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Sabre Shadowkitten

Part Thirteen

Spike's footsteps thundered on the stairs as he ran down them. Streaking across the lobby for the phone on the registration counter -- he didn't have one in his room -- he punched in Cordelia's number and waited for her to pick up.

"This had better be important," Cordelia growled over the phone line.

"He kissed me!" Spike exclaimed ecstatically to his best friend. "An open-mouthed, tongue-probing, wet bloody-effin'-smacker."

"I take it you liked," she said dryly.

Spike propped an elbow on the counter and leaned his cheek on his fist. He sighed, a glazed look in his eyes. "Yeah."

"Did he like?"

"I think so," the blond replied. "He kept at it. So, yeah. Maybe. I hope."

"Do you want me to ask him if he did?" Cordelia said over the line.

"No!" Spike said immediately. "Hell, no, don't do that! He'll think I put you up to it."


"So it'd be bloody embarrassing," Spike replied.

"So?" Spike heard the evil smirk in her voice, and scowled.

"Spike, why are you in the lobby in your underwear?" Angel came up beside the blond, a confused frown on his face.

"Fishing," Spike answered sarcastically. He waved the receiver at the older man. "I'm using the phone, dolt."

"In your underwear?"

"Yes, in my underwear," Spike repeated with impatience. "Now, if you don't mind, I'm using the phone."

"You're in your underwear in the lobby?" Cordelia giggled, obviously listening in.

"This isn't one of those 900-numbers I'm going to pay through the roof for, is it?" Angel said disapprovingly.

"1-900-WANK-OFF," Spike said loud enough for Cordelia to hear. He shoved the receiver by Angel's ear. "Have a listen."

"I don't want to listen," Angel protested, trying to move his head away from the phone. He froze suddenly, his eyes widening and a blush spreading across his cheeks. He swallowed thickly.

Chuckling, Spike put the phone to his own ear again, catching the tail end of what Cordelia was saying.

"--scratch my nails down your muscular chest, raising welts as I ride you as hard as you're making me wet," Cordelia purred in his ear.

Spike cleared his throat, arousal stirring in his underwear. "Sounds good, pet."

Cordelia laughed. "Did I get Angel?"

"Yeah, you got him all right," Spike said, watching as Angel disappeared up the stairs. "He's going to his room to toss off."

"That's yummy imagery for me to dream about."


"What? Do you want me to dream about you in your undies instead?"

Spike sputtered.

"I'll probably be dreaming about you and Xander playing smoochie-face," she said. "Mm, yeah. I like that."

"I'm hanging up now," Spike told her.

"Okay. Bye. Kiss Xander sloppily for me."

"I plan on it," he said.

And he did. Over the next few days, Spike kissed Xander sloppily many, many times. And when they weren't kissing, they were talking, or Xander was forcing blood down Spike's throat. It felt nice to be cared about after months of being on his own. Spike didn't mind Xander's fussing, which included making sure he got plenty of sleep. By the time Sunday night rolled around, he had gotten rid of the dark circles under his eyes and had put on seven pounds.

But now Xander was returning to Sunnydale after dropping Spike at LAX for his flight to New York and then on to Europe. Spike didn't want to leave, nor did Xander want him to go.

"Promise me you'll eat," Xander said, the car parked in an unlit area of the airport parking garage. His youthful features were hidden in the shadows, but Spike could hear the worry in his voice. "If I'm going to try this 'gay' thing out, I want to brag that my boyfriend is sexy as sin, not as skinny as a rail."

"I will," Spike promised, gently squeezing the hand clasped with his on the seat between them. He had no real control over when he fed, but he would when he was able. "You watch your back. I want to brag that my boyfriend is alive."

Xander chuckled softly. "Will do."

A sad silence descended in the car. Spike watched the clock on the dash creep closer to the time his flight took him away from Xander. Finally, he could not postpone leaving any longer. "I have to go," the blond said.

"I know." Xander gave him a half-hearted leer. "Give us a kiss."

Spike folded a leg under himself in order to get closer to Xander in the tight confines of the car. He cupped Xander's face between his palms and brought their lips together. The kiss was bittersweet, a new relationship coming to a partial halt too soon.

"Goodbye." Spike whispered, and was out of the car and walking quickly away, leaving Xander behind.

Life hadn't changed too much since Xander and Spike became a couple. "Other than the fact that I am certifiably insane," Xander muttered, scrolling down the page on the computer screen. Their chats and emails were a little more flowery, peppered with "miss yous" and "kiss yous." Double entendres were heavy in almost all the posts, but the naughty talk stayed implied.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, online, Spike had flat-out asked Xander if he wanted to have cybersex.

Xander's first reaction had been sputtered laughter. Then he found that Spike was serious, and he freaked. He'd never had cybersex before, for one thing. For another, he didn't know if he was ready to take the step towards any type of sex with Spike yet.

Well... that was kind of a lie. Xander had been ready and able to bed the blond over Thanksgiving. He could have easily tossed Spike down and kissed each protruding rib on that too-skinny body. Xander could have played the comparison game, finding the similarities and learning the differences between making love to a man as opposed to a woman. He could have held the fragile-looking vampire in his arms as they curled together in sleep. Xander could have... but he hadn't. Their relationship was too new and, in spite of kisses that left Xander weak-kneed and breathless, he hadn't fully accepted that it was okay to want another male sexually after decades of being straight.

And that was why Xander was surfing the Internet today, reading everything he could about bisexuality and homosexuality. He'd learned a lot so far, including some things he didn't want to know. Still, he wasn't as put off as he'd thought he'd be, especially after reading some first-hand narratives of other men around his age who'd been in similar situations... although none of them were attracted to a malnourished vampire who was also the Powers' chosen Herald ushering in the first days of the apocalypse.

Xander was currently reviewing an "instructional" webpage explaining the literal ins-and-outs of two men copulating. As with every other page he'd read, the word 'Condoms' was in bold, italicized, and underlined. Further down the page, he found the reference to lubricant he knew would be there. His eyes were starting to cross at the constant repetition. This page, like all the others, basically centered around one idea: if it feels good, do it -- with condoms.

cricket818: Hello, love.

The AIM window popped up on Xander's computer screen, blocking what he was reading. He didn't mind. In fact, it was time to put his newly acquired knowledge to use. Anticipation swelled inside him, and caused other parts of him to swell, too.

thatxandershapedguy: Hey. You're on early tonight.

cricket818: I couldn't wait any longer to talk to you.

thatxandershapedguy: IOW: you're horny.

cricket818: You know me so well.

Xander blew out a breath of air, cracked his knuckles, leaned forward in his chair, and cannon-balled into the deep end of the cybersex pool.

thatxandershapedguy: Actually, I don't know you that well. I don't know if you'd shiver if I licked the rim of your ear. I don't know what sound you'd make if I sucked hard on the side of your neck, bruising you with my mouth. I don't know how you would look pinned under me on the bed, my nude body covering your naked form.

Xander shifted as his Dockers became too tight, and continued typing.

thatxandershapedguy: I don't even know how it would *feel* to have you beneath me, to have your parts pressed intimately to my parts. Would the hair on my legs tickle your nearly bare ones? Would I cover you completely, like a Xander-blanket? Would I squish you?

cricket818: Oh, gods. Xander.

thatxandershapedguy: What?

cricket818: Don't stop. Keep writing.

A pleased smile spread across Xander's face. This cybersex thing wasn't too bad.

thatxandershapedguy: Don't stop? You like me telling you that I want to take you to bed and explore that body of yours, to see if you gained or lost weight using my hands and lips and tongue? Or to find all your ticklish spots and the spots that make you whimper in pleasure?

Xander wondered if Spike was getting as aroused just reading as he was from writing.

thatxandershapedguy: Do you want me to touch you, Cricket? Do you want me to wrap my hand around you cock like I would my own and jag you off? Do you like it fast? Or should I go slow? Would you like it if I tugged on your nuts, squeezing them firmly? Would you like it if I touched that little patch of skin between your hole and your balls? Or would you like it more if I used my tongue?

The devil had prompted Xander to add that last bit and, despite his flaming cheeks, Spike's reaction was well worth it.

cricket818: I can be in Sunnydale in 24 hours.

Xander laughed out loud.

thatxandershapedguy: What would the Powers say if you abandoned your duties for sex?

cricket818: Fuck them.

thatxandershapedguy: Sorry, I don't do threesomes. Or foursomes. Or five... how many make up the PTB?

cricket818: Xanderrrrrrr.

thatxandershapedguy: Spiiiiiiiike.

cricket818: I want you.

thatxandershapedguy: I want you, too. But not yet.

cricket818: ???

Xander sighed, adjusted his pants, and answered honestly.

thatxandershapedguy: Talking dirty is fine and dandy, and I do fantasize about you when I flog the log, and I couldn't kiss you enough back at Thanksgiving, and my hands itch to touch you (either that or I've waxed my pole one too many times), and I'm curious to find out if what I read is true, but... why was I saying no again?

cricket818: Sigh. Because you would feel piss-poor if the world ended while we were bumping uglies.

thatxandershapedguy: There is that, too. But I was thinking more along the lines of being scared to death to take that final step into Homoland, even if the rides sound like fun.

cricket818: And you think I'm not? I've never been with another bloke before, either, and I have 135 years on you. I'm bloody scared shitless that I'm going to suck.

thatxandershapedguy: I'm kind of hoping you will. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

cricket818: Lol. Kinky.

thatxandershapedguy: No, kinky is me getting turned on by your underwear.

cricket818: You get aroused by my white cotton trolleys?

thatxandershapedguy: Shamefully, yes.

cricket818: So if I told you that was all I had on at the mo'...

Sproing. Xander popped the button on his pants... without using his hands. He groaned and gripped the edge of the computer desk as his mind conjured up the blond in his skivvies. The perverted image in his head would be better if Spike didn't look like he would break if Xander touched him.

thatxandershapedguy: Have you been feeding?

cricket818: Somehow I don't think that was a non sequitur. And yes, I have. Sort of.

thatxandershapedguy: Sort of?

cricket818: I'm in the wilds of Russia, Xander. I'm not about to go chasing after food in the snow. I'm off to Beijing in a few days. In a city there's more blood available.

thatxandershapedguy: Don't remind me.

Brief pause, then:

cricket818: Xander, you don't think that I munch on humans, do you?

Xander was trying hard not to think about it at all, actually.

cricket818: I take it by your non-response that's a yes.

cricket818: Just bloody wonderful. I haven't fed from a human in over six years, Xander, and I'm not about to start now.

thatxandershapedguy: But the chip is gone.

cricket818: So?

thatxandershapedguy: So you're free to eat humans again, Mr. Vampire.

Xander wondered where his brain went. One minute he was having cybersex, and the next he was talking about Spike killing people.

"Way to show trust, asshole," Xander cursed himself, trying to formulate something to say to Spike. The blond beat him to it.

cricket818: If you really think that I'm back to my old ways after all this time, then you don't know me at all. I've got to go. I've got a job to do.

cricket818 has logged off at 10:36 p.m..

Part Fourteen

Spike threw himself into his work, heralding warrior after warrior without pause. He rarely slept, fed when he had to, and traveled even when it wasn't very safe. He shot off an email to Cordelia and Dawn every so often, letting them know he was still kicking, but he didn't stop to chat. And he completely ignored the emails from Xander.

Trust was the basis of any relationship. Xander didn't trust Spike and, thus, there was no relationship. Even if the boy had professed undying love, Spike could never be with him without that trust.

That lack of trust hurt badly. The old Spike would have said "smart kid." He was a vampire, after all, and vampires were notoriously untrustworthy. But now it just hurt. It was like everything he'd done over the past six-plus years didn't count for beans. It didn't matter that he'd changed. Once a killer always a killer. Only special tossers like Angel got second and third chances because a soul -- not a conscience -- made all the diffference in the world.

Spike knew that eventually he'd contact Xander: masochism was, after all, his middle name. He still loved the brunette and, once it stopped feeling like he'd been stabbed in the heart, he'd give Xander his second chance. Until then, the blond would do the job for which he'd been chosen.

The invisible vampire stepped off the elevator on the 42nd floor of the high-rise in downtown Tokyo. Avoiding a couple exiting their apartment, Spike walked down the spartan hallway to number 4211 and knocked. The black painted door opened and Spike immediately touched the Asian human's forehead.

"Come in," the man invited in Japanese once the gold faded and Spike appeared before him. "I have been waiting for you, Herald."

Xander stood slumped by the counter at the Magic Box, idly fiddling with a chicken's foot. The Scoobies had gathered after closing to discuss the recent rash of animal deaths in the area. They were trying to decide if the deaths were caused by human, animal, or other. An emaciated dog corpse was spread out on a newspaper on the round table, with Willow and Giles performing an autopsy while Buffy complained.

Xander couldn't drum up the energy to make gross anatomy jokes. He'd been in a constant funk since Spike stopped talking to him. No matter how many emails Xander sent, or how long he sat online staring at his AIM 'Buddy' list, Spike was incommunicado.

Xander felt bad for not trusting Spike, but that didn't change the fact that he didn't fully trust the blond. Spike was a vampire who'd threatened time and again to disembowel Xander when the behavior modification chip came out. For years, Spike had spouted threats and promises of gory post-chip violence on the population, the Slayer and friends in particular. Until last June, Xander had thought Spike was passing time by assisting the Scoobs, waiting for the day he could go through with his threats. Seeing that there was more to Spike than just being a vampire when they had gone to L.A. had been a huge shock to Xander. Despite nine months having passed, it was still amazing to him.

Xander tossed the chicken foot in the jar with the other feet, dug into his jeans pocket, and pulled out the chip. He'd began carrying it around after the fight with Spike. It was so small, so innocuous-looking. It was odd that such a tiny thing could create so many problems.

"Why can't I find a nice, normal girl to settle down with?" Xander sighed.

The bell above the shop door jingled and a surprised silence followed as Angel walked in. The chip fell from Xander's suddenly nervous fingers to the floor. Oh gods, he thought, taking a hesitant step towards Angel. Oh gods, no, don't let something have happened to Spike.

"Angel, hi. Uh... what are you doing here?" Buffy asked, moving in front of the souled vampire.

Angel side-stepped her without a word. His face a blank mask, he came right up to Xander and stopped in front of the younger brunette.

"No," Xander breathed, a sharp pain piercing his heart as he searched Angel's eyes. "No, please don't tell me he's--"

Xander was interrupted by Angel's fist connecting with his face.

"Angel!" the others exclaimed, shocked. Angel ignored them, his expression easily readable now -- it was twisted in pure anger. Xander waved Willow away, cupping his eye where the vampire had hit him. Xander knew Angel had pulled his punch, or else he'd be halfway across the room. Still, ow.

"Is there a reason you punched me?" he asked.

Angel bent, picked up the chip, then slapped it against Xander's chest. "Do you really think the Powers would let loose an invisible vampire on the population without having some faith in him?" the older man hissed, too quiet for the others to hear.

Xander dropped his gaze, ashamed. "I see what you mean." He touched his swelling eye, and added wryly, "Sort of see."

"He's in the car," Angel told him, then turned to speak with an irate Buffy.

Xander paused for barely a moment as Angel's words sunk in. Then, without a glance at the others, he was out the door.

Glowing Spike was sitting in Angel's convertible -- and why does a vampire drive a convertible, anyway? -- elbow propped on the door and his head resting on his hand. His features were as sunken and sharp as they'd been at Thanksgiving, and Xander could see splotchy shadows -- bruises, Xander realized -- on Spike's cheek and jawline.

"Spike?" Xander ventured tentatively, coming to a stop beside the car.

Spike lifted his head and turned to Xander, tired blue eyes focusing on the brunette. His face lit up briefly, then a mask of indifference slid into place. There were more bruises on the right side of his face that had been hidden by his hand. "I take it Angel made you come out here," he said dully.

Xander reached to touch Spike's cheek without thought and when the vampire flinched away, it felt like he'd been punched in the gut. His hand fell to his side and he took a step back. "Yeah. Angel sent me out to see you. I've seen. You look like shit."

Spike chuckled humorlessly. "Thanks a lot."

"What did you do? Run into a door a dozen times?"

The blond lifted a shoulder in a careless shrug. "One of the warriors had signed up with the other team before I scouted him."

Xander forced the sudden knot of fear from his throat, and asked, "Demon?"

"Human," Spike replied with a shake of his head. "Good thing, that. I'm far from peak form. Had it had been a stronger creature, I would've been carpet grit in a Tokyo high-rise. Almost didn't escape from the human."

"But you did," Xander said, almost prayer like.

"But I did," Spike agreed.

"Let me touch you," Xander begged in a harsh whisper. He had to touch Spike. The news that the glowing vampire could have been forever gone tore at Xander's insides, more so because he realized that, if Spike was still chipped, he would have been dust. It was a painfully ironic lesson, one that Xander was glad hadn't come to fruition. Perhaps the Powers knew what they were doing after all.

Spike got out of the car and Xander was practically on top of him before the car door was fully shut. The brunette slid his arms around Spike's back, under his duster, and pulled him close. Spike reciprocated the hug. His fingers dug into Xander's shoulders, and he shivered slightly in the younger man's embrace.

"You haven't been eating, have you," Xander stated gruffly, nuzzling the stiff blond hair behind Spike's ear. Spike was all bones beneath his clothing. Xander was afraid the blond would break if hugged too tightly.

"Don't take that self-righteous tone with me, Harris," Spike growled, pulling out of Xander's arms. "You can't be mad at me for not eating and also be upset with the thought that I can feed from humans if I wanted."

"Well, excuse me for worrying," Xander said, a little angrily.

"Why should you worry? You think I'm snacking on humans left and right."

"I never said that."

"But it's what you believe," Spike sneered.

"It's a legitimate concern," Xander ground out.

"Bullshit. You don't think Angel's out feeding from humans," Spike said. "What makes him so different from me?"

"I'm not falling in love with him!" Xander exclaimed. He grabbed Spike by the shoulders. The bruises were more livid on Spike's face with Xander closer to him. "I don't care what he does, I care about what you do. I can't let myself fall for you if you're one of the bad guys."

"I haven't been the bad guy for years, Xander," Spike said quietly, meeting Xander's gaze unwaveringly.

"I know," Xander sighed, the wind going out of his sails. "This would be so much easier if it was just sex."

"We would have to have sex first for it to be 'just sex,'" Spike pointed out.

"True." Xander smiled mischievously. "Want to come back to my place and fix that?"


Xander was shocked. "No??"

Spike shook his head. "As much as I want to, I won't sleep with you until you trust me."

"Are you sure you're Spike, the amoral vampire?" Xander asked jokingly.

"No," Spike said seriously. "I'm just the man who wants to be loved by you."

Xander's apartment was a typical single male's apartment. Not too dirty, but not pristine. Dishes were in the sink in the small kitchen, dirty clothes were piled in the corner of the bedroom, old mags, opened mail and a few empty beer bottles were scattered around the living room and computer room. Spike looked at everything with interest, tossing his duster over a chair as Xander put the newly purchased blood containers in the refrigerator.

"Nice place," Spike commented, touching a framed photograph of the core Scooby gang.

"That's right, you've never been here before," Xander said from the kitchen. The microwave beeped as he punched the buttons. "Well, mi casa es su casa."

Spike took Xander's words at face value and wandered further into the apartment. After a curious glance into the boy's bedroom -- and a longing look at the bed -- he continued into the second bedroom.

The first thing that caught his attention was the giant world map on the wall. It was covered in colored pushpins and string, like a connect-the-dots game. Spike tilted his head and closed one eye. The pattern looked a bit like a camel, if the camel was drunk and listing to one side. Moving closer, Spike noticed the string trail ended where he last talked with Xander a few weeks back. The red string hung limply from the last tack, looking almost... sad.

Spotting the pushpins on the desk next to the computer, Spike finished plotting where he'd been, ending in Tokyo, Japan. It really had almost ended in Tokyo, permanently, which was why he'd come home to lick his wounds. Angel had picked him up at the airport, but instead of taking him to the Hyperion, he'd driven straight to Sunnydale. At that time, Spike hadn't known whether to be thankful or irritated at his meddlesome father. Now, he was very thankful.

"Thanks." Xander came up beside Spike and passed him a warm mug. "I was wondering where you had been, but you weren't answering my emails..."

"Yeah. About that--"

"Hey, no big," Xander interrupted. "You're here now, live and in person, and that's much better than a shoddy email."

Spike fell silent, nodded, and smiled. And the boy who was falling in love with him smiled back.

Spike could hardly believe that love had come into the equation. It was like a dream come true. He felt at peace for the first time in ages. It was as if everything was finally right in the world. He was in love with Xander and Xander was in love with him. Falling in love, Spike corrected mentally. Though that was the same thing as being in love, minus the Eureka moment.

Since they had argued on the street, they hadn't said much to each other. But what was there to say, really? It was wonderful just being with Xander and knowing that the boy actually cared for him as more than just a friend. Besides, sometimes actions spoke louder than words. Like now.

Spike turned to Xander, slid his free hand into the brunette's thick hair, and brought their mouths together. The kiss was slow and wet. Spike immediately lost himself in the feel of Xander's lips moving against his own. The slip-slide of Xander's tongue against his. The hot breaths of air mingling in the kiss.

Xander pulled away first, his lips lingering on Spike's. He sighed softly. "Guess this proves Thanksgiving wasn't a fluke," he said.

"Guess so," Spike agreed, smiling at Xander.

Xander smiled back, and pointed at the mug in Spike's hand. "Drink that."

"Yes, sir," Spike said meekly, a humor-filled twinkle in his eyes. He followed the brunette out of the computer room and took a seat on the couch in the living room. Xander grabbed the television remote and plopped down beside him.

"I have Pay-Per-View," the younger man said, turning on the television. "Feel like watching a movie?"

"Sure, pet," Spike replied, sipping from the mug.

Xander flipped channels until they found a movie they agreed on, and settled in to watch it. Partway through, Xander went to refill Spike's mug and, when he returned, sat closer to the blond, their thighs pressed together. Spike was surprised when Xander took his hand and began to massage it. The boy's strong fingers kneaded Spike's palm, firmly rubbing his cool skin. His fingers were not neglected, and the simple hand massage caused him to relax completely for the first time in months.

Xander caught the empty mug that slipped from Spike's hand before it hit the carpeting. The sleeping vampire didn't twitch at Xander's sudden movement. Spike had fallen asleep not even five minutes after Xander began his hand massage, much to the younger man's amusement. The television was shut off, and Xander retrieved a blanket to cover Spike.

In the few hours that Spike had been there, he and Xander had barely spoken, but it wasn't important. They'd said what was necessary on the street and when they'd first gotten to the apartment. Besides, they were men. A few grunts and scratches counted as communication.

Xander ghosted his fingers along Spike's bruised cheek. The vampire really did look like crap. Again. What Spike needed was a keeper, the brunette decided. Someone to make sure he ate three squares a day. Someone to keep watch so he could sleep undisturbed. Someone to care that he was running himself ragged doing his job for the Powers, and to tell him to slow down. He needed someone to love him.

Xander sighed, left Spike sleeping on the couch, and went into the bedroom. He had to get up bright and early for work in the morning, and should follow Spike's example and go to bed. He knew he wouldn't be able to sleep, though, not with Spike within touching distance. After weeks of no contact with the blond, having him here at the apartment was playing havoc with Xander's emotions. It was a struggle not to pounce on Spike and show him physically how much he was missed. Only Spike didn't want that. He'd made it clear on the street that sex would not happen unless Xander trusted him.

"Hell," Xander muttered as he changed into his sleep-shorts. He wished there was a magickal trust pill he could take, although that still wouldn't guarantee Spike's non-killing actions.

Angel was right, however. It was doubtful that the Powers would remove the chip and release an invisible vampire on the world, especially if they wanted him to work for their side, if they didn't have some faith in him. If only it was that easy for Xander to have faith.

"I did have Faith, and she tried to kill me." Xander rolled his eyes. "I can't believe I just punned like that."

He headed into the computer room and took a seat at the desk. After turning on the computer monitor, he typed the word "trust" into the search engine. It resulted in over a million hits.

"This is going to take awhile," Xander said, opening the first link on the page.

Part Fifteen


Went to work. There's a key on the counter in case you want to go out. EAT!!! I'll be back around 6:30. If you do naughty things in my bed while I'm gone, be sure to tell me when I get home.


Spike awoke late morning to an empty apartment, the drapes on all the windows pulled shut. The note was taped to the television set. He was still exhausted and, after reading the note and draining a container of blood, he shed his boots, socks, and shirt, and sacked out on the couch again. He dreamed of being naked in Xander's bed, humping one of Xander's pillows until he came on the blue pillowcase.

The blond awoke the second time in the evening with a hard on and a hungry belly. He ignored both as he walked groggily into the bathroom and turned on the water taps to fill the tub. Facing the mirror, he rubbed his glowing jaw, grumbling about the still tender bruises. Bruises that would've disappeared long before now if he was at full strength.

"You're a pillock," Spike told the mirror, which reflected the green shower curtain behind him. It was his own fault that he looked like an unfed glow-in-the-dark greyhound. Yeah, blood was scarce out in the sticks, but he'd been in several major cities the past few weeks. Working himself to dust was not the answer to his depression problems.

He wasn't depressed anymore, though. Xander might not trust him yet, but the boy loved him. It was a step in the right direction, and "yet" was the operative word. Spike had an optimistic feeling that things would turn out peaches-n-cream. Either that, or he had gas.

Chuckling to himself, Spike rooted around until he found a towel, then stripped and climbed into the tub. He hissed in pleasure as he sank into the hot water. He'd been cold for weeks, probably because he had no meat on his bones, and the heat felt divine.

Spike soaked wantonly for awhile before using Xander's shampoo and soap to wash up. He wiped a towel over himself and redressed. Dragging his fingers through his damp curls, he searched through Xander's medicine chest for gel or something similar. Of course, the twit didn't have any. Sighing, Spike did his best to comb his hair back and prayed he wouldn't look like too much of a fop when it dried.

Padding barefoot into the kitchen, Spike warmed a mug of blood and settled at the kitchen table. He paged through a woodcraft magazine he'd found as he drank his dinner.

"Hey, sleepyhead," Xander greeted as he entered the apartment a short while later. He put his toolbelt in the closet and shucked his workboots by the door. "Don't move," he told Spike as he passed by on his way to the bathroom. "Let me clean up and I'll join you."

There was a hole in the seat of Xander's jeans, Spike noticed. Plaid undergarments. Spike ogled him appreciatively.

When Xander returned damp and dressed in clean khakis and a tee-shirt, he fetched a soda and a bag of pretzels before taking a seat across the table from Spike. Popping the tab on the soda, he grinned at the blond. "Nice hair."

Spike reflexively put his hand to his head. He could feel the springy mass of dried curls, and sighed. "It's hard to look evil with Shirley Temple hair."

"Good thing you're not evil anymore, huh?" Xander commented.

"Oh, so you believe me now?" Spike said skeptically.

"No, I still think you're evil," Xander replied. "You prevent me from sleeping, you turned me gay, you made me question my beliefs..."

"Oi, you turned me into a shirtlifter, too," Spike pointed out. "I didn't fancy other blokes until you."

A blush spread across Xander's cheeks and he concentrated intently on the pretzel in his hand. "I, uh... yeah." He crunched down on the snack.

Spike snagged one of the salty twists from the bag and dipped it in his blood. He popped it in his mouth in accompaniment to Xander's disgusted noises.

"That's sick," Xander said.

"Don't knock it 'til you try it," Spike told him.

"Let's not and say I did, and I went eew." Xander shuddered exaggeratedly.

Spike shrugged. "Your loss." He picked up his mug and took a sip, watching over the rim as Xander neatly lined several pretzels on the table.

"So...," Xander eventually said.

"So," Spike parroted, setting the mug down at the serious tone of voice.

"About this trust problem," Xander said. "I think I've found a way to solve it."

"Do tell," Spike said warily.

"Okay, um, last night I shot off an email to Cordelia, asking her why she trusted you," Xander began. "I got her reply this morning before I went to work. Do you know what she said? She said she trusted you because you let her paint your nails lilac. Not dark purple. Light, foofy lilac. And you wore it for a week."

"I remember that. She put yellow flower decals on my thumbs, too." Spike shook his head. "Gunn called me his girl for the entire week. 'Me an' my girl are gonna bust your pasty, undead asses,'" he said, mimicking Gunn's speech.

"Well, Cordelia's reply got me thinking--"

"Should I hide?" Spike interrupted with an off-kilter grin.

"Ha-ha. No, really," Xander went on. "I thought that if we shared something personal, where I can say 'I trust Spike because of blank,' I could... well, trust you."

"What kind of blank?" Spike asked curiously.

"How about a secret?" Xander suggested. "One that no one else knows."

"That's why it's called a secret, Harris, because no one else knows it," Spike said dryly.

"I'm being serious here, Spike," Xander said impatiently. "I really want this to work."

"Okay, then," Spike agreed. "A secret."

Xander nodded. "A secret."

Spike tapped his finger against the side of his mug, casting his mind back through the years. He didn't have many secrets to share, especially ones that only Xander would be privy to. Plus, it had to be something which he cared whether someone knew it or not; being a vampire made him rather apathetic.

"I have one," Spike finally said. "I killed someone."

Xander rolled his eyes. "Duh."

"When I was a human, git," Spike said with an exaggerated sigh. "I was thirteen, fourteen thereabouts, just learning what I could do with the dangly bits between my legs. My best mate, Blake, and I were down at the footbridge on Blake's property, horsing around, chatting about the ladies, stuff like that."

"Doing guy things," Xander nodded sagely.

"Exactly," Spike said and continued. "We were there for awhile, talking and whatnot, when Blake said something. I don't really remember what it was, but I remember I got right pissed at him. And I shoved him." Spike's eyes became unfocused as the memories unfolded in his mind. "Blake was sitting on the rail of the bridge and over he toppled. It wasn't that far of a fall, only a couple metres or so, but the riverbed was dry and the rocks were sharp. Blake's head cracked open like an egg. He died before I got back with help."

Spike lowered his chin and fiddled with the mug. "It was an accident, but when his parents asked what happened, I told them he fell on his own," he said. "I never told anyone that I caused my best mate's death. After that day, I threw myself into my studies and pretty much kept to myself. I never made another close friend."

He raised his eyes and found Xander gaping at him. "What?" he said uncomfortably.

"I killed my best friend, too," Xander said. "That's the secret I was going to share."

Spike blinked in surprise. "You're joking."

"I'm not shitting you," Xander said. "Well, okay, Jesse got munched by a vampire, but I'm the one who staked him. He was my very first staking, too. Heck, it was my first face-to-face meet-and-greet with a vampire."

The brunette broke eye-contact, and added more quietly, "I cried every night for almost a month. I hadn't learned that vampires-equal-bad yet, so I really thought that I murdered my best friend. Willow thinks that Buffy staked him. I never told anyone that it was me."

"Must've been harsh," Spike said sympathetically. He wouldn't dare offer any false platitudes. Vampire or not, Jesse had still been Jesse, he had been Xander's best friend, and Xander had staked him.

"Yeah." Xander cleared his throat and surreptitiously wiped his eyes. "So, now we each know a secret, both wiggidly similar, and we'll have to trust each other not to tell anyone."

"Right. We'll have to trust each other." Spike smiled slightly, then stood and, mug in hand, headed to the sink. He felt Xander come up behind him, and his smile grew as the younger man's arms encircled him.

"Cricket?" Xander said in a babyish voice, brushing his lips on the side of Spike's neck.


"I'm gonna kiss you silly now. Okay?"

"If you must," Spike said with fake reluctance.

"Oh, I must." Xander forcibly turned the blond to face him and lowered his mouth to Spike's. "I really, really must," he whispered against Spike's lips, and proceeded to do just that.

Spike moaned softly, opening under the boy's oral assault. He wove his arms around Xander's neck, sliding his fingers into the brunette's thick hair. Xander held the vampire flush against his muscular body, his large, strong hands resting on Spike's waist. This was where Spike wanted to be, embraced with warmth and kissed with passion by the man he loved.

Xander hoisted Spike up suddenly, sitting him on the edge of the sink. He moved between the blond's thighs, pressing his sex against the vampire's, only a few layers of cotton separating their flesh. Spike wrapped his legs around Xander's waist and started to hook his ankles, but the movement upset his precarious balance on the edge of the counter and he fell right into the sink.

Spike yelped in surprise. The dirty dishes piled inside clattered and shifted under him, making him slide further into the stainless steel sink.

Xander laughed. "Graceful."

"Sod off," Spike grumbled, shifting on the dishes. His ass was undoubtably covered in unscraped foodstuff, and he only had one pair of trousers.

"I've done a lot of kinky stuff in the kitchen, but no one has ever fallen in the sink before," Xander tittered, stepping back to take in the whole scene.

Spike shot him a black look. "Are you going to help me out?"

Xander snerked and shook his head in the negative.

"Fine." Spike reached back, grabbed the spray nozzle, aimed it at Xander, and elbowed on the water. "Ha-ha!"

A hard shower of cold water hit Xander square in the face. He yipped, turned his head, and tried to block the stream with his hands. Sputtering and laughing, he moved in and battled Spike for control of the spray nozzle. Xander managed to wrench it free and, the moment the handle was released, the water streamed out of the faucet and down the back of Spike's jeans.

"That's cold!" Spike exclaimed, twisting his body away from the water. He slapped down the tap handle and the water shut off.

Xander grinned at Spike, and Spike grinned back. Water drops clung to Xander's nose and chin, and his wet dark hair was plastered to his forehead. The front of his shirt was soaked and molded to his torso.

Without a word, Xander helped Spike out of the sink. Once both of the vampire's bare feet were on the floor, the younger man held out his hand. Spike curled his fingers around Xander's palm, and they walked silently to the bedroom.

Soft light shined from the lamp on the night-stand in the bedroom. Rumpled navy sheets covered the unmade bed. The work clothes Xander had worn earlier were in a pile on the floor at the foot of the bed.

Xander stripped off his shirt, using the back of it to dry off. He tossed it onto the pile of work clothes, and his khakis immediately followed. He stood only in his boxers, growing erection tenting the front of the black cotton. The soft lighting highlighted the ridges and planes of his body. Rock-solid thighs and calves sprinkled with dark hair. Brawny shoulders and thick, muscular arms. Thin trail of dark down that ran from his navel beneath the black boxers.

"Arms up," Xander instructed, grasping the hem of Spike's shirt.

The shirt was tossed with the other clothing, and Spike sucked in a breath of air when his belt was unbuckled by Xander. He heard the dark-haired man mutter, "...goddamn underwear...," after his trousers were pulled down. Spike stepped out of the food-stained garment and the jeans joined the pile of dirty clothes. The evidence of his arousal made a hard outline in the cotton front of his skivvies.

Xander surveyed the almost-naked vampire from head to toe. "Why do I have the sudden need to give money to Sally Strothers?"

At first, Spike didn't get it. Sally who? Then he remembered the television commercial about the starving children with the very un-thin woman begging for money. Spike tackled Xander in response to the slight. They went down in a tangle of limbs, landing roughly on the carpeted bedroom floor.

"Oof," Xander grunted, shifting under the blond splayed on top of him. "God, you're boney."

Spike slid into gameface and he snapped his teeth at the younger man. "I should bite you for making fun of me."

Xander suddenly flipped their positions, leered, said, "What if I bite you first?", and latched onto the side of Spike's neck. He sucked hard, pulling Spike's skin into his mouth and undoubtably causing a dark bruise.

Spike let out a strangled cry, his body bowing beneath Xander's. Fire licked every nerve-ending inside of him. His hands flew up and down Xander's back, arms, and shoulders. Touching, grabbing, rubbing, clawing, clutching, hanging on for dear life. Leaving gold streaks and fingerprints that slowly faded away. A stream of babble spilled from his lips.


Xander released Spike's neck with a loud slurp, nipped at his earlobe, and murmured, "I marked you."

His breath was hot against Spike's skin, but it caused the vampire to shiver. Xander shifted slightly and slipped a hand between their bodies. Spike gasped and dug his nails into the brunette's shoulders when Xander pressed the heel of his hand against Spike's covered erection.

"Like that?" Xander breathed in Spike's ear. He began to rub.

Spike managed to get out a few choked sounds of affirmation. His golden eyes rolled back as his system overloaded. He'd waited so long for the boy just to smile at him, and Xander was doing much more than that at the moment.

The vampire's climax was swift and violent. His hips slammed up and down on the floor as he exploded in his underwear. Xander never let up on the pressure of his hand against Spike's sex until the blond shuddered a final time and went still.

Within seconds, Xander rose up to his knees, straddling one of Spike's thighs, and slid his hand down his own boxers. Spike watched in a post-orgasmic daze as the boy tugged his own stiff length a few times. Xander sucked in a harsh breath as he climaxed, and a wet spot appeared on the front of his boxers. A few drops of his milky emissions escaped from the leg of his shorts and landed with silent plops on Spike's nearly hairless thigh.

Xander sat back on his heels, breathing heavily, his face flushed. Spike brushed his fingers against the dark-haired man's knee, weaving random gold patterns, needing the physical contact in the wake of what had happened.

Xander's whiskey-colored eyes regained focus and he gazed down at Spike. He groaned softly. "Your underwear is going to be the death of me."

Spike's human features returned and he scowled. "Swell. You're in the presence of a master vampire, and it's my knickers you're afraid of."

"Yep. They're the only real evil in the room... except maybe the odor of my socks," Xander said. He grinned suddenly and waggled his brows. "I guess I'll just have to remove the threat."

"You are one of the Slayerettes," Spike said logically. "It's, like, your duty or summat."

Xander hooked his fingers under the waistband of Spike's slightly wet white jockeys. "Then I'd better do my duty, shouldn't I?"

"Xander." Spike put his hands over the other man's, halting the downward direction of his skivvies. Xander looked at him questioningly.

Spike swallowed, focused on Xander's chest, and continued a little roughly, "I know I'm being cliche, but I want you to know that I love you before we go any further than a grope on the bedroom floor."

The vampire then braced himself for a rude awakening, even though the boy had all but confirmed his love already. Spike had lived long enough to know that sometimes it was just sex or the lure of the forbidden, not true love.

"Hey, look at me," Xander directed. Spike warily raised his eyes and met the boy's gaze. "I already know. I wouldn't be here about to get busy with you otherwise."

"Are you going to break my heart?" Spike asked, laying his fears on the table.

"Not in the next few hours," Xander replied in jest. He freed a hand and placed it over Spike's unbeating heart. "Seriously, I can't promise you that I won't, Spike, but I can promise not to try."

"I can live with that," Spike said, entwining his fingers with Xander's.

"Good." Dark eyes glittered hungrily. "Now, I think it's time we got naked. I want to see if my cock will glow gold when I thrust in and out of you."



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