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part six

A week later, Spike leaned back against the smooth-tiled wall and felt a purr of pleasure start at the base of his spine and move up and through his body to emerge from his panting mouth. Warmth surrounded and embraced him,
made him feel alive with its welcome sensation. The water cascading from the showerhead pulsed forward, hitting him square in the chest with a vigorous rhythmic massage. The air of the small bathroom was thick with steam,
wafting about as it rose from water heated well above human body temperature and condensed on his cooler skin. Xander knelt in front of him, wrapping Spike's cock in the moist heat of his mouth. Occasionally he paused to
breathe out along the rigid shaft.

Looking down at the dark tendrils of hair plastered forward across Xander's face by the force of the water, Spike was hit by a deep need to freeze this moment. He desperately wanted to hold onto this feeling, this man. But perfection never lasted. That was the one hard lesson of his unlife. No one stayed on top for long; something, something would fuck this up. Spike fought the desire to thrust his hips and pump into the warm, wet throat of his lover. He tried to hold off his orgasm, always fearing that this one would be the last. Fearing that the boy would walk away from whatever spell had made him seek a demon lover. *Not even the first there.*

Spike had been relieved that first night they were together that Xander hadn't been a virgin. Xander had confessed very little, blushing beautifully when Spike asked about the wealth of experience that the young man was endowed with by months of experimentation with Anya. *Although apparently the bint got custody of the toys.* Spike knew that there had been toys by the delicious flush which stole down the boy's body when he mentioned a few items which nice young men would not know to equate with sex.

*Bad idea, that. Thinking of the boy's flushed body and sex toys when you're trying not to come. You know that, right?* Spike felt his third orgasm of the night rush through his body, bringing forth fangs and ridges as his beautiful boy milked his softening cock. Xander stood slowly, his body brushing up against Spike's from knee to shoulder. Spike felt the boy's erection brush his hip. His lips barely touched against Spike's before he started to pull back. Spike grabbed Xander's hair, stopping him, and plundered his mouth, tasting his own flavor and stealing his breath. Xander laughed and playfully nipped at Spike's lips.

"Think the Watchers are gone for good?" Spike asked more to play with the boy than out of real concern.

"You so had better not be thinking about the Watchers when I'm going down on you." Xander seemed to have trouble suppressing his grin as he attempted to scowl.

"Xander?" Spike purred. "You know its only you, she meant nothing..." he broke off with a wicked chuckle at the real emotion that gleamed in his lover's eyes.

"You better not be talking about that tweed-clad head of the William the Bloody fan club, you... you undead Lothario."

Spike pulled that warm body closer and whispered in his ear. "Getting a bit possessive, love?"

Xander placed both hands on Spike's chest and pushed back enough to look him in the eyes. The boy nervously chewed on his lower lip and said. "Who said I can't be the possessive one once in a while? we never..." He looked down as if to avoid Spike's gaze.

Spike regretted the teasing. He didn't want Xander to think about what was between them - whatever it was -
too hard. If the boy examined it he would realize what a bad idea it was, and Spike would be left knowing just how much he was missing.

Those deep brown eyes lifted. Drops of water clung to the long lashes and looked almost like tears. Spike brushed a thick, wet lock of hair off Xander's face and tried to sooth the boy, who suddenly looked so lost. "Are" he started again and Spike almost cursed out loud at the stutter, which rarely showed in Xander's voice. Xander reached up and caressed Spike's jaw line. "This is good, huh?" He whispered.

"Oh pet, this is wondrous." Spike was afraid to speak too loudly for fear of shattering the fragile confidence that seemed to surround the boy. They had been lovers for such a short time and Spike still anticipated a torrent of
emotions and then the boy would bolt.

"I need this. I need you. I want to hold on.... tight...for as long as possible...okay?" Xander's voice remained steady and calm. Once again Spike was amazed by the boy's strength and courage. From the beginning he had taken all the risks, starting that first night when he had first kissed Spike and then asked him not to go. What had that cost him? The boy had to have feared rejection, but had dared Spike's scorn and sarcasm. Time and again Xander had taken the first step, then and now. What was he offering? Not permanence, but? Wasn't it time Spike risked something? Gave the boy some chance to reject rather than be rejected?

Spike spun around, reversing their positions. Using both hands he pressed Xander's shoulders back against the wall and slowly dragged his teeth against his neck and down his collarbone. "Do you have any idea how much I want? How much I want you? What I want?" Spike morphed into his game face and spragged his fangs along the boy's trapezius muscle.

"Tell me." Xander gasped, clutching at Spike's hips.

Spike answered with a deep purr and managed to rasp out, "Pet, oh sweet boy, I want..." He stopped and buried his face against the boy's wet neck, his scent faint beneath the vanilla shower gel. "If not for this damned chip." His purr transformed into a growl, but he held the boy gently, rubbing against his hard, naked form. *I've been loveless all my life, but now that love is mine it drives me mad. [1]*

"W..would you feed? Off of me, I mean?" Xander's voice sounded concerned but he wrapped strong arms around the rumbling vampire.

Spike shifted back to his human face and looked into Xander's startled eyes. "No." He laughed at Xander's look of surprise and nuzzled over his jugular. "Here is where you feed; fast, hot blood pumps out like new wine." He nibbled his way down the thick muscles above the boy's collarbone. "Here's where you mark, deep in the flesh, a scar to warn off all the pug nasties that this here," and he raised his head until their lips were but a whisper apart, "is mine!" He growled out the last part, and plundered the boy's mouth. Spike morphed into the kiss. Cutting both their tongues on his fangs, he endured a blast from the chip as he blended their blood.

When the kiss gentled, due to the boy's need to breath, Xander's eyes were laughing when he asked, "I'm yours?"

"Does that bother you?" Spike hadn't intended to say as much as he had. He didn't want to scare the boy or ruin what they had. Once he had said it, he thought he would brush it off with his usual bravado, but suddenly what Xander thought about this was very important. Important that Xander realize that this thing, whatever it was, wasn't the same as if they were two humans.

"I think what bothers me is that I think I should be bothered or afraid, and I'm not." Xander blushed and looked sheepish. He whispered, "Spike, no one ever... It's just nice that you want me."

"Xan." It was Spike's voice that broke at the sound of past pain in his lover's tone.

"No. You're here, that's what matters. I'm yours." He blushed again and looked down, then glanced shyly up through his lashes and ventured, "You're mine too, you know?"

Spike answer was a deep, full-bodied purr as he began to rub against his still aroused lover. *And on that cheek, and o'er that brow so soft, so calm, yet eloquent, the smiles that win, the tints that glow, But tell of days in goodness spent A mind at peace with all below a heart whose love is innocent. [2]

* * * * *

Later, morning light glowed behind the thick tarp that covered the bedroom window. Xander had installed decorative shutters in the public rooms, but had yet to choose a more permanent cover for the bedroom. Spike scowled at
the light, and was tempted to grumble at the early hour. He was getting used to waking up early with Xander. Usually Xander rose before Spike had slipped into the deep, death-like slumber he spent at least four hours in every day. If it got him a kiss or a blowjob he wasn't opposed to greeting his freshly showered lover with a hot cup of coffee.

But this was Saturday and they had hunted into the wee hours before coming back to clean up, so he was less than pleased to be wide awake. Xander's deep breaths brushed warmly across Spike's face. He took a moment to examine his lover's appearance. Even lacking his happy smile, looking at Xander made Spike think of sunlight, and all the warm forbidden things he had lost when he was turned. It wasn't just his smooth, tanned skin; his smell, the very taste of his sweat and come was bright and vibrated with life. Spike longed to taste his blood, but couldn't bear the thought of polluting such an intimate act with a blade. A mate should be claimed, and the scar should be his, not that of a tool. Granted, it would have to wait until he found a way to bugger the chip, but some day that sweet flesh would be his.

They had come across two fledges when hunting earlier; so new you could smell the shit of their first death. Xander had dusted the first almost reflexively. Spike had ripped the head off the second with his bare hands when it went for Xander. It had happened so quickly that Xander had stood blinking in the settling dust before either of them realized that the battle was over. Since they had crossed paths with the fledges outside the Bronze, Spike kept a wary eye out during the rest of the night, to see if Harmony was back in town. Not that he had anything to fear from the dozy cow, but she had tried to hurt Xander before and Spike knew from experience that, though inept, she could hold a grudge. Oddly enough, the minions seemed to have a soft spot for her, maybe cause the boy and the witch had been tykes with her. Even the Slayer hadn't dusted her, and she could have a couple of times. Spike snorted softly, so as not to wake the boy; funny he was considering not dusting a vamp 'cause the humans might not like it.

Xander sighed and rolled forward, throwing an arm over Spike and pulling him close into his body heat. *Ah, that's better.* Spike didn't snuggle because vampires don't snuggle, but he did melt into his lover's body and begin to purr. *A heart as soft, a heart as kind, a heart as sound and free, as in the whole world thous canst find, that heart I'll give to thee. [3]* Spike could almost feel Xander's pulse move through his body as they lay pressed together. It felt like Xander understood, or at least understood as much as Spike did, flying blind like they were.

Being with the boy was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Just when Spike would convince himself that Xander
was deluded and seeing what he wanted to see, not what Spike really was, he would do something or say something proved that he knew. Knew that Spike wasn't human, was evil and that this, whatever this was, was dangerous,
possibly to both of them. Yet he was still willing to love Spike.


From the first, the emotions between them had been deeper than he had anticipated. Maybe that was his fault. Xander always seemed to give as much as Spike would take, and of course being Spike, he took everything and still
the boy found ways to offer more. Spike sighed as Xander's warmth permeated his body. As they lay together this all seemed irrelevant; it was too late for him, he had already fallen hard. Xander's quiet strength and steadfast
loyalty, his tender seductions, seemed to answer long unspoken prayers.

But was it too late for Xander? Could he find a way to free the boy before this bonding, this potential spiral into damnation became irreversible? Would this boy with his teasing laugh and 'rule number two, never use the word
necrophilia when we're in bed' want this to stop before it was too late? Maybe it was too late already. Spike didn't think if Xander cast him out this minute that he could fight the bond, which was so much, more than lust
or possessiveness. He didn't think he could let the boy go, even if it was what Xander wanted. He knew little about such pairings. Humans had always just been food.

He stroked the boy's thick hair as he contemplated how dangerous the bond could be. "I'll never hurt you." He whispered. "I'll never let anything hurt you." But he wasn't reassured and lay unquiet and fretting as he considered that he might be the biggest danger in Xander's life.

part six
1. Hsu Tsai-Seu 'on love'
2. George Noel Gordon 'She walks in beauty'
3. Robert Herrick 'To Althea Who May Command Him Anything'


part seven


After catching them in the cellar of the store, the witches gave up all pretenses and set about asking the most inappropriate questions. At least Red did; Blondie just blushed and smiled, seeming to enjoy the slightest display of Spike's allegedly Victorian attitude. Xander was apparently quite used to having sweet young girls ask with wide-eyed innocence if he were a top or a bottom. That remark, launched pointedly by Red when they had finally emerged from the storage room, had been greeted by his smirking lover with the reply of, "It doesn't matter, either way you don't get the toaster." *I understand one hundred and sixty two languages which includes most demon tongues and I still can't crack the Sunnydale code.*

If shopping at the mall and Xander's snuggling at Red's birthday dinner hadn't outed them to the rest of the group, their frequent uncontrollable need to touch or taste each other would have broken the news sooner or later. Xander told him to expect some sort of explicit threat from Willow on what she would do to him if he broke the boy's heart - the boy had called it S.O.P. for the witch. Spike was sure Rupert's Watcher instincts would have him lecturing the boy on what a bad idea their being together was, and how he couldn't trust Spike, but neither happened.

Xander had asked Spike if he would move in to his apartment with him. He had said he knew Spike had a lot of stuff at the crypt, but pointed out that his new place was larger than it looked. He added that he hardly used the basement storage area assigned to the unit and watched for Spike's reaction. Spike had been too stunned by the offer to react in a visible or audible way; he had just sat there dumbstruck in the flickering blue light of the television. Xander seemed to take that as a sign of reluctance so had sweetened the deal by offering to get satellite. "Six channels of ESPN, Spike. Proper English football." Spike had caved at the first bat of those gorgeous eyes and jumped at the chance to wrap himself in Xander's warmth on a daily basis. So they were lovers, and roommates, and sometimes it all seemed just too perfect, too human.

As a result, they were hosting their first dinner party. Not counting Red's bash, because no one knew they were shacking up at the time. Xander had invited the witches over for English food and flicks. The Watcher had been clever enough to invent other plans and Dawn actually had other plans. Spike had mostly just sat back and enjoyed the boy's nervous excitement at being what he had referred to as being 'such an adult.' The witches were going to pick the movies and said they were bringing a lemon tart, although why they thought that was particularly English dessert, Spike didn't know. Spike shuddered to think what their reaction to Xander's meal would be and hoped they weren't too hard on his boy. For his part Spike was just glad he was drinking his supper.

Spike had wandered into the kitchen after cleaning the bathroom and straightening up the living room. Apparently he had agreed to do both sometime during the blowjob when they had showered earlier, but had no recollection. When he had pointed his lack of memory out to Xander, his lover had said, "Too bad, must be the chip," and smacked Spike's bare ass on the way out of the shower stall. Xander was currently bouncing, literally, around the kitchen. The boy thought he was Martha Stewart - he was using two pots, had preheated the oven and had purchased a gravy boat for the occasion. Spike leaned against the frame of the kitchen entrance and watched Xander cook.

Cook being a relative word in this instance. Xander dumped two packages of frozen vegetables into the pot, which already contained cooked ground beef. He put a lid on it and turned off the heat. Springing over to the counter he unwrapped two prepackaged, already baked piecrusts and put them and their foil pans on a metal baking sheet. He paused on his way over to the stove to kiss Spike so quickly that he was stirring the pan of instant mashed potatoes before Spike could fold him in his arms. Spike watched in fascinated horror as Xander spooned the mixture of cooked beef and thawing vegetables into each of the pie shells and shuddered when the boy topped this with the mashed potatoes, smoothing it over the top of the pie like a meringue. He was distracted briefly from his question as Xander
bent over to place the pies under the broiler and in doing so presented Spike with his ass, firmly packed in the black jeans Spike had insisted he get during the Scoobys' adventure in shopping for Xander.

"Er...Em.. Pet?" Spike's mind was freed for higher thought processes when Xander straightened and turned to face him.

Xander gave him another quick kiss and said, "They'll be here any minute. Did you set the table?"

"Pet? What the hell is that?" Spike asked nodding toward the oven.

"Shepherd's pie, it's English, " Xander said over his shoulder as he bounced over to the cupboard to take out the plates.

*Right. I've been living with him less than a month and he's already got me doing the blinking thing.* "That's not shepherd's pie."

"Un huh." Was Xander's comment as he brushed by his lover on his way to set the table. He was back in a flash to peer into the oven before filling water glasses.

"Luv, shepherd's pie is a stew." Spike called after Xander's bustling figure as he took the glasses to the dinning area.

Xander paused on his way back into the kitchen and blinked twice at Spike before reasoning, "Then why would they call it pie?"

Not having an answer, Spike set out the flatware. The doorbell chimed and Xander bounced off to greet their guests. Red surprised Spike with a hug before handing him the movies while Tara handed Xander the dessert box.
*Angelus thinks he spent time in hell; we have three, count them three, Hugh Grant movies.*

Spike was treated to another view of Xander's backside when the boy stooped to sprinkle cheese on his creations. Even the Cheddar was packaged pre-grated. While he was thankful he had a blood option for dining he worried that the girls would hurt his sweet pet's feelings when they saw just what he was serving. Xander put the glass jar of gravy into heat with Spike's blood and then dashed out to see the girls to their seats. After the bag of salad, Xander served the pies with the flare of a showman. He pointedly offered each of the girls gravy, having made a special trip to the resale shop that day when he decided he shouldn't just dump it in a bowl. Red, of course, made a great fuss over the hot, home cooked meal. Not only did she dig in but she asked for seconds.

Blondie then shocked Spike by addressing him, "Did you help?"

"I beg your pardon?" Spike asked.

"With the authentic English cuisine. This is good." She sounded sincere. Spike blinked at her. He looked at Red. She looked back, expecting an answer. He looked at Xander.

Xander beamed at him and said, "He gave moral support."

"Xander." Spike didn't want to squash his pet's enthusiasm but was having nothing to do with this meal. "Shepherd's pie is a stew."

"Then why is it called pie?" Red asked. Blondie helped herself to another slice. It looked like Xander was going to need both pies. This was unbelievable. And six hours of Hugh Grant... Spike was in hell.

After they had cleared the table, Xander whipped the peach shnapps he had had Spike procure the night before into a milkshake for the girls. Spike refilled the whiskey he had been downing since he saw what the movies titles were. Xander opted for a beer and in a nod to the formal occasion used a glass. As Willow and Xander loaded the dishwasher, Spike eavesdropped until he discerned the conversation was about Dawn and what to do about the
Summers' house. He turned his attention back to the witch sitting across the table from him. She frowned while consulting a book. Then Tara handed Spike a deck of cards, what there was of it. The cards where huge, about five by
nine inches and there were only a few, maybe twenty or so.

"What do you want me to do?" He asked.

"Just shuffle, and think about you and Xander," she said, then blushed.

"Not sure I want to know the future." Spike surprised himself by the confession to the quiet blond. "Got a lot to lose."

"This is just a way to get insight, don't think of it as prophesy.think of it as a tool for contemplation."

"You do know I'm a demon, right?" He was already uncomfortable by how much she did see.

"Yeah, I know. Remember, I'm the one who spent most of my life thinking I was too. Sometimes you have to look past all the labels we put on ourselves and just decide who we are and what we want. That's what the cards do." She
looked down at his hands, then met his eyes, " don't have to do this. I can practice on someone else." Spike thought that little speech might have been the most he had heard Willow's girlfriend say at one time to anyone
except Willow.

"No, pet, just tell me what to do."

"I'll point where you put them, you deal out four cards. This is you, this is Xander, this is your relationship, this is the future." She indicated three spots side by side on the table, and one centered above them.

Xander and Willow came in from the kitchen. Willow sat next to Tara. The movies apparently forgotten, she eyed the cards with interest. Xander circled around to Spike's side of the table but hung back and asked, "Is this private? We can..."

Spike snagged the boy around the waist and pulled him into his lap in a lightning-quick move and said, "She's reading us."

Willow giggled, "Which one is Spike?"

"One of these is Spike?" Xander perked up and turned his attention to the cards. "Tell me it's not the pregnant lady. Youah, you can't.I know there's a lot of freaky vampire shit I don't understand.but you"

"Stop sputtering whelp. That's me." Spike pointed to the card Tara had told him was him.

"Spike's an angel?" Willow squeaked.

"An angel with black wings, yeah, I can see that." Xander kissed him and tightened his grip on the arms that held him.

"This is Temperance, she's a symbol of dynamic change. She blends both animal and human attributes." Tara said after checking her book.

Xander twisted in his arms and poked Spike with his index finger. "She nailed you." Spike mock growled and morphed to his demon face to nuzzle the boy's neck with his fangs.

Tara cleared her throat and continued with a shy smile. "What she says about you is that you are aware that you don't have all the answers and you are willing to seek them through others. You are drawn to groups and desire
interaction and the establishment of ties."

"Which one's Xander?" Willow nudged her girlfriend, and nodded at the cards.

"The Sun." Tara pointed to the card in question.

"Told you you taste like sunlight, pet." Spike purred into Xander's ear.

"Tell me about me." Xander prompted the shy witch.

"You symbolize all that is glittering, great, and joyful." She smiled. "And indicate optimism and prosperity." Spike continued to purr as Xander laughed.

"It's a good card for you, Xan." Willow said.

"It says that your love has brought light to Spike's life or um...death, unlife." She blushed and added. "Since he's the one who cast the card, I mean."

"Go on, little bit, now I'm curious." Spike said and shifted back to his human visage.

"It says that Xander's quiet optimism and happy nature make him a joy to live with. It says he has a constructive approach to life and he is on course with his destiny and will follow his true path. His love is simple and infinitely strong." She shared a smile with Willow before turning back to them.

Xander was blushing and quickly diverted the attention from himself by asking "And the pregnant chick?"

"Xander," Willow teased, "there's this spell I've been wanting to try."

"Pay attention." Tara firmly admonished. Xander and Willow shared conspiratorial smiles. Spike had noticed them both making an effort recently to get the blond to assert herself. They often took her rare outbursts as personal victories.

"I'm sorry. It says she's the Empress. What does that mean?" Willow said.

"She is abundance and fertility incarnate." The blond witch winked at Xander. "In the position of the relationship card, she symbolizes long term commitment, lasting love and enduring pleasure." Spike purred loudly and squeezed his lover. "Harmony, " Tara continued. Xander snickered, and Willow tried to kick him under the table but connected with Spike instead. Tara shot Xander a stern look and raised an eyebrow. " Of mind, body and spirit prevail. You complement each other and your physical relationship is absorbing."

"And the future?" Spike eyed the last remaining card with reluctance - it looked foreboding.

"That's an odd one." Xander picked up the card and traced the picture with his finger. "Who is she?"

"Hecate. This book says she's the goddess of death, but she's much more." Tara said.

"Isn't she the one who turned Amy into the rat?" Xander asked Willow.

"The Moon isn't a bad card." Willow looked to Tara for confirmation. "I've done a lot of reading on Hecate, to help Amy. She is unusual, but not evil."

"No." Tara added quietly. "The Moon symbolizes uncertain forces, visions and the flux of life and death. In this position it emphasizes enhanced imagination and intuition - new approaches and ideas. It seems to say that
uncertainty will come, but don't panic ultimately you will benefit."

* * * * *

Spike noticed that like soldiers the Scoobies tended to rest when they could. They spent so much time scrambling to save the world that inevitably on their rare quiet evenings they fell asleep. This time it wasn't just Xander who couldn't keep his eyes open. Red was spooned against Tara and both were sound asleep on the couch. When they had moved from the table to the living room area, Xander had sat in front of the couch and patted the spot of floor between his spread legs. Which was how Spike ended up propped comfortably back against the chest of the sleeping boy, wrapped in his warm arms and the only one awake to suffer through 'Notting Hill'.

Upon hearing first one then three rhythmic sounds of breathing, Spike began to plot a way to avoid watching the movie. He stealthily extricated himself from the boy's embrace and scooped up his tall lover, moving slowly to prevent his waking. Once in the bedroom, Xander groggily drifted awake and blinked in confusion. Realization of Spike's vampire strength swept across his expressive face and he cuddled back into his broken sleep. Spike lay him on the bed and went back to the living room to shut off the telly and cover the witches with a decorative throw. He returned to Xander and with little effort removed his clothing and picked the sheet up off the floor to cover the boy. While shaking the sheet free of wrinkles and carpet lint, Spike drank in the sight of his sleeping lover. Xander's dark hair was tousled and his lashes swept across his tanned face. The boy lay lax and looked like a work of art. His cock nestled against one well-muscled thigh, emerging from a thick patch of dark curls. His stomach was flat and Spike could discern the faint six pack of his abdominal muscles - not the cut look of a gym addict but sinew earned by hard labor and frequent physical activity. *Tonight, if I may guess, thy beauty wears a smile of such delight as brilliant and as bright as when with ravished aching vassal eyes lost in a soft amaze I gaze, I gaze![1]*


It wasn't yet ten thirty. Time was he would have been just starting to look for trouble at this time of night. He was spending too much time with humans. He considered going out, hunting a bit, but Xander tossed in his sleep and for the third time in as many hours presented Spike with his ass, this time unhampered by the black denim. Decision made, Spike skinned out of his clothes and tossed them with abandon. He slid into bed, pulling Xander close, and was rewarded by the boy wrapping him in his warmth. Spike lay inches from his lover's face, each breath bathing him in warmth and scent.

This wasn't the first time he had forgone a hunt to hold vigil over his sleeping boy. Each time, he was torn between knowing that eventually, a rival would come to town and if he were not alert the newcomer would have him at a disadvantage, and the knowledge that because of that inevitability that time with Xander was fleeting and he should grab any opportunity while he could. He wondered if what he had said in the shower, about wanting to claim Xander, mark him so all would know he belonged to Spike, was enough. It was important that the boy not think that he was second choice. Not to diminish his feelings for the late Slayer, but what he felt for Buffy could not be compared to this. He had loved her, but it was unrequited. Unrequited love was like a seed never planted. This struggling sapling that he and the boy nurtured between them was far more precious.

Again, Xander had taken the lead. When he had first stammered out his concerns for and admitted the pain caused by his ex, Spike had been too absorbed in what the boy had been feeling to process his own reaction. Xander admitted that he had hoped to marry the silly demon bint and was still worried about her. He knew what Xander had shared with Anya had been real and grounded in the human world. Xander still tended the love that had grown between him and the ex-demon, but as always, when only one person cared for it, the love mutated. Instead of becoming bitterness or obsession that Spike had seen most often in the past, it had become the nurturing concern Xander offered all his friends tempered by both pain and insight.

* * * * *

Due to his weekday hours, Xander, much to his own mortification, had started to wake early even on weekends. Spike sensed the change in his breathing immediately, just as the intricate dance of the boy's fingers along the cool flesh of Spike's stomach became knowing and started to drift down. Spike stretched, luxuriating in his mate's warmth, then turned, pulling Xander close against his morning erection. A radiant smile spread across the boy's face as his hips bucked forward into the contact.

"Spike." Xander packed a wealth of emotion and meaning into the single word. Spike kissed him long and slow, thrusting into the touch of their cocks.

"Sunlight. You taste like sunlight, and laughter pet. Glittering, great, and glorious."

Xander blinked and asked with bubbling laughter, "I light up your life?"

Spike nodded, showing a trace of suspicion.

"Spike?" The boy batted his lashes and tried to stop giggling. "Am I the wind beneath your wings?"

Spike pounced with a growl and pinned Xander underneath him. He couldn't maintain a straight face even in his demon visage, so he buried his face against the boy's stomach. Spike reveled in the feel of the boy's body shaking with silent laughter. Xander wrapped him in a warm embrace and pulled him up to feather kisses across his ridged brow. He then dropped down to slip his tongue in and deliberately cut it on Spike's fangs. It no longer even set the chip off it had become such a regular occurrence. It was almost part of their morning routine to blend blood in each other's mouths. Spike bit his own tongue and Xander swept his mouth with long deep licks even as Spike morphed back to his human face. Spike renewed his efforts to grind against his lover. Xander broke the kiss and rolled on top of him. Looking down with mirth-filled eyes, he was youth incarnate. Tara really had been right - the boy was joy personified, his love was simple and infinity strong.

Xander appeared to have had enough of Spike's rapt attention and swooped down for another kiss. Spike reached for the lube, groping blindly through the drawer of the bedside stand, not willing to break the kiss. Once found he lifted them both to a kneeling position, taking shameless advantage of Xander's gasp of surprise to plunder the boy's mouth once again. Before Xander could question the sudden change in position Spike slapped the tube into his hand and turned to grip the headboard. Immediately in tune with his lover's demand, Xander set about thoroughly preparing Spike. Ignoring the vampire's growls of impatience the boy lovingly coated and slowly stretched his mate's entrance. Spike had been a virgin when he died, and thanks to vampiric healing would remain that way until he was dust. Though he had told Xander that he needn't be so careful, Spike was touched by his lover's tenderness. In life and in death no one had shown such attention to his feelings. While he took his time preparing Spike, Xander teased him with caresses and gentle pinches and bites. Just before he moved into position, Xander leaned forward, spreading warmth across Spike's back, and stole a kiss.

In a stunning example of his inability to communicate and think about sex Xander asked, "Good? Now? Yes?" Not the most eloquent of lovers, the boy was most often reduced to incoherent grunts, moans and whimpers in the middle of sex. Xander had been making a concentrated effort to overcome this disability, but privately Spike hoped he didn't succeed. He was rather fond of his boy's delicious babble; no matter how little sense he made Xander's comments always came from his heart.

"Ready, love." Spike thrust back on the moving fingers and steadied himself as Xander replaced his slick fingers with his equally slippery cock. With infinite slowness Xander entered his body. Spike reveled in the feel of his lover's heat impaling him and spreading out through his body. Once fully seated inside Xander stopped, stroked Spike's sides, carded his hair and murmured nonsense in his ear. Xander's pulse throbbed from the center of Spike's being, making him feel almost alive himself. For one brief moment it felt as if they were one person, then the boy moved. Slowly back, slowly forward, it was hardly more than a rocking of his hips. Xander eased Spike into the sensation of movement. Gradually, he increased the length of his thrusts and the speed of the rhythm. Xander held onto Spike's hip with one hand and snaked the other around to tease at Spike's heavy cock. He began to pump Spike's erection in time with his thrusts, and Spike lifted his head back and his purr became loud and feral. Eventually, Spike felt Xander's rhythm slip and knew he was about to come.

"Xander!" he hissed, needing more. Xander, in another display of his ability to read Spike's mind, leaned into his orgasm and bit hard into the muscle along Spike's collarbone. Spike came with a howl. Xander pulled him back into his lap as he slowly softened and slipped out. Xander licked at the bite and watched fascination as the blood slowed and began to stop before his very eyes. Spike had turned his head to watch Xander and grasped both hands around the warm arms, which embraced him. *Watching makes my heart beat fast because, seeing little, I imagine much*

Xander seemed to sense his attention and looked over with a grin. "No work today." He whispered suggestively. "We can stay in bed all day."

Spike snorted and couldn't resist saying, "You do remember Red and her snuggle bunny are on the couch, don't you?"

Staggered, Xander sputtered. "Willow! I had sex with Willow in the next room? Loud sex! I am so gonna burn." He buried his face in Spike's neck and mumbled. "You're evil."

There was a tentative knock on the door and as Spike called out, "Come in." Spike shifted to his human face and Xander frantically scrambled to cover the best parts of both of them with the rumpled sheet. Willow stuck her head
in the room.

Blushing, she tried to look anywhere but at the bed. "Xan, we didn't want to leave without saying goodbye and thank you for the home cooking. Sorry we crashed like that, it's been a long week" She had been unsuccessful at avoiding the sight of the sweaty, sticky, naked men, and froze with her mouth open. A look of anger crossed her face and she walked into the room and over to the bed. "Spike? My God! Are you? Xander, you bit him!" Whack. She slapped Xander's bare shoulder, sounding loud but obviously not really hard. Spike growled but maintained his human visage. "Oh?" Willow said and looked baffled.

"Ah...Just kinky sex, Will." Xander volunteered and Spike felt the heat of a blush spread across the boy's body. And, although Spike hadn't believed it was possible, she turned redder.

"Oh? Oh! Well thanks for dinner it was great. And thanks for tucking us in. I'll call you." Willow backed out in full babble mode.

"It didn't cross your mind to even mention that they were here, did it?" Xander hissed.

"Oh, it crossed my mind." Spike purred and leered at his mate.

"You're evil."

*But of course.*


part seven
1. John Keats 'To Fanny'
2. Sappho

*'The Lovers' Tarot' by Jane Lyle .


part eight

The call from LA came when they were all at the magic shop. It sent them into serious research mode. Spike thought about pointing out that if large green demons with moldy faces existed, he would know about it. But all his time with Dru had taught him that visions were tricky things, so he kept quiet. He wondered if the prom queen would accompany the Poof in this unasked-for visit. It might be interesting to see how Xander and his other ex reacted to each other, or at least amusing. Xander, at the moment, was idly flipping through a book written in a language which had died over a millennium before his birth. He had started to get that desperate 'there must be something I can paint, or move, or refinish' look. When their eyes met, Spike inclined his head toward the back of the store, then casually headed to the kitchen. Moments later, after he not-so-subtly asked if he could get anyone a soft drink, Xander followed.

Spike tracked the boy's progress by sound. Facing the counter, Spike was aware the instant the boy entered the small kitchen and soon felt Xander's hands slide around his waist. Spike turned toward him, not even having made the pretense of heating blood - that wasn't what he was hungry for. Xander kissed him and pushed him back against the kitchen counter. The kiss heated up when their groins made contact through two layers of denim and one pair of boxers. The underwear hadn't been his fault. Although it had been amusing, both the sight of the boy in his petal pink bloomers and the 'only in Sunnydale' idea of a laundry demon. With both hands full of Xander's tight, young ass and his senses swimming in the boy's arousal, Spike was surprised along with him when Dawn popped her head around the corner.

"I thought it might be quicker if I got the drinks." She giggled at catching them unaware. "You," she continued, indicating both of them, "might want to make coffee. Willow says its going to be a long night and no one will drink

Spike had released Xander immediately upon her appearance. Xander, on the other hand, had tightened his hold and had pointedly not stepped away, though he had blushed and had to try twice before he stammered out, "No problem. Think this calls for a food run?"

"Pizza?" Dawn asked, as she pulled cans of soda out of the fridge.

"Tacos?" Xander countered with an item that didn't deliver.

*If he thinks he is escaping into the sun, and leaving me here to research with the girls.* "Chinese." Spike interjected, knowing that they were in the delivery area of three Chinese restaurants.

"You don't eat, " Xander and Dawn said in unison.

Dawn laughed, "That's twice in one night Xan, you must be on everyone's wavelengths."

"I eat. Don't have to, but it's variety. Order me some sesame beef, Pet, and make sure the tossers don't put in any garlic." Spike purred in Xander's ear. He refused to be outdone by a twenty-year-old. If Xander wasn't going to let Dawn's presence make him self-conscious about their physical relationship, he would just get over his 'Victorian' inhibitions. After all, he was evil.

"Ooooh, I want dumplings." Dawn bounced, cocked her head and asked, "Do you want me to get everyone else's order?"

"Sure, I'll call it in." Xander grinned indulgently. Dawn darted back to the others, on a mission.

"Sesame beef?" The boy's grin became slightly evil as he bumped his forehead lightly against Spike's. "You're gonna dip that in blood, aren't you?"

*Well, of course. I'm evil. Not like I need to eat, it's mostly for entertainment purposes.* Instead of answering, Spike decided to take advantage of Dawn's absence and began to nibble on Xander's bottom lip.

* * * * *

Angel and his minions arrived in a little over two hours. The Poof was as large as ever and twice as gelled. Spike thought it was a good thing that the nancy boy didn't have a reflection anymore, otherwise they would never get him out from in front of a mirror. He entered the shop flanked by his minions, with a dark coat billowing around him. *It's ninety-five fucking degrees with the humidity so thick you can slice it and spread it and he thinks that what? Makes him look human? Blends in? Asshole.* Xander was halfway through greeting his ex when his scent plummeted into a panic, and his heart rate raced. Spike almost let out a growl at the girl, before he realize that the only thing wrong was that Xander's babble had backed him into a social faux pas. Angel hadn't missed Xander's reaction, by the way his nostrils flared.

Spike was not at all comfortable with the way the Poof was eyeing what was his. He wondered if soul-boy was having a similar fight or flight moment or if the reason Angel was sizing him up was purely based on past experience. Their minions socialized and seemed unaware that the predators in the room had yet to decide if they were going to kill each other, let alone if they could work together.

The Watchers went off to the office and the witches, after asking a few polite questions, went off to the storage room. Xander gave both Angel and Spike an appraising look and seemed to leave Dawn to baby-sit, before leading the remaining minions on a tour of the facilities. Since they had been tied up with a case, none of the LA crew had returned for the service. Spike knew that Angel had been a frequent visitor at Buffy's grave, since little happened in Sunnydale at night of which he was not aware. But this was the first time either group had met face to face since they had lost the Slayer.

Angel awkwardly approached Dawn, and offered condolences over both the loss of Buffy and Joyce. As he loomed over her with his hands shoved in the pockets of the needless trench coat he made what Spike found to be an uncomfortable picture. Souled or not, Spike knew just how dangerous what was standing over his Nibblet was. He felt himself morph to gameface and tightened his grip on the metal banister of the staircase to prevent him from launching himself at the wanker. When the growl escaped him Dawn ignored it, being quite used to how overprotective he could be, but Angel seemed to think he was out of line. *Again? What a surprise.*

"Problem, Spike?" Angel now regarded him, but hadn't retreated from his spot
next to the girl.

In retrospect, Spike might concede that the Poof couldn't help looking like Angelus, and that the smirk he normally wore whenever addressing Spike was reflexive, but then Spike growled, "Back off you tosser, you're practically on top of her!"

Which turned out to be the most congenial of the exchanges which rapidly increased in volume and degenerated in vocabulary. Before the others could interrupt they took their disagreement outside. After killing a dumpster and taking a few chunks out of a building, Spike found himself pressed face first into the wall across from the shop's back entrance. *Now this is more like the family reunions I remember.*

"This stops now." Xander never had sounded that angry, not with him. Angel, lacking the ability to read Xander's tone, had no idea just how deep the shit was that they were in, otherwise he wouldn't have told Xander to go back inside. Spike took the brief second provided by Angel's distraction to give the Poof the opportunity to kiss the wall, but Xander's scent prevented him from taking advantage of the situation.

Xander had a tight grip on a rage that Spike feared would spill out at any moment. His voice was oddly calm when he laid a hot hand on Spike's arm and asked him to go inside. Spike was so relieved that, judging by the touch, Xander wasn't angry with him that he froze. Xander added, quietly and with equal calm, "Dawn is really upset." So he did, go inside that is. One minute he had been ready to rend something he saw as a threat to his mate and his minions and the next he had had an unbelievable pang of sympathy for Angel. Xander was pissed, apparently at Angel. *Glad it's not at me.*

When he entered through the back door into the practice room, Dawn threw herself into his arms. Angel's minions stood open-mouthed as she cooed at and petted him. He was worried until he discovered that all that was the
matter was she had been worried about him. *Odd that.* He knew he hadn't been in any danger. His unlife was more in jeopardy from one of Willow's experimental spells than from anything Angel might do to him, especially when the soul was attached. He hauled her out to the research table and pulled her into his lap and with teasing words set about quieting her fears.

When Xander and Angel didn't immediately follow them, he began to worry about just what was going on out in the alley. It was strange to see Xander angry. Spike wasn't sure, as he quickly reviewed his memories of the boy, if he could recall ever seeing that white-hot rage even before they were lovers. Spike had spent quite a bit of time purposely irritating the boy and even after the whole betrayal with Adam, Xander had never sounded more than annoyed or exasperated. Anger, real anger, just didn't seem to be in tune with his sunny disposition. At times Spike had scented unbelievable grief, deep fear, and a wealth of happy loving emotions, but the scent his lover had emitted in the ally was new. It seemed only the magnificent poof was capable of inspiring such intensity of feeling in his Xander.

While he stroked Dawn's hair, Spike watched for the two of them. Angel came in from the back room only a moment after Xander. Spike wondered if he was jealous of the past that Xander shared with his Sire. Granted, it had all been bad, but it was time Angel had with Xander the he would never be able to erase. He was less than pleased by the way Angel was watching his Xander; he was paying far too much attention to him for Spike's comfort. Hate and love were often the flip sides of the same coin. Intense love could often turn to equally intense hate. Spike had seen quite a bit of that - it was one of Angelus' favorite games. *So what does this tosser think he knows, hum? He can't have my boy. He tries any of his tricks, he's dust.*

Dawn seemed to notice Spike watching Angel and Angel watching Xander, and she shivered in her spot on his lap. After a moment she whispered to him, "You know the sooner we slay, the sooner they leave." Spike nodded, but kept
a wary eye on Angel and his minions.

* * * * *

Spike was relieved when Xander stepped down from his battle of wills with Rupert and took Dawn out of potential danger. When they had decided to give Red's plan for gathering more information a go he had a flashback on just
how successful her 'will be done' spell had been. Not that ending up with a lapful of amorous Slayer was such a bad memory - no matter how many times Xander teased him about the 'Wind Beneath My Wings' incident - but all his
instincts said to keep Dawn far away from any untried spells.

The first part of the evening wasn't too exciting. It involved Rupert producing a detailed map of Sunnydale and the surrounding area. Tara spread it on the research table, chanting over the fist-sized crystals that she used to ring its edges. Willow's voice was a soft descant to Tara's chant, and she dowsed with a sky-blue piece of agate hung on a silver chain. Once both witches were in agreement that the spot to perform their as yet untested spell was Lainer's Bluff, they packed up the huge scrying bowl and various magical ingredients, along with the book in which Willow had discovered the spell. Angel and his minions piled into his car while Spike and the witches rode in Giles' convertible.

Once at the bluff they parked the cars and headed up to the moonlit cliff. While the witches walked the area to chose the best spot to attempt the summoning, Wesley and Giles compiled a list of questions. If it worked, the trick would not be getting information, but getting the right information. Willow had proposed summoning air elementals called sprites. Any elemental was dangerous. The fact that this particular elemental was a well-known gossip and privy to all sorts of useless and useful information did not mean they were incapable of doing harm. Spike had crossed paths with any number of supernatural creatures over the course of his unlife; that was what accounted for his impressive knowledge of languages and cultural nuances. He had never come across sprites, though. It might have something to do with them not liking vampires. *Now, should I mention that to the Poof? No.* It wasn't just the usual bad karma associated with vampires and their blood lust; apparently the little critters took the whole not breathing thing as
an insult.

The witches picked a flat open space about thirty feet from the lone gnarled tree that fought for purchase on the windswept bluff. They filled the bowl with bottled water and the girls took turns adding the ingredients. Spike
cautiously stepped back to keep his minions in view and lit a cigarette, sucking in deep and exhaling a cloud of smoke. Slowly, their soft feminine voices were joined by first one and then many whispers and giggles. The voices were of indeterminate gender and had no fixed direction from which they originated. Small, glowing blue lights emerged from the moonlight and swirled around the witches and then spread out to dip and bob around the rest of the group. The ones who swooped near Angel darkened and their giggles became scolding chatters. Spike exhaled a billowing cloud of smoke as the critters approached him and those sprites wheeled away to join in chastising Angel. The sprites hovering near Cordelia brightened and made a trilling sound. The noise seemed to summon the others and soon the whole glittering cloud was swarming around the seer.

Since the leggy brunette had their attention, Giles handed the girl the list of questions he and Wesley had compiled. The questions were specific and the whole mass of tiny elementals answered yes or no in unison. Things were going swimmingly until, in exasperation, Cordelia asked a question not on the list. The sprites formed a whirlwind of light and sound. They took off in a million different directions and returned at random, each trying to convey a separate message. As the sprites all homed in on the girl she crouched down and covered her head, squealing in frustration at her inability to understand them. Angel came to her rescue, lifting her up into his arms. This, while not acting as sprite repellent, did slow their swooping and lower the excited volume of their chatter.

"Spike, this isn't going as I planned." Willow tugged on his arm and pulled him back away from the swirling mob. Tara looked frightened and stood near Giles and Wesley.

"Does it ever?" Spike snorted and was instantly contrite when he saw tears form and her lip quiver. He pulled the little witch under his arm and added, "It's not going that badly. You got some of your questions answered."

"But they told us about that thing, the one that would help stop the Hellmouth from opening or could be what is going to be used to open it. That doesn't do any good if we don't know which it is or what it is or where it's
at." While she babbled, Tara carefully skirted the storm of sprites that surrounded Angel and Cordelia. They had now been joined by Gunn, as he shielded Cordelia's other side from her chattering friends.

Tara took Willow's hand and said, "This isn't getting us anywhere. Do you understand what they're saying?" She directed the question to Spike and looked at him with hopeful eyes.

"You understand what they're saying, we all do." Spike sighed needlessly. "Trouble is, you can't get just one of them to talk. This sounds like a New York metro terminal during rush hour."

"If we could have only got one more question asked. If we knew the location of this .thing, maybe we could find out the rest in research." Willow said, still looking about to cry. The fact the she hadn't shaken off his arm clued Spike in more than the way she tightly clutched at Tara's hand.

"Well, the conversation is over, but we can still see them. Go on, Red, ask them to show you where this thing is." Spike gently propelled the witches toward the cloud of sprites. Oddly enough, it worked. Not the first time, when Willow asked, but once Cordelia caught on and voiced the question, the creatures responded.

As before, they began to leave and return but this time it was not at random. The mass of sprites swooped first in one direction then the other. They swirled back and forth until even Spike was regretting the recent solid food he had consumed. When Cordelia took a tentative step in the direction which they were undulating in, they broke into ecstatic chitters and swirled faster. The sprites led them to the single tree and after pulsing up and down above the ground and showing signs of their returning frustration, Gunn suggested that they dig. Not having come equipped for this contingency, it was up to the vampires to move the soil by hand. As they peeled back the covering sod the sprites burst in to a glittering display of light and sound. Gunn had interpreted the movement correctly. Once the object - a grapefruit sized sphere of indeterminate origins - was revealed, a sigh passed through both the sprites and the living members of the supplicants.

Giles recommend not asking any more questions, as, if they did not luck into a solution a second time, they may not have to worry about the Hellmouth, having been destroyed by angry elemental. Tara emptied the bowl of water and
herbs into the hole and Spike helped her refill the hole with dirt. The spell had been hacked together by Willow from three others and the herbs assembled on short notice when they stopped at a supermarket on the way to the bluff. From the offerings she had picked up there, Willow now scattered rice, pistachios and endive over where the hole had been and Tara gave Cordy a bag of brightly colored feathers to give to her new friends when she said thank you.

They headed back to the store and the Watchers immediately set about trying to find out what the sphere was and what it did. Willow answered the store's phone, which had been ringing when they entered. Spike heard her reassuring Dawn that no, there had not been a disaster; yes, they had got some information; yes, they were all fine; and no, Angel and Spike had not dusted each other. Spike waited only to hear that the girl was safely ensconced at a neighbor's, with whom she was spending the night, and that Xander had opted to fill the time with one of his ongoing projects at the Summers' house.

He immediately set out, leaving by the back door. He wanted to fill Xander in, letting him know that the dangerous part of the evening was probably over and that he could come join the others since Dawn was safe. It had never taken him long to travel from the shop to the Summers' house. When he traveled alone, unlike when he had Dawn with him, he could make the trip in a matter of minutes. It was quicker on foot, owing to the fact that he rarely used the streets. Like when he hunted, Spike's route gave little thought to the established boundaries of personal property and often took him across roofs, through trees, sewers and back yards.

Spike strolled into the back yard of the Summer's house, noting the light spilling from the kitchen windows. He had lost count of the number of nights he had stopped by that back door and Joyce home alone, with the girls out living lives of their own, had invited him in for a mug of hot chocolate. In the process of sharing her day with him she often asked the questions it had never occurred to the children to ask. Not just how he was doing physically but if he still had heard from any friends he had when he and Dru were together and whether he was 'socializing', as she had so discreetly put it. He knew she read a lot of her own relationship with her ex into him and Dru, but he never tried to set her straight. He wasn't sure he could have made her understand how he was less lonely after they had split. He didn't have the words to show what it had been like when they had been together, how he had spent all his time trying to connect with someone who so seldom seemed aware that he was any more than a large male version of Miss Edith. No, he definitely was not ready to visit Joyce's kitchen.

He circled around to the front of the house. The front porch light shone, just like it always had when Joyce was waiting for Buffy to come home from patrol. His boy had done some work on the front walk though and the crooked
flagstone had been relayed and was level with the rest. Xander stopped by the house a couple times a week, usually sometime after work but before they either patrolled or went home for the evening. Never less than an hour but
never more than three. His visits were supposed to be getting the house ready to sell. Spike suspected he was delaying but didn't mention it the way Willow did. He figured Xander had his own happy memories of this house,
which he was just as reluctant to part with. The front door held its own significance to Spike and he paused before it. He remembered that night, standing there in the doorway, content to wait outside just relieved that Buffy trusted him enough to let him accompany her that far. He had seen her start up the stairs and then turn to him. How often had he played those few earth shattering words "you can come in Spike."? What had she been thinking? He longed to ask her and wished there had been time that night. Did she think it didn't matter because the world would end? Had she realized his sincerity? Had she thought about it at all? It was entirely possible that the single most important event in his life, until that moment, had meant nothing at all to her. He shook off that line of thinking, wondering how long he had stood wool gathering on the porch. Steeling himself, he opened the front door and stepped resolutely across the threshold.


part nine

Spike entered the quiet house for the first time since Buffy had invited him in the night she had died. He heard Xander's breathing and smelled his lover's grief and sorrow, thick in the air. There were no noticeable changes
to the entry hall, despite the boy's frequent trips. Spike had avoided coming here, not wanting Xander or Dawn to see him break down. He flashed on when Buffy had introduced him to Joyce that first time on the front step. Joyce hadn't remembered braining him on parent/teacher night. Ever the gracious hostess, Joyce had tried to make awkward small talk while assimilating the news of Buffy's destiny. How many secrets had Joyce let slip during their kitchen klatches? Stories about Buffy and Dawn as girls and later on as they got older, when they would wait for a promised phone call from their father, which never came. *What kind of man could have just written the three of them out of his life?*

A single step forward brought Xander into sight. Through the archway that separated the foyer from the
living room he watched a moment as the boy contemplated a small framed photograph. He wondered what memories were visiting his pet and hoped they were happy ones. He owed so much to this fragile mortal. Daily Spike marveled at how much he had as a result of Xander's love, and shuddered at the thought of how much he now could lose. *Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend Before we too into Dust descend; Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie; Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and ? sans End![1]*

Xander reverently placed the photo back onto the end table and turned toward Spike, his brow still furrowed. Spike was at a loss when dealing with Xander's pain or sorrow. It made him want to rend the cause limb from limb.
Before he could growl in frustration, Spike was mesmerized by the soft smile that the sight of him brought to Xander's face. More and more he noticed that his mere presence seemed to at once calm and excite the boy. Just being with him seemed to make Xander more confident and happier. It was a new experience for Spike. The boy didn't seem to care if they argued or fucked - well, he seemed to enjoy fucking more - but somehow was content either way.
This was so new, so refreshing, and a bit unnerving to have someone so in tune with his emotions. Humans as mates were rare among vampires, but not unheard of.

Spike wished he were better informed. He knew that the life expectancy among them was short, but that was due to the lifestyle. They had to contend with the master's rivals and any jealous childer he may have. He had heard rumors they could bond much like a mated pair of vampires. The one time he and Angelus had talked of the subject had been when the older vampire had been referring to a pair in legend. Angelus had told of a vampire known only as Cain who had had a human mate called Lilith. Angelus had speculated that they had chosen those names to make themselves seem older than they were. Yet according to Darla, when the two had ruled none could remember either
who Cain's Master had been nor a time when he and Lilith had not been together. Though they had allegedly been brought down at the turn of the last millenium, for several hundred years they had held a vast hunting ground, covering much of Eastern Europe. At the time, what had intrigued Spike had been the hints that this Cain was somehow stronger and had developed a resilience to holy objects from the pairing.

Angelus had been set on warning him of the dangers, much like he tried to make a boogieman out of the Slayer. Spike, true to form, had found the idea of flaunting tradition fascinating and had asked why all vampires didn't take humans as pets, if there was something they were good for besides food. All Angelus had told him was that the vampire would have no control of that human and would be at their mercy, that it was far too dangerous to treat lightly, and that the risks far outweighed any supposed advantages. What now caught his interest about that story was the reference to them being together for centuries. He wouldn't mind that, having a few centuries with his Xander.


They had become so close, so quickly. Spike often wondered if there was something supernatural about Xander's ability to sense his moods or if it were just the boy's perceptive nature. Xander was so open, so readable, Spike wondered if he would know if he had some sort of connection to the boy, more than the obvious. Spike knew Xander loved him. From observing the attention and tenderness that the boy bestowed upon the members of his 'pack', Spike also knew exactly what that love meant. Even after their conversation in the shower, what Spike did not know was if Xander understood what he meant by 'claiming' him. Spike was sure what he wanted but wasn't sure what the results would be. Darla had hinted at secret rituals, mostly in her intention to take Angelus as a mate before he got souled up. Spike couldn't be sure she wasn't making it up - the cow would have used anything to keep her childe wrapped, including blatant lies. Dru, dear useless Dru, hadn't even been able to keep the Sire/Child relationship straight. Hence Spike had the unique curse of two Sires; his dark princess who had turned him, and the bleeding Irish bastard who had beaten what little sense he had into him.

Xander's soft smile transformed. With every thought written plainly on his face, he looked adorably confused. The boy knew Spike had not been to the house since Buffy had died and was clearly trying to figure who had invited Spike in. That look was replaced to the one Xander called 'the wiggins' when Spike told him that Buffy had issued the invite.

"Not now, you moron." *Why do I do that? He underrates himself as it is, I'm just confirming that belief.* Spike lost track of the conversation as Xander's eyes sparkled with mischief and he teasingly pulled Spike into his arms. They maneuvered their way to the couch and Spike pinned his naughty pet against it, wondering how long he could keep him distracted and if there were time for a quick shag before they headed back to the shop. He held Xander's squirming body under him, tormenting him and reveling in the frustration.

When Xander breathed in that lust-filled whisper, "Punish me," Spike nearly lost control. *Bloody thrice dammed chip!* This wasn't the first time he had had to modify their games to prevent a blast of pain. He could almost feel his teeth sink into his lover's corded muscles. Then Xander stopped his pleasant struggles and whispered someone else's name. Spike shifted to game face and was growling out a threat before he turned to face his stunned Sire. He couldn't think straight and was hardly aware that Xander has renewed his quest for freedom. Xander's movements now had less effort directed at arousing Spike and more on freeing his hands. If he could have formed words he would have screamed at the rival but was currently expending all his energy at preventing two all-too-likely things. First, he didn't want to launch himself at Angel; part of him realized that having knock-down-drag-out fight here was not acceptable. Second, and more important, he felt he was dangerously close to hurting Xander physically.

The same inner sanity which was telling him Angel was not going to try to take Xander here, now, in front of him, also reasoned that Xander had only spoken Angel's name because he was startled to see him here, not because he welcomed the older vampire's attention. But the fact that the two were now speaking, never mind that Spike was too far out of control to follow the conversation, was driving him further into madness.

Rather than risk hurting him, Spike released one of Xander's hands but did not take his attention from their stunned audience. Instead of pulling away, Xander reached up and with gentle strokes soothed away his blood rage. Spike
noticed that Xander did not smell at all of fear and seemed to take his reaction to Angel's presence in stride. Aware that Xander's soft shh-ing noises and caresses to his face were asking for some sort of acknowledgment, Spike still kept his attention riveted to his rival. From the look of shock on Angel's face if he had not realized Xander was Spike's before, he knew it now. Though Xander's actions had removed himself from danger, at least from Spike, the situation was still volatile. It was all Spike could do not to demand satisfaction due to Angel speaking to his mate without permission. It was Willow who unknowingly saved them all.


Red, followed by Tara, and peeked around Angel's bulk to say, "Xander? There you are." Angel remained frozen in place at the entrance to the living room, but the witches slipped easily past him. The girls crossed to the couch. It was more what they didn't do than what they did which showed such easy acceptance of Spike's place by Xander side and among their group. The young women dropped into a relaxed sprawl right beside Xander and his lap full of snarling vampire. Tara watched fondly as Willow babbled and Xander attempted to look like he knew what she was talking about. As the blinding rage faded Spike was shaken by how close he had brought them to true disaster. Angel cautiously took a seat far from Xander, being the only one in the room beside Spike to know what had nearly happened. If possible the prancing nancy boy looked even more bewildered.

Now Xander's scent was nervous. *William the Bloody in obsessive, possessive rage doesn't phase him, but Red catching him unaware of the results of her summoning sends him into a panic? Someday I'm gonna have a loooong talk with that boy. Ack, I have got to stop watching 'Nick at Nite', whoever heard of a vampire quoting The Beverly Hillbillys?* Xander obviously didn't want the witches to know he had been too horny to ask what happened at the bluff. *Rich! I can have some fun with this.*

"Yes, Pet, tell Red what you think about the Thing." He purred in his most seductive voice, knowing that it wouldn't take much to rev up Xander's engine once they had started foreplay.


The boy verbally dismissed him, while physically sending out 'I want sex' signals. Being a vampire, Spike chose to respond to the physical ones with a leering purr. Red was smart enough to catch on and her little blond blushed
and shared a shy smile with Spike. The magnificent poof hadn't taken his eyes off Xander since interrupting impending sex, but Spike was pleased to note that Xander seemed unaware. The boy vastly underestimated his own physical appeal. Dru was a perfect example of how Angelus' taste ran. Most people who saw Darla assumed he liked them small and blond, but they forgot that Darla chose him and he chose Dru. Tall, dark-haired, large brown eyes;
it was all too similar. Spike wasn't blind. He would see these two were chaperoned until the bastard was dust or out of town for good.

* * * * *

Back at the shop, the LA crew was going through the books with Rupert. Angel had reopened the mansion, so at least Spike didn't have to worry about Xander volunteering their couch to one of them. He didn't like that idea at all, especially with the Princess eyeing his Xander like he was the one that got away. He had caught that hyphenated ex-Watcher taking in an eyeful of Xander's ass when the boy had fetched some volumes from a lower shelf. Spike
was silently cursing whatever madness had possessed him to talk the boy out of his old baggy, loud clothes and start dressing Xander with more emphasis his long muscular beauty. Angel's new boy, the one who had only met Xander
that day, was currently sidling up to him with some flimsy excuse about getting his pet to point out the tunnel accesses on the town map.

It was Giles who noticed that Spike was emitting a low growl and after briefly surveying the room said, "Er...Perhaps Have you had? Spike, go get something to eat."

Xander followed him back to the kitchen and sat on the counter sipping a soft drink while Spike's blood heated. "Tired, pet?" The brown eyes did look a little red and the lids a bit heavy.

"I'm just glad tomorrow's Friday. What are the chances we'll get the weekend alone together?" Xander rolled his eyes toward the front and reached for Spike with a long leg. Spike let himself be hooked by Xander's foot to be drawn in and encircled by his legs.

After a kiss that tasted of ginger and sugar he said, "The rogue demon hunter was checking out your ass." He hadn't intended to say that. He lied as readily as breathing, well, like he had breathed when he had been alive. But when he was this close to his boy, tasting him, touching him, he spit out every thought.

"You're such a goof." Even Xander's laugh sounded tired, but he leaned forward and kissed Spike before adding. "But in a good way." He nipped Spike's bottom lip and they both forgot about the blood, and the guests, and tomorrow for a moment. When Spike finally let Xander breath the boy asked, "So, you're doing the book thing? When do you think you'll be home?"

Then the nancified sire was back, looming in the door, ogling his boy. Spike grabbed his mate off the counter and his meal from the microwave and relinquished the galley. When Angel stopped him from leaving by grabbing his arm, Spike came close to replaying the scene from earlier. This time the tosser's attention was on the food and not on Xander so Spike could be almost civil. Xander ignored Angel. If he could just keep the boy away from the Prom Queen, the night might remain bloodless. Angel paid too much attention for Spike's comfort when Xander mentioned home and gave Spike a look that said 'we'll talk'. *Something else to look forward to.*

Once the boy had left, Spike found it easier to concentrate. The Watchers assigned research based on the Prom Queen's vision of large green demons with moldy faces and any type of sphere. Spike noticed Giles watching Angel
and Angel's minions warily eyeing him. He suppressed the urge to see how high they would all jump if he growled because it would delay his getting home to his boy. They had been wading through demon lore for a few hours
when he noticed the poof not-so-subtly trying to get his attention. Spike pointedly ignored him and pretended to be absorbed by a compilation of the Watcher's prophecies.

Finally Giles cleared his throat and said, "Spike, I believe Angel would like a word with you. You may use my office. But I want it understood, I will not tolerate violence directed toward the furniture or each other."

Angel looked contrite. Spike smirked and led the way into the back. Spike sat behind the desk in Rupert's chair and propped his Docs on the corner of the desk. "What's up, Ducks? Don't tell me you still got your panties in a twist over me taking over the Slayer's minions."

"I don't know what game you're playing," Angel started, but was cut off by Spike's snort of derision.

"That song again? Didn't we dance this dance, earlier in the alley?"

"As I recall, you didn't answer." Angel looked ready to launch into a tirade.

"As I recall, I had you face-first into a wall when my pet saved your ass." Spike leveled a hard glare and stood up in a smooth, lightning-quick move.

"What the hell are you thinking? Xander Harris? You're playing with fire, Wil. Even I can see that this has gone father than you realize." Maybe it was that by now Angelus would have been bouncing his head off the floor, or
maybe it was just calling him Wil. Whatever it was, it saved the furniture.

"You're talking out of your ass you great tosser. You have no idea-" Spike shouted.

"Do you?" He interrupted in a calm, reasoning voice, which might have been why Spike listened. "Do you have any idea what you're doing? And if you don't, whose going to pay the price? Xander? Wil, you can't take him for a
consort. You will make him a target for every purist out there. I lost a good friend recently to the Scourge; if they got their hands on the human consort of a Master vampire..."

"Fuck the Scourge!" Spike growled out, seeing red at the implied threat to Xander. "They think we're mixed as it is, with the human host for our demon. Cor, Angelus! We were the Scourge - 'The Scourge of Europe', and not one of those nancified purists has our body count. When did you become such a big girl? I know they attached a soul, but did they replace your knackers with it?" Spike was nose to nose, with the taller vampire, in full game face, snarling out all his frustration at his sire and the world.

"Damn it, boy!" Angel morphed and matched Spike's baleful, yellow-eyed glare. "You never think! It's not you or me at risk here. You're not only placing Xander in danger, but everyone he holds dear. You think every demon from a fledgling on up won't want to score a hit on the human consort of 'the Slayer of Slayers'?"

"No one hurts what's mine!" Spike grabbed the lapels of the ridiculous overcoat and pulled him forward.

"You can't even protect him from another human." Angel gripped his hands and attempted to pry them off.

"Leave the fucking chip out of this! The boy isn't some delicate flower. He's survived longer on the Hellmouth than you did."

"So help me Spike, I will not let-" A hard shake cut him off and Spike growled his words.

"You won't let? Who the bloody hell do you think you are? You're an outsider here. These humans are mine!"

After a tentative knock on the door, Giles and Wesley, obviously having heard the exchange, came in. Giles removed his glasses and met neither vampire's startled eyes. " both have been rather vocal. Rather than perpetuate the illusion of your privacy, I thought it best to confess. I have more than a passing interest in this subject." He glanced at Wesley; there was some sort of wordless exchange before he continued. "Spike, I assure you nothing we say will go any further, but I must admit Angel's accusations have...I would like some reassurance regarding Angel's accusations." He held up a hand, forestalling Spike's immediate protest. "I know you would never intentionally harm Xander. But the Watchers know so little about vampire lore. Almost all references are from the human point of view. The books focus on how to kill them, not their social nuances. I admit, that while your physical involvement with Xander has been painfully obvious, unbelievably you seem to have out done Anya in the indiscretion area." That comment earned Giles a triumphant smirk from Spike and blank looks from Angel and Wesley. "I hadn't realized that there could be a more paranormal connection forming."

Spike was at a loss as to what to say. Tossing off to Angel was one thing, but Giles was a different story. Yes, a bond had formed and was strengthening by the day, but Spike had no idea what it meant, or what it would become if he and the boy continued on this course.

It was Wesley who rescued Spike from blind speculation when he ventured, "Some of the histories have speculations about mated pairs. They're extremely rare, you and Drucilla being one of the most- "

"Dru and I weren't mates." Spike spoke softly and sank into the chair nearest the door. "She turned me, but we weren't mates." He stood again, wanting to pace but the small office lacked the space so he leaned on the edge of the desk.

"Spike, you were together for over a hundred years." Giles voice held the incredulity of someone for whom that was more than a lifetime.

"She needed me. I took care of her. That's why I was made." Spike studied his hands and wished that they were not having this conversation with an audience, but then again, without the audience they both might have continued to avoid this topic.

"You were lost...distraught when you two parted." Giles said gently, as if reluctant to remind Spike of that pain, and sat next to Spike on the edge of the desk.

"You were pretty out of it when you got sacked from the Watchers," Spike said pointedly. "I was made and trained for one thing and that was gone. Just took me a little longer to find my feet."

"And Xander?" Giles asked firmly. Spike had to admire the man. Like Xander, Giles always kept his priorities straight. It was the fact that Giles had repeatedly and would continue to put Xander's safety ahead of his own which
caused Spike to reluctantly admit that this man, unlike anyone else in the room, had the right to ask these questions.

"He's mine. I'd claim him proper if not for this bloody chip." Spike answered with conviction.

"What does that mean? What...what would that do to him?" Giles asked. Angel and his Watcher were watching like this was some tennis match. After Giles asked the last question, Wesley leaned forward from where he leaned against the door. Spike shot a suspicious look at Angel. He would never be able to bluff his way through an answer with the prancing poof ready to jump in and call him on anything he made up.

"Don't know." He settled for honesty. "Reason you Watchers don't have much information on this is that it just doesn't happen that often. Our kind rarely take mates, especially among our own, because we rarely love. To love
you have to share part of yourself. We're demons." He nodded to indicate Angel as well as him. "No matter how much soul-boy would like to deny it, without the demon he would be just a decaying corpse. Demons are by nature selfish. Why do you think we create so many minions, and so few childer?"

Spike watched Giles carefully. He had seen the wheels turning behind Angel's pet Watcher's eyes, but didn't care what conclusions that poofed-up hyphenated nancy-boy drew from his little revelation. His souled Sire could pound salt, and the minion too. It was Rupert who mattered. He was whom Xander would turn to with any doubts. His acceptance of what was growing between Spike and his mate would smooth over the eventual dangers.

"Have you spoken with Xander about this?" Giles' voice was calm but his gaze was penetrating. He could have been inquiring about a library book if not for Ripper lurking there in his eyes.

"He knows as much as I know." Spike dropped all pretenses, including his guttersnipe accent. This man loved his mate like a son and had earned Spike's respect in ways that Angelus never had. "He knows what I want and he hasn't chucked me out yet." Spike finish without his upper class accent, when he realized that there might be someone left in the room who didn't know it was a complete sham. The last thing he needed was Angel's boy asking for stories of his early years to update the Watchers' records with his fledgling foibles.

Giles' quiet contemplation instilled a fear in Spike that all of Angel's ranting had failed to do. Angel ranted quite frequently. Giles had been known to face the apocalypse with an 'oh, dear.' It would have made for a study in opposites if not for the fact his future could be decided by what this quiet man decided here and now. The silence was eerie as not one of the remaining three wanted to disturb Giles rumination and they all sat or leaned awaiting his conclusion.

The time gave Spike a chance to turn over Angel's pessimistic view, where legions would come out of the woodwork hunting his Xander for sport and status. It wasn't as if Xander didn't draw enough unasked-for attention as it was. At that thought, Spike scowled at Angel's minion, remembering the heated look he had turned on his mate when Xander's back was turned. Wesley, showing a level of self preservation he certainly didn't learn from Angel, pulled back as far from Spike as the tiny room permitted. Angel stepped between Spike and his minion, and Spike could hear his teeth grinding as he exerted himself not to shift into game face.

*Oh, ho! How much energy he spends trying to pass for human. What does he tell them? That he keeps the demon that animates his corpse locked up or on a leash? Bloody hell, he has some nerve saying I'm endangering Xander. Xander has known from day one what I am and what I am capable of. It's his choice to let me into his life, and it's a far more informed choice than Angel's minions get to make if he's still deluding even himself that by having a soul he has some how gotten rid of his demon.*

Spike finally couldn't take the silence any longer. He spoke to Giles, quite conscious that Angel and his minion were considering his every word. "Xander loves me." It was the first time he had said those words to anyone but himself, and then they had been tinged with awe as he talked to his non-existent reflection. "You know that means he would be in danger, even without all the fucking demon shit. You know what he's like when he loves someone - he'd take on the devil himself to protect them." Giles nodded and a sad, rueful smile crossed his face. "He'll never be alone." Spike was
aware that he had slipped back into what Xander called his bedroom accent but no longer cared. "Anything that goes after him will have to go through me."

Angel said he wanted to talk to Xander, to make sure the boy knew just what he was getting into. Before Spike could loudly tell him that would never happen Giles suggested, with implied concern for Angel's safety, that he not try to do that alone. Spike was grateful. If he had suggested it Angel would have put it down to his possessiveness and would have insisted on seeing Xander alone. But coming from Giles, after a pointed reminder about the volatile history between Angel and Xander, Angel agreed to have Spike present. Relieved that this issue was now behind him, Spike slipped out of the shop when Angel was conveniently distracted and headed home.


Part nine

1. Rubaiyat


part ten

It was just before daybreak when Spike left for home. He didn't bother to tell Giles since it was normally assumed that if he wasn't at the shop he would be at the apartment. It took him longer than it usually did to get home as he spent extra time clouding his trail and doubling back to make sure he wasn't followed.

Home. He had had so many lairs and boltholes, but a home? Had he ever really had a home? His father's home hadn't been his. The closest he could think of was a few brief years when Darla had run off to her Sire and left Angelus with he and Dru. That had almost been like family, if you had a scary, violent family. *I'm channeling Xander. How the hell do I know if this is 'freaky vampire shit' or if I've just been spending too much time listening to his stream of thought chatter while he channel surfs through a Sunday morning? That's it. If I can change his wardrobe, I can cut down how much time he spends watching the telly.*

He entered the foyer of their building and stashed the blanket he had used to guard against the first light during his bolt from the tunnel entrance. The last thing he needed was Xander spotting it when he left for work. His mate had no problem with Spike seeking a bit of fun with numerous large, dangerous demons, but refused to see the lighter side of him taking unnecessary risk with the sun.

Stealthily Spike let himself into their apartment. When he had accepted Xander's request for his company, the boy had presented him with a key ring with the key to the door, the deadbolt and the storage locker. Xander had tried to pass the key ring off as a joke, but Spike hadn't fallen for his rampant babble. The key ring Xander had chosen for him was a three inch long pewter railroad spike, a perfect miniature of the weapon which had spawned his name. It spoke to something deep inside the vampire that Xander didn't try to deny the scope and violence of his past. The boy may not approve of Spike's history, but he respected it.

Kicking off his boots, Spike then stalked into the bedroom and crawled across the bed until he loomed over his prey. Due to the rash of brownouts, Xander had left the AC off and opted to leave the window open, but the tarp and the shutters, which he religiously secured before going to sleep each night, prevented much movement of the air. The boy sprawled over most of the bed, as if trying to present as much flesh as possible to any stray breeze. Naked, he had kicked off the single sheet with which he covered himself at night.

Spike thought about waking him and having a serious talk - let him know what to expect. Xander wouldn't like Angel meddling. The boy rarely mentioned Spike's Sire so he hadn't really thought about their history - other than that there was one - until the Watcher had brought it up. He had overheard Buffy saying Xander had been jealous of Angel, but Red had hinted to Dawn that there was more there that Buffy wouldn't understand. The sodding ponce would swoop in soon enough whispering trepidations and warnings in his boy's ear. The last thing Spike needed was to waste perfectly good shagging time brooding about Xander's reaction to the poof and Angel's sudden interest in
Xander's safety. That could wait. Given the way events unfolded around here they might all be dead tomorrow and if they were Spike wasn't spending his last morning with the boy talking about his Sire or any negative speculation.

Since the sun wouldn't be on that side of the building for hours, Spike crossed to the window and moved the tarp so it prevented the dim light from reaching the bed. Almost immediately the air began to circulate and the room seemed cooler. Spike took a moment to admire the view and decide where to start. He went back to the bed and knelt near Xander. He blew a cool breath over the smooth, almost hairless skin over the boy's sternum and moved up to
place feather-light kisses over the base of his neck. Working his way down the lax muscles of Xander's torso he licked and kissed with miniscule pressure until he reached the navel, in which he plunged his tongue. Xander began to stir, his hands reaching blindly for Spike in an attempt to pull him up to face him. Spike had another goal in mind but skimmed up his lover's body, brushing his lips up along Xander warm skin, sensing the blood which pulsed beneath it and let himself be pulled into a full deep kiss. The boy was struggling to rid Spike of his tee shirt, so Spike pulled back to skin out of both it and his jeans.

Xander, still heavy lidded with sleep and now pushing a full bottom lip out as he sulked because Spike had pulled back to undress, couldn't possibly know the wantonly precious picture he presented to his mate. Spike laughed and kissed away the pout. He started to trace his path downward again, fully intending not to be dissuaded from his goal again. Spike lightly tongued the head of Xander's erection before moving down the shaft to its base. He realized that the boy was throwing off his morning stupor when Xander spread his thighs to allow him better access. As a reward for that unasked-for assistance, Spike first sucked one testicle and then the other into his mouth. Xander, true to form, wasn't making much sense, but the babbled words brought a smile to Spike's busy mouth. He was more amused by Xander's continuing effort not to be mute during sex than by any particular blurb of thought that tripped off the boy's lips.

Xander grabbed one of Spike's hands, apparently frustrated by his inability to convey meaning by words, and slapped a tube of lube into it. Spike would have taken a moment to ponder how the boy had reached this and wonder if he had hidden it under a pillow anticipating an early morning assault, if not for the boy's rather fervent insistence that Spike fuck him now. Xander might not be up to speaking, but never let it be said that Spike's boy wasn't a born communicator. As soon as Xander had relinquished the lube to Spike he had grabbed both of his knees and lifted them up almost to his ears. Spike would have to be thick indeed not to get that message. Spike laughed with his mouth full and began quickly preparing Xander with practiced ease.

By the time he was ready to enter Xander, the boy was rather vocal in his encouragement and his request for the shagging to start. At least that was what Spike thought he was trying to say. As he pushed into Xander, wrapping
his painfully hard cock in tight blood-warm tissue, and began thrusting into his eager lover, Spike wondered if Xander's affliction was contagious. He knew words of endearment and possession were tumbling out of his mouth, but had no idea what he was saying. Spike hoped Xander was too far gone, too lost in lust and passion to take offense at his possessive terms. Spike did know he was saying 'my' and 'mine' quite a bit, and that contrary to the
last twelve hours, Xander would call him on that. Xander had some inner sense which seemed to make him very protective of Spike's pride. That was what most likely had prevented him from protesting the vampire's actions when they'd had an audience. Xander came hard against Spike. The come dripped down and soon they were both drenched in the scent of sex. Spike had watched Xander ride his orgasm and for a moment wondered if the boy had lost consciousness as his gaze unfocused and his mouth slackened. But before he could consider what the human etiquette would be regarding coming in your unconscious lover, intelligence returned to those deep brown eyes and a
sated smile brought Spike over the edge. Spike came and collapsed over Xander's body. Instantly he was wrapped in the warm arms and legs. He loved when Xander enfolded him like this. He had no breath to catch and could have
rolled off the panting boy, but was reluctant to give up this quiet, perfect moment.

All too soon Xander would be off to work. Spike knew the boy enjoyed his job. Spike stopped by the site once to scope out the competition and let them know Xander was taken. Xander seemed completely unaware that it might be unusual that the crew of workmen and the staff in the office turned to him to make the decisions. They all looked to a boy barely out of his teens to handle the day to day dilemmas of managing a million-dollar site Five years of facing the end of the world on an almost weekly basis tended to trivialize a mucked up order or a couple of workers who couldn't seem to get along. Spike had used his enhanced senses to overhear one of Xander's office girls telling another how the owner of the company marveled at Xander's ability to work under pressure. She had said that it was hard to remember how young he was. And that the reason he had his position had less to do with the boss accommodating a favored worker, than his quick and life saving handling of a fatal crisis that had occurred shortly before Buffy had died. Spike wished he could question Xander about it, without giving away that he had been checking up on him. All he had gathered from his eavesdropping was that some city workers had been performing routine maintenance on a water main under the street that ran in front of the construction when a pipe had
exploded. One man was killed instantly and another seriously burned, as it was a gas main that exploded.

The site had been in chaos as flaming chunks of human flesh had accompanied the metal and concrete shrapnel, which injured two of the construction workers who had been eating their lunches near the edge of the site. Xander
had strode into the melee shouting orders. He had sent someone to call 911 and had called for the one man on the site he knew had some first aid training from the National Guard. He organized a triage and used site material to block off the street until the fire trucks had arrived. Spike wasn't surprised that Xander's quick action had saved lives. He didn't think it was odd that adults with more experience looked to his boy for guidance; Xander was a natural leader. Xander however, had never shared this particular story with anyone, as far as Spike knew. That was unusual. Xander was a born storyteller. He loved to make his friends laugh or have Dawn sitting on the edge of her seat asking 'then what?'. Thinking about it Spike admitted to himself; Xander's stories were always about someone else. About Buffy, about the Scoobies, but they were never just about Xander, what Xander did, how Xander felt.

Spike reveled in Xander's soft, stroking touches. He put his weight on his hands and lifted himself to look into those warm loving eyes. He was surprised that the smile was sharing space with traces of tears and lifted one hand to trace the tracks. "You're a part of me." Xander said, and Spike was transported to that first empty aching morning after Buffy had died and the boy trying to explain love to the silently grieving girl. "You're in my heart." Xander caressed the side of his face, and Spike figured he had been forgiven his few overly possessive words.

Best to see if he could get forgiven in advance for the that alarm which was about to ring. "Good, because you're going to be quite cross with me, Pet." He spoke softly, trying to control any waver Xander's words might have put
in his voice.

"What did you do?" Too bad there wasn't time for a spanking. Xander sounded like he would do him proper, even if he looked like he might start laughing. *Well, since we don't have time for him to stay cross, let's see if I can make him laugh.*

"Me, Pet?" Xander had repeatedly told him that the sight of a vampire trying to look innocent was possibly the most unbelievable sight he had ever seen and began to snicker.

"Did you dust Angel?" The stern voice was belied by the fact that the bed now shook with Xander's silent laughter. The alarm clock picked that moment to go off loudly. Xander winced and reached for it with another adorable pout.

"That's why you'll be cross, luv. Bit of bad timing on my part." Spike smirked and kicked the beautiful body out of bed and rolled himself up in the Xander-scented softness. This was one of the non-shagging perks of not living in the crypt.

The rest of their apartment sported mostly Xander's dorm-room-style furniture with assorted odds and ends, including some that Spike had picked up in various mausoleums and junkyards, but the bed was a nearly new queen
size. Xander had splurged to celebrate his escape from the basement of doom. Xander, in his storyteller mode, had told him that Anya had found it listed amount the items in an estate sale. He had then proceeded to impersonate the old man he had bought it from and his reaction to Xander showing up with Buffy to help him haul it back to his apartment.

"Have a good day at work, dear." Spike said, calling Xander's attention to how comfortable he was. He was evil, after all, and it didn't harm the boy to rub in that he would be able to sleep all day.

"Not fair!" Xander knelt back on the bed and kissed his forehead. Despite the groan he had offered in response to Spike's words, his eyes were still lingering on the blonde's naked body and Spike considered how much encouragement it would take to lure the boy back to bed. Before he could act on his half-formed plot, his beautiful boy whispered, "You never have bad timing. Even if we had had all night, I still wouldn't want to leave." No, the boy was never eloquent, his words were never flowery or stilted with practiced formality, but every one rang true. Xander never offered what he thought Spike wanted to hear just to placate him, or to get his own way. He teased and argued but when he spoke with quiet conviction, Spike always knew he meant every word. Xander turned back before entering the bathroom and asked, "It would be wrong to ditch the Angelenos and spend the whole weekend in bed, wouldn't it?"

All thoughts of tempting the boy to stay home from work left him; Spike knew that Xander would just blame himself if he did. So he said, "You're asking me what the right thing to do is? That's rich, Pet." Spike stayed very still, watching as his sweet boy leaned against the doorway frame and frowned down at the floor.

"No, I know what's right." Xander said with a sigh and sounded reluctant to go. "I just I guess I'm selfish."

That was it. Spike was by the boy's side in a moment, pulling the warm body into a comforting, rather than lascivious, embrace. He cooed words of encouragement to his young lover. As soon as this latest threat to the
Hellmouth was settled the boy was taking some down time, even if Spike had to hit him over the head to make him. Twenty was too young to be shouldering the kind of responsibility Xander handled, and admittedly handled well, on a daily basis. The boy needed a vacation, one not involving saving the world or fighting for his life and by all that was unholy Spike would see that he took one. After sharing a tender kiss, Xander was showered and shaved and out of the apartment in under half an hour.

After a brief shower, Spike readjusted the tarp to block any future light that might come while he slept and snagged the peacock blue sheet from the floor and shook it out draping it over the bed. Many equally eye-piercing pillows were tossed about the room and Spike threw them in pairs against the headboard. Then, he curled back up in the sadly empty bed.

Ever since the shopping expedition the witches had been giving Xander brightly colored pillows at a rate of about one a week. Xander would suspiciously thank them and find a home for the newest addition; so far he hadn't connected it to Spike. It had all started back when Dawn had organized the 'keep America beautiful by doing something about Xander's wardrobe' campaign. Willow had given Xander the 'throw of many colors' for a house-warming present when he moved in and it was prominently displayed in the living room. Standing in line with Spike at the food court she had confided in him that it was all part of her strategy for satisfying Xander's love of bright clashing colors
in a non-publicly humiliating way. Spike had enjoyed her open-mouthed amazement when he had reminisced about his mum's good parlor with its lilac print wall paper and apple green draperies. He had told her that modern
Americans' insistence on neutral décor was a sign of their inability to commit. They were so sure they were going to sell the house that they never wanted to risk bold, bright colors. He had told her that in his day the clothes were more neutral because the laundry facilities were primitive but that the houses, inside and out, were beautiful, with all the colors of a garden.

Since by then she was looking at him as if he were speaking in tongues, he had suggested that she may have better luck getting Xander to part with his riotous shirts if she talked him into painting his apartment something other than the standard off-white. Spike missed the fun he had had pulling Willow's chain before she caught on that there was something between Xander and him. Of course, now he could share with her the details on the creative uses he and his pet had found for all those extra pillows.

To be fair, even before Red had known they were together, she had never let him get away with putting Xander down, even when the boy was not around. She was very protective of Spike's boy. Spike, surprisingly, didn't mind. He should have; it wasn't in a demon's nature to tolerate anyone being close to his mate. Red was different. Spike knew she loved the boy but he didn't consider her a threat, and he wasn't discounting her as a potential rival for Xander's affection just because she was 'doing spells with Tara'. Red was better at some things, more sensitive. She was very attentive to Xander's feeling, even when the boy didn't want to talk.

Although Spike would die, so to speak, for his boy, he was often the cause of Xander's emotional pain. Spike knew he ran roughshod over the boy's ego and insecurities. He cursed himself loud and long, but couldn't help blundering over the human's tender feelings. Red was always willing to not only tell Spike how he had fucked up, but to offer help at setting it right. She doted on both of them and he had overheard her refer to them as her boys, which was amusing, since Spike was older than her great-grandfather was. She would talk to Xander for hours on the phone until he finally gave up and told her everything. Though her only excuse for Spike's prickly nature was 'That's Spike', she would come to the shop and drag Spike into the back to tell him exactly what he had done wrong. They were two stubborn men and would sulk, refusing to speak of their deepest hurts, but Willow always knew when to remind them how good what they had was, and how empty their lives had been without each other.

Thinking this over, Spike thought it might be best to have Willow present if Angel ever got around to bending Xander's ear about how insane it was to be with Spike. He sighed and buried his face in Xander's pillow, inhaling the
boy's warm scent, still tasting him in his mouth. How close had he come last night to screwing this all up for good? What would have happened if he and Angel had thrown down right there in Joyce's living room? Red had saved him again. He snorted as he remembered the look on Angel's face when she had said, "Oh, there you are," and sat next to them as if they almost copulated in front of her everyday. Well, they did, but she never remained that calm.
Normally she blushed and stammered and backed out of the room. That was fun, too.

Spike wasn't sure when he had fallen asleep, or how long he had slept when he woke to both a loud pounding on the door and the continuous ringing of the doorbell. Scowling at the clock, he saw that it was only eleven thirty. He stomped naked to the door. He was tempted to yank open the door full-monty, but that would have violated rule number three, so he checked the peephole. *Oh! Look! A pissed off Sire.* Since most of the neighbors were at work, he opened the door anyway, in flagrant disregard of rule number three, and placed one hand on the inside of the frame and the other on his hip. *Well, that stopped the bloody bell.*

"What?" Spike snapped, before Angel had had a chance to recover.

Angel closed his eyes, shook his head, opened his eyes and said, "You're naked."

"I'm also a bleeding vampire. Did you come all this way just to stand around stating the obvious?" Of course Spike knew the answer to that, but it felt good to have the great and powerful Angelus at a loss.

"Why are you naked, Spike?"

*Oh, do use the 'Spike's a moron' tone, that'll work.* "Because there is a fucking heat wave," Spike snarled. "Only undead nancy-boys like you prance around in bloody great trench coats when the humans are dropping in their
tracks from heat prostration."

"Spike, this is Xander's apartment." Angel was now leaning one forearm against the invisible barrier across the door and looking past Spike at what he could see from the door.

"Oy! I know that. I know I'm a vampire. I know I'm naked. And I know who lives here." Spike turned and headed back to the bedroom, he called over his shoulder. "Why are you here? Not in the metaphysical sense, not in the why are you in Sunnyhell - got that - vision - why are here as in why are you standing there," Spike voice was muffled as he pulled a tee shirt on and came out of the bedroom in an unbuttoned pair of jeans, "tossing off and telling me things I already know? And for that matter why are you here at this unholy hour?"


"Oh, come in."

Angel narrowly saved himself from diving face first onto the floor tiles of the small entrance area when Spike interrupted him.

Spike snickered at the sight and made a mental note to have Red do the de-invite spell soon.

"You really live here? I thought you were just" Angel's voice trailed off as he took in the eclectic decor, which mixed both Spike and Xander's tastes.

"You just stop by for a cuppa? Want to reminisce about the good ol' days?" Spike asked as he pulled his boots out from under an end table and started to pull them on. As an afterthought he added, "Or are you trying to steal my

"I'm working on a case." Angel said through gritted teeth. "This is important. We," he paused significantly to indicate Spike had no choice in the matter, "are going to shake down as many of the local demon haunts as it takes to find out if anyone new is in town." Crossing his arms, Angel leaned against the living room wall. He looked down at Spike and added, "That is, if you're serious about helping."

Spike snorted. "If it'll get your fat ass out of my town any quicker, I'll sing a bleeding Manilow medley while tap dancing on the Hellmouth. *Red's a dandy little source of information now that she and the Prom Queen check in
once a week since Harmony's visit.*

Spike followed Angel out the door. Angel lifted an eyebrow, which was a drastic change in facial expression for the brooding one, when Spike used his key to lock the deadbolt, but said nothing. It was a good thing that Angel had stopped by, Spike thought, but he didn't voice that opinion. Any source Angel might have had from two years ago was most likely relocated to another hellhole, if it was still around at all.

Glory had shattered the whole infrastructure of demon society with her join-or-die attitude. With the way her little power play had ended there had been no way that either of those choices were healthy. She or her followers had eradicated most who had hidden or flat out refused to join, and now her minions and followers were all but obliterated. In the weeks since she and the Slayer had perished, Sunnydale had become much like the Wild West; everyone was looking over their shoulder for the new sheriff to come to town.

When Angel had lived here, the power structure had been moderately fixed due to the Master's and the Mayor's long term residency. Now empires were built in one night and tumbled down the next. It wasn't even the loss of a Slayer which had caused the upheaval; Nature abhorred a vacuum, and this was all just part of natural selection. What caught Angel's attention, judging by the looks he was shooting at Spike every time they entered a new squat or bar, was Spike's obvious high rank in whatever pecking order was being established. Spike thought about pointing out that briefly, before coming up with the brilliant idea to kick Alcathla in the ass, Angelus had been Master of the Hellmouth, but decided to save it for when the poof was riding out of his town.

As they walked in silence along the tunnel leading back toward the magic shop, Angel sighed and said, "You're insane." He spoke softly and sounded tired, which may have been why Spike didn't feel inclined to snap at him. Spike didn't answer; he just lit up a smoke and let Angel say his piece. "How long do you think you can hold it? I mean" He trailed off no longer even sounding exasperated, just worried and exhausted, and a little like the Sire who had taught him hunting tricks and explained in that soft brogue that he had to learn more and faster than other Childer because Dru would always depend on him.

Which was why Spike answered at all. Even with this souled up version of his Sire he knew better than to show any weakness to another demon, so it was a hard glare that answered Angel's searching look. Spike said in a cold voice,
"Whatever it takes. I'll do whatever it takes. I protect what's mine."

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