“No. Absolutely bloody not.”
“No. Get someone else to do it. Percy, maybe. Bloke could use a holiday.”
Angel looked up from his pile of papers and made his Patient Face. He’d been practicing it, Spike noticed. “Wes is doing the research to make negotiations run smoothly. Have you ever tried to figure out the details of Raar etiquette? Not easy. And Gunn’s handling the legal side of things. Lorne’s busy with premieres this time of year and Fred—“
“Yeah, yeah. I get it. Only old Spike is dispensable. But you’ve hundreds of sodding lawyer minions about the place, mate. Surely one of them is available.”
Now Angel frowned, as if he didn’t want to say the next words. Then he sighed. “I need someone I can trust, Spike.”
That brought Spike up short. Old pouf had never before hinted that he might—albeit grudgingly—have confidence in Spike.
Angel put down his Mont Blanc. “Look, it’s no big deal. We’ll fly you up to San Francisco and you get to spend the month messing up your hotel room and watching pay per view porn while we do all the work down here. You babysit the talisman, we negotiate a truce between the Raar clans, apocalypse is averted, and then you can come back to LA and haunt me some more.”
“Not a bloody ghost anymore,” Spike muttered.
Spike thought about it for a moment. It wasn’t as if he had anything important to do here anyway, or as if he enjoyed the lawyer wankers’ company. And he quite fancied San Francisco, actually. Lots of lovely fog that was good for vampires and reminded him a bit of London, loads of homeless people to snack on—not that he was doing that anymore—and good food when he felt like eating human-style. Plus, he’d been camping out in offices and the like, and a real bed and hot baths and telly sounded brilliant. Still, it wouldn’t do to appear too eager. “Don’t want to fly,” he said. “I want to drive.”
“Fine. There’s a whole garage full of cars. Take one.”
“I want the Viper.” He didn’t even like the Viper that much, but it was a matter of principle.
Angel glared, then huffed out an impatient breath. “Fine. Take it.”
Spike smiled and collapsed onto the sofa. “So where’s the precious trinket, then?”
“In London. The Watcher’s Council—what’s left of it—found it. They’ll be sending it to the States day after tomorrow.” His mouth crooked upwards in a slightly Angelusy smile. “And one of the Watchers will be staying with you and the talisman until negotiations are complete.”
Spike leapt to his feet, sputtering slightly. “What? I am not spending weeks cooped up with one of those tossers.”
“You don’t have any choice. The Raar are insisting on two guardians, and I’m not sure the Watchers would release the thing to any representative of Wolfram & Hart anyway.”
Spike fumed silently for a few moments. He could refuse, of course. The pillock couldn’t force him to do anything. Except the old bastard could probably force him to leave Wolfram & Hart and, pathetic as it was, this was the only place that passed for a home for Spike nowadays. He didn’t relish the thought of being on his own now, not when he still—and he’d barely admit this even to himself—felt a bit fragile after the events in Sunnydale and after.
“Fine,” he snarled at last. “But you tell those arseholes to send someone young and pretty, at least. Wouldn’t fancy a month with Rupert.”
“Yeah, okay, whatever. Go see Harmony. She has the name of the hotel you’ll be staying at.”
He was beginning to wish he’d flown.
He’d left the firm as soon as dark fell, but this time of year that meant rush hour, and he’d crawled impatiently through stop and go traffic all the way through the San Fernando Valley. He was able to move faster once he got over the Grapevine, but then he still had hours left through the flat and empty darkness, and the only radio stations he could find played country music, or Mexican, or spouted at him about hell, with which he was already far too well acquainted, ta very much.
He arrived in San Francisco during the still hours of the very early morning and pulled up in front of the hotel. It wasn’t a huge one, but it was just across the street from the Bay, and it looked fairly posh. The inside was posh, too, all done in minimalist tans and soft greens, and the bird behind the counter gave him a cheery smile. The check-in process went well and soon he was dumping his small bag on one of the queen-size beds and glancing out the window at the view of the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge, then rooting through the honor bar for those ridiculous tiny bottles of booze. He noticed that the little refrigerator also contained a round Styrofoam container, and he grunted in satisfaction. Looked like the pouf had kept his promise to have blood delivered daily.
Content with his temporary arrangements, Spike pulled off his boots and then spent a few seconds debating with himself what do next. The bathroom had a deep bathtub, and also an oversized, glass-enclosed shower equipped with one of those wide spouts. Rainforest showerheads, he thought they were called, and he was eager to try it. But then his eye fell on the bed, with its fancy white linens and small mountain of pillows, and he threw himself onto the mattress. Porn first, bath later.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
Spike turned his head away from the curvy blonde sitting near the window. He hadn’t really expected her to be the Watcher he was waiting for, but one could always hope. Besides, she’d smiled at him twice now, and he had had the feeling that if he went and chatted her up, she wouldn’t turn him away. But now he sighed when he saw the man approaching him.
“They sent you? You’re the Watcher?” Spike asked incredulously.
“I’m more a Watcher than you are a lawyer, bleachboy.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Yeah, well, I expect you’re mostly just excess baggage, the one they could spare.”
“Same could be said for you, Spike. And anyway, aren’t you supposed to be really most sincerely dead?”
“Not of late.” Spike heaved another sigh. “Let’s do this over a couple of pints, yeah?”
“Smartest thing you’ve ever said.”
The hotel bar was a nice one, full of pretty people in posh clothing. Big windows looked out at the outdoor seating area, where the hardier customers sat in wicker chairs under glowing heaters. But Spike steered them instead to a small booth near the back of the place. The table was of polished bamboo and the cushions were sleek and comfortable. They sat and Harris shoved his small suitcase against the side of his seat. A waiter came over, a handsome bloke in jeans and a white button-down shirt. He plunked a small bowl of mixed nuts down between them. “What can I get you?” he smiled.
“A beer. Big and cold. Something American.”
The waiter’s smile turned up another notch, his deep blue eyes crinkling at the corners. “You want something big, huh? And strong?” He was flirting with Xander Harris.
“Yeah, I could go for that.” And, even more amazingly, Xander Harris looked to be flirting back!
Spike cleared his throat, loudly. “Thirsty here, mate.”
The waiter turned toward him. “You looking for the same?”
“Jack. Neat. And make it a double.”
The waiter leered happily. “A double, huh?”
Harris laughed and Spike rolled his eyes. “Just bring us the drinks, all right, mate?”
The waiter winked at Harris and headed back toward the bar. “Didn’t know you fancied blokes, whelp,” Spike said.
“Okay, A, I am a grown man and no longer remotely whelplike. B, there’s a whole lot about me you don’t know. And C, we’re not here to discuss my love life or lack thereof, Fangless.”
Spike started to bridle at the old nickname, and was going to point out that he was now unchipped and thoroughly fanged. But then he realized that the boy’s words had no heat behind them. They sounded weary, and, now that Spike had the chance to really look at Harris, he noticed that the boy looked…worn. His California tan was long gone and his pale skin was now heavily stubbled. His hair was long and unkempt, his clothes—a pair of khakis, a blue and orange t-shirt, a denim overshirt, and a brown leather jacket—looked lived in, and his eye had such a dark circle underneath it nearly appeared bruised. The straps of his eyepatch had dug into his skin, making sore-looking red lines. True, he had just arrived from several thousand miles away, but Spike thought this was worse than just a long journey and a bad case of jetlag might account for.
“What’re you staring at? I’m the one who’s seeing a ghost.”
“Not anymore,” Spike mumbled, making Harris frown in confusion. “Right, then. So the Council of Wankers sent you with the cherished knickknack, yeah?”
“Yep.” Harris dug in his jacket pocket for a moment, then pulled out a small wooden box. “I don’t see what the big deal is. The thing’s damn ugly.” He held it out to Spike, who lifted the lid.
Harris was right. It was a chunk of unidentifiable metal, scratched and tarnished, about as big as a walnut. It was carved into some shape, but Spike couldn’t quite make out what it was meant to be. He closed the box and handed it back. “Yeah,” he said. “But to the Raars it’s like the bloody Holy Grail, and the clans are ready to start slaughtering each other over who gets to keep it.”
Harris shrugged. “So let them slaughter. Few less demons wouldn’t make me cry on my pillow.”
“Maybe not. But they have weapons that make the a-bomb look like a friendly pat on the back.” He made a face. “Mojo, yeah? Like your witch?” Harris apparently shared Spike’s opinion of magic, because he looked disgusted, too. “The Raars go to war over this and they’ll take the rest of us with them, human, vampire, and partridges in the bloody pear trees.”
“Another end of the world. Like that’s gonna freak me out anymore.” Harris rubbed where the strap dug into the side of his head. “So what’re we supposed to do? Giles wasn’t very specific.”
Spike was about to answer when the waiter returned with their drinks. Harris held his toward the waiter in a little mock toast and took a long draught. “These are on you, Spike. I’ve got nothing but pounds and Euros.”
“I’ll charge it to the room. Wolfram & Hart can get us pissed.” To the waiter he said, “Run a tab, yeah?”
“Sure thing. Enjoy, guys. Just wave when you want me.” With a little waggle of his eyebrows he walked away.
“Cheeky,” Spike said.
“It’s the patch. If I’d have known how much people went for the whole Danger Guy look I’d have poked that eye out long ago.”
Spike snorted and wished he could smoke. Sodding Californians and their stupid lungs. He downed his whiskey instead, and watched as Harris drank more of his.
“So,” Harris said, slamming his glass down. “You were gonna tell me our plan.”
“No plan, berk. We’re just here to keep an eye—three eyes—on the thing, in a nice neutral spot, while that lot sorts their differences.”
“So…we just hang out in San Fran?”
“Not here to be tourists. We’re meant to stay put.”
“A little R and R. Okay. I can handle that. How ‘bout another drink?”
Harris waved the waiter over and said to him, “Just keep ‘em coming until somebody passes out, okay?”
“You know, I get off in about two hours. If you want to get off in about two hours, too….”
Harris patted the bloke’s arm. “Thanks for the offer. Normally I’d be tempted, but I’m not even feeling human tonight. Another time, maybe?”
The waiter smiled and shrugged philosophically. “Okay.” He turned to Spike and raised his eyebrow.
“Not too human myself, mate,” Spike said, and Harris barked out a laugh.
They sat for a long while, drinking silently, until Harris finally said, “So. What’s with the resurrection? And how’d you end up with a bunch of demon lawyers anyway?”
Spike told him everything—being revived, more or less, as a ghost in Angel’s office; that nasty business with Pavayne; his recent unexplained recorporalization. Harris listened carefully, asking a question now and then, until the tale was told and Harris looked like he might be permanently melted to the seat. Their waiter had already left, giving them both a little wave before he went, and now the bartender was giving them meaningful glances.
“Think it’s time to head out,” Spike said. “You look like you could use a bed.”
“Bed. I’ve heard of those.”
Spike stood and a moment later Harris slowly rose to his feet as well. Spike signed the bill, leaving a healthy tip for their departed waiter, and Harris followed him out to the lobby, dragging his suitcase behind. “Oh. I need to check in,” the boy said, blinking owlishly at the front desk.
“Already done. Come on.”
They went into the lift and up to the fifth floor, and Spike led them to their room. When they got inside, Harris blinked again at Spike’s small valise, which was at the foot of his bed. “My room. Where’s my room?”
“You’re there. Mi casa es su casa and all that rot.”
Now Harris looked alarmed. “But—but---“
“We both have to be with the trinket at all times. Can’t do that in separate rooms, can we?”
“Nobody said I’d have a vampire roomie.”
Spike plopped down on his bed. “Not like you haven’t had one before, is it? Least I won’t be tying you to a sodding chair. Besides, I won’t bite. Much.”
Harris closed his eye and swayed slightly. “Okay. I’m too tired to do anything about it, but I’m officially lodging a protest.”
Spike didn’t bother to answer. Within minutes, Harris had toed off his shoes and climbed beneath the covers without even bothering to take off his clothes.
Spike really hoped he didn’t snore.
“Are we really stuck here? ‘Cause I’m gonna go stir-crazy after a couple days.”
Spike had already informed housekeeping of his unusual sleep schedule, so they’d both slept undisturbed until mid-afternoon. Then Harris had showered and shaved and ordered a burger from room service and Spike had drunk his blood and showered as well. Afterward, they’d each sat on their beds, Spike watching HBO and Harris tapping away on the laptop he’d brought. An hour or so after the sun set, Harris had stood and stretched and looked longingly out the window.
“We can go up to a half mile from here,” Spike replied.
“Yeah? How’s anyone gonna know if we go, say three-quarters of a mile?”
Spike grimaced and lifted the hem of his left trouser leg, to reveal the device strapped around his calf. “GPS,” he said.
Harris snorted with laughter. “It looks like you’re on house arrest!”
“So are you, then, ponce, because we’re tied together like Siamese twins.”
“Why half a mile?”
“Dunno. I expect they thought that’d be enough to stretch our legs a bit.”
“Well, can we, then? Stretch? Because I’ve never even been to San Francisco before.”
Spike clicked off the television. “All right. Haven’t been here myself in ages. Back in the late 70’s, Dru and I—“
“Uh!” Harris held up his hand. “Is this story gonna end with death and mayhem?”
Harris shook his head. “Had plenty of that to last me a while. Let’s just go, okay?”
So they put on their shoes and coats and headed out into the night. It felt cool to Spike, with his lack of body heat and recent years spent in Southern California, but Harris had been in London, and he kept his jacket unzipped as they walked. They strolled past a few of the big piers, but they hadn’t gone far when the stupid thing on Spike’s leg beeped and they had to turn back. When they were in front of the hotel again, Harris stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. “I’m hungry,” he announced.
“You’ll like this place, then,” Spike said, and took his elbow to drag him across the street toward the Ferry Building.
Harris did like the Ferry Building, and he spent a long time walking back and forth down the long hall, wandering into the various shops. He bought some apples and tangerines and beer at an organic grocers, and a hunk of cheese at the cheese shop, and three bottles of wine at an Italian place. That surprised Spike—he hadn’t taken the boy for a wine drinker. But maybe any alcohol would do. Spike paid for everything. Why not? W&H had plenty of dosh.
When their arms were fully laden, Harris led them into Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, where he crowed happily over the chili dog and the sweet potato fries and the chocolate shakes.
“You’re going to get big as a house if you keep eating like this,” Spike observed, stealing one of the fries for himself. They were good.
“I haven’t eaten like this in months. Not a lot of food like this where I’ve been.”
“Where’s that?” Spike snagged another fry.
Harris’s face grew grim. “Africa, mostly.”
“Yeah? Earning your soul?” These fries were nearly as good as those onion things they’d had at the Bronze.
Harris didn’t smile. “No. More like losing it. And next time I’m gonna order garlic fries instead, undead thief guy.” He scooted his plate a bit farther away.
Spike grinned. “’M evil.”
Harris snorted and threw a fry at him.
They didn’t talk much after that. Harris finished his meal and they went back to their room, and then they drank and watched bad movies in near silence. Spike found himself wondering about Harris’s time in Africa, and what had happened there to turn him so grim, but the boy was clearly not anxious to talk about it, so Spike let it be.
When dawn began to brighten the sky, Spike pulled the curtains closed. Harris stripped to his boxers, yawned a good night, and fell asleep.
There was a liquor store just over a half mile away, off Market Street. Spike couldn’t go that far without setting off the sodding alarm, but they decided that Harris could, because Spike was only a half block away and could at least keep an eye on the outside of the shop.
The boy was capable of downing a surprising amount of booze.
Peaches was going to have a tantrum when he saw all the liquor store charges. The thought of it amused them both.
“If I don’t give it a rest for a day or two my liver’s gonna go on strike.”
“One of the advantages of being a vamp. Mine quit over a century ago.” Spike took another swig from the bottle, felt the warm comfort of the liquor as it slid down his gullet.
Harris looked up from his laptop. “Do you like being a vampire, Spike? I mean, the superpowers, the no aging stuff, all that…must be nice.”
Spike thought for a minute. “Yeah, I expect so. I mean, I was pretty happy about it before the chip, and Buffy, and then the soul. Had some good times. Some of the bits are bloody inconvenient, though. The whole invitation, thing, for instance. And it took me ages to learn to do my hair without a mirror. I miss the sun as well. Why? Suffering from demon envy, are we?”
“No. Not really. It’s only, I’m just a regular guy, right? Most of the people I know have these special things they can do, and I’m just lucky if I don’t get killed.”
Spike took another chug. “You’re handy at attracting demons, aren’t you? That’s a superpower of sorts, I reckon.”
Harris pulled a face. “Yeah, well, not really one anyone would want, though. Strength, speed, flying, those are cool. Demon magnet, not so much. And I don’t even know why it happens.”
“You smell bloody delicious, whelp.” Oops. Spike hadn’t meant to admit that. Perhaps he ought to slow down with the Jack.
Harris raised his eyebrow. “I what, now?”
Spike sighed. “You smell good. To a demon’s nose you’re like…baking bread. Or sizzling bacon.”
“Oh. Have I always smelled…edible?”
“But you never thought it might be relevant to mention that to me?”
“Didn’t occur to me that you didn’t know. Thought your demon girl would’ve mentioned it.”
“No, she never did. It does explain a lot, though. Huh.” Harris frowned thoughtfully. “Well, still not my superpower of choice.”
“Nobody gets to choose these things.”
“Would you? I mean, you didn’t exactly decide to become a vampire, right? So would you, if you had a choice?”
It was a question Spike had deliberately not asked himself for ages. “If I hadn’t been turned, I’d have been mouldering bones long ago.”
Harris waved his hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah. But if you could turn back to human now, would you?”
“Peaches wants to,” Spike said quietly. “There’s a prophecy, you see, about a vamp who’s a champion and then gets to be a real boy again. He think that means him, that he can get a pulse and redemption, all tied up with a pretty bow.”
“You were a champion. Maybe it means you.”
“You don’t look very convinced.”
Spike finished off the bottle. “Don’t believe in prophecies. And even if I did…not sure I want it. I fought the pouf over it, not so long ago—I beat him, too!—but mostly because I didn’t want him to have it. I was tired of him always being the sodding hero, the one Bu—the one everyone goes on about.”
It was much more than Spike had intended to say. To his surprise, Harris didn’t take the piss out of him over it, but only nodded slowly, looking much older than his years. “I know exactly how that feels, my good man.”
“I killed people there, Spike.”
Spike looked over at Harris, who was stretched out on his bed, staring at the television screen. They were watching one of the CSI shows, but Spike was fairly certain Harris wasn’t talking about Miami.
“Human people. They were bad guys, and a couple of them were trying to kill me, but still…I murdered them.”
“I expect they deserved it,” Spike answered quietly.
Harris turned his head to face Spike. His eye was oddly blank-looking. “Don’t all murderers think that?
“I didn’t. Doesn’t take a soul to recognize that your victims are innocent. Now, Angelus, that was a plus for him. The purer of heart, the tastier they were. Me, I didn’t care much one way or the other. A meal was a meal. But I knew when I was killing someone good, someone who deserved to live, and I killed them anyhow.”
Spike thought Harris might protest then that Spike was a monster, not even human, and therefore didn’t count. He didn’t, though. He only shook his head slowly. “I see them sometimes in my dreams. You’d figure I’d have plenty of experiences to populate a lifetime’s worth of nightmares, but when I dream, it’s just them I see. The people I killed.”
“Me, too,” Spike said softly. Harris gave him a sharp look then, but said nothing, and turned back toward the telly.
When an advert came on, Spike asked, “What were you doing there?”
At first he didn’t think he’d get an answer. Then Harris began to speak, his voice low and almost monotone. “Buffy, Will, all the rest, they went to Cleveland after Sunnyhell. It was all Hellmouthy there, too. But with Ahn gone, and all the rest, I couldn’t face it. I just couldn’t. I was gonna get a job somewhere, anywhere, building houses. I’m good at that. But then Giles got this call about shit happening in Mozambique and I went, ‘cause everyone else was busy.” He snorted. “I couldn’t even have found Mozambique on a map before I left.”
“But you went.”
“Yeah. And Giles was right, there was shit happening. I wasn’t alone, not really. I even had a few of those new Slayers on my side. But there were demons and some really ugly humans, and people got killed. I saw a thirteen-year-old girl, a kid who’d just found out what she was, like, four weeks earlier, get chopped in half by a machete. I felt her blood when it splashed me and it was hot. It was days before I could get it all off me. Even now, sometimes, it’s like it’s still there, and—“
His voice broke. Appropriate, Spike thought, since the rest of him was broken as well. And because the boy—no, the man, he really was a man, now—because the man hadn’t dismissed Spike’s admissions the night before, Spike turned off the television and walked the three feet or so over to Harris’s bed and sat beside him and patted him on the knee. “I know,” was all he said.
Harris wiped his eye with the back of his hand. “Everything was pretty much cleaned up by September. By then Giles was in London and everyone else was in…I don’t know. Slovenia. Slovakia. One of those countries in the middle. I went to London, and I’ve been mostly doing nothing. Drinking, I guess. Reading a book here and there. Trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life.”
“So what did you decide?”
“Apparently, to spend a month holed up in a hotel room with a vampire.”
Spike patted his knee again. “Good decision.”
Harris had to twist his neck to look at Spike again. “You know what? It kind of was. I didn’t expect to see you and I wasn’t all that happy about it—although I thought those guys in LA could’ve sent someone a lot worse, like Angel.” He shuddered. “But the thing is, it hasn’t been that bad. You haven’t been that bad. You’ve actually been kind of…good company.”
Harris tensed then, as if he expected Spike to hit him, or perhaps just say something biting. But Spike didn’t, because he was trying to remember whether anyone had ever called him good company before, anyone at all in the last 150 years, and he was fairly certain nobody ever had. It was the sort of thing he’d remember. Oh, he’d been called loads of other things over the decades, most of which would have been unprintable back in his human days. But not this.
He blinked at Harris, not sure how to respond.
And then he did respond, or perhaps Harris did. Spike wasn’t at all certain which of them decided to move. But a moment later they were kissing, their lips locked hungrily together, and Xander’s whiskers were rough against Spike’s chin, and his tongue tasted of potato crisps and Pepsi, and it felt good, so unexpectedly brilliant that Spike forgot to breathe, but that was all right because Xander seemed to be doing enough of it for the both of them.
Then, after not enough time, they pulled apart and stared at each other with wide eyes. It was Spike’s turn to tense as he waited for Xander to pull faces, or start yelling, or perhaps just get up and run. Instead, Xander smiled, slowly, until the happiness actually reached his eye for the first time, like a warm little flame kindling in the darkness.
“I think,” Xander said. “I think that was nice.”
“I think that was one of the nicer demon kisses I’ve had.”
Spike sputtered a bit. “One of the nicer—I’m a bloody brilliant kisser, I am!”
“But I’ve kissed a surprising number of demons. I think to give it a fair rating, I really have to try again.”
Spike felt the corners of his mouth turning up as well. “Well, we would want the scoring to be fair.”
Xander lifted his hand and cupped it against Spike’s cheek. It was big and warm and calloused. Spike wanted to lean into it, to feel those rough fingers stroke him. “Let’s see,” Xander said. His face was very close to Spike’s now, almost touching. It took only the slightest movement for them to draw together, and once again they were kissing, tongues twisting with each other, lips pressing nearly hard enough to bruise, yet it was slow and sweet, the kind of kiss a bloke could drown in, Spike thought, and he very nearly did.
“Even the Soviet judge gives that one a ten,” Xander whispered. Spike would have agreed, but he seemed to have lost the power of speech. But he could still squawk with surprise, it seemed, because he did exactly that a moment later, when Xander pressed down on Spike’s shoulders so that Spike was flat on the bed, and then Xander rolled on top of him, but the squawk was silenced by a third kiss, this one heady as the last but more urgent.
When Xander suddenly froze and then lifted his head away, Spike wanted to cry.
“This is okay, isn’t it? I mean, you do want this, right?” Xander’s voice was uncertain.
Spike chuckled low and thrust his hips up against Xander, so Xander could feel how very much he wanted it. “What do you think, pet?”
“I think this is…unexpected.”
Cautiously, because Xander still hadn’t rolled off him, and because Spike could feel the man’s hard cock pressing against his, even through two layers of denim, Spike raised his hands and then settled them on Xander’s ass. That was comfortable, he thought. What he said was, “You fancying blokes…that’s new.”
It was Xander’s turn to chuckle. “Not so much. Me admitting I fancy blokes, that part is new. I like girls, too, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve visited a few clubs while I’ve been in London, and I’ve recently come to appreciate the unfairer sex. And you?”
“Been shagging blokes since before your great-grandmother was born. Since shortly after I was turned. First ‘Gelus, then—“
“Wait. You had sex with Angel?”
“Nah. Angelus. Over a century ago. Angel would rather brood than get a leg over. Wanker.”
“Huh. So you’re pretty flexible, then?”
Spike curled his tongue behind his teeth. “Vampire, love. I’m very flexible. Want a demonstration?”
Apparently, Xander did.
They were both a bit overeager, which translated into some clumsiness as they pulled their kit off, but then there was loads of bare skin, and Spike could see that Xander really had lost that baby fat he’d been carrying a few years back. He still wasn’t exactly lean, he was too solid for that, but his waist was quite trim, with a line of dark hair leading from his navel to his groin, where an impressively large cock jutted from black curls.
They stood a few feet away from each other, frankly staring, until Xander’s cheeks were colored by a faint blush that excited Spike all the more. So he stepped forward and took Xander into his arms. Xander grabbed him right back and they kissed again as their hands wandered over one another’s backs and shoulders and arses. Their bellies pressed together with their cocks trapped in between, and the hot friction was almost more than Spike could manage and he felt his knees go weak with it.
Perhaps Xander’s did as well, because a moment later they were on Xander’s bed, their mouths and bodies still locked together, with Xander writhing and moaning on the bottom and Spike writhing and moaning on the top, and it was lovely. Xander’s foot caught for a moment on the electronic tracker strapped to Spike’s leg, and for some reason that reminded Spike that Xander was still wearing the eyepatch. He hadn’t yet seen the man without it. He reached up and moved to remove it, but Xander stopped him by clutching at his wrists.
“It’s ugly,” Xander said.
“I’ve seen ugly, pet. I doubt this qualifies.”
Xander dropped his hands away but stilled beneath Spike as the vampire slowly and gingerly pulled the strap away. It really wasn’t remotely awful. The area over the empty socket was slightly sunken, but the lid was closed, and the skin that was visible was whole and healthy-looking. Impulsively, Spike brushed his lips against Xander’s eyelid, and then against the cheekbone below, before working his way over to suck on an earlobe. He wasn’t usually this tender and even as he shivered under Xander’s soft strokes of his lower back Spike couldn’t explain why he was being so gentle with Xander Harris of all people. But he was, and somehow it felt just right.
They were rocking against each other, hard but not very fast, and Spike liked the taste of Xander’s skin very much. He gave up the earlobe and settled on Xander’s neck instead, softly sucking, even nibbling lightly with blunt teeth. “How much do you trust me, Xander?” he whispered.
Xander’s movements faltered only for a second. With a voice that was thick and hoarse, he said, “Go ahead.”
Just the permission alone was almost enough to send Spike over the edge. He quickly changed his face, feeling the satisfying fullness in his mouth when his fangs dropped into place, and just barely nicked Xander’s neck with one sharp edge. A fat crimson bead welled out and Spike lapped at it, shuddering with the ecstasy of fresh, living blood.
“Merciful Zeus,” Xander groaned. He tilted his head more to the side, and that was all Spike could stand. He sucked once more at the tiny wound and rutted helplessly into Xander, and as the flavor of the man coated his mouth he howled against Xander’s flesh and came so hard his vision momentarily grayed and he lost track of the world.
When he was once more aware of where he was and what he was doing, he realized that Xander was grinning crookedly up at him and their softening cocks were stuck together. Spike moaned slightly and rolled off to Xander’s side. It felt as if his bones were made of soft taffy.
“In case you were wondering,” Xander said, “you’re officially at the top of the demon rankings.”
“You let me bite you,” Spike said, still not quite believing it.
“Figured that was gonna be part of the vamp package. And good gods, I’m glad it was.”
“Feels nice, yeah?”
Xander lifted his hand and let it fall on top of Spike’s hip. It was comfortable there. “Yeah,” Xander said. “Nice.”
And then Xander had it in him to surprise Spike one more time, because he rolled on his side and gave Spike another kiss, just a quick press of the lips like sweethearts might share, and curled himself around Spike’s body before pulling up the covers and promptly falling asleep.
The last time Spike had slept with someone else had been in Sunnydale, when he and Buffy huddled together just before he died. That had been pleasant and necessary, but there had been a bitter note of desperation there, the aftertaste of unhappy past events. Sharing a bed with Xander was simple and good, the heat of the man burning through Spike like the fire that had once consumed him.
Few of his best memories were in bathrooms. But when they woke up, still tangled with one another, they’d looked down at the dried and itchy mess on their groins and stomachs and had a race for the loo. Spike was faster but Xander was closer, so they hit the doorway at the same time, laughing as they jostled each other through the narrow opening.
The shower was plenty big enough for the both of them. Spike turned on the tap while Xander pissed. Spike managed not to make a face. He didn’t miss human bodily functions at all. When they were under the steaming water together, Spike stood still, slightly bemused, while Xander soaped him back and front, then massaged shampoo into his hair. “Always fancied a vampire doll, did you, pet?”
Xander smacked Spike’s arse. “I’ve got a little shower kink. So sue me. Besides, you look really cute with your head all foamy.”
Spike twisted around and mock-growled at him. “’M not cute.”
“My mistake. You look very big bad. Especially like this.” And Xander plopped a small bit of bubbles onto Spike’s nose.
A slippery and entirely enjoyable scuffle ensued, at the end of which they both ended up on the tile floor, the endless supply of hot water sluicing over them, while they snogged and groped and gasped for air. Frotting was nice, all squirmy and wet and warm, and Spike had another drop or two of Xander’s blood, but when they were finally spent and waterlogged, Xander gave Spike a serious look. “We need lube,” he announced.
“Christ, yes. We’re in San Francisco. Surely there must be slick somewhere nearby.”
So they dried and dressed and combed and—in Xander’s case—shaved, and they went down toward the lift, waving at the maid in the hallway as they went. It was early evening, and a few people were sitting in the bar having after-work drinks. As soon as Spike and Xander found a seat, the waiter from last time came zooming on over to grin at them.
“You returned!” he said.
“You’re staying here at the hotel?”
They both nodded. “And we could use a bit of help with something,” Spike added.
The waiter knelt down so he was nearly eye to eye with them. “I’d be delighted.”
“Where’s the nearest place a bloke could buy some slick?” Spike asked.
Xander actually blushed and the waiter’s eyebrows flew up. “Um, there’s a couple of great places in the Castro.”
Spike shook his head. “Closer, mate.”
“You’re in a hurry?”
Spike gestured at Xander. “Wouldn’t you be if this was waiting for you?” Xander choked on an almond.
“Okay. There’s a place just a few blocks up Market. Big red awning, you can’t miss it. Maybe not the most inspired selection, but it’ll do ya.”
The waiter winked. “And if you want company….”
It was Xander who patted the bloke’s hand. “Thanks, man. But we’re kinda…new. I think we need some time just the two of us.”
The waiter smiled and stood. “I got it. You make a cute couple, too.” And he winked and walked off.
Xander had a beer and Spike a shot of Jack, and then they signed the bill and left. As the waiter had promised, the shop was easy to find, and it was just barely within Spike’s tether as well. The place was fairly empty, just a bloke in a suit looking over the DVDs and a young couple giggling over the magazines. “I never thought I’d be shopping for sex supplies with William the Bloody,” Xander mused as he picked up a bottle of Astroglide.
“And I never thought I’d be here with Xander Harris,” Spike added.
He was mentally debating between a tube of Rear Entry and one of Back Door, when Xander said, “Ooh! This is the one we need!” and thrust a package in front of his face. First Spike noticed the photos of a pair of bare bums on it, and then he saw the brand. Doc Johnson’s Spike.
He gave Xander an evil look. “I don’t find snorting with laughter at all sexy, git.”
Xander flung an arm around him. “Yeah? Then how about this?” He licked in Spike’s ear. Spike shivered.
“Right, then,” he announced. “This one will do.”
Spike paid the bored salesclerk, chuckling slightly at the thought of Wolfram & Hart covering this particular tab, and he and Xander left. They walked back toward the hotel, stopping for about fifteen minutes at a sandwich shop for Xander to have a quick meal.
By the time they got back to the hotel, they were almost jogging, and they eventually collapsed together onto Spike’s bed, Xander giggling like a giddy teenager. Spike most definitely was not giggling. He was laughing, in a dignified way that befitted a 150-year-old vampire.
They stripped each other slowly this time, taking the time to lick here and nip there. Xander was ticklish, and he also responded beautifully when Spike twisted the hardened nubs of his nipples just a bit. He proved himself quicker on the uptake than Spike had once given him credit for, and latched his mouth onto Spike’s neck, just over where his pulse had once been, suckling and biting hard enough to make Spike writhe and whimper. Not too much later, and by unspoken mutual agreement, Xander was teasing Spike’s hole with a slippery finger, then sliding the finger inside while he tongued at the crown of Spike’s leaking cock.
“Bloody hell,” Spike moaned. “How much time did you spend in those clubs, pet?”
Xander pulled his mouth away with a slurp. “Didn’t I tell you? It’s my other superpower. Infinitely more enjoyable than demon attraction.”
Xander added a second finger then, scissoring them apart carefully and then pressing gently on Spike’s prostate. Spike clutched at Xander’s overlong hair, a trifle desperately, as if he might fall apart without a strong grip. He’d shagged blokes now and then, even humans, but he couldn’t recall it ever feeling this good. Just as he was ready to beg, Xander withdrew his fingers and crawled up Spike’s body. Spike eagerly spread and lifted his knees, then watched as Xander lined up his cock and slowly sheathed himself inside.
“Holy mother of god,” sighed Xander.
“Ungh,” Spike replied, relishing the sweet feeling of being stretched and filled, the wondrous way Xander’s cock warmed the core of him.
Xander moved, slow and steady, his face drawn in concentration, as Spike rocked his hips as much as he was able. It didn’t take long, though, for Xander’s motions to become harder and faster and he grunted with every thrust. Then he collapsed downwards and crooked his head. “Go for it,” he panted.
Spike slipped into gameface and delicately sank his fangs into the soft flesh.
They lost their rhythm completely, moaning against each other as each penetrated and was penetrated, Xander’s hot blood filling Spike’s mouth as Xander’s hot come filled Spike’s body and it was so good that Spike’s own release was almost an afterthought, just an extra treat like icing on a cake.
They should have bought more slick.
“Why are you still doing this shite, pet?”
They were leaning up against the railing, watching the last ferry of the evening leave for Larkspur. The wind had kicked up and it smelled like it might rain later. Xander’s hair was tossing about in the breeze and he kept pushing it away from his eye with his left hand. His right hand was clutching a big paper cup from Peet’s Coffee. “Which shit is that, Spike?”
“This.” Spike waved his hand vaguely about. “Saving the world and all that rubbish.”
Xander smiled. “Well, I’m actually kind of liking this particular world saveage.”
“But you didn’t know I was going to be here. Hell, I bet if you had you wouldn’t have come. You certainly didn’t expect it’d turn out as it has.”
“No, I can’t say this was something I’d foreseen.”
“So why’d you come, then?”
Xander shrugged and hunched over the rail. “It’s what I do, I guess.”
“You’ve done enough, you know. You could retire the white hat, get a real life. You were a good hand as a carpenter, weren’t you? You can always make dosh that way.”
“I guess so. But look who’s talking. I mean, you died, Spike. And yet here you are.”
“’M a vampire, love. Not a lot of positions available for the likes of me.”
Xander made a dismissive pfft noise. “You’re an adaptable guy. You’d manage somehow.”
Spike had to hide a smile at the offhand compliment. He bumped shoulders lightly with Xander. “Perhaps,” he said. “But…I don’t know. Can’t think of a single place where I’d fit in, where it’d feel like home. That didn’t bother me much before, but now it does. The bloody soul’s fault, I reckon.”
“Same with me,” Xander said quietly, thoughtfully. “I mean, sometimes the idea of settling down in Wichita or somewhere with the picket fence and the pension plan and the potlucks on Sundays, that’s pretty appealing. But I don’t think anyplace like that would ever feel like home. What would I tell people about my past? Hell, they’re gonna wonder about my eye the second they meet me, and either I make up a whole bunch of lies or I end up getting a free ride to the nearest loony bin. Anyway, I think I’d probably get bored pretty soon anyway, and start looking for the nearest demon bar. If the demons didn’t find me first.”
A fat raindrop fell on Spike’s nose. “So what, then? You keep on playing hero until you get killed? It’s going to happen eventually, love. You can’t escape the reaper forever.”
“I suppose so. I like to think I’ll at least go out with a bang, maybe do something all heroic in the process. It’s better than getting hit by a bus, or dying of colon cancer or something.”
“Is that the only option you see for yourself? Death and glory?”
Xander’s sigh was loud even over the noise of the water and the wind and the pattering rain. “Maybe if I keep looking I’ll find something better. Someplace where I belong.” He turned and looked at Spike. “And you?”
“Already did the big ending. And the small one, too—my first death was a quiet affair. Dunno. Maybe I’ll find someplace, too.”
Xander stood up straight and tossed his cup in a nearby trashcan. “I’m cold and getting wet. Let’s go back to the room and find some way to heat up.”
The waiter at the bar—his name was Mike, they now knew—had given up on trying to seduce them. Now he’d apparently decided they were the world’s cutest couple and that it was his job to play cupid. So he brought them free drinks and little snacks from the restaurant. He tried to tell them where all the good places were to go dancing, or perhaps just out for a romantic dinner, but Spike and Xander convinced him that they didn’t want to be away from their room for that long. Which wasn’t that far off from the truth, really, as they were finding one another’s company both diverting and exhausting. Spike hadn’t slept so much, or so well-shagged, in decades. Or so comfortably. Spike was beginning to wonder how he’d manage to sleep once he no longer had the warm, soothing bulk beside him.
When they went to the bar this evening, Mike smiled and placed a red and green sparkly bag on their table. “What’s this, then?” Spike asked.
“An early Christmas gift.”
Xander said, “Hey, man, you didn’t have to—“
“Oh, I know, I know. But I was shopping yesterday and I saw these and thought of you guys and, well, you had to have them.”
Spike peeked in the bag. It contained two black leather thongs and a large bottle of strawberry-flavored lubricant.
“Enjoy!” Mike said and then walked away.
When they got upstairs, Xander went into the bathroom while Spike stripped and put one of the g-strings on. He rather wished he could see his reflection. But when Xander emerged a moment later, looking luscious in his own pressie, Spike could only leer.
Xander leered back. “We really need to leave Mike a huge tip,” Xander said.
Spike prowled closer. When he was near enough, he ran his palms down the flat planes of Xander’s chest. Then he neatly folded to his knees and began to mouth Xander’s burgeoning erection through the leather. He grabbed Xander’s arse cheeks with both hands and kneaded them, so within moments Xander was whimpering and grabbing at Spike’s hair.
The carpet was slightly coarse against Spike’s knees but he barely felt it. Spike ignored the throbbing of his own organ as he used his teeth to ease the pouch down, allowing Xander’s cock to bob free. It was bright red and already damp with precome. Spike slipped it into his mouth, enjoying the smoothness of it, the way it stretched his lips and jaws, the taste of salt and leather. Still massaging Xander’s arse, Spike teased his tongue in small circles around the head of Xander’s cock and then into the slit, making Xander hiss and pull at his scalp.
“Christ! Keep that up and it’s gonna be a quick night,” Xander panted.
Spike ignored him, suddenly eager for the taste of the man, the need to have a fluid other than blood filling his mouth. In fact, he moved his left hand over a bit and pulled at the string that stretched between Xander’s legs, until the tip of Spike’s finger was pressed at Xander’s hole. Xander’s slick hole, he realized, and that’s why he was smelling strawberries. He groaned as well as a bloke could with his mouth filled with his lover’s cock.
When Spike pushed his finger inside and crooked it a bit, and, at the same time, relaxed his throat and swallowed, Xander’s knees shook and now he was hanging on to Spike in order to keep from collapsing.
“Oh, fuck,” Xander said hoarsely.
Spike rolled his eyes up to see Xander looking down at him, his face rapt as someone witnessing a miracle. “Change if you want,” Xander whispered. “Just…be careful.”
Spike had to close his eyes for a moment, so overcome was he at the headiness of it. Nobody had ever trusted him to do this, not even Angelus. Probably just as well—there were times he likely would have snapped his jaw shut on the old bastard. Now he released Xander’s cock, gave the tip of it a reverent little kiss, and shifted. He licked the length of it, then nuzzled at Xander’s heavy balls before cautiously putting his lips around the crown again.
And then, as carefully as he was able, Spike allowed just the very tip of one fang to scrape against Xander’s cock in the narrower bit just beneath the mushroom head. Xander cried out and convulsed, and blood and semen together flowed against Spike’s tongue. That was enough for him. He quickly withdrew his fangs as his own climax ripped through him and his cock, still untouched, emptied into its leather pouch.
When they had both collapsed onto the bed, still panting hard, Xander reached over to stroke Spike’s cheekbone with his thumb. “I wonder if Mike knows a leather cleaners nearby,” he said.
“Why haven’t you called me?”
“Aw, you’ve missed me, Peaches?”
Spike might have been several hundred miles away, but he knew Angel rolled his eyes. “You’re supposed to be doing a job, Spike, remember?”
“And I have been. Didn’t know I was meant to ring in. You didn’t tell me to.”
“Didn’t think I’d have to. I figured after a couple days you’d be bugging me pretty constantly about when you could come back.”
“Perhaps your august presence is less alluring than you think, pouf. Besides, I’m content here.”
There was a brief pause. “That Watcher they sent…it’s someone young and pretty, isn’t it?”
Spike glanced over at Xander, who was stretched out naked on the bed, laughing at something on the telly. “That it is.”
“Don’t get so…caught up with her that you forget why you’re there.”
“I’ll get as caught up with him as I like, Peaches, but I won’t forget.”
Another pause, longer this time. “Him?”
Xander turned his head to look at Spike. He held out a hand and raised one eyebrow. His eye was sparkling with good humor.
“You sure, pet?” Spike asked. He’d assumed that Xander would want to keep the details of their holiday a secret from those who knew him. But Xander smiled wickedly and nodded, and Spike said into the phone, “Here. Talk to him yourself.”
He handed the phone over to Xander. “Hi, Angel,” Xander said.
Spike didn’t have to be anywhere near the phone to hear Angel’s answering squawk.
“Jeez, that’s really romantic,” Mike said, smiling dreamily at them.
The bar had officially closed and he was off the clock. But his boss didn’t seem to mind that he was sitting there with Spike and Xander, the three of them sipping at bottles of Full Sail. Xander had just told them a somewhat edited version of how they’d met, and how they’d managed to reunite in San Francisco, and the tale had Mike all melty-eyed.
“Not really,” Spike said. “It’s just coincidence. Lucky is all.”
“I don’t believe in luck,” Mike said firmly. “I think when things happen there’s a reason behind them. Like, my ex-boyfriend, Cesar, I thought everything was good between us, right? And then one day I got halfway to work and realized I’d forgotten my wallet. When I walked back into our apartment, Cesar was boning this slut from down the hall. If I hadn’t forgotten my wallet I might never have known the little shit was cheating on me.”
“Sorry,” Xander said. “About Cesar, I mean.”
Mike shrugged. “There’s plenty more fish in the sea. My point was that it wasn’t an accident you both ended up here.”
Spike had had plenty lately of fate and the like and he made a face. But it was Xander who said, “Yeah? Well, let’s suppose there’s some cosmic…something…that wants me and Spike to get busy together. Hasn’t it occurred to them that we live on different continents now?”
Spike ignored the pang in his chest. He’d been deliberately not thinking about that little detail for some time, nor fooling himself into thinking this was more for Xander than an amusing way to pass the time.
But Mike wasn’t discouraged. “I’m telling you, man. There’s always a reason.”
Spike and Xander both stared silently at their bottles.
It was raining again. But they both felt a bit cabin feverish, so they went outside anyhow and tromped through puddles for a half mile in one direction, then back, and then they stood watching the wind raise waves in the Bay.
“I bet this is a really nice city when you can see more of it,” Xander said.
“Yeah.” Spike looked up at the traffic rushing across the Bay Bridge. Behind them, a homeless man trundled by in his layers of rags, muttering to himself.
“London’s a nice city, too. I mean, what I’ve seen of it. How long has it been since you’ve been there?”
Spike had to think about it. “Not since the twenties. It’s…it’s not all good memories for me there, yeah?”
“Sure. Like, I probably wouldn’t revisit Sunnydale, even if it wasn’t a big hole in the ground. At least not for a while. But I don’t know. Maybe after fifty or sixty years I’d get kinda nostalgic for it.”
Spike huffed out a breath. He couldn’t imagine ever feeling homesick over Sunnydale. London, on the other hand—well, perhaps he did miss it a bit. “Where in the city do you live, Xan?” he asked softly. He thought maybe later, when he was back in LA, he could picture Xander walking once-familiar streets, and that would be a comfort of sorts.
“I’ve got a room at Watchers’ HQ. In Bloomsbury.”
Spike sighed. “’T’s where I lived. Back when I lived.”
Xander turned to look at him. “Yeah? That’s…kinda nice to know. I can imagine you there.”
Spike was going to respond somehow. He wasn’t certain how. But it didn’t matter in any case, because he caught a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye. It was the bum, he realized, flying at them with preternatural speed. Only it wasn’t a bum at all, but something quite different instead: A Pterachis demon, a flapping horror of violet skin and long claws. And it wasn’t rushing at them exactly, but directly at Xander.
Spike barely had time to shout out a warning and lunge between the attacker and the man. But the demon had the advantage of him, and it raked its paw down his front, nearly disemboweling him in a single stroke. Spike howled and clutched at himself, still trying to protect Xander.
But by then Xander had stepped toward the monster, and the monster just kept on going, sweeping Spike to the side and then falling against Xander’s chest, toppling them both over the railing. Xander’s cry was cut short as his mouth filled with brine.
Spike had fallen to his knees and now he staggered upward, trying desperately to catch sight of his boy in the roiling black water. “Xander!” he screamed, and he thought he saw a single pale hand breach for only a split second. Without even bothering to shed his duster or boots, Spike heaved himself over the barrier.
The water instantly chilled him to the bone, soaking his jeans and rushing into his open wounds. The cold wouldn’t kill him, of course, but it tended to make him sluggish, as if flailing through the waves with his belly torn apart wasn’t difficult enough. He could see nothing. It was dark, and nearly impossible to tell where the pounding rain ended and the tossing waves began. And he never had been much of a swimmer.
Then he caught just the flash of pale skin, perhaps four yards away, and he headed in that direction. Xander was there, struggling desperately with the demon, which was trying to drag him under. Spike realized that he’d vamped out at some point, and now he threw himself over the beast’s back and sank his fangs into its neck. It roared and reached a long arm behind itself, sending new lines of agony across Spike’s shoulder and then his face. It took all of Spike’s will to maintain his grip.
Xander made a garbled sound and dug his fingers into the demon’s face. That distracted the Pterachis just long enough for Spike to strike again. He ripped a great, foul-tasting chunk from its neck, spat it out, and then bit again. Meanwhile, Xander was treading water, making feral noises while he gouged at its eyes.
Spike wasn’t certain how long it took, but eventually the demon stilled. Spike was too weak to hold on any longer and he felt the monster’s lifeless body sink away from him. He was sinking then, too, lacking the strength even to kick his legs. No, he thought with his last scraps of consciousness. Not the bottom of the bloody ocean again.
But a strong arm was around his middle, pulling at him, and he felt himself being dragged toward the pier, and the world went upside down as he was slung over a broad shoulder. After that, everything went black.
The taste of warm blood in his mouth and a warm hand at his brow, pushing the curls away from his temple.
Deep voices, rumbling quietly in conversation.
But he felt unaccountably safe, and when he couldn’t quite manage to open his eyelids, he didn’t panic. Instead, he allowed himself to sink peacefully back into the dark.
“Spike? Are you awake?”
It took Spike a long time to place the voice, and even longer to recall why he found it so comforting. But then he did, and he mustered the strength to flutter his lashes open.
Xander Harris’s face was hovering over him. The boy looked exhausted; his face was gaunt and pale except for where the beginnings of a beard were growing. He wasn’t wearing his eyepatch, and the skin under both eyes was dark, tender and bruised-looking. But he smiled when he saw Spike’s eyes focusing on him.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Xander said.
Spike tried to move, but his limbs felt as heavy as stone. So he licked at his lips instead—they were dry as old leather—and swallowed. “Xan?” he croaked.
The mattress shifted as Xander sat next to him. “Hi. Hungry?”
Spike had to think about this for a moment. Yes, he decided, that ache in his belly was probably hunger. There were other aches as well: Thin lines of sharpness across his face and deeper, throbbing sore spots on his stomach and chest and shoulder. But he could definitely do with a feed, and that would probably help the rest. “Hungry,” he agreed.
Xander disappeared from his sight for a moment and all he saw was a plain white ceiling. He wanted to protest, or at least to see where Xander was going, but couldn’t quite move his head. He heard the beep beep of a microwave, and a few seconds later his nose caught the rich odor of warm, human blood. Xander reappeared with a black mug in his hand. He sat beside Spike again and then slowly, carefully, propped Spike upwards on the pillows until his head was slightly raised. The Xander held the mug and tipped the contents into Spike’s mouth. It tasted wonderful.
When the mug was empty, Xander took it away. “More?” he asked.
“Later,” replied Spike. He didn’t have the energy to drink another cupful right now, but at least he could feel the first doing its work, knitting his torn tissues together, making him stronger by tiny increments.
Xander readjusted the pillows again so Spike was flat on his back.
“What….” Spike began weakly.
Xander smoothed at his brow, which felt bloody lovely, and then clasped his hand. “Get some more rest. I’ll explain later. Everything’s fine and you’re safe and you don’t have to worry. Just heal.”
They were wonderful words to hear, and Spike gave up the effort to hold his eyes open.
By late afternoon, having polished off several pints of blood, Spike was feeling considerably more alert. He still hadn’t tried to actually stand, but he could sit comfortably in bed and the pain had faded to a dull, annoying twinge. Xander had refused to answer any questions until Spike insisted he was full enough to burst, and then Xander had brought over some warm, damp towels and given him a careful spongebath. Only when Xander got to Spike’s groin, and Spike’s cock twitched valiantly in an effort to become erect, did Xander laugh and say, “I guess you’re feeling better now.”
“What happened, Xan? Are you all right?”
Xander let the towels fall to the floor and then pulled the covers back over Spike’s body. “I’m fine. I got really chilled, and I was a little bruised, but that’s all. No big deal.”
Spike sorted through the murky memories of the fight. “Was that…. Did you drag me out of the water?”
Xander nodded gravely. “Yeah. That demon—What the hell was that, by the way?”
“Pterachis. Nasty gits.”
“Yeah, I kind of figured that. Well, it did a real number on you. You managed to kill it, though, do you remember that?”
Spike’s mouth was suddenly filled with the putrid taste of the demon, and he nodded briefly.
“So it was dead, but you were sinking, too. I got hold of you and swam over to the ferry pier where there are some handholds. Let me tell you, you are heavy when you’re sopping wet and a dead weight. No pun intended.”
“Sorry,” Spike said. He was. “How’d you do it, pet? You were banged up as well, and it must have been bloody difficult—“
“I’m a good swimmer. I was on the swim team, back in high school. And there’s another unpleasant story I’d rather not dwell on. Getting you out of the Bay wasn’t the problem—the real challenge was getting you across the street and up to our room. You were in really bad shape. I could see parts of you that should never be visible, and I could’ve gone happily to my grave without knowing what vampire insides look like, thank you very much. I thought you were going to dust.” His voice nearly broke as he said the last sentence and he looked away.
“Could’ve just let me sink,” Spike said.
“Yeah, just like you could have just let the Tera-whatsis have me for dinner. ‘Cause we both know it was me it was after. As usual.”
There was a brief, awkward pause. Then Spike said, “So you carried me to the hotel?”
“Yep. I was lucky it was really dark and pouring rain. Even in this city, people might notice a one-eyed wet guy hauling what looked like a wet, bloody corpse. But getting you through the lobby—that was an issue. I lucked out—I saw Mike at work when I skulked by the bar windows. I sort of stashed you alongside the building for a minute and went and got him.”
Spike thought about that for a moment. “And how’d that go, love?”
“Um, interesting. He took one look at you and of course he wanted to call 911, or the morgue. Maybe both. I had to explain why neither was a good idea.”
“You told him I’m a vampire?” Spike asked, slightly incredulously.
“I did. He took it surprisingly well, actually. Says he’s seen a lot of strange things in this city. He’s a really cool guy, Spike.”
“He brought out this big blue tablecloth and we wrapped you in it. Mummy vamp. Then he let me in a side door, and we took you up in the service elevator. Nobody else saw, thank Zeus. And while I was kind of freaking out over your…condition, he brought in stacks of towels and this big-ass First Aid kit. I was shivering so badly by then I could barely stand, but he helped me call your blood guy and get you in bed, and then he insisted on keeping an eye on you while I stripped and took a hot shower. By the time I was dry and dressed he’d had this huge tureen of soup brought up. And then later he found us a microwave, because you were feeding better when the blood was warmed.”
It made Spike weary just to hear it all. “How long has it been?” he asked.
“Four nights. Mike’s been bringing me food, too, while I’ve been doing 24/7 demon duty.”
Spike shook his head. “You look like shite, pet. You need to sleep.”
“Gee, thanks,” Xander said, bopping Spike lightly in the shoulder. “I can sleep later. I needed…. Well, I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Spike tried to remember the last time anybody had shown this much concern about his well-being. He couldn’t. He knew the boy couldn’t help it, he was always going to be a white hat like that, but still it made Spike feel cared for. It was a good feeling.
Spike had a terrible nightmare—something about burning fires and the cold depths of the sea—and he woke up shouting and clutching at Xander, who’d slept chastely beside him. Xander held him and smoothed at his hair and back, murmuring little nothings into Spike’s ear, until Spike had calmed a bit.
But then another thought hit him and he tensed in Xander’s embrace. “Talisman!” he said. The word was muffled by Xander’s chest.
“What?” Xander said, peeling Spike slightly away from himself.
“Talisman. Stupid bloody trinket. Do you still have it?”
“Yeah, Spike, it’s fine. It’s in my jacket pocket right now.”
Spike heaved an enormous sigh. “Was afraid it might have been lost when we took our little swim.”
“It wasn’t. The world won’t end this week, I guess.”
Spike sagged back against him. “Good,” he mumbled.
Spike felt well enough by evening to pull some clothes on over his still-tender skin and hobble down to the bar, where Mike waved at them as he tended to a table full of businessmen in suits and ties. When he came over a few minutes later, Mike was already carrying a bottle of Full Sail and a tumbler of Jack Daniels. “Jesus!” he exclaimed. “Just a few days ago you were practically torn into pieces, and here you are, good as new.”
“I mend quickly,” Spike said drily.
“I guess so!”
“Look, mate, what you did for me—“
Mile waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t mention it. It wasn’t that big a deal. Besides, you two are so adorable, and Xander was so frantic about you….”
Spike glanced over at Xander, who looked faintly embarrassed. Then he looked back at the waiter. “I appreciate it. Cheers.”
Mike only shrugged and smiled.
Spike cleared his throat. “Xander says he told you what I am. That doesn’t bother you?”
“Nah. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t really expecting it. But, well, I fell once for a Mormon. Love conquers all, right?”
Spike snorted out a laugh.
Then Mike bent down and whispered, “Do you really, uh, have fangs and all that?”
Spike glanced around. Nobody was looking at them. He allowed his face to morph and he grinned widely, showing off his sharp, sparkling teeth. He owed the bloke at least as much, he reckoned.
Mike’s eyes went big and round. “Wow!” he breathed. “That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”
It wasn’t the usual reaction to his demon face, but still Spike found it oddly satisfying.
“And you really drink blood?”
Spike nodded. “I do. I’d demonstrate right now, but it’s a bit, erm, private.”
Mike glanced at Xander who blushed and nodded. “It sort of, um, erotic,” he admitted.
Mike’s mouth fell open. “Holy shit!” he said reverently. “Oh man, I so wish I’d convinced you guys to jump me before you became a couple.”
Spike shifted his face back, and Mike stood. “Gotta go work. Take it easy, you two. No attacks tonight, okay?”
Xander and Spike drank silently for a few minutes, each lost in his own thoughts. Then Spike said, “Pet? What he said about us being a couple—“
“Hey! I know!” Xander had his hands up defensively. “No need to go there, okay? I know this thing is just—isn’t really even a thing. Just…passing the time.”
“Right,” Spike agreed miserably.
When their glasses were dry, they went for a brief walk—heading inland this time. They had their arms around each other, mostly because Spike could still use a bit of support, and it felt nice, and Spike could almost fool himself into thinking there was more to it all than lust and idle amusement. Almost.
The bar was full with some private party, and Mike could only wave at them as they passed by. They sat in the lobby for a time—it smelled of lavender—and idly discussed going someplace else for a few drinks. Spike was feeling nearly all mended and they were both restless and out of sorts.
Then Spike’s phone rang. “What?” he demanded. Both their phones had been ruined in the Bay, but Xander had replaced them.
“We’ll be finishing up tomorrow,” Angel said. “You can come back then.”
Spike tried to ignore the way his stomach clenched. “And the talisman?” he asked.
“Looks like the Canadian clan gets it first. Xander’s supposed to take it to Vancouver.”
Spike glanced over at Xander, who was scowling at the floor. “Does he know that?”
“I don’t know, Spike.” Angel sounded irritated. Nothing new there, then. “The Watchers are supposed to tell him. So when he takes off you can, too. My Viper’s still okay, right?”
“Bloody car’s fine,” Spike said tiredly.
“Good. I’ll see you in a couple days, then.”
Spike mumbled something in reply and then rang off.
“Bad news?” Xander asked as Spike shoved the phone in his duster, which had survived the Pterachis mostly unscathed. Xander had had it cleaned and repaired while Spike was convalescing as well.
“No. Good, actually. They’ve sorted the Raars.”
“Oh.” Xander didn’t look especially pleased about the world’s salvation.
“They’ll wrap it up tomorrow, then you’re meant to bring the trinket to Vancouver.”
“Oh,” Xander repeated. As if on cue, his phone rang. “Hello?” he said. Spike leaned back on the cushions and refused to listen to the conversation. When Xander put his phone away a few moments later, his face was serious. “So, you were right. I’m booked on a flight to Vancouver the morning after next.”
“Happy Christmas,” Spike muttered.
“Yeah.” Xander sighed. “You know what? I don’t really feel like going out. Do you mind if we just head back upstairs?”
In their room, they sat on separate beds, staring blankly at the telly. They had the remains of a case of Heineken, and they drank it all, silently piling the empty bottles on the nightstand between them. In the wee hours of the morning they stripped and slid between the sheets of the same bed, but they weren’t touching. Xander turned out the light. “Spike,” he said into the dark room. “About us—“
“Only a fling. Yeah. We don’t have to speak about it again.”
After a long pause, Xander said, “Okay.”
Christmas bloody Eve, Spike thought sourly. The bar closed early, and Mike had a family event to attend. Before he left, though, he gave them each big hugs that smelled of peanuts and alcohol, and they thanked him again and gave him their phone numbers. After he was gone, because he’d refused a tip from either of them, Spike marched over to hotel manager and left an envelope for Mike. It contained $1000 in cash—Wolfram & Hart’s money, and never better spent—and a gift certificate to the Pleasure Chest in the Castro.
Nothing else was open either. It was a clear night, though, and they went for a last stroll, watching the lights twinkle on the bridge and across the way in Oakland. “Someday I’m gonna come back when I can actually see the city,” Xander said.
“Yeah? You should.” Spike wasn’t looking at the boy at all.
“What will you do, Spike? Gonna head back to LA?”
“Might do. I could keep busy there, I expect. Or perhaps I’ll head back to Europe. Haven’t been there since Dru got hurt in Prague.”
Xander nodded and they walked a while longer. “You know,” Xander said hesitantly. “If you ever do come back to England, you could look me up. We could…see the sights together.”
“Sounds lovely,” Spike said without irony. “And if the Wankers Council ever sends you to Los Angeles….”
“You’ll be the first to know.”
Then they didn’t talk, but they did walk hand in hand, like lovers did. Like friends. A middle-aged woman in a red wool coat smiled at them as they passed.
Just outside the hotel, Xander halted. “I was wondering if maybe, um, you and me….”
Spike held his breath.
“….maybe we could just kinda get together one last time,” Xander continued, the words like nails in Spike’s heart. “I mean, we were good together, and who knows when we’ll get to again, and—“
“It’d be lovely, pet,” Spike said, and Xander smiled.
When they reached their room and took off their coats and shoes, they undressed each other slowly, carefully, each pausing to kiss bits of skin as they were revealed. There were some fading bruises on Xander’s torso, the skin the color of yellowed parchment, but if they were still sore, Xander didn’t let on as Spike caressed him. Spike’s own skin was as white and flawless as ever. Nude, they embraced and kissed, also slowly, deeply, as Spike memorized the flavor of the man, the precise way the back of his teeth felt against Spike’s tongue, the way his whiskers caught at Spike’s chin and cheeks like tiny barbs.
Xander dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around Spike’s hips. He pressed his face into Spike’s groin, dropping small dry kisses on his thighs and bollocks, on the base of his cock and the thin skin just under his hipbone. Spike simply carded fingers through Xander’s wavy hair. Spike felt as if he were being worshiped.
They teased each other like that as long as they both could stand it, and then fell onto a bed together. The tube of slick appeared magically in Spike’s hand and he uncapped it, spread a dollop on his fingers, and used it to prepare Xander’s willing entry. By the time Spike removed two fingers from Xander’s body and replaced them with his own cock, Xander’s eye was wide and shocked-looking and his head was stretched back on the pillow, his corded neck an invitation Spike wouldn’t be able to refuse for long.
He didn’t bite yet, though, at least not yet. He wasn’t ready for this to be over yet. He kept his thrusts slow, no matter how much he wanted to move faster, no matter the needy whimpers that rose from Xander’s throat. He was going to memorize this as well. Tight heat clutching him, strong fingers digging into his back, pebbled nipples hard beneath his fingers, rapid breaths whooshing out in tandem with his own. The sound of Xander’s heartbeat, thud, thud thud; and of his blood, whoosh whoosh whoosh. The scent of him, salty like the sea, sweaty, slightly musky, a living smell that Spike wanted to wear like cologne. The smell that had attracted so many demons like a keg of beer attracts frat boys.
But even vampire stamina only lasts for so long, and Spike could see the pulse fluttering in Xander’s veins. He changed his face—“Oh gods, yes!” Xander cried—and bent down, and sank in his teeth.
He didn’t take much, only tablespoon or two, but the blood trembled through him as if he’d swallowed a live wire, the connection from mouth to cock and balls running right through his still heart, and he howled and came and came, until he felt as empty as a shell and as insubstantial as a dream.
Their bodies were still connected as Xander petted at him and laughed. Spike buried his face against Xander’s chest to hide his own tears.
“Merry Christmas,” Xander said after a time.
Spike sniffed. “Didn’t get you anything.”
Xander squeezed Spike’s arse. “I beg to differ. That was the nicest present I’ve ever had. Beats Aunt Betty’s packages of socks and underwear any day.”
Spike lifted his head to look at Xander’s face. “You should be spending the holiday with family.”
“C’mon, Spike. You’ve met my family. I’d rather spend Christmas with a Pterachis demon.”
Spike had to admit, the boy had a point.
“I was thinking,” Spike said.
Xander looked up from his suitcase, into which he had put his laptop and was now carefully placing his extra shirts. Spike was surprised that his movements were slow and mournful; he’d have expected the boy to be eager to leave his gilded prison. “Yeah?” Xander said.
“You still have to get the talisman safely to Vancouver. What if some sort of nasty tried to waylay you between here and there? Could use some vamp security, perhaps.”
Xander blinked at him. “So you’re proposing…?”
“I’ll fly with you to Canada, make sure you finish your mission safely, yeah? Then I can fly back here and drive to LA.”
Xander’s face split into a grin. “That’d be great. I’d feel…safer.”
Spike rang Angel, who groused until Spike told him about the Pterachis attack. Spike was fairly certain the attack had had nothing whatsoever to do with the talisman, but Angel didn’t know that, and Spike might have implied that they were related. Within minutes, Angel had arranged for one of the firm’s jets to be flown from LA to SFO, from whence it would ferry them both to British Columbia.
Together they gave the room a last, almost-fond look, then they rode the lift down and checked out of the hotel. The streets were eerily quiet as Spike drove them to the airport. He parked the Viper and the two of them made their way to the proper terminal.
They didn’t speak much as they walked. Truth be told, Spike was a bit nervous about flying for the first time. He was also convinced that, in the unlikely event that something really did spring on Xander at the last moment, the boy would be able to manage it just fine. Xander had proved to be much more capable than Spike would have previously given him credit for.
A smiling young man with curly black hair met them on the tarmac and waved them into the small jet. He followed them inside, made sure they were seated comfortably, brought them each a bottle of beer, and then disappeared somewhere. A few moments later the pilot was talking to them and then they were taxiing away.
“I’ve never flown in a private plane before,” Xander said, running a hand down the leather armrest. “It sure beats the cheap seats I’m usually stuck with.”
Spike nodded and glanced uneasily out the window.
“Course,” Xander went on, “even the most economy of airplane seats is luxurious compared to some of the transportation I experienced in Africa. Fewer goats and chickens on airplanes, generally, and more climate control, and hardly ever random scary men with guns and machetes.”
Spike made a dismissive noise. “You want frightening? Try busses in the Andes. Or steam locomotives across Siberia.” He grinned. “With a hungry vampire or two on board.”
“A vampire on board is not always such a bad thing, as I’ve lately learned.”
“That’s because I’m sodding tamed now. Back in the early twentieth century—“
“I don’t think you’re tamed, Spike. I mean, you may be playing for the other side now—in more ways than one, now that I think of it—but you’re as scary as ever. Scarier, maybe. The way you went after that Pterachis, even as badly hurt as you were…definitely still the Big Bad.”
Spike leaned back a bit in his seat, trying not to glow with the compliment. He couldn’t quite control an idiot smile, though, and Xander smiled back.
Just then, though, the plane left the ground. Spike clenched his hands so tightly on the armrest that the plastic began to squeak and then crack in protest. He closed his eyes and tried to pretend they were still on solid earth. But then Xander was tapping his shoulder. “Spike?”
“Hmm?” Spike asked without opening his lids.
“You look like you could use some relaxing. And, uh, there’s something I’ve always wanted to try.”
Thirty minutes later they squeezed out of the tiny bathroom, both new members of the Mile High Club. Spike did feel considerably less tense, actually, and Xander looked happy as a clam. They spent the rest of the flight chatting amiably about old times and trading stories about Angel.
In the end, though, it wasn’t a very long flight. The plane bumped to a landing and made its way to the terminal. “We’ll be heading back south in half an hour,” the curly-headed bloke informed Spike, who nodded unhappily. The man wished Xander a Merry Christmas. Spike and Xander walked into the building, where a trio of Raars was waiting for them, all smiles and handshakes. Xander handed over the trinket without any ceremony, they bowed their thanks and left.
“So that was kinda anticlimactic,” Xander said when they were gone.
“There ought to be a bigger fuss when you save the world.”
“Yeah. Like, I dunno. A band playing songs, maybe. Or giant checks, like they have on tv when someone wins the lottery. Some sort of ceremony involving fireworks.”
“Thought you had your fireworks on the plane, pet,” Spike said.
“I did.” Xander sighed. “Hey. Thanks for the bodyguarding. And, well…thanks.”
Spike nodded and they stood there uncomfortably until they collapsed into a close embrace. For just a moment, Spike allowed himself to lean his head against Xander’s. Then he let go and stepped back, and straightened his duster awkwardly.
“Well, I need to catch a shuttle to the international terminal,” Xander said. “My flight to London leaves in less than an hour.”
“Goodbye, Xander,” Spike whispered. Then he turned and marched back into Wolfram & Hart’s little plane.
The flight back seemed much longer than the one up to Vancouver. Spike drank and stared morosely out the window, watching clouds pass beneath him and the landscape laid out like a map. What would happen to a vampire who fell from such a height, he wondered, and then he snorted at himself. There was no such thing as a fallen demon.
When he landed once again it was nearly midnight and the airport was almost deserted. He walked slowly back to the Viper, which was surrounded by acres of empty spaces. It looked lonely. Perhaps he wouldn’t drive straight back to LA, he thought. He could go down 101, stop along the coast somewhere, perhaps spend some time looking out at the ocean. Or he could turn inland, head east until he ran out of dosh and Angel cancelled his credit cards. Or he could—No. It didn’t matter where he went, really. He’d still be alone. So he threw his bag in the Viper’s tiny boot and unlocked the door, then collapsed into the driver’s seat.
“Took you long enough.”
Spike did not scream in an entirely unmanly way, nor did he jump high enough to bump his head on the roof of the car. “What the bloody hell??” he sputtered.
Xander smiled smugly at him. “It pays to be friends with witches.”
“Witches?” Spike realized he was gaping like a fish, and he shut his mouth with a snap.
“Witches. As in, ladies who can transport you from a bathroom in Vancouver to a sports car in San Francisco in about two seconds flat when they owe you a favor. Next time, though, I’ll stick to something more conventional. This almost made me puke.”
Xander bit at his lip. “Because I lied. This thing with the two of us, it really was a real thing, to me anyway. I wasn’t just passing the time. I mean, maybe it was no big deal to you, maybe you do this kind of thing all the time, but I don’t, and I was hoping maybe you didn’t either, and maybe there was a thing for you, too, and I told you I was hoping for someplace I could belong and now I’m pretty sure that place is with you, so if you think the same, maybe we could—“
Xander took a deep breath. “Sorry. Defensive babbling.”
Spike’s head was whirring like a blender. He took a few calming breaths of his own. “Now, slowly and in the Queen’s English, what are you doing in my car?”
“I’m…trying to tell you I don’t want to leave you. I want to be with you, Spike, on an experimentally permanent basis.”
“Because I’ve been happier with you—stuck in a hotel room on a short leash, babysitting an ugly hunk of metal, mauled by demons—I’ve been happier with you than I’ve been…since I can remember.”
Spike couldn’t begin to get his thoughts in order enough to articulate them. None of this was expected.
“Spike?” Xander’s voice was soft and tentative. “You’re not saying anything. I wasn’t expecting declarations of eternal love, but I was hoping I wasn’t making a complete, humiliating fool of myself.”
When Spike was still silent, Xander’s shoulders slumped and he reached for the door. “Sorry. Do me a favor? Pretend this conversation never happened.”
But as he started to work the handle, Spike grabbed his arm, “Wait!”
Xander froze and looked at Spike, his face a mask of mingled fear and hope.
“Give a bloke a mo to get his head together, yeah? You’ve had time to think about this. I’ve just had Xander Harris materialize in my car and tell me I make him happy.”
“But you do,” Xander mumbled miserably.
If Spike’s head had been straight his chest might have burst with the unanticipated joy of it. It would take some time for the situation to sink in enough to dust him, he decided. In the meantime, he might as well be honest.
“You make me happy, too, Xan. I’d rather tear my heart out than be away from you. My heart’s useless, but you—I think I might need you.”
Xander blinked at him and then whooped loudly, the sound echoing loudly enough in the car to make Spike wince. He grabbed Spike’s head and gave him a sloppy kiss on the lips, more like an overeager golden retriever than a…boyfriend? Lover? Partner? Whatever it was Xander seemed to be now. Spike wiped his face with the back of his hand and grinned like an idiot.
“So,” Xander said, bouncing slightly in his seat. “Where to?”
“You’re not needed in London?”
“They’ll survive without me.”
It was Spike’s turn to grab his boy, his man, and to snog him slow and deep. When he pulled away, he said, “Fancy a drive to LA?”
“Sounds like a plan. What’ll we do there?”
“I was thinking…let’s spend New Years with Peaches.”
Their combined laughter rang out like a Christmas carol, like a hymn, as Spike gunned the engine and headed for the freeway.
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