Post-Grad II: On Holiday
by Te

Disclaimers: Still not mine, and I apologize...

Spoilers: Lots of stuff up until "Enemies," goes AU after that.

Summary: Xander and Spike go please see the title.

Ratings Note: NC-17 for language, m/m smut, and events/imagery some may find disturbing.

Author's Note: Rae got greedy, and then this happened. Direct sequel to Post-Grad, starts about 24 hours after the end of that story, will probably make no sense without reading the first.

Acknowledgments: Many, *many* thanks to Rae for allowing me to steal her gorgeous idea for a rather special conversation, and to her, Spike, and Dawn Sharon for marvelously patient audiencing and way helpful feedback. Nancy is to be adored for generous beta, and, of course, so is Dawn Pares for asking the questions that made this story be.


Xander woke up to a sound somewhere between a growl and the scream of an otherwise happy killer singing old Sex Pistols songs. He opened his eyes to find that, sure enough, Spike was playing That Tape Again. It was getting to be soothing, especially since he did an extremely passable Johnny Bitchass or whatever, so there was no real discord beyond the music itself.

Which *did* have its good points. The guy was genuinely pissed about... whatever, and Spike had assured him that the entire band used to be as filthy a bunch of alcoholic junkies as anyone that pissed should be.

It was the growling that had woken him up, since it didn't *quite* fit with the rest of "Holiday in the Sun." He shook himself until his vision cleared a bit more, and discovered they were stuck in traffic.


"Road rage is not a good idea for someone like you, Spike."

"Rage is *always* good, so long as it's properly directed."

"Well, are you properly directing it *now*?"

Spike gestured at the choked highway. "Cars! Everywhere! In our *way*!"

He had a point. Xander looked at the clock -- five thirty- eight in the morning. The prior day had been spent in a perfectly mundane motel just outside of Sunnydale. So banal as to be genius. Hell, they were even in a light blue *sedan*.

And now they weren't going to reach that abandoned Goth club Spike had been going on about.

This had to be killing him.

"Spike, maybe you should let me drive for a while."

"But you're *tired*."

"But dawn is *imminent*."

Long pause, lines in Spike's forehead. How old had he been? "You're being awfully good about... this, Xander."

He definitely didn't want to talk about... this. Yes, he *was* being good, but... But whatever change the topic. "You've got that tarp in the trunk for no particular reason, right?"

"None at all."

"Get in the back seat, get covered, stop breathing for a while, and I'll find us somewhere deserted to stop. Maybe eat some food."

"Isn't this where I'm supposed to not let you change the subject?"

"No, I'll let you know."

"Doesn't that sort of bollicks up the whole changing the subject thing?"

"Don't pester me with the facts."

Spike snorted, used their utter lack of motion to turn in his seat and reach out to Xander. Ran two fingers down his cheek. "You're very cute when you're being unhealthy."

"Well, I have some idea of what you like."

And Xander winced immediately. There was silence, and Spike had frozen. Xander peeked. The other man was looking down at his lap, fingering his chaps idly.

//I'm screwing somebody that owns chaps. Larry, where are you now?//

"Do you think I'm just using you as a replacement for Dru?"

"Um. Well, I... sometimes. OK, a lot."

"You weren't the first person I stalked, you know."

"That's reassuring, in its own special way."

"... as the marriage crumbles, at the end of the day... Sorry, every time I hear the phrase 'own special way' I think of the song 'The Small Hours.' Can't remember who it's by, though."

Another pause which Xander *almost* jumped into before belatedly recognizing the change in subject. Damn turnabout. "It's strange to think of you and music."

Spike leaned back to his side of the car, propped one booted foot between them. The boots were most probably older than he was.

"You have to realize that it took me a while to appreciate music. It was very, very weak for much of my life. I'd given up on it entirely long before the birth of the electric guitar.

"Dru liked it, though. Except when she hated it." Spike smiled ruefully, proceeded to look maybe four years older than Xander. Far too young for what he was talking about.

Xander nodded, punched Spike's leg, got kicked, pretended to double over in pain, nearly got trapped in the footwell, got yanked up again and pulled up over Spike. He had a moment to notice that an entire *yard* had opened up in front of them. Another three and a half inches and the horns would start up.

But for now, Xander had the opportunity to drape himself all over his... lover? Spike hadn't done anything more than kiss the back of his neck and lock his arms around Xander's waist the morning before. Wriggling out to get to the bathroom had been a long, arduous, and slightly-too- necrophiliac process.

And so had wriggling back in.

Xander propped his hands on the door and ground himself into Spike a little, appreciative -- not for the first time -- of all Cordy's lessons in automobile athletics. Spike just let him move, watching him from below so intensely that Xander had to close his eyes and grind harder. Turn away.

The image behind his eyes was of his own throat, his own face when he opened his mouth to choke out a groan.

And Spike pulled him down suddenly, and Xander accidentally smacked the horn, which started up the chorus, which didn't really matter because Spike had him by the collar and was strangling him while he kissed.

//"How good are either of you at saying no?"//

As it happened, not very. Xander slid his arms under Spike's body, awkwardly and painfully, and kissed back. He forced himself not to immediately try to seal the kiss, make it neat. Kept his mouth open and moved around as much as he could in the other man's grip.

Spike caught his lip, his chin, his cheek, his throat for a heart-stopping moment. Xander's heart was beating faster, the air was thicker and sweeter.

And then he loosened his hold and flipped them over, barking the hell out of his back on the steering wheel but showing no signs of caring. More hungry kisses until Xander was breathless for other reasons. Spike nipped at his ears, licked him, bit him, mouthed him.... Xander had never thought there'd be this much *foreplay* between men.

He wasn't sure how comfortable he was with it, really. Well, at times like these, there was no possible choice but to take it and take it, and moan and writhe and give what he was getting and then take it some more. But a small part of his mind was already gearing up to flash the softest caresses, the quietest whispers at him tomorrow and ask the rest of him just what the fuck he thought he was doing. It wouldn't happen until the next time he was awake while Spike slept...

... which wouldn't be more than twenty minutes from now.

Spike bit his eyebrow.

"Hey, piercing those is no longer in fashion."

"Where were you?"

"Um... elsewhere? You should probably punish me by forcing me to come really, really hard."

"Hmm. I think I'm going to force you to talk about this one at some point."

"That's not very enabling of you."

Spike grinned wolfishly. "I know. I'm really quite disgusted with myself."

Xander sighed, rocked his hips up a bit. "Well, if you're gonna make me talk *someday* you should at least get me off. Spike: World's Oldest Cocktease. And you thought the mass *murder* thing was painful --"

And then Spike was ripping off his rapidly aging sweats and opening his own jeans and squeezing their cocks together. This was a fantasy he couldn't help but lay claim to.... didn't every guy try to make it feel like it wasn't his own hand? Spend the years before ever getting to lay a hand on a woman's breast comparing mentally the feel of *this* velvet to that mystery?

Or just this velvet to that velvet and he was just rationalizing and that was *really* stupid because it just distracted from the feel oh God the feel... He had to bring his own hand down, had to help them get closer rub faster need harder and his cock felt like it was *geysering* pre- come and it made it so easy, so hot.

And Spike was watching him again, studying his every reaction and probably filing it away for later use. It was unbearable to be this exposed and still be wearing clothing. It was a joke. There was nothing wrong with fooling himself but not where it could be seen...

So he looked right back and kept his eyes open for as long as he could, watching Spike's gaze flare and darken and then the ridges were there, the perfectly understandable terror that *this* would be the time it signaled an *utter* loss of control and his life was forfeit.

Didn't it have to happen someday?

And that was enough to take him over the edge. He felt himself spill over his still-pumping fist, abruptly realized that Spike was thoroughly tangled with him. And that Spike's come felt strangely, spectacularly *different* in its own slow glide over their fingers, down their wrists.

Cut through it all and burned so sweet...

"Spike --"

And there was no excuse for that because his orgasm was *ending* but epithets needed to be spoken sometimes.

They remained in that position until Xander noticed that one good jolt of the car would probably end with his neck broken. Xander pushed at Spike, who rubbed his belly into the touch before shifting away.

Xander rubbed his own belly and winced.

"Spike, this pretty much means that you *have* to buy me clothes now."

"Don't worry, ducks. I'll find someplace where you can be naked a lot. I certainly have no intention of stopping my tendency of coming on, in, and/or near you anytime in the foreseeable future."

"You're such a constant, Spike."

"I do try."

Xander kicked him, had his ankle caught and kissed briefly. Right on the bite mark. "Ohhh, fuck. You *cannot* do that when you're about to act like a real dead guy for hours on end."

Spike did it again.

"Being called a cocktease really doesn't bother you at all, does it?"

"Not a bit."


Spike did it again.

"One day you're going to wake up to find me molesting you, and it's going to be entirely your fault."

"You'd take advantage of me when I couldn't enjoy it?"

"I do what I have to, Spike."

"So do I." And then he slipped his fangs into the groove he'd left before and sucked. Xander could feel every millimeter of the things and realized he'd never be able to deal with shoes and socks again without getting turned on.

"Oh God oh God dawn Spike *dawn*."

"Not for another minute and a half." Muttered, literally, into his skin.

Nanoseconds, hours later, Spike pulled out slow and harsh and pushed Xander's foot down to his crotch. He was hard again. He wiped a bit of blood from his mouth, then painted the arch of Xander's foot with it. Rubbed a little. "Just so you know -- I'll feel this every second I can't move, can't touch you, can't feel you. Every second."

Xander stared, barely kept himself still. And then Spike shuddered once, released him, and jumped out of the car and into the back. Too fast for the public eye, really. Xander sincerely hoped the night drivers all just assumed they were hallucinating, and then yanked his sweats up and jumped out of the car himself to retrieve the tarp.

A lot heavier than he'd expected, and when he brushed against Spike's cheek while pulling it over the other man felt as warm as he was. It wasn't pleasant.

"Do vampires have wet dreams?"

No answer.

Xander stroked the tarp once, slid into the driver's seat, and moved them up an entire half car-length.


Dawn had stopped being pretty a while back for Xander. Now it was also a bit lonely. The traffic was starting to ease, though, and Xander had high hopes for campgrounds with deep, dark wooded areas.

He needed to be able to crawl up under that tarp, as well. He knew it would have to get hot under there over the course of the day, but he also knew that Spike would keep him cool.

Xander wondered about winter, and what it might be like with someone who could only make you colder.

//If I'm still with him.//

The month would end right about the time school would start sucking again. Well, at least for the actual students. And then he could go back to Sunnydale safely, make his apologies and... And what?

He had told yet another big, awful lie. And the only way to justify it was to say something along the lines of "but I didn't want you to kill Spike, and I didn't want him to hurt you.... why, yes, I did think him hurting you was a possibility. Yes I still wanted him. Why do you ask?"

Nothing but bad in there, at all. Willow would probably force herself to try to understand, but why put her through that? Why not just keep driving East until they found someplace perfectly dark with pleasantly sealed places?

//Isn't this what you were thinking before it all started?//

Well, of course it was, but Xander knew there were only so many times you could be wrong about something until the world shaped itself to fit your nastiest imaginings. Or until you shaped it that way yourself.

He'd lied to everyone except *Angel*. And where had that come from? Helpful as ever, there he was saving Xander from Faith. He'd kept the rape aspects out of the story and supported Xander to everyone else about the strangulation.

So Xander had known Angel would keep his dirty little secrets. Maybe it was that karmic debt of his again, maybe Xander was still in the compartment of Angel's brain labeled "Buffy's friends," or maybe Xander had gone a little overboard in his Angel hatred...

Oh, he was learning to hate himself for so *many* good reasons. At least it took his mind away from hating himself for wanting the dead man in the back seat.

Though there was at least some vague reason to justify things. He'd promised a month, and a month he would give. He'd taken the option of being loyal and honest with his friends away from himself, but at least he could salvage *some* part of himself.

Perhaps it was the only way right now.

More likely, he was full of shit and should be taking the opportunity to stake Spike and then call up Giles, or Willow or someone and tell them he was on the way back. And then, on the way, he'd maybe find a way to make even the *truth* of all this sound acceptable.

Maybe agree to get some counseling or something. Ask Giles to help him. Ask Giles to sit closer, close enough so he could smell him.

Never have to stop getting something *close* to what he wanted, the oblivion, the peace of giving someone yourself to shape as they would.

Giles would struggle not to let him -- he'd have to, near- seduction or no -- but Xander knew he could get in. He *needed* someone like Giles, after all. Someone to steady him, love him purely and gently, and lie still while Xander sucked and bit and tore --

Xander shook himself, and started massaging his gums a little. They ached, itched, wanted as much as the rest of him. Even if he did //could// kill Spike, he'd have to stay away from everyone until he knew he could control himself.

He would have to isolate himself and wait for Angel's "eventually" to be over. Days? Weeks? Months? Angel could have at *least* been a little more specific. Xander could see it anyway. Some little apartment somewhere deep and windowless. The light would come out greyish yellow, and he'd sit there alone day after day, night after night until the time when he could finally say he didn't ache anymore, didn't think those thoughts.

And the minute he walked outside he'd realize that he'd just grown too accustomed to the thoughts and feelings to notice them, perhaps while trying to gnaw open some victim's throat with just his own dull, squared teeth.

And, of course, there would be no Spike to give him what he really needed. Whatever that might have been on any given day.

So, his options were killing Spike, occasional mauling of loved ones, shutting up his brain and letting his cock do the talking, abject misery, and killing himself.

Except that the last one wasn't an option for another twenty some odd days.

That was another laugh. Would Spike *really* say "right, time's up, have a nice life and/or death" when the month was over? It wasn't that Xander was so sure of his own irresistibility -- though Spike was making thoughts like that easier to get through -- it was that powerful sense of *need* Spike gave off.

Obsession not so much with Xander as with the idea of having someone around again. And Xander had been so *well*-behaved. To think, all he'd needed to turn him into a good boy was the threat of not getting killed in an interesting way. Or of being killed before he could come.

Or something.

Xander took a hand off the wheel to rub his face. He had serious stubble going on, his lips felt dry and cracked, his eyes were grainy and his mouth tasted like the Undead *should* -- in a world where they were clearly defined as evil -- taste.

*And* he smelled.

He needed a shower and a bed and some goddamned food. Motels passed him by cheerily as he drove and Xander scowled. Any one of those places would soothe *most* of those needs, but carrying a body-shaped tarp into the room with him in broad daylight just wasn't a good plan.

And he couldn't just walk into the truckstop to get some food. For one thing, his shoes had flown away at some point when he'd been dozing with his feet out the window. For another, both t-shirt and sweats were stained.

*Obviously* stained.

Xander got an image of himself walking in there *just* like that, ordering up some grits -- he'd been rather pleased to learn that grits were made out of corn sperm -- and coffee. Looking like a hustler after a long but probably lucrative night.

No probably about it once he pulled out the wad of cash Spike had stuffed in his pocket.

After that, the only question would be *which* trucker would take him out back for a good, old-fashioned queerstomping.

Or maybe just for a grope.

"Spike, if you're listening right now, I'm thinking about being groped by random truckers."

Spike was, of course, silent. Xander took it as encouragement.

"It's your fault, you know. At least you can *sleep* through your hardon. Me, I have to be awake and drive. With no food.

"If I sucked your dick now would I get any protein?"

Xander settled back in the driver's seat and relaxed a bit. The ultimate captive audience.

"There are some things you're going to have to tell me about like, yesterday. First and foremost -- *what* happened to Dru. She's this snarling ghost at my ear right now and will probably remain so until I can... Well, I guess it's possible that I won't understand, but I still want to know.

"Sort of.

"Anyway. I also want to know what your plans are for the rest of this month. Travel? Seduction? Pub-crawling? Or just a little starlight vacation intermingled with fucking and sucking and biting and sucking some more? I need some idea of how I should be behaving so I'll know *exactly* what I should be doing wrong.

"Did I tell you about the random truckers? They've got really big hands.

"And how come we haven't passed *one* drive-thru in the past hour?"

Xander turned to the radio, took out Spike's tape. It was overheating in the sun. Xander, on the other hand, was just heating. He hadn't realized he'd been so *cold*.

But it would probably get worse as the day progressed. Which raised other thoughts.

"Do you know how good it feels when you're biting me? It's like coming again, only I can understand more of it, see more. Something. It was more intense when you bit me on the thigh, I know, but I was also in an altered state.

"Wasn't I?

"In any case, I think you should do more research. Even though I'm not back there right now sucking you off, I *will* get myself fed soon. Keep the fridge stocked, right Spike?

"Could you maybe live off me entirely? How much blood do you need?"

He let himself mull over all the different ways Spike could say no, or yes. Wondered if that question would be considered cheating.

Xander was reasonably sure he hadn't *meant* it to be a cheat. On a purely sensual level he enjoyed being bitten. Nothing precisely wrong with wanting something that felt good. Certainly not when it did no one damage but yourself.

"Would you try if I asked you to?"

Xander listened to the silence for several moments, wondered if he was interrupting Spike's rest-cycle somehow. TiredAndGrumpy!Spike might not be pleasant. Though it would probably be good for a couple of wisecracks before Spike gagged him or something.

//"I like hearing you speak."//

"This is your fault, you know. You just don't *tell* someone you like the way they talk and then expect to not be yammered at all day and night.

"Which brings us back to the what-are-we-doing question. I've decided that we have to stop somewhere soon. If I sleep all night while you're dead all day it'll be a pretty dull month.

"Do you talk to me when I'm asleep? It might be interesting to see what kind of dreams you could give me.

"On second thought, maybe stick to groping me while I sleep."

Suddenly, on the horizon, there lurked the Golden Arches. How could he have doubted? He would eat again soon. All thoughts turned to getting there as quickly as possible without breaking the speed limit.

//What's that, officer? Billy isn't breathing? Ha! He does that sometimes. Tries to break the world record and all. You think I've been consorting with a *corpse*? Listen, buddy, you've got a really filthy mind and oooooh, cuffs. You know, ma'am, you're actually kinda cute. How about abusing me with that nightstick?//

It was an interesting sort of physics Xander was putting into play. If he scrunched down over the wheel like Igor on a bad back day and stared *really* hard at the arches, he would get there faster. Despite the fact that he'd been going exactly 56 miles per hour for quite a while.

The other theory was that if he drive at or below the speed limit at all times he would *also* draw suspicion.

"I hope you realize how paranoid I'm being up here, Spike. Though the cop fantasy was nice.

"Ever do it with a cop?

"Of course you have. You've been alive too long not to try everything out..."

But had he? There were those Dru thoughts again... But he'd obviously at least had sex with men before. Or just one man. Had it been Angel? Angelus back then, he supposed.

Angel probably remembered exactly what Spike tasted like, felt like... What made him scream. He barely managed to avoid asking about that, settled for semi-idle thoughts about whether Angel was ever thinking about *them*. Painting dirty little scenes in his head that were probably much rougher than reality.

Xander sucked his tongue. Or maybe not. Maybe he thought Spike would be basically gentle and adoring and vaguely, sweetly co-dependent. Maybe he'd always been that way.


But he'd spoken before he had any clue what he was going to say, and, as sometimes occurred, the sentence was really just a fragment of a fragment.

And finally he was there. He placed a massive order and waited.

"You know what? I'm gonna eat all these fries and not save you *any*.

"And you can't stop me so there.

"This can't be good for me."

"Hey, if you wanted healthy you could've gotten yourself a pita."

Xander jumped before he realized the voice was distinctly not Spike's and coming from the left and above, besides. He looked up to find a man somewhere between 29 and death by mayo, holding out his order and looking exceedingly unhappy about it.

//Thank God Wendy's fired me.//

He handed over the cash, got his bags tossed at his head. "Hey, you have a nice day, too..." He paused to get a look at the grease-smudged name tag. "Leslie."

The insults he'd lined up died on his tongue instantly. It was nice when life did your job for you.

And then he pulled back out onto the highway and ate and drove and thought of things to tell Spike while he couldn't answer back.


By the time he found campgrounds it was nearly two in the afternoon. The hotel where they could stay for a while was only an hour away, and Spike *would* check them in for a couple of days.

Xander had decided long bouts of driving were a bad idea when he'd realized that his thighs and the larger part of his groin was numb.

Wrong, wrong, *wrong*.

He'd pulled into a rest-stop and nearly fell out of the car. As it was, he'd had to brace himself against the roof and tremble painfully for several minutes. He used the time to curse Spike roundly when there were no other people around.

But now, now, he'd found them someplace darkish and cool, all stray sunbeams nicely avoiding the back seat of the car.

Xander sat on the ground and ate another two burgers, let Spike know that he was removing the lettuce and tomatoes first. Then just dozed for a bit until he felt warmth on his foot.

He looked down and noticed that one beam had found him to shine on. He wasn't sure why he hadn't found a sunny spot for himself before.

Then again, the warm, buttery light highlighted the dried, flaking evidence of the stripe Spike had painted. It wasn't a pleasant sight, really. Xander tugged up his sweats, took in the bites. Bruised, swollen areas of flesh, livid in the direct circle around the punctures themselves.

He'd seen them before, of course, but not in this light....

Was this what Giles had seen?

Why *hadn't* they dunked him in Holy Water? He was clearly infected. Diseased and aching and much too warm.

Only one sanctuary at this point, though...

Xander opened the door and did his best to slither up under the tarp. He didn't manage to keep from dislodging it completely, but since he'd started on Spike's wrong side he only exposed a little bootleather. He wound up mostly on top of the other man, who was still and cool against him.

Xander settled his stubbled cheek against Spike's smooth one and wriggled until he was vaguely comfortable, having to brace one knee between Spike's thigh and the back of the seat and sort of cradle the other man with his arm before he could do it.

He was going to wake up extremely stiff.

If he got to sleep. Xander rubbed his face against Spike's own for a while, mindlessly enjoying the shifts against the grain.

"I can't decide whether it would be disturbing or nice if you suddenly, say, wrapped your arms around me."


Xander sighed, rubbed his face harder for a moment, and closed his eyes.


And woke up alone in the back seat, feeling the thrum of the engine beneath him.


"Drink your soda. Lots of caffeine."


"Stuffed in the passenger side pocket."


"You're welcome."

The sugar and coldness smacked him with a wet towel and Xander blinked. "Where are we going?"

"To the hotel."

"The hotel? Oh yeah, I was thinking --"

"The Sheraton, yes." Spike smiled up into the rearview. "You told me."

"I don't remember that..."

"Doesn't surprise me. You talked a lot."

"It's --"

"My fault, yes."

Xander paused, glowered at the soda, then drank a little more. "It's not fair that you can remember everything I say when *I* can't."

"Well, think of it this way -- you had the road, the food, the search for places to rest all crowding your brain. Me, I had you."

"So... you heard everything I said?"

"I think so..." Pause, followed by Spike looking up into the rearview again. "I... I need a little while on the Dru thing, all right?"

"Sure, OK, I mean, I wasn't even really sure you were listening. Er. Yeah."

"I find a good 'right' usually works well in a situation like this."

"Well, you've got the accent and all."

"True, true. Why don't you come up here?"

Xander got over to the passenger side, reclined the seat, and did his best to crawl up and over.

"If you fall in the footwell again, I *will* laugh."

"Sure, go ahead. Crush my fragile ego."

Spike reached over and squeezed his arm. "Crush."

Xander snickered, Spike moved down to his thigh and squeezed a few times.


"That's not my ego."

"Should I keep looking?"

"Can you do that *and* keep us out of a big ugly accident?"

"Define 'big and ugly.'"


"Well, then, probably not."

Spike took his hand off Xander's thigh and let it drift up to the back of the neck. He rubbed there and Xander pushed back into the touch.

"Keep doing that..."

Xander shivered at the suddenly-a-lot-less-playful lust. Spike had been hard before he slept, was still hard when Xander had crawled on top of him, and continued to be hard right that moment..... But he didn't stop wriggling Spike into massaging him until it started to hurt.

Well, until it started to hurt a lot.

He bent forward and Spike ran his fingers over Xander's nape one last time before settling it back between them. Xander leaned back and down into the seat until he was sprawled close enough to the idle hand to touch.

"You're fooling no one."


Spike grinned at him. "All right."

And there was silence for a while. Xander nudged, Spike was still. Xander rubbed, Spike arched his knuckles just slightly then was still again. Or maybe vice versa. Xander wasn't really sure.

"I've been thinking about your other question. Well, one of them."


"It's almost possible for me to live off you. Feed every few days, then let you rest and recover, then feed again..."

Xander did his best to ignore the surge that had gone to his cock at the word 'feed.' "Almost?"

"You would be anemic very quickly. Sluggish, exhausted, weak, and depressed. Tends to happen to your sort when you get low on blood. It takes a while to get back to normal again, and then I would be feeding on you again."


"You wouldn't be able to get out of bed after a while. You would sleep a lot, feel feverish, helpless...

"You would be very beautiful, Xander."

Xander was trapped somewhere between need and terror. The sleep didn't sound bad, but to be so... weak. He didn't particularly want that sort of beauty. Still... "What about you?"

"I would start growing sickly, too. Much more slowly than you. It would never be quite enough... at least, it hasn't the other times I've tried it."

"You've tried it before?"

"Does that surprise you? Sometimes Angelus would disappear for long stretches of time. I was very, very young at the time. Barely thirty. Had never been more than a day or two's ride away from home... And there were times when I wanted more than just a new victim every few days.

"So I'd bring someone... home."

Xander swallowed. "How long did it last?"

"The first time, I ripped her throat out after two weeks or so. Things got rather messy..." Spike smiled distantly. "Angelus was very, very angry about that last."

Xander squeezed his eyes shut, tried not to imagine what she'd looked like. "The others?"

"I managed to keep one for an entire summer once. There wasn't a single rat, cat, dog, or slow-moving bird alive for miles around. I wasn't a happy eater, but I was relatively healthy."

"So... why only three months?"

"I came home one day and he was just... dead. His skin was all papery, close to the bone.... I realized that he hadn't been outside for weeks, had lost nearly fifteen pounds.... I hadn't noticed a thing.

"He was my last attempt.

"Mortals *are* healthier these days.... I'm betting I could keep you alive at least until the end of our bargain.

"I don't want to try, though. You were surprised because you don't really think of me as the type to get attached to people. Most of the time that's me, but there are so many different sorts of people in this world.... There's always someone to make an exception for, or to have an exception made for you.

"Your choice."

The good, moral thing to say was "do it." After all, he'd be saving the lives of up to ten people just by taking the equivalent of a month-long nap. Not so much to sacrifice. Not when it meant long, long drinks from his body.


"I... I need some time to think about this."

//Killer. You just killed at least one other person.

//I'm keeping my promise...//

Spike just nodded.

Another pause.

The night sky was clear. Xander rolled down the window but regretted the deep breath he took. Highway air wasn't very good air. But it still felt nice on his skin, as he'd had enough time alone under the tarp to start sweating.

"I've never done a cop."


"Surprisingly, most of them *do* take that law-abiding thing seriously. Why, most wouldn't even get involved with *you*."

"Hey, I'm almost entirely law-abiding."

"You're also under twenty-one. Frowned upon, or so I've been told. Now when *I* was your age --"

"Oh, Christ, just stop *right* there. No uphill-both-ways stories, 'k?"

Spike snickered. "Big truckers have hairy asses."

Xander barely managed to avoid a spit-take with his soda. "All of them?"

"Every last one of them. Sorry to disappoint you."

"You don't sound very sorry."


"Nope, still not very good."

"What about if I sob?"

"We're just *filled* with disturbing thoughts tonight, aren't we?"

Spike grinned, sketched a small bow.

"Anything else you'd care to tell me?"

"Hmmm... I'm not sure whether or not you were in an altered state when I bit your thigh, yes I *do* know how it feels, and if I started to tell you how it feels to me.... Well."

"You'll tell me one day."

"Is that an order?"

"I'll look stern if it would help."

"Your mouth ruins it, I'm afraid. If Cupid used a longbow, that would be it. It's a weapon, to be sure, but it's a *cute* weapon."

Xander breathed a little harder. He didn't like "cute" a lot, but the thought of Spike thinking about his mouth.... He swallowed, scanned for the hotel. "Anything else?"

"Only vampires who feed extremely well and sleep lightly have wet dreams. Angelus was good for that."

The only words that really sunk in were the last ones. "What else was he good for?"

"Well... he didn't make for a very good father-figure, I'll tell you that much..." Spike smirked at him. "I knew you'd have a filthy mind the moment I saw you on your hands and knees, working yourself back.... Your hips were nearly liquid."

"Fffffuck. You saw that."

"I've been seeing it for weeks."

"I'm not... I... fuck."

"When are you going to tell me who put these wonderful ideas in your head, Xander? Or were they always there, more or less?"

"I... I had a friend. He came out to me one day because... well, because circumstances had made him think that I, too, was gay."

"Think you were gay."

"Just don't start. I haven't had time to get past the 'sleeping with an Undead Hellspawn' thing to the 'I'm sleeping with a guy' thing."

Xander could *feel* Spike holding in laughter.

"Bastard. Anyway, I kinda dwelled on it, wondered what he did, what he thought I did, what he wanted to do, etc.

"I did some research."



"Rather extensive research..."

"Well, I wanted to understand my friend better."

Spike didn't even try to hold in the snickers that time. Xander couldn't really blame him, but, dammit, that was his story and he was sticking to it.

"I made some decisions."

"Do tell." More snickers.

"There is nothing *particularly* gay about enjoying prostate stimulation."

"With a cock?"

"Shut up."

"Yes, sir, heterosexual man, sir."

Xander let himself laugh, too.

Eventually, they saw the exit for the hotel. It was in a mall.

"Spike, you're going to go in there and buy me clothing, you're going to bring said clothing back to the car, and then I will change into said clothing, and *then* we will check in.

"You will not forget the shoes."

"I could just leave you in the car..."

"I'll tear your tarp to shreds with my teeth if I have to."

"All right, all right. Demanding little straight man, aren't you?"

"You're not going to leave this alone, are you?"

Spike leaned over and licked a stripe from chin to forehead before kissing Xander's ear softly. "Probably not, no."

And then he was out of the car and Xander tried to decide whether or not he was more alone than he was all day.

No contest at all. He was more alone. Even the company of the dead, or something. And really... even when Spike wasn't precisely there, he was still there. He'd heard every word Xander had said...

He wondered what else he'd said those times when he hadn't been actively paying attention to things.


Tight black t-shirt, tighter black jeans, black motorcycle boots. Plain white socks that would never, ever be seen.

Of course.

"And just what look where you going for, Spike? I can't quite tell..."

Spike continued to lounge on the roof of the car, tossed his cigarette aside. Crossed his arms under his head. "You didn't specify, now did you?"

"Yeah, but..."

"I went with what I *knew* would look good on you. And my taste is impeccable."

"I look like a beating waiting to happen."

"Not with that stubble, you don't. And that 'my temporary boyfriend won't let me keep normal hours' look in your eyes adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the whole ensemble."

"Ahhhh. So I look like a *drifter*."

Spike turned his head, smiled. "Precisely. But don't worry, I got you a shaving kit, too. You'll look like a rentboy in *no* time."

"You know what you are, Spike?"

"Incredibly considerate?"

"No, you're a fulfiller of life long dreams. I can't *tell* you how long I've been looking for a way to break into the whoring profession."

Spike snickered. "I suppose you're going to want to pick out your *own* clothes from now on?"

Xander was in the process of twisting around in the attempt to check out his ass. "Well, I have to admit you have better taste than my mother..."

Spike managed to both slide and jump off the car. "I should hope *so*. The last time I saw her she was wearing a *housedress*."

Before Xander noticed he was slipping away, Spike had pulled him close. No kiss, just holding him. Xander slipped his arms around the other man's waist loosely.

"I also bought you a white t-shirt."

"Now *why* would you do that?"

"So I could watch your pretty little nipples peak it out the next time I try a little perfectly non-homosexual sensual stimulation of other parts of your body."

"Stop laughing at me." And to make sure Spike complied, Xander kissed him, tasted something familiar... "You ate my fries!"

"You practically *dared* me to. It's entirely your own fault. Now make me shut up some more."

"I don't know if I should, what with all the potato larceny going on here. I'm still a growing *boy*, Spike."

Spike slipped a hand between them and down. "Well, that's always intriguing to see..." Spike squeezed gently and rocked his palm against Xander's jeans.

Xander leaned in, rested his parted lips just to the side of Spike's mouth. "If you make me come in my brand new jeans I'll never forgive you."

Spike turned enough to speak into Xander's mouth, brought both hands to Xander's ass and squeezed. Ground his hips until Xander joined the slow rhythm. "Never?"

Licking his lips required licking Spike's, too. "Room. Bed. Bedroom. Nudity..."

"All good things, true..."

A few more moments of mindless rubbing and then Xander pulled away a little. Spike let him go, but then brought him back for a slightly more innocent hold. Slightly.

"So tell me something, Xander."


"Is this nice or disturbing?"

//OK, that's it. No more monologues unless fully scripted beforehand..//

Xander catalogued the feeling of hardness that went far beyond muscle, the way Spike could, despite their rigidity, bend and fold his limbs to make Xander feel genuinely held, the lack of heartbeat or breath on his neck, the way Xander couldn't stop stroking the other man's back.... "I'd have to say a little of both."

Spike nodded against him. "Good. That was always the way I preferred. C'mon, let's go scandalize the help."


The help was less scandalized by Spike's hand on his ass than by their lack of luggage. Xander had to admit to a little disappointment, but Spike recovered the situation by mentioning:

"Oh, well, we had to leave in something of a hurry, if you know what I mean."

And then he'd winked and escorted Xander up to their room.

Which was nice, but... bland. And it had windows. It looked just like a nice-ish, modern hotel room. Peach and teal, spotless, scentless... No history here, no possible memories to tease out of the walls.

"We have to find someplace else."

"I thought you wanted to relax a few days?"

"I... I can't put my finger on it, but..."

Spike was busy ripping the blanket off the bed, taking something out of one of his pockets. Xander hopped up on the dresser and watched as Spike climbed up on one the cushy (teal) chairs. And then nailed the blanket to the wall.

"Spike, don't you think this sort of thing will attract notice?"

"Not until after we're long gone. The maid won't be in until eight p.m., at the earliest. The blanket will be back in the general vicinity of the bed by then. And I've gotten good at this over the years -- the holes are neat, and hidden by the curtain rod."

"And the holes in the blanket?"

"Might become noticeable when they wash it, true, but then they'll be washing it with a dozen other blankets, so..."


"Oooh, I feel all pedantic and fatherly."

"Um... ew?"

Spike turned to face him, eyed him possessively. "Maybe I shouldn't be wasting my time teaching you survival tips..."

"What should you be teaching me?"

"Well, a few more kinks to *start* with.... Where should we begin? My belt, maybe?"

Xander managed to avoid sliding to the floor by sheer force of will. "Er... that belt will hurt."

"That's part of the point, yes."

"I might just be too young for that."

Spike whipped the belt off, advanced on Xander. Xander could feel his knuckles whitening on the dresser. Distantly he realized that, in cheaper accommodations, he would've already snapped fist-sized chunks of "wood."

Then Spike slid the belt around the back of his neck and tugged him off the dresser. "Are you sure you don't want to give it a try anyway? You know I'd make it very good for you."

The last was whispered against Xander's mouth. A perfect blend of menacing tenderness. It was like being killed, or just given something whose beauty came directly from its capacity to kill. "Spike?"

And then the other man was kissing him lightly, all over his face, too quickly to catch and hold.

"Spike, please...."

The belt slid down to his waist and Spike was pulling him closer, welding him to his own body. Xander felt the straight edges of the leather dig a little into his back, wondered what it would feel like on bare skin.

"I know what you were talking about before, Xander." More kisses fell as he spoke.


"This room, what's wrong with it.... You'll never be able to leave a mark here, or even be able to read the marks of others." Spike let the belt fall for just long enough to reach between Xander's legs and pull the loose end up through them. He gathered both ends in one hand and tugged the belt up until it rubbed and caressed Xander's trapped erection.

Xander let out a shaky breath, pulled in another. Clutched at Spike and worked his own hips. The motion was conscious enough to shame, felt too good to stop.

"That's it... yeah..." Spike used his free hand to trace over Xander's ribs, down to squeeze one pumping hip gently, back up to thumb and pinch one nipple through the thin fabric until Xander moaned. "Places like this don't bother me as much, I don't think. I know there will be other rooms, better canvasses..."

"Am I... do you want me to be your canvas?"

Spike hissed, bit him softly just behind the ear, moved on to the other nipple. "You're much smarter than you think you are, Xander. Your mind is as tempting as your body."

"I'm going to take that as a yes." The words were right but his voice was in that register of wrong he'd come to recognize as 'I'm going to get laid and there isn't a damned thing I can do about it.'

"Good Xander..." Another bite, a long, slow lick. Xander shuddered, thrust harder against the belt. "I like marking you, I like playing with the marks. All of them."

"I don't want... that..."

Spike bit him harder this time, sank in and sucked for a long moment. Xander heard himself breathing, knew how he must have looked. "Don't you?"

"Please, I don't want you to hurt me --"

"What you want, what I want..." Spike trailed off, forced Xander's head back until he could get to the throat. "You want this, don't you?" Breathed against the skin.

"Y-yeah... yes..."

This was what a snakebite should feel like, he decided. Fast, inevitable, unbreakable... Filling you with poison so sweet it weakened your knees, sent you down to die in the sun.

Then Spike shifted away until he stood to the side. Held the ends of the belt with both hands and began a sawing motion. Xander couldn't look at him. He had no blood left in his body but the load in his cock that drove him to work himself raw... He reached out blindly, needing something to brace himself on.

Spike pushed them down to their knees and it was suddenly both easier and a lot more wrong. "Spike -- don't make me do this..." Xander swallowed, tried to sound a little more convinced. "Don't make me do this."

Spike stilled the belt but did not remove it. "I could take just enough blood to make you surrender to anything.... Are you sure you wouldn't prefer that?"

Xander blinked. Sweat dripped in his eye and he brought his hands up to rub it away. Spike had asked that question as though it was the most perfectly natural thing in the world.

//Sheesh. Can't even wrap your legs around a vampire's neck without him starting to make assumptions about you...//

"Spike, you..."

The belt was gone, at last. Spike ran one hand down his back, used the other to push his hair off his forehead. "Too much?"

"The 'don't do this' didn't clue you in?"

"I guess I was just paying more attention to your hips..."

His voice was almost entirely unrepentant, and Xander felt real fear curl in his belly for the first time since waking up in the nameless hotel. Xander met Spike's eyes anyway. "I'm guessing this is the downside to having a partner anxious to anticipate your needs."

Spike winced. "I'm scaring you too much, aren't I?"

"Too much? Spike... how much are you holding back? What am I... what is this month going to be?"

"Whatever you want."

"Whether I admit it or not? Tell me, who *is* the real you? Is it even remotely close to the person I agreed to... to *belong* to for a month?"

Spike sat back on his heels, seemed to be thinking. After a while his face rippled, then settled back into human mode. "Things like that are remarkably hard to quantify, in case that hasn't occurred to you."

"I don't.... you can't push me this far."

Spike was staring at him, expression so deeply *interested* as to impose about six miles of distance between them.

Xander sighed. "Well, obviously you *could*, but it just wouldn't be... the same."

Spike frowned. "But you did want it. You *do*."

"What did you *see* when I was saying no?"

"I saw you writhing, pushing into the belt, bending your knees to get closer to it whenever I relaxed the pressure a little --"

"You did that?"

"I heard you moaning, I smelled your sweat, and yes, there was fear in there but you were so hard... I didn't have to touch you to know it. I could feel your heat. Sometimes I think I'm going to burn myself..."

"I said *no*."

"I... and then I thought to myself that I barely had three weeks left and I want so *much*."

"Fuck... Fuck, Spike, I can't give you a year in a month. It's too fast, I don't know where I'm going and every fucking *once* in a while, that is an actual concern.

"You don't want to bleed me dry. Fine. But can't you see this is the same thing?"

Spike stood up, walked over to the bed. Sat down behind Xander, but did not touch. Xander could feel him leaning over, though. Maybe propping his head on his hands. "What do you think, Xander? What are you going to do when my month is over?"

"I..." Xander paused. "I have no fucking clue."

Spike ran a finger down the back of his neck, just enough pressure to keep it from tickling. "I want to just nod, tell you I understand..... For whatever it's worth, 'the real me' wants you to know that I don't have a fucking clue, either."

"Shouldn't that... make the agreement null and void?"

"Do you want it to?"

Xander put his head in his hands and giggled. "Are you asking me if I really want it or if it's just my body that wants it?"

"Er... I have no fucking clue?"

Xander kept laughing. "Good answer! Fifty points to the scary dead guy with the belt..."

The hand was in his hair now, tugging, massaging his scalp a little. Xander breathed, then leaned back into the touch until his cheek rested on Spike's thigh. They stayed that way for a while, quiet.

Until Xander couldn't stand it anymore. "I still need a shave."

"You might look interesting with a beard."

"Or I might look like a lumberjack."

"I don't think you quite have the shoulders for that. Maybe a recently-fed homeless man."

"Has anyone ever questioned your sense of aesthetics before?"

Spike sighed dramatically. "*Fine*. Hack at yourself with a razor and don't even let me watch. See if I care."

"It's not fair to make me laugh without even a decent edge of hysteria, Spike."

"The real me wants you to know that I never claimed to play fair."

"Yet another comment I'm going to pay for, I see."

"I rather think it makes them more valuable in the long run. Well, certainly more valuable for *me*."

Xander shook off Spike's hand lightly, stood and turned. Spike leaned back on the bed and put his hands behind his head. Definitely a favorite position...

Relaxation? An offer? Xander started to reach for the other man, who in turn held himself perfectly still.


Xander stopped himself before he could touch, stuffed his hand in his pocket. "So... where's that shaving kit?"

Spike looked at him evenly. "White bag in the bathroom."

"Yeah.... OK. OK. I'll... I'll just go shave."

Spike smiled a little. "No nice homeless man for me?"

"Next large city we pass, I promise."

Spike grinned, nudged him with his knee. "Well, go on then. They have a steakhouse down there.... I want to watch you eat."

"You're a voyeur."

"And I'm rather shameless about it, too."

Spike nudged him again, and Xander walked to the bathroom. Closed the door behind him and just looked in the mirror for a long, long moment.


In the end, Xander had decided to shower, too. The air conditioning in the Mikado restaurant was pleasantly cool on his damp skin. The lank-but-clean hair on his forehead brought back pleasant memories.

Spike's steak wasn't raw.

It was, in fact, extremely far from raw.

"Why isn't your steak raw?"

"Well, I'm not *always* in the mood to rend and tear things apart with my teeth. Sometimes I just want to chew a bit. Tsk, tsk. You sure do make a lot of assumptions, don't you, Xander?"

"I probably need re-education, but it's freaking me out that your steak is more cooked than mine. The only liquid on that plate is *sauce*."

Spike grinned up at him from under his lashes. "If it'll make you feel any better, I'll switch with you."

"Not a chance. I like my steaks moist and delicious."


"I'd stick my tongue out at you if I wasn't afraid it would be corrupted with dry steak molecules. In fact..." Xander leaned in over his plate, curled one arm around it.

Spike snickered. "Who taught you to eat like a lifer?"

"She may not look it, but Willow used to be a little thief. I'd come home from trick-or-treating with a Mary Jane and a gum wrapper."

"And here I thought she was just cute."

"Stop that. And I didn't think Willow would be anything like your type."

"Pretty, sweet, odd.... What's not to like?"

"Innocence? Basic goodness?"

"And just how dirty do you think you are, Xander?"

The question hung there for a while. Then it just stood on the table and tapped its foot impatiently. Xander looked at his plate instead. "Dirtier than Willow."

Spike was silent for a moment, took a pull on his not-very- Japanese-at-all beer. "All right."

Xander went back to eating until he'd rendered the steak to bone and one small square of gristle. Even the sauce didn't make the last bit of gristle edible. He was surprised to discover that the little bites of baked potato he'd been taking as he went had reduced the thing to skin and small pools of congealing butter.

He frowned at it, instinctively looked over at Spike's plate. Still half a steak there, and hell, that sauce would've sunk in by now... "Um... planning on eating that?"

Spike snorted, pushed the plate over.

Xander didn't look up until he had two bones and three small squares of gristle. He was almost full. And Spike was just... staring. He wasn't sure how he'd managed not to feel that.

"You're looking at me like you want to ask an uncomfortable question."

"Lots of uncomfortable questions in your life, were there?"

"Probably no more than anyone else. What can I say, I'm sensitive to some things."

"I bet you are."

No question at all. Spike was angry, though it was a cold sort of thing. Maybe he'd perfected it for public places away from the Hellmouth. Xander pulled himself back from the tangent and ran through everything he'd said in the past several minutes.

He wasn't fast enough.

"If you want me to punish you, then why can't I use the belt?"

Their waitress, a bare table away, promptly spilled a cup of coffee in another customer's lap. It might just be a bad thing to have good hearing sometimes...

Xander just choked a little on the ice cube he was sucking, but it went down his throat anyway. Too large *and* too cold. When the pain faded a bit, Xander spoke. "You're really fond of the easy questions, hunh?"

"I don't think I can let you change the subject this time. I know this isn't very easy and familiar to you, I know you can't see why I think it's all perfectly normal. But what do you want? Do you know?"

Xander's mouth twisted. "Your choice to pick up a fucked- up teenager, Spike."

"Very true. But I also picked one who *knew* he was fucked-up."

"Ah. So I should be struggling to fit into your concept of normal, happy, murdering sadomasochism?"

"I really didn't think you had so far to go."

Xander scrubbed a hand through his hair, swiped Spike's beer. "If this was Holy Water, one drop would burn a hole into your skin. That means you're *evil*, Spike. I know I want you. I know I didn't let my friends kill you. How am I supposed to *not* think this is some wrong that I deserve?"

"Because real punishment *hurts*, Xander."

"How long has it been? A week? Ten days? What do you *want* from me?"

"I want you to admit you like it when I make you come. When I drink your blood you moan. When I open up a wound you're more attached to me than my own fucking *skin* --"

Xander shook his head. "I'm not denying that, it feels good, I'm hard right now but it's still *wrong*."

Spike laughed, spread his hands and shook his head. "How do you *know*? Did God come down from on high and tell you? I give you pleasure, you give me pleasure. There are no churches here, no Holy Water. Neither of us are dead enough to get into Heaven *or* Hell. So why make it so hard?"

"It *is* hard --"

"No one is forcing your hand, Xander."

"It only makes it worse to have you working to... *convince* me."

"Oh, I know *that* argument. If someone can make you believe something opposed to the One Truth then they *must* be an agent of the devil."

"No, I... *Holy Water*."

"Well, I'll concede the Holy Water, but... what if that's just another demon's power? Not everyone likes vampires, you know."

"You're reaching."

"But I'm not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Your God is blood, revenge, cannibalism, occasional incest, the torture and death of innocents.... Should I continue?"

"I feel sick."

"Do you go to church regularly? Do you count your blessings and pray?"

"Why can't you just let me be?"

"What was it like the first time you saw a vampire? Did you ever wonder if there was a person inside the ugly little killer?"

"Spike, I can't --"

"How did it feel to see the Holy Water burn like acid? It was proof, wasn't it? Something stable to hold onto. And it even came with friends, didn't it?

"People to share a belief system with. People who would touch you, listen to you, laugh at your jokes.... What was it like to see Buffy with Angel, with a monster who'd killed again and again? What did you do when they were no longer your friends?"

"They still are."

"But what about when you didn't know that? You walked away. The evil spilling out of the Hellmouth wasn't quite so important without the community.

"And you let me take you."

"And I'm. Still. Here. Why can't you let it be enough?"

"Would you want your lover to spend every minute he wasn't coming or on the way to coming mournfully condemning himself for a monster who deserves to die?"

"Hey, sometimes we just talk."

Spike laughed, apparently despite himself. Paused, tugging at the tablecloth. "Xander, I *want* you. Haven't you forgiven Buffy yet?"

"Remind me never to fight you for real. Realer than this anyway.... Yes, I've forgiven Buffy. The minute I saw the way she and Angel looked at each other. Really *saw* it. And yeah, I know that means I'm a hypocrite for not forgiving myself, but..."

"Angel doesn't kill people anymore and Buffy is good and pure?"

"I can't forgive you."

Spike cupped his cheek, the first real touch since Xander had showered and shaved. It felt so good on his skin, so soothing...

"I don't *need* you to. I gave up on forgiveness before this was a country, Xander. Just... please, forgive yourself. If only for a little while."

"God, don't be so fucking *nice*, Spike."

"I'm not being nice at all, do you see?"

Xander shook his head.

"Well, that's all right, too. Let's go upstairs."


Xander leaned back against the shower wall, too wiped to do more than hold on to Spike's shoulders as he used the washcloth to wipe him clean. It felt too good to interrupt anyway.

Spike got on one knee to wash his legs and feet and Xander spread for him. Got his abdomen thoroughly kissed, but even that wasn't enough to stir his cock for another round.

Spike had been ruthless once they'd gotten upstairs, slamming Xander back against the door and then just kissing him softly until Xander bit him.

At which point Spike kissed him breathless and then Xander had been on the bed.

And then he'd been naked, and then Spike was all over him, fast and soft except when he wasn't. Xander knew it hadn't taken long for him to start screaming.

And begging... but he could only understand his own words when he started saying "I'm sorry," over and over, cracking on sorry each time Spike's cock brushed against him where he needed it most. Spike had made him come, then slipped out to drag him right back into the frenzy.

Making him writhe, making him bleed. Spike's mouth on his cock, Spike's fingers in his mouth, Spike's body moving over and against his own constantly, except those times when Xander realized it was *him* moving so needfully.

Spike was so smooth, almost too smooth. Xander felt coarse against all the nearly scarless pale skin, sweaty and clumsy. But Spike kept murmuring words like "so good," and "beautiful," and Xander wanted to fight that but when Spike turned him over, manhandled him onto his knees, and slammed back in --

It had seemed as though every doubt, every fear became a wall of glass.

And Spike battered it into a million whickering shards that buried themselves all over Xander's body, where they would cut and cut until the wall had been reformed.

But not yet.

"Turn around, luv."

Xander woke up enough to see Spike again. He was still on one knee. There were dark roots showing in his hair. Xander petted him, Spike arched into the touch for a moment before looking up at him.

"You're smiling."

"It's time for another dye job."

"Hell. I just did it a year ago."

"You know, I can't decide whether to laugh or encourage my balls to go back home."

Spike leaned in and began to lick him thoroughly.

"This isn't going to make me laugh very much, Spike."

"Do they still want to go home?" Spoken against his skin.

"I think they just sold their return ticket for a loss."

"Gooood." Xander could feel him smiling. "Now let me wash your back..."

Echoes to the first time... Had it been the first time? It was too hazy to be sure...

//Ten *days*....//

But Xander turned, crossed his arms in front of his face and rested his head there. Spike scrubbed where he wanted it, caressed where he wanted it....

//Everything I want.//

And Spike was standing behind him, holding him close. Nuzzling his throat. "Everything you want..."

"I said that out loud?"

Spike kissed him there, squeezed. "Great minds think alike, perhaps."

Xander brought his hands down, rested them on Spike's forearms. Then moved them forward to tangle his fingers with Spike's own. Spike kissed him again.

"Feel like crawling into bed?"

"Mmmm... only if the sheets are dry by now."

Spike snickered. "We'll put a towel down."

Xander yawned. "It's good that you're practical."


"Wake up... wake up... wake up..."

Spike was intruding on his slumber.


"C'mon, love. It's after seven. Time to get out of here if we want to find someplace more suitable by dawn tomorrow."

After seven. Xander flung himself upright and regretted it. His head sounded like the inside of an enthusiastic musician's steel drum. "Owwwww..."

"What's the matter? Oh.... whoops."


"I took a little more last night than I have before. You need water. And sugar. And food."

"I need *sleep*"

Spike cupped his face, leaned in close. Only possible way to respond to that was to wrap his arms around the other man and tug him back down to the pillow with him. "Xander --"

"Shhh. Sleep good. Xander tired. Sleep with Xander."

Spike chuckled against his shoulder. It tickled, but Xander lacked the energy to wriggle all that much. Spike kissed him there once before rolling out of his arms.

"You're not very good at cuddling are you?"

"Xander, there are few things I enjoy more than shoving my thigh between your legs and trapping you until you start making those entertaining attempts to escape. However --"


"You'll only feel worse when you wake up."

"And then I'll go back to sleep."


Xander braced his feet on the bed, then fanned out his knees. "Have..." He yawned hugely. "Have a blast."

"Well, aren't *we* getting jaded."

"Mmm... My fragile innocence simply could not stand against your powerful seductions."

"You know that bucket of ice you insisted on getting last night?"


"It's almost melted, Xander. You don't *really* want me to dump it all over you and the bed, do you?"

"You forget, I am a swimmer. I can nap on *tile*. In standing water."

"Food court."

Xander had no answer.

"Burritos, pizza, won tons..."

"You're cruel, Spike. Cruel."

"Ice cold soda, sweet and just a little thick... sliding down your throat..."


"Juicy burgers, fried chicken..."

"Oh, you *bastard*." Xander was awake *and* half-hard.

Spike responded by reaching down to help him up. Xander swayed, and had to concede that Spike may have had a point. He felt profoundly not good.

"Fuck, Spike... I don't even know if I can get my fucking *clothes* on."

"All the more reason to get somewhere you won't have to." Spike kissed his forehead. "I'll help?"

Xander shook his head very, very carefully. "That... that's a bit much."

Spike nodded, released him.

Xander managed to steady himself after a moment, grinned ruefully. "Should I be happy or worried that you'd let yourself go this far for me?"

Spike handed him his clothes. Same jeans, different boxers and t-shirt. "Your choice."

Xander wanted to dwell on that one for a while, but his body was talking about the many other things he had to do first. He weaved his way into the bathroom, closed the door behind him.

Several minutes later he was naked to the waist and splashing water on his face, wondering idly if the bucket was large enough to hold his head. He *was* starting to feel better, though. Might have had something to do with swallowing some of every splash of water. His tongue was singing the praises of fluid with every drop.

After a quick shave, Xander dressed only somewhat clumsily, and was about to wander back into the room when he noticed the very large, very obvious vampire hickey on his throat.



"Did you buy any turtlenecks, by any chance?"

Spike walked in to examine the problem, or perhaps just admire his handiwork.

"Maybe they'll just think we're kinky?"

"Spike -- *fangmarks*."

"Very kinky?"

"The bruises on my arms and legs --"

"And the back of your neck."

"Thank you. And the bruises on the back of my neck are kinky, this is a vampire bite."

"Two really big mosquitoes, maybe?"

Xander tried to meet the other man's eyes in the mirror. Failed and glared. Turned and watched Spike do a terrible job of covering his laughter. "I *need* something to cover my neck."

"All right, all right, lemme check."

Spike rummaged in his jacket for a while and came out with a darkly stained bandanna and a great, big, leather dog collar.

"You planned this, didn't you?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I denied it, would you?"

"Not by any stretch of the imagination."

Spike offered the bandanna. "Maybe... rinse it out?"

Xander held it up to the light, winced. "This belongs at a crime scene, Spike. I think I might catch something if I put it on."

"Oh, it's been in this jacket for *months*. Maybe years. I'm sure all the *really* nasty germs are dead by now."

"Or lying in wait."

Spike took the moment to waggle the pristine, positively gleaming collar. "Just as clean as you are."

"It came from the same jacket as... as *this* thing."

"True, but not the same pocket."

"How many pockets do you have in there?"

"No fucking clue."

Brief silence. Xander used the pause to try to convince himself the hickey wasn't that bad. Xander saw it gently pulse and blanched. "I hope you realize you aren't getting anywhere *near* me with a leash."

Spike sighed and removed a leash from yet another pocket. Tossed it in the waste basket. "Happy now?"

Xander blinked. "OK, *try* to tell me I wasn't inches away from getting a food dish with my name on it. Just try."

"Hell, those have been in this jacket for a while, too, you know."

"Just because?"

"You never know what opportunities will arise while one is out and about."

"Gimme the damned collar."

Spike grinned at him again, handed it over.

Xander fingered it for a moment. Someone had taken the time to pummel the inside edge to vaguely fuzzy softness. Xander attempted to glare at the other man again, but Spike was just leaning against the door jamb, muttering something about his hair. Xander abruptly noticed that he'd been keeping it mussed...


Held the collar up to his throat, and then looked at his reflection again. It definitely covered up the hickey, wasn't too wide for his neck. It was big, though, and he'd have to pull it tight for it not to slip.

He could see his forearms. Had Spike kept his hands up above his head last night? Flash of himself begging for Spike to bite his chest harder, use his rough tongue on Xander's nipples.

Xander shuddered, resisted the urge to pull his shirt out of his jeans, lift it out and see the morning's damage. He didn't really have to... he could feel it in the way soft cotton insisted on rubbing him hot and sore.

The collar. The collar gave the bruises a reason to be there. People might want to vomit at the sight, but no one would call the cops on his behalf, either.

"Spike, how do you manage to make self-marginalization look like a good idea?"

Spike continued to dutifully Not Look at him. "'s the shadows, Xander. Anything is possible in the shadows."

Xander nodded, reasonably sure Spike would catch the motion out of the corner of his eye. Turned the collar backwards so he could fasten it. Paused as the tongue slipped through the first metal loop. "I'm not your pet."

"I don't want you to be my pet."

"This... this fucking collar --"

And then Spike was behind him, stroking his arms. Xander closed his eyes so he didn't have to see nothing. "It can come off the second we get out from under the lights. It's not a promise, it doesn't have to mean anything, I swear."

"But the belt --"

"Was a mistake and I'm sorry. Think of it as just a... just a cover. We both know it's only a cover, a joke. And there's no one else here who matters, Xander. "

"Let them tell the lies for me."

"Most of them won't even see."

"Won't let themselves see..."

Spike spun him around and kissed him hard. "That's it, luv. That's it right there. It's only camouflage."

"Without the leaves in my hair."

Spike grinned, kissed him again. "Exactly."

Xander leaned forward against Spike's shoulder, let the other man stroke his back. He was still holding the tongue of the collar. He took a deep breath and buckled it as quickly as he could. Ripped it around to face the right way and felt Spike's bite chafed by a million tiny chamois cloths. Groaned.

Spike rubbed him a little harder, trying to get through and distract him, if not necessarily make him feel better. Honest and... unfair.


"Yeah?" Softly, no breath stirring Xander's hair.

"It feels good...."

Spike stilled for a moment, then pushed Xander back. Stared into his eyes, searching for whatever it was Spike wanted or dreaded to find. And then he just ran his thumb over Xander's mouth. "That doesn't have to matter, either."

Xander nodded. "Let's go eat."


By midnight they were well on their way to wherever. They had, in fact, crossed into an entirely different state whose name Xander had forgotten instantly.

The road was mostly bare, smooth of potholes. The only part of it really visible were the dotted white lines. It made the ride sort of like floating, or being pulled along a single track at a speed the body couldn't quite fathom.

Somewhere between forty and ridiculously fast, so smooth it was almost painful.

But there was nothing like sanctuary in sight.

"We're going to have to shack up in a hotel again, aren't we?"

"Or drive night and day. Dammit, it usually isn't this hard..."

"You usually don't have a pesky mortal along for the ride."

"I wouldn't use the word pesky. I mean, you've never once come at me with a stake."

"I take it you've developed a high tolerance for general irritation."

Spike grinned. "Comes with the territory."

Xander grinned, too. Leaned back in the seat and settled his feet on the dash. He had no urge to turn on the radio, despite the silence in the car. It was the sort of quiet that could be broken at any time.

"That abandoned hotel really was perfect..." Like by himself.

Spike sighed. "I know. Burning it really did seem like a good idea at the time, though. I didn't think you'd ever want anyone to.... Well."


"You're getting better at that."

"Prolonged exposure to intense Britishness."

"I do try."

Another silence, briefer this time.

"Xander, I think we're going to need a city, at least for the time being."

"I figured that."

Spike reached over and squeezed his thigh. "I'll buy us some ratty old building --"

"Ratty is fine, but I can't cope with roaches."

"With no roaches. We'll paint the windows black and throw soft stuff all over the place."

"So you can push me down and ravish me at any given time?"

"Is there any other reason?"

"None at all."

And another few miles of silence. Xander used the time to examine Spike's hand more closely than he'd had the chance to do before. Held the fingers against his own, traced the small lines. They looked perfectly natural, of course, but.... still. No sense of change. Frozen in time. Xander picked it up and rubbed it against his cheek.

No real reason, just... something to do.

It was almost a shock when Spike suddenly began to caress him of his own volition, running his knuckles down Xander's cheek, over his mouth. So much touch, all right there whenever he wanted it.... It was addictive, frightening. Who else would allow this, want this?

Xander threaded his fingers through Spike's again, brought their hands down to the seat.

Watched the car -- he'd finally checked, it was a Chevy -- eat more miles, idly considered the cold cuts he'd stashed in the cooler they'd picked up at the grocery store. Rolls back there, too... but he'd give it another hour or so.

Or maybe just eat the ice cream.

"I bought that hotel a year and a half ago, used a dummy corporation. It was called 'The Rand.' Built in quasi- Victorian style in the fifties... but no one wanted nostalgia then."

//Storytime with Spike?//

Xander kept his mouth shut, squeezed the other man's hand when he started to pull away.

"The hotel failed very, very quickly. But the construction was sound. The town had bought the land at cost to keep it from being developed anymore. Ironhead, Inc. had to sign a lot of papers promising to protect the turtles or whatever.

"Anyway. It was supposed to be a gift. For Dru."

Xander nodded.

"You know, for the next time she got sick of the cities..."

Spike frowned, stared at the road, and just drove for a while.

Xander sat patiently, tried not to sweat too obviously. Struggled to remember just *why* he'd needed to know this, but then stopping Spike at this point wasn't an option.

"When she left me, I knew I *had* to get her back because I knew she'd love The Rand.

"And because I had to have her back.

"Hell, I even came back to *your* town..."

Xander winced. A great deal of the Badness that weekend had been his own fault. It definitely would've been better if Spike had hit him harder, kept him knocked out until the whole thing was over...

".. stupid love potion." Spike snorted laughter. "I finally figured out what I had to do to get her back, and it worked." Spike turned to look at Xander. "You see, she wanted me to 'be myself,' too."

Xander had more of an idea of what that meant than he really wanted.

"I presented her with... rare delicacies. I killed the lover she'd taken in a spectacular way. That was all just the prelude, though.

"When she acknowledged my play by burning my hotel down just before dawn, I moved on to the second stage -- I kidnapped her, chained her in a dark room with no stimulation but the occasional rat trying to bite her, and I let her starve for some days."

Xander swallowed hard.

"Let her hear me 'having fun' and feeding well. On the fifth day, I went downstairs and wiped some of my blood on her mouth. She didn't move, even to snap at me. Just... just *looked* at me the way she used to. She said: 'what took you so long, Spike? I missed you...'

"But she wasn't talking about the five days in the basement alone, do you see?"

"Y-yeah... Spike, you don't have to do this, I think I --"

Spike took his hand away, put it on the wheel. "I need to say this once. Please, let me finish."

Xander wrapped his arms around himself and nodded. The worst wasn't the streaks of blood he could see on Spike's arms, or the mad look in Dru's eyes. Vivid images, but... familiar, somehow. The worst was seeing the look of love in Spike's eyes and understanding it for just one slow heartbeat.

For a moment, he loved her, too.

"Go on."

"We were together again, for maybe two weeks. It was just like old times. The *really* old times, before she'd begun getting... getting ill.

"It was so fucking *good* to have her in my arms again. Good and evil... none of it mattered because I wasn't Spike anymore, I was the other half of Dru and Spike. Nothing mattered at all, except when she decided it did.

"Everything was wonderful and strange through her eyes, everything had color when she touched it. People were never truly alive until after she'd killed them, and in her eyes...

"In her eyes I could live forever."

Xander closed his eyes. Too many images. Too much wrong to sound this... right. He wanted to jump out of the car and hit the ground tumbling, or maybe just reach out again.

"We played games, lots of games."

"I'm uh... I'm guessing not Monopoly."

"No, not Monopoly, though she was fond of Risk."

Xander had to laugh and when he stopped, Spike was looking at him, half-smile on his own lips.

"She really was, you know."

"I believe you."

Spike abruptly pulled over to the shoulder and stopped the car. Morphed into the game face and *howled* at the sky. Xander was cold all over in an instant, caught himself pressing against the door.

Spike howled again, then breathed.

Abruptly whirled on Xander, pulled himself back to human, or close enough.

"It's... it's almost over. I won't hurt you..."

"I know..."

Spike slid over and pressed his forehead to Xander's. "Do you believe me? Really believe me?"

He wasn't asking about whether Xander trusted him about his safety, he wasn't even asking for belief. He wanted to be understood. Xander leaned up and kissed him hard. "I know you loved her."

//Why am I here? I'm just as... as *down* as you are...//

Spike finally leaned back, but not all the way. He took both of Xander's hands this time and *held* them. Not painfully, just a simple imprisonment. His hands would stay right there.

"One of the games involved spikes." He wasn't looking at Xander. "Spikes, precision, timing, trust and skill." He brought one of Xander's hands closer to him, rested it high on his abdomen. "The spike would go in right here, and whoever held it would push it in on an upward diagonal. Slowly.

"The trick was to get it so close to the heart that you could both feel it brush the muscle, and then continue pushing until it could be pulled out -- very carefully -- of your back."


"We all find ways to be absolute idiots, Xander. It never changes....

"It was Dru's favorite, though when she started getting... ill, the trust aspect started to wear away. I let her do it to me anyway. One of the game's aspects was knowing your partner's heart well enough to not need any direction, but since the point of the game was *not* to thin the Undead population, if you felt that spike get too close you *had* to say something.

"You lost points, but, to me, that was just another excuse to try it again, and again...

"So one day after I had her back she asked to play the game. I immediately handed her a Spike and took off my shirt. She said, 'Spike... it's been so long since you've done it for me....'

"And then she kissed me and then we were both naked and... and we began.

"We didn't bother with chains or anything like that for the game -- we both knew we wouldn't be going anywhere. After I got the point in, she pulled me over a little to the side.

""I want to hold you while you do it,' she said.

"Nothing new there, either. We kissed while I pushed it in. It could've gone on for hours... Probably did. I could feel the sun start to rise outside...

"I slept a lot less, then."

Xander could almost hear her, whispering 'I love you' every time Spike thrust...

"I could feel her blood on my hip, she felt so wonderful against me. She bit the inside of her own cheek while I kissed her. I..."

Spike's face rippled several times before settling into that uncomfortable mix of human and demon.

"And then she said, 'you're so far away from my heart.' And her voice had that... that distant thing. I felt like an idiot. It *had* been too long since I'd done this for her, of course she had every right to believe I wasn't her Spike and I tilted it up."

Spike tried to make the motion with his hand, Xander didn't let him.

"She kissed me harder, but I still felt it push against her heart. I had to be dead center... I stopped and saw that her blood was all over my legs, puddling beneath my feet....

"Too much blood. And I looked at her and I couldn't understand and she was smiling, so sweetly.

'Don't worry, I already told Daddy good-bye.'

"And then she slammed herself down and her... her dust stuck to the blood on my legs."

"Oh, fuck fuck fuck --"

"There was no relief in her eyes, no sense of completion."

"Spike --"

"It was just a whim, Xander. Another game, another trick for her Spike. I think she honestly believed that I would understand.

"We had a century, Xander.

"We could've had forever."

Xander remained silent.

"Just another game, but it meant there'd be no others, ever. She's gone because one day it just really seemed like a great fucking *idea*."

"I... I can't think of anything to say."

Spike's voice was tired. "There's nothing."

They stayed that way for a while, and then Xander pulled his hands away. Crawled and finally sort of fell into holding Spike. It was the only thing he could think of...

For the moment.

"Spike... when there's no one else..."

"I was *there*, I was *always* there."

"I... I wasn't talking about Dru."

"Oh. Sorry." Brief laugh. "I lied to you, Xander. Well... I never told you the whole truth at least."

"You have another suicidal teenager somewhere in London, don't you?"

God, it had felt terrible to say, but it made Spike laugh. Even if Spike didn't need it, Xander did.

"No... it's just that.... Well, I actually came back to Sunnydale hoping to die in a blaze of glory, or perhaps just a blaze. Prayerfully crisping Buffy at the same time...

"You probably didn't want to hear that."

"Not really, no. But go on anyway."

"Feeling healthy tonight, are we?"

"They feed us touchy-feely in kindergarten these days, Spike. There's no way to escape it."

"I promise to work on a cure."

"Thank you."

They shifted, or rather Spike did and took Xander with him until Spike was leaning back against the driver's side door and Xander was back against him. A part of Xander wanted to jump away, another part insisted that he was still keeping his promises, another told him to stay there until Spike had to go under the tarp again.

"Anyway, I saw you first. Decided to follow you, assuming I'd eventually know everything about Buffy's movements without having to risk treading on a Slayer's instincts."

"Heh. That plan died quick, didn't it?"

"Oh yes. But, by the time it did, I was... interested. At first I thought you must have done something horrible to be ostracized, but then it really didn't seem like your friends were quite that type. And then that interest sort of flowed into the general 'are mortals really different these days?'"

"Are we?"

"No, not really. You have lots of other things to do besides wanking it, but that didn't seem to make a difference with *you* --"

"I feel the need to mention that I am a teenaged male. Despite everything, part of me is thinking about sex right now."

"Just a part?"

Xander knocked his head back against Spike's nose.

"All right, all right. In any case, I started lusting after you rather quickly. You were... inventive. And I could feel your heat through the window."

Spike's hands were moving. Slightly.

"And then what?"

"You talk to yourself a lot. Refine conversations until they bite, tell yourself stories and jokes, talk to inanimate objects --"

"Well *that's* disturbing."

"I listened to you all night sometimes. You would ask questions and let them hang there and I came so *close* to answering them, just to see how you would answer back."

"I'm guessing girly scream."

"Other than that." There was a smile in Spike's voice. "After the question had been spoken, you'd be silent for a while, then move on to other topics. You said their names, Xander, but they weren't there..."

"Don't --"

"After a while it wasn't even the listening that kept me coming back, though I still whispered possible other sides to your conversations. I was waiting to see them, waiting to hear your phone ring, waiting for your parents to actually come *upstairs* for once...."

Spike held him tighter and Xander let him.

"And then I just waited, and watched."

"What were you waiting for?"

"An opportunity. Well, a better one than knocking on your window. I knew you'd never invite me in."

"Some of those nights..."

"I didn't want to be invited in for... for that."

"I know."

"And that night.... I wasn't really thinking 'now's a good time to take him home.'"

"I... I don't remember much."

"Probably for the best. I saw you there, and I thought about Dru and.... Well, I hadn't been thinking about her *enough*, you know? I couldn't let you do it."

"So off to open Dru's unopened gift, instead?"

"Well, it wasn't Dru's anymore once I brought you there, not really.

"But it felt good to burn it anyway."

Xander nodded. He *had* been right about Spike's motivations, a little. Not a replacement for Dru so much as... another chance. But then again, he'd wanted to *talk* to him...

And he had.

"I'll find us someplace good, Xander."

"But... buying a *building*?"


Xander's stomach twisted. "I... I... our bargain..."

Spike rested his lips against the back of Xander's neck. "I don't have anyone else to spend the money on. And the building will still be there... when you've gone."

"Yeah... I guess you could always use another place to..."

"Live, yes."


A chuckle against his skin. "That was almost perfect."

"I do try."

And they stayed there for a while.


The coffee was thick, black, and apparently laced with crystal meth. Xander could feel it taking years off his life while eating away his body from the inside out.

But he was damned well awake.

Shaking, but awake.

"Truckers may have hairy asses, but their big-haired waitresses make damned good coffee, Spike.

"Well, OK, maybe not *good*, per se, but definitely effective.

"Oh yeah. Effective. E-F-F-F... you know what I'm saying."

Spike was under the tarp, of course. He would hear every word just the same, though, and most probably tease Xander to death about it come sunset. But it was his own damned fault.

"This is your damned fault, Spike.

"You know it is.

"Keeping me up all night. You have no conscience whatsoever, do you?

"Well, actually, I think I can answer that one on my own."

Xander returned his focus to the road, surprised to see it wasn't rising up to eat the Chevy, vampire filling or no. The road was just laying there before him, mile upon mile of it, a few dozen cars dotting it like the abstract patterns Willow used to make with her sugar buttons.

Xander had rarely punched her, wrestled with her... none of that stuff. It had just always seemed like a bad idea. Sometimes he would just sit and listen to her go on at length about the monsters under their beds with all the great authority a seven year old could muster.

It was a lot of authority.

"You know... it took me a while before I started to really talk, Spike. I mean, I *could* talk at a normal age, but there just wasn't anyone really around. That's why I was surprised about the talking-to-myself thing...

"I used to catch myself doing it when I was a kid, trying to think up good conversations I could have with Willow. You know, something just as cool and weird as she was. When I caught myself there'd be a *huge* argument in my head about whether the talking meant I was insane, whether I should even try, hey, does *this* argument mean we're insane? Only if you say we....

"Well, I did say they were huge."

Xander stretched as much as he could, managed to pop his back after only a small amount of contortion. Flipped the visor back up and noticed that there were a large number of very dark clouds rolling in.

"I bet *you* drive during massive storms... I don't. What do you think -- motel and just wait until it's *really* storming before I drag you inside? Leave you in the car? Maybe just find a parking lot and stay there... Yeah, that works. Next big mall we find we're shacking up.

"What was I talking about?

"Oh yeah, I was talking about how I used to not talk much unless I was talking to myself.

"OK, it's probably a sign of impending pathology that I can talk about talking. Your own fault, you know. If you were just a *little* more awake you could be *changing the subject*.

"Do you have *any* idea how hard it is to do that without a partner?"

Xander wondered whether Spike had done very much subject changing with Dru. Anything that made her happy was just fine, anything that seemed to hurt her would've probably been Off Limits. Especially recently... What *were* you supposed to do with a mentally ill... loved one?

Would Spike have tried finding a doctor?

//"You seem to believe you've committed many, many brutal crimes, Drusilla --"

//"You can call me Dru." And she smiles.

//"Yes, Dru. All right. Hmmm. Moving on, moving on... You said you drank their blood?"


//"Why do you think you need to do that?"

//"Because I'm a vampire."

//"I see."

//"You don't believe me, do you?"//

Xander honked his own horn to shake away the rest of *that* little scene. He would do his best not to ask. Ever. The clouds were getting closer, and there was an odd sort of scent in the air. Above all the exhaust and fast food fumes was something like wet flowers and the scent his family's old Zenith had given off when it turned fifteen.

Of course it was the smell of rain, and he knew he'd smelled it before, but it seemed so much more noticeable now.

"Do you like rain, Spike? I guess you could walk around a really dark, grey day. You must've spent a lot of time in England. I mean, beyond the whole being born there thing. Maybe Seattle, too? The tropical rainforests?

"Well, probably not that last. I can't *quite* picture you hacking through the jungles of South America.

"Though I bet you own at least one machete."

Xander drummed his fist on the dash in frustration. "See, this is what I'm talking about. I obviously *can* change the subject, but without someone to do it with, it just doesn't feel right. It's like lying, even though I know you know what I'm doing."

Xander took another sip of the coffee. It was just getting thicker as time passed. He pictured it packing his digestive system with caffeinated goodness for several days, sending random jolts of caffeine throughout his body as it dissolved.

"This coffee is taking years off my life, Spike. Years.

"OK, so I was talking about talking. Where was I? Oh yeah. Anyway, I was having those arguments with myself for months and months. Willow and I played a lot, but not *every* day of the week, you know? I didn't want to bring her home very often, and her own house was so...

"I always wanted a chance to shower first. Maybe twice.

"Anyway, we couldn't play every day, and so I had lots of time to talk and argue and plot and dream and basically continue to talk. One night I woke my Dad up.

"He stank, Spike. He still does. He was dirty, he was drunk, and he just sort of *loomed* there in the doorway, swaying for what felt like a good, solid year. And *then* he started yelling about... about all this stuff.

"You can probably puzzle out the rest. He wasn't.... He wasn't as bad as he could've been."

Cloverthistle Mall, four miles, keep right. Xander wasn't sure whether there was such a plant as the cloverthistle, but a mall was a mall. They would find a parking space, and Xander would crawl into the back seat and that would be it for the day.

"I'm sorry about the driving thing... I know you wanted to get a little farther today. Sorry.

"Um.... OK, so after my talk with Dad, I was good and pathetic for a few days, said some bad things to Willow.

"But she *always* forgave me... Sometimes that's a hell of a lot worse. I think... I think it's *better* for me not to even try to forgive you, isn't it?

"*Anyway*. After being a whining little punk -- don't say it - - for a while, I decided it was time to *do* something. And so I sat right down at Willow's empty little corner table, and when she said hi, I said hi right back.

"No, no, it's not like our prior conversations involved flash cards and grunting, but something about the way she said hi... No, it wasn't that mystical. She was also wearing her first ever look of earnest worry.

"There's no real way to resist that for long. I've developed some skill, but it's taken more than a decade.

"And it's never, ever easy. She kept studiously Not Asking me what was wrong, and I just... talked. I never answered her question, but I talked. We talked. And it was.... really good.

"I need to call her. Write her a letter, something. I can't let her think something happened to me... and I *have* to make sure they don't blame Angel."

Xander winced, and winced again.

"This is one of those times when having a faithful secretary would come in handy, I think."

One more mile to sleepytime.

"I never caught myself holding those one-sided conversations after that.

"I wonder when I started doing it again.

"So, yeah. That's the talking thing, Spike. Aren't you glad you brought it up? Of course, it's not like you asked for *this* or anything..."

Xander pulled in to the Customer Pick-Up lot at the local Sears, turned off the car. Figured everyone around would be too busy doing other things to notice the lumpy tarp in the back.

He sat there, listened to the car tick itself cool. Watched the rain wash down the windows and realized he was perfectly dry. Suddenly the car was like one of those forts he and Willow had tried to build... a perfect place of safety, no solitude necessary.

He slid over to the passenger side, reclined the seat, and crawled to the back, only bumping his head once. Crawled under the tarp. To his surprise, Spike only felt like someone sleeping deeply, and when Xander pushed him back a little further into the seat, Spike wrapped an arm around him and muttered something unintelligible.


Xander waited, but there was nothing else. He turned to face the other man and tangled himself as comfortably as possible.

"Wake me up before you start driving, corpsicle."

And then he closed his eyes and went to sleep.


Xander woke up alone.

"Goddamned selectively deaf Hellspawn --"

"What was that?"

Spike was in the front seat. Ah. "Weren't you supposed to wake me up?"

"Before I started driving, yes."

Xander sat up, scrubbed at his hair irritably. Rubbed some of the sleep out of his eyes. "No way, semantics aren't allowed before noon. Or maybe eight p.m. And what did you do to your hair?"

It was plastered on Spike's head.

"Relax, relax, it's just water. I had to step out for a bit."

Xander thought about crawling back into the front seat, but decided to brave the two and a half seconds of rain it took to get out and then back in to the car. Returned the seat to its upright position and got a good look at Spike.

Soaked to the skin, water dripping from his ears, his nose, his hair. Spike returned the look evenly. Xander shivered abruptly, and discovered that he'd managed to get pretty damned wet, too.

"Shit, I didn't know it actually rained like this outside of pointedly dark movies.... We need towels in this car." Xander rubbed the back of his neck. "And pillows that don't suddenly decide to *move* --"

"We have towels, Xander."

Sure enough, Spike had a massive towel in his hands and was drying himself off.

"Spike, I need that coffee."

"Sorry luv, but it was no longer in a liquid state. I used it to break into the linens store."

"You seem... subdued."

Spike scrubbed at his face briefly, then looked at Xander over the towel. "I guess I do.... It's nothing, Xander. I was just thinking about things...."

His eyes clouded for a moment, but he came back when Xander shivered. Tossed the towel at him.

"'ere, use this. Still lots of dry. I'll turn the heat on..."

Xander took it gratefully, immediately peeled off his shirt. "You really should've dried off a little more."

Small grin. "I'm not the one getting goosebumps."

"If I squeezed you, you'd go squish."

"Depending on where you squeezed me, I'd do all sorts of things."


"I could've been talking about a nice, wholesome hug."

"Which would make you do what?"

"Hug you back."


"And then carry you off somewhere for nights and nights of sex and occasional bloodletting." Larger grin. "Then again, that's my general reaction to most of the things you do."

"Including puking on lawns."

"I spent a great deal of the seventies doing precisely that."

Xander finished toweling off and threw it back to Spike, who took his own shirt off. "Don't forget to wipe the seat, too. You're ruining the leather."

"Blasphemy right and *left*. Xander, I hope you realize there's a special place in Hell for you. Right with all the people who've owned Naugahyde of any sort.

"*And* mohair."

Xander snickered. "I'm beginning to guess there was more to your lawn-puking than just massive amounts of substance abuse."

"It's entirely possible."

Silence for a while. Xander let the dry heat warm him and felt vaguely disloyal for a moment before just letting himself be comfortable. Sleeping in cars curled around a corpse left a lot to be desired. Especially when the corpse *moved* right when you'd found a good position.

He wished he was still feeling anemic. He hadn't felt remotely embarrassed about demanding that Spike crawl back into bed with him *then*. Maybe he should just always offer sex first. No reason whatsoever to get up after getting fucked blind, after all.

He thought of the night before and winced a little, but.... There was too much there to worry about. The killings, Dru, Spike and Dru, Spike's mental state. All the *cuddling*.

But while the Larry excuse had just been sitting in his mind gathering dust, there was a point to it all. He really *hadn't* had the time to beat himself up over the sexuality thing. And maybe he should just try to keep it that way. Hell, even gay people were ditching labels these days, so it wasn't like he needed to *adopt* one and raise the Pride flag or anything.

He liked having sex with Spike. There.

Spike started the car and drove out onto the highway. The towel was sort of half-thrown to the back. They passed under a streetlight and Xander saw a small, dark stain right towards the edge.

//"... had to step out for a bit..."//

Xander looked up at Spike, who caught his eye and looked down at the towel. And then looked at Xander again.

And then casually stuffed the towel out of sight. Xander didn't follow the movement, focusing instead on the subtle play of muscle as Spike did the concealing.

Really, there were more important things to worry about.

//How many deaths have I caused by not forcing Spike to make me his permavictim?

//Do I want to stop caring?//

He settled into his seat and tried to get comfortable. Silently berated his jeans for not being damp enough to justify stripping them off. Fingered the radio.

Retrieved the semi-crushed loaf of Wonderbread from the footwell behind his seat and idly wondered if it had any nutritional value whatsoever. Ate some anyway.


//Yes, it *does* bother me, dammit how could you think it wouldn't --//

"... kill your parents."

Xander managed to not cough out a bread ball. "Wha?"

"I want to kill your parents. Can I?"


"If *I* can see where people are using poor parenting skills, there's probably something wrong."

Xander laughed, didn't try to keep the edge out of his voice. "Don't you think that's a little drastic?"

"You *know* what they've done to you --"

"Yeah, and I'd rather not *think* about it, all right?"

Xander could hear Spike's teeth click shut and turned up the heat more. Waited for Spike to say something he could snarl at.

"That was stupid of me. I'm sorry."

Xander sighed. "You're not making this easy."

"Hmm...? *Oh*. Let's see: pleasepleaseplease can I ignore your feelings and kill your parents anyway? Maybe a few old teachers?"

"C'mon, Spike, help me start an argument. I'm *bristling* here."

"Argue without me for a bit, I'll try to join in."

"I... I just don't want to be as cold as you are, Spike."


"Funny thing, that. I've never really thought of myself as being cold."

Xander watched the road until his gut stopped twisting. Tried to understand, hated himself for trying. Watched the road more, did his best to leave fingerprints on his own arms.

"Spike --"

"I didn't choose this life, Xander. Neither did Dru. Angelus wasn't big on asking first."

"I know --"

"Do you think I should have died? Tossed myself into the first dawn I could find?"

//You were a killer first.//

"I don't know..."

"I love life, Xander. *Crave* it. Even when it's grey, even when it's just one kill after another, even when I'm *alone*. Does that make me cold?"

"You were a killer before you were ever a vampire."

Spike grinned darkly. "And I loved that life, too, as much I knew how. It was a way to *connect* that I'd never had, sure. But it was also just the blood and the screams.

"I won't lie to you about this.

"But I hated Angelus until he made me love him, and all the while I never once stopped wanting to live. To walk the earth for as long as I possibly could.

"So I started killing for food, and it was never as *intimate* as it used to be...

"I know I'm scaring you, and I'm *sorry*, dammit. That means I *regret* it. That means I *give a fuck* about how you *feel* --

"No, I don't care about the people I kill. At all. I don't remember their faces, I don't learn their names. I'm here and I bloody well intend to *stay* here, so I do what I have to.

"And I even -- strike me dead now oh Lord above -- let myself *enjoy* it. If I wanted to make myself suffer I'd take lessons from Angel. So yes, I guess I'm cold that way.

"Xander, when I met Dru I found my own soul. Whether or not your magic and your God says it's there, *I* know. I know I can hurt, I know I can love, and, for me, it's enough.

"Do *you* love everyone with a pulse? Do you cry for every starving child, every revolution that ends poorly? I... look, I'm just going to shut up now. Concentrate on the road or something.

"Are you hungry? I know we have food in here, but it's obviously all cold..."

And he finally just trailed off. If Spike was playing a game, he was truly diabolical. Just thinking about the twists and turns it would take to make something so unquestionably *real*... Xander didn't want to be alive in a world where that was a possibility.

And yet it was, and he was still here.

//Don't have to be at the end of the month.

//If he keeps up his end of the bargain.

//And you want to die because Spike may be lying to you so you'll have to believe him when you don't want to but you do anyway?//

"Spike, my brain hurts."

"Mine, too."

"Let's stuff our faces and talk about absolutely nothing."



Spike snickered. "I think you need to work on your argument starting technique, though. That was entirely one-sided."

"Bah. I'm rusty. It's way too early in the night. I'll make my comeback in the Lightning Round. Something. Fuck off."

"Oh, just admit defeat. You're no match for my blinding skill as a conversationalist."

//A little too true?//

"I laugh in the face of your blinding skill, for I know that your voice will give out long, *long* before I stop talking." Xander made a point of gesturing extravagantly.

"Promise?" Serious again.

Xander tried to figure out a way to answer, but Spike beat him to it.

"Just keep talking for the next... what? Eighteen days?"

"I... have to admit that I lost track pretty early in the game."

"Xander --"

"I'm in the mood for Bob's Big Boy. You?"

"The large red child makes my eyes hurt."

"Tsk. You really need to learn to look past the *outside* of things, Spike."

"To what? The food?"

"Spike, I'm beginning to think you're a snob."

"Big red child! Smiling! All the time!"

"Holding a big, juicy burger."

"The child doesn't disturb you."

"Well, it would if it got up and *walked*, but, for now, it's just another example of good old Americana."

"There's a reason Europeans don't respect you people, you know."

"Heh. But we've got the biggest guns."

"I'd be muttering and grumbling right now if I could work up a good pout."

"Well, where do *you* want to eat?"


"I don't know."

Xander smacked him with his t-shirt.


Three days later, Xander woke up in Chicago. Or maybe four or five days. He wasn't really sure... time didn't pass in the car so much as it just sort of *existed*. There'd been another hotel in there somewhere, one just architecturally screwed up *enough* to have a windowless room.

Shaped like a scalene triangle -- and it was good to know compulsory math had left more in his brain than mindless hatred for knowledge -- it was *almost* weird enough to make him want to stay.


Pink and teal continued to hold sway, and the only restaurant in the place was vegetarian.

The sight of Spike consuming a Gardenburger had simply been too much to bear.

//"I'm making up for your utter disregard for food with nutritional value."

//"But you don't *need* it."

//Large, toothy grin. "Nope. But I do enjoy watching you suffer."//

And then they'd been on the road again, and there were not-quite-alone days, incredible and disturbing nights, and Christ Spike's mouth... Spike's mouth left him feeling so high the only thing he could do was beg for his cock, too.

Though he had no real urge to repeat the act in a *car* anytime soon.

Xander jerked his seat back up again, unfolded his legs from the dash. Looked down at himself and decided he looked decent enough to get out and stretch, and so he did, right against the wall that helpfully let him know that Chicago Mike's Pizza was The Best!

There were people on the street. A lot of people. It made Xander wonder, briefly, why no one had made them wake up and move on.

And then he realized, with a small flash of horror, that he was truly Suburban.

The sun was there, but it was a late afternoon sun, and struggling against tall buildings besides.... Cities definitely made sense. Spike couldn't have possibly lived very long in any small town that *wasn't* sitting on the Hellmouth.

Xander got back in the car, brushed his teeth with bottled water, Crest, and his own finger, though he couldn't *quite* bring himself to spit anywhere that wasn't, say, a lawn or a trash can.

"Spiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike. I'm out of my element."

Spike sleepmumbled something that sounded like "paper" through the tarp. A new development. It was possible that Xander would eventually be able to *disturb* the other man's rest, as opposed to just sinking into his semi- conscious or whatever.

Xander shook himself until he was both sleep-fuzzed *and* dizzy, then saw the torn sheet of notebook paper on the dash.

//We have a notebook in here?//

He looked around briefly and decided it was definitely possible that a notebook could be among the debris of an extended road trip.

Spike's wrote in simple block letters, neat but curiously unadorned. He'd expected some sort of flourish somewhere, maybe a jagged 'a' or something.

"Xander, find a woman pushing a stroller. (They tend to be nicer, so long as there's an actual baby in the stroller and the baby isn't dead or yowling or something. Smiling, happy, breathing baby.) Ask her how to get to West Fullerton street in Logan Square. The number is 292. Landlord is waiting."

No signature.

Xander shrugged, slid into the driver's seat and went woman hunting. It didn't take long to find one pushing a stroller, and there was also a perfectly happy looking baby in it.

"I don't ever want to know why you felt the need to specify about the stroller thing, Spike."

He got the directions, but, as he neglected to write them down, it only took until the fourth right or so to get hopelessly lost. Xander went pen-hunting, which took a solid half-hour.

Reaching under the tarp and feeling up Spike until he'd found where the other man had stashed the damned thing hadn't been entirely unpleasant, but pocket number four had held something that may or may not have been alive.

Spike didn't move throughout the entire process, though.

"That doesn't count as the molestation, you bastard."

It also took a while to find another woman with a child, and *this* time the kid was, indeed, yowling, and its mother looked to be about three inches from snapping. Xander went for the Incredibly Whitebread But Cute look, though, and so only had to grovel a little.

Forty-five minutes and two wrong turns -- both entirely due to his own handwriting -- later, he was there. The building was empty, big, and actually looked as though someone might have lived there once.

//You don't know how many days it's been... maybe it's better to just say you have a good three weeks left...//

Xander stepped out of the car and was immediately accosted by a cute young woman with a small bun, who apparently came out of nowhere. Smiling, though.

"Are you Alexander Harris?"

"Yeah... I'm looking for the landlord?"

"That's my dad. He sent me here to see you in. You can call me Rachel."

"Hey, Rachel... Are we, um, all set?"

"Oh yes. Didn't your partner give you the details? Is your partner here?"

"He's taking a nap in the car. Kind of a long drive."

"Oh, it's so nice to have people so young and enthusiastic owning the building. Dad inherited it from his brother a few years back, but he just hasn't had the time and energy to get it up to code for renting.

"And I read enough of the local tenant laws to know I wanted *no* part of it. Er... But you know that stuff already."

"Yes. Yes I do."

"Anyway, the fifth floor has been cleaned, the cans of paint and brushes and stuff is on your living room floor -- are you sure you wanted all black? I always thought a nice forest would work well in there. That apartment gets *wonderful* light, and it would keep it both stylish and not *too* bright..."

Xander blinked in what he hoped was a helpful manner.

"Anyway. I'm sorry to say the second mattress delivery is being held up until tomorrow, but the first one got in a week ago and the linens are all there, too, so if you two don't mind... um... sharing a bed, I think everything will be fine."

"Yes. Yes it will."

"Hmm... what else?"

"Errr... the... the um --"

"Phone numbers?"

"Yes, those."

"I left the list in the kitchen, including the contractors we used last summer."


"Poor thing, you really do need rest, don't you? You probably let Mr. Lewis sleep well into his driving shift, didn't you?"

"Well, I..."

"That's so sweet. Well, it's time for me to get home. I should be there within an hour if you two need anything."

"Thank you, ma'am."

Rachel abruptly became very, very serious. "If you ever call me ma'am again I'll have to kill you."

Xander did more blinking.

Rachel glared for another moment, then beamed. "But I know you won't."

Xander shook his head.

And then Rachel turned and walked into the sunset. Xander counted to sixty-four, at which point Spike appeared at his side.

"Evening, Xander."

"Spike, just how long ago did you buy this building?"

"Hmm. Right after I burned the Rand."

"But we hadn't really talked about it at that point.... As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember being strapped to a hospital bed."

"Call it an educated guess."

"Just a guess."

"Just a guess. Hell, it wasn't in your name until last night.... does it bother you that I had a vague clue as to what would appeal to you?"

"It's... it's kind of weird."

Spike nodded. "There's also a Goth club in Detroit, and a remarkably dark and cheerless beach house somewhere in North Carolina. I didn't really have time to narrow it down more, and I couldn't think of anything else..."

"That makes me feel better. Though the cheerless beach house sounds kind of interesting..."

"We're close enough that catching a night flight would definitely be safe, if you want to go."

"I don't want to travel anywhere for a good three weeks."

A pause. "Three weeks, eh?"

Xander nodded, shoved his hands in his pockets before they could start a conversation his mouth would have to finish.

"This is one of those points where I have no clue what would be a good thing to say."

"What were you thinking of saying?"

"I think it boiled down to 'hey, let's try out that mattress before I bend you over the car.'"

Xander grinned. "I think that's a pretty good answer, actually. Let me just get the clothes out of there --"

Spike grabbed his arm, leaned in until he was about a hair- width away. "No fucking way."

"I see you're more confident on that issue."

Spike licked him, smiled against his cheek. "You've got to go with your strengths, Xander."

There was a light on at every landing, which was a pleasant surprise. Xander really hadn't been expecting electricity... "Hey, does this mean we have running water, too?"

"If we don't, I'll just have to lick you clean every day."

"Yeah, that might work, too..."

Climbing the stairs in front of Spike made every cell of his back and ass and legs nearly painfully *aware*. Just a falter away from full body contact.

"Why aren't we living on the first floor?"

"Water damage."

"That's not so bad..."

"The floor is missing in places."

"That's bad. Second floor?"

"Painted in shades of orange."


"Too obvious."

Xander snickered, came close to tripping. "Fourth?"

"Um... no real reason, actually."

"'Too obvious' is a real reason?"


"Spike, ten flights of stairs isn't going to be fun on a daily basis."

"I kinda thought that was part of the charm."

"I'm pretty glad I'm in shape."

Palpable leer. "So am I."

"Soon you'll be having a moat dug --"

"And filled with ravenously hungry alligators."

"And you've already taken every item of clothing I own but what's on my back --"

"Soon to go."

"I never really thought I'd grow up to be a kept boy."

"It's a good look on you."

"You're not planning on having me tattooed, are you?"

"How do you feel about piercing?"

Xander felt another rush of blood slam into his cock and opened his jeans immediately. Only two more flights to go anyway. "If you do it with your teeth you could probably talk me into enough metal to make me technically a cyborg."

"I want you so fucking badly -- you're just not going to let me pick you up and run us the rest of the way, are you?"

"Fifth floor? You need to be punished."

Xander immediately slowed to a walk.

"Oh, you're a brat, aren't you?"

And Spike joined him on the step, forcing one leg between Xander's thighs, and sliding his hands under Xander's shirt.

"Fuck, Spike --"

Spike ground his thigh against Xander's crotch, hard and rhythmic. Scratched his nipples. It was starting to seem like a good idea to just sort of bend until his hands hit the landing.

"You're right, Xander. I really did need this punishment...." One hand crept down to cup him through the boxers. Stayed there for just long enough to make Xander worry about coming too fast, then left. Along with all the other parts of Spike's body. "But I think I've done my penance, yes?"

Xander snarled, trembled a little with anger jacked to unreasonability by lust. Spike had just a little *too* much fun proving he could reduce Xander to a writhing, begging, boneless mass. He took a deep breath, then looked over his shoulder. Met Spike's eyes and watched them flare.

Then he jogged up the rest of the stairs.

The hallway was dark, but there was light spilling out of one open door. Xander yanked his t-shirt off as he walked, threw it at a wall. Kicked off the boots, shimmied out of the jeans.

The boxers landed in the kitchen.

Behind him, he could hear Spike's own clothes getting themselves lost and *fuck* but it felt like years since they had both been naked.

The apartment smelt like some sort of cleaner and old wood. He'd open the windows at some point. Maybe tomorrow night. The bedroom was, predictably, windowless. The mattress sat dead center, still in plastic.

Not *quite* right. Spike slid the hilt of a knife into his palm. Xander knelt on the mattress, falling a bit further than he'd expected, but it was a thick one. Sliced the plastic neatly, only slitting the fabric open in a few places. Pushed it off with Spike's help and then they were rolling together, wrapped up in each other and kissing and biting.

Xander slid his hands through Spike's hair and tugged. Spike bit his lip harder and sucked noisily before breaking off. "What do you want tonight, Xander, hmm? What's your pleasure?"

It was hard to see, hard to breathe. Xander pushed the other man back to the mattress and knelt up. Closed his eyes until he'd calmed down enough to straddle him without coming. Spike just looked up at him, then ran his hands down to Xander's hips and pulled.

Brushed their cocks together and Xander had to reach down, hold onto Spike's shoulders much harder than he was comfortable with, but the other man just licked his lips... He got lost in watching the pink mouth glisten in the dim wash of light from the living room, and then just let his hands move, brushing everywhere he hadn't let himself fully explore while he was looking for the pen, rocking against Spike helplessly.

Bent down until he could have Spike's mouth again, sucked Spike's tongue into his mouth before finding his nipples and squeezing. Spike responded by growling and flipping him over, face ridged and hard as the rest of him, pushing against him, rubbing Xander raw. Started to move down to his cock.

"Spike, no, fuck don't I want to suck you want to taste you --"


"Come up here."

Spike turned around on the bed and offered himself to Xander immediately. Xander breathed and found it easier to catch the subtle scent this time. Almost frighteningly male, but he was diving in to nuzzle at the short, dark hairs before he could really analyze the sensation.

Felt Spike doing the same, and pushing his knee up. Stroking the inside of Xander's thigh until he jerked. Xander mirrored the actions, knowing Spike could feel the way his hands shook. But he *wasn't* scared --

Xander wrapped his arm around Spike's up thigh and squeezed, briefly stopped by the shock of how *good* it felt on his arm, but then he just let it pull him in. Sucked the head of Spike's cock in and relearned the feel of it in his mouth. Smooth, almost warm, so damned *alive*...

And then thought died when Spike mirrored the action utterly. His thigh was braced by silk-covered iron, and his cock was sliding in to somewhere a lot like home. Even though he knew the other man was just holding the head, Spike's tongue was another live thing, not separate from him so much as a part so completely under his control so as to be nearly someone else's entirely.

And he felt his own tongue in constant motion and groaned because he couldn't remember when he'd started, groaned again because the taste and the feel were too intense to allow him silence. He opened his mouth to try to speak Spike's name and just wound up slipping him deeper instead.

And Spike's lips got that much closer to Xander's root and it rocked him to the core. It was too close, too intimate and too fucking good. His body no longer belonged to him, he was only his mouth and his cock and oh fuck the skin of his thigh jumped every time Spike dug in a little with his fingers and it was mostly because Xander *knew* it was involuntary.

Was his own hand still shaking?

It didn't matter because he just had to get a little farther, take a little more, fuck his mouth, give up and just complete the circuit and he couldn't tell which of them was groaning but it felt like both. Xander couldn't help thrusting, twisting in Spike's grasp and suddenly he was on top of Spike, the turn too fast to let him truly register the awkwardness as more than just sensation.

*Gravity* pushed him into Spike's mouth, pulled his mouth onto Spike's cock and his body couldn't seem to decide which rhythm to choose but it just sent jitters up and down his spine. Spike's hips were corkscrewing up, slamming hard against the restriction of his throat. It hurt, he was going to choke, but Spike had sucked him all the way down, again...

Losing the mirror hurt more and he moaned, finally just giving up and resting more of his upper body weight on Spike and wrapping his fist around the base of the other man's cock. Spike hummed around him and Xander thrust in and squeezed a little and thrust and thrust and need and Spike came in his mouth.

He swallowed as much as he could, coughed and pulled off, catching the rest on his face and throat. And Spike was holding his ass, pulling him in tight. Xander couldn't move if he wanted to and Spike sucked him so *hard* --

Xander let his head fall to Spike's thigh and bit his screams into the pale skin, come-slicked cheek sliding him back in between Spike's legs for a moment. He licked the other man's balls once, twice and Spike *pumped* him into his own mouth and Xander propped himself up on his hands again, shaking and straining, wanting to escape -- but only through his cock, and only into Spike.

A long low growl, that thrill of fear he didn't ever want to lose, and he was shooting himself down Spike's throat, arching his head back and trying to let out the scream, but felt it being pulled down through his body, too. Spike didn't release him until he was dry, and then Xander was sliding off Spike's body to the mattress, or maybe floating.

And Spike was licking his face, kissing him, sucking his throat and whispering things that just sounded *good*, and Xander did his best to whisper back, but the words probably didn't come out very well....

Lightning Round. He had the Lightning Round.


Xander woke up when his stomach told him to. Occasionally, he was remarkably good at following orders. Spike was there beside him, seemed to be deep in that restless afternoon sleep he'd developed. If Xander spoke to him, there was a good chance of getting a response. The only words that had any desire to come out, though, were a command for Spike to wake up and acquire them some food.

After all, it *was* raining outside. Hard, too. Spike should be able to deal with that.

//"I slept a lot less..."//

Ah. He thanked his brain for finally allowing him to notice that on anything but a "but I'm *lonely*" level by smacking himself in the end. But maybe it was a good thing to sleep like that if you could... No, no maybe about it. A little rest, maybe a few days of it...

//And then every other day you can until you find another bottle of pills...//

Xander sighed. Revenge for the smack, most probably.

He eased off the mattress quietly, then wondered where the instinct had come from. It wasn't as though he'd spent all night with people in his bed often. Or ever... But there it was. He was doing his best not to disturb the dead, when he could probably just crank up some music and sing along as horrifically badly as he possibly could and only get a slurry "eight, eight I forget what eight is for" in response.

He walked quietly anyway. The only thing in their fridge was a large bottle of Gatorade and something that looked suspiciously like a bag full of vitamins. He didn't dare open the vegetable bin. Xander glared at the bedroom for a moment, then called up information to get a number for a local pizza place. Any local pizza place.

Or tried to. The brand new black phone wasn't actually plugged in to anything, and the fifteen minute search for a wall-jack only proved that they needed to actually acquire phone service. He was briefly stupefied as to how to do that without a phone, then decided the continuation of that thought required more energy than he currently possessed.

Xander thought about the Gatorade really, really hard, but finally just wandered into the hallway for some clothing. He really wasn't sure how he felt -- literally -- about going commando, but also didn't feel like taking them off again to put on his boxers.

Besides, there was a twenty and several pounds worth of change in his pockets. This was a city, which meant there *had* to be either a phone or some place to acquire food within a distance that wouldn't actually require him to go very far. It really wasn't *just* the idea of sex with Spike in a comfortable, safe place that made him reluctant to travel. In truth, he'd never really thought he'd ever leave Sunnydale.

Well, leave Sunnydale *alive*.

He got down the stairs, opened the door and was promptly hit with a wall of water. His mind helpfully reminded him that Chicago was the windy one. However, there *was* an actual phone a mere fifteen feet away, and he was just hungry enough to risk it. Though he did toe his shoes back off to prop the door with them.

By the time he got a phone number for a Chinese place that may or may not have actually been in the state, his jeans were beginning to slide down his hips from sheer water-weight.

By the time he placed an order for what may or may not have been several pounds of pork fried rice and two entrees -- he'd picked number four and number twelve at random -- he was almost positive that what little pigment he'd been given had been washed away entirely, leaving him a lovely shade of clear.

Xander flashed on an image of that weird muscle-suit guy who'd spent a lot of years making disturbing films for children, and wondered if Spike would find it attractive. The mental drift caused him to trip over the shoes, and then slip on the slick tiled floor of the entryway.

As he rubbed the back of his head, he reminded himself that he really did love slapstick. And conceded that Spike may have had a point about the Gatorade, at least. He would never, ever tell. Xander decided to wait for his food instead of going all the way back up right away...

... And barely woke up when the delivery boy -- approximate age, eleven -- knocked on the door.

It turned out that he had indeed ordered many containers of fried rice, and two seafood dishes. The twenty happily left his pocket, as well as at least a fistful of change. He was going to have to ask Spike for an increase in his allowance. Maybe he'd even call him Dad while he was at it.

Xander consumed most of one carton of rice as he walked up the stairs again and discovered it was nearly as good a distraction from the excessive number of flights as raging lust. Maybe he would leave bits of food on every landing just in case...

Though that probably wasn't the best plan in a long- deserted apartment building. Ziploc bags could possibly make it work., but he wasn't sure he wanted to risk the six-legged things at all. Xander got himself settled on the kitchen counter and ate.

Drank soda and then ate more. Ran out of soda and decided to actually drink the Gatorade, if only to be able to eat just a little bit more comfortably.

Xander popped the rest in the fridge, and promised himself he'd actually go for two meals today. Or tonight. Or something.

And that's when he realized the sun had come out, bright and clear. It was late in the day, but it was *there*. Fed and watered, it was suddenly a great idea to go out there and bask a little. After that rain, the air might even smell a little like home...

The idea of allowing himself to airdry while walking for a bit was very, very attractive. Hell, he even had the keys to the car, and he was reasonably sure there were still clean clothes somewhere in there.

For one terrifying moment he was tempted to do laundry, as it would become necessary to have clothes that weren't *too* rank if he *was* going to leave the apartment on any sort of regular basis. Though it wasn't as if he wasn't *used* to doing it -- he'd had to at home -- it was just the idea of *wanting* to. He looked back out the window, then down to the floor. Just a blank trapezoidish shape of light on the hardwood.

He wondered if it was warm yet.

Oh yeah, he was definitely going to be gone a while.

Xander was down a flight of stairs before he realized it might be a bad idea to disappear for several hours without a word. He really didn't want to encourage Spike to acquire another leash. Xander proceeded to Not Think about how he'd forgotten to remove the collar for several hours, or how loose and unsupported his neck had felt without it.

He didn't really trust Spike to allow him to reduce it to the purely sensual, no matter what he'd said or didn't say. Or maybe he just didn't want to see the other man try for him...

In any case, he made his way to the bedroom and slipped back onto the bed. Which is when he'd realized he'd been sitting in the dark -- the sunbeam was many feet away -- for long enough to have gotten his night vision.

And Spike looked good.

Smooth and uncovered by anything save for the bit of his flat belly concealed by one arm. The other was stretched across the side of the bed where Xander wasn't. Utterly still, though more the stillness of a well-carved statue than of a dead man. Spike gave off a general sense of 'I could R>have you any time I want.'

It was the small thrill of fear as much as anything else that kept Xander quiet for a moment.

Though he wasn't still at all. He traced a hand over the other man's cheekbones. They were always well-defined, but were bladed things at times like these. They felt a lot more rounded than they looked, and Xander tried to tease out the specific feel of *those* bony ridges from the rest of the game face.

Having only the sensual memory of how they felt against his own skin when Spike was driving him insane made the job difficult.

Xander leaned over and kissed Spike's partially open mouth, tasted vague traces of himself there and slipped his tongue in briefly.

//I am actually molesting a dead man.//

He didn't stop until he remembered the waiting sun. Xander wasn't sure when fall started in Chicago, nor did he have the slightest idea of whether it was comfortable, but he did know he was no longer in California. No telling R>whether or not he'd get more sun before he...

Xander broke the kiss and moved over to Spike's ear. Clumsily -- he wound up bumping it with his nose and chuckling a little.

"Hey, Spike, that was a good-bye kiss. Well, not really good-bye because we do have those um three weeks. I'm just going out for a walk before the sun goes down. I hope you realize that I have to peel wet clothes off the floor and put them back on because of your tyranny.

"It's a strange sensation to be warmer naked, even if there's a perfectly logical reason why...

"Did you feel me kiss you? I mean, I know you can sort of dream and hear me, but did you feel it?

"Talking to you on this trip... you just don't seem as Not There as you used to, whether you answer me or not. Make sure you tell me later how There you really are when you do wake up, since I'm probably not going to remember.

"I've been feeling vaguely stupid all day. Well, more so. And 'all day' should be taken to mean that hour or so I've been awake. But you haven't bled me in a few days, have you? No, none of the marks have that weird sort of throb anymore. Still feel pretty fucking good, though.

"You know, it's kind of nice to be able to talk about sex out loud and at length without worrying about funny looks.

"You're going to be giving me funny looks from now on, aren't you? Answer me or I will stop stroking your face and neck right now.


"Spike, how long have I been stroking your face and neck?"

Xander paused on a downstroke, lifted his hand for a moment, then put it back, thought for a while.

"Should I press harder, Spike? Would you like that?"

Xander felt himself flushing all over, but he didn't want to think about it. He pressed himself to Spike instead, realizing he was still damp only when his body insisted that rolling on Spike would be like rolling on a soft towel. Or at least a dry one.

"Do I feel warm to you, Spike? Warmer than usual... I'm blushing, dammit. I've... I've never said anything like that to someone. Not out loud.

"But I want to touch you more often than I don't. A lot more often. You feel so good...

"Christ, promise me you won't use this against me when you wake up? I'm not trying to tease you or anything. At least, I don't think I am. I just want to say it, at least once. I want you, and I don't think it's... I don't...

"I wonder if you would be this silent if you were awake. I mean, I know you wouldn't, but just for that last question. I'm not sure I could handle it if you didn't promise. And I'm not sure I want you to promise oh fuck I hope you can feel me grinding against you --"

Xander let his head fall to the side of Spike's own, burying his face in the mattress, rubbing his cheek against the softly mussed hair, rubbing every movable part against Spike that he could.

"I was supposed to go outside... I *wanted* to go outside, Spike. What are you doing to me? Is this how the vampire keeps the incautious slayer in his lair? Hunh? Fucker why won't you tell me?

"Why won't you wake up and give me an excuse not to stop?"

Spike didn't, but Xander kept grinding himself anyway, feeling the head of his cock painting the other man's belly and forearm. Xander knelt up long enough to pull the arm out of the way, barely conscious of the uncommon pliancy.

And then he twined his fingers into Spike's still fists and supported himself that way.

"I can't stop I can't... Can you feel it? I've got my hands in yours. I'm sweating... so fucking hot... All the blood... all the blood is so close to the surface, Spike. All you have to do is kiss me and I'll bleed for you.

"I promise--"

An involuntary groan lengthened the word into a low hissing growl. He'd been wrong. He ached all over, really. Everywhere Spike had ever touched him burned and wanted. Poisonous, deadly touch and it was the only possible explanation for every inch of his skin to feel so sensitized, so wickedly tortured.

And then Spike's hands twitched beneath his one nanosecond before his eyes opened, black in the dimness.

"Xander --"

Spike only got half the word out before his entire body bucked and rolled itself. When it stopped, the cock that had been so coolly stiff against his own was fully erect, prodding at his own belly and rocking Xander with the sudden change in temperature.

Xander shuddered wildly but his orgasm did not come until the second half of his name rolled out over and through him in the darkly rumbling tones of a pleased demon.

And Xander shot hard over their bellies and rolled off before he could think worse of it. Nearly fell off the bed, but Spike caught him by the arm and hauled him back on. They were shoulder to shoulder now, and Xander let one knee fan out to rest on Spike's thigh.

He had no idea how he wanted the other man to take the gesture. Xander looked over and saw that Spike was very, very hard, yet struggling to lose the game face. He'd done it before, but it had become easier lately to see every shift of bone beneath the skin. And easy looked a lot like pain.

"Spike, you know you don't have to --"

At which point the other man propped himself above Xander, resting on one elbow and retangling their legs. His body formed a vague sort of half-arch over Xander, and it was... exciting to see his sticky chest and belly draped in Spike's shadow.

He thought about sending the idea to Angel, maybe help him with his poetry a little. Xander smirked inwardly, reached up to smooth one finger over an exposed fang. Spike rumbled something low in his throat, only identifiable as a vampire murmur. Encouraged Xander to pet more thoroughly with little pushes of his face for a while before he spoke.

"I have to change back so I can return your kiss, Xander." And then he draped his body over Xander's entirely. "Maybe return a few other things, too..."

Xander was too sensitized at the moment for more play, and was grateful that Spike hadn't actually started to move. "You felt me?"

"I felt everything, heard everything... I just couldn't move." Spike leaned in to nuzzle at Xander's ear. "I knew it wasn't a tease. It was wonderful torture.... I used every trick I knew to wake up soon enough to see you come.

"I felt you kissing me, and thrusting against me, and I... I won't use it against you, I promise."

Xander started to breathe again, only slightly lightheaded. He turned his head to face Spike again and saw that the other man was still struggling with his appearance. Xander reached up to bring him down for his own kiss.

His own careful kiss, that is. Xander's mouth just wasn't very enthusiastic and being chewed and scraped raw again.

Just the rest of his body.

The kiss was strange. Xander found himself wondering if they had tried this before, and it didn't take long to decide they hadn't. His mouth felt a little too mobile and rubbery against the ridged and rigid planes of Spike's face.

Spike pushed Xander back down to the pillow, held him there hard and Xander watched as he tried again to force himself into something resembling human. This time it worked, but looked... unstable.

"Quickly --"

Xander pushed himself up and kissed Spike, managing somehow to get up on his knees. Upright, it was easier to kiss the way he wanted to, going deep and just moving their mouths together loud and messily. Spike returned the kiss and wrapped his arms around Xander, pulling Xander in closer while lapping at his tongue.


And so it was a gradual thing to feel the other man's lips pull back again, to find himself flinching slightly from the longer, exposed teeth. Xander began trying to guide Spike's mouth to his throat instead, but Spike didn't stop trying to kiss him humanly until the last ridge was fully realized.

And then he pushed his forehead against Xander's and whispered, "I love you."

Xander froze. He'd known this was coming but had somehow managed to avoid dwelling on it. His brain, ever helpful, gave him an image of a great big trunk labeled 'Spike Stuff That Doesn't Directly Involve Sex and Letting You Talk, Also Includes Several Willow Thoughts You Never, Ever Want To See.'

Well, that certainly explained it. Xander breathed in Spike's general direction as a response. It was supposed to have been a non-committal grunt, but the sound was torn up by the recently re-shattered glass wall of his doubts and came out a rough sigh.

Spike nuzzled his cheek, licked a stripe to his ear. "It's all right... it's all right... this doesn't have to matter, either."

Xander shuddered and forced himself a little closer to Spike.

Stroked his back against Spike's forearms.

Slid his arms around the other man's back.

Rested his head on one pale shoulder.

And held on.



Gratuitous Notes:

Words I felt my custom dictionary needed:

Bitchass, necrophiliac, truckstop, queerstomping, scarless, Britishness, wanking, meth, Naugahyde, permavictim, Whitebread, cyborg, etc....

Words my dictionary felt I needed:

Dictionary's first suggestion for "*filled*" : blood-filled For "*Anyway*" : Anti-Christ

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