by Te
March/April 1999


Disclaimers: They belong to people who are wealthier and cooler than I'm ever likely to be.

Spoilers: A lot of eps up until "Enemies." This is an AU.

Ratings Note: NC-17 for poor language, violence, m/m interaction onscreen and implied, and images some readers may find disturbing. Caveat Lector.

Summary: Life tends to change after high school.

Author's Note: This came out of a long, strange dream I had. And also Lindor Truffles. :::waves to Nonie:::

Acknowledgments: To Woodinat, Viridian, and Dawn Sharon for forcing me to see the genius that is BtVS, and mucho encouragement on this story besides. And then there was Spike and Rae, without whose willingness to listen to me blather there would have been no story at all. Mucho thanks go to Beth for wondrous beta. This is my first Buffyfic, and I welcome any comments. Send 'em all here: <>, and know my love.


September in Sunnydale is beautiful. More than spring or summer, encroaching fall in Northern California was the sort of thing that could make anyone wonder why they'd never come before. The trees were still green, but the air was comfortably cool, just on the edge of requiring some light jacket. The sun shined long and warm, buttery color not even remotely close to the brazen announcement of spring or the no-nonsense burn of summer.

If the world was like this all the time... Well, what? Xander lounged on the park bench, sprawled really. He was still wearing the Wendy's shirt he'd been fired in earlier this morning. Lousy job number four, fucked up by -- you guessed it -- his own distinct lack of tact.

He looked down at himself. Orange and blue. While there was no possible way to justify those colors, sitting like a dork only made them worse.

The perfect justification for a pose otherwise sloppy, lazy, and edging toward the obscene.

A vaguely morbid thrill, since there was no one around to scold him playfully. Or even just with that absent sort of derision he'd had all sorts of time to get used to.

Help send one murdering vampire who just *happened* to have regained his soul *after* the Hellmouth had been opened to hell, kiss your best friend, and *wham*. Right to the Doghouse.

He knew it wasn't that simple for either case, but... sometimes it was tempting to imagine things had gone differently. Never touching Willow, no matter how creamy her skin looked, no matter that she always smiled at him with genuine affection. Never never.

Xander couldn't *quite* make himself regret the whole send- Angel-to-hell thing, though. On top of just being an arrogant, moody, fluffy-haired ass, his alter ego had this nasty habit of killing and terrorizing the people Xander cared about. What he'd done to Giles... at least Jenny's death had been quick.

Xander hoped it had been quick. Giles and Jenny were pretty much the only people over the age of twenty who had ever looked at him with anything resembling respect and trust.

And, fuck, Angel lost his soul more often than most people lost pens.

Of course, reminding people of that never worked very well. "Oh, but Xander, that wasn't him! It was the *demon*. Angel's really very sweet, and Buffy's hot for his big angsty bod, besides."

Demons. Xander knew a thing or two about demons. Sure, they could force you to become the sort of person you'd never wanted to be. They could be exorcised, too. But what happens if you get a taste for the evil? Xander sometimes wondered how people so much smarter than him could simply refuse to believe that no part of Angel was enjoying the ride with Angelus.

Oh, his soul might've been elsewhere, at the time, but his body was there. And flesh remembers, and flesh can get so *close* to your soul...

And once you feel that want, that unfamiliar but oh-so dirty sweet want, it's already over. The demon already had a home within you, and you were just padding the nest. Easy to fall, and fall, and continue to fall until you were maybe sprawled out on a park bench wearing a painfully ugly shirt that you'll most probably have to pay for with money you don't have --

No, no, *no*. Things could always get worse.

In an hour...

Fuck. He needed to have a life again. Not even a relationship, just... friends. Places to go, people to go with, talk with, laugh with... And he couldn't really blame the guys for not being his friends anymore. It wasn't like he'd made much of an effort himself...

But, dammit, it had gotten *hard* to be there when he was just a vaguely embarrassing, whining little cypher. Still though, there'd been people around, and Willow didn't really hate him... Hell, maybe it had all just been some kind of punishment. Giles would think of something like that; let Xander be as nonexistent as he'd wished Angel and Oz to be. Or something.

Maybe it would have ended after a while. Some set day where they would all forgive him, forget and help him to forget, too. Make him part of the team again. But he had failed, refused to take his punishment like a man, *something*.

But no one had said a word to him the day after he slept through what was supposed to have been his patrol. And Cordy had nearly died, and that was just one near-death too many, and now she had taken herself off to Northwestern, where she would blithely not think about any of them, at all.

And he'd drifted off. Missed school so much he'd barely managed to graduate.

Graduation day itself... well, the mayor had tripped himself up, and there'd been no huge Ascension battle in which Xander might have redeemed himself. No, the gang had taken out the Mayor all by themselves.

So the day had been calm, placid, and normal. And the sun had shone so brightly on the one steely look Buffy gave him as he'd started to walk toward her. It had been even prettier on her freshly blonded hair as she'd calmly and placidly turned away.

And so had began the summer, and so had ended the summer. And now Xander's body was telling him of renewal, and the chance to surround himself with people who rarely drank too much, rarely yelled at him.

But school was out forever, now, and his instincts were just too stupid to realize that. It was going to be night sooner than he thought, and the closest thing he had to a stake was the oak staring with deciduous reproach at him for even thinking about it.

Time to go home, slink carefully past today's Fight About Money -- it was always easier if he came in late, the first bottle was most probably severely denuded -- and take a nap.

A good, long nap. Maybe he'd even sleep all night this time. It was certainly easier with Mom's bottle of Xanax in his fist. Xander had first thought "finders keepers," when he'd dug it out from under the couch.

Then he'd thought, "well, so long as she doesn't have this she definitely won't accidentally kill herself with a Jim Trank cocktail."

Xander was reasonably sure he was lying to himself. No, he was sure. The bottle was nothing more nor less than a promise he might even keep to himself tonight...


//Allllll right. No maybes about it.//

When Xander had gotten up to his room, he discovered a full water bottle under his bed. Sealed. Cool from its time in pure darkness.

He'd taken a sip, but it had gone down so *well*... He decided to save it. Use it sparingly until he was *really* ready to sleep, then let himself be awakened early by a good old-fashioned piss hard.

But, of course, the small orange bottle was *also* waiting for him. Peeking out suggestively from under his pillow like a shy lover who is nonetheless desperate for it. For him.

No one ever mentioned that the craving for sex got *worse* after you'd actually gotten some -- but that thought led down paths he really didn't care to tread and so it was summarily shot down.

Xander was getting good at thought-murder.

So there had been the pills, and there had been the water, and there had been his vaguely disturbing semi, and suddenly there seemed to be a solution.

So he'd waited until after his parents were well and truly sodden and unconscious, and then he'd taken the pills, three by three, and then it had suddenly seemed like a great idea to take a walk in the moonlight.

The first he'd been able to without fear in far, far too long.

As he walked, the idea got even better. The air was impossibly sweet and good, killed the nausea before it got to be a problem. And night-time in Sunnydale *was* dangerous.

Vampires everywhere.

Maybe one would even suck his blood. He'd surely be poisoned by it, made slow and weak. An easy slay, as it were. He chuckled to himself and was surprised to find the sound mostly air... he was tireder than he'd thought he'd be.

And *that* thought was the best illustration *ever* of why no one had ever paid him to think.

He looked around, slowly and carefully. The world was moving a lot faster than he wanted to. The yard was quiet and still, vaguely familiar. The name of the place was very far beyond his reach, though, and after a while he realized that he'd just been *standing* there for Christ knew how long.

And so he decided to do what any red-blooded American man would do in this situation -- he fell down.

The stars dotted the sky in such an ageless, timeless way. They looked almost as nice as they did in that Sarah Maclachlan video, though not quite so warm. He didn't have much energy to curse himself for the S.M. reference, so he didn't really try. Xander squinted a little and the stars became warm.

He lay that way for a time, but eventually his eyelids started to get tired of holding the squint. He let them close and simply drifted, feeling the earth start to rock slowly beneath him in little wave motions.

And then something cool and slick started to drip onto his mouth. It felt just as good as everything else, and it *also* reminded him that his lips felt a little dry. Xander opened his mouth and felt it immediately flood with something far too sweet, not salty enough, slick and insinuating.

Xander thought he could feel it seeping up into his palate, stiffening his tongue even as he lapped for it helplessly.

There was something oily and wrong beneath the sweetness, but he'd gotten too much of it down to resist. The next thing he knew he was being easily flipped, tugged onto his knees, and then things got very eww very quickly.

After about a year and a half, there was finally nothing left in his digestive system. Xander considered crawling away from the mess to wipe his face on the grass, but he was shaking all over. He braced himself carefully and brought his right arm up. And, abruptly found the arm draped with a tee shirt.

It was too much to believe for a moment, but then --

//Ah. Little Miss Emetic 1999...//

-- he remembered. Made a point of ruining the tee shirt as thoroughly as possible.

He stopped when he and the shirt had swapped places on the foul-o-meter, tossed the brand new rag away. And then found himself rolled over with his stomach about four seconds behind and *bitter*.

He couldn't see straight but when whoever-it-was straddled him... There was no way he could *stop* himself from fighting. It just made him feel sicker, get the dry heaves. The person didn't budge a centimeter.

"Easy there, Alexander. If you puke on me I'm *bound* to get cranky."

Worse than Faith. Spike. And, as though some Hell- creature was pleased with this deduction, his vision cleared. Game face.

"Get *off* me you deadass freak!"

Spike smiled very calmly and proceeded to pin Xander's wrists above his head very easily.

He tried struggling more, but it was all about as useful and fun as trying to break down an iron door with just your groin. The thought "enjoys torturing his victims" was tattooing itself on his brain with big, flaming letters.

Spike proceeded to tighten his hold until Xander felt the bones in his wrists start to grate against each other. Heard it, too. His stomach roiled, and that was frustrating, too, because as foul as the thought was, a little projectile tranq- vomit would have probably come in handy right about then.

"I think you're missing the point here, Alex --"

"That's not my name!"

Another ruthless squeeze, this time until Xander screamed. It seemed that a night that began with him on his way to being dead *could* possibly get worse, but then that seemed to be the way life worked. When Spike eased the pressure, the blood rushed back into his hands. Xander couldn't hold in another yell.

Spike covered his mouth with his other hand. It was too cold, too heavy, and too smooth. Xander had already opened his mouth to bite it before he recognized the idea as a Profoundly Bad one. There was no way Spike didn't feel Xander's lips moving on his palm, though.

Xander looked up, and sure enough Spike's eyes were gleaming at him. Life was getting more wrong by the second. And then Spike leaned in far too close to whisper, "Maybe later."

He shuddered. "Why don't you just rip my fucking throat out and get it over with?"

"Sorry, I don't take clonazepam with my meals."

"I wasn't aware that you knew so much about generic drugs."

"Well, you know, there are a lot of interesting things in this world. I like trying them out."

The conversation had passed surreal about five minutes before Spike had arrived. Then again, Buffy *had* described the thing as 'oddly chatty.' "Oooookay... feel like letting me in on what the deal is here?"

Spike resettled himself, pulled a pack of Marlboros out of thin air, or maybe just his jacket. Offered one to Xander. "It'll help soothe the nausea."

"Or make my imminent death *that* much more disgusting."

"What are you? A Mormon? You're not blond enough. Besides..." And his voice slipped into the range Xander had already come to know as Gutterpunk On The Prowl. "I plan on keeping you around a little longer than imminent, Alex."

Time to fight fire with acid. Or something. "'s matter? Dru finally kicked your punk ass out for good? Maybe left you for, oh, say a shipload of sailors?"

Spike's hand tightened briefly and Xander had a moment to hope for quick and mostly painless. But even he could see that the flash of anger in the thing's eyes wasn't precisely directed at him. And then his face cleared and he gave a mostly humorless snort. "I regret to say that she and I *are* separated. And Dru herself is currently separated from rather a *lot* of herself... Well, all's fair, right?"

For some strange reason, fake cheer by a vampire was even more disturbing than the rest of it. Not that *real* cheer was a particularly happy thing with vampires... Xander wondered briefly if he'd underestimated the value of Angel's never-ending morosity.

In any case, Xander couldn't come up with an answer to that immediately. Hard to make ho jokes about a corpse that actually behaved like a corpse.

He settled for watching Spike get ever more comfortable on top of him and smoke. He did his best not to wonder when he'd been stripped down to moderately ratty tee shirt and thankfully whole boxers. He was reasonably sure he'd been dressed before taking those pills.

Minutes passed. When Spike seemed distracted, Xander made an attempt to flip him off with his legs. No dice. Not even a die.

Spike smiled. "Getting impatient?"

"Well, you *are* seriously interrupting my agenda for the evening."

"Ah, your agenda. We're gonna have to discuss that."

"Let me guess: William "Spike" The Bloody. Vampire and suicide interventionist at large. Will walk your son right off that balcony and into his loving arms. Where your son will then have his throat torn out."

Spike chuckled, the action sending dragonpuffs of smoke in the unseasonably chill and misty night. Obscuring the game face for just long enough to be able to see it fade back into Spike and then into game again. Misty and fast. Xander knew he was probably hallucinating.

"You're actually rather close to the mark, Alex."

"Do tell, oh favorite moldering limey mine."

"You're a suicide, luv. Those clothes I so helpfully removed? Well, while you were... out.... I took them down to the beach. Along with the bottle of pills. They're gonna think you swum out to sea, Alex."

Xander couldn't speak. How long had he been unconscious and at Spike's dubious mercy? Well, more so?

"'s matter, ducks? Was laying yourself out for all and sundry to view such a *better* plan?" Abruptly, Spike took on the tones of an hysterical woman. "Oh, the pain! The horror! Will the children ever be the same?!?!"

A cool finger reeking of nicotine stroked his cheek. Xander wasn't sure why he wasn't as repelled by the cold as he should be.

"Probably shock. And yes, before you start freaking out or whatever, you *did* say that out loud.." A drag off his second //third?// cigarette. "Right. Where were we?"

"You were explaining what secret government agency owns my ass now, sir."

Another chuckle from above and a careless flick of the fingers sent ash to coat his cheek. Not especially hot, but he couldn't keep from twitching.

Spike looked down and seemed briefly confused. Xander wondered just how much he'd had to drink before starting *his* party. But then the vampire simply leaned in and brushed each grain carefully off his cheek. Slowly and thoroughly. Xander felt more confused than Spike looked, weirded out by being, well, *caressed* by a vampire, but then it *was* ashes on his face and Ash Wednesday always freaked him out *real* bad and --

"There, it's all gone. Happy now?"

Xander opened his mouth to offer his litany of old but improved complaints but then that pale, cool hand moved from his cheek to his lips. A firm touch, but not brutal. Even through the haze, Xander had a good idea that this meant "shut up now."

"I meant in regards to the ash."

"Uh... yes, well, the ash. It's gone."

Spike nodded and looked at him expectantly.

"Well, yes, I am happy that the ash is gone. Can we talk about the me leaving thing anytime soon?"

"Leaving. You tried to leave this mortal coil altogether not too very long ago, yes?"

"Ummm... Duh?"

"Right. You tossed it away, as if it were simply trash." And Spike's eyes were looking extremely elsewhere again.

"Hey, you don't know a fucking thing about my life asshole. It *was* trash --"

"And you're already speaking of it in the past tense... You breathe, you think, you vomit all over poor Mrs. Bernstein's geraniums, and yet you insist you are dead."

"What's your point?"

"My point, Alex..." Spike morphed fully into the game-face. "Is that you threw your life away. It was trash and you discarded it, carefully avoiding getting the sinew mixed up with the cans and bottles, and then found yourself in my arms."

"More like your thighs --"

Small but eminently noticeable squeeze. "Mmm, yeh. Fancy them, do you?"

"Have you ever considered letting my witty quips just lay out there with no acknowledgment at all?"

"What? And copy her Buf Pufness? Maybe her smug little crew?"

Xander winced, turned away.

"Don't hide from Ol' Spike, Alex. I know you know *exactly* what I'm saying, yes?"

No response.

A casual slap sent Xander's head flying the other way. His cheek hit nothing but soft grass, a blessing. "What?"

"You know what I'm talking about."

"Yeah, I fucking *know* what ye're tawwwking aboat."

"That's not even remotely close to my accent, you know."

"Yeah, well, I'm working on it."

Spike grinned this time. It wasn't his best look while demonificated. Why, any sensible person not stupid enough to be pinned to the grass by him would *surely* be running to safety now, wouldn't they.

Another slap, not quite so hard, but still exceedingly painful... "Hey, I'm drugged here. Have pity on a drifting young man."

Spike actually fetched a sigh. Xander saw it... a passing shred of mist floated past and Spike grabbed at it, sucked it in, and blew out the longest of all possible long-suffering sighs.

It was... epic.

"Well, I suppose I *will* have to get to the point rather more quickly than I'd hoped. You Americans are all a bunch o' pigs, you know it? Ten, maybe fifteen of these babies would've sent you on your merry little way just fine. But nooooo, *you* just 'ad to take the whole bloody *bottle*."

"I'm still waiting on that point."

"You're pretty serene for a breathing dead man."

"Yeah, well, those tranqs are no fucking joke..." Xander started giggling despite himself, but then he started to choke. Something the apparent size of a grapefruit was blocking his throat. A large part of Xander was wondering why he was struggling so hard to get it out, but it had no suggestions about how to stop.

And then he was being lifted much too fast, turned, and as he felt two ribs go Xander solemnly resolved to never accept the Heimlich from a vampire again.


He awoke in someplace dark, dark, more dark, with a side order of dark. He took an experimental breath: candlewax, aging furniture, and that vague dusty smell of dead things, large and small.

He was definitely in some vampire's chosen home.

Plus, the process of inhaling and exhaling let him know that his ribs were clearly in need of further care.

He tried to yell for help, but what came out was: "HEL--- owwwwwwwwwwwww..." And assorted whimpering.

He also had one *fuck* of a tranq hangover, but, as that was his own goddamned fault and Willow was about as likely to listen to him whine even *one* more time as, say, Xander was likely to get out of this mess, he would just have to suck it up.

If he ever saw Willow again, though, he would whine.

Spike. It was Spike who had brought him here, chained him to the bedposts, and then tucked him in. Wait, no, he'd also taped Xander's ribs.

It would be fair to say that Xander had officially begun to worry.

It would be even more fair to say that the massive grinning Faith floating above his head was almost certainly another hallucination.

Still, though, he couldn't precisely fault his balls for their efforts to return to their homeland.

His body told him it was day. He would get to wait here for hours before... whatever.

Faith told him how hot he looked tied and helpless, and asked whether or not he wanted a taste.

His wrists already ached from the cuffs, his feet were mostly numbed.

His stomach warned of instant rebellion should he ever set *foot* in a pharmacy again.

His ribs were screaming about lung punctures and partial mobility and floating fragments.

And the tranqs in his system...? Well they had nothing to say but sleeeeeeeeep...

Sleep had been Xander's best friend this summer. Xander had never lied to or fucked around Sleep's women. Sleep loved him. Held him close and kept him warm and oh Jesus but he wanted to be warm again --

And Xander heard himself begging out loud but he just couldn't stop.


The next thing Xander was really aware of was snapping awake. The room didn't look any different, smell any different than it had before, but he knew he wasn't alone.

Just something in the air. He tried to say something about how good Spike had gotten at lurking over the years, but nothing came out at all.

His voice was gone, and he felt like he'd been punched in the throat. Xander remembered screaming, shivered again because he couldn't remember stopping. Abruptly, he had to piss.

And then Spike was walking into his field of vision, and staring at him intently. The drugs were fading, and Xander could tell the vampire was more... absent than usual. Xander wanted to ask him if all vampires got so bleakly *Gothic* after a few hundred years. What came out was "Ahhhhhh," only more whispery.

Spike looked quite pleasantly amused by the obvious turn of events. Bastard. Spike just hadn't spent enough time with Xander to be justifiably pleased about his temporarily mute status.

"Unfair!" Xander rasped painfully before collapsing back to the plush, deep pillow...

And then there was the feel of the firm mattress settling down a bit. Xander looked over to find Spike slithercrawling across the bed to lounge half on top of Xander's thighs. Long, black-denimed legs stretched toward the foot of the bed.

One booted toe began to toy casually with the chain on Xander's right ankle. The only words coming to mind were variations on "oh Christ don't want why does he want me let me go let me go..." Xander was beginning to see the potential benefits of being voiceless. Certainly, thinking about it provided a necessary distraction from the unmistakable sensation of leather sliding up and around and over until the vast majority of himself was blanketed in Spike.

Cradled by a snake, perhaps. Spike could move like a snake if he wanted to, though it was probably impractical... but... Yeah. One long, unbroken rope of muscle and sinew and flexible bone and it was all *his*.


"Hmmm... I've been around quite a few people with throat injuries in my time. Let's see if I can translate, Alex." He made himself more at home as he thought, twining a thigh between Xander's legs and propping his face just right to be able to look down into Xander's.

Xander knew the word "fuck" wasn't even close to comprehensible.

"Are you asking for Zsa Zsa? Hey, don't look at me like that. She used to be fucking hot."

Xander continued to stare as contemptuously as possible.

"All right, all right I'll keep thinking."

The "don't strain yourself" was almost *palpable* on his tongue. This, *this* was Hell.

"Asking me to call you Xander?"

Well, no, but that would be nice. He gave Spike the 'hopeful, yet still just half a second from wisecrack' look. Which made the vampire snort and yes, while the breath he exhaled *was* warmer than, say, the finger idly stroking his throat, it wasn't warm enough. Xander shuddered, and felt Spike briefly tighten around him.

Spike was hard. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

But he didn't seem to be paying much attention to Xander's horror at the moment, which was a Very Good Thing.

"I don't know... I rather like calling you Alex. It's a perfectly good name."

Xander shook his head.

"Fine, it's not *your* name. But still, why should I call you what everyone *else* calls you? I'm *special*."

//What you are is a killer who doesn't even have the decency not to fuck with his victims' heads.

//Then again, that tendency toward extended bouts of cruel and unusual torture was probably the main reason I and the rest of Buffy's crew have managed to survive so many times...//

Spike tapped on his throat, snapping Xander out of his thoughts. "Where do you go?"

//Why do you want to know?// The honest confusion probably added a certain degree of verisimilitude to the *look* of honest confusion Xander plastered on.

"Hmm. I'm beginning to think that there really *might* be some benefits in having you able to speak. You're not the type who can lie very well and chatter on naturally at the same time. No matter what you might think."

Shark smile, much too close to Xander's face. He couldn't *see* the fangs, but his skin knew they were there, waiting for whenever the crazy fuckhead decided to *end* this. He had a good long time to try to figure out just what was in Spike's eyes as the smile faded back into blankness.

The lust wasn't *exactly* surprising. Faith had assured him that there were few things more pleasing to a psychopath's eyes than a helpless, wounded victim-waiting-to-happen. Spike fit the model. The only question left was if he'd be raped before his throat turned into ground chuck.

Shuddering was getting to be a habit.

Spike's face didn't change, but he moved against Xander again, apparently by instinct. Whether to still him or entice him to move around more, Xander couldn't tell. It went on for much too long, with Spike just staring at him, watching him. Xander felt something sweet and wrong pulse through him and *fuck* he had to piss.

It hurt, and it was impossible to hide. Spike moved faster, bumping and sliding his trapped cock over his hip, along his waist... Spike felt like stone against him, and Xander couldn't help wondering if it hurt...

But when Spike growled low in the throat and started to close his eyes Xander tensed hard, and suddenly remembered that he could turn away, keep himself from getting lost in all that sky-blue deception and pain.

He knew he made a sound, and he knew what the sudden exposure of his throat must have looked like. He heard Spike hiss and then there were surprisingly soft lips pressed against his neck and Xander prayed this would be the end but suddenly he was alone on the bed again.

One moment he was on the edge of a death just as sensual as he hadn't been letting himself imagine, the next he was heating up uncomfortably, aching everywhere. The room was too hot. The bed was too wide. Shit.

"Right, I think it's time for me to go get us some breakfast."

//Oh Christ -- //

"MacDonald's, Alex. You're pretty fucking jumpy tonight, aren't you?"

All things considered, Xander was pretty thrilled that the several different responses his mind decided were appropriate couldn't make it past his tortured larynx. All of the responses involved words like "hardon," "rape," and "molestation."

Not that these would be *new* thoughts for Spike, but why encourage him?

Xander came back to himself at the sight of Spike walking out the door. If, on top of everything else, Xander *wet the bed*, death would no longer be enough to ease the pain. Slow death maybe, but not just plain old regular death.

He did his best to rattle his chains, shake the bed. It didn't *feel* like it was making any difference, but it definitely made more noise than his "hhhhaahhhhhh"

Spike paused at the door, but didn't turn.

"Pleehhh..." And then he was coughing and there were a few good and disturbing drops of blood on his lips. His throat was *already* ground chuck, just on the inside.

Xander made a mental note to try to avoid large amounts of vomiting *and* screaming in the future. Either/or, and that was that.

Spike sniffed the air and finally turned, knelt on the bed again and stared, predictably, at Xander's mouth for much too long before visibly shaking himself out of it.

"I hope you don't think I'm going to unchain you anytime soon."

Xander was disgusted to realize that the thought had never even occurred to him, but, thankfully, there were more important things to chase *that* thought away.

He squeezed his eyes shut and nodded toward his belly. Suddenly, the sheet was being ripped away and Xander wasn't sure why he hadn't realized he'd been covered with more than just Spike before...

//Christ, does that mean he was *behaving*?//

"Oh, Alex... is this for me?"

His cock, piss-hard and hard-hard, was poking out of his boxers like a skinny bald prairie dog. Xander flushed pretty much to his toes, shook his head angrily, and tried to figure out the international sign for "please hold my dick while I piss in some handy yet disposable container and don't start jerking me off or sucking me or biting me --"

Or something.

He cracked his eyes and found Spike staring again. At Xander's mouth. The blood was still there, and Xander was afraid of what Spike might do if he just licked it off. He looked so fucking *hungry*.

And his hands... his hands weren't actually *touching* Xander's cock as much as simply petting the air around it. Like someone else might move their hands over a fire. Xander shut his eyes again.

"You're very beautiful, Alex. You make me *want*. And it's been a while..."

Xander shook his head viciously, tried to twist himself out of reach and only succeeded in slapping his cock into Spike's palm. Spike immediately made a fist and gave him two, three fast, stripping strokes. More than enough to make Xander buck instinctively and start pleading soundlessly.

But then the hand was gone and his body couldn't decide whether to tense or relax and that cool palm had felt so good on his burning cock...

"Sorry about that, Alex. I *have* figured out that you need to take a leak. 'ere, you can use this." And an obscenely bright yellow fake butter tub was suddenly being positioned between his legs. He wished he could laugh without coughing. ".... but you twisted right into my hand and you feel very, very good, Alex..."

That was starting to sound almost like an apology. Which was terrifying, because it would mean Spike had lost what little sense of self he had.

//Maybe he'll be nice now.

//Or just more creatively oblivious.//

One more shudder and his body released the first spurt of urine -- miraculously inside the tub -- which made Xander flush again, which made him bear down hard instinctively, which made him hurt, which made him let out a breathless yell.

"Easy, easy... you're going to have to calm down or this won't be much fun at all."

*That* time he couldn't hold in the laughter, and that started him coughing, and coughing blood, and Spike jerked abruptly so the next little spurt caught him on the wrist.

"This *was* my good shirt, you know."

Xander tried to plead with his eyes, beg Spike not to make him laugh anymore. And that sent Spike into rusty giggles and this was taking so much *time*. If he could have managed it, Xander would've curled himself into a ball several minutes before he'd woken up.

Suddenly his cock was in Spike's palm again and being tilted downward. Xander felt the groan he couldn't release in his chest, but Spike's touch was purely... professional this time. Xander was being held in the proper position to piss.

"Relax, relax, nothing unpleasant is gonna happen..."

//Deadboy hand. My cock. Your cock.//

"I wish I knew what you were thinking. Dru would've known, I bet..."

Xander watched Spike drift again. Should he laugh? Throw up? Pity? Worry? Part of him suggested that all of the ideas had merit, but he needed to *let go*.

"You're just a little too hard for this, aren't you? Now *this* is bringing back some merry little memories."

//Please do *not* share.//

"But I think I like you hard, Alex. It would be a shame to make you lose it when I've got you, right here, in my control..."

It was bad enough that Spike's words -- that voice, those words -- made his cock twitch. It was worse when Spike eyed him speculatively. But the Very Bad Thing was that the look of speculation almost certainly meant that Spike had intended to make him *less* hard.

He *was* behaving, in his own sick little way.

"You... you..." And Spike just let himself trail off. He was staring at Xander's mouth again. Xander squeezed his eyes shut.

He hadn't re-shellacked his hair yet. //He came to me straight out of his coffin.// It was matching his name. He looked like the skater boys Xander used to hang around with...

His cock was softening, finally. //Thank God for self- disgust.//

Spike got him into position again, and Xander let go, kept his head turned away because this was too intimate to be tolerated. Not especially sexy, but... *close*. And the absent little frown on Spike's face as he watched Xander piss wasn't helping at all.

Xander *wanted* to know what he was thinking. What the memory was, if Xander's blood-hot cock felt as good to him as his cool, cool hand felt to Xander.

If he could just please *die* already before he made himself dirtier. Better to die in as close to a state of grace as you can manage. Now... now his grey was blackening, and suicide would be only too inevitable.

Finally, it was over, and Spike shook his dick off for him. Then set it down on his thigh and quickly covered up the tub.

"I'm going to have dump this, now. I really liked keeping my M&Ms in there, too..."

Xander kept his head turned. Felt Spike take up his cock again and barely held in a gasp. But all he did was tuck him carefully back into his boxers. Then he pulled the sheet back up over Xander's body. And *then* he crawled back onto the bed and straddled him.

Xander breathed.

"You don't have anything special planned for that blood do you?"

Xander shook his head.

"I didn't think so... 'scuse me for just a moment..."

A long moment. A very long moment in which Spike slowly and thoroughly licked his face clean before returning to Xander's mouth and lapping there.

Xander opened his mouth in near self-defense -- Spike's tongue was rough and it was making his lips ache and swell. But Spike didn't plunder his mouth then. He just rested his parted lips against Xander's parted lips and stayed still.

If Xander were to move, were to, perhaps, run his own tongue over those bright white teeth until he bled a little more, then... Then.

If not...

He'd waited long enough for Spike to make the decision, which turned out to be yet another removal of himself from the bed. Xander continued to breathe, praying breathlessly that the shockwave of images and hallucinated feelings of that tongue flaying him elsewhere would hold off for just a little while longer.

If he got hard again before Spike could leave he *would* give himself up willingly, and tell himself it was just soothing another ache.

He took the chance and looked over. Spike had been standing there, just watching him. Again. He shook himself.

"Yes. MacDonald's. Um. Would you like a shake?"

The man was insane. Insane. Xander nodded.


He shook his head.


He nodded, and Spike smirked. "Not for long, Alex. Soda, too?"

Sticking out his tongue at this point just wouldn't help things. Xander settled for nodding.

"You'll just have to pee again."

Xander rolled his eyes.

"Oh, suddenly you're *serene* about me grabbing your dick?"

Twitch and *point* to Mr. The Bloody. Xander knew he looked just as horrified as his cock wasn't.

"'s'alright, luv. *I* don't mind."

And then he left, presumably having fulfilled his need for a dramatic exit.

Xander was now free to try to think his way around his semi, which just led to it being closer to full. So he did his best to think about just how useless his arms and legs were going to be when and if Spike ever decided to unchain him. And bedsores were also a possibility.

He peered down and was gratified to see the still-smallish tent subsiding neatly.

//Maggot stew.//

And he was reasonably sure it would stay down for a while.

Xander closed his eyes and rested.


And woke up approximately three seconds later when Spike flung himself on the bed -- just off to the side of his ribcage. And then Spike crossed his legs and surrounded them both with the smell of grease and meat and potatoes and cheese.

And of sweet Sunnydale autumn night. Outside.

He was willing to believe he'd had a bit more than three seconds.

"I got lots of food... I'll eat it if you don't."

Xander's stomach grumbled and Spike grinned at him. Without the game face, it just made him look like somebody's slightly older brother.

"Don't worry, I'll get you more food tomorrow..."

And the way he said tomorrow made Xander shiver. The concept of time was returning with a vengeance. How many tomorrows would it be?

But he didn't really have that much time to contemplate, as there was suddenly a besauced chicken nugget nudging his mouth.

If he could have, Xander would've smacked himself. Of *course* he was going to be fed. This was all beginning to sound like one of those lousy but hot stories he used to find all over the newsgroups, when he'd been younger and even more masturbatory. Was this where the ritual humiliation began?

Xander stared at Spike, but only found more of the same mild good cheer and barely-banked lust.

"C'mon, open up. It's not like you'll be able to eat any other way."

Simple, matter of fact. His stomach provided all the prompting he needed. He closed his eyes and bit at the chicken, not surprised enough by the fact that Spike didn't make him work for it.

And then there were several fries, and an attempted sip at his shake --

"*Does* this stuff soften, Alex? If not, I've got some windows that need patching..."

-- followed by Coke, followed by cheeseburger, and so on. It all had its own rhythm, Spike chattering about fast foods he'd known, Xander chewing and chewing and swallowing and beginning to feel rather like a well-treated heifer.

And then:

"You're rather oily, ducks."

Xander thought his eyebrows did well with "your point?"

"Well, it's a little disturbing. I keep flashing on an image of the fat making your cheeks go all clear."


It was hoarse and painful, but it came out. To think, all he'd really needed was a new and disgusting image...

"You really shouldn't talk."

"Do you have *any* idea what a bitch it is not to talk?" His voice went out on the any and he knew he was about three seconds away from coughing more blood, but damn it felt good to open his mouth and have actual sounds come out.

"... a month gagged, once." Spike sounding dreamy was enough to break Xander's attention span, and he turned back to look at him. He was smiling. Probably some hideously ugly memory of Dru in which they proved their love by torturing mortals.

Dru. Xander's mind helpfully pulled up one of the less- disturbing images it had saved of her. Tallish, leanish, dark hair, dark eyes, obvious mental illness. Life just continued to get more wrong. And Spike was oblivious.

"Let me wipe your face? I've got some water here..."

It all hit with a sudden slam to the stomach and Xander jerked in the bonds. Spike looked confused.

"Well, if it means *that* much you can stay just as oily as you like. It's not like these sheets are *mine*... Just don't blame me if you suddenly become an X-ray."

//He wants a new Dru.//

Xander continued to stare, shake his head.

"What's wrong? Look, you can speak if you want... it's just that I can smell the blood in your throat and it makes me want to take you right now, and you really need the rest."

//But just for my ribs... whose name will you call when I wind up sucking your cock?//

"Alex? What's wrong? Do you need water or something?"

He honestly didn't have a clue. Did that make it OK? Should it? Xander found himself shaking his head and he felt like he needed his joints re-oiled. It took a long time, and the room was starting to move faster again.

"Do you need me to call you Xander? I will..."

And that was definitely a cracked and hoarse sob coming from Xander's mouth and there was blood on his mouth and then Spike was in his mouth, kissing and kissing and sucking and taking.

His throat *wanted* to bleed more so he let it, let himself cough or maybe laugh and Spike was *so* cold in his desire but it was just fine because Xander was warm. Dru was never warm... He kissed back, bit at Spike's lip. Daring him.

Spike was the one who shuddered this time, taking Xander's face in his hands and staring down. "Oh, fuck, Al -- *Xander*. Xander I watched you and I wanted you. I thought... Tomorrow... tomorrow I'll tell you about the deal, I promise. For now, just let me wipe your face?"

And Xander was too lost in his own confusion and hate to do anything but nod.

The water was cool and the napkins felt soft against his skin. Spike wiped and smoothed and even scrubbed a little. Darted down to Xander's throat, and even under his t- shirt. Xander was suddenly struck with the need to know how sensitive his nipples were.

But Spike was moving down the bed again... If Xander could've moved his hand he would've protested. Spike, in his rather simple borderline sociopathy, was becoming something just as steady as the bed under his back and the cuffs. His haphazard seduction hit so randomly that it couldn't be prepared for, only experienced. But saying the words was just beyond him.

Thankfully, Spike stopped at the foot of the bed. Began rubbing Xander's shin through the sheet. He hadn't realized how numb his legs were until just then. He could feel them jerking slightly under Spike's touch, but he had no idea what they were trying to do.

And then the sheet was gone again -- and he was tempted to tell Spike to just leave it there -- and there was a key in Spike's hand. Xander's major organs tried to play musical chairs. He would be freed! To go...

Oh, this was very, very bad. Stockholm. Much too fast. But... Fuck, hadn't he already been well on his way to breaking himself? It was OK to want this, it wasn't his fault, it felt so good and it wasn't his life anyway --

But all Spike did was free one leg and start to rub a little harder. Digging in, kneading. Bringing out the pins and needles. Xander winced and squirmed, and Spike responded by letting his hand slip back to Xander's raw ankle and then pushing the leg up straight and nipping at the tender flesh behind Xander's knee.

Xander didn't try to hold back his painful little yelp. Spike looked up at him and his eyes were dark, nearly blank with an extremely determined brand of lust. As easy as he'd been so far, Xander knew that this simple massage was Going To Happen. Spike needed this...

He let his head fall back, and immediately felt Spike bending his leg to his chest. Pushing it up. Spreading and exposing him... Xander felt his balls settle a little further back than usual and had a sudden flash of how he must've looked. What he'd look like naked.

Xander was having trouble breathing again, waiting to be touched less professionally than this admittedly helpful massage, cock hard and right on the edge of leaking. But the only touches to his groin were incidental as Spike turned his thigh to putty.

Finally, his leg was set down. Spike clasped his ankle and picked up the cuff again, but he held off for a moment. Looked up at Xander again.

"Be still."

//Anything you say...// And that thought was too far, so his body decided to buck up in an obvious manner. Xander was expecting a raised eyebrow, maybe a slap.

What he got was the game face. No words for a long, long time, just a growl broken occasionally with long, meaningful sniffs. A helpful reminder. Xander may have been pretty meat, but he was meat just the same. His cock waved hello to the nice demon. "Be. Still."

And Xander nodded. Watched him bend to his other leg and free it, too. Realized that if he was left free just a little bit longer he could use his legs to...

Wrap around Spike while he demanded to get fucked. He didn't realize he was shaking his head again until Spike leaned up and growled against his thigh. Was he supposed to surrender instantly to everything? Love it, need it all? Fortunately, that all came out as a long, raspy whimper and Spike's face began to -- literally -- soften back to its normal state.

Not all the way, though. That happened much more slowly than he'd ever seen it do before, gradually easing back to high-cheeked prettiness while Spike massaged his leg. This time, he bent it up to his chest and back several times, and Xander couldn't help but imagine getting fucked like this by a brutal, snarling Spike. His arms would still be chained.

He needed to be touched. More. Months of nothing beyond the occasional hand-shake and shoulder-squeeze and Spike had already... spoiled him.

And then Spike leaned in and bit the inside of Xander's thigh. Shook the small bit of flesh back and forth a little. The pressure wasn't nearly enough to break the skin, so Xander just pressed his thigh in a little harder.

Spike's tongue made him jump and moan, sending raw, tickled shudders throughout his body. Spike was completely silent, eased the pressure further until he was just holding Xander with his mouth. Xander was sheened with sweat. They remained that way for what felt like hours.

And then Spike shook himself loose and crawled up Xander's body again. Xander's vision was clouding -- a nightly event? Spike was the only remotely distinct thing in it, and that was only because the man was paler than the cream-stuccoed ceiling. Little spikes of sharp plaster pointing murderously at him from above. If one fell and pierced him would Spike lose all control?

One hand combed through Xander's hair, letting him know how lank it was getting with sweat. He wanted to see what he looked like.

"I want to do your arms next. Will you co-operate?"

Xander twisted, felt his face shape itself into something like terrified accusation. Did he have to do this so fucking *thoroughly*? He breathed, saw Spike bite his lip and lick the slow trickle of blood away in a move so fast as to be hallucinatory. He closed his eyes. "Leave... leave one cuffed."

And he felt Spike's fingers leave his hair to trail down his face with slow care.

"I never thought you'd be so good, Xander..."

"Don't --"

And Spike was kissing him again. Teasing and opening him up again. He rattled his chains and Spike immediately freed his left arm. It fell useless to the bed, but, with Spike's help, he managed to get it on the other man's back. Managed to press a little, to give the suggestion of holding while he kissed.

But Spike didn't need to breathe and eventually Xander had to struggle free --


-- and while he gasped, Spike nibbled and sucked and bruised his chin and cheek with soft lips and hard teeth. He was going to look like a mugging victim tomorrow. And smell like Sunday morning in a peep show.

He didn't care.

It seemed to go on and on, kiss and break and kiss and moan and break and his knees had slipped open of their own accord to let Spike in and he was there, solid and hard against him, thrusting so damned slowly...

Xander broke the kiss again and writhed purposefully, felt Spike's mouth drag down to his throat and *lock* there but still there was no bite. Instead, Spike starting thrusting against him harder, faster. Rocking the whole bed.

And then he *stopped*.


And his yell tore something *else* and made him cough. His throat wasn't ever going to get better, and, apparently, he was going to die of blue balls.

"Oh, bloody fucking *hell*. You're *bleeding* again."

"Do you ever plan on letting me --" He was broken off with coughs again and he could *feel* Spike struggle not to dive in and take his due and more.

"You were about four more heartbeats from death. I can feel it slamming against your chest, against mine. Your skin is like *paper* to me."

Xander glared up at him. Slowly, slowly licked the blood from his swollen mouth.

Game face.

Human face.


Some uncomfortable mix of the two that left long fangs digging into flesh that looked as soft as Xander's own.

"I won't kill you yet."

And then Spike settled himself over Xander's hips, imprisoned him between iron hard thighs. There was no friction to get. He took Xander's arm up and began to stretch and massage it, lingering mindlessly on Xander's hand until it felt as limp as cafeteria lettuce. And then up to the shoulder and back and forth and back until the limb felt too good to complain about.

Spike kissed Xander's palm before recuffing him. And then it was time for the other arm, and Xander did his best not to take advantage of the tiny shift in Spike's hips. It was hard.

But by the time he got his second palm-kiss he'd reached his limit of tension and had begun to crash.

Instead of cuffing him again, Spike got up and turned him carefully. The bed chafed humidly at his cool chest. The air thrilled every nerve ending of his back. Spike started to wipe under the t-shirt with cool towels.

"Please... take it off."

A pause he couldn't see, a *snick*, and then Spike was cutting up the cuffed side of him with precision and care. The shirt came off and Xander hadn't realized how *well* a thin piece of cotton could block sensations. Spike's jeans were only just barely brushing the base of his spine but suddenly he was being scratched, torn and scraped raw.

He writhed again.

"Xander --"

"Can't... you're doing this..."

And Spike clamped down again obligingly, this time positioning his knees a little under Xander's body -- preventing even the slowest, softest thrust into the hot, frustrating mattress. And then came the cool rag -- his own shirt, most probably -- and the slow massage that pushed him further and further into sleep.

He felt Spike leave him that way, but was too far gone to protest.


Xander woke up more comfortable than he'd been in weeks, save for the hardon he was pretty sure could cut steel.

His right hand was still free, and darted immediately for his purpling cock, not even bothering to push the boxers down beyond his upper thighs.

Hard, rough... that's what he needed. Goddamn ugly mother*fucking* cocktease. Deathtease. Xander giggled helplessly, managed to hold back the cough this time.

If Spike wouldn't, he would. And calling up Spike called up that mouth and those teasing, relentless hands and those too-long glimpses of pure need.

Single White Female moment or no, Xander had a *dick* and Spike wanted it as much as all the superficial Dru- ness. It was a comforting thought, being as how Xander was reasonably sure Dru had been biologically female.

Spike's hand on his cock, lips on his neck, pressing no harder than a human but anyone could feel the tension lurking just beneath the surface. Holding so much back. Keeping it from him.

The sweat ran down the center of his chest, pooled in his navel. Xander pulled his knee up and turned a little, resting on his cuffed arm. Thanks to Spike, he had more than enough reserves of pain to make it bearable.

Good Spike. Horny, lonely Spike. //Just like me...//

He felt the air change and wondered if he'd conjured the man. Could it possibly be sunset already? His cock softened a bit at the implications. He was no winter child...

*Was* Spike there? Watching him? He didn't look up, just started working himself a little harder, faster. Xander was suddenly, oddly positive that if he *was* there, he liked what he saw. A little taste of being wanted was all it took. Xander let his head fall back, let his neck stretch.

He could feel where the flesh had been bruised, it only made him want to move more. So he did.

And he didn't stop until he felt Spike kneel in front of him. Before he could tell himself what a *horrendous* idea it would be, he reached down between his legs and gave his balls one sharp tug.

Didn't gasp loud enough to mask Spike's hiss. And then he simply lay there and panted, waited.

"We need to talk."

"If you keep saying things like that I'm going to take you out and shoot you in the head."

Spike snickered, ran two fingers down the center of Xander's chest and abdomen until they caught at his navel with a viciously normal little jerk. "Sorry."

"That's another thing you're going to have to stop saying." His voice was still rough, it still hurt a little to talk. It made it all feel extremely real.

"Look at it from my point of view -- this is the first time I've dated in more than a century."

Xander snapped his head forward, sat back on his heels with one arm still stretched behind him. "This is dating? Oh, wait, I forgot your point of reference."

Spike smiled a little ruefully, leaned in to kiss him. Xander returned it fervently, but still managed to let Spike break the kiss without much resistance. Much.

"I have a bargain to offer you, Xander."

"I'm listening."

"You stay here with me for a month. You have the freedom of the house and the grounds but you can't leave."

"Why do I have the sudden urge to sing 'Think Of Me?'"

Spike let that one pass, possibly the first stupid remark this whole time. It was vaguely distressing.

"In return, I feed you, clothe you, buy you music... Whatever you want, within reason."

Xander bit his lip.

"Twenty-eight more days, as yesterday counts, and the day before... Well, you get points for drinking my blood so prettily. And puking a truly impressive amount."

Xander felt the blood leave his face rapidly. "I drank your *blood*?"

"Don't worry, it wasn't enough to really *do* anything. That one drop business is a crock. These Christian types never do things by half, do they?"

"But... if your blood did *that*, how the fuck does anyone ever drink it willingly? Are you just toxic?"

Spike shook his head and smiled. Then laughed. A lot. Xander wondered if this was Dru's Spike. Wondered how anyone who was what Spike was could also be so... human. It was a little more than he could take in what might as well have been the morning, when he was apparently sober. "Well?"

"My blood is no more toxic than you thought it was. It was just mixed with Ipecac."

"Um... why?"

"To make it taste better." There could have been a "you dumbass" at the end of that sentence.

"But... doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose?"

"Xander, *I* can almost feel the wounds in your throat. What do *you* think?"


"Alright, would you have opened up so quickly for something that felt disgusting and tasted worse?"

"I drank your blood?"

"I drank more of yours last night."

And his blood went tumbling and rushing to his cock, as if Spike would be more likely to suck there than his throat.

"What did you think it was?"

"I... I *wasn't* thinking. Chocolate sauce. What books say good bourbon tastes like. Oil. Come --"

And then Spike was grabbing his ass, fingers under his boxers at fucking *last* and lifting him onto his hips and another kiss, and another, and Spike was unabashedly fucking Xander's mouth with his tongue. Xander knew his cock was ruining whatever red and/or black silk shirt Spike was wearing, and smiled into the kiss.

And Spike let it last until Xander had to breathe again, and then slowly disengaged to rest his forehead against Xander's own. "Let me tell you the rest..."

"I swear to God, if you say *one* word about moments of true happiness --"

"If you *ever* compare me to Angel where I can hear you --"

"This is where you tell me I have to wear a cock ring for the whole month, isn't it?"

A pained laugh. "You're not making this easy."

"I'm naked in your *lap*."

"It's just -- at the end of the month, you can do anything you want. Walk back into your life, stay in mine, whatever. If you want, I'll even kill you."

"Fast or slow?"

"Whatever you want."

Xander pulled in a shaky breath. "You... you're serious, aren't you?"

"I don't make many promises."

Their foreheads were still touching. Spike was still holding his ass. Xander had his hands pressed flat against Spike's chest. "I meant... I meant about wanting me."

Spike pushed one of Xander's hands down to his crotch. He wished very badly it could have been just as hot as it was heavy and inviting. "Yes."

"Fuck, Spike, if I... I need more than *this*."

"I don't want to lose control and kill you --"

"You won't. You tend to get what you want, don't you?"

And Spike pulled back and stared, and stared, and this was the first time he'd shown *any* sign of not basically taking Xander at his word. Xander looked straight back at him. "I trust you."

//Whatever you do will feel so fucking *good*...//

"You shouldn't."

//I don't.// And Xander started to rub and squeeze. "You said I could have anything I wanted."

Spike pulled in a breath, and Xander's too. "Within reason."

"I'm being reasonable."

Spike pushed his face against Xander's, nuzzled so *softly*...

"C'mon, Spike... how much fun are those brass balls letting you have?"

And Xander squeezed for emphasis, and then he was being bent back while he was still on his knees and he wondered how much of that stretching last night had *really* been for keeping his muscles from quick atrophy but it didn't matter at all. Spike flipped his legs out from under him and tore the boxers off. Lifted Xander a little off the bed, and he had a frightening moment to wonder if he was wearing the ones that were sewn *well*.

But they were gone in another heartbeat and Spike was *buried* between his thighs. A bite there, licking there... Jesus there. Five seconds and Xander was already in brand new territory. Legs spread and one bent up and was he holding it himself?

He must have been... Spike's tongue was just as infernal as it seemed, and suddenly Xander knew his mouth was far, far too tough. He hadn't felt this at all... Every bud and the sheer muscular strength... He heard himself but the words made no sense.

Spike fucked and fucked and squeezed the backs of Xander's thighs hard enough to leave marks. His skin was smooth, but insistent against Xander's flesh. No give whatsoever, Spike was just *there* and Xander couldn't have done a thing about it even if he'd wanted to.

He'd known the man was holding back, but the level of the illusion was rammed home with each thrust, each killing lick. He heard his yells get higher in pitch and knew his throat was simply going to hurt like a bitch again just as soon as his brain could tease the feeling away from that of his over-sensitized and convulsing ass, his drooling cock, and that spot on his abdomen where his own pre-come dripped and burned him.

He was screwing himself back on it shamelessly, and let himself drift. The only constant was what Spike was doing to him, the rest was only flashes:

Blood on the white pillow.

Lance of pain in the cuffed arm that had been struggling to get down to Spike's head and *stay* there.

The walls had tapestries.

He was going to come, just like this.

His nipples were thorned, desperate things.

So good so good so good and suddenly Spike was looming up above him, face long past inhuman. //So soon?// And then came the snake-strike down to his groin and that was one of the more terrifying things any man could ever see but there was no pain at all -- just suction.

And the lack of heat was more than made up for by the friction, the power of Spike's ruthless tongue. He thrust up into that mouth, oddly surprised and feeling powerful about the way his cock stretched Spike's lips.

*Then* there was the slightest, just the slightest scrape and he might not have felt it at all were it not for Spike's deep, shuddering groan.

"... pleasepleaseplease..."

And that was his voice and that meant the wetness on his cheeks was his own tears and so fucking *good* and surely he could thank God for this, surely this had to be some heretofore unrecorded brand of divine forgiveness demons were part of God's plan, too --

"Spike, *please* --"

But he didn't know what else he was begging for until Spike slipped one ungentle finger inside him and *crooked*.

White noise, voiceless once again, sleeved and hooked and captured and every muscle twanged with grateful edge-of- torn strain. And he stayed there until Spike let him go.

And then he thumped back down to the bed and tried to stop buzzing.

Spike started moving up his body. Xander thought it was probably not sweet to have begged for sex and *got* his only to pass out. Spike's fault. Clearly Spike's fault.

And then Spike was pressing his forehead to Xander's own again, and he was still ridged and unabashedly monstrous.


He nodded, pushed up a bit.

"Will you do something for me?"

Xander used the last shreds of his will to flip his legs up and over Spike's and nuzzled in a way he hoped translated to something along the lines of "please feel free to fuck me blind and deaf as well as mute and insensible."

It was the least he could do.

Spike laughed in his ear then. He had to admit, he liked the non-demonized laugh better. Spike could laugh. The thing... shouldn't. Maybe he'd get over that in the next month...

"That's not what I want... yet."

Xander tried to pour curiosity into the way his eyebrow moved against Spike's hard cheek. It occurred to him that he'd never been particularly interested in non-verbal communication before. He still wasn't.

"I want to hear you speak. I like hearing you speak."

Maybe he was *already* dead. In purgatory. Horny partner, not enough sex. The very first person who *encouraged* him to continue to not shut up, but his throat was hamburger... Xander tried to whimper apologetically, but it was just air.

"I know, I know... I can fix it. If you let me."

And Spike pulled up and looked down and he was trying to forcibly shift out of game but Xander could feel him so *hard* against his belly... it couldn't be easy.

"Just... drink. Only a little, I promise I'll stop you."

Xander swallowed, winced. Parted his lips and closed his eyes. And then Spike's cool, dry throat was against him and so was Spike's knife and then it was the same sweetness as before. It was all the things Xander had said plus strangely *light*.

Nothing had ever felt so good on his tongue, down his throat and he just wanted *more* but Spike was pulling away and Xander followed but then he was being pushed back *down*.

"Spike --"

"Any more and I should just go ahead and kill you now."

"Your *point*?" At which time he realized he was actually speaking. Loudly.

Spike was angry. "A *month*. I have a *month*."

//Oh, fucked *this* up quick, didn't you?//

"I know. I'm sorry --"

"Don't you try to cheat me, Alex. I will bring you *back*."

"See, this is where the whole Phantom thing is coming back. Fuck, I was in the process of *killing myself* when you so graciously stopped stalking me to kidnap me. What do you expect? And you make it so fucking *good*..."

Silence. Followed by the removal of his Spike-blanket. Was he *that* light or did he just constantly keep himself from crushing Xander? He settled with his back to Xander at the foot of the bed.

"And how about that freedom thing, hunh? It's not like I can just throw myself on your fangs."

"You'd try."

There was a smile in there. Too much... "I don't even know what they feel like yet. Not really."

Spike stiffened.

"You can't fault me for tempting you. I want this, all of it. And if you want me you have to want my want for want. Or something. Hey, you're really screwing with my Circadian rhythms, you know it?"

And Spike turned. Smiled at him from under his lashes and over his shoulder. "But if I kill you now, I won't ever let you go."

"You're kind of a commitment freak, aren't you?"

"It happens."

"OK, OK. Uncuff me, lemme go to the bathroom, and I promise not to beg you to kill me more than once a day."

Spike snorted. "Scout's honor?"

"So long as you don't make me wear the shorts."

"Would you like me to install central heating so you can be naked all the time? Or do you want actual clothes?"

"Please don't dress me in leather. Much leather. Unless it makes you more likely to, say, fuck me blind."

"Or let you drink my blood?"

"You *asked*!"

Spike scrubbed his hand over his face, finally mussed his hair.

"I like it that way, you know."

"But I have so much *wax*..."

"You mentioned having windows to seal..."

"Xander, are you trying to change me?"

"How should I answer that?"

"Honestly. Or prettily."

"I don't know."

"I'm going to guess you were going for honest, there."

"Hey, I'm using all the pretty for my luscious young body."

And then Spike was up over him, unlocking the cuff, and holding the numbed limb between his arm and his body. So close, still wearing too many clothes.

"Spike, do you have an extra nipple or something? You can tell me."


"There's something seriously wrong about a guy who can molest me for hours and still be fully dressed and unmussed. Though I'll give you the hair thing -- they use that stuff to make o-rings, don't they?"

"I'd like to point out that my boots have been off the entire time."

"I want to feel your body against mine."

Slow grin. "I thought you had to go to the bathroom."

"I *do*. I'm just making plans. The night is young..."

"Not too young. I'm going to have to go out and...." He grinned cheerfully at Xander. "Restock."

"I thought you said you'd stop before I took too much?"

"For you. And after I felt you *feeding* on me..." Spike caught Xander's eye. "You felt too good.."

"Um... Mr. The Bloody? Is this an *exact* science?"

"Xander! Is the trust gone already?"

Xander snickered and started unbuttoning Spike's shirt -- it was definitely black -- and found himself intrigued by the way the flesh seemed to jump to touch his hand. No, that was a lie. Turned *on* by the way etc. Spike just watched him until he tried to push it down over his shoulders.

"The extra nipple is on your back, isn't it?"

"No, but the Elvis-shaped mole -- complete with sideburns -- is. Seriously, if I get naked right now --"

"You'll make me happy?" Xander did his best to make his eyes sparkle with childlike hope.

"Are you trying to appeal to my inner pervert or my inner romantic?"

Xander ran his palm over the other man's smooth chest until he hit one of the regulation nipples. "Either would work."

Spike grabbed his arm, ran his own hand up over the forearm, pressed his thumb to the inside of Xander's elbow. "So much we could do..."

It seemed like a good idea to offer encouragement at that point, but Xander didn't want to risk letting himself speak. So he just leaned in and took the nipple he wasn't palming between his lips and suckled. A little jerk, not much other reaction. Xander bit down hard and then Spike was cradling the back of his head, pulling him in so close it was getting hard to breathe again.

But he liked the way his own strangled breath bounced off the pale skin.

"Uhh... suck it, Xander --"

And there was definitely a little switch that said 'time to sproing' whenever Spike's voice got so *low* and helpless --

"One day... one day you're going to have to tell me *all* about who taught you to do this --" Spike pushed him just a little harder. "Though not... just now."

Xander snorted laughter and his teeth were jolted out of their normal bite pattern. A tearing slide and the first impulse was to apologize profusely never never bite so hard god what will Cordy do to his balls *this* time but that sweetness hit him with a tiny blinding flash and *wham* he was on his back again and the little tear was gone in less than a blink and he could feel his gums ache.

Not hurt, *ache*. He wanted Spike to rub him there, nowhere else for a while. Soothe it. He wouldn't bite he wouldn't bite --

"Remind me not to make you laugh during sex ever again."

Xander barked laughter, propped himself up on his elbows. "That may be difficult. Who knows what'll happen the night I actually get to see your cock, three years from now?"

Spike smirked, shook his head, started unbuttoning his fly. "I can't believe I'm letting you *dare* me into taking off more clothes."

"It's my boyish cha -- hey, you're all sticky!"

"I will admit to not being entirely altruistic when I asked you to drink."

Xander didn't pay much attention to that as he wriggled over to investigate more closely. Long, thinnish... more pink than reddish-purple, for obvious reasons. When you thought about it. The odd thing was that it seemed more... natural... that way. The color wasn't as much of a contrast, something. Xander ran his finger down its length.

Spike held himself still, though his cock still twitched at him pleasantly. It was nice to see that there were some things Spike couldn't even come *close* to controlling. His come was thick, not even close to warm. Xander brought a finger to his face, sniffed. Not much scent at all. Ghostly, faded.

Then taste was much the same. Something almost entirely not like dairy, slick and cool... less substantial than the blood. More salt than his skin, though. Seemed more like something to wallow in than to drink...


He opened his eyes to find Spike closer, still on his knees, jeans still framing his cock. He reached down and cupped the other man's balls. Velvet toys... they felt good on his hand and he let them fondle him with each slide and caress. Held onto Spike's gaze and continued to suck every last trace of Spike's come off his finger.

"Oh, I like you..."

Xander slipped one arm over Spike's shoulder, briefly shocked out of himself by the confluence of all the angles and bone, but then Spike was kissing him. Slowly and thoroughly, as if to catch every trace Xander hadn't already swallowed. Xander continued to play with his balls, but shifted closer jerking at the brief kiss of their cocks, moaning at the determined brush of Spike's chest against his own.

Spike ran his tongue over Xander's teeth and there was that sudden extra erogenous zone -- was this what it meant to be orally fixated? Xander pulled back, gestured Spike to lay down flat. Spike proceeded to smolder at him. Xander's life was seeming better by the instant. Maybe he would continue to go naked...

Thoughts for later. He leaned in to lap at Spike's nipples, suck a little. Avoided using his teeth by sheer force of will. Spike made it easier by pushing down on his shoulders -- it really was true that doing good was its own reward. Xander tried a stab at his navel, did it again because there was salt there, and one more time because it was like fucking the human part of him, more than anything else.

And Spike's fingers felt so good on his fevered skin, moving and stroking and caressing and pushing. Xander was getting a taste for this manipulation. He wanted Spike to force him into things, to pull and squeeze and maybe hurt him into cooperation. It was his fault, and it wasn't and sharing the guilt was good because it made you harder. Culpable. Everything got easier when there was no possible redemption.

Angel hadn't figured that out yet, perhaps. But Xander had.

When he got down to Spike's cock he washed it thoroughly with his tongue, bathed and stroked it, tried to make his tongue as firm as Spike's own and then just settled for the flickering tease he knew he liked. It was enough, and Spike groaned well, started to growl again. Xander felt the sweat form in the hollow of his spine, wasn't ready when it slid hotly down between his cheeks and wound up moaning open-throated against the underside of the other man's cock.

And then Spike was bending up and cupping the back of Xander's head, pulling, begging with the straining muscles of his own abdomen. Xander kissed the glistening tip, then gripped it by the base, closed his teeth, and ran the head under his lip and over his gums. He had no idea what it felt like to Spike but it was so peculiarly what he needed that he found himself humping the mattress.

And then he sucked the head in, suckled and squeezed and found a rhythm of drilling that only made his tongue a little sore.

And then he let it fall out of his mouth and crawled up Spike's body. Kissed him once, licked his mouth, and then said, "OK, now you can go get us food."

Long, long silence.

"I suppose you think I deserved that."

"Yes. Yes I do."

"You're really extremely lucky that I like this sort of thing."

Xander kissed him again, then rolled off and put his hands behind his head. "Am I?"

And then Spike was up and stripping his cock, squeezing and scratching and stroking him until he'd braced his feet and lifted his hips clear off the bed. The really good thing about having a healthy throat was that it made yelling a great deal easier.

And then he gave Xander's cock one light slap, and then he stopped altogether, and then he pushed Xander's hips back down hard enough for him to bounce.


"You have a filthy mouth, Xander." Spike gestured at his crotch. "Keep that for me, would you?"

And then he was out the door.

"I got you first!"

No answer.

"I know you heard me, you bastard!"

Xander put his hands over his face and giggled. "And I want chicken, too!"


Xander took a walk around, discovered he was in some sort of deserted hotel. There was dust everywhere but the room he was in, and the bathroom that turned out to be just through the one door. Which was a really strange and potentially foul design, after some amount of thought.

Probably why the place was deserted.

But the ceilings were higher than any of the hotels Xander had been in -- which made things infinitely less disturbing -- and the carpets had a pattern that was neither soothing nor obviously repetitive. The paper on the walls, where not peeling, was of the vaguely fuzzy sort that made Xander think "old."

But nice.

The color scheme was cream (yellowed), magenta (dried blood), and a sort of deep dark something that was either grey, blue, or green. There weren't very many lights burning, but then, this was *Spike's* home.

Xander had to admit it was a lot more comforting than that factory... too much unpleasant stuff happened there. Which, apparently, had helped to send him here. He petted the wall for a moment, listened for things with too many legs.

He didn't hear any. Presumably, the rats had taken care of the problem. He looked up and squinted into the corners of the ceiling. The spiders probably helped, too.

//Spike, would you do something for me?

//Sure, luv and/or ducks, what would you like?

//Would you dress up in a little French maid's uniform and *clean*?!//

He shook off the thought. It probably wouldn't work very well. He headed downstairs -- though there was water and electricity, he had no intention of risking the elevators, they had *grates* -- and found the lobby to be strangely cheerful.

Yes it was deserted, yes all the furniture was sheeted save for the massive front desk -- gleaming dully even through the dust -- but... there was an odd sort of *grandness* to it. Grandeur. He didn't think the word grandeur would sound very right coming from his mouth, but there it was.

He peeked under one sheet and found that the massive, overstuffed chairs were burgundy. Maybe that had been the original color upstairs. He tried to imagine what the room would look like without all the sheets, and decided it would be a bit darker. The sheets, the white marble floor, the cream ceiling, the moonlight coming through the big glass doors...

It wasn't warm, but it was still... bright. He thought about throwing himself in one of the chairs. Spike would probably appreciate the one leg bent up, one leg thrown casually over the arm look, but the cloud of dust when he patted one chair made the idea less than appealing.

Next time. Different chair.

He moved to the doors and peeked out at the night. The moon was high, but Xander had no real idea what that translated to in terms of time. Spike had apparently decided his watch had to go to the beach, too.

He opened the doors and was hit with a wave of salt. This *was* the beach.

The same beach where he "died?" Probably not. There wouldn't be many people here... Where was here?

He paused only a moment before walking outside, trusting in the basic fact of Spike's survival over all these years that there wouldn't be anyone to comment on his natural state.

A little sand had blown up on the otherwise cool, smooth steps. It was briefly strange to feel actual ground beneath his feet, though he hadn't exactly been much of a barefoot person before. Only a few days, but Xander didn't think it would be very long before he was thinking of it as Before.

Spike wasn't... right, but neither was he. Spike tended to get scary when he was angry, though, and that wasn't as easy to brush aside. There *would* come a time when Xander wasn't ready to get turned on by the snarl, by the way the game face brushed away *all* trace of fathomable emotion. And then what?

Would Spike kill him? If he was pissed, then he might take his time. That probably wouldn't be pleasant.

Maybe just rape him. Not the best way to continue their... friendship. Xander's body was less willing to dance around the thought than his mind was, and he wound up shuddering and covered in goosebumps. He didn't *want* Spike to *really* hurt him...


//Yes, thank you, "Kurl." I needed that helpful hint. Why don't you go back to showing off your roadburn now?//

Those skater boys may have had good hair and good taste in music, but Xander had eventually decided they were just as meatily self-destructive as any frat boy.

//At least I didn't try to take anyone with me.//

So, maybe he should just stop pushing. Xander didn't know *anyone* who would actually *like* the was he acted, the way he mouthed off... Oh, maybe at first they'd giggle and call him witty and cute. Playfully slap him, then kiss him on the cheek.

But he knew it got to be too much after a while. And Spike was out there killing someone right now. Enjoying the hell out of himself, probably. How was Xander supposed to cope with that?

He didn't feel clean enough to go sharpen up a stake, dip it in Holy Water, and lie in wait.

No, clean had nothing to do with it. He didn't *want* to watch Spike blow into dust. Maybe he could just be callous.

//Would it be very hard?

//Just think: It's not your life.//

And oh, it was so fucking *tempting*. It wasn't just Spike -- if he'd been caught by, say, Mrs. Bernstein, he would've been thrown to the police and then to some fucking *mental* hospital. It was all the same. If you couldn't take care of yourself, someone else would do it for you.

And if it was strange that a centuries-old killer would act like the U.S. government -- well, actually, no. Put that way, it wasn't strange at all.

So he couldn't take care of himself. Well, it wasn't like he could deny that. He hadn't been doing the best job of it... And right here there was someone all too willing to do it for him.

//Codependent much?//

Would Dru have lasted a year, a month without him? Xander was no Dru... maybe this was a step in the right direction for Spike.

//I'm *good* for someone.

//Try to duck when the lightning hits. Maybe you'll just fuse to the ground as opposed to burning.//

There was too much here, and he wasn't coming close to any conclusions. Well, maybe a few. He liked being wanted. He liked the way Spike demonstrated want. He could maybe not piss him off if he tried really hard --

He did his best to crush the laughter accompanying that thought.

Thought-killing. Maybe he could just... glaze over what Spike was doing right now. Maybe if Spike killed him, too, it would all even out. His soul could fly away and grovel to the victims for eternity and whatever came to replace it would get to have fun, too.

He snorted at himself, noticed that he was still standing on the gritty top step, and took advantage of the situation by leaning back and banging his head against the door several times.

The night wasn't even remotely close to cold, but his nipples were hard anyway. Well, everything was hard, really. This was one of the reasons nudity had been such an attractive prospect. He could get used to this... though when the temperature dropped below sixty...

Spike was going to have to buy him some pants, apparently. And a swimsuit. Something that sealed up tightly.

The world may mock spandex panties, but they made sitting on the beach an infinitely more pleasant experience.

And an alarm clock, too. Something so he'd definitely wake up enough before sundown to come out here and... feel the sun. Just for a little while... he'd wait a few days to ask for that. Spike probably wouldn't be especially appreciative of anything that encouraged Xander to roam when and where he couldn't.

He wondered if Spike would come to the door or just climb up to their room. His room. Where did Spike sleep? He could sleep with Xander, it wasn't as if there were any *windows*.

That reminded him of the purpose of his excursion -- find out the name of the failed hotel was. He jogged down the rest of the steps, out from under the torn, flapping, cloth awning.

Sunk into the sand just a little and found the ghost of the sun's warmth. Maybe this was the west entrance. He patted himself on the back for the piece of entirely plausible deductive reasoning -- maybe he'd get the chance to toss it out in a conversation and impress somebody.

The name was...

... hopelessly faded.

He snarled at the flaked gilt lettering. Consoled himself that the name would've probably been a massive letdown. Like "Bob's," or something. He could ask Spike, but then he might get suspicious and think he was trying to get his bearings for an escape attempt.

But then Spike *had* said freedom of the grounds...

Maybe Spike was lurking just out of sight, waiting for him to fuck up.

"OK, paranoia will *not* help."

"Kinks fan, are you?"

Xander spun on Spike. "GAH! Don't *do* that!"

Spike very quickly crushed a grin. "Sorry 'bout that." Held up a bag of fried chicken that smelled extremely good. "Peace offering?"

Xander grabbed the bag. "Mmm, yeah. But don't *do* that."

"But you were so lost in thought..."

"A bad thing?" Mumbled around a drumstick. He was going to have to explain about needing more than one meal a day at some point.

"Depends on what you were thinking about." He didn't seem especially serious.

Xander sucked the bone clean, exceedingly aware of Spike's eyes. Thought for a moment, then dug out a hole with his foot and tossed it in. "I was thinking about you watching me."

"Hmm. I take it back, it depends on the *context* of the thought."

"Honest or pretty?"

"Whatever you like."

"I was... worried about the trust issue."

"You know, I'm sort of looking forward to the day when I won't be able to tell."

Xander stuck his tongue out, then popped half a biscuit on it before Spike could get more ideas.

"You want to know how long I was watching you?"

Xander nodded.

"About a month before the suicide attempt -- I didn't think you would do it so fast..."


Spike tossed him a beer from somewhere in his jacket.

"I think I feel dirty..."

"You don't look very dirty."

He *could* suggest something about Spike licking him, just to be sure, but... "Spike, why do you let me change the subject so easily?"

"Would you rather I interrogated you?"

"You're right, not without you being naked, too."

"I'm content with the occasional leading statement if you are."

"Maybe... maybe sometimes you could just give me a *look* when I make an obvious departure... Yeah, like that look."

"You want the leash tightened?"

"No... I... Well, it was like I was saying. I was thinking about you watching me, wondering if you were watching me right *then*, and yeah, it's the trust issue. I think I maybe want to know where the leash *is*. And, just to warn you, I'm going to continue to eat, because I'm more hungry than interested in keeping the right mood for this discussion."

"Watching you eat is becoming one of the greater joys in life."

"Does this mean I get to have more than one meal a day?"

Spike shifted, gestured at the plastic bag sitting behind him.

"What's in there?"

"Pears, nectarines, and celery."

"You went to a *fruit stand*?!"

"I have two words for you -- British Teeth."

Xander peered morosely into the suddenly-very-light chicken bag. He'd have to save some of this just to counteract the sheer vitamin content. He sighed. "You let me change the subject."

Spike leaned in and bit his ear gently. "Force of habit."


"Right. The leash... um. Don't leave. Don't kill yourself. Try not to have a sudden flash of must-kill-the-vampire. Have fun. Don't leave. Feel the leather around your neck yet?"

Xander shook himself, stretched a little. "Maybe you should demonstrate."

And then Spike was behind him and the sleeve of his jacket was cool around his neck and vaguely ticklish in the way soft leather could sometimes be. He didn't examine where the thought might have come from, but only because he was being arched back a little, until his head rested on Spike's shoulder.

The chicken remained firmly in his grasp.

"OK, I can feel it..."

Spike tightened the sleeve. "Are you sure?"

Xander let his eyes close and moved his chicken-free hand to his cock. Slid it smoothly down his hardening length. Yet another benefit of greasy food made itself clear. Xander waited until he felt Spike's hand join his own, tangle and change the pace of his strokes. "Yeah, I'm sure." His voice was just breathy enough.

Broad swipe of Spike's tongue over his face. "I'm glad. Wanna fuck?" Another stroke, loosened leather.

"Only if you eat an entire stalk of that goddamned celery. Or go out and buy me some mayo."

"Mmmm... all thick and creamy..."

It should've been too predictable to send another surge to his cock. It wasn't. Maybe it was the voice. Or the curiosity... Xander shifted a bit and Spike was moving in closer, pushing Xander upright with his own body.

Molding himself to Xander's back and pushing his trapped erection between Xander's cheeks and *rubbing*. Rough denim and Xander knew *just* what that cock would look like. The jacket was gone with a sweep that left him shivering, and then Spike brought his hand around and pressed it against his abdomen.

Xander's cock brushed black leather with every stroke. "Spike, no I don't wanna come yet --"

Another push and slide, dragging over his entrance. "You're very young..."

But he moved away after another moment and *now* Xander was cold. Inside. Inside was where to go. Xander pulled the door open and walked in, holding it for Spike to follow. No reflection... he couldn't tell if Spike had morphed yet. Would he morph every time?

Should it be a measure of how much Xander turned him on?

Spike spun him around for a bruising kiss before they reached the stairwell. Still human, but only in appearance. The differences got clearer every time. Same rough tongue, same ungiving skin, same hammerlock on his body. He was being bent again, he responded by sliding his leg up the outside of Spike's thigh and twisting his hips in and in and in...

Tried to match the rhythm of the kiss, then simply screwed himself as raw he could. He was a swimmer for fuck's sake, he knew how to breathe through his nose. He blamed residual tranqs for making him forget that before.

And then Spike's hands were cupping and squeezing his ass and he sincerely hoped it felt as good to Spike as it did to him. And then he was being lifted, which he was willing to go with, and so he brought his other leg up and squeezed Spike in approval. Shifted to chafe his thighs more.

Spike walked him back to a pillar. Earlier, Xander had wondered fleetingly why they weren't round, but once he had his back against the flat, cool marble he had reason to appreciate the questionable style of the building's architects. Spike continued to kiss him. He didn't taste like blood, which wasn't as good a thing as Xander would've liked it to be.

There would almost have to be a day when Spike would forget to be careful about protecting Xander from the hard facts, and he wanted the shock of it to be over with. At the very least, he wanted to have started to get used to it and oh God Spike was moving down to his throat again and he started breathing and it was such a *good* sound to hear during sex.

A little nip, again not enough to break the skin. Xander struggled to remain still but didn't bother trying to keep silent. The other man pushed his whole face in, rubbed and caressed even while he sucked and licked.

"Xander you smell... you smell so *strong* --"

Spike stopped speaking and kissed his throat as if he expected it to be able to kiss back. And that thought made Xander wonder what it would feel like to have his tongue, his teeth buried in there...

But he'd already filled his spoken deathwish quota for the day. He should have gone for twice, three times a day. At least. He forced himself to behave by pulling his head back further, pushing his hips against Spike's and writhing.

Something was right with the world when having sex against a pillar counted as behaving.

Spike brought his head back up and pushed his tongue into Xander's mouth. Xander squeezed down on it with his lips and the way it just slid in anyway made him buck. So slick... it felt almost as good sliding back out again.

"I don't... I don't have anything."

//This is a problem.

//No it isn't.//

"Chicken grease."

"That is really very disgusting, Xander."

Spike probably wouldn't believe him if he mentioned that he'd had no idea what was going to come out of his mouth, so he didn't. "Unlike lube, this stuff tastes good. Besides, I want you inside me..."

Spike looked him in the eye. "You've never done this before."

Xander decided lying at this point wasn't the best plan. "I..." He flushed. "Just my fingers."

Spike hissed and his face rippled briefly. "I want to see that."

"Ah, so you weren't watching me *every* night."

"I don't like watching people sleep very much. It's dull. I tend to get bored and wake them up in assorted painful ways."

"You should've taken the whole drink-too-much-before- bed-wake-up-piss-then-can't-get-back-to-sleep thing into account."

Spike bit his lip, chewed and sucked. "I'll do my best to remedy the situation. But I don't want to shove chicken grease up your ass."

"What do you want to shove in there?"

Spike growled. "Natural born tease, aren't you?"

"No! I mean, sure... I was just talking about the lube thing. But I'll be a tease." Xander felt a wave slam through him and he moved and the column held on to him a little where he'd sweated. Spike shifted him and ran his fingers down the crease, pressing and circling closer and closer and Xander pushed down on it a little and felt himself *breached*.

Just a fingertip, too dry but when he moved he felt the muscle shift and Christ but his cock wanted more--

"How do you feel about hair gel?"

'"Wha...? Wait, that's not disgusting?"

Spike chuckled, continued to rock his finger. Xander's leg kicked out straight and he watched his toes curl. Spike leaned in and nuzzled him some more, and Xander could feel the change under the skin. It was a sensation that he'd probably never grow accustomed to. "Hair gel has been an important part of life for many years, Xander."

Xander was nowhere near answering, so he tried to push himself down a little further. He'd always taken it slow, been gentle with himself. It had taken a week of careful probes to find his --

And Spike was out again, pressing Xander against the column with his body and then slapping a small tin of something in Xander's hand.

"Open that."

He was pleased and surprised to discover that he did, in fact, still have arms and semi-functional hands, too. He opened it up and sniffed. Nothing. He'd been almost positive it would smell like iron or leather or something. Maybe that would turn out to be his cologne.

Spike scooped out several fingers full, seemed tempted to use it to tame his still-mussed hair. The hand remained paused in the air for several beats, and then Spike smirked at himself and brought the hand down where it belonged. Slicked his perineum and beyond liberally and Xander rocked himself but his thighs were starting to get a little sore.

"Think we can do this on the counter-thingy?"

And then the room rushed by and he was flat on his back, pleased to discover that the combination of dust and high- quality wood felt *just* right.

Though not as right as the wonderfully persistent fingers in his ass. Slick and not-too-much and then if it was too much it was also too much right *there* and he had to have this so badly...

"Spike don't you dare stop..."

The only answer he received was Spike getting faster and rougher. No one ever seemed to internalize that "don't stop" rarely meant "harder and faster," but everytime those knuckles brushed him deep inside he thanked every deity he could think of for the boon of lust-glazed stupidity.

//He's gonna fuck me.//

Simple statement of fact but he'd barely begun letting himself even fantasize about that. And there'd never been a face on the mystery man, so impersonal but ludicrously gentle with the virgin --

He heard himself mewl as the fingers were removed, felt his body struggle for friction, something to work against for its own pleasure, but Spike's cock was so *blunt*... It felt thick as a fist, it was going to kill him there was no way he could take that --

"Easy, easy..."

And he *wanted* to be soothed, all of a sudden. To be convinced into shutting up and taking it. Not just forced, but *talked* into it.

"Talk, Spike..."

"Wha?" He sounded dazed and low, if Xander opened his eyes it would be the demon and his cock was so *hot* and the pre-come would scald him. Burn Spike's tongue, he was too hot, too human for this --

"I... please. Talk."

It was the best he could come up with, and there was silence for a moment, though no stillness. Xander could feel Spike's cock dragging and drooling up and down his crease... something there was so *right*.

"You're so tight --"

Spike's voice was stripped raw. The words were grated out over sand and gravel. It would hurt to fall on that voice, sting and scrape and cut.

"I need to be inside you now, Xander. I can feel your heat all over my body and I want more. Let me in."

//Oh... oh yeah that's...//

Apparently enough, as he could feel his feet crawling up Spike's bare chest to settle over his shoulders. It was nice to see that it wasn't just his mouth that could get far, far ahead of him. And then Spike bit his ankle and sucked and oh fuck those were his real teeth and Xander's hips struggled to leave the counter, get closer to anything Spike felt like doing, anything at all.

Xander felt like his ankle had been forcibly restrained, not a padded cuff, but a *good* one. He dropped his other ankle from Spike's shoulder, let it dangle over the edge and then Spike had a finger inside him again. Not testing, not stretching, just making itself at home. A tease for both of them and the back of Xander's neck needed to be touched, and so did his chest and his mouth oh God --

"Spike --"

Another growl, deeper bite, pain shooting through his leg to make his squeeze around Spike's finger and his mouth was aching so hard and then the blunt was back. Push and push and push and *in*. He could see it in his mind, pink and slick as fine muscle, not so thick and then another push and he was being tugged up onto Spike's lap, upright and he immediately dove in for a kiss, nipping and sucking and pleading between contacts for *more*.

And Spike gave him exactly what he asked for, pulled Xander down quick and hard until he was skewered to the hilt and Xander yelled. Too deep for a scream, too harsh for a moan. Spike's cock *was* huge and it was *in* him and his body sent slow throbs of intense feeling through him, whipcracks in slow motion. He could feel Spike watching him, felt himself held and cradled.

They stayed that way for several moments, until Spike reached between them until he could tug and twist Xander's nipples and the question of sensitivity was answered when he jerked and *squeezed* and throbbed and Spike thrust up once, twice. Xander threw his head forward, bumping slightly too hard against Spike's forehead, but even *that* daze felt good.

He was tempted to do it again, but Spike had hold of his hips and his mouth had Xander's mouth and his cock was tattooing its proof of ownership with each slow, hard ramming.

The hair on Spike's thighs was sparse but maddening. Xander started scraping himself on them, twisting and rising just a bit before pinioning himself again. He wondered what he looked like. What he felt like.

Spike was fucking his mouth again, and when his tongue speeded up Xander let himself go limp and Spike's hands were under him again, his movements were restless, somewhere between greed and need.

Xander felt like the world's happiest ragdoll.

Anatomically *correct* ragdoll. Spike's hand was steadily reminding him how wonderful it was to have a cock, and Spike's cock was telling about the joy of two. Forceful, slick but by no means frictionless, each thrust rocked him to the core. Xander wondered if screaming himself hoarse was a good way to get more blood, stopped wondering anything save about whether he could die from this, and if Spike would be pissed.

And then he was pushed on his back again and his leg was up and spread and he was so *open* but Spike filled him again and again. Demon-faced and snarling beneath his breath, or maybe it was just that Xander's heart was pounding too hard.

What was this like for him? Was he as desperate as Xander? Spike jerked his ankle higher, shifting the angle of the thrusts and making Xander go blind. And then sinking his teeth into the low end of Xander's calf muscle and *this* time he felt every nanosecond of their entrance and it wasn't slick but it was razor-sharp and cut through him fast and easy.

*This* was the only leash he needed, tethered by Spike's teeth and cock he was solid and real and he could pretend that Spike was just as trapped, muzzled in honey, glued by blood and come and sweat and happy to struggle, so long as it was useless.

All the blood in his body that wasn't in his purple and brick-hard cock was rushing for Spike, running against all gravity and sense to leave Xander's burning, aching body for the cool haven of Spike.

//Not alive --//

And that just made him buck up harder. He was powerful in this, bringing passion to those whose hearts were black and shriveled, sending rare and treasured blood to pool in frivolous places.

//I may just be God.//

And he laughed and made himself groan and laughed more and then Spike dropped his leg and leaned up over his body to bite his cheek and tear hungrily at his mouth and his belly was cold on Xander's cock and felt so painfully soothing...

He pressed up and came within a few seconds of contacts, bleeding heat until he shuddered, holding Spike deep and praying for more of everything, or perhaps just oblivion.

He felt the animal rumble of Spike's growl all the way down into his stomach, that strange flat quality of menace that few humans could achieve with any measure of accuracy and suddenly he imagined himself being simultaneously fucked and killed by some massively muscular cat, and he felt a second orgasm roll mercilessly through his sensitized body --

And then Spike squeezed his shoulders so hard Xander yelled and then he shot and Christ he could *feel* it, nearly iced, burning and soaking into his tender flesh and that was it, that was all he could take and the rest was dark and close and right.


Xander woke up *way* too quickly. It wasn't that he had any idea what time it was, it was just one of those weird mornings where his body decided to *fling* itself out of bed the nanosecond consciousness was on the horizon.


He looked down at the bed and was pleasantly surprised to see Spike there. Apparently he'd carried Xander up, tucked him in, and then crawled in himself. He felt all warm and fuzzy until he realized Spike wasn't breathing, was still as a tree trunk on a windless day.

He was dead.

Then Xander smacked himself hard in the face. Of *course* he was dead.

It must've been afternoon sometime, then. Xander was hungry.

He looked around some more, and found the bag of fruits and vegetables seated pointedly on the night table by his side of the bed. It seemed to lean down a little. Probably what jerked him out of bed -- he'd been *that* close to being attacked by the greenest, crispest celery he'd ever been unlucky enough to see.

The chicken was nowhere to be found.

"Why, why, *why*?!"

He peeked over at Spike. Now he looked like a dead guy someone had rolled over. A cute dead guy, but a corpsicle just the same. Maybe it was *early* in the afternoon...

He could go wandering the beach, maybe go for a swim...

Xander looked down at himself and decided a swim was probably mandatory. Spike hadn't come anywhere *near* him with water last night, it seemed. The sheets would probably be painful to look at. Maybe there were others stored somewhere that weren't so dusty they'd actually have to *clean* them.

Maybe Spike would get a two-person coffin and they could snuggle.

//No *air* in a coffin, dumbass.

//Air holes.



He sighed to himself, scratched at his chest. He was a bit... scaly. Swim *now*, and damn the Speedos, or something. He wandered into the bathroom, took care of business, thought about Spike, gargled with the vaguely mineraled tapwater, made a mental note to make Spike buy toothpaste.

Checked himself out in the rusting mirror. He did indeed look like a victim. The grin belied that a bit, though. Damnation was a good ache where it counted and bruises gained through rampant sexuality.

Xander hummed a few bars of a song he didn't really remember and made for the stairs. But the first thing he heard as he pushed open the door was:

"... only deserted place for another ten miles, Buffy." Willow.

"Only *place* for another ten miles. What if he's gone to ground somewhere in those woods we passed? He'll know we're hunting for him before we even get Lyme disease." Buffy.

"Is he really a woodsy kind of guy?" Oz.

"*I* think Spike would probably become a vegetarian *eons* before he grew a beard, took up wood-chopping as a hobby, and --"

"Traded all his leather for flannel. All *right*, Willow, we get the point. He's here. And we'll get him this time."

//Ohhhhhh *fuck*.//

Did he have time to hide Spike somewhere until he could wake up and... and.

//Fuck, fuck, *fuck*.//

Xander crept down the stairs as quickly and silently as he could, grateful that Spike had chosen the fourth floor.

"Guys, I think I hear something from the stairwell..."

//And *fuck* Oz for being a *mother*fucking werewolf.//

Xander groaned before he could stop himself. Heard, practically *felt* them all freeze. And then he got an idea.

"God, is he keeping victims here?"

//Yes, Willow, now kindly leave this victim alone.//

And then Xander squeezed his eyes shut and flung himself down a flight of stairs. And then his body decided falling down a second flight would be even better.

And then the sound of running feet, and then Willow screamed and then Oz twisted his face up very, very gently and Xander saw them all amidst the small black flowers of what was probably a not-good head injury.

"Jesus, *look* at him --"

"Xander, did Spike do this to you? Where is he?"

//Ah Buffy... maybe you could shake me a little, too...//

"He... he's gone... left me... didn't bother to lock the door. I just got out... heard you --"

"Do you know where the bastard went?"

Xander tugged weakly at Buffy's sweater. There wasn't a whole lot of acting involved. "God please get me *out* of here it's been days and please I hurt --"

Her face screwed up and Xander wondered what it must be like to have proof that it really was all your responsibility. He didn't stop tugging.

"Maybe the two of us could look around for clues while you get him down to the car, Buffy..."

//Oh, *fuck* no.//

"Christ don't leave me I was alone here just him and it never stopped please don't leave..." Xander sobbed, turned his head away to hide his dry face. The turn made him throb in a bad way, though, and he screamed, then screamed again because of the way the first scream made him feel.

He could see this going on for a while.

"No, Xander says he's gone, he's gone. You were right, Willow. Spike is Spike. He'll let us know *exactly* where he is soon enough."

"With a body or six."

//Shut. Up. Oz.//

"Do you really want to tell *him* no right now?"

//Oh, Buffy, I should've tried this before...//

"Oz, come on..." Xander could see Willow sidling closer. Was she wearing that lemony flowery stuff? Oz's ears practically twitched. She was. "We have to get him out. He was... he was..."

"Don't say it."

What they didn't say rang through loud and clear. They'd hunt Spike down like a dog, now. But maybe not tonight.

//Please get the fuck out of here, Spike... I don't want to have any of you see me choose.//

And there was silence, or maybe his ears had shut off to spare him more pain, and he was being lifted and suddenly he had his head squarely in Willow's lap, and they were in motion.

There was a blanket covering him, old, reeking of pizza and somebody's spilled lotion. Willow was petting him gently. Wetness hit his face from above. The sun beat down from all sides. It would be hours before Spike would wake.

"Try... try to get some rest, Xander."

He closed his eyes.


And opened them again to white and more white and fluorescents and thin, rough sheets that left him colder than he might've been without them.

Hospitals sucked very, very hard.

There were vaguely irritating somethings on the back of his head and just over his eye. Probably bandages. He bent up to see what else he was sporting under the sheet.

Or tried to. Discovered that his head was being held immobile.

He reached up to grab for the straps, and learned that his wrists were restrained, too.

Better and better.

Had he fought?

Vague, hazy memories. Nurse, big needle, bigger orderlies, him thrashing...

//"This will help you rest..."//

They'd wanted to sedate him. They had, apparently, sedated him. Why had he fought? He didn't have anything against drugs in particular.

//"You can't keep me here!"


That definitely began to explain things. Christ. It had probably just added to the verisimilitude of his performance.

How much time had passed? Was there any dried-blood dust on Buffy's shoes?

The door opened and Willow came in. It didn't shut fast enough to keep him from hearing Giles' voice.

"... to his body is superficial, but the doctors say the evidence of... of abuse is quite..."

And Willow winced and the door finally shut behind her.

"You're awake."

"I'm awake."

She did that thing that was somewhere between hand- wringing and manicure-checking. If she screamed 'I'm uncomfortable' any louder cushions and tranquilizers would fall from the sky. Something knotted in his gut.

If he told them all that it hadn't been rape he'd never get out of here.

So he could just watch his friends squirm. Maybe they'd feel *good* and guilty about neglecting him.

//Just what I wished for...//

Every time an old cliche got proven correct, another angel smirks, or maybe just pisses on you.

"Willow, you don't have to --"

At which point she planted her hands on the bed's railing and squeezed a little. "Like I'm gonna leave you here alone, looking like Frankenstein."

"If there are bolts in my neck, I may very well have to hurt you."

"How *is* your neck?"

"I have no idea, I'm a little unable to test it at the moment."

"Ah. Well, yes."

Willow was wearing loafers, knee socks, a flouncy flowery dress thing. On any other girl above age eleven or so, those clothes would look like the ones that would end up on the floor twenty minutes into a slightly more disturbing than usual porn movie. On Willow... Xander recognized his usual mix of brotherly affection and lust rise up and kick him in the ribs.

In other moment or two, he'd start to feel like the shittiest guy on the planet.

There it was.



"Are you... can you talk about what happened? Your parents apparently just reported you missing last night..."

By the time Willow trailed off she was blushing and miserable. She knew his parents. His clothes had probably washed out to sea while he was chained to Spike's bed.

"I... He..." The truth about how he'd wound up at the hotel, minus suicide attempt, would probably have worked very well at this point. "I woke up there... Willow..."

Instantly she was patting his arm. "I'm sorry, I'm an idiot, I'll shut up now, I'm definitely sorry --"

"It's OK, it's OK. Just... not now, all right?"

"Yeah. Not now. Later. Very much later. So very late. Past my bedtime late..."

Xander couldn't keep himself from smiling a little. "You always do that."

"Do what?"

"That thing with the 600 synonyms/details/whatever. It's... it's very you."

She sniffed at him indignantly. "Well, *you* try having all that stuff in your head and *bam* suddenly you have an excuse to say it *all* and --"

"See, this is why I do my best to keep plenty of room in my brain. You really ought to try it, Willow. Do some Fall Cleaning or something."

She giggled. Out of the corner of his eye, Xander could see her covering her mouth. God, she had to stay just like that forever.

"How do you do that, Xander?"

"*Your* problem is all those little squiggles and grooves on your brain. Knowledge just can't escape. I, on the other hand, have managed to keep *my* brain a nearly frictionless surface. In goes the knowledge and *whooosh*, out goes the knowledge. Very efficient process."

Hand motions would have made that better, but she was giggling more anyway.


"Any chance you can get me out of bondage?"

She frowned.

"My wrists... my wrists already hurt."

And she didn't say a word, just unhooked him quickly, leaned over him to get the other one and he groaned but it didn't have a damned thing to do with the fading marks on his skin.

//When did I get good at this?//

"Th-thanks, Willow."

His voice was weak, rusty. He could feel himself *right* on the edge of bawling and when he saw the look of *anguish* on Willow's face he almost went over.

//If I cry for fifteen minutes, she'll cry for a day...//

He sniffed it back up and smiled at her instead. "You always look like a puppy when you do that."

"What... " She swiped her eyes and Xander winced. "What kind of puppy?"

"Ummm... a spaniel?"

"What kind of spaniel?"

"What's the kind with your sort of hair?"

"Nooo. That's too easy. You have to go for *facial* comparisons, too."

Xander snickered, tried to shake life into his arms. Spike would have been extremely helpful at that point. "Um... I really couldn't compare your face to any particular dog's."

She let the sorta-compliment fly right by. "Probably have to be one of those smushface dogs. A bulldog? No, too jowly. A chow, maybe. Do I wrinkle up a lot when I look sad?"

"Well, at this point you'd kinda have to get in my face, maybe hover over the bed?"

"Xander! I don't think I'd make a very good succubus."

The nice thing about knowing someone since toddlerhood is that you could see *exactly* what they were doing whether or not you could, well, see them. Right now, she would be blushing cheerfully, just like before that damned kiss.

Willow would probably banish all remotely sexual thoughts from her head for the next several weeks. Oz, now, *he* was going to start looking like a kicked dog.

"What *is* wrong with me, Willow?"

"No! No! There's nothing wrong with you it isn't your fault and oh I bet you weren't talking about that."

Laugh? Cry? "No... no, I really wasn't."


He wondered what his grin looked like when he couldn't even look her in the face. "It's OK."

Silence. Normally, being quiet with Willow was a nice thing. All these years... he was surprised they could talk as much as they did.

//Please, please, I want to be her friend forever...//

He decided to prompt her. "What's with the head thing? And don't they worry about people with concussions sleeping too much?"

"Oh, you don't have a concussion. You just kinda wrenched your neck. At least, that's what the doctors said. They'll probably give you a brace and everything."

"Oooh! Get me a lawyer and a really, really friendly jury and we'll be all set, Willow. Set for *life*."

"Just as soon as we find someone to sue and um maybe I should just go now."

Xander looked over. "When am I gonna be outta here?"

"Tomorrow, I think. But you should get as much rest as possible because you've had... a few very bad days."

She sounded miserable again. Maybe Spike would be nice and kill him for leaving. "I need to be out of here, Willow..."

"Oz and Buffy and me and Giles... We went back to that hotel today... it was burned to the ground. But we'll find him, Xander. Please, just rest. We'll find him."

And then she patted him again, and waited for him to fill the silence with something, but Xander didn't have a clue how to answer that. Finally, he just closed his eyes. Kept them closed until he could hear Willow taking the opportunity to leave.


Woke up to the same whiteness as before, but he felt oddly... good. He wondered if that meant it was after dark or if his body was readjusting to regular time or what.

He wondered why there seemed to be a global fascination with chaining him up in windowless rooms.

Speaking of...

No, he hadn't been retied while he slept. And his ankles were free. Had they been before?

Maybe he hadn't tried to wrap his *legs* around the necks of any orderlies.

Which was a cheering thought in and of itself. He would hate to think it was a reflex of some kind.

He brought his hand gingerly up to his neck, found himself equipped with a soft neck brace. Ah, another moment of perfect Willowrightness. The world was turning on its axis again.

//It wasn't before?

//They're going to kill him. Say it like you believe it.//

But he was free...

"I can go..."

"Well, yes, but I *would* try to stop you."

Another thing Spike had in common with the rest of the world -- penchant for scaring the *fuck* out of him. He turned very carefully.

"Giles. I didn't see you there."

"Oh. Well. You were sleeping... Sorry if I scared you."

//Sorry sounds almost exactly the same when Spike says it... you really were trash once, weren't you Giles?//

"It's all right. Why are you here now?"

"What time is it?"

"I'm kinda watchless at the moment, Giles."

"Hmm. Yes. It's a little after ten at night."

"After visiting hours..."

"You still want to know why I'm here."

"No one is ever gonna give you a prize for misdirection."

Giles turned on the light by the bed, making Xander wince a little. It was a little disturbing to think of Giles just sitting there, tweeding, in the dark. The light shone off his glasses, making it impossible to see the other man's eyes. "There were... bitemarks. Several."

"You're waiting for me to get healthy enough for a Holy Water bath?"

"I'm waiting here for Spike to come for you again so I can kill him."

Xander turned away too fast, bit back a groan.

"I'm sorry. That was... blunt."

"That's an understatement." Silence. "Do you really think you can stop him?"

//One word, asshole: Ripper.//

"Oz is lurking in the corridor somewhere. Buffy and Willow are outside. I don't think he'll actually get here."

Xander shuddered. "Why... why do you think he'll come for me?"

"We don't have to talk about this --"

He snarled. "I don't want to sit here and listen to you just *breathing* here, in the dark..."

"All right, Xander, try to calm down, all right? You've had - -"

"A very. Bad. Few. Days. Yes, I know. Just talk."

"Then think. He bit you, multiple times, but he didn't kill you. He... he..."

"Raped me."

"Xander --"


"He wants you, for whatever reason. He doesn't react well to not getting what he wants."

Xander abruptly remembered his story. "But he *left*..."

"Maybe his kill didn't go very well and he had to hole up elsewhere. Maybe a lot of things. But we will *not* take the chance of leaving you alone again."

//Again. Fuck, oh fuck don't feel guilty for me...//

"You didn't leave me alone --"

"Of *course* we did. We let you walk away --"

"Nobody *let* me do anything, Giles."

"Didn't we? You won't even *look* at me."

"I got tired of the back of your head fuck no I did *not* say that --"

And Giles was leaning over the bed. "Do you think I'm going to be *smug* just because I've gotten you to agree I've been an ass?"

Xander couldn't stop from laughing darkly at that. "I think the word you're looking for is counterintuitive."

"Exactly. Xander, let *us* take care of this. You've got nothing to prove, I promise."

Xander turned away again. There was no way out of this without somebody getting hurt, and he knew he wasn't lucky enough for it to be him. "I just want to sleep in my own bed..."

Giles pulled away, settled in the chair next to the bed. Xander could feel the other man wondering whether or not it was a good idea to touch him.

//It isn't, it isn't...//

"Your parents were here earlier."


"They... they didn't react to this very well."

"Lemme guess -- one or both of them is in detox."

"Xander... Xander I wish it wasn't *like* this."

"Trust me, Giles. Home is better when they're not there. Please, let me go home. I need to put on real clothes..."

"Oh. Oh, I'm sorry --"

"Please don't say it."

//Promise you'll just hate me one day...//

"All... all right.."

"Can I go?"

"I'll take you home. With Willow. Oz and Buffy will stay here, just in case."

//Of course. Fuck. Well, two down improves things...

//For what? Spike to kill your friends?//

Xander thought about shaking his head, then thought better of it. Sat up and felt the breeze. Hospital clothes.

"Um... let me go find you a robe or something."

//Ooooh! Layers!//

"Sure, Giles."

And the door closed very, very slowly behind him.

"I could go..."

He hated himself just a little bit more for looking around to make sure no one answered him, then slipped out of bed.

And barely managed to avoid falling on the floor. Xander thought he should probably try harder to appreciate physical comedy/torture, as it seemed to make up a large part of his life nowadays.

Started toward the door just in time to see Oz walking past the window. Lurking. Wonderful.

Xander's mind suddenly decided to share an image of the Abominable (ible) Snowman squeezing the life out of Daffy Duck out of love.

//Oh, no, terrible to be wrung out by anyone but *Spike*...

//Well, I asked. And I deserve it.

//You want it.

//But I deserve it, too.//

And then his brain shut up in time for him to present a bland face to Giles, who handed him the robe and then gallantly turned away. As opposed to just turning away. The back of his head still wasn't the most pleasant thing to look at...

The robe was thin and cheap, but it was more than he'd had on in days. It was... easier to be around everyone when he was a bit less exposed.


The ride home was uneventful save for watching Willow do her best to change her expression every time he caught her eye in the rearview mirror.

It always managed to come out to "exceedingly earnest worry."

Giles drove silently, radio tuned to some all night talk station that Xander's mind tuned out within nanoseconds. His car smelled like him, books and basic goodness. Xander wondered if he'd smelled different when he'd been Ripper, or if he'd just lulled everyone into a false sense of security before beating them or calling up demons.

He wanted to know more.

Had he been almost like Spike? Would they have gotten along back then? Maybe they'd even met. Partied. Gotten blitzed to the point where Giles could say he honestly didn't remember whatever they'd done...

He cut off the line of thought when he felt his cock stir. More clothes were definitely necessary.

The brace made it hard to sit comfortably. He couldn't get his head as far back as it wanted to go, and when he tried to lean forward several parts of his upper body screamed all at once. He'd belted himself in as securely as possible, but many of the turns made him wince.

Giles was clearly struggling not to mention the many benefits the hospital had to offer. And then there was the *other* struggle. Xander could hear every unspoken question. Are you all right? Should we stop?

Or maybe just the questions his cock wanted to answer. How badly did he hurt you? What was it like, you know Buffy hasn't said one *word* and when his fangs were inside you inside you did you beg?

And what did you beg for?

He couldn't chase the thoughts away altogether. Too many, too much... taking an imaginary axe to it would only spatter gore and secrets all over the car, all over the street and the whole *truly* God-damned town --

"We're here, Xander. Do you want me -- Let me help you out of the car."

He undid his seatbelt, heard the slide of Willow's dress over the leather seat. Giles' door closed, then Willow's. Xander had a small eternity to wonder if this was his new prison. It had windows, but there was no silence and it smelled like someone he would've liked -- just *once* -- to shut Xander up with a slap, a kiss... Some contact beyond the casual, beyond that appropriate between a teacher and a consistently disappointing student.

//Let me out let meout letmeoutletmeout--//

His door opened and Xander felt himself whooshed out into sweet, sweet night air. Freshly mown grass somewhere close --

Xander went limp in Giles arms. "Oh, let me fall down right here and sleep, Giles, you don't have to leave..."

"Giles, what's wrong with him?"

"Strained neck, Willow, you said so... said so --"

"... Demerol, possibly another dose when I was napping. Bloody hell. He didn't seem..."

"... inside..."

"...seems feverish..."

"Let me... Let. Me... need to sleep right here please don't --"

And Giles hoisted Xander up in his arms, careful of his neck and then he was being carried up the walkway to his house. He wanted to come up with something about honeymoons, but the thought was a bleak one. Dark and strange.

Need sleep. The bed welcomed every twist of his body. Xander let himself sprawl, and drift.

Minutes later he regained focus enough to find Giles staring down at him. He seemed poleaxed. Jacket off, glasses off, held toward Xander for no fathomable reason and oh Christ --

"Xander you have to tell me what you need to make this better --"

"Please don't make me think about this I can't --"

"Let me *help* you..."

One choice would leave him warm and held by a man he cared about and oh if Xander were to plead for more would Giles not comply? Xander needed...

There was no salvation here.

"Giles... please go. I have to... have to sleep."

Silence, a shuddering breath.

"I'll be on the roof."

"Than--... thank you."

"If you need me during the night *call*."

"I... I will..."


Xander woke up when his pillow started vibrating. The only thing that kept him from hitting the floor was the vague memory of slipping his phone under there before he'd gone to visit the Bernsteins.

He found himself listening hard for any movement that would suggest anyone had heard the muted ring, then simply slid his hand under and took it off the receiver.


"Do you like scary movies?"

Xander snickered quietly. "That loses a little something with the accent..."

"Sometimes I really can't help myself, Xander."

"I was thinking that. Spike, I --"

"When will they leave?"

"It's just Willow and Giles... can't you get around them? Carefully, I mean?"

"It's them and Buffy and the werewolf. I hate werewolves, you know."

"Oh. Um. They... they kinda want you dead."

"Yes, I know. I heard that conversation the other day."

"You... you heard?"

"Of *course* I heard. I just couldn't do a damned thing about it. It's the Undead thing, has its ups and downs."

//He takes everything so normally...//

"Um. I..."

"Lied through your teeth? It was lovely to listen to, Xander. I was getting pissed until you told them I'd left."

"Oh good..."

"Are you all right?"

"I fucking hate that question."

"Then you're all right."

"Spike, I don't know what I'm doing here. Why I'm even bothering."

Brief pause in which Xander had about sixteen hours of subjective time to focus, really focus, on the fact that he was chatting up his lying, murdering, dead lover on the phone. Asking him for advice. It seemed like it would've been a good time to pray about something, to Anyone.

Maybe Ishtar would understand.

"Just think about our bargain. I won't let you go so easily."

"I don't want this to get any uglier than it has to be."

"Then leave. Walk out. I'll feel you coming and fetch you..."

"Feel me coming? No, please don't answer that right now. Spike... they're not going to let me just walk away."

"Have you brought up the issue of painful reminders to your captivity?"

Xander shuddered. "You seem to be under the impression that I can... that I can *do* this.

"Why *can't* you? Look, I know you had to leave --"

"I hear someone I hear some -- No, no, no! Stay the fuck away from me you fucking *freak*--"

Spike's voice was low, dark. "Is it the Watcher?"

"Don't fucking *call* me oh Christ if I ever see you again I'll rip your heart out with my *fist* do you hear me?"

"I'll come for you, I promise."

"Stay away from my friends!"

//And who were you saying that for?//

And then Giles ripped the phone out of his hand and brought it to his ear, but Spike had already hung up.

"*Dammit*. What did he say to you? Xander?"

"I really need to walk outside for a while, Giles, OK?"

Giles knelt in front of the bed, put his hands on Xander's shoulders. Squeezed. His glasses were back on, the jacket was still missing, Spike was out there and would kill this man or be killed if Xander couldn't get out out out --

"Tell me what I can do?"

//Leave me alone leave me alone --//

Xander caught himself leaning in, knew his mouth was open, knew Giles was a heartbeat away from letting his hands roam.

//*Help* me.//

"Stop me..."

And then Xander leaned down the rest of the way and kissed him. Soft lips, pliant, letting him in letting...

//You were supposed to stop me...

//Oh yeah, let's blame *everyone*. Great plan.//

Xander yanked himself back before he could go any further, twisted out from Giles' light grip. Held the other man's wrists for a moment until he could stop digging his thumbs in to rub at the warm skin, the thudding pulse beneath. "I didn't --"

"God, Xander, I shouldn't have done that --"

"*I* did it. You were... you..."

"It's... it's a normal reaction --"

"To tweed-covered British librarians? Don't finish that sentence, Giles, please."

"I... all right. I don't want... Bloody hell."

Xander grinned ruefully, still feeling the kiss but Not Thinking about it. "I think that about says it all. Outside. Air. Good things."

Giles held out his hand, Xander licked his lips, noticing the act somewhere beneath consciousness. Giles continued to smell very good --

He shook himself, took Giles' hand and stood. Eye to eye. They were eye to eye and he'd have to lean over to get inside that open collar. Have to hold on a little tighter. It would be all right to ask for a hug, say, and Giles had no fire, no ash, no relics...



//Oh shit.

//I'm guessing it wasn't an exact science.//

"Giles. Giles, I... I need..."

Giles tightened his grip on Xander's hand.

//Why can't he see?


"Water. And outside. Outside first." Xander ripped himself away, noticed he was still in the johnny, though the robe had disappeared. He felt his nipples chafe the cotton, and his cock was *right* there, begging for attention. "Um... let me get dressed?"

Long look, darkly speculative, worriedly curious, shamed to the core. "I'll get you some water."

"Thank you. For everything."

A tight nod, a cut-off sigh and Xander was alone. He shook himself, asked himself to take a look at what was R>happening, ignored the hell out of himself, and pulled on some boxers, sweats and a tee shirt.

Repeated to himself the words "rotten milk with ketchup on the side" until he could no longer be used as a towel rack.

Speed-bump, maybe.

Xander scrubbed his hands through his hair, rubbed his fading bruises. There was a vague sort of itch to them, something of healing, and then just something of a need to be touched. His ankles itched the worst, perhaps predictably.

He maneuvered the gathered ends of the sweats to chafe them more, wished idly that he owned some wool socks, got on some slightly-less-than-ratty sneakers, then bravely stalked out into the hallway and took his water like a man. Sweet, cool, and not at all satisfying.

//Oh, this is going well...//

And then he quietly handed the glass back and jogged down the stairs to get out into the night.

And nearly ran directly into Angel, because the man was physically incapable of not blending with his chosen atmosphere, and because Xander was probably still drugged --

//That's my story and I'm sticking to it.//

-- and because he was standing in the walkway, talking quietly with Buffy.



Angel and Buffy.

"Hey, Xander."

A cautious-yet-obviously-concerned nod from Angel.

Xander screwed his eyes shut. "Kill me now."


"Are you OK?"

"I mean... um... Angel, can I speak to you for a moment? Alone?"

Buffy and Angel shared a look, momentarily lost to themselves. They both nodded at the same time. Mutual reassurances most probably. Xander's mind used the time productively -- carefully highlighting all of his and Angel's "best" moments, replaying every snide comment (spoken or no) about Buffy and Angel's relationship...

//I bet Buffy never tried to eat Giles.//

And then Angel squeezed his arm. "Let's walk."

Xander stayed at his side, though imposed a little distance. Angel didn't seem to notice getting his arm brushed off. Xander sincerely hoped the vampire wouldn't... sense anything. Or maybe he hoped that he would. He didn't have a clue.

He could use the time to compare Spike and Angel... Spike was only around because Angel thought it was a good idea to make a mass murderer a vampire. Spike was a mass murderer. Angel, when soulless, tended to terrorize and/or murder people Xander cared about. Spike probably hadn't changed one *bit* when Angel made him a vampire. Angel had monchichi hair. Spike had greaser hair...

They passed Oz and Willow as they went, who each nodded casually at them, gestured with their stakes.

He wondered how Angel had gotten accustomed to that.

And then Angel stopped, well out of range of anyone's hearing. Xander stopped, too, looked around. The night was just warm enough, the street was deserted. Even the dogs were asleep. How close was it to dawn? He wished he'd chosen pants with pockets.

Angel just stood, waited. *He* had pockets, and was taking advantage of them in his patented GQ slouch against a nearby tree. Xander wondered what the hell he'd thought he'd have to say.

"How much did Spike do that you didn't want him to?"

//Oh, that helps.//

"Aside from the not letting me commit suicide thing? Not much."

Angel nodded blandly, still wasn't looking directly at him. "I found your clothes on the beach before I'd heard anything. Saw the pills. Saw it was your mother's name on the bottle. But I smelled Spike all over them. I was still trying to figure out how to tell Buffy when she called me from the hospital.

"I looked for Spike, but there was no trace of him in the usual places.

"And then I saw you in the hospital."

"And what? Smelled me?"

Angel turned finally. There was nothing in his eyes but a sad sort of compassion. "You drank his blood. You didn't mention any suicide attempt --"

"But how did you *know*?"

"Spike is the closest thing I have to a son. Did you think I wouldn't?"

Xander found his own tree and started massaging the back of his head vigorously, then stopped because there was already a serious owie there. But then, he wasn't in *that* much pain anymore...

//Weren't my ribs broken a few days ago?//

Angel sighed. "Look, don't get me wrong -- I was still guessing, but since you haven't tried to kick my ass, yet..."

"Give me a minute or two to relocate the moral high ground, would you?"

"Ah, you'll get used to the lowlands after a while."

"You have?"

"You don't see me throwing myself on passing stakes, do you?"

Xander laughed despite every single instinct he claimed to possess. "I... uh... kinda just thought you preferred the slow, tortured method."

A smirk, passing gleam of his own game face. "Sounds more like your style, bruise-boy."

And then it all came flooding back. "What are you going to do?"

"I won't tell anyone, if that's what you mean. That's your choice alone."

"What about Spike?"

Angel's lip curled. "I won't hunt him if he stays off my territory, away from..." His face smoothed again, then settled into small weary lines. "From everyone but you, I guess. Do you have any idea what you're getting into? I mean, you're no Dru..."

"And Spike's not quite Spike without her. She's dead, you know."

"I knew that. You know, I've never once seen him cheat on her... Xander --"

"No, I have no fucking clue what I'm doing."

"Then maybe... What are you following here?"

"I don't know that, either."

"Xander, I know a lot about being alone, and I know a lot about Spike --"

"Admit it -- if you thought he was going to kill me you would've told everyone the minute you caught a whiff of me."

"Just because I don't think you'll wind up a *rotting* corpse doesn't mean I think there's no chance of you winding up a corpse. Your gums ache, don't they? Food probably doesn't seem like an especially good idea. That neck brace is somewhere under your bed right now."

Xander just looked at him, didn't try to deny it.

"All of that will fade, in time. Not soon enough for the serious pain to come back, probably. And everywhere he's bitten you will ache every time you feel desire, anger... any powerful emotion. That will fade, too. Eventually.

"But Spike will find a way to get to you, or you'll find a way to get to Spike... How good are either of you at saying no?"

"Forgive me my lack of stoic self-control, Angel. I guess we'll never --"

"Don't think I'm condemning you. Do *not* think I'm condemning you. I feel the same things Spike feels. I'm just equipped with slightly more guilt.

"I always was, I always will be."

And then Angel morphed.

"Look at *this*. Do you want this? Can you risk it?"

Xander didn't blink, had barely heard. His "we" had set off several hundred warning bells at once... "You don't kill. I don't have to kill."

"Do you think you'll care after it happens? About anything at all? A month from now you could just be ripping Giles' throat out. Willow's. That's the way it tends to work, Xander."

"I seem to have been surrounded with exceptions."

"Exceptions just prove the rule exists."

Silence, and that oddly faster wind that had always been, for Xander, the clearest sign a night was ending. He shivered, rubbed his bare arms. Wondered if he'd stop shivering forever, someday.

"I'm still not going to stop you."

Xander met Angel's eyes again, apologized silently for every time he'd been wrong. Hoped he could do it aloud someday. To Buffy, too...

"But if it goes down wrong... don't come back. In fact, maybe you should just stay away altogether. Both of you."

Click of bootheels on cement, nearly silent. Spike at his shoulder.

"Seems like a *lovely* idea to me. 'allo, Xander. Angel."

Angel narrowed his eyes, said nothing.

"You led him away from the pack. I owe you."

"Then don't do it, Spike."

Spike ran his hand down Xander's back, slipped his arm around his waist. "It's his choice."

"You know the risks, Spike. Or is it just his body you want?"

At which point Spike released him and got in Angel's face. Xander said, "Hello? Person here? Not the dog biscuit?"

Spike turned back to Xander, tensed. Most probably at allowing Angel his back. "I won't let it come to that."

And Xander knew Spike wasn't talking to him.

"You know it probably won't make a difference."

Spike just looked at Xander, Xander watched Angel glare at the back of Spike's neck, as if that was where he wanted to begin tearing.

//One long stake could take us all out in one thrust...

//They're waiting on you.

//Oh yeah...//

"My choice." Angel met his eyes again. Spike remained in game face.

//Will you stop trying to behave if I ask?//

"Spike, get me out of here."

"Just a minute --" And then he spun and punched the hell out of Angel. And then kicked him.

"One more time, *son*."

"Sure thing, *Dad*."

And Spike bent down and broke Angel's nose. Angel promptly straightened it enough to speak. "She called me up to say good-bye, you know."

"I know."

And then Spike looked up at Xander, nodded over his shoulder. "My car's over there..."

Xander blinked. Breathed in Sunnydale. "After you."


Many thanks to Coz for the monchichi.

Continue to On Holiday.