Rating: NC-17 overall
Pairing: S/X of course!
Disclaimer: Not Joss. I have better hair.
Written for: the [info]fall_for_sx comm.
Notes: AU version of parts of Angel:S5… arising from AU version of BtVS:S7, which will be mentioned but not fully explored. B:S7 went askew at the end of ‘Dirty Girls’, if that helps. LOL
WARNING: DOES contain SPOILERS for S5 of A:tS (not sure if everyone’s seen it yet or not), but things here didn’t happen in the same way as on the show or necessarily in the same order. Sorry if that sounds confusing but this world went askew, as I said, so what comes after that split from the canon world is a wee bit… odd, perhaps.


Tisienne Blue

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Part One

Fire… pain… feeling again, sensations he’d thought forgotten hundreds of years ago, but had not forgotten at all, obviously.

He gasped, arms clutching tightly around his own waist as he hunched over, riding the pain, riding the shock to his system.

His eyes locked on the amulet resting on the carpet in front of him and he barked out one sharp, short laugh as he tried to breathe, tried to straighten his body as the enormous shudders lessened, leaving him with only small shivers that grew still smaller as the moments that seemed like hours passed.

Finally, he couldn’t avoid it any longer. He lifted his gaze, finding first the green-skinned demon, which honestly threw him for a bit of a loop, then moving on to a tall, familiar-looking dark-haired man, a sylph-like brunette woman whose own gaze seemed both older and younger than it should, then the tall, dangerous looking black man. “Okay, what…?”

That was when the voice came from the doorway behind the others and he couldn’t help the gasp that sprung from his lips.

“What th’ bloody hell are you doin’ here, Harris?”

“Shut up, Spike,” the big black man demanded, glaring at the smaller blond.

The tall man who looked so familiar blinked slowly and took a step closer, his brow furrowing deeply. “Harris? Xander Harris? Wait. I remember you. But…”

Wesley, the just-reanimated man realized, although the former Watcher had changed an awful lot since the old days, and… “W-wait… it’s… how long…? What… happened?”

And that was a very good question, Angel realized. What had happened? Why was Xander Harris, of all people, back from the dead, and how in the hell was he connected to the amulet? Buffy had told him that Xander hadn’t made it out of Sunnydale, but shouldn’t that guy Wood have come from the big gem since he’d been the ‘souled and stronger than a human’ champion what with being the son of a Slayer?

Xander frowned. “Spike…? What’s going on…?” He knew some of it, of course, but it would never do for the others to realize exactly why he was back… especially since he wasn’t entirely sure that his own theory on the matter was the true one. He knew he’d made a deal of some sort, but… the particulars were all a bit hazy.

Spike shrugged, his eyes still locked on the brunette, a small smile creasing his lips as he saw the younger man’s shaking finally subside completely. “Dunno, mate, but… good ta see you, Xan.”

“Y-yeah,” Xander answered, still confused but willing to go with it. “I guess it’s… good to be seen, too.”

And just like that, he found himself stepping forward, hand up for a high-five from the souled vampire who’d been a part of the gang until just after the vineyard incident. “God, Spike! You look good, buddy!”

Blue eyes blinked with shock at the uncharacteristically friendly greeting, but Spike couldn’t help smiling more broadly as he matched the forward motion, almost toppling forward when his responding hand-slap met no resistance, passing through Harris’s hand as though it wasn’t there. “Bloody… hell,” he yelped, “What th’ fuck are you, Xan?” His eyes hardened as one possibility came to mind.

“Um, I could be wrong, guys, but I think he’s a ghost.” Harmony smiled brightly as she stepped out of the doorway and gave Xander a quick up and down glance. “At least you dress better now. I guess being dead agrees with you.”

Xander shook his head, both hands raised in front of him. “No. No way! I am not a ghost! I mean, I’m… I…” He looked at his own arms and stalked to Angel’s desk, glaring at the dark-haired vampire as he reached for a pen. His glare became hotter when he couldn’t seem to touch it or anything else. Shit. Maybe he really was wrong about why he’d come back.

“All right, Deadboy. What did you do to me?” he snarled.

“Me?” was all Angel could say.

* * * * *

He’d gone with them to Fred’s lab, of course, although he’d kept his distance from the visible but not touchable thing that looked like Harris. He’d thought it was over when Buffy and the rest had managed to defeat the First in Sunnyhell, and yet here the thing was, pretending to be the dead boy. What was next? Was it going to appear as Anya and remind him of that whole episode on the table at the Magic Box?

Spike shivered and leaned against the wall, watching as the too-thin brunette ran scanners and sensors- and whatever the hell else she had laying about- around the shape of the… well, whatever it was… and maybe it wasn’t the First after all, because it for damned sure hadn’t been trying to manipulate anyone, and… now that he thought about it, the ‘ghost’ had been just as surprised as the rest of them when it had discovered its non-solid state.

Finally, the blond vampire sighed and forced himself to push away from the wall, approaching the form being examined. “So, pet… what’s th’ verdict?” he said with an arched brow in Fred’s direction.

The girl shrugged distractedly, making a quick shorthand notation on her chart. “It’s all very contradictory, guys. I’m picking up electromagnetic energy, but no ectoplasmic influences. Also, there are recordable brain waves, which just shouldn’t be there if he—Xander—is a ghost.”

“Shouldn’t be there even if he isn’t,” Angel muttered, then glared when Gunn smacked him on the back of his head. “Hey, I’m just saying. You didn’t know him before.”

Spike snorted. “Smart enough ta bluff Angelus into backin’ down that time, wasn’t he, ya great prat?” He turned back to the scientist, arching a brow. “What else, Freddy? Any way ta tell if he’s… evil?”

Xander blinked, only then realizing what had been making Spike act so bizarrely. “I am not the First, Spike! God! How could you even think that?”

The vampire shrugged sheepishly, finally meeting the wide brown eyes. “No body, lookin’ like a bloke we all know is dead, can’t touch anythin’… not ta mention, mate, I was there when you lost your eye, but here you are, all two-eyed again, yah?”

“Wait,” Gunn said quickly. “He lost an eye? Was there fun-and-games involved, ‘cause that would just be… sad but funny.”

The ‘ghost’ sighed and shook his head. “And there’s yet another joke that never gets tired. Really.”

Spike chuckled. “Nah, thug. Unless you’d call havin’ th’ right-hand man of th’ First Evil gouge your eye out with his thumb ‘fun an’ games’.”

Fred shook her head and lightly pushed Spike back a few paces. “S-sorry, Spike, but you’re dead too and I don’t want your body registering on the equipment, okay? I mean, how would I know whether I was getting accurate temperature readings of the ambient environment directly surrounding him if you’re that close because you know vampires are room-temperature, and all that and okay, I set it to ignore my body heat, but it only works for one person at a time and I don’t think you’re familiar with the equipment so you probably can’t operate it, and…”

Xander had to laugh. He couldn’t help it. “Fred. Fred,” he ordered with a grin, “Take a deep breath. Exhale. Take another.” He grinned at Spike. “Is it just me or does she kind of remind you of someone we know?”

Even Angel and Wesley laughed at that, though the others simply looked confused. Then again, it was only the four of them who had known Willow, and that was—in the end—why it was two vampires, one former Watcher and one incorporeal Xander Harris who ended up in Angel’s office an hour or so later.

* * * * *

He watched enviously as Spike took a deep swig of his latest beer, his mouth watering at the thought of cold, wet hops-y goodness, and how weird was it that his mouth was watering when he apparently didn’t really have a mouth?

Of course, that wasn’t anywhere near as disturbing as the still-cautious looks he caught the blond giving him every few minutes. Then again, Spike had been so used and abused by the First, Xander figured the guy had a right to be nervous.

“Look, Deadboy, I don’t know, okay?” he said for what had to be the fifth time in as many minutes. “Maybe it’s a reward or something. Or maybe… I don’t know. Maybe that amulet thing rebuilt me from my genes or something like that. It’s not like losing an eye would affect that, right? All I know is…” He sighed and concentrated on not sinking through the couch.

“I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was guarding the hallway, y’know? But then Willow did her spell and all of a sudden we found out that Dawn was a potential. I guess maybe no one figured it out because she was surrounded by the other girls. Like… not seeing a particular blonde at a Barbie convention, right?” He shrugged.

“She had things handled once the spell made her a Slayer, so I left her there to see if I could help the others.”

His eyes closed as he remembered. “Andrew and Anya were on another hall and Giles and Wood were guarding the entrance to the Science building. They were fine. So I headed down to the basement, found what was once the seal… and I went down there.”

Spike frowned deeply, trying not to growl. “What th’ bloody hell were you thinkin’, git?” he demanded, “Could have gotten yourself killed doin’ somethin’ barmy like that!”

It wasn’t until he noticed the incredulous stares trained on him that he came as close to blushing as a vampire could. “An’ it seems you did, so I was right.” And why the hell was he so worried about Harris throwing himself into the jaws of danger? Not like the bloke was his friend or anything… except he was, of course. Somehow.

Brown eyes rolled as Xander chuckled. “Anyway… so I went down there and… God, the girls were amazing! Kennedy had that weird scythe thing and she was passing it around, and I kind of felt like I was in the way, but… I don’t know. It felt like I… needed to be there. And then Buffy went down.”

He paused and eyed the drinks the others were enjoying again then closed his eyes, seeing it all again. “One of the Turok Han stuck a sword through Buffy’s side and she… dropped the amulet. I… God, I didn’t know if she was alive or dead, but I did know we’d all be dead if nobody even tried to use the damned thing.”

He sighed, opening his eyes to gaze at each of the men in turn, his stare finally settling again on Spike. “So I did it. I… put it on and I guess I was good enough, worthy enough, because the next thing I knew, there was… light.”

He deliberately didn’t mention the burning, the sensation of his entire body being too full, too hot, too consumed by that same light to bear. He didn’t tell them about how it had felt as his skin sizzled, popped, as the flesh melted from bone, as tendons seized up, shrinking and breaking fingers, wrists, ankles and more.

They didn’t need to know that. He didn’t need to know that.

“And when the light faded,” he finally murmured, “I was… still me, but I wasn’t there. I was somewhere… else.” No need to tell them where.

He sighed softly, rubbing his own arms. “That’s all, guys. That’s what happened and… I can’t believe it’s been less than six weeks. It felt like… God, centuries.”

The two vampires exchanged looks with each other and the former Watcher, each of them well aware of what burning did to a human and fairly sure that they knew where Xander had spent the time between the ‘light’ and Wolfram & Hart.

Finally, Spike nodded. “Right, then. Guess you must be tired, mate. Been a long soddin’ day, yah? You can bunk with me.” He ignored the shocked look on his GrandSire’s face and tossed back the rest of his beer before standing and heading towards the office door.

“Well? You comin’, droopy? Or would you rather snuggle up with th’ poof an’ Percy?”

Xander couldn’t help the queasy look that crossed his face as he followed the blond vamp quickly. “I can’t stress the world of ‘no’ enough, Private Peroxide. Uh, no offense, Deadboy… Wes.”

* * * * *

“Uh, so are they really…” Xander trailed off, not sure he actually wanted to know.

Spike smirked as he opened the door to his rooms. “Guess you’ll be findin’ out soon enough, mate. Th’ mighty poof’s place is just th’ other side of that wall… an’ th’ walls are bloody well thin,” he added, pointing to the silk-draped expanse behind the couch the incorporeal man would be inhabiting.

He laughed loud and hard at the panic on Xander’s face. “Kiddin’, mate. An’ no, they’re not shaggin’. Just wanted ta see if ghosts could blush, is all.”

Xander glared for a moment then chuckled softly. “So can they?”

The vampire nodded, wondering whether the bloke would need a pillow and blanket, what with being all ghost-y and whatnot. “Red enough that I can almost smell th’ blood, mate.”

It was the sudden sigh Xander released that had Spike frowning. “What, Xan? What’s botherin’ you now?”

He shrugged and moved to the couch, flopping carefully onto it. “It’s just… you said Red, and… I don’t… Hell, Spike. Is she… did she make it? Willow, I mean. Did she…?”

And of course the bloke wouldn’t know. Not if he’d been in a hell dimension since he’d burned.

“She did,” Spike said quickly. “Her, Buffy, th’ Bit. Even Giles an’ th’ bottom-feeder. Some of th’ other chits, too. Don’t know which. Didn’t much care for them, did I?” He thought for a moment then frowned again. “Your demon-girl, mate… don’t know how ta tell you, but…”

“I know, Spike,” Xander whispered, more relieved than he’d even imagined he’d be at hearing that the others had survived. “I… saw her. Where I was, after. I just… didn’t see the others, so…” He gave the blond a shaky smile. “Thanks.”

Spike found himself smiling back, then shrugged as he headed to the bedroom. “Anythin’ for you, pet. Now try ta get some sleep. Freddy’s goin’ ta have more tests for you tomorrow, I’m sure.”

“Oh, joy… oh, rupture. I mean rapture,” Xander sighed, even as he got as comfortable as he could on the couch while trying to stay on it, not in it.

Part Two

“Oh… oh, this is interesting!” Fred chirped, staring at the long, wide ribbon of paper that was chattering from one of her machines. “He’s… Xander, you’re not a ghost!” She couldn’t help the huge smile that bloomed on her face as she peered at him over the top of her glasses.

“Well, what th’ bloody hell is he then, pet?” Spike demanded quickly, trying to make some sort of sense out of the random-looking squiggles and lines on the paper.

Fred’s brows drew slightly together and she cocked her head, first one way, then the other. “Well, near as I can tell, Xander is within normal parameters for a human. But… and this is a really big but, guys… he seems to be out of phase with our reality somehow.” She looked at the others, then at Xander, suddenly noticing the even deeper confusion on their faces. “Um… it’s like he’s existing a few seconds away from us in time. So we can see him but we can’t feel him and I know I’m not explaining this right,” she sighed. “Just chalk it up to quantum physics and temporal displacement if it makes it easier for you.”

“Okay,” Angel said after a moment, “So how do we fix it?”

“Yeah, I mean… what do we do to make me… not out of phase?” His own brow was furrowed as Xander crossed his arms across his chest.

“I… I don’t think we can do anything about it,” the slender scientist admitted slowly, “Or not with the equipment we’ve got. Um, maybe some combination of science and magic might work but we’ll need to research it and that’s going to take time. I… I’m sorry, Xander.”

The not-ghost sighed and shook his head, seeing just how disappointed the young woman was that she didn’t have an immediate answer for him. “That’s okay, Fred. It just means I’ll have to hang around and see what kind of…”

Spike blinked. “Hey! Where’d he go?”

* * * * *

It was a good forty minutes later that Xander suddenly reappeared, this time in Wesley’s office. “… fun I can have, right?” he finished, startling the two vampires, Wesley himself, the green demon who he’d come to know was called Lorne, and Harmony who managed to drop two mugs of blood and knock a small stack of books from the edge of Wesley’s desk. “Okay, new room, and, uh… what the hell just happened? Weird.” Not as weird as the fact that he knew he’d been gone but also didn’t know, which was confusing enough to him; who knew what the others would think? Better not to tell them, he decided.

“Look what you made me do!” Harmony nearly shrieked, running from the room to find something to clean up the mess with even as she bemoaned the duties involved with being Angel’s ‘assistant’.

He tried his best not to look as relieved as he felt, but Spike had a feeling he’d failed miserably because he found himself jumping up from his seat, a huge smile on his face. “Pet! You came back!” And just as suddenly, he was frowning. “Bloody hell! Thought you were gone for good. ‘s been close to a soddin’ hour!”

Angel arched his brows at the way the younger vampire was acting, then shrugged it off, completely missing the look that passed between Lorne and Wesley. “Back off, Spike. Harris probably had some… ghost things to do. Right, Harris?”

“Oh, yeah… because there’s a butt-load of ghost-malls and ghost-movie-theaters out there, Deadboy,” Xander said sarcastically, looking at the dark-haired vampire. “Even ghost-bowling-alleys, and you know how much I love to bowl. At least I won’t get athlete’s foot from the rented ghost-shoes I get with my ghost-money, right?” He snorted then looked at Spike and smiled almost shyly. “I… hell, I don’t know what happened, Spike, but… I’ll always come back if I can, okay? I’d never just… leave. Not without saying goodbye.”

Xander frowned at the sappiness of his own words, then tried to fix it, although the blond man didn’t seem to be even remotely offended. “You know… so you won’t have to worry about me just showing up again in case you’re… shagging or something.” God, he’d almost given himself away and it wasn’t time yet. Hell, it might never be time, but… anyway.

Lorne chuckled to himself and nodded at Wesley, almost entirely sure of what he was thinking. Of course, he’d be even more certain if he could get the young man- out of phase or not- to sing for him.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that, my little incorporeal pop tart. Spikikins is having an incredibly sad dry spell. I’ve offered time and time again to help him out with that, but…” The Pylean shrugged. “You could pop in on him any time, day or night, and believe me, you wouldn’t be interrupting any relationship he has unless it’s the one with Thumbelina and her four sisters,” he said loudly with a wink of one bright red eye.

“Hey! That’s not true!” Spike sputtered, silently making plans to eviscerate the green git.

His eyes moved back to Xander’s and he swallowed hard. “That’s not true, mate. Bleedin’ Lorne’s full of it. Get lots of shaggin’ in. All th’ bloody time. A regular shaggin’ machine, that’s me! Got hopeful partners throwin’ themselves at me all bloody day!” And so what if that was a huge sodding lie? It wasn’t like Xan knew any different, after all.

Wesley’s brows were almost high enough to meet his hairline at the obvious byplay between Spike and the grown-up version of the boy he’d once known, but still, they had a job to do and it would be unforgivable if they neglected their duty just to let Spike assert-- fallaciously, Wesley was sure-- his man-whore status.

“Yes, well,” he inserted, clearing his throat, “Be that as it may, we really do need to see whether we can discover some means of returning Xander to a state in which he can physically interact with the rest of us.” He frowned suddenly. “And perhaps we might also see if there is any reference to… hiccups? I don’t know what to call it, but… whatever it was that happened when Xander faded out.”

“Worries you too, huh, Wes?” Xander asked softly, playing along even thought he knew exactly where he’d been all of a sudden. He just hadn’t expected to be pulled back there. Not so soon, anyway. It had only been a couple days on the human plane, after all, although granted that was a good sixty years where he’d been before... and how could he not have remembered that to begin with?

Spike frowned, wanting to admit that Wes wasn’t the only one who was worried, but… he couldn’t. Not without sounding like an enormous ponce, anyway, not to mention that he had no idea of why he cared in the first place. Sure, the kid had been almost a friend at the end there, but… He sighed. Hell, Xander was probably the only one in the room with him who’d be able to understand about… Buffy and his changed feelings for her. Not that he’d ever go out of his way to tell the bloke so.

“Right, then. We hit th’ soddin’ books,” he tried to grouse, “Thought I’d done th’ last of that back in not-so-dear-old Sunnyhell.” He moved back to his chair and sat, pulling another alongside. “C’mon, Xan… you can read with me. Might catch somethin’ I’d miss, yah?”

It was the lack of snarky comments to Harris that had Angel stumped. That and the obvious concern his GrandChilde had shown when the former donut-boy had gone missing.

It had been Spike who’d insisted that something was wrong, Spike who’d promised to make all of their lives a living hell if they didn’t get to work on finding out how to bring the boy back to having a body again… and Spike was the one who’d roped Harmony into playing waitress, although Angel didn’t want to know how that had been accomplished.

That was when Angel caught the amused glances Wesley and Lorne were sharing and something just… clicked. “Oh… my… God…” he whispered, trying not to shiver.

Then again, maybe it made sense. The two most annoying and irritating people he’d ever known… “God help us all.” Of course, it didn’t seem like either Spike or Harris had any idea of what their attitudes towards each other implied, so as long as he didn’t say anything, maybe it would all just… go away. It wasn’t as though either of the men was gay, anyway, so maybe if he just ignored it, they would too.

Yeah, Angel decided with a small smile, that would work.

* * * * *

The hours of research had netted them exactly nothing, although Wesley hadn’t really expected it to. Ghosts were one thing, but according to Fred, Xander Harris was definitely not a ghost and as Wes trusted Fred implicitly where science was concerned, the lack of information was hardly surprising. Of course, that didn’t mean he was going to say so to Spike.

The vampire might have a soul, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t hurt someone for telling him what he didn’t want to hear. Spike wasn’t nearly as… broody… as Angel, after all. Or as tortured by the things he’d done while soul-less.

Thus it was that when Wesley rubbed his eyes for the fiftieth or so time and looked at the clock, his words implied anything but defeat.

“We’ve made some good headway, all. Eliminated a large number of things, in any case. However, I believe any further progress will be assisted by the books which are being sent from Rome.” He smiled shakily, trying not to see the glare Spike sent his way. “And as it is now… nearly eight o’clock in the morning, perhaps we should adjourn until later? It might be best to approach this from the perspective of not being so tired we’re all nodding off. Not to mention being better rested to absorb the new materials…?”

Lorne groaned, tossing the book in his lap aside. “And thank Gods for the voice of reason, Wes. I swear I was about to go cross-eyed from reading that Anibitath. And trust me. Cross-eyed red? Not a good look. Not even on me.”

Xander laughed, liking the green-skinned man more with each minute he spent with him. “I don’t know, Lorne… I think it would depend on your wardrobe.”

Another thick book slammed closed and Angel sighed. “God. I have a meeting at eleven. Guess I’ll have to make do with a nap.”

Spike frowned deeply as his GrandSire stumbled from the room, followed closely by the ex-Watcher. “Bloody hell,” he muttered, “th’ way they’re always stuck together, I’m amazed they’re not shaggin’.”

The Pylean laughed softly and shook his head. “Oh, the attraction is there, Spikikins, but I’d be surprised if you could find two more repressed guys anywhere. Besides… dear, sweet Wesley has a thing for Freddy; didn’t you know? Not that he’s been picking up her signals or anything. Talk about the blind leading the blind.” ‘Unlike you,’ he thought, ‘with your so obvious crush on Xander Harris… the one you haven’t even admitted to yourself’.

And this was the perfect time, Lorne realized, to get the physically insubstantial man away from the vampire for a little while. Long enough to get Xander to sing for him, anyway.

“So, my cute little look-but-don’t-touch puddin’ pop,” he chuckled, winking at the brunette, “What are you going to do while the good little vamps are all snuggled up safe in their beds?”

Xander grinned, ignoring the offended look on Spike’s face. “Uh, try not to fall through the couch and wish I could at least use the remote for the TV…? Why? What did you have in mind?”

Spike nearly growled at the idea of his boy being anywhere other than their rooms while he slept, but… ‘not a ponce. Bloke can do whatever he bloody well wants. Doesn’t matter ta me. Not a whit.’ Of course, that didn’t stop him from looking annoyed.

Lorne chuckled to himself and smiled at the temporally displaced human. “I heard that you used to be in construction and… I used to have a club. I’m thinking about opening a new one and I could really use a professional eye to check out a possible location.” He smiled more, winningly, when the young man groaned softly. “Tell you what. I’ll owe you dinner and drinks when you’re back in the world as you know it. And we can catch a matinee. On me.”

And that beat sitting around Spike’s living room, Xander figured. Especially since he didn’t apparently sleep. Or he hadn’t since coming out of the amulet, anyway.

“Cool,” he said by way of agreement before looking at Spike and catching… something on the vampire’s face before whatever it was quickly turned into a neutral expression. “I guess I’ll see you later, buddy… assuming I can actually leave the building.” He grinned, then felt the smile fade when the answering grin showed for barely a moment before suddenly disappearing.

“Right, then. Have fun, Harris. I’m off.” And with that, Spike forced himself from the chair and stalked from Wesley’s office.

Xander blinked. “Wonder what crawled up his ass and died there,” he muttered, then shrugged and looked at Lorne. “Lead on MacDuff,” he said with a smile, “And you’d better start saving your paychecks because I’m expecting one hell of a dinner. And if you’ve never seen one of the Harris clan drink on someone else’s wallet, you’re in for a surprise.”

Red eyes sparkled as Lorne threw his head back and laughed. “Oh, sweet-cheeks, I’ll just put it on the corporate card. Might as well put the evil assets to good use, right?”

* * * * *

The prospective club site wasn’t that bad, Xander acknowledged silently as he made yet another round of the place. It was a bit larger than what he really thought the demon had in mind, but considering how much renovation it would need, that was probably a good thing.

“Good thing you’ve got that corporate card, my friend,” he said, pulling his head out of the wall, “The wiring here must be from like… 1960. And the pipes are nothing to rave about, either.” He gazed up at the ceiling of the main room, eyes trailing nearly wantonly over the hand-carved beams, fingers itching to clean, repair, restore them to their former glory.

“On the other hand, it’s structurally sound and the foundation of the building is good and solid. No cracks to let in water or vermin and that’s saying a lot considering all the quakes that happen here.”

“It’ll need a lot of work, though. Don’t get me wrong. But… if you’re looking to start an up-scale club, I’d say this is the place.” He cocked his head, eyes closing for a minute or two as he ran figures in his mind. “I’d have to check local suppliers and stuff, but… I could probably bring it in for under half a mil within six months… you know, if I could actually touch things.” He sighed.

Lorne blinked, then blinked again. He’d actually brought Xander there simply to get the man to sing, but… if what he was saying was true, then there was actually a chance that he could have something of his own again. Something that wasn’t reliant upon the evil law firm he still didn’t really trust even if he was in charge of part of it.

“Sweetie… if you can really do that, I’ll make you corporeal again,” he announced, “Even if it costs me an arm and a leg… literally.”

Xander laughed. “Hopefully it won’t, Lorne. And… as fun as the whole Casper thing with the walls has been, maybe this would be a good time to tell me why we’re really here.”

“You don’t miss much, do you, cupcake?”

“Not anymore, no.”

* * * * *

He remembered telling Xander about his empathic skills. Remembered asking the man to sing for him. Hell, he even remembered laughing as the red lips pursed, then laughing even more at the song Xander had chosen.

‘We are the Champions’, indeed.

He remembered the surprisingly melodic tones coming from the young man and he could still hear his voice in his head.

I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand
Kicked in my face
But i've come through
And i need to go on and on and on and on

We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'cause we are the champions of the world

I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You've bought me fame and fortune
And everything that goes with it
I thank you all
But it's been no bed of roses no pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
And i ain't gonna lose
And i need to go on and on and on and on

We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'cause we are the champions of the world

We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'cause we are the champions…
Of the world…

Oh, yeah… he remembered that just fine.

What he didn’t remember was what he’d seen and that had never happened before.

The man, the song, his voice… then a flash of… something so bright he didn’t want to see it, and then… nothing.

He had only the vaguest recollection of Xander yelling at him, shouting in his ear… then the sensation of being in a car- a cab, he thought, since he did remember pulling out his wallet- and… bed, sleep, and now… waking.

He knew he should be worried, knew he should be frightened, even. But he just… wasn’t.

No need to tell Angel or the others about what had happened, he thought. He’d probably just been seeing the ‘light’ that had flowed through Xander when he’d saved the world.

That had to be it, Lorne told himself with a smile. The guy wasn’t in phase with their time so he’d seen the past instead of the future. Yeah.

He completely ignored the fact that he’d slept for the first time in days. Didn’t even think that he shouldn’t have been able to since he’d had his sleep removed to deal with the amount of work he now had. It wasn’t important, he realized, the thought leaving the forefront of his mind completely, as though it had never been.

Part Three

He’d been entirely unable to sleep and he didn’t know why.

Maybe it was simply that he’d gotten used to the sounds of Xander breathing in the living room, though he wasn’t entirely sure of why he could hear those slow, steady breaths.

Then again, he could hear the bloke when he talked and maybe that was something to do with Freddy’s ‘out of phase’ theory.

Didn’t matter, of course. Just mattered that he couldn’t sleep, and what the fuck was wrong with him that the presence or absence of Xander-bloody-Harris could affect him like that?

He growled, tossing in the big bed, one forearm rising to press against his eyes for a moment before sliding above his head.

The bloke had been almost a friend back in Sunnydale. At the end, anyway. And if he’d stayed, maybe that ‘almost’ would have been taken care of from the boy’s side, too, instead of only his own, judging from his reaction to the bloke.

But he’d let the boy down. He’d let that bloody asshole Caleb get his hands on him. Or one hand, to be precise. One thumb.

And he’d stood there, unable to move, while that thumb had driven deep, ruining one of those deep, chocolate eyes forever.

Or not forever, he reminded himself, because Xander was back and had both his eyes, and…

And was a bloody ghost, or as close to it as made no never-mind, no matter what Freddy said.

Maybe he was just feeling guilty. Yeah, maybe that was it.

He’d let it happen and now that the boy was at least out of whatever Hell he’d been in, he-- Spike-- was feeling ashamed that he’d let that flawless bloke be maimed, harmed, ruined in the first pla…

“Wait a bloody minute,” Spike yelped, shocked, “Flawless? My boy was never bloody ‘flawless’. Annoyin’? Yah. Irritatin’? Definitely. A great bloody pain in my ass? Absolutely. So where th’ soddin’ fuckin’ hell did I get ‘flawless’ from?”

It had to be the soul, he finally realized. He’d never so much as thought of Xander as anything other than a huge waste of space and oxygen before he’d gotten the soul…

Except he had.

The boy had been the only one to be even remotely decent to him when he’d had the chip, he recalled. He’d seen that he got his blood, done his wash… hell, he’d even stopped him from staking himself that time and yeah, Red had been a big part of that, but still… behind the snide comments and snarky looks, there had been a sort of… not friendship, really, but something less than the loathing the others had been so clear about.

“Didn’t tie me up as tight as he could have,” he admitted softly, shifting again on the large mattress, “Covered the windows a right treat, too.”

He found himself smiling as he remembered the boy Xander had been then; smiling more as he thought about how the human lad had grown into himself after the failed wedding. Sure it had been horrible for his Xan but it had also made the bloke stronger. Made him better able to deal with the plethora of teenaged girls who’d ended up swarming Buffy’s house in the end.

It still puzzled him how a straight arrow like Xander had been able to resist the temptation of all those young, nubile girls looking up to him. One of the original Scoobies? Yeah, once they’d understood how long he’d survived while patrolling with ‘THE Slayer’, there’d been more than one of them ready to give the bloke a tumble.

But Xander’d never taken advantage and Spike just didn’t get it.

He’d have thought at least one of those girls would have seen the man’s physique whilst he’d been repairing windows and such, tanned chest and back flexing, and just… jumped him. Kissed him hard. Not taken ‘no’ for an answer…

The vampire groaned, the remembered image of the shirtless Scooby in his head-- along with the scenario-- having an all-too-predictable effect on him.

It should have disturbed him that the idea of some bint shagging Xander excited him… especially if the chit in question had been Buffy, and he’d seen her look at Xander a time or two. But even if that was who his mind put with the boy in his imagination, it would be fine, he decided quickly. Months since he’d left the girl, weeks since she’d been out of Sunnyhell and safe, and… all he’d found himself doing was smiling that she’d survived. He hadn’t felt more than a slight urge to go to her, and that had been mostly from wanting to see with his own eyes that she was alive, that the Bit was alive, too, and that neither of them was too much the worse for wear.

It had been Angel’s jealous glances and sharp little snide comments that had truly amused him, and it was that amusement itself that had shown him the truth.

He loved Buffy. Probably always would, Spike admitted to himself. She was a good woman, just as her Mum had been, and… if he’d stayed in Sunnydale rather than leaving to protect her from whatever else the First might have planted in his psyche, maybe he’d still be obsessed with her. But he wasn’t. Not anymore.

Yeah, he reminded himself with a slow smile, he loved the Slayer. He just wasn’t in love with her. And ultimately, that made it okay for him to imagine her rolling around on the floor with the carpenter-that-was.

That sorted, Spike closed his eyes again, imagining the small, surprised ‘ooomph’ Xander would have released when he was jumped and pushed to the floor, babble rising quickly as he objected for a moment to the suddenness of the ‘attack’…

The boy would be shocked, of course, but the bright blond hair moving against his jaw as teeth and lips slid down that tanned, corded neck would have him shutting up right quick, words quickly becoming unidentifiable as they turned into moans and begging whimpers…

“Yah… give it ta him good… always was too tightly wound, wasn’t he?” The vampire chuckled quietly, cock twitching just a bit beneath the sheets. “Needed a good shag, seein’ as his demon-chit wasn’t givin’ it up… ta him, anyway.” He smirked to himself, setting his mind to seeing more than just the top of that blond head moving against that stunning neck.

It wasn’t until he pulled his mental view back completely, though, that he realized the blond he was picturing on top of Xander, holding him to the floor and desperately ripping the human’s pants away wasn’t Buffy or even one of the then-potentials… it was him.

“Bloody hell,” he groaned, unable to resist the notion as his hand slipped beneath the covers to wrap slowly around his hardening flesh, his other arm moving to press against his eyes again as he let his mind truly soar into the scenario.

“Throw him down,” he whispered, fully committed to the fantasy that could have bothered him but didn’t. “Press him inta th’ floor… don’t care if Buffy’s home or not, don’t care who sees… bleedin’ hot, he is, that long, toned body under me… God… fuckin’ slam my lips against his, stab my tongue inta his mouth…”

He moaned loudly, fisting his shaft slowly.

“Feel him buckin’ up against me… feel him gettin’ just as hard as I am… yah, all that heat an’ need… doesn’t want th’ demon-girl now… wants me an’ says so…”

His thumb slid up, stroking over the head of his cock, spreading the slick drops around.

“Pull away for a second or three, just ta get my kit off… help him with his while he rocks against th’ floor… wait, no…”

His brow furrowed as Spike reordered his mental image.

“Says he wants me… feel how bloody hard he is… yah.”

He nodded, happier with the new plan.

“Pull away from his lips an’ he gasps a bit. Smiles, lookin’ all needy. ‘Need you, pet,’ I tell him… ‘need ta feel you in me.’ An’ he shivers, sending those lovely shudders right through me. Yah.”

He shook a bit himself, his hand stroking harder suddenly, the pre-cum slicking his way.

“Take him down to th’ basement an’ we both need ta get out of our clothes… too bleedin’ tight now an’ I don’t want anythin’ separatin’ us. He doesn’t either.”

His groan this time was a bit deeper as he deliberately avoided wondering why he was so ready to bottom for the human boy. It wasn’t like him, after all. Then again, he could imagine anything he liked, with no one the wiser. It wasn’t like anybody but him would ever know.

“Get our kits off…” he murmured silkily, giving himself over to the dream again, “Just look at him for a while. Bloody luvly… strong an’ tan an’ toned… can hardly wait ta feel him slamming that beautiful cock inta me… can’t wait ta feel it pushin’ at me, openin’ me ta him… ta his need… Bloody fuckin’ hell…”

Long, elegant fingers slid from his cock, roaming quickly down past his sac to press lightly at that wonderful place between balls and hole.

“Doesn’t want ta hurt me, doesn’t know what ta do. Never been with a bloke before…”

His unneeded breaths quickened, becoming panting gasps as his finger circled his hole.

“Pull him down onta th’ cot… onta me… feel alla that blissful heat coverin’ my body… can’t keep myself from touchin’ him. Need ta touch him. Need ta taste him, taste his skin…”

His finger circled more, barely pressing at the center, at his goal, as he pictured it so clearly it was almost like it was actually happening.

“Kiss him hard an’ rough, like no chit ever could… let my tongue wrap ‘round his… feel him moanin’ even though he can’t ‘cause I’ve got his mouth occupied… swallow whatever small sounds he does manage… an’ move on, move down, lips on his neck, teeth nippin’ an’ he doesn’t care… knows I’ll never bite him if’n he doesn’t ask for it…”

But the idea was enough to have Spike rocking faster on the bed, forearm still pressing to his eyes hard enough that small flares of brightly colored spots bloomed.

“Want ta suck him inta my mouth, taste him on my tongue, but he’s on top of me an’ I can’t move past th’ top of his chest- th’ slight swells at the top of his pecs. An’ he groans again an’ rocks hard against me, that amazin’ cock slidin’ against mine an’ it’s almost enough…”

His hand moved up again, fingers wrapping around his throbbing length.

“Can’t help lookin’ up at him, meetin’ his eyes. Can’t help moanin’ at th’ need I see there. ‘You sure you want this, luv?’ I say, an’ he nods, swallowin’ hard before liftin’ from me an’ shiftin’ ta th’ side. ‘Want you, Spike,’ he says, lookin’ so beautiful with his lips all kiss-swelled an’ red. “Want ta be inside you…”

Fingers shifted yet again, gathering more slick fluids and spreading them down, down, down until the slippery digits once again circled his anus.

“ ‘Need you ta be in me, luv,’ I say… an’ I spread my legs, takin’ him by th’ wrist ta put his hand where I want it. ‘Can wait ta be in ya, luv… ‘til later.’ ”

Spike groaned loud and long as he pressed one finger gently to his opening, chest heaving at the fantasy he was creating within his mind.

“Doesn’t want ta hurt me, pushin’ even a finger in, so I reach down onta th’ floor an’ find th’ tube of antibiotic ointment th’ Bit brought down last time I got banged up. Didn’t want ta disappoint her that I didn’t need it then an’ it’s slick enough, so now I do need it. Won’t tell her what I used it for; just that it came in handy.”

His brow furrowed slightly at bringing Dawn into that sort of a fantasy but he’d never tell her so it didn’t matter.

“Pull his hand away an’ smile when he looks disappointed. ‘Not stoppin’ you, luv,’ I say, openin’ th’ tube an’ squeezin’ a bit onto his fingers. ‘Last thing I want ta do is stop you…’. An’ suddenly he’s smilin’ back, his eyes shinin’ with want an’ need an’ th’ desire ta please me… ta make me feel good.”

He sighed softly, well aware that he was making the entire imaginary encounter far too idyllic. Still, it was his fantasy and he didn’t care how unlikely it was right then.

His fingers moved more quickly, pressing an odd, almost drum-like rhythm around his aching hole.

“ ‘Goin’ ta make you feel so good, Spike,’ he says, ‘Just tell me what ta do…’ An’ I look at him, my eyes half closed from th’ pleasure of feelin’ him naked an’ hard beside me. ‘Just… open me up, luv… one finger first, yah…?’ I say…”

He pressed the tip of his index finger against the tightness of his anus, imagining it to be a thicker, warmer finger. A low, deep groan slipped from his mouth and he bit his lip softly for a moment before releasing it to continue his whispered monologue.

“Almost cry when that first finger dips inside… he’s goin’ so slow, bein’ so careful. Too careful. Not human, am I? So I tell him so. ‘Not goin’ ta break, luv,’ I tell him, my eyes caught with his, body archin’ ta take more of that amazin’ digit. ‘Harder, pet… please, luv…’ Don’t even care that I’m beggin’. Willin’ ta beg all day an’ all night if’n that’s what it takes. ‘Another finger, pet… need ta stretch me, yah? Enough so’s I can take that beautiful cock of yours inta my tight little bum…’ An’ he likes hearin’ that… likes hearin’ how much I want him. Likes knowin’… an’ he pushes that second thick, hot finger inside, slicked along by the ointment.”

His entire body was vibrating already, tense and needy. The arm across his eyes pressed down harder still, even as his fingers delved deep inside his ass, avoiding that one perfect spot until the fantasy caught up.

“Had enough, now… can’t take any more teasin’. Rock hard, pushin’ myself up onta his fingers an’ I don’t slow down when he gasps. ‘Spike…’ he says, speakin’ through th’ moan, ‘ ‘s too soon an’ you’re not…’ An’ I growl, rollin’ towards him an’ pressin’ him against th’ basement wall.”

His fingers moved harder, faster still, as Spike gasped and grunted, the images in his mind fully taking over.

“Shift him, shift us, loom over him while he looks at me all stunned and scared and then I grab th’ bloody tube again an’ slick up that thick an’ ready cock an’ I’m slick enough, want him enough that I can’t stop, an’… an’ I… bloody fuckin’ hell, I get him set right an’ slide down an’ he’s so bloody fuckin’ hot inside me an’ I can’t… his cock hits that spot an’ I’m so ready an’… bloody hell, I… an’ he… an’…”

Spike howled, fingers brushing his prostate just barely but it was enough to have him arching off of the bed and shooting wild streams of cum over himself and the sheets.

“Bloody… Xan! So… good…”

He groaned, head pressing back into his pillow as he let his body calm.

“Bloody hell. Want th’ bloke, don’t I?” And strangely enough, even with as sudden as it all seemed…? Spike was fine with that.

It was only minutes later, after wiping himself off with one edge of the top sheet, that he finally managed to fall asleep, entirely unaware of the body that had been halfway through the door, watching him for a good ten minutes.

* * * * *

Fortunately for Xander, being incorporeal didn’t mean that he couldn’t touch himself.

Also fortunate was the fact that when he came at hearing Spike shout out his name, his spunk was also immaterial.

He managed to make his way back to the couch silently, and when he collapsed, he didn’t much care whether he sank through the cushions or not.

Maybe his job would be a little bit easier than he’d thought, he told himself as he closed his eyes, knowing he wouldn’t sleep but fully prepared to think a great deal.

And if that thinking led to his own personal reenactment of Spike’s little… fantasy… then so be it.

Part Four

Spike was getting worried. He was also getting frustrated, but worried was topping the list at the moment.

Xander had been disappearing for longer and longer stretches of time and while the young man seemed to be relatively unconcerned about it, Spike couldn’t share his attitude.

Something was wrong. Something had to be wrong, and even Fred hadn’t been able to figure out exactly what.

It didn’t help that when Xander had been present, he’d obviously been distracted, staring into space as though there was something there that only he could see… and judging from the disturbed look on the boy’s face at those times, it wasn’t something good.

He shouldn’t care. He knew he shouldn’t. The bloke wanted to pretend there was nothing wrong? Should have been fine with Spike.

But it wasn’t.

It also wasn’t fine that the young man seemed less worried about his sporadic disappearing act than Percy was. It was almost like Xander knew what was going on, but he couldn’t, could he? If he knew something, he would have said so, right?

Then again, Xander wasn’t really the same as the bloke Spike remembered. He was… older somehow. More… together, maybe, and that didn’t make a bloody lick of sense.

A few centuries in Hell—or a hell dimension—should have made the boy shattered and weak, not… confident and strong.

And that realization was the first inkling Spike had that there was a chance the returned Scooby had been less than entirely honest with him and the others.

Of course, the realization swiftly disappeared-- just as quickly as it had come to him.

* * * * *

Xander sighed and shook his head. “You’re fooling yourself, Deadboy,” he said sadly. “Don’t you get it? You pretty much sold your soul for this place!” He gestured quickly and vaguely, trying to indicate the entire building. “There’s no changing evil from the inside. There’s only destroying it from the outside! How can you not see that?”

Angel frowned deeply, glowering at the image of the human. “No, it’s… you don’t understand, Harris. There’s more to all of this than you think.”

He snorted. “I doubt that, Angel. Somehow, they got to you. Had something you wanted… needed, maybe? Let you think they were giving you some sort of reward?” Xander shook his head again. “Fine. Believe that if you want to. But ask yourself something, okay?” He crossed his arms, glaring back at the vampire. “Why would true evil—those ‘Senior Partners’—give you all of this, knowing you’d be able to use it to undo all their work? They wouldn’t. This… all of this… is a distraction. They’re trying to keep you busy while they go on with their plans. And it’s working. You’re letting it work. Whatever they gave you, you need to ask yourself if it’s worth damning the entire world.”

Spike had tried to tell him the same thing when they’d first taken over the Los Angeles office building and he’d shrugged it off as Spike being jealous, but… there was no reason for Xander Harris to be covetous of his power, Angel knew. Still, he’d done what had seemed right at the time, hadn’t he? He’d bought a new life for his son… for Connor. And Harris didn’t know that. Harris had no reason or way of knowing that, so Harris couldn’t possibly understand. The human had never had a child, never watched that child become so self-destructive that he tried to die.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Angel growled, eyes flashing gold at the insubstantial young man. “There were reasons that I… we had to take them up on their offer. And it’s none of your business, Harris.”

“No?” One thick brow arched skeptically. “I seem to be stuck here, Deadboy. Tied to the amulet, and that’s tied to this law firm. I think that makes it just as much my business as yours.”

He sighed and ran one hand through his hair, fingers clenching hard for just a moment. “But fine. If you don’t care about your own soul, what about your friends? What about Wes and Fred? Gunn? Spike? Lorne? What about their souls? Do you really think they can be here, day in and day out, without some of the evil rubbing off on them? Because if you do think that, you’re sadly mistaken!”

He frowned again. “Besides, none of them are so pure that they can afford any more darkness and you know it. That’s part of why you’re so comfortable with them.” One more sigh and Xander turned away. “It isn’t just your own soul and the world that you’re damning, Angel, it’s their souls too, and…”

Angel blinked a time or two, then smiled slightly as Xander disappeared suddenly.

The boy had a point or two, but… Connor was alive and happy and that was the important thing. Everything else was just… irrelevant.

* * * * *

“And another thing,” Xander announced, fading back into view, “You might want to find out why this place isn’t full of ghosts. People die here all the time; it should be all chock-full-o’-spooks! Don’t blow any of this off, Deadboy. There’s a reason that fucking asshole put my eye out. Ask Wes about ‘the one who sees’… and the ghosts!”

“What th’ bloody hell are you talkin’ about, pet?”

The brunette sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. “Nothing. Sorry, Spike. I was talking to Angel and then…”

The blond snorted and stretched out on the couch, entirely unaware of the picture he presented. “Figured, mate. Don’t usually call me ‘Deadboy’, do you?” he added, trying to ignore the relief singing through him at seeing the bloke materialize again although he wasn’t thrilled that Xander had been talking with his GrandSire. Still, it didn’t sound like they’d been getting friendly or anything, so that was… less not alright than it could have been. “So. Been chattin’ up Broody th’ Wonder-Git, yah?”

Xander blinked, unable to pull his eyes from the body displayed so perfectly against the leather of the couch. More precisely, his eyes were locked on the small strip of pale stomach just above the waist of Spike’s jeans. He licked his lips slowly then nodded. “Uh… yeah…”

It was the highly amused chuckle the vampire released that had him replaying the last few moments in his mind and he shook his head violently. “No! I mean, yes I was talking to Broody. But NO I wasn’t… ‘chatting him up’. I mean, come on, Spike. That’s just gross, even if he is kinda hot… or would be if he wasn’t so ‘oh, poor me, I need my redemption’. Or, you know, if he wasn’t so blind about this place being evil, and… okay, and I’m shutting up now.”

And bloody hell, that blush was just too sodding appealing, Spike admitted. Even without being able to smell the thick, rich blood so close to the surface, it was wonderful. And knowing that he could move Xander to babbling was even better.

He had just started to smirk over those things when the real meaning of the babble itself finally registered. Xander—Xander Harris, straight as the bloody line between point A and point B-- that Xander Harris-- thought Peaches was hot? Aside from the personality, of course, because who could ever find that attractive, other than Buffy… Wait. Xander thought Angel was... and Angel was a bloke, and did that mean Xander was…? His mind boggled, even as his lips moved, words emerging entirely on their own.

“Tried ta tell him ‘bout th’ evil, pet… Soddin’ poof wouldn’t listen ta me, either. Seems ta think he knows best, yah? Just goes ta show you. An’ you’re right. Angelus was quite th’ handsome vamp-around-town, back in th’ day. Knew how ta shag like a bleedin’ champ, he did… how ta make a bloke scream in th’ best possible way, you know?”

Spike smiled, unaware of the wistful look of fond remembrance on his face. “Wasn’t like th’ bloody bug-fuck-nuts git he was when he came back in Sunnyhell that time. Angelus… he was a hard bloke; don’t get me wrong, pet. A rough bloke. A soddin’ frightenin’ demon with a cruel streak a bleedin’ furlong wide, but… ah, Xan… wish you could have seen him then.”

Xander smiled to himself, wondering if the blond had any idea of how often he’d been calling him ‘pet’ and ‘Xan’. Of course he wasn’t going to point it out… not when he was so close to finding out whether he could actually win in this situation. “Uh, probably best that I didn’t, Spike,” he said seriously, still staring at that pale swath of skin like it was all that kept him anchored to the world, “I’m pretty sure he would have killed me.”

The laughter came all on its own and Spike’s head pressed back onto the arm of the couch, his spine bowing just a bit from the shift. “GrandSire always had himself an eye for th’ beauties, pet… might have killed you but I can guarantee you he wouldn’t have let you stay dead.” And what the fuck had he just said? Bloody hell, he was flirting with Xander Harris! What was he thinking?

His eyes traveled quickly over the other man, solid or not, pausing for a moment at the bulge in the displaced human’s pants. Right, Spike told himself, that’s what he was thinking. Or thinking with; whichever. Still hard to believe the bloody white hat had a secret yen for Peaches… and harder to figure out why it bothered him so bloody much.

He might want the bloke for himself, but it wasn't as though he loved him or anything, he told himself. Let Xander get hot and bothered by looking at the great git, even if it did piss Spike off for whatever reason.

Still, best to go on as though all was well… as though he wasn’t starting to truly hate his Sire yet again. It wasn’t bloody fair that every time he gave a toss for someone, sodding Angel beat him to it, Spike thought with a silent growl. Then again, Xander wasn’t exactly in a state to be gotten, so… might as well keep on.

“I mean… know how Angelus’ tastes ran, don’t I?” he continued, staring at the bloke fixedly, “Was there for much of it, yah? Would have eaten you up with a spoon, my GrandSire would… or fangs, really.”

Xander was laughing inside, even while his body tightened, watching the sensual arch of the vampire’s body against the leather cushions. And that was supposed to be a nice save, he realized. After all, Spike had no way of knowing how much he—Xander—had changed during the virtual centuries he’d been… away.

“Oh. Well, still good that I never ran into the real Angelus, then.” He finally pulled his eyes away from the blond’s stomach, letting his eyes trail up the lithely muscled, t-shirt-covered torso and chest, meeting slightly anxious blue. “Especially after you were around, Spike.”

Xander chuckled, licking his lips as he moved closer, looking straight down into Spike’s eyes. “Because if what I read in Giles’ books about Sires and Childer is true…? As much as I’m sure I would have loved feeling him fuck me after he turned me, I wouldn’t have been able to keep myself from wanting you more.” He grinned a slightly wicked grin then stepped through Spike and the couch, into the room behind the wall, which was indeed Angel’s bedroom, leaving a blond vampire gasping and hard on the couch.

* * * * *

He’d been just about to stroll through the wall of Angel’s room to go looking for Lorne when he’d felt himself fading yet again and hoping it would be just another relocation like when he’d suddenly shifted from Angel’s office to Spike’s living room.

No such luck, of course, because Xander Harris-- even after close to five hundred years in a spirit dimension-- didn’t have that kind of luck.

Of course, on the one hand, at least here he could touch things… be touched, too. On the other, there was nobody here who he wanted to have touch him, so yeah. Out of luck… and rapidly running out of time, apparently.

“Damn it!” he snarked, eyes narrowing at the bright white glare, “You promised me enough time to do this! Or at least to give it a good try!”

He shuddered as the shivering edge of sharp pain and even sharper pleasure scraped along his nerves, the silent voices reminding him that he’d gotten his chance at their sufferance… that they could have chosen otherwise; that he should be grateful that they’d taken his wager, and not resent their interest in his progress.

The jagged mix of good and even better continued, convulsing his body repeatedly as he tried to deny it, tried to hold the Spike-induced erection immobile, though as usual he lost the fight, short, loud gasps bursting from his lips as he shuddered and shook, shooting violent spurts of rapidly cooling jism into the image of the pants he’d worn when he’d burned.

“Cheaters,” he whispered, shivering slightly at the answering laughter.

* * * * *

He had six weeks, starting from the day he’d returned, Xander knew.

It had seemed fair enough at the time, although in the parlance of the realm he’d been in, it had been four hundred and eighty years or so, which somehow had sounded better. More likely.

Still, six weeks might have been enough if he hadn’t kept being dragged back to that realm, first for less than an hour, but lately more and more frequently and for longer spans.

They really were cheating, he knew, although he didn’t know why he was surprised by that.

Between the time he’d actually spent at Wolfram and Hart and the time he’d been snatched away, he had less than a month left.

He hoped it would be long enough. Hoped beyond the telling of it—if he could tell anyone, which he couldn’t unless asked directly and in the proper way— hoped that three and a half weeks would give him the time to accomplish what he needed to… and that he was right about what he’d realized in the close to five centuries he’d been gone.

Only one way to find out, though, and… he wasn’t entirely sure that he had it in him to proceed.

It had been one thing in that other dimension to say ‘yes, this is what I want and I know I can have it’ and make the deal he’d made. It was another thing entirely to be here, back on the mortal plane, and have to put his money—or emotions—where his mouth had been. His big, gaping, wide, loud, overly-ambitious, too-optimistic mouth!

“God, I am so screwed…” Xander sighed, walking silently through the basement of the Wolfram and Hart building.

He could hear the ‘shuck, shuck, shuck’ sound and followed it for the second time, calling ahead.

“Okay, the whole finger thing? Creepy enough the first time. Not hyped about seeing it again…”

And apparently something was listening because there was nothing but an empty chair, empty table.

“Cool,” he congratulated himself with a grin as he turned away, only to jump slightly as he was confronted with what had once been an attractive woman who stood there with a large shard of glass coming from her eye. “Okay, not cool. And that looks like it hurts. Believe me, I know. Had an eye gouged out with a thumb a while ago.”

The spectre frowned, the hand that had been rising to the glass stopping. “Really?” she asked, her remaining eye looking him over, “I can’t tell…”

Xander nodded, trying not to look too sympathetic. “Yeah… died. Burned to a crisp, if you wanna know. Came back, have both eyes but can’t touch anything. Long, sucky story. But hey, I bet the glass hurt less than having some shithead’s thumb jammed into that socket until your eye popped, right? At least it was quick, what with the sharp, huh?”

The female apparition sighed and faded quickly away and Xander shrugged before moving towards the elevator, hoping someone would need to come down to that level eventually.

* * * * *

“Spikikins,” Lorne greeted quickly, hoping to diffuse the golden eyed snarl he received as he opened the door to the office Spike had appropriated, “I think we need to talk. About your friend Xander.”

The vampire snarled louder, crossing his arms over his chest as an unintentionally pouty expression settled on his face, ridges receding to show the usual smooth, human forehead. “Xan? What about him?” he grumped. “Soddin’ bastard, he is. Makin’ a comment like that an’ just… leavin’. Goin’ ta spank him good an’ proper when he comes back, I am.” He frowned. “Uh, you know… in th’ ‘make him hurt’ way, not th’ other.”

Red eyes rolled exaggeratedly. “Whatever you say, my little undead twinkie. Believe it or not, I’m not really interested in your sexual fantasies unless they involve someone tall, green and handsome, anyway. So. The point. Look, something happened the other day. When I took him to see the new club. Remember, sexy?”

And once again, Spike found himself snarling. “Somethin’ happened? What kind of somethin’, you bleedin’ poacher? If you so much as touched him, I’m goin’ ta…”

It was the loud and highly amused laugh that had Spike looking confused until he remembered his Xan’s state and he sighed, scrubbing his hands over his face. “Bloody hell. I’m a soddin’ ponce.” Not to mention that was an end to his spanking plan.

Lorne chuckled. “Oh, blondiecakes… you’re just figuring that out? But that’s not what I’m here for.” He waited until the blond calmed a bit and looked at him. “He sang for me. Xander did.”

Spike snorted. “Yah? What else is new? Everyone bloody well sings for you, mate.”

“True,” the green-skinned demon agreed, “But usually the Powers don’t block my memory of what I saw during the singing.” He nodded, eyes narrowing slightly in thought as Spike blinked at him. “It took me until today to realize that’s what happened, but… I think he’s on a deadline, sweetie. I’m not sure he’s going to be able to stay on this plane. I… thought you should know before…” Lorne sighed, knowing it was already too late but needing to say it anyway. “Before you get any more involved.”

The vampire frowned, about to demand that the green bloke explain himself, but then…

Something swirled invisibly in the air, circling the blond, then the Pylean quickly before darting through them and disappearing into the ether once again.

Spike’s brow furrowed and he cocked his head. “Sorry, mate. Seem ta be on th’ distracted side, here. What were you sayin’?”

Lorne’s expression closely matched the confusion apparent on the vampire’s face as he shrugged. “I have no idea, stunner.” He thought a moment then shrugged. “Guess it couldn’t have been too important, huh?”

* * * * *

“Crap! Look, buddy, I told you!” Xander frowned, concentrating intently on blocking the latest blow the ugly bastard was throwing at him. “I have just over three weeks! Twenty five days! And sure, you want to feed me to Hell but… you can’t. Not yet. So deal with it! And… think about seeing a ghost-dentist, guy. Those teeth are just nasty.”

The Reaper snarled, throwing another punch at the young dark-haired man. “Appearances… yes, your sort always rely on appearances. That doesn’t change anything, boy. I am still a God here. Your God, in fact.”

Brown eyes rolled and Xander shook his head, grabbing hold of the somewhat ratty lapels of the being’s coat. “I don’t think so. My Gods know how to take a head-butt.” He grinned at the confused expression the words got, then followed with the action itself, head colliding hard enough with the other man’s-- and with enough intent behind it—to toss the creature across the room and through the far wall.

“And another thing. Bathing? Not just for us wussy Americans! Look into it!”

Xander glanced around the room, forcing an arrogant smile for any unseen watchers, then brushed his hands against each other and turned, strolling through the closed door.

‘The Reaper’. At least now he had a name… sort of… for the dark energy he’d started sensing as his deadline got closer. And hopefully, the name would help. The last thing he needed was that thing trying to push him into Hell before his time was up.

Still, maybe it was a sign to step up his plan of action.

“Shit,” he muttered to himself, “It was gonna be hard enough with the time I have left. Now that fucker’s making me try to do this even faster?” He sighed, moving quickly through the building. He needed to find Spike and he had a feeling that at… two o’clock in the afternoon… the vampire was likely to still be in bed.

And that might actually make things easier. Or not.

He’d just have to see.

Part Five

Well, he’d been right about that much, anyway. Spike was still in bed and apparently asleep, as well.

Xander sighed as he stood beside the bed, looking down at the pale, toned form against deep blue silk sheets. Apparently Spike had a sensualist side to him now that he was on the Wolfram and Hart payroll… or maybe he always had and Xander just hadn’t wanted to notice.

‘I can’t do this,’ he thought, sighing gently into the still air of the vampire’s room. ‘I thought I could, but I just can’t. He’s still in love with her. I should have known that. Would have known it if I’d been paying attention to Earth-time. But once again, Zeppo-boy Harris screws up and this time…’ he sighed again, ‘This time, I’ve dug my own grave. Shit.’

The vampire shifted, rolling onto his back, eyes still closed. “Stop your sighin’, luv,” he mumbled, more than half asleep, “Told you I’d do you good when I wake up, Xan… jus’ five more minutes, yah…?” One hand moved, long, elegant fingers dragging the covers up to his face as he relaxed again, slipping back into full slumber.

He almost wanted to laugh-- or cry; Xander wasn’t sure which. Spike had called him ‘luv’, which was a good sign, he figured. But he’d said it while he was sleeping, and if there was one thing the former human knew all too well, it was that people generally said and did things in their dreams that they’d never do while awake and in full control of themselves. Besides… well, lust and love…? Two very different things, and while he wouldn’t mind some first-hand experience with Spike’s lust, sex wasn’t going to get it done. Especially since Xander’s body wasn’t existing in the same temporal space as the vampire’s.

There was nothing he could do, he realized. He was going to lose his careful wager, although it obviously hadn’t been as careful a risk as he’d thought.

‘Ah, what the hell,’ he told himself as he backed away from the sleeping vampire and through the wall beside the door, ‘I’ve burned once already. Guess I’ll survive a second time.’ He settled himself on the couch, smiling slightly as he noticed that the Reaper had been right. He wanted to sit on the couch badly enough and he didn’t sink into it. Cool.

His eyes lit on the remote control and he wondered… ‘might as well try it, right? Couldn’t hurt…’ And it didn’t hurt. He could actually turn the TV on and change the channel, and… well, at least he wouldn’t be as bored as he’d expected while he waited for Spike to wake up.

* * * * *

Lorne was chuckling as he nearly pranced down the hall, one phone to his ear as his assistant scrambled along beside him holding three others, all of which had clients waiting desperately to speak with him. “No… no, Nate, honey. I told you, you made the right call. Captain Mal is the perfect role for you, which I think you already know because you’ve seen the numbers. So trust me, bubelah, even if the studio—in their infinite stupidity—decides not to green-light the sequel? We’ll have the rest of them lining up around the block to sign you, okay? Okay. Ciao, cutie. I have Katie on hold.”

He laughed loudly. “No… Beckinsale. I’m trying to talk her out of yet another supernatural action flick. I swear, that girl… Anyway, must go, Nate. Kiss-kiss, sexy.”

Red eyes rolled and he held out one lightly scaled hand for the next phone even as he stuffed the first into his assistant’s shirt pocket. “Katie! Hey there, sweets! Look, about that script…”

“Dear Gods,” he groaned a good hour later as he collapsed into his office chair, fingers flipping quickly through the myriad proposals on his desk, “It never ends! I don’t know if I’m in Heaven or Hell!”

For some reason, he wasn’t sure why, the words made him frown. “Wait a minute,” he murmured, “There’s something about that… Heaven or Hell… in…”

Something was tickling at the back of his mind. Something he knew or should know. It just wasn’t… quite… clear…

“Lorne,” the voice came from his intercom and made him jump, “Can you come to my office? I have a few questions about this… party thing.”

The green skinned man sighed and thumbed the reply button. “Sure thing, Angel-cakes,” he said with a large slice of snark, “I’m on my way. It’s not like I have deadlines or anything…”

And there it was again, he realized. Something else that seemed familiar; important, even. Something he had no clue about, though he was going to keep trying to figure it out, damn it. He was just stubborn that way.

* * * * *

Spike woke up feeling warm. Truly warm.

He purred softly, although he’d never admit it to anyone ever, and rolled over, wrapping himself more tightly in the warmth that seemed to have penetrated even to his bones.

“Mmmm… that’s luvly, pet,” he mumbled, reaching for the heated shape that just had to be there, his eyes opening curiously at the lack of same.

The purr became a growl as that warmth disappeared as though it had never existed and the vampire glared at the ceiling. “Stupid bloody dreams.”

He pouted manfully for a few minutes, then rolled grumpily from his cocoon to dress in his usual black on black, this time tossing a button down blue shirt over top, leaving it unbuttoned. “Right, then. Guess it’s time ta see how I can annoy my Sire.”

It was only as he stepped from the bedroom and saw the brunette on the couch that he lost his foul mood. “Mornin’, Xan,” he said quickly, grinning, “Anythin’ good on?”

Xander couldn’t help the mirroring grin that spread across his lips. “Talk shows, more talk shows, some crap thing with what has to be Miss Trailer-Park USA talking about her husband-I mean brother-I mean cousin… Oh, and they’re showing the Women’s Professional Pool Tournament on ESPN 2.”

“Yah? Who’s winnin’?”

“Jeanette Lee was the last time I checked, but who knows now?”

Spike grinned even more. “Bet she takes it, Xan. Chit’s a right terror on th’ felt. Twenty bucks?”

Xander shook his head. “No deal. I may have been away for a while but that doesn’t mean I’ve gotten any stupider, you know? Besides, me and the betting? Not working out so well these days.”

He heard the slight edge of despair in the young man’s voice; of course he did. But it was lost as Spike frowned and shook his head at the former Scooby. “You were never ‘stupid’, mate. Stupid doesn’t last twenty some-odd years on th’ bleedin’ Hellmouth, does it? Now, I’m not sayin’ you always thought things through, but you could probably give Red a run for her money in th’ smarts department.” And why the bloody hell was he saying that to Xander Harris, regardless of how true it was? ‘Right,’ he reminded himself, ‘Because I’m a huge soddin’ ponce an’… I want th’ bloke…?’

“Hey!” he almost shouted, watching the channels change, “You’re usin’ th’ remote! Thought you couldn’t touch anythin’!”

The brunette shrugged, looking away from the vampire. “I guess… I just have to want it enough, y’know? Or that’s what the Reaper said, anyway, and it looks like he was right.”

“Reaper?” Spike demanded, moving to sit down beside the boy. “An’ who or what th’ bloody fuck is that?”

“I don’t know… exactly,” Xander admitted with a frown, “but…”

Spike found himself by turns furious, impressed, intrigued and just plain bloody pissed off. Some snaggle-toothed hygiene-impaired shit-for-brains ghost had laid hands on his bloke? Tried to send him to Hell? Bad enough that the boy had somehow managed to escape whatever hell dimension he’d been in, but this right fucking bastard was trying to send him back?

“I’m not goin’ ta stand for it!” he growled, previous good mood forgotten. “Come on, pet. We’re goin’ ta see Wes. He’ll figure out what th’ fucker is, an’ then how we get th’ bleedin’ pillock gone! Send you ta Hell? Send his bloody ass ta Hell! You’re not goin’ anywhere, mate!”

And there was something in the outraged snarling that just made Xander… smile, although he tried to hide it as he followed the nearly vibrating blond out of the apartment and down into the office section of the building.

Spike was wrong, of course. Xander would be going away again, but not yet, and definitely not for the Reaper, whoever the Hell he was, the brunette told himself with another hidden smile, though if this one had been visible, it would have clearly been much less happy than the previous one.

* * * * *

Wes was on it, Spike told himself repeatedly as he tried to mingle with the guests. He’d found out the git’s name, in any case, and that was more than they’d had to go on before. Still, with no idea of how to exorcise Pavayne from the building, considering he’d been used as a sacrifice to de-consecrate the ground the bloody firm was built on, Spike was having a hard time being pleasant. He didn’t feel like being at a party. Not when that bastard could pop up at any time and just… snatch his Xan away, send him to Hell, force him to suffer.

So no, he wasn’t enjoying the bloody party, aside from the type O-positive that was available in endless quantities, apparently, from the bar.

It also didn’t help any that Xander was obviously having a blast. The bloke had been making the rounds, chatting with this demon and that, explaining that no, he wasn’t a ghost, but yes, he couldn’t touch or be touched.

Then again, from the way a good portion of the guests were looking at the boy, maybe the no touching was a good thing. Spike doubted Angel would be too happy if he killed the majority of their clients.

The vampire growled, slamming back the rest of his blood and holding out his glass for a refill—two parts blood, three parts Jack Daniels. And now, of course, Xander was dancing with Harmony, and that couldn’t possibly be a good thing. Who knew what that dim-witted bint was saying to his boy about him? “An’ bloody hell, please don’t let her be tellin’ him ‘bout havin’ her dress up as th’ Slayer for me. He’d never let me forget it,” he muttered, thoroughly disgusted with himself for that little bit of insanity. Then again, the bloke knew all about the Buffy-bot, didn’t he?

Spike cringed at the memory, then sighed. “An’ if’n I’d been smart, I would have realized I was bein’ suckered in by flash instead of substance. Would have had that Warren git make me a Xander-bot.” He smirked to himself quickly. “An’ now I’m lyin’. Plenty of substance ta th’ Slayer. Just not ta th’ bot. Wouldn’t have been any different no matter who th’ bot was s’pposed ta be…”

It was the almost incomprehensible nature of his own thoughts that had him putting down his new drink nearly untouched. He hadn’t even noticed Xander back then. Or not as anything other than Buffy’s annoying sidekick, although… the bloke always had been sharp with his carefully aimed insults. ‘Almost always,’ he clarified, ‘Unless he was distracted by his demon-chit…’

And that, more than anything, had him forcing his eyes away from the bloke in question to wander the large room.

He chuckled. “Well, well… looks like Peaches has his hands full…” and it did, seeing as
Angel was more or less cornered by the nasty little bitch calling herself a ‘liaison’. The bint didn’t even smell good—all bitter and sour and dirty. He had no idea of how his Sire managed to spend more than a few minutes around her at a time.

He shrugged and moved away from the bar, arching a brow at the uncomfortable expressions on Freddy and Percy’s faces. They obviously didn’t want to be partying. Not when they could be having so much more ‘fun’ locked away with books and machines that dinged, whirred, whatever the hell those things did up in Fred’s lab.

Even the Thug was looking out of sorts, his eyes shifting about the room as his nostrils flared, although…

Spike laughed loudly as Gunn sidled up to a large potted plant and whipped out his rather impressive willy, giving the plant a watering it wouldn’t soon forget. “Charlie-boy must be pissed,” he chuckled to himself, then laughed harder at the words.

In fact, looking around the room again, Spike realized… the only ones of their group who seemed to be having a good time were Lorne, who was schmoozing like the pro he was, and Xander, who was… Spike blinked. Obviously he’d been wrong about the bloke’s good time because the incorporeal man was stalking through—in some cases literally—the other people on the dance floor, a nearly murderous look on his face. In fact, he seemed to be headed straight for…

“Okay, how the hell could you ever have dated her?” Xander demanded, glaring into the vampire’s wide blue eyes from mere inches away. “She’s… Jesus Christ, Spike! I thought she was bad in High School… and that time she pulled my hair, but… why hasn’t Deadboy staked her by now?”

He knew the boy didn’t have a physical body. Knew he couldn’t touch him. But that didn’t stop his hand from rising in an attempt to rest comfortingly on the bloke’s shoulder. Still, all he could find to say was the truth. “I think ‘datin’…’ would be th’ wrong word, luv. Port in a storm, wasn’t she?” Spike’s nose wrinkled slightly. “Didn’t know what was, or more ta th’ point wasn’t, goin’ on in that head of hers til it was too late, did I?”

He frowned, glaring in Harmony’s direction only to see her grinding against a tall demon who looked more or less like the traditional Satan. “What’d she say ta you, pet? Know it had ta be somethin’, yah?”

Xander glared towards the dance floor too, only to find himself suddenly laughing at the panicked look on the face of ‘the Devil’. “N-nothing important,” he finally managed through his amusement. “She just… hit a nerve, is all.” He looked at Spike again and couldn’t help smiling as he raised his own hand and focused intently on making his fingers solid enough to brush Spike’s cheek. “So, he said softly, fingertips barely skimming one sharp cheekbone, “You having fun, bab…” he coughed, “buddy?”

His voice when it came was a whisper, and if Spike could have blushed, he would have as he leaned ever so slightly into that barely-there warm touch. “Wasn’t,” he said, “Am now…”

“Oh, for pity’s sake, will you two just get a room?” Lorne interrupted with a loud sigh of exasperation. “Or for my sake! Any more sexual tension and you two are going to explode, and this being Wolfram and Hart, it might be literally, so… resolve it!” He huffed, waving at the bartender for another sea breeze, then stalked off through the crowd, his eyes locked on Fred and Wes.

“You know, as part of the administration, you two have a duty to set an example,” he announced as he reached them, “So drink! Be merry! Start a fucking conga line if you have to, but make this work! Don’t let your subordinates think you don’t know how to have fun! Gods! Do I have to do everything around here?”

“And you!!” he called out, moving quickly to Eve and glaring at her as she spoke to Angel, “Don’t think you have anyone fooled, you trollop-y tart! You want Angel to trust you? Fine! Tell him the truth!”

“And Angel!” he added, turning and spearing the tall vampire with one red-hot gaze, “Stop being so oblivious! You barely see anything going on around you anymore! Okay, you’re depressed for whatever reason. I get that, sweet-cheeks! But if you don’t snap out of it, you’re going to drag the rest of us down with you, and honestly? I like not being in Hell! Even if this is L.A.!”

Finally, having said everything he’d wanted to—and a few things he hadn’t planned on—Lorne smiled at all of them and sauntered off to greet the newest arrivals. Already midnight and people were still arriving. Yes, he’d planned one hell of a party!

Part Six

Spike blinked a few times as Lorne darted away, not noticing the matching blinks Xander was making. “Right, then, luv… maybe we should go ta my room.”

Xander nodded quickly, pulling his fingers away from Spike’s cheek. “That… yeah, Spike, that sounds like a really good idea. We need to resolve… something.”

“Th’ sexual tension, pet,” he said matter-of-factly, knowing he should be bothered but for some reason just… not. “Before we explode, yah?”

He was nodding again as he followed the vampire from the room and to the private elevator. “Exploding would be bad. Uh, you know, in the… actually exploding sense. Not in the… metaphorically exploding way, because I’m thinking that’d be… good…”

“Told you you weren’t stupid, luv,” Spike purred, leaning against the wall of the elevator as the doors closed and the small box began rising, “A stupid bloke wouldn’t ever use a word like ‘metaphorically’, would he?”

Xander groaned, the rumbling sound pulling him closer to the vampire by the second. “Gods, Spike… want to touch you. Want to touch you so badly… fuck, I wish…”

“What, pet?” the blond growled, pushing off from the wall to stand barely an inch away from the bloke’s insubstantial shape, his entire body vibrating suddenly at the reminder that whatever happened between them, they existed in different timeframes. “You wish… what, Xan?”

“Gods, I… wish I could kiss you. Feel your lips all cool and soft against mine, Spike… wish I could taste your skin, run my hands over it, over you!” He sighed, heat and need shining in his eyes. “Wish I could sink into you, baby… just live inside you, keep you warm, let you feel how much I…” He swallowed hard, forcing his eyes to pull away from the bright, wicked blue. “Gods, Spike, how can we…?”

Spike tried to speak and failed, then cleared his throat as the elevator stopped, the doors opening onto the private residences hall. “Touched my face, didn’t you, pet?” he managed to say as they moved swiftly to his door and he pressed his hand against the locking mechanism. “Felt th’ heat of you, Xan. ‘s more than enough if I can feel even that much of you again, yah?” He nearly fell through the door as it opened. “’s more than I thought ta have, luv, what with things bein’ as they are…”

Xander nodded, not looking at anything but Spike as the vampire’s fingers began unfastening the black jeans, then moved to strip the shirt from his torso. “Oh… Gods…” he breathed.

* * * * *

“N-nifty trick with your kit, pet,” the vampire murmured shakily as he stroked himself slowly, watching the solid-looking shape beside him on the bed. “Can you think it back, too?” He smirked. “Not that I’d mind it if’n you can’t, mate. Just have ta stay here with you, yah? All naked an’… naked…”

The brunette moaned softly and licked his lips, fingers around his own solid—to him—shaft. “Gods, Spike. You have no idea of how tempting that is…” He swallowed hard. “I just wish… shit. I want to touch you so bad, baby.”

Spike sighed softly, eyes traveling the construction-toned shape. “Want ta lick your whole body, pet. Taste every inch of your skin. See whether the tanned bits taste different from th’ rest.” He looked into the wide brown eyes and smiled slightly. “I’m bettin’ they do, Xan… all liquid gold an’ copper an’ sunlight… bloody hell, want ta find out, yah?”

The sigh was huge when it left his lips. “I wish you could, Spike… wish I could feel your lips on me.” His fingers grasped his cock a bit tighter, moving slowly up and down, up and down, as he focused on the pale pink pout. “You have the most beautiful mouth, baby… better than anyone’s. I… hell, Spike, I always thought your lips were gorgeous.” He tried to smile, though the effect was more shaky than happy. “Even before I knew how much I l… wanted you, I had… dreams… about your mouth.”

He couldn’t help chuckling, even though the heat in those wanton brown eyes was making him harder still. “Yah, luv?” Spike whispered, arching one brow slightly, “An’ what was I… doin’ with my mouth? In your dreams, I mean.”

Xander knew he was blushing. He could feel it as he shook his head. “J-just… talking, okay? Loved watching your lips when you… talked.”

A loud snort. “Yah, that’s bloody likely, mate.” He shifted closer, still running his hand over his cock, sliding to the tip to collect the small but steady dribble of clear fluids, spreading the slickness down over his length as he caught the younger man’s eyes completely, his voice low and rumbling as he spoke on.

“Tell me, Xan… did you dream about me kissin’ you? Sliding my lips over your neck, suckin’ hard enough ta bruise?” He purred softly as the brunette moaned again. “An’ maybe I slipped lower, yah? Bit those hard, tight little nipples of yours, mate? Sucked them until you were beggin’ for more?” His hand moved faster, fist pulling the still somewhat loose foreskin back, then up again. “An’ maybe… maybe after that I let my lips rub over your skin, suckin’ a ring ‘round your navel, yah? Nibbled through that bleedin’ luvly stripe of hair, followed it down, pet?”

Xander groaned, seeing exactly those images in the brightly blue stare. “I… that’s g-good, but… n-no, not what I dreamed, S-spike…” His own hand mirrored the motions of the paler one, a deep groan flying from him regardless of his attempt to swallow it back.

“Might be I had my mouth on that pretty cock of yours, then. Lips stretched wide ‘round you, pet… tongue dippin’ inta your slit, teasin’ bits of spicy-sweet fluid from you…? Suckin’ you down, takin’ you inta th’ back of my throat… Bloody hell, Xander, I can almost taste you now. Hot an’ thick on my tongue, musk fillin’ my nose, makin’ my senses as full of you as my throat would be…”

The vampire growled softly, his own words wrapping through his mind. “Want ta do that, pet… taste you. Do you want it too, Xan? Want it enough ta…”

Brown hair swayed quickly as Xander nodded, still not fully used to the notion that if he wanted it badly enough, he could become at least partly corporeal. “I… fuck, Spike, I want… I do, but what if…”

Spike growled again, his eyes flickering gold for just a moment. “Just… want it enough, luv… try ta want it as much as I do, yah…?”

The only thing he could do was nod his agreement to the plea in the vampire’s eyes. He hadn’t been lying, after all. He did want everything Spike had just said. “Gods, Spike,” he finally whispered, eyes tearing slightly, “I want you so bad, but… I’m so scared. This… if it doesn’t work, I… I’ll know that I’ll never really touch anyone—anything—again.” Or nothing that he wanted to touch, anyway. That was the truth. He wanted the blond more than he’d ever imagined wanting someone before he’d burned. And if that degree of desire wasn’t enough to let him feel Spike, then it was hopeless. “I-I just… fuck, Spike, I don’t want to…”

“Hush, luv,” the vampire ordered, gaze moving down to the thick, seeping tip of his boy’s cock. “Stop thinkin’ ‘bout that, yah? ‘s goin’ ta work. Just… think about my mouth on you, pet… all wet and cool, wrappin’ ‘round your heat, pullin’ it in…” he purred silkily, shifting down on the mattress until he was satisfied with his position.

Xander moaned, that whiskey-and-silk voice shivering through his body and emptying his mind of any true thought other than ‘Spike lips… lips of Spike… on me, around me… Gods, he’s gonna… he’s really…’ He shouted roughly at the first, barely-there touch of the vampire’s slick tongue, the tiny pressure growing stronger as his entire being focused on the sensation, on making it last longer. “S-spike!”

Oh, and the boy’s cock felt just as good as it looked. Tasted even better, he decided. Better than he’d hoped, in any case. He just hoped his Xan wasn’t disappointed, in the end. He hadn’t had a lot of practice doing this by choice. “Alright, luv?” he murmured, lips brushing gently against the soft, spongy tip of the bloke’s shaft, chuckling when the only response he got was a strangled-sounding grunt. “Good,” he purred, taking one more slow lick across the bubbling slit before pursing his lips and setting them at the crown, opening them slowly as he took that long, beautiful shaft in.

It was mostly the pleased rumbling he could feel that had him shivering so suddenly. That and the fact that… it was Spike down there with his mouth on him, tongue slowly pressing against the vein on his underside as the vampire sucked and pulled, lips tight around him. His hands rose, clenching in his own hair as he tried to hold on. “S-spike… b-baby… Gods, baby, don’t… d-don’t!”

And Xander’s mouth might be saying ‘no’, but the fact that his throat was still stretched around that amazing cock said ‘yes, yes, oh God, yes’ to Spike. The bloke wanted this, he needed this… and he’d be damned if he was going to stop and deny either of them. Not now. Not ever, if he could help it.

It was that last thought that had Spike’s eyes wide, even though his head kept moving, sliding to his boy’s base to breathe in the strong clean scent of him, then pulling back to circle his tongue swiftly around the head. ‘Not ever?’ his mind babbled, body moving automatically as the brunette’s cries became louder, ‘Meanin’ what? I don’t want ta let him go?’

His fingers dug into goosedown comforter, sheets and mattress, puncturing them deeply as the young man bucked up into his throat once, twice… Spike’s eyes slammed closed, feeling the thick shaft swelling further, the first spurts of viscous seed flowing over his tongue, and he spent less than a moment answering the question. ‘Not goin’ ta let him go,’ he admitted, pressing closer to swallow the spouting gushes of cum. ‘Think I… oh, bloody hell! Luv him, I do!’ More than that, he wanted desperately to be inside the boy, hear that loud, keening cry of completion ringing in the air because he was filling him, loving him, making love to him, as pathetically girly as that sounded even to him, and… “Bloody hell,” he whispered a few minutes later as he let Xander’s softened shaft slip from his lips.

He’d never cum so hard in his life… or in all the centuries of his ‘intermission’. Of course, he wasn’t really surprised by that. He’d been with Spike this time, after all. Had had Spike’s lips around him, Spike’s tongue, Spike’s rumbling purrs… Hell, even Spike’s teeth for one tiny, perfect moment. He could feel his heart beating wildly, wickedly, almost like it was trying to burst from his chest, even now, after his focus was blown. Much like he was, he told himself with a laugh for the bad joke.

“G-gods, Spike… ‘bloody hell’ is right…” He swallowed hard, looking down into stunned blue eyes as the vampire shifted up the bed. “I… you… I mean, we just… and I… Gods!”

And there was nothing quite like his Xan babbling when he couldn’t find the words, Spike realized with a grin. Of course, that didn’t take care of his own not-so-little problem, did it?

“Yah, luv,” he said, smirking a bit as he picked a few shreds of mattress-fibers from his nails before wrapping his fingers around his shaft again, “You, me, we… an’ you’re right. ‘t was a bleedin’ religious experience for me too, pet. Would have been shoutin’ out ta your Gods an’ whatnot if’n my mouth hadn’t been so bleedin’ perfectly full.” He chuckled, arching one sleek brow. “An’ for th’ record, Xan? You taste bloody wonderful, poncy as that sounds.”

Fuck, Spike’s voice alone was enough to have ‘little Xander’ trying to wake up again. Well, the voice and the sight of the vampire’s long fingers wrapped around that damp cock. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the blond had been calling him ‘luv’ repeatedly, giving him all sorts of hopes that he knew he really shouldn’t have. “Okay, and can I just say ewww? ‘Poncy’ makes me think of Deadboy and he’s the last guy—vamp—I want to be picturing while I’m in bed with you, Spike.”

It was the obvious disgust in his bloke’s voice that had Spike moving his fist faster on his cock. Xander didn’t want the poof! Xander didn’t want THE POOF! And maybe… maybe that meant that for once, just once… he’d found someone to care for who wasn’t constantly comparing him to Broody and finding him lacking…?

The idea alone was enough to have Spike’s balls tightening, but it was the way the boy watched his hand move, the pointed tip of what he just knew was a warm wet tongue sliding over full, red lips that had him shuddering, his sac as hard as his cock for just a moment before he exploded roughly, the wild, viscous splashes of cool seed arching from him to splatter forcefully against his pale chest.

“B-b-bloody…” he whispered, his entire body shuddering in the aftermath. “An’ you… you just looked at me, an’ I…”

Xander couldn’t help laughing. “Oh, I so win, Spike! Hell, if I had the energy I’d get up and do my ‘made you cum with a look dance’.” His head cocked and he tried not to grin too broadly. “Then again, it’d probably look more like my ‘I’m a big old spaz’ dance, so we can skip that part, okay?”

As much as he wanted to be offended, Spike found himself laughing as well, although more quietly. “Guess we’ll have ta save that for next time, Xan…” he chuckled. ‘Til after we find out how ta make you solid again, luv… an’ then I’m goin’ ta shag you ‘til you can’t walk, much less dance’, he thought.

“For th’ moment, pet… I’m goin’ ta get cleaned up, yah?” His brow furrowed at the suddenly sorrowful look on his boy’s face. “Expect ta find you here when I get back, luv. Might get you ta ‘want’ your lips solid. Jonesin’ for that kiss you mentioned before.”

He knew he looked goofy, what with the huge grin on his face as the vampire got up and headed into the bathroom. He heard the shower start and sighed softly. “I love you, Spike,” he whispered, knowing the rushing water would hide the soft words, even from vampire ears. “I love you so much… and I only have three more weeks.” He sighed. “Three more weeks, and then… it’s off to Hell for the Xan-man.” He closed his eyes, hoping against hope for sleep. Just this once… sleep.

* * * * *

He’d washed his body, letting the hot water rinse his own jism from his skin although he’d carefully avoided his face. His Xan had touched his cheek, after all; had cum in his mouth, his throat… he didn’t want to lose the sensations under the pounding of the shower.

It was while he was drying off that he looked into the mirror and saw… nothing reflected in the soft glow of the candles, as usual. Still, there was so much more to him than showed there, and especially now.

“Should I feel guilty?” he asked his soul, eyes fixed on the spot their reflection should have occupied, “Should I feel guilty for lovin’ him? It’s bleedin’ sudden. An’ unlikely. I mean… me an’ Xander Harris? How can I love him? An’… bloody hell. Know he wants me. ‘s obvious, in’t?” He frowned. “Can’t love me though, can he? Not knowin’ th’ things I’ve done… But I for bloody damned sure love him.”

His hands braced on the top of the counter as his head dropped forward, small tears dropping from his eyes onto the dark marble. ‘Evil, tried ta kill him an’ his friends… used them when I was chipped… insulted him, took things out on him because he wasn’t ‘special’ like th’ rest… an’ now I see he’s th’ most special one of them all, an’… he wants me, yah. But he could never love me, an’…’

“Doesn’t matter,” he finally said, standing straight, arms wrapped around his own ribs. “Doesn’t matter a whit. Might be he won’t—can’t—love a thing like me, but he wants me, an’ not soddin’ Peaches. An’ I love him. Keep him as long as he’ll let me. Yah.”

His head was bowed again while he rinsed his eyes with cold water from the sink, the cool liquid hiding the bright flash of light coming through the crack under the bathroom door, and when he’d finally managed to dry himself, hair and all, and stepped out of the tile-floored room to see the still-naked body laying on his bed, it didn’t even occur to him to try to touch that body, to pull it closer.

His Xan was sleeping. Best to let him. They could talk in the morning, Spike decided. Figure out what all the wanting meant and whether it was leading to anything more.

He settled himself comfortably beside his boy after clicking the heat up a notch. He didn’t want to get colder than necessary, after all, but he also didn’t want to have to see the covers moving through the bloke if he pulled them up.

“Love ya, Xan,” he whispered to the sleeping form as his own eyes closed and he drifted off with a slight smile.

Part Seven

The moment he woke up and felt the long, slightly cool body pressed against his back, Xander knew what had happened.

He didn’t know how or even why of course, but he knew something had happened to change things.

The most obvious answer was that Spike had at some point said he loved him, but he didn’t remember that at all, and it was the sort of thing he would remember. ‘Assuming I was there to hear it,’ he reminded himself slowly, mind still whirling through the possibilities, ‘which I apparently wasn’t, so… Fuck, what do I do now?’

The easy answer, of course-- and the one he really liked right then-- was to rock back against the blond and wake him so they could finish what they’d started the night before. It was an incredibly appealing thought, especially with the way Spike’s hard cock was pressed against the cleft of his ass.

Unfortunately, the time he’d been ‘away’ after Sunnydale had not only clued him to his own lack of sexual inhibitions, but had made him well aware of the fact that his first impulse was not always the best one to follow.

“Stay right there, baby,” he finally whispered, slowly shifting from the loose hold of those strong, pale arms, “And I’ll be back, okay?”

He rolled from the bed, taking care not to bounce the mattress too much, then smiled as the vampire moved to lay face-down in the warmth left by his body, apparently trying to trap it between himself and the covers.

Brown eyes trailed slowly, longingly down that toned form, then back up and Xander questioned his choice one more time before groaning and pulling one side of the comforter up and over the blond.

“Time to get dressed and… fuck! My clothes!”

* * * * *

Of all the things Wesley might have expected after a night like the night he’d had—‘limbo… naked limbo…? Why am I remembering naked limbo… and naked Fred…?’-- Xander Harris stalking into his office apparently wearing nothing but Spike’s duster wasn’t even on the list. Still, that’s what he saw when he raised bleary, bloodshot eyes at the sound of his office door being flung open hard enough to slam against the wall behind it.

“Quietly! Please!” he hissed, his head throbbing wildly. “I’m feeling a bit… rough this morning.”

Xander frowned and slammed his hands down on the Englishman’s desk. “Yeah, Wes? Well, I’m feeling a bit solid! And naked! I think that trumps your ‘rough’, don’t you?”

The former Watcher blinked, staring at the very obviously there hands in front of him; at the fingers splayed across the papers on his desk and the wrinkles forming as those fingers flexed slightly. “I… my word…”

* * * * *

“Oh… oh, wow, this is just… strange,” Fred said softly, her excitement at having a new mystery to solve completely derailing the hangover that had had her moaning a mere half hour earlier. “He’s… Xander, you’re registering as… something, but I can’t swear it’s human,” she added, moving the hand-held sensor around his body again. “Of course, there’s no definitive evidence that you’re not, either… the readings are all over the place and… how are you feeling? Good, bad, like you’re about to… implode or anything?”

Xander sighed and shook his head. “Uh, is that really a choice? The imploding? Because I really don’t know what I’d feel like if I was about to do that, Fred…”

The woman smiled, sliding her glasses a little higher on her nose. “Well, okay, maybe not. Or maybe. I can’t be sure. But you seem to have gone from being temporally displaced as recently as last night because I saw you walking through stuff and even if I was distracted, I know I remember that… to being more… here than the rest of us. It’s like… your molecules are more dense than the rest of the world as we know it and… and your body temperature is one point three degrees higher than normal for a human, which I couldn’t tell while you were out of phase with us, if it was even like that then, and…” She blushed. “Sorry, Xander. It’s just… fascinating and I have no idea of what happened to make you solid again, but hey! Bright side is… that Reaper guy won’t be able to get you, right?”

Even Lorne was blinking by the time Fred finished talking—not because of the content of her words but because of the speed of them. “Uh, Freddie? Sweetie? I’m only saying this because I love you, okay? There are a lot of brands of de-caf out there that are just as tasty as the real thing.”

Even as he laughed with Lorne at that, Xander found himself frowning. Had anyone else realized that they’d all apparently done whatever Lorne had told them to at the party? Well, maybe not yet. Everyone seemed to still be hungover, although he hadn’t seen Angel yet. Still…

“Okay, so I’m solid. Extra solid, even. And warmer than normal body temperature. Anything else, Fred? Or is that it?”

The sylph-like brunette grinned sheepishly. “Far as I can tell, you’re back for good. Um, you might want to think about getting some clothes, though.”

Bright red eyes sparkled. “Oh, it would be a tragedy to cover up that yummy body. You should just stay naked, Xander. Give us all a treat.”

“Oh, crap…” he groaned as he found himself peeling the duster from his skin, “Lorne, we so need to talk! Right after you tell me to get dressed. And you should do that now!”

* * * * *

He woke up alone, and while that wasn’t an unusual state of affairs for him, Spike found himself disappointed. Then again, maybe Xander had been sucked off to wherever the hell he went when he disappeared.

He chuckled softly at his mind’s choice of words because his bloke had definitely been sucked off, but then he frowned again.

He didn’t know where the ghostly version of Xander had gone, but he was for damned sure going to find out and put a stop to it. Even if they never managed to make the boy corporeal again, he wanted him there; not off in some place Spike didn’t know about and didn’t even know how to find!

Of course, in order accomplish that, he needed to light a fire under Fred’s ass… and get Percy the Wanker—‘Watcher’, he reminded himself with a smirk—to do some bloody useful research for a change.

The vampire sighed and forced himself to untangle the comforter that was keeping him so wonderfully warm before staggering from the bed and into the shower, the prior night’s activities replaying in his mind as the water quickly warmed and poured over his yearning flesh.

It wasn’t until nearly an hour later that he realized his duster was missing.

“Oh, I’m goin’ ta hurt someone,” he growled, stalking from his rooms and feeling naked in just boots, jeans, and shirts. “Fuckin’ hell, I’m goin’ ta hurt someone a lot!”

* * * * *

He sat at his desk and frowned deeply, eyes locked on the young woman across from him as they waited. He still had no idea of why she’s told him about Lindsey’s plan; hell, he had no idea of why he was so suddenly agreeing with Spike and Xander Harris about Wolfram and Hart.

But he was.

He could see it now.

He’d sold his own redemption for his son’s happiness, and frankly, that didn’t bother him. Connor was his child. He would happily die for him.


But he didn’t have any right to destroy the world for his son and that was what he’d be doing if he went on as he had been.

And even more than destroying the world, he was damning his friends.

His eyes darted quickly to the clock on his desk and Angel sighed. How long could it possibly take to ‘acquire’ one Texas lawyer from somewhere they knew he was hiding?

His gaze returned to the young woman before him and he couldn’t help smiling a bit nastily at the queasy look on her face.

Yeah, Lindsey would know just who’d turned him in. Angel could only wonder why the girl had done it.

* * * * *

Lorne had no recollection of leaving the Lab… no memory of how he’d ended up back in his office with the recently re-bodied young man. Then again, he’d been having… moments, lately. Moments he was just… missing.

“Sorry, puddin’ pop,” he found himself saying, consciousness suddenly catching up with him as he doodled aimlessly on the blotter on his desk, “I think I missed that.”

Xander sighed and held Spike’s duster more tightly across his lap. “I said there’s something wrong with you. You… Hell, everything you say happens, Lorne! But that’s beside the point for now.”

He furrowed his brow then shook his head. “I want to tell you something, okay? But… I can’t. Not unless you ask.”

“Fine then, sexy-and-solid,” the Pylean said with a grin, “Tell me whatever it is you’re just aching to tell me.”

He groaned, his entire body suddenly cramping hard enough to make his eyes tear. “Fuck! Watch the words, damn it! And you… have to…” he gasped “ask! I… can’t…” His breath came in small, dangerously painful hisses as the geas ran up against Lorne’s words and fought it out.

Red eyes widened to their limit as Lorne watched the obviously tortuous struggle and he bit his lip. “Okay… Powers, how do I word this? Crap! Uh, tell me what’s going on here!”

Xander found himself cramping even worse, losing his breath as he hunched over.

“Wh-what’s happening? What are you doing? What do you want me to know? What are you…?” he lost the rest of the words, which were intended to be ‘trying to say’ when the dark-haired man suddenly relaxed and sat up straight, relief obvious in the very lines of his body.

“Oh, thank Gods,” Xander whispered. “I don’t think I could have taken that much longer…”

“ ‘What am I’,” he said softly, brown eyes shifting slightly to silver-shined as they met the ruby-red of Lorne’s, “Is kinda a loaded question. But since you asked and since you’re ‘blessed’ by the Powers, I can actually tell you.” Xander chuckled sadly. “It’s a long story, though. You might want to take a nap first if you’ve been up all night like Wes and Fred…”

Lightly scaled green skin crinkled around the corners of the empath’s eyes. “Not to worry, sweet-cheeks. I had my sleep removed over a month ago. Plus, I’m fascinated. Tell me all your secrets.”

It was Lorne’s wink that had Xander chuckling again, this time in amusement.

“Well, maybe not all of them, but some. It’s not like you’ll remember it later, anyway.” And with that, Xander began to speak, letting the full story of who and what he was-- as well as where he’d gone after burning and the details of the deal he’d made-- pour from him in a fast-flowing, overwhelming spill to the accompaniment of Lorne’s shocked and surprised gasps.

And if Lorne managed to conceal some of what he heard within the doodles he habitually made, then Xander had no way of knowing that.

Hell, he had no way of even suspecting it other than the few times he saw the red eyes lock on the blotter with a look of concentration and he deliberately chose to interpret that as the green man’s intent attention to his words, rather than what he may—or may not—have been writing.

Part Eight

“Solid?” Spike found himself saying disbelievingly as he gaped at the slender brunette, “Xander… Xander Harris. We…” He frowned and paced closer, gaze intent upon hers. “We are talking about th’ same bloke, right? Tall, bloody annoying babbler… been a soddin’ ghost for th’ last month or so?”

If Fred was surprised by the desperate tone of the vampire’s voice, she hid it well behind her glasses. “I… I know this must be a shock to you, Spike, but Xander didn’t seem like he expected it either. I mean, if he’d been thinking it would happen, he would have had something to wear other than your coat, right? And he thinks something’s wrong with Lorne, which is kinda funny if you think about it because hell, Xander’s the one who was all disembodied for all intents and purposes, but…”

And at least the great duster mystery was solved, although Spike still had no idea of why the man would have just up and left rather than waking him to share the news, and that just pissed him off no end. His first thought would have been to wake his lover and get some full-body, corporeal shagging in. That Xander’s had apparently been to get the bloody hell away from him was… insulting, really. It didn’t hurt his feelings, he told himself, even while the soul insisted they’d moved too fast with the human.

“Yah?” he found himself growling, “Don’t much care ‘bout Mister Greenjeans, do I? Just tell me—did ya run my bloke through all your bells an’ whistles, jump him through hoops an’ whatnot?”

The young woman giggled her slightly maniacal laugh and nodded quickly. “Oh, yeah. He’s… wait. I think there’s some sort of doctor-patient privilege or something…” Then the louder growl from the blond registered, as did the words ‘my bloke’ and Fred’s jaw dropped, then snapped shut with a click. “Then again,” she continued quickly, “I guess I’m not really a doctor, so I’m not sure that the privilege applies, and…”

Spike smirked slightly and crossed his arms over his chest as the brunette began to speak, pointing frequently to various incomprehensible figures on her clipboard. He didn’t much care about the particulars—in fact, it only mattered that his Xander was solid and showed every sign of staying that way.

“Thanks, luv,” he finally said, kissing her cheek lightly, “You’re a peach.”

It wasn’t until he’d turned away and reached the hallway that he let his anger show.

He was going to find the bloke and see what he had to say about just leaving like that. It wasn’t right. Not when he’d gone and made Spike love him, anyway. Unless it had all been just a fling, and… and if it had, then…

Yeah, Xander-bloody-Harris had an awful lot to answer for.

* * * * *

He came back to himself with a start, his entire body jerking just a bit before he opened his eyes to look confusedly at the dark-haired young man sitting across the desk from him. “I… sorry, sugar-lump. Where were we?”

Xander sighed softly but managed to smile. “You were just agreeing that it was probably a bad idea to have your sleep removed in the first place, Lorne. You’re an empath, right? Or close enough?” He nodded, mirroring the green man’s motion. “Well, I could be wrong, but I think that might be what’s going on with you, y’know? You did say you’ve been having black-outs, so maybe… maybe sleeping is more important for people with special gifts?”

The demon frowned, unable to recall mentioning his ‘episodes’ to Xander. Still that probably meant he’d been having one at the time, which would definitely explain why he also didn’t recall anything since he and the once again corporeal young man had sat down in his office.

“All right, cupcake… you may have a point. I’ll check with Wes, okay? If he says you’re right, I’ll get my sleep back.” He groaned, red eyes closing for just a moment. “Hell. I’ll have to hire another assistant. Or three.”

He honestly couldn’t help laughing at that. “Small price to pay, buddy…” Xander chuckled before looking at the clock on Lorne’s desk. “And speaking of paying… I think I’d better go find Spike. I have a feeling he’s gonna be less than happy with me right about now.”

It wasn’t until after the brunette had left his office that Lorne found himself looking down at his desk and the pen he’d abandoned at some point.

His eyes widened, then narrowed, and he quickly tore the top sheet of paper from the blotter before jumping up from his chair and nearly flying from the room.

He’d already been planning on going to see Wes, he told himself. This just gave him more reason.

* * * * *

Angel stared at the defiant-looking Texan who sat beside Eve on the small couch across the room as he stood and pulled at one of the chairs in front of his desk, positioning it a few feet away from the couple.

“Lindsey,” he said, deliberately smug, “How nice to see you again.”

The man snorted, sitting as far away from the woman as possible, though that wasn’t actually far, considering Angel’s retrieval team had handcuffed them together. “Yeah, I’m thrilled beyond bearing myself, Angel,” he answered in his oddly soft but rough voice. “I’d ask how you found me, but I have a feeling I already know,” he added, spearing an accusing glance at Eve.

“Hey, it’s not my fault!” she insisted stridently. “Lorne told me to and I… shit, I had to! It was like he was controlling me or something!”

Lindsey snorted, messy hair falling over his forehead. “Yeah, whatever, Eve. You forget that I know Lorne. He doesn’t have that kind of power. Empathy, sure. Projective control? Not a chance.”

“Hell, Lindsey, I know that! But I’m telling you, he told me to tell Angel the truth and I literally had to!” She looked at him sadly, trying for a begging look, though it didn’t work well on her. “Come on! If I were going to lie to you, I’d come up with a better one than that!”

“True enough,” the lawyer replied, surprised. “Shit. So good old Lorne’s got some freaky new powers, huh? Wonder whose soul he sold for them.”

Angel rolled his eyes and shook his head before clearing his throat. “Okay, and now I know what evil Ma and Pa Kettle sound like when they argue. Which—while amusing—really doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of difference right now.”

Lindsey almost sighed but caught himself and glared instead. “Fine. You got me. So what are you gonna do with me, Angel? Because I think we both know you don’t have the balls to kill me. It might fuck with your ‘redemption’.”

Angel’s laugh was bitter and the vampire was pleased to see the suddenly uncertain look in the lawyer’s eyes at the sound. “That was a long time ago, Lindsey. And as I recall, you were all ‘find myself, leave this evil behind’. So I’m guessing you understand that people change.”

“Yeah, well. You’re not exactly a person, are you?”

Eve edged a little away from her partner—in crime, as well as other things—wanting to be as far away from him as possible when Angel attacked. Her eyes flew wide, brows rising quickly, when the vamp in question just laughed again.

“No. Not exactly,” he agreed after a moment. “The question is… are you?”

And as much as he’d never admit it out loud, Lindsey suddenly realized that the question was a stumper.

* * * * *

He’d been making his way back to Spike’s rooms when he felt it like a buzzing against his skin—a small, subtle vibration that wasn’t so much shocking as unexpected.

“Damn it,” he grumbled as he ducked into the first open doorway he saw and closed it behind him, “What now? It’s not like I planned on going all solid today, is it? You know better than that.”

Xander frowned, his brow furrowing in pain as the sudden and sharp migraine hit like a ton of bricks.

“Gods, stop it already! I didn’t tell him and you know it! He doesn’t even know enough to ask! And if you’re pissed about Lorne, he doesn’t remember now anyway and he did ask!”

A small sigh of relief flew from his lips as the throbbing pain vanished. “Look, we had a deal,” he said slowly and clearly. “We have a deal. And even though I don’t really expect to win our little wager anymore, I do expect you to honor your end of it! Now stop bothering me and let me do this! I have just under three weeks, so fuck off!”

He limped from the room a few minutes later, one hand rubbing the base of his spine through the leather of Spike’s duster. Maybe, he realized, telling the Powers to fuck off hadn’t been his wisest move ever.

Then again, he’d never been known for making the best choices… not even before he’d died.

* * * * *

And at least Wesley had come through with the promised clothes, Xander realized as he reached the door to Spike’s rooms and saw the bag resting beside it.

Yes, the bag was beside the door. Spike’s door.

The door he wasn’t authorized to open now that he was solid, though he still had to try.

He groaned as he pressed his palm against the reader and heard the rejecting buzz for the third time. “Shit.”

Just fucking perfect. He was solid, he had clothes to change into but no place to actually get dressed, and what was he supposed to do? Bang on the door until the vampire woke up and then try to explain why he’d run off?

Yeah, that would go over really well, he figured.

Spike had already been acting sort of possessive about his ghost-self, although Xander hadn’t realized it until just that moment. How much worse would it be if the blond knew he was in phase with the rest of them and had left, dressed in nothing but the vampire’s own cherished duster, to talk first to Wes, then Fred, then Lorne?

“Shit,” he groaned again, banging his head softly against the wood grain finish of the steel door, “I am so screwed.”

“Good choice of words,” came the growling voice from a good thirty feet away, “But I wouldn’t say you’re screwed just yet, mate.”

Furious blue eyes locked onto wide brown as the vampire stalked closer.

“Spike,” he began, only to find himself cut off as he was slammed roughly against the door, blue flashing to gold mere inches away.

“Shut. Your bloody. Gob,” Spike snarled, pressing himself hard against the slightly larger form and trying not to gasp at the sensation of his bloke being really and truly there. “Don’t care ta hear whatever bloody lame excuse you’ve come up with, Xander. You let me take you ta bed, you woke up all solid an’ shit, an’ you didn’t even think ta say so!” He growled again, baring suddenly sharp teeth this time. “Could have just said it was a one time thing, you know. Don’t blame you for that. Know what I am, don’t I? But you should have bloody well said you were all… touchable again!”

His next growl was deeper, rougher, and he forced himself to push away from the human’s so-tempting heat before he did something unforgivable, if he hadn’t already.

“You can leave my bloody duster with Peaches on your way out, mate.”

Xander was still blinking as he realized the blond was striding away. “Spike! Wait, I…” he started to say, his own anger rising when the sound of his voice only made the vampire move faster. “Damn it,” he shouted, racing down the hall after the man, “You always do this, Spike! Get some stupid idea in your head and just go with it, without even bothering to find out if it’s right or not!” He grabbed hold of one strong arm, pulling the blond around.

“Of course it’s bloody well right, you git!” the vampire yelled back at the brunette, yanking away. “You left me, you wanker! Woke up an’ thought you’d been dragged off ta wherever the hell it is you go when you disappear, an’ all th’ while you were paradin’ around th’ bloody buildin’ in nothin’ but my soddin’ coat! Couldn’t wait ta get away from me, right? Didn’t even bother ta get dressed!”

“In what, you bleached dick-head?” Xander demanded, glaring hotly into the demon’s face, “In case you forgot, my clothes went POOF last night! It’s not like I woke up wearing them, y’know! It was either your stupid coat or nothing at all, and even if you don’t care, I didn’t want to be naked for anyone but you!”

“You should have woken me up!” Spike snarled, the logic of his boy’s words irritating him even more. “Could have called down for somethin’ you could wear!”

“Yeah, after we were done ‘shagging’ for like a week, Spike! Fuck that! I needed to be sure I was gonna stay solid before I got my hopes up! Or yours!”

He barely noticed the sudden sense of shivering excitement coming from his soul as he and the demon nearly howled their frustration. “What bloody hopes, tosser! You wanted th’ night, we had it! ‘s not like you’re tryin’ ta be all involved with a thing like me, after all, an’…” and then the soul’s wild tremors registered and Spike found himself replaying the entire shouting match in his head, eyes widening as he tried to process the meaning of Xander’s words… the implications.

“Actually,” Xander said after a moment, his own voice dropping to a more normal tone as the vampire remained silent, “I do want to be… involved, Spike. I… Gods.” He sighed softly, one hand rising to comb tanned fingers through slightly shaggy brown hair. “Look. I woke up and I could touch things. Hell, I could touch you! But I needed to know…”

He sighed again and shook his head, taking a step back. “I needed to know if it was gonna last, Spike. As much as I wanted to just roll over and have you, I… couldn’t. Not if it was gonna go away. I just… if I could touch you but then I couldn’t again, it… Fuck, it would have killed me. Uh, y’know. Again. But with more pain and stuff than the burning did. I… fuck, Spike. I’m sorry, okay? I… I guess I thought I was doing the right thing.”

And just like that, Spike found himself nearly bouncing right there in the hallway. Xander wanted him! Still wanted him! Wanted to be able to touch him and know that he wouldn’t be going all ghost-ish again, and that seemed to imply that the bloke was telling the truth about why he’d wandered off, and…

“Right,” he heard himself saying sharply, “Don’t let it happen again. Have ta hurt you if you ever bloody do.”

He had no idea of how to tell Spike that he couldn’t stay. There just weren’t words to explain that he had a deadline, and considering how long it had taken him to get the vampire to admit wanting him, he didn’t have a single hope in—or out of—Hell.

Still, close to three weeks was better than nothing, and… maybe the blond would get tired of him before then, so Xander smiled a bit wickedly and arched a brow. “Promise?” he murmured, chuckling as Spike’s lips twitched and that pale pink tongue flicked lightly over sharp teeth.

“Seem ta recall someone sayin’ somethin’ ‘bout shaggin for a week, pet. Think it was you, yah…?” he murmured slyly, ignoring the question. He moved closer to the human, one hand lifting to rest on his bloke’s hip. His fingers flexed lightly on leather and flesh and he growled at the sudden look of need in Xander’s eyes. “Right here, mate… or in my bed. ‘s up ta you. Either way, though, you’re goin’ ta be gettin’ shagged in th’ next two minutes.”

The brunette smirked and backed towards Spike’s rooms, pulling the vampire along with him. “Two minutes, huh? Might have to make do with your couch then…”

Spike snorted and dipped a bit, then straightened with the man draped over his shoulder and dashed down to his door. “Vampire, luv… bed first. Couch later.”

And that was a plan Xander could firmly support.

Part Nine

“All right, all right,” he inserted after nearly twenty minutes of listening to Wes’s babble-ogue, “Enough with the gloom and doom, already! I’ll get my sleep back!” Lorne pouted slightly and crossed his arms over his chest. “Sheesh! Like it’s my fault nobody told me what would happen.”

The dark-haired man frowned and shook his head. “I didn’t say it was your fault, Lorne. Simply that it might have been wise to investigate all possible outcomes before you allowed anyone to…”

“Right. Because the rest of you are so careful. I’m sure tall, dark and chocolate did loads of research before he went and got himself all legal-eagled,” the green man snorted.

Wesley sighed. “Yes, well, he was lucky there weren’t unforeseen consequences, wasn’t he? Which has absolutely nothing to do with your situation so I’ll thank you to leave it be.”

“Fine,” Lorne answered unhappily, “And I am gonna get my sleep back, okay? Just as soon as I leave here. Promise.”

Finally the former Watcher smiled. “Good. And perhaps I’ll be able to apologize to Fred more… appropriately… now that I know what happened.”

“Take her out,” the Pylean commanded as he stood. “The best way to apologize to a woman you actually care about is to show her that her feelings are more important than your dignity. Find something she’d enjoy and take her there. Even if it’s something you’ll hate with a fiery passion.”

He started for the door, one hand slipping into the pocket of his lounging jacket and he stopped as his fingers encountered the folded paper there. “What the heck…?” he muttered, red eyes widening as he pulled the top sheet of his blotter out and unfolded it, staring at the words in his own writing and the language of his world.

“Uh, Wes?” he said, turning while his brow furrowed around the red horns, “What do you know about something called… Equibrata Impartialata…? And ‘the choice’?”

Wesley blinked, then blinked again. “Why would you ask about… that?” he demanded, shivers racing up and down his spine suddenly.

Lorne frowned again and shook his head slightly. “I… I think maybe…” He sighed deeply. “I think… Xander might be one of them.”

“We’re going to… need Angel,” Wes whispered shakily after a moment, his hands clenching into fists on his desk.

* * * * *

He was entirely bloody ready to shag the bloke. All of him was. Hell, he was almost completely naked, eyes shifting gold as he stared at the incredible display of tanned, toned flesh laying on his bed, no longer hidden by the duster that had been abandoned in a twisted heap on the floor.

“Spike…?” Xander whispered, eyes becoming confused as the vampire simply stood there. “I… look, we don’t have to. I mean if you’re not… if you don’t want…” He swallowed hard. “I just… this can wait if that’s what you want, and I… it’s fine. Really. Promise, Spike. I… you… shit,” he finished, despairing of finding the words.

And just like that, Spike found himself on the bed—and more importantly, on Xander. Pale, elegant fingers tangled roughly in silken hair and he forced the ridges that had suddenly appeared to slip away as blue eyes bored into wide brown. “Just admirin’ th’ view, pet,” he rumbled, holding the proprietary growl deep in his chest.

His head dropped and he let his nose slide slowly along the heated, soft skin of his bloke’s neck. “Want ta taste every inch of you, luv,” he whispered, laying one small lick to the human’s pulse point, “Savor the flavor of you, Xan… bloody hell, mate, you can’t possibly taste as good as you smell…”

His tongue trailed slowly—ever so slowly and lingeringly, this time—up the man’s skin before pulling away to let soft, pink lips speak directly into one reddening ear. “An’ you don’t, pet… you taste better. Bloody… goin’ ta taste all of you, luv, by th’ time that week is up.”

As amazing as Spike’s mouth had been on his cock when he’d been out of phase, the blond’s tongue on his skin was even better. Maybe because he wasn’t having to concentrate so much on being solid, and maybe… maybe because he could feel the entire length of that amazing, compactly muscular form covering him. “W-week?” he found himself stammering, surprised that he could think or find his voice at all, “Week?”

Spike chuckled, his fingers tightening in the brown locks and pressing back, arching that wonderful neck for his lips. “Promised me a week of shaggin’, pet. Takin’ you up on that, I am,” he announced, reminding the bloke of his earlier words even as he nipped lightly at the thin skin behind Xander’s ear.

“Think about it, luv,” he murmured, blunt teeth scraping flesh as he worked his way down to the crook of the man’s neck. “How many ways do you think we can shag in a bloody week? Been around for a good bit, Xander… might be able ta teach you a thing or two, yah…?”

He couldn’t help arching against the bed, hips shifting down into the mattress then up again, his seeping shaft pressing rhythmically against the rough and yet still somehow soft denim Spike was wearing. His hands roamed almost desperately over the strongly muscled back, small gasps flying from his throat as the assault of full lips and slick, talented tongue continued. “S-spike,” he somehow managed to hiss, “Please!”

If his answering chuckle was slightly shaky, Spike blamed the thick, hard cock rocking into his own. And if both soul and demon were crowing inside him at the way the man begged, well that was just the icing on the proverbial cake. “Tell me what you want, luv,” he groaned, wishing he’d taken the time to lose the jeans, “Tell me what you need!”

One hand slid up that flexing back, fingers burying themselves deep in the short blond hair at the back of the vampire’s head and pulling that too-good mouth from his skin.

“You, Spike,” Xander moaned, meeting lustful, wanton, gold-flecked blue eyes. “Want… need… you! Gods, baby, need…” he moaned again, shivering. “Pants, Spike. Now!”

“You need pants…?” he asked, confused. Then the bloke’s hips shifted upwards again and he got it. “Oh…” His pants. His Xander needed the jeans gone… and so did he. “Think I can do that for you, luv,” he murmured huskily, forcing himself to release the longish, shaggy hair and roll from his spot atop that hot, tanned form.

“Hurry,” he demanded, one hand wrapping around his ready shaft. “Need to… Gods, Spike, you don’t know how long I’ve… and I was there and you weren’t and it wasn’t… and Gods, I’m here now and so are you and you want me, Spike! I hoped you would, but then… and it wasn’t long, and then… and I couldn’t touch, and…” He slid his fingers firmly up his own cock and a small, needy breath left his lips. “And then you… that fantasy, and I couldn’t not watch, couldn’t not want and then you… my name, and…”

He honestly wasn’t paying any attention to the words coming from the man’s mouth. In fact, every bit of him was focused on the hand stroking, pulling, shifting on that beautiful cock and when he finally tossed his jeans across the room and turned onto his side to face his bloke, Spike purred and nearly dove at the thick tube of ready flesh.

The fact that he didn’t actually dive was easily attributed to the fact that both demon and soul were suddenly focusing on the movement of the red, wet lips, although not the words creating the motions.

“Want ta kiss you, Xan,” he heard himself saying even as he shifted a bit, leaning over the human. “Know it’s intimate, luv, but I want ta. Need ta. Need ta feel your lips under mine, feel your tongue writhin’… want ta devour you, pet… crawl inta you from th’ mouth down…” He groaned silently, entirely sure that it was his soul being such a ponce.

Of course, he was thanking it a moment later when those strong fingers left their task and locked on the back of his head, pulling him swiftly to those same lips he’d been staring at.

Cool… soft… full… Those were Spike’s lips. Strong, slick, flexible beyond belief… that was Spike’s tongue, Xander thought blearily, his mind spinning more than it ever had during his brief and very liquid experiments with the Harris Family Curse.

He held that questing mouth tightly to his own, tongue tangling wickedly, wantonly, willfully with the vampire’s cooler one. His free hand stroked satin skin, rising slightly as it passed over each rib then pausing for just a moment on a slightly flesh-padded hip.

He would have spoken then but it would have meant releasing the blond’s lips and Xander wasn’t ready to do that yet, so he simply squeezed that hip gently then let his fingers trail to the rough path of hair below Spike’s navel, following it down until he found and cupped hard shaft, then tight balls covered in lightly haired, sensitive skin.

Could kiss the bloke for ages, Spike figured. Just hold him down and snog him breathless for the next century or two.

Then again, Xander was human, so there wasn’t any time to waste… especially when the bloke had his hand on his bits, he admitted with a small jump.

“Bloody hell, luv,” he moaned, pressing himself against the hot palm, “Tryin’ ta undo me already?”

The brunette chuckled a little disappointedly, already missing Spike’s mouth. “More like… trying to do you, baby. Or be done. Gods, Spike, I…” His fingers rippled, rolling the vampire’s sac lightly. “Do… do you want to fuck me? I… Gods, I suddenly feel like such an asshole. I want… Spike, will you please just… have me? Now? I… I need…”

And oddly enough, he didn’t even need to reply to his Xan’s words. He simply needed to pull the bloke’s hand away from his cock and roll onto him again, staring into his eyes from less than an inch away.

“Need you too, luv,” he growled, unable to keep his demon hidden any longer. “Need you, Xander… need this. Us.”

* * * * *

Of every possibility that had passed through his mind when he’d though of Spike doing this—pressing into him, opening him wide with that long, cool cock—tenderness had never even made the list, and yet… that was exactly how the vampire was entering him. Slowly. Tenderly. Gently, even, and Xander didn’t know how to handle it.

He’d expected roughness… violence. But what he was getting was…

“G-gods,” he whimpered as Spike’s thick, spongy head finally made its way through his muscled ring. “Spike, you’re… you…” He groaned, eyes closing as he cherished the sensation of his vampire-- his vampire-- obviously fighting his own instincts and he groaned again as his legs rose higher, seemingly of their own accord, to wrap around that slightly more slender space between the bottom of Spike’s ribs and his waist. “Gods… yes…”

For his part, Spike was barely holding back needy, desperate cries as he watched his cock slowly being accepted into the most perfect, hot, tight, wanted place it had ever been. Still, if his human could manage to speak right then, so could he. He was a vampire, after all, and stronger than any human, though his soul disagreed on that count.

“Look… at me, Xan,” he somehow managed to grunt, forcing his own eyes away from the incredible sight of his bloke’s anus taking him in to the hilt. “Need… need ta see your eyes, luv… see you knowin’… knowin’ it’s me in you…” His arms were already shaking, both from holding himself above the man and from trying not to drive his fingers through the sheets and into the mattress. “P-please, pet… look at m-me!”

He barely managed it, his eyes were closed so tightly as he filed the sensations away in his mind, but he did somehow make them open, and when he did…

Xander gasped, took a hiccupping breath, then lost that same breath in a shuddering moan at the look in his blond’s golden eyes. “Kn-know it’ssss… you, baby…” he finally whimpered, trying to rock that perfect shaft within him. “W-waited for you, Spike… never w-wanted anyone else ins-side me after the f-first time…”

Much as the slight movements of the human’s hips made him want to just… pull back and thrust again in to that incredible heat, the boy’s words had him frozen. Only had one other bloke…? Only once…? And he’d been waiting—waiting for him?

“But… p-pet, you mean…” It wasn’t possible. The bloke had been in a hell dimension for fuck knew how long and he’d… only one of the demons had…

It was the fact that his own demon was suddenly feeling even more possessive and his soul was suspended in a purely internal sea of bliss at them being the first who mattered that had him slowly pulling out of Xander’s wonderfully hot sheath.

He paused there, just the very tip of his head still inside his human and although he didn’t know it, the amber gleam of his gaze was soft… wondering, even. “Think… we need ta… talk, pet.” He chuckled at the suddenly frantic look in the brunette’s eyes. “Not n-now, Xan. Later,” he murmured wickedly before reversing his motion of moments earlier, pressing his thickness slowly and deeply into the core of his… love?

Yeah, Spike told himself. No matter what Xander thought they were doing, he was making love to his human, and… he did love him. He’d known that already. Hell, he’d said it to the bloke, even if the man had been asleep at the time.

“So… bloody hot, Xander… so tight… bloody fuckin’ hell, luv…”

And Gods help him… help him be able to let this go, because no matter how strongly he felt for the vampire currently sliding deep into his ass, he was going to have to leave.

Then Spike shifted on him, moving just a tiny bit higher, and…

“F-fuck! Yesss! S-Spike! Th-that…” his hips arched into the next slow thrust, hands slipping lower to grasp tightly at the tensing cheeks driving that blissful shaft into him. “Gods… baby, I… fuck, yes! S-spike… so f-fucking… h-hard… love how… hard you are…. f-for m-m-me…”

“Been this hard since you… showed up here, luv,” the blond groaned, pulling back again and starting a leisurely pace that was entirely at odds with his usual style. His eyes remained locked on the bottomless brown ones and he let his own desperation for the man beneath him show there in response to his Xander’s own.

“Never felt… anythin’ like you, luv…” he swore helplessly. “Long as I’ve been… ‘round, luv… never anythin’ l-like… you… Bloody hell, pet…”

“Don’t stop,” Xander heard himself whimpering, his hips rising, back flexing on the bed for leverage as he raised one leg higher still, heel resting between Spike’s rolling shoulders. “Don’t stop-don’t stop-don’t stop- don’t… don’t let go, Spike—don’t let go of me, baby—Gods, gods, d-don’t…”

And that didn’t even require thought to answer, the blond acknowledged silently as he moved faster, his bloke’s desperation filling him with both excitement and a small, unwelcome sense of dread. His mouth opened, harsh, unneeded gasps flying from his lips, whistling softly past sharp teeth as he stared hotly into the wide, wanton brown eyes and he found his hips pistoning harder, faster still. “Xannnderrrr…” he groaned, “C-cum for me, luv… want ta feel you…”

Gods, he wanted to, but that would mean this would be over, even if only for a little while, and he wasn’t ready for that. Not yet. But then Spike’s head dropped down, those sharp teeth dancing lightly over his throat and there was nothing he could do—no way he could hold back. “W-with me, b-baby,” he felt the words fly from his own lips as a shout and when he felt that wonderfully stabbing shaft swell impossibly larger, the increase putting still more pressure on that small spot inside him, it was done.

His eyes flew wider than they’d ever done before and whatever it was he was saying wasn’t actually recognizable as words, but that was fine because he couldn’t think, couldn’t even begin to consider trying to express his feelings with anything other than “unngh… ungahhh… Spynnnngggggg…” and even that was more coherent than he’d have expected as his already hard, tight sac became more so and then…

The vampire’s body bowed and heaved, hips thrusting hard enough, fast enough, that he might have damaged his human if he hadn’t been so careful about stretching him earlier and making so sure that the man was beyond slick enough. As it was, that perfect sheath, clamping around him like a vise; that amazing, tanned form writhing beneath him; those bright and swollen red lips moaning and grunting so wonderfully simply spurred him on, drawing him into one, two, three more long, hard thrusts and as he felt the first nearly violent splash of hot seed against his belly, Spike cried out low and rough.

He slammed himself root-deep one last time, spilling roughly, harshly, lovingly within Xander’s heated body, his arms shaking for a moment or two before they gave way, leaving him collapsed-- shuddering and spent and more languid than he remembered ever being-- on the long, muscled shape of his bloke.

* * * * *

Okay, Xander thought dazedly as he stroked the vampire’s still-shaking back, that had been way more than he’d been expecting.

Not that it was a bad thing, he admitted with a wry grin, just… more. And Spike wanted to do that for a week? Gods, he’d be dead in a day or two.

Still, it was a better way to go than what was waiting for him, and he wasn’t going to think about that. Not now. Not when his lover—and how bizarre was it that the word didn’t seem awkward at all?—when his lover was still on him, still in him. And not when his own body was still… Gods, he couldn’t even begin to explain how he felt although ‘whole’ came close; ‘full’ came close. Close but not quite… right.

“They really need to come up with a word for ‘perfectly complete and replete but still a little sore and wanting more and loving every minute of it’,” he whispered, lips barely moving against surprisingly soft bleached hair. “Because if they do make a word like that, I’m for damned sure gonna use it…”

“You an’ me both, luv,” Spike murmured, his head shifting on the broad shoulder to glance up into bright brown eyes. “Bloody hell, pet… ‘s a good thing I’m already dead, yah? Otherwise your ass would have been th’ death of me.”

His hands moved slowly, fingers still laying light, possessive touches along Spike’s spine as he smiled into the blue-again gaze. “Pretty sure that cock of yours can be lethal too, baby… especially when you’ve got your demon face on and you’re looking into my eyes the way you were…” Xander moaned softly, his shaft twitching slightly at the memory, even trapped as it was between their bodies.

“Fuck, Spike. I had no idea… and Gods, thank you, baby. I…” he shook his head, smiling sheepishly. “I was right to wait for you after the one time, Spike. Even when I thought I’d never see you again. I didn’t want… I mean, you’re the only one I ever really… it just took me a century or so to realize it and…” And he was babbling, he realized suddenly, and saying things he wasn’t supposed to say, and… “Well, it felt like a hundred years after you were gone, anyway.”

It was a nice try, Spike admitted even as he rubbed his cheek against Xander’s shoulder for a moment before raising himself on steady arms to look down at the bloke. “Goin’ ta kiss you again, pet,” he murmured, “An’ then, when you’re hard an’ ready again, I’m goin’ ta roll us an’ you’re goin’ ta ride me, Xander… Xan. Want ta watch you, luv… see you on me, see your body movin’ while you’re pierced so full of me.”

He leaned down, lips and tongue plundering the suddenly panting mouth before rising again. “Goin’ ta feel so deep, Xan… deeper than before. ‘s goin’ ta be so good, luv… an’ when you cum an’ your amazin’ ass squeezes ‘round me, pet…?” Spike moaned softly, shifting to take one more slow, deep kiss. “When you cum, luv… I’m goin’ ta explode so hard an’ deep in you, you’ll taste me, Xander… you’re goin’ ta taste every drop, luv…”

His cock swelled quickly and fully; more so than it had done since he was fifteen and linoleum had pretty much been enough to get him hard, as he’d once said. “Gods,” he groaned, feeling the blond’s shaft inside him mirror the state of his own, “I th-think I was wrong, S-spike… it’s your voice that’s g-gonna kill me…”

And that reminded him. His Xander had said something about liking the demon face. Good thing, that, he figured. His human would be seeing a bloody lot of it, after all.

“Right, then,” the vampire nearly purred, “Means I need ta talk more when I’m in you, yah…?” He rocked his hips slowly, chuckling at the breathy gasp it earned him. “But don’t worry, luv… ‘s only fair, right? Have a feelin’ you’re goin’ ta be impossible ta shut up when you’re breakin’ me open with that beautiful cock of yours later…”

He chuckled more at the stunned expression his bloke was suddenly wearing and kept his promise of a few minutes earlier, rolling them swiftly and looking up into dazed brown eyes. One hand found Xander’s hip, fingers wrapping around the curve of a hipbone, palm covering the small divot as his other hand wrapped lightly around the man’s hard shaft.

“Ride me, luv,” he murmured, the hand on his bloke’s hip shifting the brunette back and forth gently on the thick, ready cock buried deep in his ass. “See what you like, yah…? So I’ll know for later.”

“Y-you, Spike,” Xander groaned, the small forward and back motion pressing the vampire’s erection repeatedly to his prostate. “I lo-like you…”

“ ‘s mutual, luv,” Spike answered the unspoken question. “Lo-like you a great deal too…”

And wasn’t that a bloody understatement.

Part Ten

They were all there except for Spike and Xander, and the lack of those two really didn’t bother Angel much. Hell, he was almost glad, to be honest. He could only take so much of them, after all, what with the way they insisted on walking around the building smelling like each other-- on the rare occasion when they weren’t locked away in Spike’s rooms doing things Angel really didn’t want to think too much about. Not even if his Childe insisted Harris was sick or whatever now. He knew that was just an excuse for them to… ‘shag’.

How they could somehow want each other was beyond him. He’d always thought it was opposites that attracted. Like himself and Buffy. Himself and Nina, even, though he wasn’t sure of exactly where that was going, if anywhere. He wasn’t stupid, after all. Just… guarded. That didn’t mean he was entirely unaware of what the werewolf wanted from him; it just meant that he wasn’t sure of whether it was a good idea.

Then again, it was also that he had no idea of how to date. Dating wasn’t something they’d done back in his day, really, and regardless of everything that had happened with Buffy, actual ‘dating’ hadn’t been a part of it. After all, he figured most women really didn’t think of killing demons and running through sewers as romantic.

It was Gunn clearing his throat that had the brooding vampire’s attention suddenly snapping back to his crew-- which sadly somehow included Lindsey and Eve now—and the less than stellar building they were in.

“Um, okay… why are we here again?” he asked carefully. He’d gotten the e-mail from Wesley, as had the others apparently, and here they were. It was lucky that he sort of trusted the former Watcher again, though, or he might have balked at showing up; especially at the abandoned building.

Wes and Lorne traded one slow look then the green skinned demon stepped forward. “There’s a problem,” he said quickly, “and we asked you guys to come here because… well, I’ve had it warded against anyone hearing what goes on here. Even the Powers.”

One dark brow arched and Lindsey crossed his arms over his chest. “Okay. So are we up to something evil, then? Because I think you can count me and Eve…” He felt more than saw the growl coming from the big, glaring vamp. “Out. We, uh… we’re not doing the evil anymore, right Eve?”

The woman frowned prettily and shrugged. “Not in public, anyway.”

Bright red eyes rolled at the both of them and Lorne gave them a despairing shake of his head. “Kids,” he murmured, looking at Angel, “What are you gonna do?”

“But no. Nothing evil. It’s… Okay, Wes? This is more your area than mine,” he added with a theatrical bow as the tall man stepped forward, eyes on the sheaf of papers in his hand.

“Yes… yes, well,” Wesley began, “I am aware that this is going to sound rather bizarre, but… I’m not entirely sure that Xander is who we think he is.”

* * * * *

“This is stupid,” Lindsey announced after a good ten minutes of Wesley’s so-called explanation. “We’ve all heard of the Equibrata Impartialata. Heard of them, Wes! They’re myths, for fuck’s sake; they don’t exist! Hell, the supposed accounts of actually meeting one of them totally contradict each other! They’re demons. They’re humans. They’re fucking angels!” He snorted. “Come on. Some crazy guy somewhere had a dream one night and woke up with this weird idea that there was a race of… something out there who kept the balance between heaven and hell and somehow the notion caught on. That’s all it is!”

Angel rolled his eyes. “Yeah, and ask any human out there on the street about vampires, Lindsey. Because we’re myths too.” He blinked, suddenly realizing that he’d just supported Wes, but maybe it was time to let his resentment go. His… friend… had only done what he’d thought was right and it wasn’t even really his fault. It was that screwed up prophecy.

He cast a long, apologetic gaze at the human and relaxed slightly when the one-time Watcher nodded. They’d have to talk about what had happened, but… later. Right now… “Go on, Wes,” he invited, ignoring the surprised looks Gunn and Fred gave him. They didn’t know what had been wrong between him and the human, but they’d known he’d had issues and now… well, maybe things could get back to normal or something like it.

Wesley smiled, somehow feeling heartened by the look he’d been given. “Yes. Well.” He cleared his throat and leaned against the wall, almost surprised when it held his weight. “It’s true that there has always been some question as to the existence of the Equibrata Impatialata. However something—some things, rather—have been happening even within Wolfram and Hart that have caused both Lorne and myself to wonder.”

* * * * *

“How you feelin’, luv?” Spike said softly, frowning at the flushed state of Xander’s skin.

The brunette smiled a bit, taking the mug of tea from his lover as the vampire sat down on the edge of the bed. “I’m fine, Spike. Really. It’s… just a cold, right? Um, with a fever and some mucus, but that happens to people, right?”

That was true enough, Spike knew, but he also knew that Xander was lying to him. The bloke had been getting sicker and sicker for the last week and a half, the illness starting with the occasional sniffle every now and again then escalating to sneezes, coughs, and most recently the fever that his bloke seemed determined to ignore, even though it didn’t react at all to any of the medicines designed specifically for such human ailments.

Xander sighed happily as one cool, elegant hand pressed lightly to his forehead. “Mmmm… feels good, baby…” And it did. His vampire’s cool body always seemed to leech the excess heat from him. He just wished the blond would get naked and lie on top of him so he could have some real relief. “Come on, Spike… I’m fine,” he lied. “Why don’t you get in here with me, huh?”

The vampire sighed and shook his head. “Luv… if I get in there, one of us will end up bein’ shagged an’ you need ta keep up your strength, not spend it like that.” He frowned. “And when th’ bloody hell did I turn inta such a bleedin’ ponce?”

“Fuck, Spike,” Xander groaned, “Please… I’m gonna go crazy if I have to just stay in bed and can’t even touch you.” And that wasn’t a lie. Not like being fine was. “C’mon… I just want to hold you, okay…?”

He’d have to tell the bloke that he could smell the lies on him, Spike promised himself. One day. When Xander was better and ready to be bound to him forever. When the man needed him badly enough that he wouldn’t even think about what Mating to him would mean before he said yes.

Until then, though, it was all Spike could do to keep his jeans on as he crawled onto the bed then slipped under the covers, pulling the too-hot body onto his own. “There, luv,” he murmured, brushing his lips lightly over the sweat-dotted forehead, “Happy now?”

“Mmmmm,” the brunette hummed, shifting slightly until he was completely comfortable, “Ecstatic, baby…”

And as his human drifted off, Spike finally understood that there was something seriously wrong with his Xan. The bloke hadn’t even commented on the denim he still wore, and that scared him. Deeply.

His hands moved slowly up and down his sleeping love’s back even as his mind raced, looking for some innocent reason his bloke would be so sick and lying to him about it and not responding to the medicines and…

“Can’t lose you, Xan,” he murmured into the lush, silky brown hair. “Can’t lose you, pet… don’t know how you got ta be so bloody important ta me, so fast… don’t care, either. Just… don’t leave me, luv. Let me… bloody hell, Xander, I’ll turn you before I let you go. Can’t let you die on me. Not again, luv, never again, keep you with me forever, yah? Hold you, love you, feel you in my soul for th’ rest of my days… won’t go on without you, Xander. Don’t even want ta…”

Even is his sleep, Xander frowned. Then he shifted again, his lips finding the crook of Spike’s neck… and when the vampire arched slightly, giving him more room, he smiled, still deep in slumber but somehow knowing he was where he most wanted to be.

* * * * *

“Wait. So you think Xander’s one of these Equi-whatever things because what? Because Lorne’s been forgetting things even though it’s probably a side-effect from going sleepless for like two months?” Gunn shook his head. “Sorry, English. I know you believe all this but let’s face it. You’re extrapolating based upon facts not in, uh… you know. Facts that aren’t proved. Theories. Yeah.”

He frowned deeply. The small hiccups in his memory of certain things—things related to the legal upgrade he’d received, in fact—were becoming more and more common and it was worrying him. What if he was losing all that expertise that had made him feel like he fit in better with his friends? He’d been useful for more than kicking ass and swinging an axe since Wolfram and Hart had given him the knowledge that seemed to be fading and while he’d truly enjoyed being the muscle, there was a different kind of pleasure involved with being smart and it was a sort of joy he didn’t want to lose.

“Maybe it was just the Powers trying to tell Lorne he needed to slow down,” he added, no real sign of his internal concerns showing outwardly, other than the frown.

Angel frowned himself. “Maybe. But even if it was, I can tell you this much, guys. Xander Harris was human when he was in Sunnydale. He had really bad luck with the people who were attracted to him, yeah… mostly demons—and former demons-- and that obviously hasn’t changed because, you know… Spike. Hell, I smelled him—smelled his blood-- often enough to know.” He chuckled softly. “The boy got hurt more often than you’d believe… even though it was never anything serious. He had a broken arm once.” And he’d never realized before just how bizarre it was that the one plain old ordinary human in the Scooby Gang had not only survived, but done it with only a few assorted bruises, cuts, scrapes and a broken arm. Until the eye thing, anyway, and even then…

“You know what, Wes? I think you might be right. I mean, Caleb killed some of the then-Potentials and from what I’ve heard, he tossed Spike and Buffy around like… tissues on the wind. But he only managed to put out one of Harris’s eyes?” It was a disturbing realization that the one human he’d been so sure wasn’t special might in fact be the most special of them all. “But I thought… I mean, shouldn’t he look more… not normal, wardrobe aside?”

Fred looked up from the folder she’d taken from Wes. “Not necessarily,” she said, sounding a bit dazed but a good bit excited, as well. “It’s fascinating, really, and I’ll want to see your source materials later, Wesley, but if what’s here is accurate, then… it depends on which family of Equibrata Impatialata Xander’s a part of… and which generation he is because it looks like they sort of switch back and forth with the Mating to humans and demons and if Xander’s Equibrata parent was Mated to a human then Xander wouldn’t show any signs of what he is until it came time for him to choose a Mate of his own, and Oh! That might explain demons being attracted to him and him being interested in them, too! If he’s a ‘demon-Mating’ generation, then… and he wouldn’t seem like a demon anyway. Not until he Mated to one. Then he’d take on… an aspect of the demon-type he Mated…? Am I reading that right, Wes?”

“Bloody hell,” the former-Watcher muttered, giving the young woman a stunned and impressed gaze, “It took you all of fifteen minutes to come to the same conclusion that took Lorne and myself a week. I… I think I love you, Fred.”

The slim brunette blushed and fumbled the folder back into his hand. “I just… it was… I mean, it’s right there in black and white, and…” She blushed even more, moving to hide just a bit behind Lorne’s body, not sure of what to do with that sort a declaration from the handsome dark-haired man.

Gunn rolled his eyes at his ex-girlfriend and his closest male friend. “Oh, hell. This is getting tired. Wes, you like Fred. Fred likes you. Go out, for fuck’s sake! Watching you two dance around each other is just… sad. Hell, it’s been months! Just do it! Uh, go out or something,” he clarified.

Lorne found himself laughing, even as Angel groaned audibly. “Couldn’t have said it better myself, pumpkin. Any more sexual tension and they’re gonna go up in flames!”

Lindsey chuckled, heartily amused by the uncomfortable looks on the faces of the couple in question. Still, “Fun as this is, guys… why did we have to come here? Even if that Harris guy is what you think he is, we could have done this in Angel’s office. Or better yet, in mine.”

Ours,” Eve inserted with a darted glance at her boyfriend. “It’s our office; not just yours.”

The lawyer sighed, running a hand through his still-shaggy hair. “Fine, Eve. Our office. Whatever. Why are we here?”

Angel’s head cocked slightly and he nodded. “Much as I hate to admit it, that’s a good question. You could have just told us there…”

Wesley shook his head, still somewhat distracted by Gunn’s assertion that Fred was interested in him.

“Angel… the Powers seem to be preventing any of us from remembering or even questioning much about Xander. Consider… we never thought to ask why he was able to wear the amulet, even knowing that it required a champion with a soul who was stronger than human. We knew that and yet… even believing Xander was human, we never wondered how he fit the requirements. None of us ever considered him a ‘champion’, so why didn’t we think to enquire?”

He saw the suddenly stunned look on the vampire’s face and continued after nodding.

“And we were all so very convinced that he’d been in a Hell dimension, if you’ll recall. And yet, he never said that. He never gave us any indication of where he’d been after he burned other than saying to Spike that he’d seen Anyanka there but none of the others. But why would she be in a Hell dimension? Yes, she spent eleven hundred years as a vengeance demon, but she was a very good vengeance demon. Her twenty-some-odd years as a human—before and after her demonhood—wouldn’t have been enough to eradicate the Heaven she’d earned for doing her job so well.”

Fred blinked, forgetting her embarrassment and stepping from behind Lorne. “So she was in… what? Because I’m pretty sure Heaven wouldn’t want a vengeance demon and if that’s where Xander was, then… I’m sorry.” She frowned and looked at the floor, ashamed. “I don’t get it.”

Lorne smiled and tapped her under the chin playfully. “Awww, Freddy… Demon dimension doesn’t have to mean Hell dimension, does it? Think about it, cutie-pie. Demons were around for ages before humans showed up, and the Powers were there even then. So it only stands to reason that demons who did their jobs well…”

“Oh! Oh!” Fred grinned, bouncing excitedly at finding a new theory to explore, “So there are Demon Heavens, too! That’s just… weird. But kinda neat! You know, in a ‘I don’t ever want to go there but it’s good to know’ kind of way.”

Gunn’s eyes closed for a moment, the remaining legal expertise in his head going to work. “So what you’re saying, English,” he said softly, though his voice seemed to echo in the wide expanse of the room, “Is… the Powers have been keeping us from figuring out what’s goin’ on in our own office building. And hiding Harris’s real nature. That’s a violation of… something. Uh, something… contractual?” He sighed, making a mental note to go see the guys who’d legaled him up to begin with; maybe they’d know what was wrong with him.

Angel laughed bitterly. “This is a shock? I mean, come on. These are the same Powers who let Cordy get preg… uh, get pretty messed up and end up in a coma, right? The same Powers who didn’t bother to warn any of us about what taking over Wolfram and Hart would do to us! Fuck…! The Powers? Huh.” His brow furrowed deeply and he shook his head. “I’m not so sure that the Powers and the Senior Partners aren’t the same people. Beings. Whatever.”

Lindsey and Eve blinked and looked at each other, Eve biting her lip and Lindsey going entirely still.

If Angel was right about that, then they were all entirely more screwed than they’d thought to begin with.

“Be that as it may,” Wesley responded quickly, “It seems to me that Xander Harris may well be far more important than any of us would ever have expected.”

“Maybe,” Lindsey answered quietly, “But the question is… to which side? It could go either way here, people.”

And that wasn’t something Wes had even considered.

Part Eleven

His human was still draped over him a few hours later when the too-hot body started to shake, almost convulsing as Spike tried to hold him still.

“Xan… Xander! Luv, what is it?” he demanded, his soul desperately trying to restrain the demon. “What’s wrong? Bloody hell, Xander, talk ta me!”

The long, toned form continued to shake, frightening grunts and pained whimpers passing the otherwise still lips as Spike rolled them, pressing his human between his own body and the mattress, tears forming in the corners of wide golden eyes.

“Xander! XANDER!” he shouted from mere inches away, the force of the words stirring the longish dark hair, “TRY, luv! Tell me, pet! What’s wrong!”

As much as he wanted to, Xander couldn’t manage to speak. The best he could do was to twitch one hand against the vampire’s, flexing his fingers slightly when the longer, more elegant digits twined with his.

His entire body was tightening and relaxing in fast, painful waves, and he knew his teeth were gritted and grinding, but he couldn’t help it and this was so not what he’d been expecting.

To burn again, sure. Go up in white-hot flames as he was sucked down into whatever Hell he’d given himself over to, yes.

But for it to be so slow… robbing him of the last few days he’d ever have with Spike…?

No, he hadn’t been expecting that. Hadn’t even thought about it as a possibility. And yet… here it was. Not only possible but apparently a certainty.

He held himself as still as he could while the next wave of overwhelming agony swept through him; then stayed equally motionless as it receded and he waited for the next, relaxing when a minute passed, then two, without another convulsion.

“I… Gods, Spike,” he whispered, “I didn’t… you shouldn’t have had to… s-see that, baby…” Xander groaned low and deep. “It… wasn’t supposed to… happen like this…”

Spike almost passed out from relief when his bloke finally spoke. He pressed himself harder onto the still-feverish perfection beneath him and buried his face in the crook of his Xan’s neck. “What, luv?” he murmured. “What’s happenin’ ta you?” he added, trying not to sound as fearful as he actually was.

Big, hot hands rose, releasing slender fingers and sliding to rest lightly on the blond’s ribs, and as much as Xander wanted to lie again, he just couldn’t. Not anymore. Not when he’d been able to hear the love and fear and helplessness in Spike’s voice.

“I… I’m dying, Spike,” Xander admitted quietly, hands caressing soft skin as he wrapped his arms around the vampire’s back. “Hush… hush, baby…” he nearly sobbed, feeling the shift to game face against his neck, “It’s not so bad… b-barely even hurts, and… I’m here with you, Spike. I can… Gods, I can die happy, knowing you wanted me, needed me. It… it’s okay. I… the pain is… good. Just paying for the joy of h-having you, baby…”

“No,” Spike snarled, burrowing harder into that sharp bend of skin and flesh. “Not lettin’ you go, Xan. Can’t bloody die on me, pet… you can’t! Not when I’ve just found you!” He slammed his eyes closed, fighting to hold the entirely un-demonic tears behind his swelling lids. “Need you, Xander… need you, luv… can’t be anythin’ without you, yah? Won’t go on, mate… won’t bother ta… bloody hell, Xan, you need ta fight this! Whatever it is, you need ta fight! Don’t leave me, luv… don’t ever leave… nothin’ left for me without you…”

Gods… he wanted to promise he’d live. Wanted to swear he’d fight it, but… he really couldn’t lie to his vampire anymore. His vampire for another two days, six hours and twenty-seven minutes, anyway, he thought sadly. And it would have to be enough time and leave him with enough memories to make him smile every now and again when his current slow, painful burn took him to Hell. Because he’d lost his wager, after all, and… Hell was waiting for him.

“You have a whole eternity ahead of you, b-baby,” he whispered, holding the cooler body to him as he savoured the sensation, filing it away yet again. “You’ll go on, S-spike… live and l-love… and somed-day, maybe you’ll mention me to your lover and…”

Those words—those stupid, fucking ridiculous, so totally Xander words—had him pulling back, wet eyes opening to glare golden daggers into nearly apathetic brown ones.

You’re my lover, Xander. You!” Spike growled. “There’s no bleedin’ ‘eternity’; no bloody ‘someday’! Know what’s mine, know what I need! An’ it’s you, Xan! Not some other bloke or chit. Just you!” He frowned hard, yelping slightly as the ridges on his forehead twinged from the unfamiliar motion.

“Spike…” Xander began, wishing he could tell the vampire ‘yes’ but knowing it wasn’t possible—not unless Spike… but that would never happen. It couldn’t. Not with it being so short a time since they’d become… close.

“Shut. Th’. Fuck. UP.” Spike snarled, glaring into those resigned eyes. “Been inside you, Xander. Filled you with me. Felt you wrapped around me like a bloody wonderful, fitted cloak. Gave yourself ta me, you did, just as my Sire gave you ta me back in th’ ‘Dale.” He growled, letting his sharply fanged mouth move closer to the fever-dry, cracked red lips. “Keepin’ you, pet. Don’t care if it means I need ta turn you. Want you with your soul, I do, but… you’ll still be in there without it, pet. Still be mine.”

It wouldn’t work, Xander knew. His kind couldn’t be turned, and wouldn’t it have been nice to know that before he’d died, rather than finding it out from his dead Mother afterwards? It would have saved him a whole lot of worry.

“No,” he said softly but firmly. “No, Spike. No turning. Just… let me go, baby. There’s… well, that’s how it has to be.”

His head dropped again, finding the curve of his bloke’s neck, and Spike moaned despairingly rather than wantonly as he usually did with his lover. “I can’t, pet,” he whispered against the sweat-sheened olive-and-gold skin. “Forgive me, luv… Xan… can’t go on without you…”

His entire body shuddered as he felt the sharp, jagged teeth drive into his skin and he couldn’t help arching into that bite, even though he knew it was just hastening the inevitable. His fingers dug deep into the muscles of Spike’s back and he moaned as his cock swelled, becoming hard in moments and seeping small droplets of pre-cum on himself and the jeans his vampire wore. “S-spike…” he moaned, feverish body arching up against the cooler one pressing onto him, “Please…”

It was only the sensation of that too-hot cock rubbing against his pants that had Spike stopping. One more time with his bloke while he was warm and had a heartbeat. One more heart-swelling shag before he made his Xander into a soulless killer he’d love anyway. Yeah. Just one more bout of love-making before keeping his bloke made every next time a fuck.

“For you, luv,” he whispered, pulling his teeth from his Xander’s fragrant skin, “Anythin’…”

He watched as Spike pulled away and stood.

Watched as the black denim was peeled from slender but strong thighs and pushed down bulging, lightly-haired calves.

“Spike,” he whispered, already lightheaded from the sight of his lover’s amazing body and the fever rushing through him, “Gods, you’re so beautiful!”

“Not so bad yourself,” the blond muttered as he crawled back up the bed, snagging the long-unused tube of lube from the nightstand on his way. “Wish you knew how bleedin’ lovely you are, pet… so soddin’ perfect with all that tanned skin an’ toned muscle… but we’ve had this conversation before, yah?”

Xander swallowed hard and nodded slowly. “I… fuck, Spike, I don’t want to leave you. I just… I can’t stop it.” Only Spike could stop it, and he had no doubt that the blond would, considering his declarations of moments earlier…if he knew how-- and he didn’t, and he wouldn’t unless Xander told him, but he couldn’t tell him because of his stupid deal and…

“Shhhh…” the vampire said with a sad chuckle as he slicked his fingers and slid them into his own ass. “If this is th’ last time I’m goin’ ta feel you all warm an’ soul-havin’, luv… I want it ta be you in me, yah? You fillin’ me with that amazin’ cock of yours… stabbin’ deep, pet…”

And that just made him throb harder. “N-need that, Spike… y-you… Fuck!”

Spike smirked, pressing a fourth finger into his anus and stretching himself even more before removing his hand and slinging one leg over his beloved’s body. “You’ve got it, luv… got me. Forever, luv… not lettin’ you go. Know I’ve said that before, pet, but you don’t seem ta believe it.”

He shifted gently, positioning his aching, desperate hole at the tip of his love’s shaft and he just rocked back and forth for a few moments, staring into Xander’s deep brown eyes.

“Don’t care what it takes, Xan… follow you inta Hell, I will.”

And with that, he sat back, feeling the soft, welcome burn as his human’s thick cock sank deep into him. “Bloody…”

“Hell,” Xander groaned, finishing the statement as his hips rose slightly, forcing himself just a bit deeper. His hands found their way to the slim, pale hips, fingers digging in and making small, oval bruises. “S-spike… b-baby, I lo-like…”

He couldn’t help the chuckle that came from him, even as he followed the direction of the hands on his hips and rocked back and forth, shifting that blissful cock inside him. “Think we can…” he groaned, demon-face still firmly on, “admit it, pet…”

Xander gasped, the shifting motions dragging him closer and closer to orgasm. “Aaadmittt itttt…?”

Spike growled roughly, his hips shifting a bit faster and harder and he bit the proverbial bullet.

“Love you, pet… love you… think you love me, too… bloody hell, tell me I’m not bleedin’ alone in this… tell me you love me, luv… that when you’re in me like this, it’s not jussst s-sex, it’s makin’… l-love…”

And Gods, maybe he wasn’t gonna die after all… not if Spike was saying it and wanted to keep him like he’d said before, and… but he was still sick, still queasy, still… dying.

“It is, Spike… I… this is making love. I love you; I think maybe I have s-since I came back and saw you…h-here… m-maybe bef-fore…” ‘Gods, Spike, ask me! Ask me! Ask me to be your Mate, and this will all fix itself and we’ll be fine forever!’ he wanted to shout. But he couldn’t say that… couldn’t clue his vampire at all. Not without violating his deal, his bet, the terms of his arrangement.

“Love you, Spike,” Xander yelped, moving as much as his illness would let him. “Love you… want to be yours, baby, but…” He groaned at a particularly rough shift that nearly made him cum, “C-can’t b-be a v-vampire… p-please Sp-spike… l-love y-you w-with a s-soul… Don’t know if I w-would without one…” And that was as close as he could get to telling his blond what he needed him to do, though when Spike was rocking so hard on him, his ability to be clear was questionable.

While most of him was caught up in the sensation of having his Xander so hard and deep and fully seated within him, there was a small portion of his psyche that heard what the man was saying; that was able to somehow extrapolate and consider all the permutations of not turning the human and instead…

‘Claim him,’ his demon growled. ‘Claim him now. He won’t be able to die if we claim him…’

‘It won’t be enough’, his soul insisted. ‘Mate to him! Make him as much a part of you as we are…’.

And as Spike rocked and shivered, writhed and moaned, he knew… if Xander didn’t want to be a vampire, he’d for damned sure not want to be Mated to one.

His hips moved harder, faster, more desperately, and as he felt himself cumming, Spike reached down, forcing Xander’s eyes to meet his own. “Mine,” he managed to state before his head fell back, eyes closing tightly as he shot pulse after pulse of thick, white seed over his lover’s chest… and felt his Xander explode inside him, sending fever-hot shots of rich spunk deep into his body. “M-mine,” he muttered again, mostly to himself this time.

‘I wish I were,’ Xander answered silently, his fingers hard and tight on Spike’s hips as he held him there, the cool-tight-bliss of the vampire’s ass holding him like a velvet glove while he filled him to overflowing, breath wheezing from his lips uncontrollably. ‘Gods… I wish I were, Spike…’

* * * * *

“Need ta see those Oracle prats you mentioned before, Sire,” Spike snarled, bursting into the older vampire’s office without so much as a knock.

“Nice to see you, too, Childe,” Angel said snarkily, “And why would I ever want to take you to the Oracles, even if they’re still alive… or whatever they are, anyway?” Actually, he’d been hoping Spike would come to him for some reason—any reason. He figured the boy had a right to know about Harris, after all, but it might have tipped the Powers off if he’d arranged it himself. They apparently still didn’t realize that he and the others had had their private chat.

The blond growled, pacing the small area in front of the brooding git’s desk unhappily. “Look, you soddin’ pillock! Need ta see th’ bleedin’ Wankers That Be! An’ your bloody Oracles are th’ only way, yah? So if you want me ta bend a knee ta you, fine! Want me ta swear ta be a bloody dutiful Childe for th’ rest of my days, fine! But my Xan… bloody hell, Sire, he says he’s…”

Spike found himself looking away from the suddenly wide brown eyes piercing him with a sharp look as his throat tried to close around the thickening lump growing there and his own eyes started to tear. “Says he’s… no, it’s gone past ‘he says’ now. Xander… is dyin’, Angel. My bloke… my Xan, Sire… he’s dyin’ an’ he won’t let me turn him an’ I don’t know what else th’ fuck ta do! Need ta see those bloody Oracles of yours; get th’ soddin’ Powers ta fix him!”

“You mean Harris really is sick?” Angel demanded with no thought for how disbelieving he sounded at both knowing that and at the fact that the blond had suggested turning the young man, although Xander obviously knew enough to refuse. Still, “It hasn’t been just an excuse to…”

“What? Shag?” the younger vampire growled again, deeper this time as he turned to face the dark-haired being behind the desk. “Do you really think I’d bother lyin’ ta you ‘bout that, you pissant wanker? Knowin’ that enough of th’ bloody Hellmouth follows all of us around just waitin’ ta make th’ simplest little comment inta a soddin’ prophecy? Tosser!”

Well, that was true enough, Angel realized. How many times had he or Wesley—or Cordy before she’d slipped into the coma—mistakenly said ‘it can’t get any worse’ only to have the universe decide to pull yet another big old joke on them and make things worse?

Yes, his Childe had a point, unfortunately.

“I… okay,” Angel sighed. “I’m sorry, Spike. I just… well, you have to admit that the idea of you deliberately telling the truth is kind of… bizarre. But!” he continued quickly when the smaller man looked like he was seriously considering flying over the desk and strangling him, “I should have known you wouldn’t take that kind of chance with your latest…” He shook his head. “With Harris.”

“Yah. You should have,” Spike snarled impatiently. “Now are you goin’ ta take me ta your Oracles or not, mate?”

‘Not’, actually, the brunette thought, but he wasn’t going to tell Spike that. Not yet, anyway. “Meet me by the Viper,” he replied after a moment or two, carefully not answering the question out loud, “And I’ll take you where you need to go to find out what’s going on.”

And that was more like it, Spike told himself as he stalked from the office and headed for his rooms. He wasn’t sure of how long this would take, after all, and if his bloke was still sleeping, he wanted to at least leave him a note. It wouldn’t do for his Xan to wake up alone, after all, and wonder whether he’d just left him.

Part Twelve

“Look, Spike,” his Sire had said once they were in the car and on the road, “I know you’re in a hurry, but I promised Lorne I’d check out the site for his new club. It’s on the way, so… we’re gonna stop for a few minutes, okay?”

To say that he hadn’t reacted well would be an understatement, Spike admitted silently, and he probably would have leaped from the moving car if it hadn’t been for the bright, bright sunshiny day beyond the specially tinted glass of the windows. As it had been, he’d almost forced Angel to wreck the vehicle when he’d introduced his fist to the stony expression behind the wheel.

Now, though…

Now he followed the big sack of brood and disdain into the building, dashing quickly across the ten or so feet from the curb to the doorway. He snarled as Angel closed and locked the door behind them. “Hurry th’ fuck up, you soddin’ excuse for a Sire! My boy could be dyin’ for good right this minute an’ you want ta look at a bleedin’ shack of crap that ought ta be condemned!”

The older vampire looked around the large main room and sighed with relief as he caught the small gleaming in the corners of his eyes that meant the ‘no hear, no see’ wards were still up on the building. “Actually, Spike, I brought you here for a reason and it’s got nothing to do with looking at this place.”

He felt his face flashing back and forth between human-seeming and demonic as Angel told him what they’d all come to believe about Xander—what he was, what it meant, where they thought he’d been… and the not so little fact that they suspected his generation needed to mate to a demon, and didn’t that have Spike… almost crying.

Angel looked on as his Childe’s agitated pacing slowed, then frowned deeply as the boy collapsed onto the floor, his back braced against the peeling drywall behind him. “Spike…? I thought… I mean, you seem to be in…”

“In love with th’ prat?” Spike sneered bitterly, “Yah. What of it? Doesn’t much matter, does it?”

Thin lips compressed and Angel steeled himself as he moved closer, a small cringe crossing his face as he sank down beside the blond on the dirty, gritty, dusty floor, knowing his Armani slacks would never be the same again. “Spike. This should be good news, right? He needs to mate to a demon, you are a demon. Not seeing the problem here, even if it is Harris.”

Spike snorted softly. “ ‘Course you don’t see th’ bloody ‘problem’. Because you’re a great, oblivious git with his head up his broad, peasanty ass,” he announced, ignoring the warning growl from Angel’s demon. “Let’s say you’re right, Angel. Say my bloke’s a Equi… whatever, yah? An’ say you’re right about him needin’ ta mate ta a demon, too, no matter which side of th’ fight it is that wants him. Don’t care about that, do I?”

Angel nodded slowly. His Childe had always been one to give himself completely, and even with the soul, he figured Spike could go either way. “Yeah…? So what’s…”

He didn’t tell me!” he nearly shouted, although it came out more as a whimper. “Told him I wanted ta turn him, keep him forever, an’ he could have just said ‘make me your Mate, Spike, because I love you, an’…’ an’ he’s dyin’, Sire! How can he be what you think he is if’n he’s dyin’! An’ even if he wasn’t, how could he be my Mate? Those things you’re talkin’ about, they have ta Mate an’ have wee ones for there ta be another generation an’ I’m a bloke, you pillock! Not ta mention I’m dead, yah?”

His boy had some good points, Angel realized, but most of them could be gotten around. Nothing said the Equibrata Impartialata could only reproduce with their Mates, after all, so if Xander Harris had to at some point have at least one child—and the thought alone almost made the dark-haired vampire shudder—there were options. Besides, he had a strong feeling that his Childe was less upset about that than he was about the rest.

“I guess I wasn’t clear enough on why I brought you here, Spike. The Powers can’t see or hear anything that happens in this room. And the rest of us had to come here to talk about Harris and what he is because every time any of us started to think there was something going on, we lost our memory of it.” The vampire nodded and put a wary hand on the blond’s shoulder. “I don’t think he could tell you, Spike, but if he feels anywhere near as strongly about you as you do about him, I’m sure he wanted to.”

He smiled at the sudden bit of hope in his Childe’s eyes when the boy glanced at him. “I don’t know why he’s sick, okay?” He really didn’t. Was it the Powers or the Senior Partners trying to take Harris out of the game? No way of telling, but sometimes he had to go with his gut, and… Angel’s gut was telling him that there was nothing of darkness within the boy, no matter how much Xander irritated him.

“And I don’t know what else is going on here,” he added, “but I think—or Lorne thinks, and so does Wes, and I agree—that Harris is on some kind of a deadline. And… when Lorne was talking to him, he made some notes in Pylean that remained after his memory was wiped, and it seems like you have to ask whatever you want to know. I don’t think the boy can volunteer any information or…”

“Or maybe even tell me ta Mate ta him?” Spike demanded, suddenly excited, “Maybe I need ta ask him ta be my Mate, or even just… yah. Yah, I can do that, Sire, an’… bloody hell, we need ta get back ta th’ firm!” His eyes narrowed wickedly as he plotted exactly how he was going to take his bloke… take him and keep him, although there was still the question of children, but… that could wait, he told himself. First thing was to keep his Xander alive and get him well again. Besides, maybe Freddy could cook something up in that lab of hers if it really was necessary for him and his bloke to spawn.

Angel blinked as Spike suddenly leapt from his spot on the floor and stalked quickly to the door.

“Well?” the blond demanded roughly, “We goin’? Or do you want ta roll about in th’ dust an’ filth for a while longer, Peaches? Come on, tt th’ Angel-mobile, already! Got me a bloody stunnin’ bloke ta Mate ta, don’t I?” He bounced impatiently. “Get th’ lard out, you overgrown prat! Seen wallowin’ pigs move faster than you!”

He found himself groaning as he levered his body up from the floor. “Fuck, Spike… remind me again why I bothered to bring you here?”

Spike smirked and cocked his scarred brow knowingly. “Because as much as I drive you soddin’ bug-shaggin’ crazy, Sire, you love me an’ want me ta be happy. ‘specially now that I have a soul an’ all that rot.”

Angel groaned again, stepping out into the faint purple of early night. “Don’t remind me.”

They got into the car and started off, moving slowly in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of L.A. in rush hour.

“I’m glad you decided to listen to reason, Spike,” the larger man said conversationally, ignoring the odd look his Childe was giving him. “Like I said, I saw the Oracles dead after the whole ‘Wolfram and Hart bringing Darla back as a human’ thing. I… don’t think they could have helped you, anyway… even if they were still there.”

It only took him a moment to realize what his Sire was doing and when he did, Spike tried to tamp down his excitement, his nervousness, his overwhelming desire to be back in his rooms, already, with his bloke. “Yah,” he said with as sad a sigh as he could muster, “I mean, if they were that bleedin’ all-knowin’ an’ such, guess they wouldn’t have gone an’ gotten themselves so dead, right?” He winked at the approving glance Angel tossed his way. “An’ maybe my Xan just needs some better takin’ care of, yah? Different… juice or somethin’…”

“Maybe,” Angel agreed before changing the subject, well aware of the fact that Spike was far too ruled by his emotions to keep up the pretense for long. “So what do you think of Lorne’s new building?”

The younger vamp chuckled softly, arching a look at the one driving. “Think it’s goin’ ta be pure Hell ta get outta raw silk pants, you git. Don’t know why you insisted on sittin’ on th’ floor like that, getting’ th’ dirt an’ such all ground in.”

* * * * *

Xander almost thought he’d heard the door closing earlier, but it might have been part of the dream he couldn’t quite recall now that he was waking up. All he knew was that in it, he’d been alone, and lost, and hot—too hot—so hot that he’d felt the sweat pouring from him in buckets.

Of course, the clamminess of the damp sheets beneath him told him that maybe that part hadn’t been a dream.

And neither had the sound of the door, he realized when he reached out blindly for the long, cool form that was always there beside him, his hand finding paper, but no Spike.

~Xan, he made out, eyes narrowed to slits as they tried to focus on the slightly jagged cursive script that belonged on something much more impressive and important than just a note,

Gone off to do something with the great poof. Shouldn’t be long, love.

Sorry to leave you. Don’t want to, but this is bloody well important for both of us. Nothing else could ever drag me from your side, pet.

Miss me while I’m gone, Xander, because I’ll for damned sure be missing you.

Love you, don’t I?


He couldn’t help laughing then swiftly regretted it when his body started shaking with deep, raw coughs. Still, he held the note to his chest until the wracking shudders passed and he could breathe again.

“Gods, baby,” he whispered, stroking the paper softly, “Only fourteen more hours, when even fourteen centuries wouldn’t be enough…”

And he was sweating again, and so hot! The room was stifling, the air too thick, too wet, too enveloping, and…

If Spike had been there, the vampire would have crawled onto him, the cooler body soothing his skin enough that he wouldn’t have been in agony. As it was, though, Xander did the only thing he could in his feverish state.

He managed to fall over the side of the bed, catching himself and breathing harshly as he somehow managed to stand and stagger to the bathroom, nearly toppling headfirst into the tub before he sat on the edge and lifted his feet over and in.

He slid down, sweating even more from the trip of only ten feet or so, and raised one foot, turning the cold water knob with his toes and sighing almost happily as the blissful wetness rose, leeching the heat from him quickly.

He didn’t notice it when his head dropped back to rest against the tiles; nor did it register when his foot shifted and covered the drain.

The cool relief was overwhelming and entirely too welcome for him to move even if he had noticed, in any case, and in fact he twitched only slightly when the barely heard sound of the front door of Spike’s rooms opened.

The small twitch was just enough to have his entire body sinking fully under the water, however, which was how Spike found him mere moments later.

* * * * *

There was a cockiness to his step as he cruised through the building to his rooms that he tried to hide but wasn’t sure he was being very successful at accomplishing.

Hell, how could he truly hide it?

He was happy. Truly, unquestionably happy, for once in his entire existence.

He was in love. In love with someone who actually shared that feeling and didn’t want him to be anyone or anything other than what he was.

Even Dru had tried to change him, to make him more vicious, more cruel, more like ‘Daddy’, and Buffy, well… that had been doomed from the moment his brain had fixated on her, and he knew it.

Even with a shiny and bright soul of his very own, he’d never been good enough for her. They’d been… something, there at the end, when he’d left. But whatever it was, it wasn’t lovers. Wasn’t even friends, for that matter. Maybe they’d respected each other, though. Not for their strengths but for their weaknesses and their attempts to get past them.

Hell, he didn’t know. But it hadn’t been love.

Xander, though… oh, his Xander.

The bloke accepted every odd and unusual quirk about him, accepted his moods, his possessive nature, his deep-seated yearning to belong.

Hell, Xander not only accepted those things, he reveled in them and he loved him because of them, not despite them.

And Xander didn’t want him to be Angel in any way, shape or form. Hell, his Xan would probably smack him a good one if he started to ponce about being all broody.

It was an amazing thing to know, and even more wonderful that his perfect, beautiful, stunning bloke was going to be his forever.

‘Aspect of the demon’, his Sire had said, and while Spike didn’t quite understand the queasy look that had crossed the poof’s face when he’d said it, he also didn’t much care to. His Xander would get his life-span, Spike knew, and that was the perfect ‘aspect’ for him to have.

Hell, he almost wanted to Mate to his bloke and then take him off somewhere hidden where they could just… be, without worrying about prophecies or apocalypses or whatever the fuck Peaches was going to get them involved with next.

He barely kept himself from whistling a jaunty tune as he reached his door and pressed his hand to the plate, but… wouldn’t do to forget what his Sire had told him and whistling might just attract unwanted attention from the Tossers That Be or the Senior Prat-ners.

He frowned. ‘Have ta work on another name for the fuckwads,’ he told himself before putting it from his mind and stepping into his living room.

He locked the door behind him, shrugging the duster from his shoulders as he started for the bedroom, t-shirt meeting the floor a few feet past his coat, and he chuckled softly as he heard the water running. “Guess my pet’s awake, then. Good,” he murmured to himself.

His mind raced wickedly for a few moments as he crossed the threshold and started unbuttoning his jeans, but then he realized… he could hear the too-fast heartbeat, yes, but… no breathing?

He didn’t even try the door to see if it was locked. He was too frantic for that, and he didn’t much give a fuck if the moulding around the door needed to be replaced, either, which it would because it splintered as he broke the door in with one shoulder.

“Xan… Xander!” he shouted, diving at the bathtub and nearly falling into it as he pulled his love’s soaked head from beneath the water, “Xander! Luv! Bloody…! No! NO, Xan! You can’t be… your heart! It’s still…”

He shook the brunette roughly, then pulled his wet body against him as small, liquid coughs flew from those red lips.

* * * * *

“Wha… what happened?” Xander whispered a few moments later as he opened his eyes and found himself in bed, still damp and with his vampire wrapped tightly around him.

Spike shook his head and swallowed hard, ear pressed to the skin directly above his boy’s heart as he listened to it thump-thump… thump-thump… thump-thump.

“Spike…?” he tried again, teeth chattering a bit in the cool air of the room.

The vampire frowned and reached down, pulling the comforter his bloke had kicked off earlier up and over them both as he remained silent, lost in the audible proof of his love’s continued presence.

And the fact that it was Spike being all non-verbal scared him, not to mention the fact that he had no recollection of his vampire coming home, and… when had he started to think of Wolfram and Hart as ‘home’? And then Spike’s head shifted just a bit on his chest and Xander smiled.

Wolfram and Hart wasn’t home, but Spike was.

Come to think of it, though… the last thing he remembered… “Was I… I was in the bath…? I… Gods, I was sweating and so hot and I missed you, baby, and I couldn’t get cool, and…”

The vampire growled and clapped one hand over the brunette’s mouth, cutting off his words.

“Goin’ ta listen ta your heart beatin’ for a while longer, pet, an’ you’re goin’ ta keep your bloody gob shut, yah? An’ when my own heart stops tryin’ ta beat from thinkin’ I’d lost you, I’m goin’ ta make you my Mate. ‘Til then, Xan, I don’t want ta hear one… single… solitary… fuckin’… word outta you.”

And being a reasonably smart guy, what could Xander do in response to that other than nod his head and kiss the palm over his lips while he wrapped his arms hard around his vampire and just held on?

MY Spike, he thought. ‘Finally MY Spike… and did he just say MATE…?’

And still he said nothing, choosing to believe he’d heard correctly because if he hadn’t… well, it didn’t bear thinking about.

Part Thirteen

The frustrating part for Angel and the rest was that they couldn’t talk about what was going on without going back to Lorne’s new building and if they did that, the Powers might take notice and take an interest and who knew how that might affect things?

And so they simply sat in Angel’s office, pretending to have a rather lighthearted little chat, while inside they were all anxious, nervous, even worried.

Something had obviously happened between Angel and Spike while they’d been out of the building; that much was obvious simply from the way the dark-haired vampire was acting, but what that something was…? That was entirely up in the air and for his part, Wesley simply hoped that whatever the two vampires had decided wouldn’t result in the end of the world… again.

* * * * *

It was the slow, deep roll of Spike’s hips that had Xander gasping this time and he couldn’t help but clench his fingers tighter around the long, elegant ones twined with them. “Spike,” he moaned softly, “G-gods, baby, that’s…”

“Just th’ beginnin’, luv,” the vampire hissed through sharp, jagged teeth, his gold-flecked eyes boring hotly into wide brown as he rolled his hips again, his cock sliding so slowly against the matching erection his bloke sported that he thought it should be criminal. Then again, he was the one in control at the moment, so he figured one more felony was just fine.

“Need you ta understand, Xan… need you ta want this, yah…?” he groaned, fighting the urge to just… bite and drink and slam hard and deep into Xander’s perfect ass, making the bloke his with intent and need and long-denied desire. Because that was something he’d come to realize in the last little while of just listening to Xander’s heart. A part of him had always wanted the human; he just hadn’t been willing to admit it, what with the boy not being even remotely same-sex oriented back in Sunnydale.

He wasn’t sure of exactly what had changed while his dark-haired beauty had been dead, but whatever it was, he was glad of it.

“I… Gods, Spike! I want… want this, want you, want… so much, baby! So much, Spike! Please, I…” And he was coming dangerously close to babbling, he realized, but he just didn’t care.

Slender, strong hips moved again, the vampire’s hungry shaft riding against rough, coarse hairs this time as Spike growled, leaning down to ravage the wet, parted lips for a moment or three.

“No goin’ back, Xander,” he nearly snarled. “We do this, pet, an’ you’re stuck, got it? Stuck with me, an’ for bleedin’ ever! You think about that, luv… you’ll never touch another bloke or chit like this. Never be free of me. Always feel me inside your heart, your soul, your bloody mind, even!” All of that was true enough, and it was the stubborn, too-sensitive soul that was making him say those things.

It was the demon, though, that had him rocking again, harder and more rhythmically against the sweat-sheened body beneath him. Couldn’t let the bloke think too much, now could he? Not if there was even the slightest chance that he’d say no, anyway.

“ ‘s that what you really want, luv? Ta belong ta me? Ta be my Mate an’ share my joys an’ pains?”

“G-gods… yesss…” Already, Xander could feel the overwhelming sense of death fading from him, as though just the knowledge that this was going to happen was pushing it away, pushing it from his system, but that wasn’t the important part.

The important part of all of it was that… Spike wanted this! He could hear it in the vampire’s voice, see it deep in those wide, golden eyes, feel it in the palm-to-palm hold they still kept, and…

“Please, Spike,” he moaned desperately, arching from the mattress as much as he could with the solid weight pressing down on him, “I kn-know what it means, and I want… Gods, Spike, please! I need…”

“Me,” the blond finished, a strong tinge of wonder in his voice as that same sense filled his being. “You need… me. Just th’ way I need you, yah…?” He couldn’t truly bear to wait for answer to that, instead choosing to find Xander’s agreement in the long, swiftly deepening kiss he pressed to the warm, full lips under his own cooler though equally full mouth.

‘Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes…’ The word ran wildly through his mind as Xander’s tongue found his lover’s, writhing against and around it, pressing deliberately and roughly against sharp teeth, a small, lustful moan feeding into Spike’s mouth as he felt the tiny scratch open and tasted his own blood flavoring their desperate kiss.

It was only the fact that even that minute first drop of his love’s blood nearly made him explode against the heated stomach that had Spike wrenching his lips away. He felt his own chest heaving as he met those hungry eyes again before dropping his head once more, finding the soft skin covering the tense cords of Xander’s neck.

He nipped, nibbled, slowly laved the salty-sweet flesh, finally releasing the big, calloused hands to run wondering fingers over strongly muscled arms, then to ribs covered in more of that silken skin as his lips slipped lower, trailing wickedly to collarbone, then further.

His hands rose from the bed, tangling wantonly in short blond locks and Xander took shuddering breath after shuddering breath as the soft, cool lips found one tight male nipple and lingered a while, sucking softly, then harshly before teeth scraped lightly, the sharpness of them pulling a shiver directly up his spine from his groin, it felt like. “Spike,” he sighed out on a small moan, “Please, Spike, please…”

The fingers deep in his hair tightened as Spike let his teeth scratch a bit harder and the blond couldn’t help the wicked chuckle that sprang from his lips when he glanced up and saw the dazed, desirous look on his bloke’s face. “Never goin’ ta deny you when you beg so pretty, luv,” he murmured, lapping his way quickly to his Xan’s navel and smirking when the muscles there twitched. “Never goin’ ta deny you even when you don’t beg.”

Xander found himself whimpering helplessly a moment later when the vampire pulled away; then whimpering even more as his hips were lifted from the bed and a pillow was slid beneath them. He could have sworn he hadn’t so much as blinked, though he had no idea of when or how his hands had released Spike’s hair and grabbed his own legs behind the knees, holding himself open and exposed to hot gold-and-blue eyes. “Wha…”

“Hush, luv,” Spike purred, gazing in awe at the amazing sight of his bloke all spread out for him. “So bloody lovely, pet… been too long since I’ve seen you like this.” It had, too. Almost two weeks since his boy had been well enough for this sort of thing, and he’d be damned if he was going to Mate to his Xan all fast-like, no matter how much demon and soul both wanted to just get on with it before Xander changed his mind. No, he was going to make his boy plead, shiver, shudder and shake enough that when Spike did what he had to, the bloke would understand it was through necessity, not any desire to be that way.

Gods, Xander was so hard; so ready. He just needed… “Spike…”

Blond hair moved slightly as the vampire nodded, fingers trailing slowly down the backs of his bloke’s thighs. “You’re right, Xan… no more waitin’, yah? Goin’ ta make you mine, luv… make you feel so good, pet; make sure you never regret lettin’ me have you for my own…” He shifted slightly, eyes drawn to the dusky pink pucker and he leaned in, tracing just the point of his tongue around it and chuckling at the wriggle the action earned him.

“Oh… Gods.” His voice sounded stunned even to him, but that was okay, was more than okay, because that wonderfully slick, strong, flexible and talented tongue was pressing against his hole, thrusting delicately but somehow firmly, too, and Xander nearly came as it pushed into him, opening him just that small bit before pressing deeper, flicking and twisting within him, and Gods, he couldn’t hold it any longer, and… “Ahhhh…!” he cried, the sudden, sharp tug at his tense sac pulling him back for long enough to focus on not cumming… not yet.

‘Good boy’, Spike thought, although he wasn’t willing to leave his happy task to say the words out loud, ‘My good boy, my Mate soon… mine…’ His tongue stabbed deeper, tapping quickly against that somewhat spongy nub inside his Xander for just a moment, hand tugging the tight balls one more time when his bloke arched.

“Goin’ ta spend a whole bloody day doin’ that ta you later, pet,” he moaned as he forced himself to pull back, his cock throbbing and seeping steady dribbles onto the sheets between his Xander’s legs.

“Yes… later, baby… much, much later…” His hands gripped his legs tighter, spreading them even more. “Please, Spike… enough foreplay… n-need to be… Gods, Spike, make me… y-yours… Now!”

And he had promised never to deny his love, Spike thought with a smirk as he nodded and moved over the long, tanned body, hands bracing to either side of the brunette’s head. He lowered himself quickly, groaning at the feeling of his boy—his beautiful, remarkable boy—so hot and wanting beneath him. His hips rocked slowly, teasingly, before even he had had enough.

“This… is goin’ ta… hurt, luv,” he moaned in both warning and apology, “but I promise, Xan… promise ta make it better…”

“I don’t mind… a bit… of pain, baby,” the young man grated out, feeling Spike’s thick, pre-cum-slicked head at his saliva-wet hole. He bit his lip, fingers digging into his own legs as that amazing shaft surged forward, splitting him open with one rough, deep thrust.

And fuck, Spike hadn’t been kidding! It literally felt like he was being torn in two and Xander had to fight the urge to at least try to get away, but…

No… no, this was how it had to be, blood in, blood out, and it was worth it, worth it to “be with you, worth it love, worth every bit of it, Gods, Spike, love you, love you so much, anything to have this, have you, anything…”

He was crying—all of him, even the demon. Crying slow, silent tears at the pain he could smell rolling from the beloved bloke surrounding his cock with tight-blood-heat. “Never… hurt you again… never, luv… promise you…” he heard himself whispering against Xander’s straining neck, and he meant it for the most part. His eyes closed and he held himself entirely still, waiting for the moment when the pain became… less immediate, although he knew it wouldn’t fade completely until after the Mating was completed. “So sorry, luv… so bleedin’ sorry…”

Strong hands roamed his back, stroking soothingly, and how fucking classic Harris was it that he’d just slammed into the boy almost completely dry, but here that same boy was, trying to comfort him? And then he felt those strong, warm legs wrapping around his hips and Spike moaned deeply. “Bloody hell, Xan… I… fuck, pet. Love you, too…”

“Good,” Xander whispered, swallowing hard as he felt the long, thick cock inside him throb, pulsing against his prostate and… “Show me, Spike,” he demanded breathlessly. “Show me… finish the Mating and I’ll… know you mean it…”

As if there was anything on the entire bloody planet that could make him stop now, Spike thought with a purely mental eye-roll.

Of course, there also wasn’t anything in the whole sodding world that would make him say no to his boy, so… “Always mean it, Xander,” he spoke, tongue sliding slowly over the soft skin, mouth searching out the perfect spot for his bite.

His hips moved gently at first, slowly building speed as the steady rubs against his bloke’s prostate had the boy arching into him, meeting his thrusts with building desire.

“Goin’ ta bite you now, luv,” he muttered, teeth pricking ever so slightly at the chosen site. “Goin’ ta sink inta you fast an’ deep… won’t hurt much, luv… not like my cock hurt you, a’right?” He chuckled softly, taking the answering moan and stronger arch of both neck and spine as a yes.

He wouldn’t have cared if it hurt more than the hard, rough thrust into his ass had done. Not if it meant he could be with his vampire forever. But Spike was right. It didn’t hurt anywhere near as much. Hell, it barely even registered as pain, the jagged teeth were so sharp. And then he felt that long, soothingly cool shaft pressing deeper still, felt the first strong pull at his neck, felt himself gasping for breath that he somehow managed to find, and… and he was flying, his entire body tightening, clenching, before releasing muscles in an all-over convulsion that had him exploding wild, hard, copious streams of hot seed over his own stomach and his… Mate’s.

The small taste of his Xander’s blood from the earlier kiss had been nothing to what he was tasting, feeling, experiencing now.

His teeth were buried deep under his bloke’s skin, his cock even deeper in the blissful sheath of his boy’s rectum, and the blood that filled his mouth and streamed so steamingly, wonderfully down his throat would have had him praying to a God who’d never listen to a being like him if his mouth hadn’t been occupied.

Of course, his mental recital of the necessary words wouldn’t have left him much time for prayer, anyway, so it was just as well he wasn’t bothering.

The words—specific to his order—came hard to him, but he was sure they were right. He’d hoped once to use them with Dru, after all. He figured he was lucky that he didn’t have to actually wrap his tongue around the pronunciation. It was difficult enough to speak clearly in his mind, what with all the glottal stops and such, but finally… finally, he felt it. The snap of the ritual completing.

He didn’t know he was shaking until he found himself pressed deep into his boy—‘Mate! My Mate!’—spilling long, deep and hard into him and shivering at the bliss of the moment and the incredible sense of rightness that surrounded him. ‘Mine… mine forever,’ he purred silently, taking one more slow, tender swallow of his beloved’s essence before pulling slowly away from what would very soon be a large, highly visible scar. He licked it slowly, purring out loud this time.

“No demon’s ever goin’ ta wonder whose you are now, Xan… goin’ ta carry my scent as long as we live… no changin’ it, luv…”

“Good,” Xander answered, laughing as the last of the sickness left him and the first strangely comfortable tickles of their Mating set up shop and prepared to stay. “Of course, fair’s fair and all that, right?”

Spike smiled, pressing his cheek into the big, warm fingers cupping it. “Whatever you say, luv,” he murmured, eyes closing in pure contentment as his human seeming slipped over the demon features.

“Good,” Xander said again, smirking as one of the demon aspects he’d acquired so suddenly came to the fore and he bent up, driving his own sharp teeth quickly into his vampire’s neck.

“Mine, too,” he announced a moment or three later, relaxing back against the mattress to grin into stunned sapphire eyes.

Spike’s head shook in disbelief and he blinked once, twice, then once again before laughing loudly, running delighted fingers over his Mate’s new face before it shifted back to human. “Bloody hell, pet,” he chortled, “You’re soddin’ beautiful…”

“Mmmm… so are you, baby,” the human-looking part-demon replied, shifting beneath his lover until he felt the vampire hardening inside him again. “Now, let’s try that without the blood. Uh, without some of the blood…”

And he had made his Mate a promise, Spike reminded himself again with a smirk. As if he would ever forget.

Part Fourteen

“So, wait…” the vampire interrupted, his brow creased in confusion, “You lot… your sort, I mean… don’t do anythin’. You just… live?” He shook his head. “Doesn’t sound ta be too likely, Xan…”

The brunette chuckled, his once again blunt teeth nibbling gently at the curve of Spike’s ear. “I know, baby. Hell, it took me a good hundred years to believe it myself, but… living—existing—is what we do. It’s how we… maintain the balance or some such shit.” He shrugged slightly, carefully not disturbing the cool form draped over him any more than necessary.

“Look,” he added when Spike growled in annoyance, “it’s really complicated. Not to mention convoluted. And I’m not sure I really get it myself. We exist… not in balance but as balance. As long as we—my kind—are around, neither side can really win or lose, okay? We’re sort of like a… steam valve, maybe. The pressure builds too much on either side and one of us Mates and breeds. Adding another of us to the world equalizes the pressure, I guess you could say.”

“I was just lucky,” he went on, murmuring directly into his Mate’s ear, “that in my branch of my particular family line, my generation was oriented to demons. I mean, Gods know what Mom was thinking when she picked my Dad, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve done way better.”

Spike wasn’t sure of whether to be amused or offended at being mentioned in the same breath with the bastard who’d fathered his bloke, so he chose neither. “Yah… don’t know what kind of soddin’ mental ailment she had, luv, but are you sure it’s not hereditary? An’ speakin’ of ailments, you seem ta be all better now…”

Xander could hear the question in his vampire’s tone and sighed. “Yeah. I guess you’re wondering what happened, huh?” His hands moved slowly up and down Spike’s spine even as he frowned, hoping the blond wouldn’t react badly to the truth.

The vamp snorted and lifted his head for Xander’s broad, tanned chest. “I’d say wonderin’ is a bit of an understatement, pet. But seein’ as you’re just goin’ ta have ta repeat whatever you say here ta Broody an’ his gang of pet humans, I suppose it can wait til we’ve had th’ rest of our week, yah?” He smirked. “Seem ta recall it bein’ interrupted on account of mucus-inducin’ sickness.”

And even through his own nervousness, Xander found himself laughing. “Like I’m gonna argue with the flawless logic there, baby?” he asked with a grin as he wrapped his arms tighter around his Mate and rolled them on the huge bed. “And hey… I don’t think I’m done with the biting and sucking yet, anyway.”

Spike growled softly, his cock hardening between them just as rapidly as his boy’s was. “An’ that’d make two of us, luv,” he managed to say before the warm, full lips stopped any further words for a good while to come.

* * * * *

Gunn was still frowning when he came back from his unsuccessful attempt to see the conduit. “It’s not there,” he declared, sounding both put-out and worried as he flung himself into one of the chairs in Angel’s office. “I mean, it’s not ignoring me or anything. It’s just gone. It’s…”

“Disturbing,” Wesley inserted, smiling a little when Fred’s fingers squeezed his.

“I was going for ‘weird’, English, but disturbing will do. It’s the conduit, for fuck’s sake! Where the hell did it go?”

Angel’s frown matched Gunn’s, even as he shot a glance at Lindsey and Eve.

“Hey, don’t look at me,” the young woman denied quickly, “I’m your link to the Partners, not their conduit.”

Lindsey shook his head. “Meaning they’re not talking to her now that they know she was creeping around with their least favourite lawyer and somehow hiding it from them.” The Texan chuckled and kissed her forehead while she sputtered. “But I don’t think disturbing—or weird—is a strong enough word here, guys. Something big must have happened if the conduit’s gone MIA.”

“Uh… you don’t think it’s because you guys know about… Connor, do you?” Angel asked, biting his lip. He’d been afraid of how the others would react when the spell had been broken, but he’d needed to let it happen. Hell, he hadn’t really even tried to stop it, had he?

And… Connor was okay, too, which was even better. Okay, the boy didn’t think of Angel as his Dad, but he did remember and… the boy wasn’t crazy now, so he’d take what he could get.

Gunn rolled his eyes and flicked a paper clip across the table at Angel. “Not everything is about you and your bizarre baby boy, Angel.”

“It’s more likely that it’s because of me,” Xander said quietly from the doorway.

* * * * *

He and Spike had come up for air for long enough to call Angel’s office and give him the news, which Xander was now thinking had been an incredibly good idea because if he’d had to explain about the Mating right then, he would have been talking for much longer than the half hour he’d already been speaking for. And probably with far more interruptions.

“Okay, shut up!” he finally shouted, cutting through Lindsey’s rambling diatribe.

He smiled at Spike when the vampire rubbed his back soothingly and took a deep breath before continuing. “You don’t have to like it. You don’t even have to understand it! I was in Heaven… well, not human Heaven, but still. And it wasn’t good enough, okay? After the first few hundred years, I finally figured out what was missing. So I made a deal. It’s that simple. And… it looks like I won.” And he was smiling again, giving Spike what he was sure was a classically dopey look.

“Wagered his soul for a chance ta love me, he did,” the vampire said proudly. “Told them it wasn’t bloody Heaven without me in it an’ made his bleedin’ deal.”

Wes had been thinking about that very fact ever since young Harris had said it the first time and finally he had something to say on the matter. “Do you have any idea of how dangerous that was, Xander? If Spike hadn’t cared for you… hadn’t chosen you to be his Mate…”

“Yeah, yeah,” the young man replied, rolling his eyes, “the Senior Partners, as you guys call them, would have gotten my soul and I would have burned in a Hell dimension for all eternity. It was worth the risk, Wes. Hell, even when I knew I wasn’t gonna win, it was worth it. It… fuck. It was already Hell without Spike, anyway. What difference did it make if it became literal?”

Fred bit her lip and let out a nervous laugh. “Um, I think… Xander, okay maybe I’m wrong since I really haven’t had the chance to run any equations or formulas on this or anything, but if your people are responsible for holding the balance and you’re what keep things from being too evil or too good, then… what would happen if the Evil Powers had your soul? I mean, couldn’t they use it to… skew things or something? Because I don’t get why else they’d be willing to make that deal with you in the first place, right? I mean, what with you being neutral and everything…”

Even Spike was blinking in slow horror as he worked his way through the woman’s words. “Bloody…”

“Hell!” Angel nearly shouted. “You risked giving the Senior Partners that kind of power…? So you could have Spike? Fuck, Harris, you really are a moron!”

It was Gunn who got between snarling Sire and Childe; Gunn who pushed Angel down onto the couch while Xander did the same with Spike. And it was Gunn who pulled out his refreshed legal-ese in negotiating a cease-fire between the two vampires.

It was also Gunn who cut to the chase as he took his earlier seat again.

“It all worked out,” he said, looking at the blond vamp and the dark-haired… balance. “We got lucky, so let’s just leave it alone, guys. We got lucky.”

“Oh, I doubt luck had anything to do with it,” Lorne muttered to himself with a silent and purely internal nod to the Powers.

Lindsey’s brows finally dropped from the spot they’d jumped to near his hairline and he cocked his head curiously as he remembered something else from their discussion at Lorne’s broken down old building. “Hey. I thought you guys,” he said, giving Xander a nod, “are supposed to have kids or something but I don’t get how that could happen.”

“Like the Powers don’t have their ways,” Eve said, giving her boyfriend her patented ‘you are a stupid, stupid man’ look.

And as that wasn’t something they’d really talked about yet, Spike found himself interested in the answer to that one, too.

Xander found himself blushing, then blushing more when Spike’s brow arched at him. “Uh… not always. I mean, we always can but we don’t have to unless it’s to…”

“Maintain the balance,” Fred and Wes said together, then smiled at each other.

“Y-yeah.” He sighed and looked down at the carpet beneath his feet. “We’re… kinda different from humans on the inside once we’ve Mated, and…”

“But I’m dead, luv,” the vampire reminded him. “Nothin’ livin’, yah? Meanin’ when I cum in you, pet… nothin’s goin’ ta…” Spike rolled his eyes at the others. “Right. Like you thought we were playin’ cards or somethin’. Grow up, you bleedin’ prats.”

Xander swallowed hard and gave his Mate a slightly shaky smile. “Uh, we’ll talk later. Besides, it’s not an issue unless my cousin Seth finds himself a Mate and decides to spawn, anyway, and… not likely. I haven’t seen him in years, but he wasn’t a very good looking kid. I doubt he’s gotten any better with age.”

Spike snorted and leaned closer, murmuring for his bloke’s ears only. “Bloody right we’re goin’ ta talk, pet… before we do any more shaggin’, too.”

“Fine. Guess that means it’s gonna be a really boring honeymoon, then.”

Another snort. “As if, luv. Didn’t say we had ta talk long, did I?”

* * * * *

The Oracles smiled and turned away from the Scrying Pool.

“Do you think…”

“They will realize that the vampire’s affections were pushed?” the male finished for his sister, “I don’t believe so. It is not as though we…”

“Created something which would not have occurred in time,” the female agreed, nodding. “However, should the…”

“Powers discover our assistance, we might be…”

“Accused of cheating. Yes, brother.”

The male considered, then smiled. “I suggest then that we…”

“Remove the memory from our minds? Yes, that would indeed be best.”

“Perhaps also wake the Seer… her coma has served its purpose in allowing the necessary to occur…”

“Yes, we shall make it so and then forget our...”

“Unauthorized assistance to the Powers.”

And so it was, and so it went, and the rest… happened as it should, with the vampire and his Mate enjoying many adventures, both amourous and other, always with love in their hearts and amused—and often frustrated—tolerance from the rest of their ‘family’ in Los Angeles.

The End

(A/N: for those who wondered, 'Shinma'-- VERY loosely translated from the Japanese-- basically means 'Gods Above and Below'... or 'Gods and Demons', depending on whom you ask. *chuckles* Hope you've enjoyed the ride, people! *hugs*)

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