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From Out of Nowhere


by
Suki Blue





Part One



Surprise, surprise, another creature of darkness was loose in Sunnyhell.

“You’d better stay out of this one, Xan.  It’s too dangerous.” Xander wondered why he had even bothered attending the Scooby meeting.  It seemed like his friends had it all under control. Nobody needed the Xan-man.

With a frustrated sigh, Xander slouched further back into the couch. This sort of treatment was becoming a bit of a habit these days. They never seemed to need him anymore. Well, why would they? It wasn’t like he had any special powers, strengths or fighting skills. Not like the others. Tara and Willow were witches; Giles, a Watcher; Spike, a Master Vampire and Buffy, of course, was the all powerful Slayer.

No, they were right.  He wasn’t needed.  It’s not like he had even been listening to the evening’s ramblings, anyway.  He had been far too busy trying not to look at Spike in his tight, black denim jeans. Yum, yum.   Oh well, end result was, he wouldn’t recognize this demon if it came up and bit him on the backside. Ewwww, disturbing mental image. Delete.

Xander heaved himself up off the couch and mumbled a quick goodbye to the others. He glanced quickly in Spike’s direction, but the vampire was too busy staring at the ceiling to notice him.   Don’t be an idiot, Xan.  Why would Spike ever notice *you*?   Xander gave one last heavy sigh and slipped out the door.

**

Hmm, Xander seems down tonight. What’s up there?

“You’d better stay out of this one, Xan.  It’s too dangerous.”

Ahh, there it is. Thought that might be coming. Bloody Slayer.  Doesn’t she realize how much it hurts Xander when she pushes him away like that?   Spike sneaked a look at the said human.  They just don’t see how much they need him. They treat him like he’s useless, incapable. That ain’t right. He has many talents, so much to bloody offer.  Firstly, he’s a decent fighter. Comparable to an excitable ferret, maybe, but it’s the end result that counts. Secondly, he has some great ideas.  Okay, so perhaps his suggestions aren’t to the Watcher’s liking, but I for one can definitely get down with his ‘let's just go get `em’ attitude.  He’s brave.  He’s loyal.  And fuck, he’s got a nice arse.
 
Spike put aside the mental checklist and frowned as Xander closed the door on his way out.

“Hello! Spikey!  Any one in there? I said, which do you want, the sword or the axe?” Buffy was waiting impatiently with her hands on her hips.

“Neither, thanks, Slayer.  Don’t really fancy a beastie hunt tonight. I hear there’s a bar somewhere that needs propping up.”

 

Spike was fighting every instinct to not grab Buffy by the throat and tell her exactly what he thought of her attitude towards Xander.  He figured his nice-guy mask would soon slip, so he forced a cocky grin in Buffy's direction and swaggered out the room.


**

Xander stepped out from the coffee shop and trudged dejectedly down the street.  He held his head held firmly down and stared at the cardboard cup in his hands. They were right. He was useless.  He had no talents, no strengths and somehow he always managed to get himself into trouble.  He was a liability. He sipped at his coffee, winced and frowned. 

Fabulous, can’t even drink a hot beverage without painful injury.

*Thlump*

“Hey, look at that. I didn’t spill a drop!” Xander’s delighted smile faltered as his gaze drifted from the coffee cup, up towards the latest reason he had re-visited the floor.

“Err, sorry about that…my bad…coffee? Still hot…it's decaf…only the one sugar…I-I think I’ve got a cookie here somewhere,” Xander babbled as he desperately scrabbled backwards along the sidewalk. 

Xander’s panicked gibbering seemed to be having a positive effect on his situation. The demon had stopped snarling and had cocked its head to one side as it tried to puzzle out the weird human.

Hmm. Strange.  Humans normally scream. Perhaps this one warrants further investigation.   The demon nodded its head in sudden decision, grabbed Xander’s arm and hauled him down the street.

**

A low growl escaped from deep within Spike’s chest. *No-one* touched his Xander. He shifted into gameface and followed the demon.

Spike knew this demon well. A Bauldonian Fire Demon.  They were big, strong, determined and *very* deadly.  He’d nearly had a heart attack, if that were possible, when he’d turned the corner and seen his pet being dragged to his feet by the demon. Spike had sensed Xander's fear.  The boy was terrified.

Spike wanted to run down the street, screaming like a banshee. He wanted to rip the head off the disgusting creature and spit down its neck.  But he held back.  The demon hadn't killed Xander on sight, which was very unusual, but had taken him instead. Xander was safe for now; his captor obviously had plans for him. Spike didn’t want to attack while Xander was still in the demon’s grip. It would be far too dangerous.  No, Spike was the clever one. He would follow and wait and when the opportunity arose, he would strike.

**

Okay, so this would be what? More trouble? Yup. Nice one. Way to prove a point.   Xander stumbled along the path, his feet barely touching the ground . He glanced sideways as he was dragged, and got a better look at his abductor.

Oh, gods.  The creature was at least nine feet, if not ten feet tall, bright red with scales, slime and very ornate, curly ‘ram’ horns.  It radiated blistering heat and Xander wondered if perhaps it breathed fire.   No, now don’t get carried away with those silly ideas again. Well, what a predicament.   If only he had a weapon.  Xander almost laughed when he realized that the only ‘weapon’ he was holding was the now half spilt, half cold, cup of coffee.

His thoughts quickly returned to reality when the creature released his elbow and painfully gripped his shoulder, steering him in another direction.  Ouch! List sharp claws with previously mentioned attributes.

Fantastic.  And now we’re in the cemetery. Oh gods, definitely should have seen that coming.

The demon stopped and pushed Xander down to his knees. Its voice rang out like a…like a…well, like a fairly nasty, unholy creature from hell. What else?

“Eju fumy upi dvtrsq?”

Xander closed his eyes and craned his head as far away from the demon as he could.

“Eju fumy upi dvtrsq?” The demon tightened its hold on Xander’s shoulder and shook him, demanding an answer.

Xander tried to shut his eyes even tighter, praying for blessed unconsciousness.   Shit, hurts. Definitely had enough of this.  Getting kind of old. Make it go away now. If only it would just knock me out and kill me after. Okay, maybe if I concentrate hard enough, I could just black out by myself.  Please pass out. Please pass out.  Please pass out.

The creature roared in anger. “EJU FUMY UPI DVTRSQ?”    Why won’t this damn human just answer me?

The demon let go. It gripped its horns and thrashed its head about in a frustrated gesture that could have meant: “Fuck!, a sale on at Bloomingdales and I damn well missed it!”

Spike, always the opportunist, seized his chance. He charged at the demon with vampiric speed, his shoulder connecting with the demon’s stomach with a satisfying squelch. The idea was to bowl the Bauldonian as far away from Xander as possible. It worked, and the demon flew backwards by at least twenty feet. 

Spike spun himself around to look briefly at his friend.  Xander was bleeding heavily from his right shoulder, but Spike could hear that his heartbeat was strong and going like the clappers.  Satisfied that Xander was in no immediate danger of death, he turned back to the task at hand.

The demon, now even more enraged, staggered to its feet and stared down at the intruder.  Its claws unsheathed further as it puffed itself up to its full height. Then in one swift motion it lowered its head and attacked. Ten feet of fire exploded from its mouth.

Spike was ready. He dropped to the ground and rolled to the left, out of range. He flipped himself back onto his feet and charged again.

The two combatants fought furiously. Spike roared and screamed profanities as his hands ripped into hard, red flesh. The demon spat short bursts of fire and clawed desperately at him as it shrank down to its knees.  Ooops, pissed off a Master Vampire. How did that happen?

Spike backed off and pulled a gleaming sword from his duster. “Okay, mate. Bored of this, now. Time to say goodbye.”

The demon, sensing it was crunch time, quickly got to its feet and took an unfathomably large step back. It puffed itself up again and shot its flame at Spike’s face.

“Bloody hell!”

The flame never touched him. Spike felt himself being shoved to the ground and, as he looked up, he saw one Xander Harris flinging himself on top of him.

As nice a sensation as it was to have Xander’s warm body pressed against him, he knew he had to act quickly.   Fuck, not quick enough.   Xander was wrenched from his grasp and thrown back across the cemetery. Spike watched in horror as Xander flew backwards through the air and landed in a crumpled heap against a gravestone.

“You utter bastard!” Spike grabbed his sword and charged for a third time. With furious strength and speed, his sword cut through the air and lopped off the demon’s head. “That’s what you get for messing with what’s mine. Now fuck off!”

The demon staggered to its feet, picked up its head and ran blindly into the night.

Spike made his way quickly to Xander’s unconscious form. He knelt down and began checking out the damage. Heartbeat slow but strong.  That was good. He ran his hands gently but firmly over Xander’s body. Head had taken a blow, bleeding but no fracture. Right shoulder cut and dislocated. Ribs bruised slightly but, again, no breaks or fractures. Okay, nothing that couldn’t wait in the short time it would take to deliver him to Spike’s apartment. Hospital was not an option.  Xander hated hospitals. Spike gathered him into his arms and ran towards home.

**

Spike near enough kicked in his own door and hurriedly made his way to the master bedroom. He set Xander down as gently as he could and left the room. He returned seconds later with a well stocked first aid kit.   First things first, got to pop that shoulder back in. Might as well do it while he’s still unconscious.   Spike braced against Xander’s shoulder and gave his arm a sharp tug. Xander moaned slightly, but remained unconscious.

Next he set about cutting Xander’s shirt off. As the torn flesh was revealed, Spike fought the urge to look away. He should have finished that bloody bastard of a demon off for this.  But no, that would have taken too much time. The only way to kill a Bauldonian was to remove the heart.

The cuts on Xander’s skin were deep and Spike was worried about infection. The only thing he didn’t have in his first aid kit was antibiotics. So he made a decision. He leaned forward and carefully licked along the line of the first cut. The taste of Xander’s blood sent shivers of ecstasy up and down Spike’s spine and he swayed as the taste nearly intoxicated him. He felt his face twitching to shift into his demon form and it took all of his strength to prevent it. The last thing Xander needed was to wake up to ‘Vampire Spike’ mouthing at his body.

Ten minutes later and Spike had successfully licked clean Xander’s shoulder and forehead. The ribs would take care of themselves. He removed Xander’s jeans, boots and socks and settled him under the covers.  Xander would just need to sleep now.  Spike considered going into the other room and watching some late night television while he waited for Xander to wake, but decided against it. He would feel much better if he stayed close and monitored Xander’s heartbeat. He curled himself up at the end of the bed, closed his eyes and listened. *Thump, Thump* *Thump, Thump* *Thump, Thump* Five minutes of studying Xander’s sweet heartbeat and Spike was asleep.

**

Xander prized his eyes open a little further and made another attempt to focus.  Ah, there we go. Ceiling. Totally worth it. Hang on.  No damp patches. Clearly not my ceiling, then.   The previous night’s events suddenly flashed through his skull and Xander felt a small panic attack coming on. He quickly pushed himself up onto his elbows and was forced to suck in his breath sharply as red hot pain shot through his chest and shoulder.  Eeep, bad sign.

“Easy there, pet.”

Xander felt firm hands holding his arms, lowering him back onto the bed. He squinted again and was more than a little surprised to see Spike leaning over him with a concerned expression. “Spike?...What…?”

“Ssh, pet. Just lie back.  Take it easy. You’ve been hurt, luv. You need to rest up.” Spike smiled kindly and ran his fingers gently through Xander’s thick brown hair.

Xander gave a small shaky smile back.   He helped me. He risked his un-life for me.  Maybe he really does care about me?

Spike and Xander had grown a lot closer these last few weeks. They often hung out in Xander’s basement, drinking beer, eating pizza, and watching old horror flicks. The reason for the sudden turnaround in their relationship was anyone’s guess. It just sort of happened. But Xander was glad that it had.  He’d hoped that Spike was a friend now and not just another person who would use him and spit him out. Well, the incident last night was a definite reassurance. Spike was his friend.

“Thanks, Spike…oh god, are *you* ok?!” Xander shot back into a sitting position, the sudden realization that his friend might also be injured hitting him squarely between the eyes. He cried out as another bolt of pain took hold of his body.

Spike darted forward and held Xander firmly against his chest, smoothing his hands back through his hair.

“Easy, pet.  Now that was a daft move if ever I saw one. Don’t worry about me, luv.  Un-dead, remember?” Spike kept a tight hold of Xander’s shaking body with one arm and reached around him with the other to rearrange the pillows.  Slowly and carefully he pulled his treasure up the bed and lowered him back down.

“There we go. If you’re gonna insist on adopting the sitting position, we might as well make sure you’re comfortable, eh? Right. Err, what next? Oh yeah, I’ll put the kettle on. No coffee, I’m afraid, but I do make a stonking cup of Yorkshire Tea.” Spike stood proudly and marched into the kitchen. “One sugar, yeah? I’ll see if I can find something for you to eat, too, pet.  You must be bloody starvin’.”

Xander closed his eyes and concentrated on Spike’s deep and seriously sexy voice. God, he wanted to just wind the clock back a few minutes and lean back into Spike’s cool embrace. He would give almost anything to hear and feel that beautiful voice whispering into the back of his neck, to feel those gentle fingers working through his hair.   Okay, cool it, man.  You’ve got it bad. Here you are lying in bed, *Spike’s bed,* with some pretty painful injuries and all you can think about is how sexy Spike is! Well, he is! Yes, okay, of course he is, but that’s not the point here.  How do you even know whether Spike would return these feelings?

Spike bustled around the kitchen, dunking teabags and buttering toast. He tried to fight the urge that was creeping around him, trying to taunt him into submission. Pointless. He gave up and let a smile light up his face. How could one person be so sexy and so sweet at the same time? Well, his Xander could. When Spike had woken that morning he had spent some time studying Xander’s face, learning every inch of it. His eyes were so beautiful.  How he’d longed for the moment that Xander would wake so that he could fall into them. Sure enough, the time came and Xander had begun to stir. He’d let out a small groan and frowned. Spike had watched intently as long, dark lashes began to lift, revealing two deep brown glistening orbs…

Okay, cool it, man.  You’ve got it bad. Here you are trying to take care of your friend, who has been seriously injured in case you’d forgotten, and all you can think about is how sexy he is. Well, he is! Yes, okay, of course he is, but that’s not the point here. How do you even know whether Xander would return these feelings?

**

Xander had finished off his toast and was making the time to get to know his tea. Spike had served it in a jumbo sized Snoopy mug.   Spike has a Snoopy mug? Spike, the big bad? What else? Tigger PJ’s?   He felt a hysterical giggling fit coming on and he battled with it for a few seconds. Laughing? Very bad for the angry ribs. Time for a change of subject.

“So what happened last night? I mean, I know what happened, I was there, it’s just that…I don’t really know *what* happened. That demon had plenty of opportunity to kill me, so why didn’t it?”

Spike brushed toast crumbs from the bedspread as he spoke “Well, firstly, that demon was a Bauldonian…”

“A Bald what?”

Spike spoke the name more slowly “Bauldonian. You, pet, were very lucky. They despise humans, and normally kill ‘em soon as look at ‘em.”

“Oh, good for me. Why didn’t it kill me, then? And please don’t tell me that it liked me.  I am so the demon magnet.”  Xander shot Spike a desperate ‘why me?’ look.

“Well, not quite. You just confused it. You see, Bauldonians absolutely hate the sound of a human screaming. Drives ‘em nuts. It’s like how a human would react to fingernails on a chalk board.  Get it, pet?” By Xander’s scrunched up face, Spike guessed that he did.  He continued, suddenly seeing an opportunity to bolster Xander’s confidence a bit. “You were brave enough not to scream, luv, and it saved your life. If you had screamed, that git of a demon would have shut you up pretty damn quick.”

Xander saw straight through Spike’s attempt at making him feel better, but he was still touched by the sweet gesture.  

Hey, I do feel better. Nice one, Spike.   “Okay, so I get why I didn’t get maimed on sight, but that doesn’t explain why it dragged me off and threw the world’s biggest temper tantrum.”

Spike edged closer and placed a comforting hand onto one of Xander‘s. “It dragged you away to try and work you out.  It didn’t understand why you were talking and not screaming. You were an enigma, pet. It was trying to ask why you weren’t screaming. The fact that you wouldn’t answer its question just bloody frustrated it.” Spike sat back slightly and grinned, satisfied by his expert explanation.

Xander sat in silence, churning everything over in his mind. Something niggled slightly. Now what was it? Ah yes, there it is. How did Spike save me? Shouldn’t he have been at the Scooby meeting? Did he follow me, maybe knowing that big ugly bald thing was on the loose and also knowing that I tend to attract demons like a fly to a pile of shit?    He smiled and turned towards Spike.    What have I got to lose? Um, pride, dignity, confidence, shall I go on?      “How come you were there, Spike? Did you follow me?”    Okay, you have definitely had a bang on the head; what the hell possessed you to say that, you idiot?!

“Well, I knew you didn’t have your car at the moment, so I figured you’d be walking…alone…and in the dark.” Spike sat up straight and took a defensive pose. “And I was-was, well, you know, sort of worried.” He glanced up quickly, eager to gauge Xander’s response.   Does he think I’m taking the piss? Or is he just gonna laugh in my face?

Xander was still smiling. He looked down to where Spike had placed his hand and turned his own over, linking their fingers together and gripping tightly. “Thanks, Spike. I owe you big.”

Spike unclenched his body, relieved that his revelation had gone down well “'S no problem,” he said casually. “But hey, I owe you too, luv.  You saved me from a fiery fate. And that, pet, I will not forget.”

**

Xander and Spike spent the rest of the day just talking. They discussed many varied topics, none of them remotely serious. What was better, Passions or Days of Our Lives? Freddy or Jason? Alien or Aliens? They did, however, manage to establish that Xander was going to spend the next night, at least, at Spike’s apartment. It made sense, as Xander was going to be sore for a while. He would recover quicker if he could just rest and let someone else do the running about. Xander protested for all of 30 seconds. He didn’t want to admit that he needed more help from Spike, but at the same time he did not want to go back to his dingy basement. It was the chance to spent quality time with Spike that had clinched it for him.

**

Xander carefully opened his eyes and squinted at the object next to him on the pillow. He sat up, let the world come into focus and glanced back down at the object. A note. He picked it up and read: “Gone for milk, tea and blood. Don’t you dare get up. Will be back soon. Love S.” Xander held the note tightly in his hands and stared.  He had never seen Spike’s handwriting before and he was surprised at how ornate and grown-up it looked. He had always figured Spike for a scruffy writer. He hovered on the word ‘Love’ for a few moments before he threw back the covers and got up. Okay, so Spike had said *don’t get up*. But what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Xander had grown stiff just laying there all day.  He needed to get up and stretch his legs. And while he was up he thought he might as well check out Spike’s pad.

So far Xander had only viewed the bedroom and the bathroom opposite and so far he had been *very* impressed. The bedroom could only be described as pure luxury, with tall ivory walls and thick burgundy carpets. The bed was huge and was covered in a gold and burgundy quilted bedspread that was fit for royalty to sleep under. The bathroom was fairly plain with white marble and gold fittings, but in the corner was an enormous oval sunken bath. That was very nice.  Hmm, room for two?

Xander opened the bedroom door and peered out into a short hallway. There was another door next to the bathroom, but it was closed. He decided to leave it that way. He wasn’t a snoop.

The colour theme continued through the hallway and into the main living area. Xander stood in the middle of the room staring in amazement, his mouth as wide as a tunnel. Everything was so plush and so comfortable.  It was certainly a far cry from the crypt Spike had previously inhabited.

“Close your mouth, pet.  Bus is coming.” Xander jumped and smiled sheepishly.

Spike was quick to notice that Xander was only wearing his boxers.  Dear fuck.  Either he covers up or I’m gonna have to bend him over the sofa right now!

Spike disguised his sudden lust with concern. “You’re supposed to be in bed, young man.” He immediately regretted the stupid, fatherly tone.

“Sorry, just got curious. This place is great! Mind if I sit out here for a while?”

“Sure, pet.  Curl up on the sofa and I’ll get you a blanket.” Spike disappeared and returned with a thick black fleecy blanket. He knelt in front of Xander and wrapped it around him. He stayed kneeling on the floor and the two men stared at each other for what seemed like forever. Something unspoken passed between them and Spike reached forward to brush a stray curl away from Xander’s eyes.

Reluctantly, Spike stood. He crossed the room and scooped up the shopping bags he had dumped by the door a few minutes earlier. “Right, pizza okay for dinner? It’s a Meat Feast.”

Xander nodded hungrily. “Did you get Coke?”

Spike pulled a large bottle of Coke from one of the bags and held it up proudly. He clattered around the kitchen for several minutes, putting away his shopping and discreetly stashing the bags of blood at the back of the fridge. Lastly he produced a rented DVD of Monsters Inc. 


Spike continued his clattering, cooking pizza, pouring drinks, putting on the film and continually asking Xander if he was warm enough/wanted more Coke/needed anything else. Xander didn’t mind Spike’s fussing. It definitely wasn’t something he was used to, but he found that he enjoyed it anyway. At last someone was making him feel as though he was worth fussing over. Spike settled on the couch next to him and they tucked into their feast.

Spike had always thought Xander was sex on legs and over the last few weeks he had also grown quite fond of him.  Last night he had realized that his feelings were so much deeper.  The thought that Xander could so easily have died terrified him. He pushed the sickening feeling away, slung his arm over the sofa and chanced a sneaky look at Xander.

Xander put his plate on the floor and curled his legs up underneath him, leaning slightly towards Spike.   Is Spike staring at me?

The movie had been on for half an hour and Xander was watching it intently. Spike continued to observe him. His face was as bright as sunshine, his eyes big and sparkling and his smile wide and innocent.

Xander turned and looked into eyes that swam with thought. “What?”

“What?” Spike answered back, cursing inwardly at himself.  He’d been caught out.

Xander thought hard.   He’s staring at me. He likes me. Well, I guess that’s obvious now. That moment  we shared earlier said it all.   Xander considered shuffling further along the couch and into Spike’s arms, but his ever present paranoia stopped him and glued him to the spot.

Spike concentrated on the mixture of emotions that swept across Xander’s beautiful face. He was pretty sure now that Xander had the same feelings for him; that moment they had shared earlier had said it all. Never before had Spike expressed so much emotion without words. And those emotions had been reflected right back at him. But now Spike could see fear and doubt creeping across Xander’s face. It was no wonder.  Spike was well aware that Xander had been treated like shit for most of his life. He had so much love to give but it had always been thrown back in his face. His parents were the main culprits, but that was an issue for another time.

Spike knew he was going to have to make the first move. A small move, though, nothing too drastic. He didn’t want Xander to run screaming into the night.

Xander almost trembled. He wanted so desperately to be held in Spike’s arms. To reach out, grasp him and never let go. But he couldn’t do it. What if Spike laughed at him or rejected him? It would be too much to take.

The soulless, cold blooded, killer vampire moved slowly and carefully towards him. Xander felt two cool arms wrap around his waist and he felt himself being gently pulled back against a firm chest. Xander let out a long breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding. This was what he had wanted but was too scared to initiate. Thank the gods, Spike had balls of steel. Another weird mental image entered Xander’s brain. He shook his head slightly to get rid of it and relaxed into Spike’s embrace.

The film had long since finished and the TV had shut itself off. But the two men stayed tightly locked together, reluctant to part for even a second. Xander leaned his head back into the slim neck behind him and he felt Spike nuzzling gently through his hair. His last thought before he drifted off to sleep was:  Since when do vampires purr?


**


Spike woke first, squeezing Xander gently as if to make sure he was real. Xander stirred and squeezed back. They were still on the couch, but they had shifted themselves around in the night and they were now just a mass of tangled limbs. Spike ran his hand up and down Xander’s back. “Morning, luv.  Sleep well?”

Xander tilted his head up and smiled. His voice was soft and sleepy. “Mmmm, great. You?”

“Perfect.”

“I’m hungry.”

“You do surprise me, pet.” Spike rolled Xander underneath him, lightly kissing his forehead. He lifted himself from the couch and made his way over to the kitchen area. “Scrambled eggs do you?”

“’Kay.” Xander sat up and watched Spike busy himself in the kitchen. He loved to watch him scutter about, cooking, cleaning and fussing.  Spike was quite the domestic goddess. Perhaps he could buy him a little white frilly apron. Xander stifled a small laugh and directed himself towards the bathroom.

Spike waited until Xander had disappeared from view before he punched his fist into the air “YES!!!”

Spike did a little victory dance before cracking the eggs into the pan. He was ecstatic. Things with Xander were definitely going in the right direction and at a nice pace too. It had felt good to sleep with his Xander wrapped around him. They hadn’t actually *slept* together yet; hell, they hadn’t even kissed yet. But that was fine. Good things come to those who wait.

“Spike?”

“Yup?” Spike glanced up from his eggs and was alarmed to see Xander’s worried expression. He rushed to his side. “What’s up, pet.  What’s wrong?” he asked, running a concerned hand over Xander’s cheek

“The scratches on my shoulder and my head, they’re nearly gone. What the hell is going on, Spike?”

Spike stared at him, waiting for more. He suddenly raised his eyebrows in realization. A wound as bad a Xander’s had been should take weeks, if not months, to heal. No wonder Xander was confused. He swallowed hard and prepared to give an explanation.  Oh god, how is he gonna react?

“Err, well, your wounds were deep. I was bloody worried. Bauldonian cuts are dangerous, they can get infected really easily…sooo…I…cleaned you.” Spike chewed on his bottom lip and waited for the fallout.

Xander eyed him suspiciously. “You cleaned me? Explain, please?”

“Well, you may not know this, but vampire saliva is really good for…”

Xander interrupted. “You licked me?”

Spike nodded with a look that said, ‘I’m guilty as hell’.

“I see. Spike? You were worried about telling me?”

Spike looked up and was greeted with a warm smile. “Well…”

Xander interrupted again. “Well, don’t worry. And thanks. I just wish I’d been awake to enjoy it.” Xander’s smile turned mischievous and he planted a small kiss on Spike’s jaw.

Spike was stunned. Xander never ceased to amaze him. Spike pulled him into a tight hug and Xander squeaked in protest. “Careful, Spike.  Ribs still hurt and I doubt very much that you can lick them better.”

Spike laughed happily and went back to his eggs.

**


The day had passed too quickly. Sundown had come and the two men were in Spike’s car, travelling towards the Magic Box. Xander was pretty much all fixed up and he thought he should probably put in an appearance with the Scoobies and at home. The plan was to meet the gang at the shop and do a little patrolling. Spike would take Xander home afterwards.

“Do we bloody have too?” Spike had finished sulking and had opted instead for whining.

“For the fifth time, Spike, yes. Look, I would rather be in front of the TV too, but while demons still walk the streets of Sunnydale we have to go fight them. And besides, the guys are gonna start wondering if we don’t show our faces soon.”

Spike knew Xander was right, but he was still unhappy about it. He sighed reluctantly. “Okay, but you stick close to me tonight, pet. I don’t want you getting into trouble again.  Bloody humans and your breakable bodies,” Spike muttered as an afterthought.

The car was parked up and Spike and Xander strolled towards the Magic Box.  The gang were waiting outside, standing like soldiers in front of the van.

“At last! Move out, people!” Buffy looked stressed as she ushered the Scoobies into the vehicle.

“What’s up, Buff? What’s with all the tension?”

Xander was near enough catapulted into the back of the van.

“Well, if you and Spike had actually bothered to show up on time, then you’d know, right?”

Spike growled in Buffy’s face. “Give it a rest, Slayer. We don’t have to be here, you know. So just tell us what the deal is, or me and Xan walk.”

Buffy stared at Spike for a few moments before backing down. “I’m sorry, guys, it’s just that, well, I think we may have a problem. Giles? Tell them.”

Giles gripped the steering wheel a little tighter and glanced worriedly at the others in the rear view mirror. “We believe that Talzar and his minions are in town.”

Spike needed no further explanation.  He suddenly felt sick to his stomach, a panicky feeling washing over him in violent waves. He swallowed hard, as if he were literally consuming the fearful emotions. “Fucking shit. That is not good news. Well, I hope we’re packing the heavy artillery.”  He tried to sound casual but Xander caught the slight shake to his voice.

Talzar was an ancient vampire who, over many centuries, had earned quite a reputation. Talzar kept to the shadows, living like a myth or fairy tale. Very few had ever even seen him and those that had would have most certainly met with a grisly, violent death. He was feared by demons and vampires alike, and for good reason. Talzar had never been defeated. His minions were just as dangerous, far more powerful than an average minion. They killed on sight, not to feed, not to play, just to kill.

“We’re hoping not to run into the vampire mafia just yet.  At least not until me and Tara have perfected a couple more spells.” Willow started bobbing up and down excitedly in her seat. “There’s this one spell…”

Spike held his hand up to her face “Very interesting, Red.  What’s the deal with tonight, then?” He directed the question at Buffy.

“A little bit of detective work. The plan is to patrol as normal, two teams, one in the cemetery and one in the woods behind. Grab some vamps, rough them up, see who knows what. We need to find out why Talzar is here. Get a heads up.”

The others all nodded in agreement and Buffy continued. “One thing, though. You all know this guy is tough. If any of you run into him *or* his minions…run like hell.”

The van stopped at the side of the cemetery and the group split into two. Buffy, Tara and Giles headed towards the distant tombstones and Spike, Xander and Willow followed the path to the woods.

**

“Does any one feel particularly…wiggy?” Willow shivered and glanced nervously around.

Spike and Xander replied in unison “Uh-huh.”

“There’s a surprising lack of, um, vamps?”

“Uh-huh.”

“And, um, demons?”

“Uh-huh.”

“And, um, other hellish creatures of the night?”

“Yeah, okay, Wills.  We get it. Hellish creature lackage.” Xander shifted uncomfortably and both humans looked at Spike for an explanation.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Well, I don’t know, do I?” As he spoke they heard a small rustling in the bushes behind them. Spike signalled for Xander and Willow to stay back. He lifted a small hand axe from his duster and stalked towards the noise.

Willow and Xander pulled out their stakes and stood defensively.

Spike nosed through the clump of bushes.  He turned to his friends and lifted his arms up in defeat. “Nothing, not a bloody…”

The vampire sprang from his hiding place and charged in a blind panic, knocking Spike face down into the ground. “Shit.”

“Oh, shit!” Xander and Willow watched wide eyed as the adrenaline pumped vampire ran straight at them. Xander pushed Willow out of the way.  He side stepped the vampire, grabbed him by his shirt and swept his feet out from under him. The vampire fell awkwardly and crashed to the ground with a sickening crack.

Spike had long since got up and was already at Xander’s side, towering menacingly over the fallen fledgling.  He took a moment to nod into Xander’s grinning face. “I’m impressed, luv.”

Willow was slightly bemused by Spike’s affectionate name calling but, given the current situation, she shelved her thoughts for later.

Spike reached down and yanked the hysterical vampire to his feet. The fledgling held his head at a strange angle and Spike realized with pride that Xander had broken the bastard’s neck.

“Right, calm it. NOW! Give me answers or I will fucking dust you.”

The vampire shook uncontrollably and Spike continued. “What do you know about Talzar and his minions?  Where is he and what does he want in Sunnydale?”

“Talzar? I don’t know any Talzar…”

“Don’t give me that, wanker. Everybody fucking knows who Talzar is. Now tell me what I want to know or I stake you right here and right fucking now.”

The vampire eyed Spike defiantly “I’m telling you. I know nothing…”

Spike lost his temper and grabbed his hostage by his family jewels. “Spit it out, shit face.  Spit it out or you lose ‘em.” Spike squeezed in demonstration.

Xander winced in sympathy and took a step back.

“Okay, okay!! I give up. I never saw Talzar, though.  I swear it! Just his minions. They were all over town, killing anyone they came across, demons and vampires.  I got away before they saw me, but my gang, they weren’t so luck…”

Spike cut him off. “Yeah, whatever. Just demons and vamps? What about humans?”

“I didn’t see them kill any humans.  I don’t know.  I don’t know anything else, I swear.  Just hide me, please. Don’t let them find me. I don’t want to die like that!”

Spike realized that they were not going to get much more out of the fledgling. Also, he was bored. “Then die like this.” He grabbed Willow’s stake and plunged it into the other vampire’s heart. The dust was still falling as the group walked away. “Wanker.”


**


The two groups had gone back to the Magic Box after patrol and Willow had relayed their jump and grab experience. Buffy’s group had nothing to tell; they hadn’t come across any vampires, not one. They didn’t have much to go on. They agreed to meet up again the next evening and concentrate on some serious researching.

Spike drove Xander home and walked him to his door. He needed no convincing when Xander invited him in for coffee.

**

“This guy is really dangerous, pet.  Promise me?”

Xander blinked at Spike’s attempt at ‘puppy eyes blackmail’. “Alright, already.  I absolutely, definitely will not go out alone and in the dark. Now stop with the ‘me' impression.” His mock-annoyed tone was ruined by a wide, amused grin.

Spike moved closer and cupped Xander’s face in his hands. “I’m serious. Please, baby.”

Xander’s grin faded when he saw the worry and concern in Spike’s expression, “I promise.”

Spike felt the time was right for another first move. He slipped his hands down to Xander’s neck and slowly leaned forward, tenderly pressing their lips together. Xander moaned and Spike pulled him into his arms, licking lightly along his bottom lip, causing Xander to open his mouth with a sudden gasp. Spike seized the opportunity to gently slip his tongue inside the warm mouth.  Both men groaned as their hands wandered and caressed and their tongues stroked and explored.

Reluctantly, Xander broke the kiss.  He pulled away only slightly and stared into questioning eyes. “Stay with me, Spike. Stay with me tonight?”

Spike smiled and nodded. “Thought you’d never ask, pet.” He knew Xander wasn’t ready yet for the next step, but the thought of just being able to just hold and kiss him again all night long warmed his heart. He was content.   

**


The next evening was a complete washout. It was nearly ten o’clock and they had been sitting around the table at The Magic Box for nearly three hours. Giles, Tara and Willow had run out of genuine ideas, Buffy had run out of puns, Xander had run out of funny and badly timed remarks and Spike had run out of insults. In short, the conversation had died.

“This is no good, Buffy.” Giles shook his head as he spoke. “There is nothing in any of these texts to indicate an upcoming event, ritual or apocalypse. Perhaps we should patrol again. See what we can turn up. Perhaps a visit to Willy’s would be in order.  I really think that… XANDER! For the last time, would you please put that thing away!!!” Giles banged his fist on the table and everybody jumped.

Xander had reached terminal boredom approximately two and a half hours ago. The books he had been given to read were in strange demonic languages and the pictures were extremely uninteresting. <i>No naked ladies here.</i> Not that ladies were the first choice in eye candy these days.  For a while Spike had dictated the translation of a demonic language to English to him but, as nothing seemed relevant, the note taking had not lasted long. After an hour of this Xander had firstly resorted to making a rubber band ball and secondly to fashioning a small catapult out of two pencils, two of the remaining rubber bands and some crunched up paper for ammunition. Much more fun.

“Sorry.” Xander looked suitably guilty and he pushed the catapult and the collection of small paper balls across the table and away from him.

Spike snorted and Giles glared at him. “Problem, Spike?” Giles fixed him with an icy stare.

Spike wanted to punch the Watcher until he saw stars.  How dare that pretentious bastard snap at Xander like that!   He kept his thoughts to himself and played a different angle. “I’m tired of sitting here doing a great deal of nothing. We all know there’s nothing in these bloody books.  I say we do our research out there.” Spike motioned towards the door with his head.

Giles relented. “Yes, Spike, I do believe you have a point.” He looked over at Xander and smiled apologetically before turning back to face Spike. “How do you fancy a quick trip to Willy’s?” Spike nodded a yes and Giles continued. “Buffy, let’s patrol the cemetery again and the rest of you stay here and keep ploughing through the books.  There could still be something we have missed. Talzar and his minions are here for a reason. We must re-double our efforts to find out why.”

Xander looked depressed again and Spike thought quickly. “I’m not bloody well going on my own.  It’s not like I’m man of the month at Willy’s, you know. I want back up.”

“The big bad wants back up?” Buffy folded her arms and smirked. Spike whipped out the icy glare again and Buffy backed down. “Okay, Spike, okay. You want to take Willow, or maybe Tara?”

“Nah, I’ll take fidget-arse, here. Report back in, what, an hour?”

Everybody nodded in agreement and Spike grabbed hold of a grateful Xander on his way out the door.

Willow watched suspiciously as Spike and Xander left.  She turned to Tara and spoke to her lover in a hushed tone. “What do you think…? Actually…never mind.”

**

“Stay close to me, pet, and try not to make eye contact with anyone…or anything.” Spike held on tightly to Xander’s hand and steered him over to the bar.

Xander glanced around at his surroundings, careful not to look at anyone directly.  The place smelled like old feet and Xander was sure that he must be the only human present. No other human in their right mind could surely stand the stench long enough to even knock back a single shot.  As they approached the bar, Xander noticed a group of large, blue demons in a corner booth.  They looked up at him and each smiled a wide, sleazy grin.  Xander was shocked at the size of their teeth and he quickly looked away, moving closer into Spike’s side.

Spike felt Xander move in. The boy was obviously feeling uneasy and who could blame him?  Shit! Clarac demons.       What were the odds? Spike hadn’t seen a Clarac for months and now there were five of them, sitting in the corner and grinning nastily at his pet. Spike let go of Xander’s hand and threw a protective arm over his shoulders instead.

“SPIKE! My old friend, my old bud…”

Spike let go of Xander and quickly reached over the bar, grabbing Willy firmly by his neck. Willy was notorious for being a talker, or a snitch, to be more accurate. But Spike was not in the mood for Willy’s chatter. He wanted Willy to spill his guts nice and quick so that he could get Xander out the door and away from the Claracs.

“Whatever, Willy.  Listen up or you’re gonna see what the inside of your neck looks like! What…?”

Xander gasped quietly and Spike quickly looked over his shoulder.    Bugger.    The Claracs had risen from their seats and were beckoning to Xander. He turned back to Willy and quickly continued. “Why is Talzar here? And don’t bullshit me, you worthless piece of shit.” With his free hand, Spike pulled a rather impressive knife from his duster and held it up to the bartender’s throat.

Willy’s eyes widened and he decided immediately that tonight was not the night for his special brand of chit chat. “I don’t know much, Spike, except that he’s been in town for a while, several weeks maybe. The word is that he’s searching for a chosen one. I swear I don’t know why, where or who. That’s just the rumour.”

Spike believed him. Willy may be many things but his information was always reliable.

“Um.”

Spike felt Xander tugging at his sleeve. He dropped Willy back over the bar and spun around to face three cocky looking Claracs. Spike stepped forward, pushing Xander behind him and getting up close and personal with the demons. “Back off,” he sneered.

The Clarac in the middle laughed loudly and spat a globule of yellow fluid at Spike’s feet, his face turning into an expression of pure disgust. “Vampire! Filthy, disgusting vampire!”

It was clear that the demons were goading Spike, challenging him into a fight. Spike was not keen to start a brawl, not with Xander near. “Get out of my way,” he demanded through gritted teeth, his patience rapidly running out.

The middle Clarac spoke again. “That’s a pretty little human you’ve got behind you.   Can we play?”

Spike knew it was a demand and not a request. He mentally prepared himself and pulled a nice sized battle axe from his coat. “He’s mine. You will not touch him.” Spike felt Xander grip hesitantly to the back of his duster, deciding whether he should get involved or let Spike do his thing. “Back off now and I’ll let you live, but say one more word or make any move towards him and I’ll be the one spitting.  On your fucking corpses.”

The three demons lunged together. They had no weapons, they didn’t need them. Their strength, teeth and claws were all that they needed. Two of them made a grab for Spike. They pulled him away from Xander and knocked him to his knees. They were joined by their other two comrades, who had been patiently waiting in the corner booth, and the four of them pounded vicious blows onto Spike’s crouching body.

The fifth Clarac seized Xander by the throat and lifted him into the air. Xander struggled and kicked wildly as he fought to get air into his lungs. The demon lifted him closer, and Xander found that they were nose to nose. “Hello, poppet. I know you want to play with us. We will have such f…Ack.”

Xander mustered all the strength he could and struck out with his foot. The demon dropped him and doubled over, muttering an incoherent demonic curse. Xander turned back to the bar and lifted a bottle of Jack Daniels. The Clarac never saw it coming. Xander brought the bottle down over the demon's head with surprising force, splitting open its scalp in several places. Xander did a quick check to make sure the demon was definitely out for the count before he spun around to grab another bottle. He had to help Spike.

Spike finished off the last Clarac with the minimum of effort. He pulled his axe from its head and turned quickly to kick some more demon ass and save his love. Instead he got an armful of Xander.

“Shit, Spike, oh gods, are you okay?”

Frowning, Spike hugged him hard before letting go and running his hands over the Xander’s body.  His frown turned into a satisfied grin as he realized that Xander wasn’t hurt. His grin grew wider when he spotted the bottle that Xander had a death grip on. Spike eased it from Xander’s hand, took a large swig and looked over at the unconscious blue figure on the ground behind them. He pulled Xander back into his arms and planted a firm kiss on his forehead. “You never fail to amaze me, pet. Even the Slayer would have had trouble with one of those critters.”

Xander blushed and shrugged casually. “I just got lucky, is all.”

Spike smiled kindly, sensing Xander’s uneasiness. He took Xander’s hand and led him back out of the bar. “See ya, Willy.  Sorry ‘bout the mess.”

**

Outside Willy’s Bar, a dark figure stood concealed in the shadows. He sniffed the air and looked towards the door, his face contorting into an evil sneer as he watched Spike emerge into the ally.

Well, well, if it isn’t William the Bloody. It’s a small word, after all.

He observed with interest that William was not alone. A human walked by his side.

A nice, succulent, tasty human. Now this was a turn up. William, socializing with humans?  Now this is what happens when the family is not around to supervise.


**

Spike and Xander bustled back into The Magic Box. They were still on an adrenaline high from their encounter at the bar but the sight that met them as they stepped through the door stopped them in their tracks. The shop had been turned upside down. Shelves pushed over, glass cabinets shattered, merchandise scattered all over.

“What the bloody hell happened here?” Spike asked Tara.

“They c-came for B-Buffy.” Tara started to cry and Willow pulled her into a soothing hug.

“Ssh, baby, it's okay.  It’s all over now. Buffy’s okay, see?” Willow turned Tara around and pointed at Buffy. Tara nodded tearfully.

Buffy sat on a chair by the table, wrapping a bandage around an injured wrist. She addressed Spike and Xander without looking up. “Big ol’ bunch o’ vamps, that’s what happened. Stomped in and stomped on us. Sooooo, I stomped on them.”

Giles rolled his eyes at Buffy’s explanation. He walked over to Spike and Xander and spoke in his extra serious voice. “They came in ranting about an *Order of the Pure* and how the Slayer must be disabled. One can only assume that they want her out of the way. ‘Disabled’ before they carry out whatever evil deed they have planned.”

Xander wrinkled his nose. “Order of the Pure? That sounds so lame.  Nazi much?”

“Agreed, but however lame the name sounds, we still need to consider them a major threat. The minions we just encountered were very strong indeed, and we know, of course, that Talzar is behind this somewhere. Right now we must concentrate on finding out exactly what their agenda is. Spike, did you have any luck at Willy’s bar?”

Spike righted a bookcase and headed over to the table. “Not much,” he sighed. “Willy just said that Talzar is looking for a chosen one.” Spike shrugged at his own short answer and patted down his coat, looking for his cigarettes.

“Hm, a chosen one. Well, that narrows it down,” Giles said sarcastically.

Xander joined the others at the table and shook his head discreetly at Spike when he saw him pop a cigarette into his mouth. “I really think our thinking is far too, err…” He stared at the ceiling as he searched for an appropriate word. “Textbook.”

Spike stared at Xander attentively. “Go on, luv.” He cursed inwardly as several pairs of eyebrows twitched slightly.

Xander was oblivious to the slip and he continued to share his thoughts. “Well, who says it has to be written in some dusty old book and who says that this is some ancient order? Like I said, they sound like total Nazis.  Perhaps they want to eradicate an inferior race? Like some demon race or like us!” Xander sat up a little straighter, pleased at the imaginary light bulb that had gone on over his head. “They’re just extremists! Extreme versions of ordinary vampires. You know, instead of kill the humans, kill the humans, it's kill all the humans, kill all the humans. As far as we know, Talzar’s minions are only killing demons and other vampires. So perhaps they want the Slayer out of the way. Disabled so they can start eradicating humans?”

Buffy stood abruptly and nodded her approval. “I’m buying it. I say we find the source and eradicate that.  Kill Talzar and hopefully his so called *Order* will crumble away.”

Giles agreed and Xander beamed. “What do you think about this chosen one, though? How does that fit in?”

Giles considered the question for a moment. “I really have no idea.  I think our best bet would be to try to capture one of the minions and just simply beat it out of him.”

 

“At last,” Spike growled. “A plan I can really get down with.”

“It’s late now. Shall we meet tomorrow evening?” Willow looked hopefully to Buffy; she was keen to get Tara home.

“Sure, but let's meet at Giles’ house. We don’t want to show any kind of routine by meeting here every evening.”

“Yes, very well. We will meet at my place at six o’clock.  Best get an early start.”

The Scoobies said their goodbyes and headed to their homes.

**

Spike stared down at his feet and leant against his car, waiting for Xander’s response.

“You’re right, it is kinda dangerous at the moment.” Xander suddenly found his own feet quite fascinating. “Maybe it would be safer for me to stay at your place.”

Spike looked back up and smiled. With a sudden wave of desire he pulled Xander towards him, capturing his mouth in a long crushing kiss.

Both aware of how exposed they were out in the open, they reluctantly pulled apart.

“Let’s go, pet.”

**


William the Bloody has taken a human lover? This is worse than I ever could have imagined.  Humans are not for love. They are for feeding, for playing, turning and raping.  I think it’s time Angelus saw what his childe is up to. Together we will show our William exactly what that young human is for.

Talzar watched Spike and his filthy human drive away before retreating back into the sewers.

**



The journey to Spike’s apartment had been made in relative silence.  Spike was concerned; he had a really bad feeling that something wasn’t right. He’d felt a presence earlier, before they had got into the car, and it had filled him with dread.  The need to get Xander into the car and back to his apartment was nearly overwhelming.

Xander had been a little confused during the drive to Spike’s apartment.  He’d snatched a few hurried glances at Spike and tried to work out what was wrong.  His expression was one Xander had not seen too often.    Is he…worried?   Spike didn’t look like he wanted to discuss it, so Xander wisely decided to let it go for now.


**


Spike and Xander sat facing each other on the bed. Spike held one of Xander’s hands and was tracing small circles on his palm. He hadn’t yet been able to look at Xander directly.

“What’s wrong?”

“'S nothing for you to worry about, pet.” Spike finally looked up and forced a smile.

Xander simply stared back, his expression not changing. He did not find this an acceptable answer. “Look, Spike, I know you’re not used to all this sharing and caring stuff, but if we are gonna be, you know, together, then you’re gonna have to learn to talk to me.  So please, cough it up, blondie.” Xander suddenly smiled and Spike’s own make-believe smile turned very real.

Spike leaned back into the pillows and held out his arms. Xander nestled into Spike’s body, wrapping his arms around his waist and laying his head against a cool shoulder.

“I’m scared, pet. I’ve gone through my life, I mean my unlife, not giving a buggery bollocks about anything or anyone. But suddenly, here you are.” Spike paused briefly to stroke Xander’s hair. “Now I’ve got a reason to care, a reason to fight, a reason to live and you know, luv, I’m shit scared. Shit scared I’m gonna fail, shit scared Talzar is gonna make an appearance and take you away from me, shit scared of being alone…again.”

Xander could hear Spike choking over his words and he felt a small pang of regret that he had forced Spike to confess his feelings.  He was pleased that Spike’s feelings for him were strong enough to produce these new emotions but he knew Spike would probably have difficulty understanding and coping with them.

“Why do you think Talzar would take me away, Spike? He’s just another vamp, okay, a powerful one, but look what Buffy did to The Master. And you, you’ve killed two Slayers! You two can dust this guy easy.”

Spike closed his eyes as if to shield himself from his own words. “He’s no ordinary vampire, sweetheart.  He’s more powerful than The Master was, ten times over. To make matters worse, he’s also a bloody sorcerer. It’ll take more than me and super Barbie to bring this guy down. And there’s something else too…”

Xander sensed something big was coming. He twisted around in Spike’s arms until they were face to face. “Go on.”

“You know that Angel is my Sire?”

“Yup.”

“And you know that Darla is Angel’s Sire?”

“Yup.”

“Well, she isn’t. Talzar is.”

Xander searched for some words but found that someone had taken them. He blinked instead.

“Talzar sired Angel and Darla.  It’s not in any history books, 'cos no-one outside the family knew. Talzar liked to keep to the shadows, to be almost non-existent. He rarely took a Childe, but when he did he did it very discreetly.”

“Oh. So I take it that you’ve actually met this guy, yes?”

“Yes. He took me under his wing, showed and taught me many wonderful things. But then I began to defy him. I couldn’t stand being told what to do all bloody day and all bloody night. In the end I despised him and he despised me. He’ll come, pet. I know it. He’ll find me and he’ll take you away.” Spike grasped his lover and tugged him into a tight embrace. “I can’t lose you.”

Xander pulled back sharply. “Who are you? This isn’t the Spike I know. The Spike I know would be threatening bloody murder, no matter who it was! You *won't* lose me. You’ll fight this guy and you’ll win, ‘cos that’s what you do. You need to tell Buffy about your connection and call Angel, get him here to help.”

Spike was suddenly enraged. “I’m not calling that bloody poof! I can handle Talzar by myself.  I’ll rip his fucking head off, fucking piece of fucking shit…” Spike realized with sudden clarity that Xander had just played him. He grinned a wicked smile. “You clever little rat bag.”

Xander put on his best *who me?* face. “I don’t know what you mean.”

**

Xander tried his best to listen to the conversation in the next room. Under much protest, Spike had gone into the living room to call Angel.  The first five minutes of silence, except for the rhythmic clumping of boots across carpet, had confirmed Xander’s suspicions that Spike was more than anxious about having his Sire’s involvement. Xander wondered why this was. Spike had explained that he was on fairly good terms with Angel, so what was all this about?  Xander wandered over to the closed bedroom door and pressed his ear against it.  He frowned at the realization that he still couldn’t hear a thing. He gave up and dropped heavily back onto the bed.

The bedroom door swung open and a ruffled Spike strode through. “Bloody poof!” he spat, throwing himself onto the bed and nearly springing Xander off the other end. Spike made a quick grab and steadied him.

“So what did you say? What did you tell him?”

“Just the basics, that Talzar was here.” Spike shrugged and reached in his pocket for his cigarettes.

“Is that all? You didn’t tell him about us?” Xander tried his best to ask the question in a matter-of-fact sort of way, but he couldn’t hide the look of hurt that crept across his face.

“No, pet, I didn’t tell him about us.” Spike gently took hold of Xander’s chin, and guided the boy’s gaze back up to meet his own. “I thought it would be better if I told him in person.”

Xander couldn’t help but crack a small smile.

“I did say that I had something else to tell him, but that I didn’t want to do it over the phone,” Spike continued.

“So he’s coming then? Soon?”

“Tonight. Should be here in a few hours.” Spike over-exaggerated an annoyed huff.  “*Apparently* I should do my best to stay out of trouble.” He threw his arms up in exasperation and Xander shot him a mischievous grin. Spike eyed him cautiously. “What?”

“Sooo, we need to keep you out of trouble, yes?” Xander crawled across the bed on his knees until he was pressed up against the curious vampire.

“Yeah.”

Xander stroked under the top of Spike's shirt and undid the first button with one hand. “And you’ll be needing to stay out of trouble until Angel gets here?” A second button popped undone and Xander leaned in to claim a small kiss.

“Yeah?” Spike looked Xander up and down, fighting every urge he had to just throw his boy down and ravish him to within an inch of his life.

“Which will be, what, a few hours?” Xander placed small feathered kisses along Spike’s collar bone while he worked on a third button.

Spike moaned his appreciation before remembering to answer the question. “Three or four, pet, yes.”

 “But Angel didn’t say that you couldn’t perhaps enjoy a little…” Xander fixed Spike with a sensuous stare and chewed at his own bottom lip as he fake searched for the correct word. “Mischief?”

Spike's mouth widened into what felt like the biggest and brightest smile of his life. “Mischief it is, then, luv,” He growled, suddenly capturing Xander’s mouth in a bruising kiss that sent bolts of electricity through them both.

 

When Spike pulled back to let the boy breathe, he was taken aback by the beautiful human in front of him. Xander was radiating lust, love and an edge of fear. Spike circled his arms around him and held the now trembling boy in a protective but almost crushing grip.

Xander understood that the unspoken gesture was meant as a reassuring one. He looked up to meet Spike’s intense gaze and ran his fingertips down the exposed ivory chest. “Touch me, Spike. Touch me and show me.”

The vampire dived into Xander’s neck, kissing and sucking firmly on the warm tanned skin. Xander moaned loudly at the sensation and, with an overwhelming feeling of desperation and passion, he ripped open the rest of Spike’s shirt, pinging tiny black buttons in all directions. Spike gasped and pulled back to watch Xander smooth and caress his bare torso. He gently grasped the back of Xander’s head, lovingly stroking the sable locks and guiding the boy’s mouth to his chest.

Xander licked slowly at the cool skin, stopping to lap at a pert nipple and inhale deeply at Spike’s scent.

“God, Xan.” Spike pulled him back up and caught his lips in another searing kiss.

Spike was first to break the kiss again, but only for a few seconds as he quickly lifted and removed Xander’s t-shirt, tossing it aside in one fluid motion. Spike’s hands latched onto Xander’s hips, holding him firmly in place as he pressed himself against him. A cool tongue worked its way back into Xander’s waiting mouth, tasting and exploring as though it was the first time they’d kissed.

Xander started to pant.  He felt impossibly hard. Spike was rhythmically grinding against him and restricting Xander’s own movement with powerful hands that were still at his hips.

“Spike!”

Spike grinned mischievously, knowing how much he was tormenting his pet. He ground his hips almost violently into Xander’s one last time, making sure that their hardened cocks rubbed firmly together. Xander let out a startled cry before plundering Spike’s neck with vicious nips and kisses. Small droplets of blood rose to the surface and Xander lapped hungrily at them.

“Xan…luv…so good…fuck.” Spike brought Xander face back up for another deep kiss, his tongue swirling franticly around, seeking and finding the taste of his own blood.

Spike held Xander’s face in his hands and he fixed him with an impassioned gaze. “More.” It was definitely an order and Xander wasted no time in diving back into Spike's neck.

Spike was mirroring Xander’s frantic panting.  He was close now. Xander’s continued attack on his neck and shoulder were driving him into a frenzy. He glanced down at Xander’s smooth neck and longed to taste the blood that pulsed heavily beneath the thin layer of skin. He felt the urge to shift into gameface and fought against it with all the strength he had.

Xander looked back up to meet Spike’s strained gaze. He ran his fingers over Spike’s lips and kissed him softly. “Let go,” he whispered.

Spike didn't need to be told twice.  He relaxed into his vampire visage and smiled gratefully at Xander.

“Spike? Please, touch me now. I need you…Soon, Spike…soon.”

Spike understood the need and he clawed desperately at the fastenings on Xander’s jeans. Warms hands brushed passed his and repeated his actions on his own jeans. Two cries filled the room as they finally found each other. They both knew how close they were and the need for relief was now the only thing that mattered in the whole world. Spike whispered words of encouragement as he stared into two glistening but unsure eyes and slowly and steadily they began to stroke each other.

Xander stared down to look for the first time at the hard straining length that he held in his hand. It was beautiful. He pumped it harder and faster and felt the pleasure grow inside him as Spike did the same for him. They couldn’t hold back any longer. 

Spike took hold of both cocks with one hand and pumped frantically, his other hand on Xander’s hip to steady him.

“Spike, oh god, Spike, please.”

Spike looked into Xander’s pleading eyes.

“Do it, Spike…please.  I know you can.” Xander’s voice came out in a gasping rasp and he tilted his head back, exposing his neck to show Spike what he wanted.

Spike wasted no more than a second before he dived forward and sank his fangs into the delicate flesh of Xander’s neck.

Xander let out an ear-splitting cry as his orgasm rippled violently through his body. He grabbed at Spike’s arms for support and the vampire released his neck, unsure whether he had hurt his pet. Xander quickly leaned in to a cool shoulder and bit down hard.

Spike released his own earth-shattering cry as a powerful orgasm was ripped from his body.

Spike held tightly onto Xander’s trembling form. The arm that was circled around Xander’s waist was the only thing that kept him from slumping bonelessly onto the bed. Spike’s other hand ran soothingly up and down Xander’s warm, damp back. They stayed like that for what seemed like an aeon before Xander could muster the strength to wrench his head from Spike’s shoulder. When he did, he found concerned blue eyes fixing him with an expression of worry.

Spike lifted shaky fingers up to the bite mark he had left on Xander’s neck. It was deep and still oozing blood. “Are you okay, luv? I’m so sorry…”

“Hey, don’t.  Spike, it’s okay. I wanted it. And it didn’t hurt.  Well, actually, that would be a complete lie.  It hurt like hell.”

Spike’s eyes widened in horror

“No, Spike, it was a good hurt. I liked the hurt…” Xander frowned at his own inability to string together a sentence that actually made sense.

Spike chanced a small smile. “I think I know what you mean,” he said, lifting his fingers to the love bite Xander had just given him. “You, baby, bite bloody hard.  I like that."  Spike grinned and looked down at the blood still trickling from the wound at Xander’s neck. “Can I?” he asked.

Xander nodded his approval and Spike tumbled them sideways into the bed.

Spike carefully licked the wound clean and helped Xander out of his jeans and under the covers. “You look tired, pet, why don’t you try to get some sleep? It’s late.” Spike brushed his hand down Xander’s cheek as he spoke.

Xander’s eyes started to slip shut as he replied. “No, Spike.  Need shower.  Angel…”

Spike hushed him with a soft kiss. “We have a couple of hours, luv. Sleep while you can. I’ll make sure you’re up and ready for when Angel arrives.”

Spike didn’t get a reply; Xander was already asleep. The vampire spent a few minutes petting Xander’s hair before he headed for the bathroom.  He stopped at the bedroom door, lighting a cigarette and turning back to face Xander. It was going to be a long night.

**


Spike sat on the couch, busily chain smoking the best part of a whole packet of cigarettes. He had a hundred thoughts travelling through his head and was having a great deal of trouble plucking one out to analyze and deal with. What the hell were they going to do about Talzar? What was Angel going to do about it? What if Talzar took Xander? What was Angel going to say about him and Xander?

Spike cocked his head to the side and listened intently to the shower spray coming from the other room.  Spike had woken his lover to tell him that Angel would probably be arriving soon. After a lengthy kiss, Xander had peeled Spike off him and had gone to shower.

Another question popped into Spike’s head. How did Xander know that the chip wasn’t working? As the thought entered and swirled around his brain, a small tap resounded from the apartment door.  Spike stubbed out the half smoked cigarette in the ashtray and started toward the bathroom to warn Xander to get dressed.  He stopped when he heard bare feet pattering madly on the tiled floor and he couldn’t hold back a warm chuckle as a half naked Xander dashed out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. Clearly, he’d heard the knock.

Spike sucked in an unneeded breath and answered the door.

The two vampires regarded each other warily.

“William.”

“Angel.”

“So, how have you been, Will?”

Angel wanted to make an effort to keep things as friendly as possible. Although they were on speaking terms now, it was still so easy for a blazing row to erupt. Angel was surprised at the eager reply he got, rather than the rude, blunt one that he’d expected.

“Oh, me? Yeah, I’m great, really, really great. And you?”

Angel’s expression stayed as deadpan as ever, only one eyebrow lifting in slight surprise. Spike was clearly nervous about something.

Angel’s bewilderment was suddenly forgotten when he noticed a figure walking nervously towards them. “Xander? What are you…?” Angel stopped and stared at Xander for only a second before he rushed forward.

“Hey!” Spike called out. He knew his Sire would never hurt any human without reason, but he was still indignant that Angel was breaching Xander’s personal space.

 
Angel gripped the tops of Xander’s arms and stared with disbelief at the two puncture marks on his neck. “Xander? Are you okay?  Tell me what happened.”

"Nothing, Angel.  It’s not what you think…”

“Jesus, Spike, what have you done?” Angel said, his temper flaring at a rapid rate. “When did you get rid of the chip? Do you know what Buffy will do to you when she finds out that, not only are you feasting on the population again, but you’re feeding on her fucking friends?” 

Spike snorted at the ‘friends’ reference and Angel misinterpreted it as a snort of indifference. Angel growled and turned back to Xander. He pulled the boy toward him and sniffed. 

It was Spike’s turn to start growling. “Angel,” he warned.

Angel stiffened.  The boy smelt nice and clean, the scent of coconut shampoo layered through his hair. But Angel smelled more.  He smelt sex.  He kept one hand gripped firmly on Xander’s arm and whirled around to face his Childe. “How could you? You disgust me! How dare you touch him!”

Xander groaned in pain, squirming to release himself from Angel’s agonizing grip.

“I know what you’re thinking, but…” Spike paused as he noticed Xander’s increasing distress. “Oi, let up, will you…”

Angel misinterpreted him again and grew angrier, his voice bellowing around the apartment. “Is this why you brought me here? Did you want to share your prize? What do you think I am?”

Xander’s struggles became frantic as the pain from Angel's crushing grip shot up and down his arm like a bolt of lightening. “Angel! Please, this isn’t what you think!”

Spike was most displeased at his Sire’s accusations, but he couldn’t really blame Angel for thinking the worst. His situation with Xander was a little unlikely. And an un-chipped Spike had a violent track record with humans. But what was really pissing him off was his Sire’s inability to realize that he was causing Xander pain.

Spike shifted into gameface. “Back off, Angel.  You’re hurting him.”

Spike’s deadly stare stopped Angel in his tracks. It was very rare indeed that Spike would look that way at him. Sure, he would shout, stomp his feet and perhaps smash a few things. But Spike had enough respect for his Sire to not give him the ‘I’m going to rip out your entrails and make a soup out of them’ look without good reason.

Spike thinks *I’m* hurting Xander. What the hell is going on!?

Xander’s indignant cries of pain finally got through to him, and Angel quickly released the squirming boy. Unfortunately, Xander had picked this moment to try one last time to wrench his injured arm free. As Angel let go Xander pulled violently away, flinging himself backwards. His head hit the stone wall first and his body followed in a close second. He groaned and slid slowly down the surface, pretty coloured stars flashing in front of his eyes.

“You bloody idiot!” Spike yelled as he rushed to Xander’s side.

Spike squatted down quickly and turned Xander’s head to face him. “Luv? You okay? Luv?” Spike shook him gently and Angel noted the slight panic in the other vampire’s voice.

“Spike?” Xander rubbed at his eyes with his fists, an action that Angel thought was very childlike, yet strangely endearing.

Angel was sorry that he’d hurt Xander. He certainly hadn’t meant to. He had just been so grief stricken to think that his Childe could have done such terrible things. Yes, years ago the unruly vamp would quite happily have ripped the guts out of any human that crossed his path.  But rape? That wasn’t Spike. But when he’d smelt the sex on Xander, he could think of no other explanation.

But now, looking at them together, Xander leaning into Spike’s body for support, Spike stroking his hair and whispering soothing words, Angel could see and believe that there was something between them.

Xander leant forward, clutched the back of his head and grimaced. “Owww. Who hit me?” he complained.

Spike carefully studied Xander’s face and decided he was okay. “The wall did,” he replied in a monosyllabic tone.

He slid an arm around Xander’s waist and helped him up. Angel followed them and watched as Spike led Xander to the couch. He moved forward and sat next to Xander, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Spike glared and emitted another warning growl. Angel ignored him. “Xander, I’m sorry about what just happened. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just jumped to the wrong conclusion. Can you ever forgive me?”

Spike rolled his eyes at Angel’s ‘I was evil and must be punished for all eternity’ performance.

“Sure.” Xander nodded. “But if it happens again, I will have to get rough with you.  Just try not to be such an asshole next time. Don’t automatically think the worst.”

Angel moved to sit on the couch opposite them.  Yeah, he probably had just acted like an asshole. He tended to do that now and again. “How long have you two been together?” he asked.

Xander looked to Spike to answer the question. “Not long, Peaches. No-one else knows and we would prefer to keep it that way for now, just ‘till we know what we want and what we’re doing.”

“What does that mean?”

“You know, where we’re gonna live, here or a new place, Sunnydale or somewhere else.”

Spike was well aware that this was not something they had discussed, but Xander’s pleased face was enough to assure Spike that they would be having that little discussion soon enough. “Plus, we really ain’t been together long. Be nice to spend some time getting to know each other and just, you know, enjoy each other without the Slayer and her band of idiots interfering.”

“You two might want to re-think that plan, considering who else is wandering the delightful streets of Sunnydale.” Angel spat the last word out. He got up and walked around to lean on the back of the couch. “If Talzar knows you’re here, and you can bet he does, be sure that he’s been watching you. And if he’s been watching, then no matter how discreet you think you’ve been, he will have seen you with Xander, a human. Talzar will not tolerate it. Spike, Xander is in great danger. We should tell Buffy and the others what is going on; they can help protect him. Either that or we need to get him out of town." Angel stood up straight and put his hands in his pockets, awaiting a reaction.

Xander turned to face his lover. “I am not leaving town, no way. I’m not leaving you.” Xander sat back and folded his arms. Determined eyes said not to bother arguing.
 
“Fuck. So we have to tell the Slayer? Shit. She’s gonna love this. Hey Buffy, you know that Talzar guy you’ve been trying to find out about? Well, he’s kinda my Grandpappy. What? Why didn’t I mention it before? Oh, I couldn’t be bothered. Oh, yes, and by the way, I’m also shagging one of your best friends.”

Xander cringed. “She’s gonna be mad,” he said to no-one in particular.

Angel approached cautiously and put his hand softly back onto Xander’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you. I’ll explain how you both feel about each other…”

“How the hell do you know how we feel about each other?  You’ve only been here five minutes!?”

“Because, Xander, I can see how Spike looks at you and I can see how you look at him. You’re clearly falling in love.”

Xander’s jaw dropped and Angel turned quickly to pick up his bags and walk away. Spike, however, caught the smirk that was plastered all over his face. “Bastard,” he muttered.

**

“How long has the chip been out, William?”

Under advice from Angel, Xander had gone back to bed. Angel wanted to be sure that Xander would be fully rested. The situation with Talzar could so easily spiral out of control and it was imperative that Xander be alert and ready to run if need be.

“Six months, give or take.”

Angel nodded slowly. “How did it happen?”

“No clue, Peaches. Woke up one day and I was all fixed.” Spike held his arms up in a *Da Daaa* gesture.

Angel was dubious. “Will,” he warned

Spike looked offended. “No lie! I really can’t explain it, Angel. To be truthful, I don’t know how long it was deactivated before I noticed. And it was a total accident that I found out."

Angel motioned for Spike to go on.

“Some twat ran straight into me outside The Bronze, and the berk wasn’t even bloody sorry! Called me all the names under the bloody sun, he did. And well, you know me, I lost my temper.  I’d had a bad night and I wasn’t in the mood. So I risked a mind blowing migraine and punched the bastard. Was a good punch too! Wasn’t ‘till I was halfway home that I realized my lack of cranial agony.”

Angel leaned forward, his face a contortion of puzzlement and bewilderment. “Will? You haven’t killed anyone.” It was not a question.  Angel could feel a difference in his Childe.  Whether that was because of Xander or just a mixture of unknown reasons, he wasn’t sure.

Spike tried to sound casual. “Nah. Why would I? Got it pretty good here, haven’t I?” He flapped a hand in the air. “I’d be stupid to risk it all.”

“So I assume, by the fact that you’re not living in an ashtray, that Buffy doesn’t know?”

Spike shook his head vigorously and Angel continued. “And Xander, how long has he known?”

Spike shrugged. “Dunno. I only realized he knew tonight.”

Angel frowned. “He asked you to bite him?”

“Very perceptive, petal.”

 “Be careful with him, Will.”

 “Yeah, I know! He bit first, you know!”

**
 

It was Xander’s turn to wear a hole in the carpet. He’d been pacing for the last hour while the two vampires discussed what they knew about Talzar and put together the finer points of their plan to rid the world of him. “I still don’t see why I can’t go with you,” he interrupted.

“NO! Look, we’ve been over and over this!” Spike softened his voice when he saw the familiar hurt steal across Xander’s face. “I just can’t risk it, pet.  Talzar will hurt you to get to me, then he’ll hurt me. You don’t want that, do you?”

Xander looked shocked. “Of course not! I just want…want…I just want to be with you,” he finished sadly.

Spike and Angel both understood, but it was Angel who spoke first. “I know, Xander. But it won’t be for long. Between Buffy, Spike and me, we’ll make short work of Talzar but we need to be sure that you’re safe. We won’t be able to concentrate on the kill otherwise. It’s either this or we bundle you into the trunk of my car and drop you somewhere out of town.”

Xander ignored the joke and focused on a new question. “Are you really gonna kill your Sire?”

Angel’s countenance barely changed. “I don’t have a choice. He’s evil incarnate. And someone needs to stop him.”

Spike felt that a change of subject was needed before Angel got all broody again. “So, they’re definitely at Giles’s house now?” he said, referring to Buffy and the rest of the Scooby gang.

“Yep, I called and said you have some info on the bigger bad.  They’re all there waiting,” Xander replied.  He turned to Angel. “I kinda didn’t mention that you were on the scene. I hope that was right.”

“Yes.”

"Yeah, pet, might as well save all the shocks for when we get there,” Spike said with mock cheerfulness.

Xander groaned and leant his head on Spike’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry.  They’ll get over it.” Spike rubbed gently at Xander’s newest bump.      “How’s your bonce, babe?”

 “Headache.”

“Sorry,” Angel said.

“I told you.  It’s okay. Forgotten already.”

“Right then.  We all fit?” Angel and Xander stared at him blankly and Spike shook his head in exasperation. “Are. We. Ready. To. Go?”

“Not just yet.” Angel reached into his bag and pulled out a long wooden box.

Xander eyed it with suspicion. Mysterious boxes were often not of the good.

Angel carefully opened the box and produced an old, brass coloured syringe.

Xander’s eyes widened and he took a large step back. “Whoa, Angel, man, what the hell is that?”

“It’s a syringe.”

Xander laughed nervously. “I can see that. What’s it for?” He looked to Spike for an answer.

“It’s for you, pet.” Spike grabbed him quickly, seeing that Xander was about to make a second date with the wall. “It’s Gritash blood.  Its *real* bad for vampires.”

“I don’t think I like where this is going.  Please tell me you’re not gonna stick me with that,” Xander said, pointing unhappily at the syringe.

“Oh no, you don’t! Put those kicked puppy-dog eyes away. It’s. not. Going. To. Work.” Spike quickly shut his eyes and turned his head away before it did start to work. “Angel. Tell ‘im.”

“It’s not harmful. It will stay in your system for about twenty-four hours. If the worst happens and Talzar finds you, he won’t be able to drain you.  Can I?” Angel reached for Xander’s arm and waited.

Xander nodded a sullen approval. “Why me? Why do these things only happen to me?”

“They don’t, pet. They happen to me too.” Spike rummaged through the pockets of his duster, his face twitching in sympathy as he watched the needle sink into one of Xander’s veins. When Angel was done, Spike turned Xander to face him. “Take this, luv.” Spike said, holding out a long, shiny knife.

“Shit, Spike. You could take someone’s eye out with that thing…Oh, kinda the point, I guess.”

Spike handed Xander the weapon. “It’s my lucky knife. This beauty’s seen me through a few scrapes, I can tell you.  It’s just in case, babe. Keep it safe.  I’ll be wanting it back.”

Xander knew this was Spike’s way of saying ‘please be safe’.  He flung his arms around his vampire, hiding his smile in Spike’s neck.

“Bloody hell, pet. Careful. You really will take someone’s eye out with that thing.”


**

“This has to be some sort of spell.” Buffy looked like she was on the point of a nervous breakdown. “Either that, or I’m asleep. Yes, that’s it, I’m still asleep. I’m in my bed, having a nice cosy nightmare, and this is so not happening.”

Angel spoke firmly. “It is happening, Buffy. And we really need you to deal. Any opinion you might have about Spike's and Xander’s relationship, keep it for later. We have bigger problems.” Angel turned to Giles for support.

“Err, quite right, Angel. If what you say is indeed correct, then we need to take steps to ensure Xander’s safety. And we need to act now, while we still have the upper hand.”

“While Talzar is unaware of Angel, you mean?”

Giles waggled a finger. “Precisely, Tara. If I’m not mistaken, Talzar will be unaware of Angel’s souled condition.”

Willow chipped in. “He thinks Angel is still Angelus.”

“Exactly. My guise as Angelus will allow me to get close to Talzar.” Angel gestured with a stake. “This is all it will take, just like any other vampire. We just need to be sure he doesn’t see it coming. Buffy, Spike, Willow? I want you with me. Back up in case we develop a problem. Giles and Tara, I need you to stay here with Xander.  The protection barrier Willow put up will keep you safe.”

“Okay, let’s get this over with now, ‘cos I got a bleached vampire to interrogate tonight.” Buffy grabbed a huge troll hammer and hauled it over her shoulder. Angel walked with her to the door and they waited for Spike and Willow to follow.

Willow gazed into Xander’s worried eyes and smiled cheekily. “I so knew you guys were doing it.” She elbowed Xander lightly in the ribs and went to join Buffy and Angel.

”Come ‘ere, pet.” Spike said, closing his arms around Xander. “Don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon. We’ve just got to get through tonight.” He smoothed a hand through Xander’s hair and placed a chaste kiss on his forehead. “I love you. I know it all seems fast, but I do.  Can’t help myself.”

Xander tightened his grip around Spike’s waist and looked deeply into the vampire’s eyes. “I’m glad you that you can’t help yourself, because I love you too.  I think I always have.”

Spike leant in and captured Xander’s warm mouth for a brief, tender kiss before joining the others at the door.

Xander called after him. “Don’t come back dead.”

Spike whirled around at the door. “Not sure how I’m gonna manage that, pet. Already dead!”

Xander frowned at the vampire’s humour. “Okay, so don’t come back in a dustpan then!”

**

Xander, Tara and Giles sat at the dinning room table discussing Xander’s love life.

“It’s most unconventional, I must say.” Giles had witnessed the tender moment the new lovers had shared earlier and he had felt quite moved. Naturally, though, he was still concerned. “If this is what you really want, then of course we will*all* endeavour to support you.”

Tara nodded in silent agreement.

“What about Buffy?” Xander asked.

Giles put a supportive hand on Xander’s shoulder. “She will come around, in time. Please don’t forget that Buffy’s experiences with Angel have made her very wary indeed. Try not to worry too much, Xander. Things will work out.” Giles was doing his best to reassure the boy, but he still felt he needed to deliver an appropriate warning. “We will, however, be keeping a very close eye on the pair of you. If we think for a moment that Spike has become a danger to you, then be very sure that we will intervene.”

Xander instinctively touched the, now nearly healed, puncture wound at his neck. He had needed to borrow a shirt with a collar to disguise it. Now would definitely not be the time to advertise that he and Spike had dabbled in blood-play. Giles locked eyes with him and continued “Contrary to what you might think, you are our most beloved friend and, I might add, a valued and trusted member of the team. We will not stand by and see you lost to the dark side.”

Xander smiled happily.  They do love me. They do need me.   “Thanks, G-man. That really means a lot. And just for the record, Spike isn’t as evil as he makes out. He’s a big pussy cat.”

Giles adjusted his glasses. “I’m sure he is, Xander, but remember, even nice pussy-cats sometimes bite.”

Xander swallowed a laugh and walked into the kitchen. “I know.”

**

Angel was tracking Talzar. He hoped he could deal with his Sire without any of the others becoming involved. All the while Talzar thought he was Angelus, he stood a chance of getting close. Close enough to slide a stake in and finish this before something really bad happened. Spike and Xander had only been together for a very short time, but Angel knew that Spike had already fallen hard. If something happened to Xander now, his Childe would be destroyed.

Angel’s second concern was this so-called Order of the Pure. So, take out Talzar and hopefully the Order would be disbanded.

Angel turned down another dark ally, his vampire senses on full alert. He caught the scent of an ancient vampire and changed direction.  Talzar.

**

Spike stuck close to his Sire’s scent. As much as he loved a good round of kickass action, he secretly hoped that Angel would find Talzar first and finish him off. He just wanted it over. He wanted to take Xander back to his apartment and make love to him all night long and in the morning he wanted to cook him eggs again and maybe watch some TV with him. He wanted to do all the things that normal couples do. He did not want to be wandering the dark streets of Sunnydale, wondering whether or not Xander would make it through the night.

The trio had mostly walked in silence, Spike and Willow in deep thought and Buffy still fuming about an untrustworthy vampire hooking up with her best friend. She let out a loud huff that brought Spike back to reality.

“Give it a rest, Slayer.”

“What? I didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t need to. I can feel you glaring daggers at me. Fuck, I can feel ‘em going through and out the other side.” Spike stabbed at his temple in illustration. “Just get over it. Finally, I’ve found someone. The right someone. The only someone, and I’m not gonna let *you* bugger it up.”

“Is this about me?”

“Oh, you really are so self involved, aren’t you? No. This isn’t about you. There is no conspiracy. I am with Xander because I love him, *not* because I hate you or want to piss you off.  Get it into your thick skull, Slayer, not everything is about you.”

“You’re a pig, Spike.” Buffy tried to storm away but Spike quickly grabbed her and looked at Willow.

“We have to go back.” Spike released Buffy’s arm and began striding back the way they’d come.

Willow protested. “But Angel said…”

“Fuck Angel.”

“What’s going on, Spike?”

“Something’s wrong, Buffy.  I can feel it. I have to get to Xander.”

Something in her own Slayer blood told her that something was definitely up. She called to Willow as she rushed past. “Find Angel.”

**

Tara shifted shyly in front of Xander. “So…y-you two are in love?”

“Yeah, I guess we are,” Xander replied, smiling at the ground. His vision suddenly blurred and he looked up sharply to meet Tara’s worried gaze.

 “A-Are you okay, Xander? You look a l-little pale.”

Xander suddenly felt light-headed and he struggled to pull a shaky breath into his lungs.

Giles noticed the abrupt change in Xander’s breathing and he quickly rushed to his side. “Xander? Are you quite alright? Do you need to sit down?”

Xander couldn’t answer him. The air around him felt so much thinner than normal, as though all the oxygen was being siphoned away. He struggled again to breathe and he swayed unexpectedly as a wave of dizziness hit him.  What the fuck?



Tara and Giles made a grab for him before he fell and started to guide him over to the nearest chair. As they moved, they heard a loud fizzling sound. 

“G-Giles! The barrier! It’s being breached!” As Tara spoke, a tremendous and almost deafening crack resounded above them.

The barrier had failed.

Xander never heard the barrier give way and he never saw the flashes of blue lightning that streaked across the room, striking his friends and knocking them to the ground. As his senses were pulled away from him, he only saw the room blacken and tilt before the floor rushed up to meet him.

**

They all spoke at once. “WE ARE THE ORDER OF THE PURE. THE SLAYER MUST BE DISABLED.”

At least twenty vampires stood in an arc, surrounding Buffy and Spike. They were less than two hundred yards from the house and Spike growled and snarled in frustration.

“Geez, guys,” Buffy chuckled in disbelief. “You’ve been watching far too much Star Trek. Borg much?”

“WE ARE THE ORDER OF THE PURE. THE SLAYER MUST BE DISABLED.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, don’t tell me. Resistance is futile?” Buffy quipped.

Spike looked towards the sky, staring up at crackling, blue lightning. “He’s here.”

Buffy turned quickly to face him. “It’s me they want, Spike. You have to get to the house, get Xander and get out.”

“While you do what? Teach them the rules of baseball? They’ll rip you apart!”

“No…They won't.”

Spike wasn’t sure whether it was the steely determination on Buffy’s face or his own natural instinct to save the one he loved that made him ignore the mini-army before him and run like crazy to Giles’ house. But run he did, faster than he ever had in his life.

**

“Sp-Spike?” Xander shook his head to clear the fuzziness, immediately wishing he hadn’t.

“Ssh, little one, ssh. William will be here soon.” The voice was deep and cracked.    Clearly a 40 a day man, then,      Xander thought. He tried to withdraw from the putrefying stench that exuded from the ancient vampire and he gagged at the stink that was choking him like a poisonous cloud.   I guess this must be the man himself.

It was barely a man with its brownish skin, ragged and crumpled, its eyes a deep, dangerous red and its huge yellow fangs that reminded Xander of a sabertooth tiger. Xander winced and squirmed as the creature’s claw like hands dug painfully into his waist, pulling him into a standing position.

“So you must be William the Bloody’s lover. Am I right?”

Xander could only nod.  His voice had taken a trip someplace else.

“And a human lover? Tut tut. William always was one for breaking the rules.” Talzar scraped a long filthy fingernail down Xander’s cheek, leaving a bloody trail in its wake. “Let's you and me show him what happens when the rules are broken. But first, a small taste.” He held Xander jaw in an iron grip and leant in to kiss him. Talzar closed his mouth over Xander’s, slicing through the boy's bottom lip with a razor sharp fang and drinking the thick, red fluid that escaped. The ancient vampire ran his hands appreciatively over the warm trembling body before him. “My, my, little chick. You will make a fine vampire.” Talzar demonstrated his wilful lust with a long hard stroke over Xander’s groin.

Xander shut his eyes tighter as a thousand memories flashed through his mind. His father. The beatings. The rapes.  No please, not this. Please, don’t touch me.

Xander jerked his lips away from the vampire’s bloody kiss and screamed.

Talzar was hypnotized by the cascade of blood that flowed over the boy’s lips. He gripped Xander’s hair and wrenched his head back, plundering the boy's mouth for a second taste.

“Let him go.”

“Hello, William,” the old vampire said with putrid sweetness. “Long time, no see.”

“Long time, no care. I said, let him go.”

Talzar chuckled lightly at his Grandchilde. “Who? This human? I always expected you to fall in love one day; you always were a closet romantic. But with a human? A filthy human like this?” Talzar threw Xander to the floor so that he fell between them. “This will not do, William. Turn him.”

“Not a chance.”

“Turn him, or…or I will.”

Spike noted the slight falter in Talzar’s voice and he struggled to keep his calm exterior.

Poisoned blood.

“Touch him again and I’ll kill you.”

Talzar’s laugh bellowed around the room. “I suspect you mean to kill me anyway. And besides, he has not been marked. He is not yours. He is fair game.”

“Wrong.”

Talzar looked towards the voice at the door.

“Angelus.”

Angel casually stalked closer, trying to ease himself between Talzar and the boy lying semi-conscious on the ground.

“The boy belongs to William and me. And we will turn him when we choose.”

Talzar moved until he was nose to nose with Angel. He studied him for a few moments before a wide grin crossed his face. “Oh dear, Angelus, oh dear. When did you get a soul?”

“Fuck!” Spike dived towards his lover, scooping him up and backing away sharply.

Angel pulled out his stake and lunged at Talzar’s chest. The old vampire was too quick. He blocked the attack easily and countered with a devastating blow that sent Angel flying into the wall.

“FOOLS! You think you can challenge me? I will show you the consequences of *challenging* my power.” Talzar pointed to Spike, who was desperately trying to bring Xander back to full consciousness. “You cannot protect him, William. That boy must die. You cannot stop me.”
 

A scorching ball of fire soared through the air and planted itself into Talzar’s back. He spun around to face one witch brimming with dark power.

Tara.

“WE CAN STOP YOU.” Her voice resonated through the air as though spoken by a hundred hell gods.

Talzar spun again, this time to face Willow.

“WE CAN STOP YOU.”

The witches raised their arms and chanted in unison. “FIRE AND WATER, WIND AND RAIN, WINGS OF HELL PULSE THROUGH EVERY VEIN.  SUN NOW SHINE, WORLD STOP TURNING, AN ETERNITY HERE FOR YOUR BURNING.”

Xander cringed into Spike’s body as a fierce wind whipped around them like a hurricane “Spike!”

“It’s okay, pet. Hold tight, I’ve got you.”

Frenzied fire and wind swirled around between the two witches as they chanted. “EESTA GANAA, EESTA GANAA, EESTA GANAA.”

The magical cocktail settled into a floating mass of lava, a portal, pulsating like a giant living heart. The witches lowered their arms and waited, their eyes and hair blackened with dark magic.

Talzar felt himself being pulled by some invisible entity towards the fiery portal. He fought desperately to overpower the poison that was flowing through his veins and to fight the powerful magic that pulled him towards the gateway.  He raised shaking arms to the ceiling and roared. “ESKADA!”

A flash of brilliant white light pulsed through the room like a giant wave, blinding and throwing all but the witches and himself to the floor. Xander’s sensitive human eyes blurred and streamed as the wave passed through his vulnerable body.

“ESKADA!”

As the dizzying wave passed again, Spike squashed Xander into a ball on the floor, winding his own body around him like a protective blanket. The wave dissipated, and Spike pushed himself onto his elbows, turning Xander over underneath him. “Xan?”

“Spike?...I can’t see.”

Spike growled. “I can.”

Spike glanced around and spotted Giles edging along the wall, trying to keep his balance. Spike shouted to him over the deafening roar of the wind. “Here, take Xander, stay here!” He pushed the two together and rushed to pull his Sire to his feet. He pointed back to Xander and Giles. “Guard them!” Angel nodded, his eyes blinking rapidly as his vision returned to normal.  He crouched defensively in front of the blinded humans and shifted his face back into his vampire mask.

Spike charged with the speed and strength of a jungle cat. He collided with Talzar and tore chunks of flesh from his bones.

Talzar lashed out in a last desperate attempt to save himself. He was weak now. The poison he had drunk from Xander’s lips snaked through his body like a venomous serpent[,]; there was not much time left. He swooped down and collected Angel’s discarded stake from the ground, plunging it into Spike’s chest.

“NOOOO!” Xander staggered to his feet, his vision partially restored, and watched with tears streaming down his face as Spike fell to the floor. 

Xander had registered that his lover was not a pile of dust but it did nothing to quell the rage and fury that flooded his body and mind. He pulled Spike’s dagger from his jacket and raced screaming towards Talzar, sinking the blade deeply into the vampire’s back.  Talzar thrashed in agony and planted a lucky backhand to Xander’s face, knocking him to the floor.

Xander shook his head to clear the dizziness and scrabbled over to Spike’s body, tugging him backwards and out of Talzar’s range.

“Ughrr. Bollocks!” Spike pulled the stake from his chest and threw it to the ground. “Wrong side, luv.” He grinned into Xander’s shocked face and got to his feet, dragging Xander out of the magical circle and out of Angel’s path.

Angel rushed forward, his fury at seeing his favourite Childe come so close to true death pushing back his soul and bringing his demon to the surface.  Catching Talzar’s shoulders in a vicious grip, he spun his maker around to face him. “Goodbye, Sire.”

And with a feral roar, Angel flung his creator into the portal.

**

“Now, what the hell is this? I just get my groove going with the YMCA out there and suddenly they all get bored and sign out. Just walked off. Not even so much as a goodbye. So in I come. And what am I finding? No big bad! I need the bad guy action!”


Buffy had battled fiercely with the uber-minions, and at one point she was seriously perturbed that she might actually lose. Nothing to worry about, it seemed in the end. The vampires stopped trying to pull her limbs from her torso and shambled back down the road. Buffy was left standing in a fighting stance and feeling a little bit silly.

Buffy’s friends were slowly and wearily rising to their feet. Giles helped Tara up and brushed pieces of flaked ceiling from her skirt, while Angel held a firm grip around Willow's shoulders. He was the only thing preventing her from crumbling back down to her knees.

“Angel…Xander? Spike?”

Angel pointed at the lovers in the corner. “They’re over there. They’re okay.”

Xander sat cradled against Spike’s chest, heavy sobs ripping through his trembling body. Spike wrapped his arms protectively around his lover, calming the violent tremors with gentle hands. “Sssh, luv. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s all over now. No-one’s gonna hurt you, pet; not now, not now I’m here.”

Xander squeezed his lover in silent acknowledgement and gained some control over his tears. He was tired. He was in pain. He was frightened. His brush with Talzar had brought painful memories to the front of his mind. But somehow, as he lay in the arms of the man he loved, all those negative feelings started to slip away.  My Spike. My Spike. My Spike.

Spike brushed thick strands of sable hair from Xander’s eyes, placing a chaste kiss on his temple. “Let’s go, pet,” he whispered. Spike coaxed his lover to his feet and turned defensively to the others. “We’re going,” he barked, expecting a huge barrage of complaints, arguments and general spiteful remarks. None came. They had all seen how Spike has risked his life to save Xander, and now they had seen the tender and loving way he had comforted and calmed him. Spike needed to take care of him. Spike needed to fix him.

Buffy smiled warmly. “I know it goes without saying, but take care of him, Spike. We’ll call tomorrow, see how he’s doing. Don’t mess up.”

The others nodded in silent agreement and understanding. Spike clearly loved Xander. He was never going to hurt him and he would always look after him. They didn’t know how they knew this, they just did. Spike acknowledged his own unspoken understanding with a nod of his own before moving to follow Angel out the door.


**


Xander sat on Buffy’s sofa sipping hot coffee. Considering the events that had taken place only two days ago, he felt surprisingly chipper. And well, why wouldn’t he? He looked around at all his friends, minus Angel who had raced back to L.A mumbling something about visions and bad timing; they were all chattering amongst themselves and things seemed to be back to normal. Xander smiled into his mug. They were all alive, he was alive, he loved them and they loved him. He sighed contentedly and relaxed into the vampire that was curled around him.

“So where did he go?” Buffy asked. She was desperately trying not to look at the two lovers who were sitting on the couch and seemingly trying to meld into one being.

Willow just shrugged. “Some kind of hell, I think.” She looked over to Tara, who nodded shyly in agreement.

“Ah. And we can all assume that you bought him a one way ticket, yes?”

Giles stepped in before Willow could speak. “Oh, absolutely, Buffy. We won’t be seeing him again. Which, in a way, is a great pity…”

He could almost hear the silent gasps around the room and Giles quickly backtracked as angry yellow eyes bored through his skull. “What I meant was… I mean, what I was going to say…What I was trying to say, if somewhat badly, was now that Talzar has been banished we will never know what his great plan was. Who was this chosen one? Who were the Order Of The Pure? What did they really want? And why did they all disappear so suddenly?”

Four pairs of eyes regarded him with part puzzlement and part boredom and one pair of yellow eyes flashed at him with growing irritability.

“I really couldn’t give a shiny shite about any of that crap. Who gives a fuck? He’s gone. Good riddance. Now can we get back to the important stuff? The reason why we’re all here, perhaps?"

Xander squeezed his lover’s hand firmly in silent thanks. He didn’t want to talk about it. He wanted to forget. They all knew there was a chance that Talzar could come back one day, no matter what Giles said, and the thought terrified him. But, for now, all he wanted to do was be with his friends and enjoy being alive.

Spike caught the mixture of emotions that were jumbled over Xander’s face and he leaned in to kiss some of them away. There was a lot of pain and hurt inside Xander and Spike was determined to get to the bottom of it all and help him to deal with it. He kissed Xander’s honey-sweet lips again, moaning softly as a warm tongue probed his mouth. Spike held tightly to the back of Xander’s neck and deepened the kiss. It was a kiss that felt like it could last forever and it was only the sound of several throats being cleared that brought them both back to reality and back to the situation before them.

Buffy spoke. “Spike’s right.  We need to sort out what we’re going to do.” She looked hopefully around the room. “Well, come on.  Who’s gonna light the barbecue and who’s gonna go get the sausages?”





Part Two



“Spike? I really don’t think I can do this.”  Xander was scared.  His whole body had tensed up in fear and anticipation.

 

“Easy there, pet.  You can do it, I know you can.  Just go slow.”

 

Xander leant forward and focused hard.  As he reached out, his hands began to shake violently.  “Oh god, oh god.” He swallowed down as much fear as he could and forced has hands to stop trembling.

 

Spike hissed under his breath as Xander moved a little too quickly.  “Careful,” he warned.

 

Xander pulled back and looked up at his lover, giving him a small but nervous smile. Okay, Xan, you can do this, you can. Just concentrate.  With one last shaky breath and a brief closing of his eyes, Xander reached back out and carefully pulled out the small wooden block, placing it gently on top of the wobbling Jenga tower. He sat back, relieved that it was over.

 

“Jesus, Spike.  I really thought it was gonna go.” 

 

“Me, too, babe.” Spike edged along the floor, mindful not to kick over the precarious tower, and pulled Xander into his arms.  “Well done, luv.  I think that deserves another kiss.”

 

“Not gonna argue with that.”  Xander pushed his lover onto his back and crawled seductively over him. “Give it to me, Blondie.” He plastered himself over Spike’s cool body and captured his mouth in a bruising kiss.

 

Spike twisted and moaned beneath Xander’s hot embrace.  God, he wanted this.  He needed this.  It had been nearly two weeks since all the trouble with Talzar and since then Xander had seemed reluctant to initiate anything more than gentle kissing and hugging.  But Spike had seen the way Talzar had touched him, and he’d heard Xander’s desperate screaming.  He had understood that his boy just needed time.  Hmm, looks like times up eh?

 

Xander sat up, straddling Spike’s hips and ripping his shirt wide open.  “Want you, Spike.”  

 

Spike wrapped his arms around Xander’s body, pulling him back down to claim another desperate kiss. “Want you too, Xan,” he whispered.

 

 

Xander broke the kiss suddenly, gazing with slight confusion into Spike’s eyes. “Spike?  Why are you shaking?”

 

Spike looked back at him with an expression that was even more confused. “I’m not bloody shaking.  You are!” He was clearly offended.

 

“Spike, it’s okay. You can tell me.”

 

“I said I’m not bloody shaking, idiot.  But you sodding well are.”

 

“I’m not.  What’s the matter with y…oh, hang on…Is that a…?”  Before Xander could finish his question, the Jenga tower fell, and they both jumped in surprise.

 

“Earthquake. Yes.  Fuck it.” As Spike spoke, the shaking intensified and the entire apartment shook in powerful waves.  He pulled Xander to a standing position and dragged him over to the hall doorway.  He pushed his lover back to the floor and crouched over him, cradling his head into his chest.

 

The shaking continued and the whole apartment began heaving from side to side.  Pictures and ornament flew from the walls, the furniture shuffled around the floor in circles and the kitchen cupboards emptied themselves.

 

Xander pressed further into Spikes body as unidentifiable knick knacks crashed passed them.  Spike instinctively gripped him tighter and knocked away several objects with his forearm.  Something sharp caught his neck and he swore loudly.

 

“Spike?!”

 

“S’okay, pet.  Hold tight.  Nearly over.”

 

As the shaking died down, other sounds filled the air.  Dogs barking, car alarms ringing, people shouting and screaming.  The two lovers stayed entwined in their protective embrace, both afraid to move in case the vibrations started again.

 

Xander finally moved first, popping his head up and peering over Spikes shoulder.  Another ornament crashed down from a nearby wall and Spike clutched at Xander’s body, yanking him away from any further danger. “Stay,” he commanded.  Xander nodded his head in acceptance and watched Spike get up and stalk around the room.

 

When Spike was certain that nothing else was going to fall and decapitate one of them, he beckoned Xander over to join him. 

 

“Spike, you’re hurt.”

 

“I am not.” The vampire replied defensively.

 

Xander rolled his eyes and grabbed at a towel that had somehow worked its way into the lounge.  He pressed it to the back of Spikes neck and tried a different approach.  “Okay, so you’re not hurt, but you *are* gonna drip blood on the carpet any minute now.”

 

“What?”  Spike looked down at the towel that Xander now held under his now nose and growled.  “Sod it.” He snatched it out of the Xander’s hands and replaced it back on his neck. Spike finally noticed Xander’s concern and his expression softened. He placed a comforting hand onto Xander’s cheek. “I’m fine, pet.  Really. See?” He lifted the towel away to show Xander that the bleeding had already stopped.  Xander smiled in relief and looked over to where they had been cowering.

 

“What the hell hit you, Spike?”  He glanced downwards and, grinning, answered his own question.  “Well, if you will hang a samurai sword on the wall.”

 

**   

 

  

“What a fucking mess.”  Xander stood in the middle of the kitchen, sweeping up broken plates, mugs and other assorted shattered items.  He felt two cool arms creep around his waist and he leant back into the purring figure behind him.

 

It was obvious to Spike that Xander was still a little shaken from the quake, he could hear the anxiety in his lover’s voice and, as he embraced him, he felt the tension in his body.  Must make him feel safe. Nothing or No-one will hurt him, not ever again.  Spike nuzzled at Xander’s ear and purred gently.

 

“Mmmm.”

 

“Nice, pet?”

 

“Mmmm……Spike?”

 

Spike continued to purr and he dropped soft chaste kisses onto Xander’s neck and shoulder.  “What, luv?”

 

“Shouldn’t we be cleaning up?”

 

“Naah, lets just leave it.”

 

“Spike, we’re gonna have to do it eventually.  So lets get on with it, Yeah?”

 

“I meant, let’s leave it completely.  We’ll go get another place.”

 

Xander spun round in Spike’s arms. “Are you completely mad?  This is your home.  You can’t just leave it…”

 

Spike interrupted, careful to keep his voice casual and not alert Xander to how nervous he suddenly felt.  “I want to leave.  I want a new place...for us.” The last two words were almost a whisper and Xander had to strain to hear them.

 

“For…us?”  he repeated.  “You wanna move to a new place...with me?”

 

Spike had been trying to build up the nerve all week to ask Xander to live with him.  But as the words had finally left his mouth, his nerves shattered and suddenly he couldn’t look at Xander’s face.  He leant on the counter top, put his best casual face on and popped a cigarette into his mouth. “Yeah, why not?  We practically live together anyway.  Just thought that maybe we should make it official.” He shrugged and finally managed to look up at his lover, eager to gage his reaction.

 

“Okay.”

 

Spike wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly.  “What’s that again?” He pushed himself off the counter and moved to stand directly in front of Xander.

 

“I said Okay.  I would love to live with you…but”

 

Spike’s widening grin dropped suddenly as he registered the *but.* He grabbed Xander’s hands and quickly pulled him closer, any attempt at feigning casual indifference completely forgotten.  “What is it, luv? Whatever it is, we can work something out.  I will work it out.  I can fix it…”

 

Xander hushed Spike’s worried babble with a comforting kiss.  He stroked his hand through curly blond locks and looked deeply into Spike’s panicking eyes.  “It’s just that...I don’t have any money, Spike.  I’ve got no money and no job.  How can I afford a new place?”

 

Spike rolled his eyes.  “Is that all?  Come ‘ere, idiot.”  He wrapped his arms around his lover and squeezed tightly.  “You don’t have to worry about money, pet.  I’ve got plenty. And you don’t have to work either...”

 

“No, Spike! I’m not gonna live off you.  No way.  Nuh-uh. Forget it. I’ve got to work!” Xander had pulled away from Spike’s embrace and was standing with his arms crossed defiantly.  His expression dared Spike to try and argue with him.

 

“Okay, pet, okay.  We’ll compromise, yeah?”

 

Xander nodded, waiting for Spike to come up with an acceptable idea.

 

“I’m gonna sell this place and use the money to buy another one for us.”  He clamped a hand over Xander’s mouth as a protest looked like it was about to leak out.  “When you have a job you can pay for stuff.  You know, shopping, take out, shit like that. But, and it’s a big but, Xan, I don’t want any rent.  I don’t pay any, I own this place outright and I’m not letting you give *me* money.  You can buy stuff for us and the new place, but that’s it.”  Spike cautiously removed his hand from Xander’s mouth and waited for his reaction.

 

“Well, I guess that would be okay…You promise you’ll let me pay for stuff?”

 

“Scouts honour.”

 

Xander flung himself back into Spike’s arms and hung on like his life depended on it.

 

“I’ll take that as yes, then”

 

**

 

It was a mammoth task.  But finally Xander succeeded.  He had convinced Spike to help clean up the rest of the apartment.  He tide up the last bag of broken dishes and ornaments and looked around the room.  All done.

 

“So you’re sure?...Uh-huh, Uh-huh, and the Hellmouth?  You’re positive?...You’ve checked?...I see…Yep…Whatever.”

 

Xander smiled to himself.   He loved Spike’s telephone manner, blunt, to the point and rude. And he always said ‘whatever’ at the end of a phone conversation.  Most people said ‘goodbye’.  But then again Spike wasn’t like most people.  Xander just found it endearing.

 

“What?”  Spike looked suspiciously at the Xander’s dozy expression.

 

“Nothing.  Was that Giles?”

 

“Certainly was, pet.  And you’ll be glad to hear that the Hellmouth is still shut tighter than a nun’s vag.”

 

Xander frowned slightly at the imagery that was now swirling around his brain.  He really wished Spike wouldn’t say things like that. “So it was just an ordinary quake then? No impending apocalypse?  That’s great.  And did Giles say everyone was alright?”

 

“Don’t worry.  Everyone is fine.  No-one got injured…..well, no-one that *we* care about anyway”

 

“Okay. So let me get this straight.  The Hellmouth is still closed.  The end of the world is not nigh. No-one is hurt. *And* the apartment is clean.”

 

“Right on all counts, sweetness.”  Spike hoped his suspicions were right about where Xander was going with this.

 

“So I guess we had better get back to what we were doing before the quake hit.”

 

“Jenga?”  Said spike playfully

 

“Sadly, no.  I don’t know how to tell you this, Spike…The Jenga tower didn’t make it.”

 

Spike put on an expression of mock grief. “It didn’t make it?”

 

“No. There were parts of it scattered everywhere.  It was better to just let it go.”

 

“Oh, well.  Never mind.  Such is The Game of Life.  So if we’re not gonna play Jenga, what are we going to do?”  Spike asked innocently.

 

“Well, I remember starting something earlier, and I didn’t get to finish.  Now, if I’m not mistaken, I believe I left things just about…here.” Xander ripped open Spike’s shirt, not caring that it was the second one that he had ruined that day.  “And a distant memory tells me, that was when the earth moved.”

 

**

 

 

Xander walked backwards through the hallway.  Spike was stalking him, never letting his prey get more than two feet away.  Not that his prey particularly wanted to get away. 

 

Xander tugged at Spike’s open shirt and brought him closer for a desperate kiss.  Spike fumbled with the bottom of Xander’s T-shirt, finally finding the edge of the material and ripping it up Xander’s body and over his head.

 

“Baby, you’re so beautiful.” Every time he looked at Xander’s body he was amazed.  He wondered why he hid himself under all those awful baggy clothes.  Well, those clothes were going to be the first thing to go.  He wouldn’t force Xander to wear anything that he wasn’t comfortable in, but he could still improve his wardrobe just a little.

 

Xander reached out and pushed Spike’s shirt over his shoulders and onto the floor.  He ran his hands over Spike’s smooth ivory chest and placed slow tender kisses over his collar bone. Spike purred his approval and moved his hands down to unfasten Xander’s jeans.  “Want to see you, Xan. Now.” 

 

Xander nodded his approval, and Spike claimed his lips, tasting and exploring as his hands unbuttoned Xander’s Jeans.  Slowly he eased them down over tanned hips and Xander gasped as his lover went down with them.  Spike helped him step out of his clothing before grasping Xander’s hips and nuzzling his face up one of his thighs. 

 

He could feel Xander trembling slightly and knew he wouldn’t be able to hold out for long.  They had not done anything like this since the night he had been forced to call Angel.

 

Spike gently grasped Xander’s heavy length and he ran his tongue over the head, tasting and savouring a small droplet of pre-cum. Before Xander could react to this new sensation, Spike deep-throated him.

 

“Spike! God. Sp-Spike” Xander moaned his lover’s name, gripping Spike’s hair firmly in his fingers as his lover continued to suck and lick relentlessly. “Spike, please.  You...really are…gonna have...to stop that, or…I’m gonna...”

 

Spike stood slowly, a seductive smile twitching at his lips.  “Like that, do you, pet?”

 

Xander climbed backwards onto the bed “Yes…good.” He swallowed and tried to get his breath back.  “But do you know what else I would like?”

 

“Do tell.”

 

“I would like to see you naked.  So get *them* off *now.*”

 

Spike felt himself get impossibly hard at Xander’s command. He did what he was told and quickly removed his jeans, climbing onto the bed and crawling slowly towards his lover. 

 

As Xander watched the big bad vampire crawl seductively towards him, he was reminded of a cat creeping up on a mouse.  Spike was the cat, and he was his helpless victim.  Xander started to pant as he waited for the the pounce. 

 

Spike suddenly moved faster than lightning, seizing Xander in an iron grip and crushing his lips to the boy’s vulnerable neck. Needle sharp fangs pierced his neck and Xander cried out, both in surprise and pleasure. He twisted underneath the vampire, desperate to feel all of Spike’s flesh against him.  As their hard lengths brushed together they both moaned loudly and Spike responded by rocking his hips back and forth, setting up a steady rhythm as he drank. 

 

“Ready, pet?” Spike asked as he released Xander’s neck and began nuzzling over his jaw.

 

Xander hissed his reply as Spike deliberately ground his hips harder and faster into his body. “Yessss. Spike, need you inside me…Mmmm, now, Spike.  Now.”

 

Spike wasn’t one to be told twice.  He reached over to the night stand, opened the drawer and lifted out a small tube.  He could feel his own desire and need burning inside him and he wasted no time in covering his fingers and erection in the slippery gel.  

 

Spike looked down at the young man lying beneath him and the sight overwhelmed him with a feeling of total love and happiness.  He took a moment to reassure his nervous lover with small smile.  Xander gave him a shaky smile back.  “I love you. Spike.  Go slow, Okay?”

 

“Never hurt you, Xan.  I love you too.  Relax, baby” Spike whispered as he stroked soothing circles on Xander’s belly.  When he felt Xander relaxing, he carefully began to ease a finger inside him.

 

The pain was only slight and Xander concentrated on trying to relax completely, which wasn’t easy considering he was staring up at a real live sex god!  He finally exhaled a long breath, relaxing his muscles and allowing Spike’s finger to slide deep inside.

 

“Okay, pet?” Spike asked.  He wasn’t going to go any further than Xander wanted to.  Xander only had to say the word and he would stop.

 

“O-okay.”

 

“How about this?” Spike crooked his finger and Xander nearly shot off the bed. “Is this okay?”  Spike now held an expression of both deviousness and delight.

 

“Gods, Spike! Yes! What the hell did you just do? Actually, forget that.  Just do it again!”

 

“My pleasure, luv” Spike angled his finger and hit the magic spot again.  Xander cried out and gripped the bed sheets tightly.

 

Spike resumed the stroking action on Xander’s belly and slowly introduced another finger.  This time, the pain was more intense and Xander emitted a different kind of cry.

 

“Ssh. I have you.  It’s okay.” Spike waited patiently for Xander’s tight muscles to relax again and when they did, he still waited for his lover to give him permission to continue.  Xander saw the unspoken question and nodded his consent.

 

Spike slid his fingers back and forth, stopping occasionally to tease Xander’s prostate.  When he felt Xander was ready he positioned the third finger and waited again for permission.  Xander gave it and Spike began to insert the last digit.  There was much more resistance this time.  

 

“Xan?  You ok, pet?  Want me to stop?”

 

Xander just shook his head, all words seemingly lost long ago.  He wanted this.  He wanted Spike.  With great effort, he managed to force one word out. “Now.”

 

Spike was ready.  He was so hard it hurt.  Just watching Xander writhing and moaning beneath him was enough to make him want to come.  He removed his fingers, hearing Xander’s sobbed protest at the loss.

 

“Still here, luv.”  Spike leaned over his lover kissed him hard. Pulling back, he pushed up Xander’s legs so that his knees were level with his chest, and positioned the tip of his erection at the tight ring of muscle.  Again, he waited, and when Xander gave the signal he slowly and steadily eased himself inside.

 

Xander felt like his body was on fire.  There was so much pain yet it felt so good. Spike was suddenly still as a statue, his concerned blue eyes staring intently into his own.  He needed more reassurance that he could go on.  Xander was sure that the need for release was blazing through his lover’s body as much as it blazed through his own. Xander took a deep breath and pushed himself firmly backwards, impaling himself fully on Spike’s cock.

 

Spike felt himself jump, he hadn’t been expecting *that.* “Holy Christ, luv” He took the hint anyway and, slowly at first, began thrusting.  Spike felt the pressure building up and he reached down to stoke Xander’s throbbing length.

 

“Oh gods, Spike.  Faster. Spike, please!”  Spike wasn’t sure which of his current activities Xander was referring to.  So he took a chance and did both.  He felt his release approaching and knew he couldn’t hold back any longer.  He thrust furiously into Xander’s body, pumping his lover’s straining erection in time with each push of hips.  As his orgasm approached, he felt Xander’s body tense up beneath him, readying to release.

 

Xander suddenly felt his orgasm rip through his body and he bucked and twisted with pleasure that was threatening to swallow him whole.  He reached for the Spike’s arm and pulled a silky white wrist to his lips.  Blunt teeth bit down hard and Spike howled up at the ceiling, cuming inside his lover’s body.

 

Still panting un-needed breaths, Spike sank down beside his lover and squeezed him tightly. He stroked thick dark curls of hair out Xander’s exhausted eyes and placed gentle kisses along his damp forehead. “Mine.”

 

The boy’s eyes slowly slipped shut as he spoke “Forever.” 

 

 

** 

 

 

Xander rolled over to look at the clock.  2.30. Mmm, Night time snuggles.  He turned over to burrow into Spikes body, and was shocked to find him gone. His eyes shot open and he sat up quickly. “Spike?”

 

Spike sat on the end of the bed, tying his boot-laces. “Alright luv, don’t have a coronary.  I’m right ‘ere,” he laughed.

 

Xander shook his head to clear the fog of sleep that was wrapped around him. With much effort, he focused on Spike and frowned. “What are you doing?  Are you going out?”

 

“Very perceptive, pet”

 

“But-but it’s the middle of the night.”

 

Spike shot him a puzzled look.  “err…”

 

Realization finally dawned and Xander flushed brightly.  “Oh, yeah.  Forgot.  You vampire guy.”  Xander thought about it a little more.  “Hang on a minute, were you just gonna leave me? Without saying good…”

 

Xander never got to finish his complaint.  Spike pounced and Xander found himself pinned to the bed, flat on his back beneath a surprisingly heavy vampire.  “Never leave you!” 

 

Xander stared up at him.  “What I actually meant was, were you going to *go out* without saying goodbye.”

 

“Oh” Spike shrugged, casually lifting himself up and moving to sit next to Xander. “Yeah”

 

Xander was offended “Spike!”

 

“What!?! I was gonna leave a note!”

 

“You could just wake me.  It’s not like I have to go work in the morning.  Or any morning for that matter.”

 

Spike could literally feel the misery that abruptly rolled up and around his lover.  He shuffled closer and pulled him into a comforting embrace. “Chin up, luv. Somitt’ll come up soon.  What about that job at the supermarket?”

 

“They never called,” Xander replied, miserably.

 

Spike tried to keep his voice cheerful “Well, their loss, then. And you know there’s no hurry, yeah?”  He waited for Xander to nod before continuing. “And I know you say you have to work, but until that happens, it just means we have more time for us…”

 

“If you didn’t keep leaving me on my own,” Xander interrupted in his quietest voice.

 

“Oi! Firstly, first time, yeah? And secondly…” Spike kept count by tapping on a second finger. “Err …secondly.” Damn it.  Can’t think of a secondly.  “Secondly…urgh, fuck it. You wanna come with me?”

 

Xander wanted to hang on to his sulky face a while longer, but found that he couldn’t “’Kay” He kissed Spike firmly on the lips and bounced off the bed.  “Give me ten, yeah? Wanna shower.”

 

Spike waited until Xander had disappeared into the bathroom before lighting a cigarette and heading into the living room.  He switched on the T.V and thumped his boot-clad feet onto the coffee table.  Grabbing the remote control, Spike surfed through numerous cable channels until he came across a local channel that was showing a news report on the quake.  The video footage showed a huge crevice gaping across the desert floor.  Spike swung his feet to the carpet and sat staring, open mouthed, at the T.V. The crevice had to be at least a mile long, and according to the report it had opened up when the quake had hit.  “Bloody hell.”

 

“What you cursing at now, bleach boy?” Xander had just emerged from the shower.  He was naked apart from a towel wrapped around his hips and another one draped over his head. He rubbed furiously at the latter in an attempt to dry his hair quicker than was humanly possible. Xander noticed the absence of a reply and peered out from underneath the damp towel. “Spikey? Hon?” He glanced around the room and finally spotted Spike’s backside sticking out of the coat closet.

 

“Yeah?” Spike emerged from the closet looking positively gleeful.  “Come on, luv.  Get your skates on.  We got somewhere to be!”

 

Xander groaned at the site before him.  A hysterically happy Spike was dragging numerous ropes out of the cupboard.  “I know I’m gonna regret asking this, but where are we going and what’s with all the rope?”

 

“*We* are going caving.”

 

Xander groaned again and went into the bedroom to dress.

 

**

 

“Shit!”  Xander tripped, and Spike reached out to stop him from kissing the ground…again.

 

“Bleedin’ hell.  Is it actually possible for you to stay upright for more than a minute?”

 

Xander shot his lover an annoyed glare. “It’s alright for you, *oh* creature of the night.  Some of us don’t have freaky un-dead night vision.”

 

“So? Point the torch at the ground, idiot.”  Spike couldn’t quite hide the amusement from his voice.

 

“I am pointing it at the ground!”

 

“Oh yeah, I forgot about your ability to fall over your own feet, even in broad daylight.”

 

“Fuck off.” Xander swung an arm out to hit his lover, missing him by mile as Spike hopped nimbly out of the way

 

“Now, now.  Any more of that kind of language and I’ll be forced to put you over my knee.”

 

“You wouldn’t dare.” Xander re-thought his last statement and quickly retracted it. “I didn’t mean that.”

 

“I know, pet.”  He wrapped an arm around Xander’s waist and whispered into his ear. “Still gonna put you over my knee, though.”

 

Xander swallowed hard to push away the feeling of approaching arousal. “Okay.  And that would be when?”

 

“Later.”

 

“When later?”

 

“*Much* later.”

 

Xander let out a long sigh.  “Are you absolutely sure it’s safe for us to climb down a newly opened mile long crack in the desert floor, also taking aftershocks into consideration?”

 

“No”

 

“NO?!”

 

“Not absolutely sure, no.”

 

“Spike!”

 

“Keep your flippers on.  We’re not going down the big crack, just one of the little ones.”  Spike rolled his eyes at Xander’s blank, unblinking expression.  “The bint on the T.V said that when the ground opened up, it caused lots of baby fissures, too.”

 

“Baby fishes!”  Xander said incredulously

 

“Fissures, idiot. You know, cracks, fractures, crevices.” Xander held up a hand to signal his comprehension and Spike continued.  “Well, these fractures all eventually join up to the main crevice, but we’re not gonna explore that far. Yet”

 

“And why exactly are we exploring?”

 

“Coz its fun, pet!”

 

“Shit!”

 

Spike smiled to himself. “Those pesky feet getting in the way again?”

 

**

 

“Just let go!”

 

Xander had refused to let Spike carry him down, afraid that the vampire might drop him.  Instead he decided to do it the good old fashioned way and use the ropes. That plan went to hell when Xander lost his grip on the rope and ended up dangling precariously from a bunch of loose wobbly rocks.

 

“You promise you’ll catch me?”

 

“Of course I’m gonna catch you.  Who do you think I am?”

 

“I think you’re an evil un-dead vampire.”

 

“Evil and Un-dead is quite correct, yes.  But throwing all that aside *Just* for a second, would you please just trust me? C’mon luv, let go.  I *will* catch you.  I promise.”

 

Xander thought about it for a few more seconds.  Spike would catch him, of course he would.  Sure, Spike had been known to play a few jokes here and there.  The one with the tree was most prominent in his memory. Spike had said he would catch him then, but instead he had let him fall face down in a puddle of mud. Still, that was years ago, and he hadn’t fallen far.  Just far enough to warrant a string of expletives to spill out of his mouth like a demonic limerick.  No, Spike would catch him now.  It was a long drop and he would be seriously hurt if he hit the ground. He took a deep breath and let himself fall.

 

What’s the matter with the bloody brat? Doesn’t he trust me? Bloody Hell, starting to brood like my sodding sire now. Snap out of it.  So Xander doesn’t *fully* trust you yet.  You can hardly blame him considering who you are and what you’ve done in the past.

 

Spike stood thinking for a few moments about what he could do to make his lover trust him properly, when his vampiric senses felt an abrupt shift in the air.  He looked up sharply to see a body hurtling rapidly towards him. Fucking Hell, babe. A little warning would have been nice.  Spike reached up and caught Xander easily, setting him down gently onto the cave floor.  

 

Xander tangled himself around Spike’s body and kissed him passionately. “Mmm. Good catch.” He bent down and retrieved some of the ropes from the floor and grinned up at his dazed lover. “Which way, Blondie?”

 

**

 

The duo had walking for about half an hour.

 

“This place is weird, Spike”

 

“Yup”

 

“And kind of creepy”

 

“Yeah, the place does chill the old bones a tad.”

 

Xander shone his torch above his head and stopped.  “What are these strange markings?”

 

“Hieroglyphs, I think. Though why we’re finding ancient Egyptian writing in a cave in the middle of the Californian desert is a bit of a puzzler.”

 

“Uh-huh.  So we should probably tell Giles about this?”

 

“’Course, pet.  But not yet. Let’s look around a bit”

 

Xander wasn’t looking particularly pleased. “I’m not so sure this is a good idea.”

 

“Come on, luv.  This place has just opened up.  No-one has been down here for a bloody long time. Couple of thousand years, I’d wager.  Let’s go see some history, yeah?”

 

“Yeah, okay.  What’s the worst that can happen?”

 

**

 

“Bloody Hell! Get back here!”  Spike grabbed Xander’s arm and wrenched him back hard.

 

“Hey! Easy tiger! Hello? Frail human here. What’s the problem?”

 

“The problem is that you’ve just traipsed over a sodding sacred mark.”

 

“Well, you didn’t say.”

 

“I didn’t bloody see it, did I, you bleedin’ twerp.  Not ‘till you plastered your great big clown feet all over it.”

 

Xander stared down at the said feet and sighed.  He looked back up at Spike with big glassy eyes. “Sorry.”

 

Not the puppy dog eyes. Anything but that. For god sake, do not…Look… directly…at them…Damn. Spike wasn’t really angry. Well, only at himself maybe.  He always made a great effort to keep hold of his *big bad* persona, but one look into Xander’s beautiful brown eyes made him crumble like a badly made house of cards.

 

“Come ‘ere, luv.” Spike pulled Xander into his body and folded comforting arms around him.  “I didn’t mean to snap.  It’s just that walking over a sacred mark is never a good thing.”  Spike turned Xander around and pointed toward the strange red hieroglyph written on the ground. “That is the entrance to a tomb.  Its sacred ground, pet.  That mark is a warning to go no-further.”

 

“And what happens now I’ve stepped on it?” Xander asked.  No sooner had the words left his mouth than the earth began to rumble.  “Okay, so either that’s another Earth quake or someone just answered my question.”

 

“Fuck.” Fear reached into Spikes Gut.  Earthquake or a curse?  It didn’t matter.  He had to get them to the surface.  He grabbed Xander’s arm and hauled him back down the passage.

 

In an instant, the quiet rumbling became a deafening roar and the ground beneath them

started to crumble.  “Spike!”  Xander slipped as the earth at his feet gave way.  Spike squashed them against wall and watched in horror as the floor along the other side of the passage literally disappeared.  He kept his grip tight on his lover and quickly side-stepped them along the remaining ledge.

 

Xander squeezed his eyes firmly shut and let Spike guide him.  Nice one, Xan.  Only you could mange *this* Why am I surprise?. You’ve always been a stupid, pathetic…  The cavern heaved suddenly and Xander found himself being catapulted forward.  As his eyes shot open in an involuntary reflex, he screamed at the seemingly unending drop beneath him.  Time seemed to slow down and he wondered exactly how far he was going to fall.  There was only blackness beneath him, blackness and death.

 

Spike was sure that his un-dead heart had thumped out a few beats.  In a split second Xander had been thrown away from him.  Spike snatched at the falling human, just managing to clasp the boy’s sleeve.  Xander’s weight wrenched the Spike to his knees and Spike fought desperately to keep hold of the tearing fabric while his other hand searched blindly for purchase on the crumbling wall. No.  Never let him go. Never.

 

The fabric in Spike’s hand tore again and he was left with just a whisper of cotton.  He realised with earth shattering clarity that he had only seconds left, seconds left to grab any part of Xander’s body before the fabric tore again and his love plummeted to his death. In a smooth swooping motion, Spike braced his legs against a large fallen rock and, letting go of the wall beside him, he swiped his arm in a downward arc to catch hold of Xander’s wrist.

 

As his sleeve finally gave way Xander screamed again and he felt a cool hand wrap around his wrist.  He grasped at a leather-clad arm with his free hand and he felt himself being lifted up.  Strong arms heaved him onto the ledge and  he was slammed heavily against the wall as the ceiling collapsed and fell past him in one huge clump.

 

Spike scanned the passageway for an exit.  His heart dropped into his stomach at the realisation that they could not go back the way they came.  The floor had completely dissolved into the blackness bellow them and all that remained was the small ledge that they now stood on. As Spike leant his head back against the wall in a defeated gesture, he saw something that made his eyes spark back to life.  The moon.

 

The levels above them had caved in completely and all that remained was the beautiful night sky.  With a feral growl of determination, Spike hoister Xander over his shoulder and started to climb.

 

It was a long way up, at least a hundred feet. But Spike climbed quickly and methodically, crashing his fists into the rock to retain some sort of grip on the shaking wall.  Xander hung loosely over his shoulder and had no choice but to look into the deep chasm bellow.  “Oh gods.  Spike? Hurry! Something’s coming!”  A luminous green mist swirled out of the darkness bellow and rushed up towards them like an inverted waterfall.

 

Spike didn’t bother to ask what was coming.  By the panic in his lover’s voice, he knew it couldn’t be good. He shifted into his gameface and used all of his strength to leap up the last 30 feet.

 

The luminous cloud was trying to take form.  Xander thought he could see the outline of a huge clawed hand.  He was just about to scream another warning to Spike when abruptly the world Spun and he was left looking up into Spike’s face.

 

Spike landed securely on the ground beside the crevice. He carefully but quickly placed Xander onto the desert floor and took stock of his surroundings.   As he looked towards the crevice that had nearly become their grave, the ground ceased to shake and he caught sight of the green mist, as it abruptly disappeared.

 

Xander placed a shaky hand on his lover’s shoulder.  “Now can we go home?”

 

 

**

 

Spike decided that as soon as the clock hit nine am, he would call Giles and tell him everything.  The tomb, the miles of underground passageways, the hieroglyphs, the quake, he would tell him everything.  He needed to find out what they had done.  Whose tomb had they disturbed? And what were the consequences?

 

He glanced at the clock again.  8.45. Shit. Why is time going so bloody slow all of a sudden?

 

“You know, a watched clock never boils.”

 

Spike looked up in surprise.  He hadn’t realised Xander was awake. They had arrived back home just before the sun began to rise and Xander had all but collapsed on the couch.  He had been fast asleep ever since.

 

“Morning, luv. Just waiting for nine. Calling Giles, remember?”

 

Xander rubbed sleepily at his eyes.  “Uh-huh.  You’re really worried about this curse thing are you?”

 

“Naah, ‘course not.”

 

“So why have you got your thinking face on?”

 

“Just thinking about why the hell an ancient Egyptian tomb has shown up in North America. Very weird.  I’m curious as to what Giles will make of it, that’s all.”

 

“Okay, I’ll take your word for it,” Xander relented, not taking his word for it at all. “I’m gonna hit the bathroom, clean some of this cave grime off me.”

 

**

 

Xander headed to bathroom and turned on the shower.  Typical. An Egyptian curse.  Just lovely.  He tried to brush aside the feeling of impending doom and got underneath the hot spray of water, wincing at the heat. Damn shower, never the right temperature.  He fiddled carefully with the temperature dial, feeling much like a safe cracker searching for the correct combination.  No, too cold. Ahhh, too hot. Eeeeek, far to cold. Fucking, stupid, no good, damn……..ooh that’s much better. Mmmm.  Xander relaxed and let the water fall steadily over his chest.  He opened his eyes to grab the soap and felt his heart miss a beat.  Oh my god.

 

**

 

Spike was on the phone to Giles.  He had told him all about the caverns, tomb and hieroglyphs and had just mentioned the quake which had started when Xander had stepped on a warning mark.  Giles was most displeased and had taken a description of the mark for researching.  Giles had also promised to contact Angel to discuss the situation with him.

 

“Yeah, I know it was stupid, but there’s not a lot I can do about it now.  Just get the others and research this bloody thing.  I don’t wanna take any chances that Xander’s hands will turn blue and drop of. Yeah, I know that, but…now hang on… Whatever!”  Spike hung up.

 

“Bloody watcher” He said to an empty room. Spike walked into the kitchen and turned the kettle on.  He opened a cupboard and searched angrily for the teabags.  Yep, this situation definitely calls for a cup of tea. He finally found the unopened box of PG Tips and fiddled anxiously at the plastic wrapper. “Xan! Xan, you want a cuppa?”  he called out to the bathroom.  There was no answer. “XAN!”  he called louder.  Still no answer.  Spike concentrated hard and was able to pick out the sound of Xander’s heartbeat; it was going way to fast for someone who was meant to be having a relaxing shower.  He dropped the box of tea and charged towards the bathroom.

 

“Fucking shit!”  Spike wasn’t sure what was more shocking; his lover’s sheet white catatonic face, the blood pouring out of the shower head or the blood that had covered Xander’s shivering body.

 

“Fuck me, what the bloody hell…?”  He wasted no more time trying to think about it and quickly reached into the shower cubicle hoisting his lover out and half dragging the unresponsive boy into the hallway.

 

“Xan, Pet? You okay?” Spike had grabbed a towel and was trying, ineffectually, to wipe off the blood.

 

“Xander, please speak to me. C’mon, luv.  Snap out of it.” Spike shook him slightly, as panic starting to set in.

 

Xander finally looked up, his eyes wide with shock.  “Euuwwwww!”

 

**

 

Spike had cleaned off the last traces of blood from Xander’s body.  The ruby liquid flowing from the shower head had eventually turned back to good, plain old American water and Spike had finally managed to coax Xander back into the cubicle.

 

“Right, pet.  Soon as the moon hits the sky, we’re going to see Giles.”

 

“What else?”

 

“What else, what?” Spike asked, confused.

 

“This cursing business. What else can I expect?”

 

“Dunno.” Spike shrugged.  “Plague of locusts?” He suggested, not too helpfully.

 

“Joyness!” Xander was starting to sound hysterical.

 

Spike wanted to take Xander’s mind off things.  There was no use sitting about and getting all upset.  Not, at least, until they had seen Giles tonight. No, he had to distract him.  But How? Hmmm, what a puzzler. More chocolate? No, didn’t have a bar big enough.  Telly?  No. Daytime T.V was crap, apart from passions, of course. Jenga? No. Tower bit the dust. What else was there?

“Mmmm, Spike, that feels nice.”  Xander murmured appreciatively at the soft fingers tracing over his throat.  Another set of fingers went a little further south and Xander’s eyes shot open in surprise.

 

“Spike!?  I really don’t think this is the time to…oh, oh, mmmm, okay, forget I spoke.”

 

Spike chuckle mischievously. “You’re so easy, pet.”

 

“’Kay”

 

Spike laughed again and slipped down his knees, pulling away the beech towel Xander had been using at a blanket.

 

Xander whimpered softly as his body was fully exposed to the air.

 

“Lie back.”  Spike commanded, lightly pushing him back into the couch.  Slowly he began placing small kisses along the inside of a warm thigh.  Xander’s breathing became a little faster and he reached out grasp Spike’s hair.  “Oh, no you don’t”

 

“Spike….”

 

“No touching.  Just relax, luv.  Let me steer.” Spike licked his lips and Xander shuddered with anticipation.

 

The vampire leaned back down and nuzzled his face along the other thigh. He stopped when he reached the top and bit carefully into the soft flesh. Warm coppery fluid flowed into his mouth and he purred happily into the silky skin.  Xander cried out with pleasure at the small bite to his thigh and it took all his strength to not reach out and just grab.

 

Spike felt like he had never been this hard before, but then again, he always felt like that around his Xander.  Spike unzipped his jeans and pulled himself out. He took Xander deep into his throat and lavished long firm stokes onto himself.

 

Xander was mumbling nonsensical words that were far from any known language.  He bucked helplessly in Spikes tight, one armed grip, trying desperately to increase the pace.  Xander looked down and saw Spike stroking himself and that was enough to bring him right to the edge.  He screamed up at the ceiling in frustration. “SPIKE!!”

 

Spike was nearly deafened by the frantic plea.  He felt his own release approaching fast and suddenly he needed to feel Xander’s blazing body beneath him.  Spike grappled his lover to the floor and thrust against him, but Xander was done being restrained. My Turn.

 

In a seemingly effortless move Xander flipped them over and straddled Spike’s hips.  Pinning his arms to the floor Xander ground his hips twice into Spike’s and pulled back to flick an evil grin at his prisoner.

 

Spike growled in an unthreatening gesture. “My wicked pet.”

 

“Oh, yeah.” Xander twisted his hips into his lover again.

 

“Bloody hell!” Spiked thrust hard against Xander, making completely sure that their cocks rubbed together with heavenly friction.

 

Xander pulled up again and hovered teasingly over the near frenzied man beneath him. “Want me?”

 

“Yes.” Spikes face had become deadly serious.

 

“Wanna Cum?”

 

Spike stayed silent, but his expression was another clear-cut yes.

 

Xander threw himself down onto the vampire’s body and bit deeply into the exposed neck.  Spike howled his release with unrepressed gratitude and elation, driving violently against Xander’s needy body and squeezing out the boy’s own relief.

 

Panting heavily, Xander pushed himself up onto his elbows and stared into Spike’s eyes.  He wanted to say something.  Something that neither he, nor the vampire had said since the night Talzar had attacked them.

 

Spike saw the words forming behind the boy’s eyes.  He knew Xander’s insecurities were stopping the words from forming audible sounds and he felt a tinge of sadness that Xander was not yet secure enough in their relationship to be able to say the words that were now hanging from his lips. It would take a while, but Spike would *make* Xander trust him. Give him reasons to trust him. “Love you, Xan.”

 

Xander let the smile invade his face.  He loves me. “Love you, Spike”

 

Xander nestled happily into back into Spike’s waiting arms and let sleep take him again.

 

**

 

Xander was unusually quiet.  The two lovers strolled towards The Magic Shop, neither in a particular hurry to hear whatever bad new Giles had to give them.

 

“Penny for ‘em?”

 

“Huh?”

 

Spike reached over and lightly ruffled Xander’s hair.  “What’s going on in that overactive brain of yours?”

 

Xander stopped walking and turned slowly to face Spike.

 

“He’ll come back, wont he?”

 

“Who, pet?”

 

“Talzar.”

 

Spike looked up at the night sky and thought hard.  Why is he thinking about that wanker?  “I don’t know,” he replied, honestly. “Maybe. Try not to think about it, luv.”

 

“I can’t help it.  I know we’ve got more pressing worries right now, but it just makes me think.  He could come back at any time.  He could be back now!  He could be here already.  We would never know.  Here we are all distracted, thinking about blood showers, quakes and whatever is coming next and he would be able to…”

 

Xander’s voice had morphed into a shrieking tone and Spike pulled him into a soothing embrace. “No. He’s not here.  I’d know. And we *do* have more pressing matters.  Let’s just get to the shop, pet.  We can talk about Talzar when this is all done.” Spike kept hold of Xander’s body as he waited patiently for a response.  None came.

 

“C’mon pet, talk to me.”

 

“SSSH!  What’s that noise?”

 

Spike cocked his head to the side and listened.  A sound that could be likened to radio static was slowly building in the air. It seemed to be coming from the sky and Spike and Xander looked up to study the skyline. The buzzing static got increasingly louder and Spike’s vampire vision spotted a black cloud rising on the horizon. “Hold up, what the fuck …?”

 

“What is it?”  Xander got no reply.  He looked pleadingly at his lover for a sign of reassurance, but he found none

 

“Bugger me!”  Spike took Xander by his elbow and dragged him down the street. “We gotta move, NOW!”

 

Xander kept one eye on the sky as he was yanked down the street.  The terrible noise increased in volume and the huge cloud became visible to his human eyes.  “INSECTS!”

 

“Yep, got that already, pet. Locusts.  C’mon, we’ve got to get inside.”

 

The vast cloud of insects descended onto to streets of Sunnydale, rushing towards them at an alarming speed and overtaking them.  Spike could see The Magic Box at the end of the street and he ran faster, desperately trying to ignore the locusts as they whirled and swished around him. 

 

Xander could not ignore them. They were in his hair, in his eyes and in his mouth.  He suddenly found himself struggling to pull air into his lungs. A locust had lodged in his throat and he tried frantically to expel it. He was choking.  He felt himself begin to fall, his head dizzying from the lack of oxygen, but his body never hit the ground. He became dimly aware of being supported on both sides and being dragged indoors and away from the pulsing mass outside.

 

Xander continued to choke. The insect was firmly lodged in his windpipe.  He kept his eyes closed and held tightly to his throat, willing it to come loose.  Spike sat him on the floor, tipped him forward and gave him a colossal slap on the back.  The insect shot out of his mouth and Xander retched in reflex.  Precious air filled his lungs and Xander leant back, panting, against his lover.  He opened his eyes and focused on his surroundings.  The Magic Box.  All around were his friends.  The air was filled with cries of “Eeeeek!”, “Aaaaah!” and “Gross!” Arms flailed and feet stomped as the last of the locusts were eliminated from the room.  One figure stood perfectly calm and still. The figure squatted in front of him and stared with a concerned gaze.

 

Xander’s vision cleared completely and he stared back at the vampire.  “Angel.”

 

**

 

 

“Osiris?”  Buffy squinted and attempted a brain scan.  She was sure she had heard the name before.

 

Willow chipped in the desired answer.  “Osiris is an Egyptian God, ruler of the underworld and the realm of the dead.  He was married to Isis, Goddess of the Earth and the Moon...”

 

“She was also his sister,”  Tara whispered helpfully

 

Willow continued, ignoring Buffy and Xander’s wrinkled noses. “*And* he was apparently quite pally with Anubis, who was God of the dead.”

 

“So, I’m guessing that it was Osiris’ tomb that me and Spike stumbled on?”

 

“*You* stumbled on, babe.” Spike said, not unkindly.

 

Buffy crossed her arms and turned to Angel.  “But I thought Spike said they didn’t enter the tomb.”

 

“They didn’t.  But they may as well have. Xander stepped on the sacred mark of Osiris, and thereby requested entrance into his tomb.”

 

It was Xander’s turn to be confused.  “So what was so bad about requesting entrance, not that I meant to, mind,” he added, quickly.

 

Angel spoke with patience that could only have taken 300 years to learn.  “Osiris’ tomb could only safely be entered by a priest or pharaoh.  By desecrating his mark you have angered Osiris’ spirit.”

 

Spike huffed.  “Can we get to point here, chaps?  What’s happening to Xander?  And how do we stop it?”

 

Giles stepped up to the table and leaned heavily against it with both hands. “Xander has woken Osiris from two thousand years of slumber, brought him back from the realm of the dead where he was perfectly happy, I would imagine, and now he will seek revenge on the one who disturbed him and continue on to plague and destroy the world.”

 

“Okay, so I get why he would be pissed at me, but why take it out on the world?”

 

Angel heard Xander’s voice shake on the last two words and he placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, ignoring the territorial growl from his childe.  “Osiris was murdered by his brother, Seth, a mortal.  Legends say that if ever he should rise, then he would seek to destroy all mortals in his brothers’ form. Men.  Satisfaction, for the wrong they have done to him.”

 

Buffy was astonished.  “Overreact much?  What’s this guy’s deal?  So he was murdered by his brother.  But there’s no reason to take it out on the rest of us.”  Buffy looked to Giles for confirmation.”

 

“Quite.  But don’t forget, Buffy, we are dealing with a God.  They never react well to being murdered.”

 

Spike rolled his eyes; he was growing ever more impatient by the second.  “Angel?”

 

Spike didn’t need to ask the question; Angel could see the panic in his Childe’s eyes.  Spike didn’t care about the rest of the world, he cared about Xander.  And he needed a solution to protect the one he loved.  “There *is* a way to stop him.  We need to go back to his tomb, dig up his hand, re-bury it and restore the sacred mark.”

 

“Sounds easy.  How do we restore the…hang on. Dig up his hand?!” Buffy asked in astonishment.

 

“Only his hand was buried in that particular place,”  Angel said without a proper explanation.

 

“Um, for those of us without a degree in Egyptology, why would that be?”  Xander asked

 

Willow provided the information. “You can’t just *kill* a God and expect him to stay dead.  When Seth killed his brother, he needed to be sure that he couldn’t be resurrected easily.  So he cut him up and scattered his remains all over the world.”

 

Buffy’s eyes began to glaze over and she turned back to Angel.

 

“If ever Osiris’ body was whole, he would be able to resurrect at full power and take full form.  His strength would be immense.  He could plunge the world into eternal darkness with nothing more than a whisper.  So, Seth sealed the numerous remains in tombs all over the planet, ensuring that if Osiris’ spirit was ever awoken, it would give mankind a fighting chance to defeat him.”

 

Spike was intrigued now.  “How the hell did a mortal manage to scatter the remains of the God of the Dead over the entire world?  Considering that we are talking about two thousand years ago, would that not have been bloody difficult?”

 

“That is a wonder.  Legends seemed to have glossed over that part.  Personally, I would guess that he must have had help from an immortal. Isis maybe. The myths do say that their marriage was not a happy one.”  Giles adjusted his glasses and continued.  “Anyway, that is neither here nor there.  As Angel said, we need to dig up the hand of Osiris and somehow re-bury and seal it back up.  Now Angel has brought with him details of the ritual, however we need the sacred mark.”

 

“The Mark I stepped on?”

 

“No,” said Angel. “That mark is desecrated now.  We need to find another one.  Another mark of Osiris, which would have been blessed at the time of his death.”

 

“We can’t just…draw one?”  Buffy asked hopefully.

 

“No. As I said, it has to have been blessed at the time of death.”

 

Xander sighed and slumped into the back of his chair.  “Great.  Not gonna find one of them in a hurry.”

 

“Actually,” Angel grinned.  “I know where we can get one.”

 

Xander sat up straight and looked at him with wide saucer sized eyes. “Really?”

 

“Really.  Each body part was transported in a trunk.  The trunks were each sealed with the mark to prevent any resurrection taking place before the burial ritual was completed.  After the burials were done, the trunks were just discarded.  A few of them have turned up in museums.  One in the British museum, one in the Berlin museum of Egyptology and one…”

 

“And one right here in Sunnydale’s own museum!” Willow screeched.

 

“Actually, no.”

 

Angel got up from his chair and walked around the table to face Giles.  “What do you mean no?  There has been one here for years. We talked about this.”

 

“Yes, you are quite right Angel.  There *was* one here for years. I did some research while I was waiting for you to arrive.”  Giles turned to Xander and Spike.  “I’m sorry.  The trunk was stolen six months ago.”

 

Angel covered his face with his hands and walked away from the table.  “Then we go to England. We…”

 

“We don’t have time visit the other side of the Atlantic! There has to be another way!”  Buffy had gone into mega-panic mode.

 

Spike started to laugh.  The rest of the group slowly turned to face him, expressions of disbelief and annoyance dominating the room.

 

Willow started to ask what his problem was, when Xander raised a hand to stop her.  “Spike? What’s funny? What is it?”

 

Spike stopped laughing and tenderly stoked his fingers through Xander’s soft dark hair.  Spike had seen a small flash of hurt steal across the boy’s face when he had started laughing, but now he saw a face that was trying to trust.  Good boy. Trust me.  He turned to Angel. “A big black trunk?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“A big black trunk stolen from the museum?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“A big black trunk, stolen from the museum, with a big red squiggly mark on the underside?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“A big black trunk, stolen from the museum, with a big red squiggly mark on the underside, which is currently stashed in my bedroom closet?”

 

The room smiled at him.  Spike the evil, soulless vampire.  Spike, who saw what he wanted and took it.  Thank heavens for him. This was going to save them the trouble breaking and entering and hopefully buy them some time.

 

Spike kissed the top of Xander’s head and jumped up.  “I’ll go get it.”

 

As Spike walked away, Angel called after him.  “Will? Why did you steal a trunk from museum?”

 

Spike shrugged “Needed a place to put my socks.”

 

**

 

“Buffy, please understand.  Xander has to go.  His blood is needed for the ritual, and it has to be fresh, spilled at correct moment.”

 

Spike returned and walked into the middle of an argument.  He placed the trunk on the floor and walked over to join Xander.

 

Xander was keeping quiet.  He was sitting at the table away from the others.  He’d lowered his head onto his arms and was looking over at his arguing friends.  Angel had said that Xander had to go with them back to the tomb and Buffy didn’t like it.  Willow had said that Giles couldn’t go because he was a man *and* mortal and therefore it was too risky.  Giles didn’t like it.  Buffy, Tara and Willow said they were going, and because they were mortals, Angel didn’t like it.  Angel said that he and Spike could go because, although they were men, they were also technically dead so they would not be obvious targets. Willow didn’t like it.

 

Spike knelt down beside a miserable Xander and ran a comforting hand down his back.  “You all right, luv?”  He motioned to the others with his head. “Want me to tell ’em to pipe down?”

 

Xander explained all the different arguments and Spike tensed slightly when he got to the part about him needing to give blood at the ritual.  Spike had considered that this would be the part of the proceedings and as much as he hated the idea of his Xanpet going back to that place, he was not going to upset him further by making a big fuss.  It had to be done.  Instead, he took charge.  He, Xander, Angel, Buffy, Willow and Tara were going. Giles was not, Osiris would go right for him and attempt to take him over to the realm of the dead.  He would not be so concerned with the girls or he and Angel.  Xander was the one in real danger.  Osiris would make every effort to take him and kill him.

 

Angel explained the plan.  They would climb down the fissure, where Spike and Xander had gone previously.  Then they would find the tomb, find the hand, put it in the trunk and perform the ritual.  The first priority would be to protect Xander.  Osiris would be gunning for him from the beginning, needing to kill him before he can release himself and unleash his power on the world’s male population.

 

The gang loaded up the van with the trunk, ropes and weapons.  They got inside and drove in silence towards the desert.

 

**

 

Angel parked the van about a mile from the fissure.  It was safer that way.  If the ground crumbled as it had done before, they did not want to lose the van.  As battered as the vehicle was, it did not quite belong in the realm of the dead.

 

“I’m surprised to see you, Angel, I gotta say.  Why are you here?”  Spike was suspicious.  Although he and Angel had managed to settle most of their differences, there was still uneasiness between them.

 

“I just want to help.  When Giles described the sacred mark to me, I recognised it straight away.  Do you know how serious…?”

 

Spike cut him off, his voice suddenly angry.  “Course I do.  I’m not bloody stupid!”

 

Angel was careful to keep his voice low and steady; his Childe was suddenly ready to blow.  “I’m just trying to say that I thought the situation was serious enough for you to need an extra hand.”

 

The two vampires walked in silence for a few minutes before Angel spoke again. “What’s wrong, Will?”

 

“What do you bloody well think is wrong?”

 

“There’s something else.  What is it?”

 

Spike sighed heavily and looked up to the sky as he spoke.  “It’s me.  This is all my fault.  If I hadn’t dragged Xander down that sodding hole, then we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

 

“It’s not your fault, Will.  These things sometimes happen. You are living on a Hellmouth, remember?”  Angel’s tone was sympathetic.

 

“S’not the point.  It was because of me that Xander got cursed, and....” Spike stopped walking and locked his eyes with Angel’s.  “It was because of me that Talzar tried to kill him.  And it will be because of me that Talzar comes back and tries to kill him again.”

 

“What makes you think he will come back?”

 

“Bloody obvious innit? They *always* come back.”

 

Angel nodded in agreement. “Then be ready, Will. When I get back to L.A I’ll look into getting some sort of spell.  Perhaps something that can warn us if he breaks out of hell.  In the meantime, let’s just concentrate on what’s happening now. Go catch Xander up, and stay with him.  And stop thinking that any of this is your fault.  It isn’t. It’s just life on a Hellmouth.”

 

Spike strode forward to catch up with his lover, but he stopped after a few steps and turned back to face Angel.  “I’m glad you’re here.”

 

**

 

Six faces peered cautiously down into the fissure.  “I don’t get it.  That’s the ledge we jumped onto when we went down.” Xander tugged on his lover’s sleeve and pointed down to the said ledge. 

 

Spike nodded his acknowledgement and turned his head to face Angel.  “That ledge disintegrated.  How could it come back?”

 

Angel shrugged. “I don’t know. Some effect of the curse, I assume,” He said as he walked away from the edge and grabbed some of the ropes.  “Lets just get this over with.  We can discuss details afterwards.”

 

“I’ll second that.” Buffy waved away the ropes Angel held out for her.  She jumped down into the cracked earth and landed easily on the ledge bellow. 

 

Angel tied the ropes around Willow and Tara and gently lowered them into the fissure.  When the two witches reached the bottom they untied the rope from their waists and tugged firmly on it to signal Angel to pull it back up.

 

Angel gave the cord to Spike.  Like him, Spike did not need a rope to get down to the ledge bellow, but Xander did.  Spike reached around his lover’s waist with the rope, but he was stopped by warm hands on his arms. “No.  I don’t need it. I trust you.”

 

Spike smiled, dropped the rope and wrapped his arms around his lover. “Hold tight, pet.”

 

Angel watched with a smile of his own as his Childe placed a tender kiss onto Xander’s lips before hopping smoothly over the edge.  Satisfied that everyone had made it down safely, Angel tied one end of the rope around a nearby rock and dropped the other end down the hole. The mortal members of the team would need easy access to it to get back out if something where to happen to him or Spike.

 

Spike couldn’t stop staring at his lover.  A look of wonder was plastered over his face. Xander looked up to meet his gaze. “What?”

 

“You didn’t let me carry you last time.”

 

Xander looked down at his feet. “Sorry.  It’s just that, sometimes, I find it hard to trust people. But I’m trying…”

 

Fuck. His parents really did a number on him.  Spike growled and pulled him forward until their bodies were flush with each other. “Don’t ever apologise for that.  It’s not your fault.” Spike cupped Xander’s face in his hands and softened his voice. “I understand that you need time to trust me properly.  I can wait.”

 

Angel landed quietly beside the embracing lovers and cleared his throat. “Okay, Spike? You lead the way.”  Angel kept a tight hold of the trunk and followed his Childe along the ledge and into a dark passageway.

 

**

 

Tara shone the torch above her head and gasped. “Oh my, hieroglyphs, we must be getting close.”

 

Willow followed her gaze upwards and frowned. “Very close. And I’m wondering why nothings happening yet.” She spun to face Angel. “Something’s wrong, it’s too quiet.”

 

“You’re right.  I would have expected something by now. Buffy...?”  Angel looked at the Slayer and reeled with shock. “SPIKE!  Keep Xander back!”

 

Spike instinctively grabbed his lovers arm and pulled the boy behind him. He looked towards Angel for an explanation; he couldn’t see what the sudden panic was. “What? What is it?”  Angel was silent and Spike felt violent irritation surging through his veins. “ANGEL!  What the fuck is...?” Angel pointed at Buffy and Spike felt his jaw drop. “Bloody hell! Witches, get back here! Stay with Xander.”

 

Tara and Willow obeyed, and shuffled quickly along the wall, meeting Xander and pulling him further back. “What’s going on, Wills?”  Xander followed Willows gaze and he felt his legs buckle at the sight of Buffy. “Oh my God,” he whispered.

 

Buffy stood perfectly still.  Her skin was deathly white, and had developed a pearly transparent quality.  Her lips were as black as the night sky, but they did not move as the voice reverberated from within her. “BRING ME THE BOY.”

 

Dropping the trunk, Angel stepped in front of the possessed Buffy and sent out a silent answer of no.

 

Spike whipped around to face Xander and the witches.  He addressed Willow and Tara. “Go! Get to the tomb. Take Xander.” Spike turned back and stood firmly in the door way. No way in hell was this Buffy-bitch going to get past him.

 

“BRING ME THE BOY.” Buffy’s eyes shifted from a bright white to a metallic green as she looked between the two unmoving vampires.  She pulled out a gleaming silver sword “THEN DIE.”

 

Angel quickly pulled out his sword from his coat and held it defensively in front of his face.  The Buffy-bitch swiped her weapon at Angel’s body and Angel swung his sword to meet it, backing away sharply. Angel was torn, this was still Buffy.  How could he kill the woman that he once loved?  He didn’t have time to think as the Buffy-bitch charged at him, her sword raised and her voice screaming like wild banshee. Angel heaved his weapon into the air and met Buffy’s swing with a terrific clash.  For what seemed like an age, the two combatants stayed locked together, swords entwined over their heads. Finally the Buffy-bitch moved backwards.  She twirled the sword to the sword to her side, and with frightening speed, swung it back towards Angel.

 

Spike watched the frantic battle from the doorway, unsure whether he should move to help his Sire, but risk opening the path for the possessed Buffy to pass through.  He watched as swords clashed and sparks flew.   Shit  He reached down into his boot and pulled out a small knife, when the timing was right, he flung it down the passageway.

 

The knife caught the Buffy-bitch in the shoulder and she dropped her sword, squealing in pain and surprise.  This was it.  This was the opportunity that Angel needed.  He raised his sword briefly before lowering it again. Could he really do this? Could he strike her? Could he kill her?

 

“Angel, c’mon, man. Do it!”

 

Angel herd the urgency in Spike’s voice and Angel responded by swinging his sword back to a striking position.  For Spike. For Xander. For everyone.

 

**

 

Willow, Tara and Xander raced down the corridor as fast as they could.  At every turn they expected the curse to strike.  They almost wished it would. The silence, except for their harsh breathing and clattering feet, was unnerving.  At last they reached tomb and they stopped outside. The door had crumbled away since Xander had been there last and the sacred mark had all but disappeared. 

 

“This is it?”

 

Xander nodded and Willow took Tara’s hand and stepped into the tomb. 

 

Xander followed close behind and pointed to a large stone sarcophagus in the centre of the room. “Do you think the hand is in there?”

 

“Looking good, but only one way to be totally sure.” Tara smiled happily and threw one of the shovels to Xander. “Let’s see if we can prise the top off.

 

Xander and Tara struggled for a few moments, failing miserably to even move the top of sarcophagus a few millimetres.  Xander looked at Willow and cracked a false smile. “As much as I’m loving the exercise, could you do the Wicca thingy now?”

 

“Oh, sorry, Xan.” Willow casually waved her hand toward the stone lid.  Yellow and orange swirled from her fingertips and encased the sarcophagus.  Xander and Tara instinctive moved back and the large stone box vibrated.  With a loud bang the lid exploded into thousands of tiny pieces, showering the them with dust and stone.

 

Xander stood slowly and brushed the flakes of stone out of his hair. “Thanks, Wills.”  he said, not sure if he really meant it.  He looked into the stone box and his breath hitched as he saw a small bundle stuffed in the corner.  Xander picked it up and unwrapped it. This was it. The hand of Osiris.

 

“Where are the others? Shouldn’t they be here by now?”

 

Xander looked over at Tara and then to Willow. “Yeah, where are they?”  Where’s Spike?

 

Willow opened her mouth to offer some reassuring words, but closed it again at the sound of a faint cracking.

 

Tara grabbed Willows hand.  “What’s that?”

 

Xander turned in circle, trying to work out what the noise was and where it was coming from.  “Well, whatever it is, I’m thinking that it’s not of the good.”  As he spoke pieces of the wall fell away and hundreds of snakes poured into the room.

 

Willow and Tara were forced into a corner by the sepents, and Xander backed up against the opposite wall. He watched with morbid fascination as the snakes continued to pour in.  Cobras, vipers, Pythons, Boa Constrictors, the snakes were now ankle deep and Xander looked down in horror as they started to slither up his body.   Oh God.  Spike, where are you.

 

**

 

Angel swung his sword into an attack position. “I’m Sorry Buf…”

 

As Angel spoke, the Buffy-bitch’s head flew from her neck and rolled over to where Spike stood guard.  Angel followed its movement before looking back up to see the headless body fall forward and reveal another Buffy.

 

“Hey, Guys.”

 

“B-Buffy?” Angel pointed to the decapitated corpse that was slowly disintegrating into the ground. “I thought that was you.”

 

Buffy grinned up at the vampire. “With that skin? Are you kidding me? Thank you very much!”

 

Angel pulled Buffy into a hug tight enough to crush an ordinary person. “Angel? Shouldn’t we be somewhere else?”

 

Spike listened to the muffled voice emanating from Angel’s coat. “The bint’s right.  C’mon, it’s this way.” With a quick wave, Spike waved them in his direction and raced down the corridor towards the tomb.

 

**

 

The python tightened its grip.  Xander pulled with one hand at the snake which was wrapped around his neck. “Willow,” he croaked.  It was getting harder to breath. Xander dropped Osiris’ hand and sunk to his knees.

 

Spike rushed into the tomb but was stopped by the wall of snakes. He looked at his lover crouched down and nearly entirely covered by the snakes. “Bloody fuck!” He waded through the see of reptiles, scooping up armfuls of them and tossing them behind him.  Angel and Buffy followed close behind, dodging the flying snakes and throwing more armfuls out of their way.

 

Buffy made it over to Willow and Tara. “Wills?  Can you work the mojo? Maybe get rid of a couple of slippery serpents?” Buffy pulled a small hand axe from her jacket and chopped at a Reticulated Python that was wrapped around the two witches.

 

“I’ve tried Buffy! But it just makes things worse.”

 

“Worse?”

 

“More snakes. I can’t stop them. We need to get out, get the hand and get out.” Buffy nodded and looked around for the rest of her friends. Angel and Spike were tearing snakes from Xander’s body. Angel met her gaze.

 

“The hand!” he shouted. “Its underneath!” Angel gestured to the room full of serpents and went back to helping Spike unwrap an anaconda from Xander’s legs.

 

Xander felt dizzy and a little bit sick.  The snakes had wrapped themselves around every part of his body and as the vampires slowly released him, he swayed heavily.  Spike caught him. He placed a steadying arm around his waist and began unwinding another Python from his thigh.

 

All around the room, Xander’s friends were shouting and screaming to each other, digging beneath the reptiles to find the hand. The panicking increased by the second and more and more snakes filled up the room.  He had dropped Osiris’ hand amongst the serpents and now it was probably buried four foot deep. Xander became aware that the voices of his friends were gradually fading out.  As the room darkened, Xander wondered if he was about pass out. But he didn’t feel faint. He felt completely awake.

 

Xander looked around at his surrounding.  His friends and the snakes were nothing but a dark blur and their sounds were now just dull, quiet murmurings. A feeling of complete calm filled his mind and not a trace of fear or panic now existed in his body. As a light breeze flowed through the room, ruffling his hair, a brilliant blue light streaked passed him and settled onto the far wall. Xander watched with calm curiosity as the pulsing light took form. A woman now stood before him. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Ivory skin, glowing blue eyes and black wavy hair that flowed down to her beautiful bare feet. Xander stood and watched her with awe; she had to be some sort of Goddess.

 

The entrancing figure floated towards Xander, her long turquoise dress flapping gently in the breeze.  “Hello, Xander.”  Her voice was soft and held an almost dreamlike quality.

 

Xander felt no malice from this divine creature.  He smiled sweetly.  “Hello.”

 

“Do not fear me, young one.”

 

“I don’t.  Who are you?”

 

“I am Isis, Goddess of the Earth and Moon.”

 

Xander nodded slowly and waited patiently for her to continue.

 

“Osiris must be stopped, for he will bring pestilence and death to my beautiful Earth.”

 

Xander nodded again and continued waiting. Something told him that this was not his time to speak.

 

Isis gestured slowly at the oblivious, darkened figures scattered about the room.  “You can stop him, you and your friends.”

 

Xander frowned.  He had lost the hand.  It lay buried beneath thousands of serpents.

 

“I will help you, Xander. But you must do something for me.”

 

“Anything.”

 

Isis gave him the most genuine smile he had ever seen.  “Take me. Take me out of here and away from *him*” Isis’ smile disappeared and she glanced worriedly behind her. “He comes. Trust me as I trust you.”

 

Xander shielded his eyes.  The ghostly figure of Isis exploded into a flash of blinding blue light.  The light streamed into the centre of the room and disappeared into the mountain of writhing serpents.

 

The room lightened and came back into focus, and the voices of his friends once again became clear.  “Xan, luv? You alright? You gonna pass out on me?”

 

Xander heard Spike clearly, but he was too distracted to answer him.  The snakes near the centre of the room appeared to be agitated.  They hissed and spat at each other, all the while wriggling to get away from whatever had upset them.

 

Everybody stood up and watched the strange serpent behaviour.  Tara looked over to Angel. “What are they doing?”

 

“I don’t know. It’s looks like they are trying to get away from something.”  Angel glanced at his Childe. Spike was staring worriedly at his lover.

 

Xander’s eyes were locked onto the centre of the room, his heartbeat was wild and his breathing came out in short, fast puffs.  Suddenly, he saw her. A small Python slithered upwards and turned to face him.  The snake’s black eyes flashed a brilliant blue. Isis

 

Angel began to wade through the reptiles towards his Childe and his lover. “Xander?”

 

Without warning, Xander suddenly threw himself into the writhing mass.

 

Angel and Spike both yelled and lunged together. “NO!” They were too late. The boy had already belly-flopped into the mass of serpents.

 

Xander gripped the snake firmly and began to pull her out of the mass.  His body began to drown in the sea of serpents and he felt two pairs of strong arms lift him up.  Angel steadied him while Spike ran his hands over him.  “What the hell was that?!? Have you gone completely crazy? XAN! Are you listening to me?”

 

Spike sounded furious, but the look of concern on his face gave him away.  Xander wasn’t sure what to say to him or to the others.  They were all looking at him strangely. In answer to their wondering gazes, Xander held up the snake he had grabbed. Five jaws dropped as their eyes were drawn to the object looped in the serpent’s tail. The hand of Osiris.

 

**

 

Buffy and Angel helped everyone out of the room and into the corridor.  Angel had left the trunk outside the tomb and he now knelt in front of it.  He reached up to take the snake from Xander, but the boy kept a near death grip on it.  Spike came to the rescue. “S’okay, pet. Just need the hand.”  Spike gently prised the snake from Xander’s hands and untangled the hand from the serpent’s tail.  He passed the dusty hand to Angel and looked back to his lover.

 

“Don’t kill it. *Please.*” Xander stared at Spike with the famous kicked puppy dog eyes.

 

“Okay, pet.  I’ll just put it back.”  Spike went to walk away, but a warm hand on his arm stopped him.

 

“No, you can’t.  We have to take it home.”

 

“You wanna keep it?”  Spike sounded somewhat surprised. “I didn’t think you were that keen on reptiles.”

 

“I’m not. But that’s not an ordinary reptile.”

 

Buffy, Willow, Tara and Spike all spoke in unison. “It’s not?”

 

“It’s Isis.”

 

Spike dropped the snake. “Bleedin’ ‘ell!”

 

Xander caught the Goddess before she could hit the ground. “She’s not evil,” he protested to the shocked and frightened faces of his friends. “She wants to get out of here as much as we do. She said that she would help us if we got her out. Well she got us the hand and now I have to keep my side of the bargain.” Xander held the snake protectively against his chest.

 

“Okay, Xan.  Keep her with you for now.”  Buffy was uneasy, but the determination on Xander’s face made her realise that arguing with him would waist *a lot* of time.  Spike simply nodded.  If his boy wanted to keep the snake, that was fine by him.  And if the Slayer or anyone else wanted to try and take it from him then they would have to go through a pissed off, killer vampire first.

 

“Willow, Tara, Stand over there.  Spike, you go that side, opposite Xander.  Buffy keep watch.” Angel passed an old red book for Tara and Willow to share.  He didn’t need it. He had already memorised the incantation.  Finally he passed a long sharp dagger to Spike.  Xander’s eyes widened when he saw the exchange, he knew the knife was for him.

 

“It’s okay, luv.”  Trust me.

 

“Okay.” I trust you.

 

Angel spoke. “Are we ready?” The others replied with a nervous yes and Angel began the ritual.

 

**

 

 

Buffy stood in one of her classic defence stances and quickly glanced over at the ritual behind her.  Her friends stood in a sort of circle around the opened trunk.  Angel, Tara and Willow chanted in a weird guttural language that seemed to be void of any vowels.  Spike and Xander stood opposite each other, Xander clutching his new pet and Spike holding tightly to a silver dagger.  Buffy shivered.  She wasn’t sure how much of Xander’s blood they would need.  She hoped it wasn’t much.

 

“KNF JRLL FNY KYTH”

 

Spike looked over at his trembling lover and felt rage building inside him. Why Xander? Why does this shit always happen to him? All the disgusting lowlifes out there, and fate picks on a sweet kid like my Xan. Spike thought about the silent promise he had made to himself. He was going to make Xander’s life so much better.

 

“BYR KYTH KNF GLYT SHRYL”

 

The earth began to rumble and the floor cracked violently. The chanting continued and Angel nodded to Spike to begin the second phase of the ritual.  Xander caught the signal and automatically held out his arm to Spike.

 

“KRYG JRLL SHRYL KYTH DYTH”

 

Spike wanted to say something reassuring to the boy, but words would interrupt the ritual.  Instead he took Xander’s hand and kissed the upturned palm.  He locked eyes with his lover and tried to communicate his reassurances without the use of words. Xander flashed him the briefest of smiles to say that he understood, and Spike ran the knife quickly across his palm.

 

Xander closed his eyes and sucked in a sharp breath as the pain of the cut hit him.  He felt Spike’s fingers interlock with his own and he opened his eyes to see his blood being squeezed into the trunk bellow.

 

“BLYD HND TY HND KYTH BLYD”

 

As Angel and the witches shouted out the last line of the incantation, they all felt the ground begin to give way beneath them.  Buffy growled with frustration.  She was the Slayer.  She was built for fighting.  But how could she fight nothing? No demons, no vampires, nothing that she could beat the shit out of.  How the fuck do you protect someone from thousands of snakes, millions of insects, bloody showers or a collapsing corridor?

 

The floor continued to buckle and a fierce wind whipped around the circle of people. On Angel’s word the six friends dived onto the trunk in an attempt to close it. The wind grew stronger and part of the floor crumbled away, nearly taking Tara with it. She scrambled back to the trunk and held on for dear life.

 

Buffy continued to press down on the open lid, frustration snowballing in her gut.  More of the floor fell away, and she realised that they didn’t have long.  She turned her head to the side and came face to face with Xander’s snake.  The serpent’s eyes glowed bright blue and Buffy quickly looked at the others to see if they had noticed.  No-one had. A beautiful voice resounded in her head and she turned back quickly to face the strange snake.

 

“You are the Slayer. Use what you know.”

 

The serpent’s eyes transformed back to the normal black and Buffy realised what she had to do.  She had to use her Slayer strength. Close the trunk. Close it and everything will be over. So simple. She let go of lid and backed up as much as she could without falling down a crevice. Then, with a war cry that would have scared Dracula himself, she launched herself forward and somersaulted into the air. She landed firmly onto the half closed lid, using all of her power and strength to close it completely.

 

The rushing wind reversed and sped back the way it came. Xander was dragged back by Spike as the ground began to close up around his feet. Tara had to shout to be heard above the wind. “WHAT’S GOING ON?”

 

It was Angel that shouted back.  “IT’S GOING BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS.” Sure enough, as he spoke, part of the floor rushed back up from the dark depths bellow and locked into place like a giant jigsaw.  Angel had a sudden burst of inspiration. He grabbed one side of the trunk and pulled it towards one of the open cracks.  Xander saw the intent and moved to help him.  The snake had gently wrapped around his neck, so Xander was able to use both hands to lift up the other side of the trunk. He winced as the weight pressed into the fresh cut on his palm.  Together, he and Angel heaved the trunk down a closing hole and watched as the ground literally swallowed it up.

 

In flash, it was over. The wind gone and the floor was back in place.  The gang slowly got to their feet and nervously looked around.  Xander looked towards the tomb and was relieved to find it sealed back up, exactly as he had found it the first time.  He frowned in puzzlement at the floor.  There was no sacred mark. Spike stood behind him and circled protective arms around his waist. “Don’t need a mark, pet. Bloody hand ain’t in there no more. Right?” Xander allowed his head to fall back onto Spike’s shoulder. He was exhausted.

 

“Err, pet?”

 

“Mmm?”

 

“Bloody good job that mark didn’t go back to its original place?”

 

“Huh? Why?”

 

“Cos you would be standing right on it!”

 

“Oh!”  Xander looked shocked only for a moment before grinning sheepishly at his lover. “Ooops.”

 

Spike grinned back. “Idiot”

 

**

 

 

One week later

 

“C’mon, Isis.  I know you want it. Come and get the tasty…dead mouse.”

 

Spike crept up behind the human sitting on the floor and whispered into his ear. “You’ve got to swing it, babe”

 

“Ahh!”  Xander jumped in surprise, swinging the mouse wildly in the air. The snake struck unexpectedly and grabbed the dead rodent from his hand. “AHH!”

 

Spike chuckled and pulled his lover into a playful embrace. “Sorry, pet.”

 

“Christ, Spike.  Between you and the Isis, I’m gonna end up having a heart attack.”

 

Spike nuzzled another apology into Xander’s neck and ran his hand over his chest.  “Want me to feed her next time?”

 

“Yes please. That would be golden goodness.”

 

“She done the blue-eyed flashy thing again?”

 

“Nope. Well, not that I’ve noticed. Do you think she’s still in there? Isis, I mean?”

 

“According to Giles she is. Trapped in the snake’s body until we can find a way to release her. I guess we’ll have to look after her ‘til then.”

 

Xander turned back to the little Python. “Mmmm.”

 

Spike noticed the dreamy quality in Xander voice. “What, luv?”

 

“Nothing really. It’s silly.”

 

“I don’t believe for a second that it could be.”

 

Xander closed the vivarium door and left Isis to swallow her meal. Turning back to Spike, he kept his eyes downcast. “It’s just that...when I was a kid, I always wanted a pet. Something I could take care of, something I could love and would love me back.”

 

Spike was shocked. “You never had a pet?”

 

“No. My parents wouldn’t let me.”

 

Spike felt the misery pouring off his lover.  He put his hand beneath the boy’s chin and lifted it, guiding Xander’s gaze to meet his own. “Well, you know you’ve got me to love you back now, yeah?”

 

Xander nodded, a slight smile appearing on his lips.

 

“*And* you can pet *me* any time you want!”  Spike said cheerfully.  This earned him a bigger smile and an armful of human.

 

“Any time?”

 

“Yup. Oh actually, any time apart from now.”  Spike yanked Xander to his feet and led him to the door. “*We* have got a house to view.”

 

“Now! It’s past midnight.”

 

“Oh, you wanna wait ‘till morning?” Spike said in a mock sarcastic tone.

 

Xander swiped him across the back of the head.  “Be nice to me.”

 

“C’mon, idiot. Lets go. Don’t wanna be late.”

 

Xander followed Spike out the door.  “Spike?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Can I pet you in the car?”

 

“Oh yeah.”





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