Disclaimers: If they belonged to us, we'd never be lonely.
Spoilers: Other Walls.
Summary: Inevitability, and discoveries.
Ratings Note: NC-17 for sex, violence, sexualized violence, and violent
Acknowledgments: To Dawn Sharon, for somehow deciding to encourage
this sort of behaviour.
Feedback: Craved here.
Vacuum sounds from next door wake Xander up blinking and groggy,
and he reaches for Anya instinctively. A vacuum was not his alarm,
therefore there was no need to do anything more drastic than burrow
into warm, sweet-smelling skin and fall asleep again. And the skin is
definitely warm, but the scent seems... weirdly sharp. And there
aren't any soft places. And
"How perfectly adorable. I should've known you'd be a snuggler."
Which makes Xander's eyelids do the windowshade thing, sans side
effects. Every blink just brings it all rushing back because, yes,
despite self-promises to the contrary, he had done this again. This
being the dried blood and dried come and the taste in Xander's mouth
that is... absolutely all of those things and too much more.
He forces himself to breathe deeply and slowly, taking it all in.
Owning at least this little bit before surveying the damage.
Bloody, torn sheets.
Spatters of blood on floor, wall, and yes, ceiling. Not much, but still
Ethan had come with another present for him last night, and the
offer of his room at the Sunnydale Motel, where, apparently, no one
gave a fuck what happened to the guests, because Xander had let
Ethan scream. Or, more truthfully, Xander had *made* Ethan scream,
with the use of just his hands, his mouth, and the gleaming curved
blade that was Xander's gift.
Which is on the floor next to the bed, well within reach.
"Thinking of starting the morning right, Xander?"
Finally looking at Ethan and finding him at home within his own
bloody skin. *Natural* within it, and smiling. Always smiling.
"Mainly wondering if I'll regret slitting your throat." Little well
of hope and disappointment -- for once, it wasn't true.
"You shouldn't say things like that if you don't plan to fuck me
"I could fuck you after you were dead... wait, no, I couldn't. Never
"Your boundaries fascinate me, Xander."
"Yeah, well, yours terrify me."
"I don't have any."
"Which would be the scary part."
"You're quite a wonder, you know."
Flare of anger and Xander jabs at one of the new wounds, less worried
about things like infection now that he knows it isn't just bruises
that fade on Ethan too fast and Ethan curls in on himself at the blow
so Xander does it again. Ethan can writhe a lot better without rope,
and there's something intensely... pleasant about that.
Watching him move.
Because even in pain, Ethan moves with a certain kind of jerky grace
that Xander finds fascinating. Like his muscles want to pull away
from the hurt, but his skin wants to come closer to it. The end result
is uncontrolled, but beautiful. Maybe because it *is* uncontrolled.
Watching him and Xander swears he can see the wounds getting smaller
out of the corner of his eye, knows by the time he leaves Ethan's skin
will be smooth and unmarked. And while there's something, okay, creepy
about that, there's also something wonderful in knowing next time he'll
have a blank canvas to work with. And that, the very thought of next
time and what he might do makes Xander shudder, makes his morning
hard on just that much harder.
And out of nowhere comes the desire to do something. Permanent.
Ethan, perhaps sensing this, stills and stares at him, eyes bright and
curious. "Getting ready to step over another boundary, Xander?"
And he guesses he is, because he looks at the guttering candles and
decides right away they won't be hot enough. But there's Ethan's
lighter, an old Zippo, like the ones they used to have in commercials,
the kind that could be swallowed by an alligator and would still light
your after dinner cigars even after being covered in gator guts.
And maybe that will be enough.
"Turn over." Not even trying for calm, steady tones here and he
knows his voice is harsher than it should be.
Yet Ethan merely gives him another curious glance, shrugs and rolls
to his front, then extends his arms to each side. Gives a long,
voluptuous sigh and says, "I love it when you're so masterful."
"Then you'll adore this. Don't move."
Knife in one hand, lighter in the other and fuck. He's going to
this. One flick of the wheel and there's the flame, bright and
steady. The blade sizzles when Xander brings it down into the
whitest part of the flame, and little curls of acrid smoke rise from
it as Ethan's blood gets burned away.
"Xander, what are you-"
"Be quiet. And hold still, or I wear to god, this is going right
your spine. And I'm thinking you won't recover from *that* so
easily." And it was dimly shocking to hear his voice shake when his
hand was so steady.
Xander watches as the blade turns black, then begins to glow a dull
red. Waits until the edge is a bluish white and then looks down at
Long, slim back, slightly curving hips and the sweet swell of his ass.
Bruises and welts almost faded now.
He lays a hand on the nearest hip, his fingers matching up to the
fading marks he'd left from the night before holds tight. Hears
Ethan hiss a little, feels him arch up a little into the contact.
And brings the flat of the blade down, right on the swell of Ethan's
And is glad he's holding on, because Ethan *jumps* and pulls away,
tries to pull away while the knife sizzles and sinks a little.
He quickly pulls it away, reverses it and lays the other side of the
blade down and Ethan is really struggling now, trying to push his
way through the mattress and emitting a high thin noise Xander
thinks might be a scream.
Yet his hand is still steady, still holds the blade in place until the
sizzle stops, then lifts it and examines the mark. A little unsteady,
but clearly there. And-
"Don't heal this one, Ethan. Or I'll just do it again."
His answer is a ragged breath and a sound suspiciously like a sob.
Curious, he reaches under Ethan, finds his cock soft and murmurs,
"Well. So you don't get off on every kind of pain, I'm guessing."
A gasp and, "This is quite... extraordinary, I assure you."
And his voice is so thin and young sounding, that Xander finds
himself answering, "Poor baby. Should I kiss it better?"
The last murmured right above the red and puckered flesh, and Xander
dips his head. Purses his lips and blows, just to see if it's as sensitive
as it looks.
Ethan quivers and makes another low sound, but the cock in Xander's
And he says, "Slut," but mildly and lowers his head. Kisses the
just a barely touching it, then running his mouth along the entire
length of it, pressing soft, fleeting kisses to each part of it,
fascinated at the different textures, smooth in spots, rough and
ridged in others. Without even being aware of it, his tongues slips
between his lips, traces each texture. And with each pass, Ethan's
cock grows harder.
Xander raises his head, is going to something pithy yet snotty about
this fact, but is silent at the look on Ethan's face.
Eyes tightly closed. Lashes wet and spiked together. Breath
hitching through slightly parted lips and his mouth working, like he's
trying to say, or not say, something.
And that... Fuck. That is just interesting enough to make Xander
lower his lips again and gently press a kiss right next to the brand,
all the while watching as Ethan's face turns white, then red and his
eyes squeeze shut even tighter.
Experimentally, Xander licks at the wound again, then whispers,
This time Ethan lets out a low, broken sound and makes a brief,
abortive move to pull away.
And yes, very interesting.
Xander holds him still and pulls back just far enough to look at mark.
A clear X, with the bottom parts curving out, making it look like the
fancy letters in those old books of Giles', like it was supposed to
have little curlicues.
And the plan had been something along the lines of a joke. X marks
the spot. X for Xander was here --and don't you forget it-- or
something. Something permanent anyway, something that will make
good old Ethan think of Xander when he's off doing whatever the hell
he does when he's not pissing Xander off. Or making him --letting
him-- hurt Ethan.
But now, Xander wonders just how effective this will be. Just
scar. No biggie in the long run, unless your future sex partner is
the questioning type. And somehow Xander doesn't think that's
ever been Ethan's type.
But this... and he leans forward, rubs his cheek along the smooth
line of Ethan's hip and can feel quiver run through the older man.
This is something different. Because no matter how he's hurt Ethan,
no matter what he's done, he's never been able to crack that
coolness, that composure. Not really.
So Xander gives Ethan's cock a gentle pull, then releases it to hold
his hip steady again as he kisses the brand once more, then eases
down next to him, pulls Ethan into his arms. Presses his lips just
under Ethan's ear and says in a low, soft voice, "Did that really
hurt you? I'm sorry."
Ethan quivers and swallows and before he can speak, Xander bites
the back of his neck. Gently. Just barely scrapes his teeth against
the skin, then says, in that same voice, "Let me make it up to you."
In a strained voice, "I assure you, it's not-"
And Xander simply says, "Sshhhh. It's all right. Let me."
But Ethan tries to pull away, the line of his back unyielding and
hard, so Xander bites the back of his neck again, holding him still,
wrapping both arms around him and hugging tightly until Ethan
subsides, panting. Still holding himself rigid.
"Xander. I really don't want-"
And again, Xander cuts him off with a "Shhhh. Ethan." And
odd, because he doesn't have to force his voice to be gentle. It just
comes out that way, as if some part of him *knows* now.
He presses his face into the hollow between Ethan's neck and
shoulder, mouths the taut cord there and inhales. Smells the blood
and come from last night under the new, higher smell of sweat. Fear
sweat and Xander smiles. Runs his hands over the shivering skin of
Ethan's abdomen, slick with perspiration and pre-come. "I." Lick.
"Am going to make." Gentle bite. "You feel." Lingering suck. "So good."
And Ethan outright shudders this time. But to his credit, keeps
voice calm. Even. Mostly. "That really is charming of you. Very
sweet in fact. But this isn't how we do things."
"No." Xander rubs his cheek along Ethan's, all the while still
his hands over his stomach, his chest, continuous soothing circles.
"But, I think," and here he lowers one hands, lets his fingers wrap
around Ethan's hard cock, "I think you're going to like this."
And Ethan... Yes. Ethan lets out a sound like bastard cross between
whimper and a growl. Struggles a little, trying to pull free, away.
But Xander rocks his hips forward, lets his cock slide between Ethan's
cheeks, pulls gently at Ethan's cock and croons, "No, no. Let me. You
feel so good like this, so --" And groans when Ethan trembles a little,
holds him a little tighter.
Because, yeah, there's all sorts of power, isn't there? And maybe
anyone can make Ethan bleed. Maybe anyone can make him come. But
Xander suspects no one has touched Ethan like this, ever. Maybe not
even Giles. And yeah, definite power in that.
So he doesn't even mean it when he rubs against Ethan a little too
aggressively and manages to hit the brand. When Ethan gives a
muffled groan, Xander's response is instinctive. "Shit! I'm sorry, I
didn't mean to."
And Ethan... Ethan lets out a sound that sounds very much like a
whimper, making Xander wonder if anyone ever did that either,
apologized for hurting him. Probably not. And when he whispers again,
"Sorry, shhh, I'm sorry," part of him actually means it.
Surprising. Almost as much as his instinctive kiss, like he was
Anya and had been too rough. And suddenly he's aware of how *thin*
Ethan is, the fragility of the collar bone beneath his lips and tightens
his grip when Ethan tries to pull away again.
For a second he holds on too tightly, honestly torn between the plan
comfort and the need to *see*, to find out just how frail those bones
Moving slowly, carefully, Xander keeps one arm around Ethan's waist,
uses his free hand to ghost over the brand-- just a reminder to hold
still -- then probes at Ethan's ass. Still slick from last night and
Xander slides in easily.
Gentle. Slow. And when he's buried to the hilt, he stops.
Plucks at a
nipple, rolls it between his fingers and smiles a little when Ethan
gasps and pushes back at him, urging him to move. Kisses the back of
Ethan's neck, mouths and gently bites when Ethan kind of growls,
"Have you fallen asleep back there?"
Another bite, a little harder, then, "Nope. In a hurry, Ethan?"
"Actually, yes. If you're going to be boring, perhaps you should
scurry on home."
Xander chuckles a little, because while Ethan's voice is archly
scathing, he's still trembling and yeah. Yeah. He flexes his ass
muscles, drives in a little deeper and--
"You don't like this?"
A shudder and an almost imperceptible shake of his head.
And Xander really wants to ask, so--
"Why? Don't tell me it's dull, Ethan. You're," and he reaches
down, squeezes for emphasis, "hard." He strokes him and Ethan
gives an abortive buck into his hand. "So hard," and he's dimly
amazed to hear no mockery in his voice, but rather something like
wonder. That he could do this to Ethan, make him tremble with lust
and fear just by being *tender*. Jesus.
"What's the matter, Xander? Feeling a bit sickened by our usual?"
"Always. But in a rock hard cock kinda way. I like this, too."
Whispering it against the shell of Ethan's ear, oddly delicate part
of the body. Xander wants to pierce with one sharpened tooth, but
he also wants to suck at it. Tender lobe between his lips, dabbing at
it with his tongue and Ethan is rigid in his arms.
Hot and hard in Xander's hand.
Xander wants to push for an answer, but he also wants Ethan to
relax, loosen in his arms, give himself to *this* and... surrender.
And it hits like... like he's just swallowed a comet and it's still
spinning and burning inside him. Shivering on the outside because
suddenly room temperature is *glacial* compared to the heat inside,
slowly spreading out because... because Xander *knows*. The reason the
fear never really matters is because it's all outside, just like all the
cuts and bruises and broken bones over the years.
Out there, somewhere Xander is not. Or at least, somewhere Xander
doesn't have to be.
Hearing it in his voice, knowing he's already said too much knows too
much but it's too late. Whispered Latin, *grated* Latin and Xander
finds himself flat on his back, Ethan moving, see him out of the corner
of his eye but can't turn his head, can't move.
Ethan's moving Xander's limbs for him, arms out straight to the sides
and legs, oh legs spread and Ethan.
Kneeling between his legs, tapping the point of the knife on his lower
lip and gaze... somewhere else. Lost and wild.
"There are some trespasses that cannot be borne, child."
Whicker-flash of the blade in morning sunlight and Xander doesn't
scream. Can't, because he didn't really feel it.
Doesn't feel it now, really, and yeah, he knows that's bad because what
he *can* feel is blood, and a lot of it. Hot and sliding over his chest,
tickling at his armpits, pooling beneath him and making the stiff sheets
supple again. There is *some* noise in his throat, though. Something like
the outward sign of the way his heart is pounding/stopping,
Rabbit terror and just... numb.
"Don't you have anything to say, Xander? I must admit, I'm looking
forward to your commentary on what I plan to do to you."
"What should you say? Or what do I plan?"
And Xander finds himself laughing, a little, because, you know, there
is. Like one little pain molecule for each brush of air, and Sunnydale
Motel rooms apparently have a lot of drafts and it starts. Tingling.
Making his hair try to stand on end, making him... oh, yeah.
There's the fear, and the pain, and the blood, and hey, he knows that
His body knows that smell. And his body, God, his trusty and
never-make-it-to-old body has a reaction all set up for that smell.
And oh, fuck, hand around his cock and he can still see the glint of
on metal, the shadow of his blood, of the man looming. All Xander can
see of Ethan is his eyes, and the way the skin around them is pulled,
and the hint of teeth. Joker smile, that look of anguish and pain while
the face just pulls and pulls and pulls until your skull is right out
there to see and.
There's a lot of blood.
"Do it." Which is not what he meant to say at all but Ethan obliges.
This slash he can feel right away, cutting directly down across the
first. Xander can feel that it's a straight line, perfectly straight,
and practiced and deep and he doesn't know he's yelling until the note
cracks. And it hurts.
Oh, fuck, it *hurts*.
"... quadrant, now... hmm. For that one, I think, maybe something cruel
and oh. You're back. Did you have a pleasant black-out?"
"I don't think I was there for it..." Slurry and dozy and dazed and.
God. No sting to it, just ache. Blood-drying ache. "Will you cut me
Ethan scraping two fingers indiscriminately across his chest and
making him arch only all he can do is make the muscles in his shoulders
scream and himself scream and Ethan's two warm, slick fingers on his
face. Painting him down over one eye, then the other.
Feel the tack of it in his eyelashes.
"Yes. Yes, I think I will."
Flat palm right over where the two slashes cross, pressing down and
Xander can feel everything. The air pressing down on his ankles, tugging
at a few of the hairs, digging the anklet into his flesh. The cracked
drying of blood, all over him.
The salt of Ethan's skin, burning into the wounds.
Maybe a kindness that he can't move.
"Well, you *had* been such a good boy, and good boys deserve the very
"Guess I said that out loud."
"I guess you did. Oh, and don't worry, Xander. I can keep you alive
And he can't help it, has to laugh because, hey. That's pretty damned
funny. "I have complete and perfect faith in you, Ethan."
And he does. Because from here, where Ethan's just now dimpling the
skin of his chest with the knife again, it was inevitable. He'd had to
fuck Ethan, Ethan had to come back, Xander had to reach a point where
he had to get back on his own turf. Where he could be gentle, too, make
it... if not *good* between them, then maybe less fatal.
And the only Ethan could possibly react to that sort of treatment,
that late, late hand of friendship was like this, carving something
irrevocable into Xander's skin.
"Will you fuck me?"
"Do you think you deserve my cock?"
"As much as I deserve your knife."
"But this is *your* knife. You really don't deserve mine and... there."
Ethan pulls the knife away and Xander is arching, writhing somewhere
under his muscles, because it's *cold*. Colder than absolutely everything,
and stuck right *there*. Just before numbness hits, right after you're
sure it's a hard freeze and not a burn and Xander's eyes are squeezed
shut but he knows Ethan's watching and oh god. Being hard is just
another part of it, impossible to tease aside.
And it just goes on and on, snaking tendrils of ice out through his
and back in to the rune again, over and over, and Xander has to stop
screaming because there's no sound left but he doesn't. Breathes out
the silent, painful yell endlessly, until he passes out from lack of
Coming to and screaming all over again until he passes out again.
And finally it's just a noise. A feel-noise, in his head, like the missing
sound of his screams. It hasn't faded so much as Xander has... joined
The pain, the cold. And there he is, staked out to an ice floe and
covered in honey and the penguins would come for him eventually.
"Does that mean you're ready for us to continue?"
"You *do* deserve it, Xander. Absolutely everything."
And something in him breaks and breaks again and he only wishes he
could nod because, of course he does. All of it. He *made* this,
after all. The shape of it. The rest -- so hard to think in anything but
nerve ends: the ice, the fire after. Burning alive for hours and hours
bones cracking, flesh sizzling like meat and oh yeah, Ethan keeps his
promise. Strokes the cheek that should be charred and peeling with
gentle fingers and smiles so tenderly. Shakes his head, no, when
Xander finds the words to beg to die.
Starts another rune.
This one slow and the first cool wet trickles along his calves almost
eases the burns that still echo in his healed flesh. He's so scared
now he's just crying, sobbing and Ethan licks away every tear. But
all the tenderness is gone from his eyes and he's watching so intently
that Xander doesn't even notice the slow creep of water into his lungs
until it makes him cough. Cough and gasp and gasp and gasp and
eventually nothing. No air and no air and no air and his body begs and
begs. Suffocation so close he can't think around it. Can't see around
it. World narrowing down in soft black fog and he can't see anything
but Ethan's eyes. Can't feel anything but need and oh *god* Ethan's
hand on his cock. Stroking. Stroking.
Ethan talking to him. Things. Words. The sound of
like little wings on his face. Little puffs of air. He needs. It hurts
and every stroke is like this different kind of knife because, who
knew good was agony? That it cut so deep he'd want to come, breathe,
come, breathe. Air want air need. Ethan's mouth on his mouth now and
he'd kiss he'd *anything* he's... hitting him like maybe a cold iron pick
to the skull and oh jesus... Ethan... sorry, so so sorry...
"Well, of course you're sorry *now*..." Laughter that is
lightly amused and heard through underwater thunder. "Does it scare
you to know you're going to be even sorrier?"
He doesn't think it's possible but yes, apparently it does. And
so not fair. =liar= okay it's fair and he feels Ethan sliding down his
body, sliding down his racking diaphragm where he can feel the muscles
tearing away from cartilage. Stopping to bite at his ribs and then back
up rest his head, ear down on Xander's chest. To listen to his heart
stutter stop. And the grinding surge as it starts up again against its
will. And Ethan up with a chuckle and sliding down, mouthing kisses.
Blowing tickles into Xander's belly-button and if he wasn't so hard it
would have made him piss himself and then... warm, wet glove of mouth
closing over the head of his cock and Xander's heart goes ::thud::
And starts again and ::thud::. And god it hurts it hurts.
Ethan sucks. When Ethan takes his mouth away. When Ethan lets go
of the magic leash on his head so Xander can't stop smashing it
against the floor because he needsneeds aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiir.
"Don't tell me you're not enjoying this, Xander," Ethan says from
somewhere over in the Outer Hebrides. "You're so *hard*" and god,
okay, okay he fucking *gets* it please Ethan *please*....and Ethan just
takes his cock again.
And when the knife comes back he's so *grateful* because there is
just no difference anymore between coming and dying but at least
maybe with dying there's an end.
He tries to say.
"What is it, Xander?" Ethan's at his ear now, newly blooded knife
just poised and he can feel the new rune waiting to be finished on
his chest. "Johnny's fallen down the well? You want me to follow?
Oh, oh... you want it to *end*. Well. There's only one end, you know.
To any of it..."
And Xander's still not breathing, not sure his heart is beating
anymore, but he can nod his head.
"You know." Not sure he understands the odd, soft set to the
corners of Ethan's mouth but the knife hand comes up, glitters dully
high in the air (air) over Ethan's head.
"Then off you go..." and down.
He doesn't feel the blade go in. He doesn't feel anything at all.
The universe fades to silence. To gray. To silence. To nothing but
a floating point of view that is Xander. Blind. Deaf. Alone. Numb.
Knowing that. And nothing else.
"Shh, shh... It's all right now. Don't fuss." The voice
at his ear is
tired but not unkind. The arms are hard but warm; very much alive
and holding him so tight that all he wants to do is burrow in. Burrow
deep. Heart thundering hard in his ears, throat raw and crying so
hard he can taste the blood.
But that's okay. It's okay because he's *here* and he's
he's so *sorry* Ethan. So *sorry*... sorry-hee-hee... Crying like a
baby onto that hard bone shoulder that is so real, freckled even.
Tastes so good when his mouth opens against it to let the wet
"Yes, well," Ethan says. "You'll get over that soon enough.
*don't*..." when Xander hugs tight and shakes his head, tries to
argue through the tears and snot. And Ethan's hands on his back
aren't exactly easy giving comfort, patting and rocking and stroking
and stroking. They're both naked. The rug is rough. The room
stinks of burnt wax and blood and other less-nice things. It's all so
*sweet*. Like molten glass. Like water through a window. He's
shaking now, teeth chattering, stomach flopping like a fish and it's
pretty bad whatever it is that last thing that happened to him
but if Ethan's not worried, he's not worried. His hands clench
spasmodically at whatever part of Ethan he has hold of. His legs are
twined with Ethan's legs. He's not letting go any time soon. Sun is
pouring through the window.
"Trust me," Ethan says. "I know how this one goes. A few
bone-shearing guilt and then as soon as the shock starts wearing off
you'll see just how unfair it all was and you'll be back to wanting to
fuck my faggot ass through a wall, or whatever charming way you can
think of to tie me up and viciously extract your pound of flesh to our
mutual and delightfully unhealthy satisfaction."
And Xander shakes his head again because he knows there's something
that isn't true about that, and something to do with who deserves what
knife and who is marked with what but all he can do now is cry and
shake and take this grace, this two hour
grace that lets Ethan just hold him and let him make his denials and
say whatever words come out right into Ethan's skin so they can sink
in there and stay. And mean themselves.
And when Ethan finally pushes him away and gets up, starts pulling
clothes on, he's suddenly careful. Knows it's crunch-time. Doesn't want
to make any mistakes this time, doesn't cling, doesn't fight. Just
leans back against the wall, looks up at Ethan from under a fall of
sweat-curled hair and runs his hand over the mother*fucker* of a
scar on his chest -- finger-thick ropes of waxy flesh that ache and
pull with god knows what currents of magic and ohhhh oh jesus god
have roots right down deep in his cock, his ass -- like having Ethan
*in* him all the time. Feels the heavy twitch of flesh between his
legs and groans.
Which it turns out is *exactly* right because he can see the tension
melt out of Ethan's joints and he gets a grin that's wide enough and
bright enough to make everything behind it all but impossible to see.
"What can I say? You inspire me to greatness."
"Next time..." Growled with his best approximation of menace,
mostly out of hunger and the bloody gravel that all the screaming has
left of his throat. Pretty fucking weak considering he's the one who's
a naked, shaking wreck on the floor of the motel room and Ethan's about
to sashay out looking fine and sassy in his Haven't-Heard-The-
Seventies-Are-Over shiny clothes.
Except Ethan's limping a little and not hiding the way he's favoring
left hip. Which maybe means something and Xander has a sudden flash
of digging his nails into the the ragged X as he thrusts deep and hard
and oh he needs to know the sound that Ethan will make and...
"Next time," Ethan says. Hand on the doorknob and he stops in
open doorway, turns a speculative eye on Xander. Raises one eyebrow
thoughtfully. A message, Xander's sure of it. A clue. A secret coded
declaration of relevance to all that's gone before. Context. Molten
glass. Forever and blood and blades and burns and it's all he can do to
hold back the grin that would shine too much light on everything else.
"Perhaps next time you'll bring *me* something nice, hm?"
And he waits for Xander to carefully not answer the question and when
the final test is aced with a little help from shock settling back into
Xander's bones, he nods and goes.
And Xander licks his lips and closes his eyes and strokes the scar and
waits for inspiration to tell him what will be the best Ethan present
Continued in Wall 4.