Gobsmacked.  A nice, British term that he’d heard Spike use before.  Stunned.  Shell-shocked.  Floored.  Sandbagged.  Stupefied.  Baffled.  Mystified.  Flummoxed.  Cold-cocked.


Xander wasn’t sure what kind of reaction he’d been going for.  Hell, he wasn’t even when he’d decided to say what he’d said, so predicting the reaction of a recently-ensouled vampire wasn’t something he’d spent a great deal of time on.

He still hadn’t expected fear.

Adult men shouldn’t be able to widen their eyes to anime-size and they shouldn’t be able to exude the air of a boy who had just been told he was having Christmas for the first time.  Or maybe that he wasn’t going to get Christmas.  Xander wasn’t sure which, just that the expression was. . . wrong.

Nothing could do stillness like a creature that didn’t need to breathe.

Suddenly nervous, he jumped to his feet and headed towards the door.  “I’m gonna go check on your laundry, okay?  Be right back.”  He pulled the door closed quickly, not wanting to hear any attempts at a reply.  Not that he thought Spike could make a reply.

Rubber thunked on concrete as he clattered down the five flights to the basement laundry room.  He hated that room.  It smelled too much like fabric softener.

Someone—probably Laura from 311 who was so perkily cheerful and nice to everyone that Xander privately suspected she was on drugs, or demonic—had transferred his load to the dryer for him and there were only five minutes left.  He dug out the change he’d grabbed automatically before leaving and dropped it in the small bin attached to the wall.  Whoever had transferred the load would get it the next time they were down there.

Hopping up on ‘his’ dryer, Xander rested his jaw on his fists.  Inhaling deeply, lint and dust caught in the back of his throat with the words he’d managed to choke down at the last second.  Words like ‘accept my forgiveness’.  Words like ‘I’m sorry for hurting you.’  Words like ‘forgive me’.

Words he’d said to Anya a week ago.

Words she’d thrown back in his face.

Words that had driven him into a bottle he hadn’t been dragged out of until. . . until this morning, when a vampire decided that this son wasn’t going to join a long line of fathers who couldn’t cope without something to dull the edges and smooth over the rough patches. 

He really wanted a drink right now.

It probably hadn’t been such a good idea to leave Spike upstairs, he realized as he hopped off and began to pace.  Spike might run and since everything he’d said before still held true, there was a damned good chance that Spike would dust himself before reaching the tunnels.  Plus, Xander had just dropped a fairly large bombshell and Spike deserved someone to help him work through it.

Which was going to go over so well, given he had a hard-on the size of Texas in his sweats.

Can we just not think about how hot he looked, totally clueless, a little afraid and innocent, with my clothes hanging off that long, lean, pale—

Okay, that was not helping get rid of his erection.

The whole shy-boy thing had hit him much harder than he’d imagined possible, especially with his penchant for blunt and aggressive.  True, snarky-Spike had worked him up a time or two before. . . but not like this, Xander decided as he continued pacing.  Hell, not even Anya could get me this worked up with no more than a look.

Then again, interaction with Anya mostly consisted of her deciding she wanted sex and him agreeing.

Xander wanted to fuck Spike.  He wanted to know what that tight coolness would feel like wrapped around him, how it would differ from the wetness of Spike’s mouth.  He wanted to know what Spike would feel like inside of him, too.  Would he feel like the didlos Anya had delighted in using on him?  Those had been cold, too, but they felt like plastic and he knew that Spike didn’t feel like—

The dryer beeped.

Groaning, Xander thought about every injury he’d ever had.  It wasn’t working.  Just knowing that Spike was still up there, probably in the same position, eyes huge and wide in that open face—

Just imagine the possibilities.  ‘Hey, Spike, forget about the whole evil-bastard/forgiveness thing.  Just turn around and let Daddy make it all better, okay?’   Or better yet, don’t turn around and let me fuck that mouth again.  And wow, that worked.

Dick flaccid and a little disturbed at how easily the images had sprung to mind, Xander folded Spike’s clothes and trudged back up to his apartment.  Hopefully, the saccharine scent of fabric softener would mask any lingering traces of arousal.

He reached his door just as the elevator beeped and a kid not that much younger than him stepped out, carrying a small cooler.  Sighing, Xander finished opening the door and waved the kid over.  “Hang on,” he said and headed towards the kitchen, where his wallet currently lived.

Spike was in the exactly same position.

The rustling of money—perhaps the scent of blood?  Just because Xander couldn’t smell it through the cooler   didn’t mean that super-vampire-senses couldn’t—finally got Spike to move a little.  “Hey—what—”

“I got this,” he said curtly, pulling out the appropriate number of bills.  Trading green paper for the cooler, the boy muttered a thanks and disappeared.  Hip-butting the door shut, Xander lumbered over to the kitchen and dumped the cooler on the table.  “Damn.  That was heavy!”

“No,” Spike was saying as he edged his way into the kitchen, “you didn’t—how much was it, I’ll pay you back—you shouldn’t’ve—”

“You don’t owe me anything.”  When did he turn into Giles, complete with ability to say nice things in a way that was mildly insulting if you thought about it too much?  “Consider this my way of apologizing.”

“Ap—apolo—” Xander hid his grin while William—and this could only be William—tried to stutter and stammer his way past that word, eyes huge and looking as utterly scandalized as before.

And there goes my hard-on.  Dammit.  Mincing his steps carefully, Xander tossed most of the bags in the freezer, leaving out two to poke holes in before nuking them.  He knew vampires could smell arousal; too many painful conversations with Anya about the knowing looks Spike would occasionally toss them and why.  Hopefully the scent of warm, human blood would hide that.

Why exactly am I trying my damnedest not to let Spike know I have the hots for him?  I blew him last night!

It had been so easy last night, though, so natural to just give in to the alcohol-enhanced need.  To pull him up onto the bed, tugging off restrictive clothing while room-temperature hands had traveled over his skin, taking him into a mouth that wasn’t warm but was so much more powerful than what he was used to, taking him all the way down—

’Cause obsessing over this is so helpful for the not throwing Spike on the ground and—no!  Give into the feminine-side, Xander, and talk before sex.  Talking?  That thing you do too much?  Do that.  Or, you know, pretend you’re a guy and just ignore it for a while.

Then sex with the no-longer-evil undead.

Said formerly-evil undead was currently seated in the chair, waiting patiently with his hands folded together in his lap like a schoolboy, still looking more than a little shell-shocked.

Dumping the slightly thawed blood into one of his travel mugs, he watched the yellow light from the microwave and tried to think of something to say.  It was fun making the formerly arrogant vampire trip over himself the way Xander usually did—but not as much fun as he’d thought.  Never did like kicking things when they were down.  And Spike’s pretty much down right now.

“How hungry are you?” he asked, suddenly realizing that he should’ve thought about this little consideration beforehand.  He wasn’t Spike’s nursemaid and Spike wasn’t an invalid.  He snuck a glance out of the corner of his eye: placid, empty expression of a little boy.  Okay, I hope he’s not an invalid.  “Should I make more than two?”

“No, thank you,” was the cultured reply.

“What were you like as a human?”  It was the only thing Xander could think to say, listening to a voice that now sounded more like Wesley than Giles.  Giles never sounded that stuffily proper, though, not even in the beginning when he was all Watcher Knows Best.  “You sound, um—”

“Educated, yeah.”  William’s voice, then Spike’s.  Is he actually split? Xander wondered while he got out a spoon.  You had to stir the blood after heating it, or it would start to congeal almost immediately.  Is this a real split personality or is this just. . . complicated?

Xander was pretty sure regardless of what his amateur psychologist attempts could determine, ‘complicated’ would still win out.

“Educated like college?  What’d you major in?”

“Er, the equivalent, yeah.  And I. . . ”  Xander turned around, mug in hand, unsurprised at the horribly embarrassed expression on Spike’s—William’s?—face.  His eyes were shading to gold as Xander watched.  “Um, literature.  Specifically poetry, but any kind of. . . I need to—can I—”

Setting the mug down on the table, Xander went into the living room to watch the last few minutes of the game.

He tried very hard not to listen to the choking sounds that accompanied greedy feeding.

When Spike rejoined him fifteen minutes later, the vampire was ashen-faced, his movements jerky with distress.  He could see tear-tracks down those startling cheekbones and knew from experience that the repeated, painful swallowing meant a large lump that didn’t want to go away.

Xander did his best to ignore the reaction, knowing that the last thing Spike wanted right now was sympathy.  He was starving.  The too-tight shoulders, swimming in one of Xander’s smaller shirts, the ribs he remembered pressing up against his, all of it only confirmed what the agony beside him practically shouted.

William had refused to drink blood until he was literally starving.

Wonder why he drank it now, Xander mused as the game finally ended.  The last two minutes always took longer than the first quarter, what with time outs and commercial breaks.  Rising, he rummaged through his movie collection.  He’d had no plans for today, other than possibly going out and hitting the bars, so movies was a fine choice.  Maybe he’d clean his bedroom a little later.

“So what’re you interested in?” he queried as he scanned titles.  “We’ve got guns, explosions, porn, sappy chick-flicks the girls have left here. . . what tickles your fancy?”  No response, but Xander wasn’t particularly surprised.  He was pretty sure that the vampire’s mind was centered around a small plastic bag that currently lay empty in Xander’s garbage can.  “How about mindless explosions, huh?  Always good for a chuckle.”

Not even a ‘yeah, sure’ and Xander decided now would be a good time to start worrying.  Spike was never quiet.  The only time Xander could remember involved a grave and a little girl who looked like she wanted to jump into it.

Popping in ‘Independence Day’, he settled back onto the couch.  Spike remained perched on the very edge of the cushion, back towards Xander and barely able to see the television from that position.

Okay, so maybe the girlie-method might be best.   Cause the manly ‘ignore it and it might go away’ approach ain’t doing much.

“You gonna sit over there the whole movie?”

Spike started violently at Xander’s voice, almost falling off the couch entirely.  “Huh?  Oh, um, no, I—”

“Cause you look really uncomfortable,” Xander continued, ignoring the stammered protests and explanations.       “You’re my guest and I don’t really like my guests to be uncomfortable.”

“Your guest.  I’m. . . your guest.”

“No, actually you’re my friend.”  Cool, calm, casual, I am Xander the Non-Offensive.  “But since it’s my home, that makes me the host and you the guest.  Am I being a horrible host or something?”

“No!  No, of course you’re not—I’m just—I’m just a bit off.  A bit.”

Which was pure William and that may not be a good thing.  “You want to watch something different?  Do something different?”

A quick glance towards the door and Xander understood what Spike’s problem was.

Nope, not gonna happen.  Nu-uh.  See, I have this thing about wanting to help my friends.  Not exactly certain when you became one of ’em, but you need help.  So it’s Xand-man to the rescue!  He was babbling, but that was okay, he was used to it.

Shifting closer, Xander carefully rested his hand on Spike’s too-thin shoulder.  “You’re shivering,” he said softly, struck by an intense desire to knead the vibrating muscles under his palm.  A human would have been in agony from the tension.  “Want a blanket?  Want a Xander-blanket?”

For lo, I am the king of seduction, well trained by “Wanna Go Make Out” Cordelia and “Wanna Interlock Parts” Anya.

Spike still hadn’t moved.

Xander sighed and drew little circles with his thumb.  “We don’t have to do anything,” he said.  “I just like holding people.  Remember from—” mention last night and he will run screaming for the door, “—all those meetings at the Magic Box?  Being the only guy with a group full of girls trains you to need the whole touchy-feely thing.      C’mon, Spike, relax a little.”

A hesitant nod met his words and Xander tried hard not to crow for joy.  Threading an arm around a much too narrow waist, Xander leaned gently against those tense muscles.  Spike sighed, making no move to push out from the embrace—but he didn’t relax into it, either.

The White House was being green-rayed into bits before Spike actually started to give in.  It remained awkward for a while, Xander unsure of how far he could push and Spike too tense to possibly be comfortable.  Gradually, though, the tension leaked out and they ended up spooned together comfortably.  Xander was drawing idle patterns on a taunt stomach with one hand, the other threaded with Spike’s, resting above their heads on the armrest.

He had no idea when they’d started holding hands, but he wasn’t about to mention it.  It was comfortable, like this. They’d make occasional comments at the ridiculousness of the movie they watched, but otherwise it felt. . . very nice.  Watching movies with Anya had always included a running explanation that ended up destroying the movie, and he hadn’t felt comfortable movie watching with the whole gang since high school.

His fingers dipped lower.

Spike froze, but just as quickly relaxed.  “You want me, Harris?”

“Yeah.”  No use lying about it, not when his hard-on was pressed up against Spike’s ass.  “Doesn’t matter though.”

“Doesn’t it, then?”

“Nope.  Cause unless you want it, I’m just gonna lie here and watch Will Smith attempt to play something other than the Fresh Prince.  Which I’ve never seen.”

Spike grunted his agreement and watched quietly for a little longer.  “Really are a White Knight, aren’t you?”  Spike wasn’t referring to the casual reference to sex and Xander knew it.

“Hey, everybody’s got needs they don’t like admitting to.  You learn to deal with it and move on.”

“Drinking blood isn’t exactly a—”

“You’re a vampire, Spike.”  Said vampire quivered underneath his body and Xander sternly ordered his erection not to take that as encouragement.  It wasn’t.  “Vampires drink blood, fact of life—er, unlife.”

“Vampires are an abomination.  Not quite demon, not quite human, just—”

“God, Spike, you are the last person I’d peg for overanalyzing things.  You’re a vampire.  A pretty wussy one, too.  So you have to drink blood, so what?  So long as you aren’t hurting anyone, why the hell should it matter?”

“A wussy one?”  Spike flipped himself around, nose almost brushing against Xander’s they were so close.  “I am not a wussy vampire!”

“Yeah, you are.”  Xander gave him a cheeky grin, not the least disturbed about a chipless vampire in his arms.  There was nothing frightening about Spike and if he was truthful about it, there hadn’t been for a long time.

Which had nothing to do with Spike’s actual ability to hurt anything.

“I was blood and death for a hundred years, Harris.  I’ve killed more than you can possibly imagine.”  It was so easy to rile Spike up, since there wasn’t a trace of William’s guilt about those deaths in the outraged pride.  “If it wasn’t for the damned chip—and now this soul—”

“You’d still be a wussy vampire.  How many people did you kill when you were in Sunnydale?  Really, no bragging, no posturing, just the truth.  How many?”

“We gonna include the ones Dru an’ I killed for each other?”  Xander nodded and Spike’s eyes grew distant.  “Less then twenty, then.  Probably no more’n ten or fifteen.  Vamps are kinda like the larger predators—lions and such.  We don’t need to eat every day, so long as we gorge pretty good when we do eat.”

“See?  Wussy vamp.  Cause I know for a fact that Angelus killed a lot more than that while he was playing King of the Jungle.”  And go me for being calm about this.  These people are dead, I couldn’t do anything to save them, and the Spike in front of me now is not the Spike that did these things.  There’s a difference and I am going to repeat this until I believe it.

“Harris.  What the hell are you talking about?  I was a vampire.  I killed.  I enjoyed it.”  The gleam of blue eyes so close to his own warned Xander that all was not happy underneath the bleached hair.  If he wanted to recapture the easy feeling between them, he was going to have to get his point across, and soon.

“Not was, Spike.  Are.  Have been since before the turn of the century.  But even when you were a common vampire without a chip, a soul, or broken legs, you still didn’t kill that much, did you?  And once you were chipped, you stopped completely.”

“Yeah, well, searing pain will do that to a bloke.”

“Not what I mean.  You didn’t hurt anyone.”

“Not true!”  Xander almost grinned Spike’s continued outrage.  Not even a hint of William in there.  “Messed with your minds, I did.  Even got you lot to all start hating each other, didn’t I?”

“We were messed up before you even opened your mouth, Bleachy.  You took advantage of it, and please note that I never said that you stopped being the greedy bastard I know you are.  But you stopped hurting us.  Even after you found out you could hurt demons, you didn’t hurt us.”

“I hated you.”  Spike was staring at his collar and if Xander hadn’t kept his grip strong and sure, Spike would’ve been off the sofa and out the door in a flash.

“So did I.  And whenever there was a chance for me to make you miserable, I took it.  Just like you.”  While Spike was contemplating that, Xander moved his body just a little bit closer, forcing Spike to look back up.  “The only difference, Spike, is that eventually you stopped.  I never did.”

Intelligent blue eyes bored into his.  “That’s what you meant.  Before.”

“Yeah.  You deserving it—and you probably did—has nothing to do with it.  I was wrong.”

“Get that.”  The frown hadn’t faded though.  “Don’t get why you think I’m a wussy vamp—”

“Can I kiss you?”


Men’s lips weren’t supposed to be soft.  They were supposed to be hard and demanding and surrounded by stubble—Anya always complained about that.  But Spike’s were soft and so gentle against his own.  Xander bit down on the fuller lower lip, moaning when jerking hips brought a hardened erection to brush against his own.

“You taste like toothpaste,” he muttered, pushing his tongue into the willingly opened mouth.  “Thought you’d taste like tobacco.”  Spike groaned as Xander slid his hands underneath those baggy sweats to cup and fondle at the vampire’s balls.

“Had to—the blood—”  Warm kisses over those incredible cheekbones before moving to nibble on a neck that flexed and moved under his lips and tongue.  “Xander—you shouldn’t—”

“Shouldn’t what, sleep with you?  Pretty much too late, since we did last night.”  A few tugs got the horribly oversize shirt off and Xander attacked tiny pink nipples, already taut and waiting.

“No—please, stop!”

Spike never begged.

Xander was immediately off the vampire, crouching on the floor while Spike scrambled to the other end of the sofa.  Spike was panting, his eyes wide and wild as he shook his head back and forth.  “I can’t.  I can’t do this.”

“Why not?  I’m not—I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No, I just—can’t.  I won’t—I won’t be that for you.  Did it twice, now.  Won’t again.”

Xander shook his head, trying to get his body to focus on what he was hearing instead of the steady mantra of want Spike, want Spike now.  “Did what twice, now?”

“Anya slept with me to forget about you.  B—Slayer to forget how much she hurt.  I won’t—I won’t be used again.”

The pain in those eyes and Xander realized that he’d done exactly that.  Treated Spike like a thing, a whore bought with a little comfort and a few bags of blood.

At least, that’s what it could look like.

“Spike, Spike look at me.”  Was William in there?  Did it matter if he was?  Should Xander say something differently to appeal to both?  Does Xander the babble-king know how to say something eloquent and pretty to do these things?  Nope, not even a little bit.  “I’m sorry.  I never meant to make you feel like that.  I’m not trying to use you.  I don’t want to use you.  But I do want you.”

“You want sex,” was the abruptly harsh answer.  “That’s all you want.  Go back t’the demon-girl and you’ll be—”

“Miserable beyond belief.  It’s over between us, Spike.  I know that.  I’ve made my peace with that.  I don’t want someone who doesn’t want me back.  I kinda thought you did.”  Sitting down completely, Xander rubbed his temples.  He needed a drink!

“No more alcohol!”  The hard voice startled Xander into looking up again.  The arrogant Spike he hadn’t seen for a long, long time stared back down at him.  “You’re thirsty, have some water.”

“Wha—shit, I said that out-loud?  Sorry.  Didn’t mean to.  And I know, I know, no more drinking.   Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it isn’t just about the sex, okay?  I’m not trying to use you.  Or be used.”

Spike studied him a moment before giving a short nod.  Some of the ‘William look’, the confused, frightened naivete, faded and Spike, the real Spike, looked to be in full control again.  “You do want sex, though.”

“Of course I want sex; I’m male and it hasn’t been that many years since linoleum turned me on.  Not the point, though.”  Spike didn’t object when Xander climbed back onto the couch, which was hopefully a good sign.  “I’m not trying to use you, Spike.  You don’t want me, fine.  We finish watching the movie, we have dinner, and then we see what we want to do tonight.  You up for some patrolling maybe?”

Groping around for the remote, he purposefully ignored Spike and gathered his own thoughts.  Okay.  Jumping the vampire was a bad idea.  Don’t try that again.  Good thing he didn’t hurt me.  Xander watched the movie speed backwards as he rewound to the last scene he remembered, suddenly struck by how significant that was.  He didn’t hurt me.  At all.  I was—I was practically forcing him, he’s chipless, and he didn’t hurt me.

Sneaking a glance to the right he saw Spike slouched down on the farthest end of the sofa, the very casualness of his posture screaming confusion.  “You bought me blood.”

And we’re still talking.  That’s good!  Only a few more hours until sundown, and Xander didn’t know what he’d do if Spike bolted at sunset.  Did I realize I was this lonely before?  “Yeah, well.  When was the last time you ate?”

Spike had to think about that far too long for comfort.  “Kenya, I think.  Maybe Morocco.  A c—” his voice dropped down to nothing, “A cat.”

He got desperate, Xander understood.  He was starving and got desperate and drained the first animal he could catch.  “You have to eat,” he said aloud.  “Starving yourself isn’t going to solve anything.”

“Can’t—god, maybe I am a wuss of a vampire.  S’what made Dru leave, really.  Stopped hunting as much as I used to down in Brazil and suddenly she was carryin’ on with anything that gave her a wink.  Said I wasn’t demon enough for her.  Hadn’t ever been, but. . . used to be no Angelus to make her remember it.”

Xander held his breath.

Leaping to his feet, Spike began to pace back and forth.  “Damn William.  Screwed up bein’ a human, screwed up bein’ a vamp, and all that’s left is this. . .this fucking mess.  D’you know how much it hurts to eat now?”  Blue eyes flickered over toward brown before returning to the carpet.  “Tastes like crap.  Even the stuff you got me, which is damned good quality, tastes like—like pain.  Cause it is.  I tried to hunt, after I woke up.  After I realized that I had this thing in m’head.  Went after a pretty little thing, the kind Dru used to love me to hunt for.   Couldn’t.  Wasn’t about the chip, hell wasn’t even about the fucking soul.  I just. . . I couldn’t.  She looked—”

Spike didn’t move when arms circled him again, holding him tightly.  He didn’t push the mortal away, though, just stood there, being held.

“I pushed her.  S’how I knew the chip didn’t work.  Pushed an’ she fell down, but she didn’t cry out.  Just looked up at me, waiting for me to do something.  Anything.  So I ran.  The Big Bad, chipless and free, turned and ran from a chit choking on desert dust.  Didn’t eat for weeks.  Couldn’t.  Every time I did. . .

“Every time I did, I remembered that this one could have a family.  People who’d miss an’ need them.”

Xander tightened his hold and realized why Spike was staying and why Xander wanted him to stay so very much.  The Scoobies, for better or for worse, were a family.  A very close knit one.  And while Dawn, and Buffy, and Anya, and even Willow were off finding themselves and reconnecting. . . Xander was alone.  Xander had no one to come home to, no one to talk about his day with, no one to. . . care for.  To love.

Just like Spike.







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