.

He heard himself saying "Don't stop," like a bloody broken record and when he came there was no voice left and his face was wet and his cock was going limp - he was breathing - hard and -


Xander's hands in his hair and his face was pressed against Xander's heart banging against the chest wall between them, banging against Spike and there were words. Words like 'hospital' and 'Buffy' and 'okay' that Spike didn't want to hear until they come together and made a pattern: Buffy's dead.

Spike stilled and heard it again.

"Buffy's dead. It's okay." And the hands kept on going through his hair and Xander's breath smelled like cigarettes and come. "She died in her sleep."

Spike listened.

Xander's heart thumped. Whooshed.

And Spike's brain clattered through the calculations.

Adding, subtracting - quadratic sodding equations - and came up with an impossible number.

He lifted his head and stared into Xander's face.

"A demon in the desert cursed me to live as long as the people I love." Xander shrugged and kept holding Spike too tight against his chest like an inconsiderate git.

Spike could pull away any time.

Any time at all.

"What can I say?" Xander's hand smelled like cigarettes and artificial cheese in a can, but it felt good against his cheek. "I make stupid wishes."