"*No!*" Xander screamed as pain seared through him.
He shot out of bed, his empty eye socket throbbing in sympathetic pain from his dream. He blinked, once, twice, before realizing where he was and what had happened, one hand rising to cover his disfigured eye.
His hands were still shaking and he could feel his heart beating as if it wanted to burst from his chest. He hated that dream. It always *felt* so real. And whenever he woke up in the dark he had the momentary panic of thinking he'd lost both eyes that night. It always took him a few minutes to adjust, to finally be able to see shadows in the room that told him he still had partial vision.
He walked to the window and opened it just enough to gulp in a few draughts of cold night air and to look out at the streets lined with moonlight. Things were blurry, but he knew that was more due to his having been asleep than his injury. He blinked again and the streets cleared, though at 4am there wasn't much to see. He took one last deep breath to steady himself and then headed toward the kitchen for a glass of water.
He drank it warm from the tap, the chlorinated flavor waking him a bit more. His hands, thankfully, had finally stopped shaking as he rinsed his empty glass and placed it in the dishwasher. Glancing at the clock, he knew he should probably try to get a few more hours of sleep before work or he'd be useless. But he also knew there was only one thing that would let him get back to sleep and he wasn't sure he wanted that comfort tonight. He wasn't sure he wanted that comfort ever again. He felt... dirty. Wrong. Like he was only using Spike.
And maybe a year ago, he wouldn't have cared. But today he did. Spike had become... well, he'd become something more than an annoying pest Xander wanted to swat. After all they'd been through, and all they'd both had to sacrifice, Xander could no longer deny that there was some measure of goodness in the vampire. Even if he could still be an annoying ass every once in a while.
Xander sighed and walked down the hall toward the room next to his. Knocking softly, he entered the room with a creak of the door. "Spike?"
Spike blinked owlishly up at him, and though Xander would never say it aloud, it was actually kinda adorable. Like a little kid waking from a nap.
"'Nother dream, luv?"
He nodded. And now it was Xander's turn to feel like a little kid, running to his parent's bedroom after a nightmare. But Spike only lifted his blankets and held his arms open for Xander to crawl in beside him.
"Thanks," he mumbled as he slid in, his eye downcast.
"What time do you have to be at the office today?" Spike asked as he reached for the alarm clock to reset it.
"My first meeting's not until 8:30." Xander shifted, too used to crawling in with Spike to blush over the vampire's nudity.
"7:30 enough time then, luv?" At Xander's nod, Spike set the clock and placed it back on the night table. Then he laid back down and wrapped his arm around Xander's waist to bring him close.
For just a second Xander tensed, then as Spike's fingers spread over his stomach to hold him securely in place, he relaxed. He closed his eyes, knowing what was coming and not strong enough to stop it.
"You shouldn't think about that wanker anymore, Xan. He's long dead. And if he weren't you know I'd never let him get that close to you again," Spike murmured, his lips pressing gently at Xander's nape as he spoke.
"I know," Xander whispered back, his breathing increasing as Spike's fingers began to knead the muscles of his abdomen. "Spike... "
"Yeah, luv?" Spike's hand moved lower, playing briefly with the trail of curls that led to a point somewhere below Xander's shorts.
"You don't have to... "
"Shhh," Spike kissed the flesh just behind Xander's ear lobe. "I know." Then his hand dipped below Xander's shorts and encircled his half hard penis. "Want to," he said, reaching up to press another kiss to the corner of Xander's empty eye socket.
Xander felt tears prickle the back of his good eye, and shut them both tight. Spike was the only one he ever let see him without the patch. Or the hated glass eye he'd let Giles get him. He wore it when they went to see the others, only because he knew it made them feel better.
"Don't think about him. Don't think about anything," Spike said, stroking until Xander was hard and leaking in his hand.
Xander could feel Spike's erection poking at his back and he tried to reach around for it, just as he did every time. And just as happened every time, Spike pushed him away. "Spike, I want to... "
"No, luv. Don't worry about me. Just relax." Spike thumbed the head of Xander's cock then slid back down to the base and fondled his balls.
Xander snorted. "How can I relax when you're making me crazy?"
Spike chuckled, and sped up his rhythm. "Good to know I haven't lost my touch then." Spike licked at Xander's lobe, nibbling the soft cartilage.
"N-no you haven't -- ungh, Spike!" Xander grunted as he stiffened and came, Spike's hand squeezing him gently until he was completely spent.
It didn't take long for Xander to fall asleep after that, a few minutes of coaxing from Spike and Xander's breathing was deep and even once more. Ignoring his own unsatisfied arousal, Spike dropped one last chaste kiss on Xander's cheek before laying his head back on the pillow they now shared.
"Sweet dreams, luv."
Spike woke mid-morning with Xander gone. He could still smell the boy on his pillow, his sheets, and it made his morning erection throb to life. He groaned and rolled onto his back, tenting the sheet with his hard-on.
He closed his eyes and inhaled Xander's scent while he reached beneath the blankets to stroke himeslf. Slow and easy while he imagined the feel of Xander against him, the way his cock felt in Spike's hand and the whimpering grunts that escaped his throat as he climaxed.
Spike concentrated on the sound of his name on Xander's lips and let himself come.
Breathing deeply he let his scent mix with Xander's and relaxed back into the pillows.
He remembered the first night Xander had come to him. It hadn't been too long after they'd left the others. Not too far, of course. Xander could never abandon them completely, but... just far enough. Spike had heard his scream, just as he did every night the boy had a nightmare. But even then he'd known what it was. And he'd assumed that Xander would rather handle it on his own than feel unmanned by Spike's concern.
But then, the soft knock and Xander was sitting on the end of his bed looking haggard and alone. Spike had sat up, pretending he'd no idea what Xander was about. And then words started spilling from Xander's mouth, surprising Spike somewhat. Mostly because Xander wasn't as chatty as he used to be. He didn't babble for hours on end anymore, not since Caleb, not since The First.
But it wasn't exactly babble coming from Xander that night.
Xander told him about the dream. Then he just kept... going. He talked about how it felt to have Caleb's thumb bursting his eyeball like some overripe grape, the agony of it. The thought that after all his years with Buffy, that this was how it was going to end. He talked about Buffy and Willow, then. And Giles. He talked about a lot of things.
The boy fell asleep atop the covers, his head sharing Spike's pillow that night after he'd finally talked himself into exhaustion.
They never talked about it the next day. Never mentioned the hours they'd spent sharing a bed, even if nothing had happened except a bit of talk and forty winks.
A few weeks later, Xander was back. But this time he was sullen and quiet, and Spike found himself doing the talking, for lack of anything else. He started with his own nightmarish memories. The pain of sunlight and fire. The pain of dying for the second time. He talked about Angel and Darla and his Dark Princess. He talked more that night than he had in the last century, most likely. He talked until Xander was once more asleep in his bed, eyes fluttering as he let himself doze.
Spike doesn't know exactly when it happened. He remembers starting to just shift over and lift the covers when Xander came in. He remembers reassuring the boy that Caleb was gone. That Spike wouldn't let anyone harm him anymore. He remembers the tenseness in every one of Xander's muscles the first time he wrapped a cool arm around his waist and held him close.
But he doesn't remember the first time he took hold of Xander's cock. He was afraid, he knows that. Afraid that he was making a mistake, afraid that he'd ruin whatever it was they now had. In reality, he doesn't even know why he did it. It just seemed like the boy needed... something. The talking was good. Yeah, he could see the boy needed to talk. But...
Spike shook his head. Who was he fooling?
Spike was a creature of comfort. He liked to touch and be touched. He always had. One of the reasons he'd stayed with Drusilla so long was because of her affectionate ways. And now that he and Xander were... friends? Spike did what he knew best. He... comforted.
Almost a year later and they'd practically made it a routine. Spike never minded it. Hell, if he were truthful he'd tell Xander it was as much a comfort to Spike as it was to him. But lately Xander kept wanting to return the favor. And Spike could tell things were shifting. He was losing his balance and he wasn't sure how he felt about that.
Spike had his own demons to worry over, and he wasn't sure he was ready to... Christ, he didn't know. But something told him if he let Xander touch him, if he let Xander... *in*, there wouldn't be any going back.
Not for him.
Spike sighed, pulling the sheets off to throw in the washer as he climbed out of bed to start his day. Xander would be home in a few hours, which meant Spike had time to wash and clean up before making dinner. Then they'd be headed out to meet with Broody and The Gang. Spike chuckled at his own joke as he headed for the shower.
He hated working with his Sire, but it was the one place both he and Xander were guaranteed some distance from Buffy and the others. She wouldn't stay in LA, not with Angel here. And both Xander and Spike had seen and been through enough with her that they needed some space, some time to think.
Spike had been serious when he'd thanked her before his death. It was the moment, the one true moment, that he'd finally realized she'd never loved him. Not the way he needed. He couldn't continue to follow her around after that.
So, after Willow had freed him from the locket and Xander had announced his plans, it had only seemed natural to follow the boy. Now Spike wasn't so sure that had been such a wise choice after all.
Sometimes Spike had to admit that L.A. wasn't half bad. There were plenty of baddies to fight, a decent supply of blood, and now that Xander had convinced Angel to put them both on the payroll he had enough to start buying the good stuff. It still bugged the hell out of him that he had to rely on Angel to pay him, thereby forcing him to actually spend time with Angel... but, it wasn't always as bad as it sounded.
Spike roared as he brought the axe around and lobbed off the Crythrax's head, smirking when the body disintegrated leaving just the head to roll across the ground.
"Spike!" Xander's voice was laced with enough panic that Spike whirled and headed for him instantly. It wasn't like the old days when Xander was constantly being thrown about and injured on a nightly basis. The boy had learned enough -- and Spike had been willing to help him train -- that he could usually hold his own. So, Spike took it seriously whenever he called for help.
"Oi! Bloody bitch!" Spike took one of the daggers from his boot and threw it at the back of the Crythrax's mate. The she-demons were always bigger and meaner. He supposed it was because the females were usually the ones who stayed to tend the eggs. Or at least that's what Wesley had told them before they'd left the office. "Why don't you come after someone your own size?" he taunted. He could see blood dripping down Xander's temple and wondered what kind of hit the demon had got in.
Then he didn't have time to think as the demon charged him like a rhino, her horned head bent low to skewer him. He jumped out of the way just in time and swung the axe down, but instead of severing her head it embedded itself in what he thought might be her collar bone. Before he could regroup, her massive paw sliced toward him and his stomach exploded in pain.
"Angel! Wes!" He heard Xander's cries and saw the boy as he swung his own axe down to finish the Crythrax. Then everything went black.
"Oh, god. How do we stop the bleeding?" Xander hovered anxiously over Angel as he pressed a hand to Spike's stomach. Wesley was doing something else to help, but Xander didn't really know what. He concentrated instead on Spike's increasingly pale face and the total stillness that always seemed so foreign to the vampire.
"He's a vampire. He's got a strong constitution," Angel said calmly as he released his hold long enough for Wesley to wrap the bandages he'd retrieved from the SUV tightly around the wound.
"What can I do?" Xander felt helpless and dumb and hated it. It reminded him too much of his days in Sunnydale.
"Nothing for now." Angel vamped and tore his wrist open with a fang. Xander watched as Angel fed Spike, thankful at least that Spike seemed to come awake at least enough to suckle at Angel's wrists.
"He's gonna hate knowing that you did that for him when he wakes. You know that don't you?" Wesley asked quietly as he continued to work on Spike's injuries.
"Yeah," Angel answered just as quietly, but didn't move his wrist. Then he cleared his throat and spoke loud enough for Xander to hear. "Do you have enough human blood at home? You'll have to feed him every two hours, at least."
Xander nodded, and then realized that neither Angel nor Wes was looking at him. "Yeah. And if not I can get them to deliver. I know Spike's supplier."
"Good." Angel let Wes wrap his wrist and then carefully lifted Spike. He indicated that Xander should get in first, and then laid Spike across the back seat with his head in Xander's lap. "Keep him steady. We'll take you straight home. I'll have someone bring your car to the apartment tomorrow morning."
Xander nodded again, his hands holding Spike carefully so as not to aggravate the injuries any further.
It seemed an eternity before they made it home. Xander found himself murmuring softly to Spike as they drove, remembering hearing once that people in a coma could still hear everything going on around them. Not that Spike was in a coma. Xander didn't really know what was going on, other than the passing out after a massive amount of blood loss.
"Is he gonna be okay?" he asked inanely as Angel carried him up to their apartment and laid him on Spike's bed.
"He'll be fine," Angel said again. "I wouldn't leave him if he were in danger." Then, quietly, just before he disappeared down the hall, "But if you tell him I said that, I'll deny it."
"Don't forget to feed him every two hours. At least one bag, maybe two if you think he'll take it," Wesley reminded him before he too, followed Angel out the door. "Call if there's any significant change in his condition."
Xander nodded. "Thanks," then shut the door. It was strange how loud the silence in the apartment was. Checking the clock he noted that it was just past one in the morning. He set his wristwatch to wake him at three, then made his way back to Spike's room.
Some odd motherly instinct caused him to reach out and press his palm to Spike's forehead. Snorting at the reflex, he shook his head and pulled away to strip down to his boxers. He slipped carefully under the covers, wary of jostling or hurting Spike in anyway. He couldn't help peeking beneath the blanket at Spike's bandages and wincing when he noticed that the red was already starting to show through. He'd probably have to change them when he got up to get Spike's first batch of blood. But for now he wanted to let the vampire rest.
He made sure to keep enough of a distance between them that he wouldn't accidentally roll into Spike while he napped. When he was finally positive he wouldn't hurt Spike any further, Xander closed his eyes to sleep for the first time in Spike's bed without the benefit of a precipitating nightmare.
Xander woke every two hours on the dot. The first time he woke, he heated two bags of blood, but could only get Spike to drink one and a half. He changed his soaked bandages, grimacing each time Spike winced in his sleep. It was strange watching him feed when he was so still otherwise. Holding the straw to Spike's lips, Xander flashed back to the one time he'd fed Spike in the bathtub at Giles'.
Guilt made him frown and look away. Most nights Xander could convince himself that Spike hadn't exactly made any friendly overtures back then. But at times like this, Xander knew that those were just excuses. That he'd treated Spike like dirt, and a part of him still wondered why Spike had bothered to stick around.
The second time he woke, he made sure to call Spike's supplier and ask for a double order of human to be delivered that night. He was grateful that he didn't have to call in to work. Working for Angel at Wolfram and Hart had a few decided advantages, no matter what Spike said. Xander waited anxiously for any sign that Spike was coming around, but the vampire remained perfectly still unless Xander was poking at his injuries or shoving a plastic straw in his mouth.
By the time evening rolled around, Xander was worried enough to call Wesley.
"He hasn't woken yet. That's not so good, right?" Xander whispered into the phone as he watched Spike sleep.
"How does his stomach injury look?" Xander could hear the swish of a page turning as Wesley consulted some text or other.
"Better. It stopped bleeding this afternoon, but I've kept it bandaged, just in case." Xander lifted the blankets to confirm again that the bleeding had stopped.
"Good, that's good. Obviously the blood is working. You can probably cut down to a bag every four or five hours at this point," Wesley murmured, making Xander think he was trying to multi-task.
"But he hasn't *woken*." Xander was starting to get frustrated. Why did it seem as if he were the only one worried?
"Xander," Wesley sighed. "He's a vampire. That's how they recuperate. The deep sleep helps them to go through the accelerated healing with as little pain as possible."
"But - "
"Believe me," Wesley cut him off. "We've been through this several times with Angel as well. I know it's a bit nerve wracking, but he'll be fine. Trust me."
"All right," Xander finally agreed, but only because he really had no other choice.
He returned the cordless phone to its cradle on the nightstand in his bedroom before returning to Spike's side. He slid back under the covers, this time positioning himself close enough to throw a protective arm over Spike's chest. Now that his stomach was mostly healed, Xander didn't think his proximity could really hurt Spike too much. And being able to *touch* him somehow made Xander more hopeful about his condition.
"You're gonna be fine, Spike. Wes said this is totally normal. And you know Wes is a smart guy, right?" Xander whispered, as he shifted as close as he thought was safe. He could almost hear Spike's snarky answer. "Yeah, I know. Even if he does work with Angel." Xander stayed up a few minutes more just watching Spike sleep before he finally succumbed to slumber.
Three hours later, Xander woke abruptly and blinked at his watch blearily. His alarm hadn't gone off so he wasn't sure what had awoken him until Spike emitted a soft growl beside him.
"Spike?" He turned, worried, to find Spike still asleep. But instead of the still form that had lain beside him for almost twenty four hours straight, Spike was tossing and turning against him. "Spike?" Xander tried to shake him gently, but Spike's eyes refused to open.
Then the soft growls turned into whimpers and Xander watched as Spike's eyes fluttered, as if he wanted to wake but couldn't. Xander immediately pulled Spike into his arms, careful not to jostle him too much, and started murmuring soothing words. The same words he usually heard from Spike whenever he came seeking solace.
"Shhh," Xander kept his hands moving lightly over Spike's skin, as he whispered. "Everything's fine. We're home. You're safe. I won't let anything hurt you." He kissed Spike's temple, his forehead, just as Spike would press his cool lips to Xander's nape on the nights he had nightmares.
Spike buried his face against Xander's throat, his hand practically clawing for purchasing on Xander's chest. Unable to prevent himself from crying out as Spike's nails dug into his flesh, Xander reached out to grasp the offending hand in his and pull it away. Spike whimpered again, trying to pull free, but Xander held fast. "Shh, it's okay. I won't let anyone hurt you. You're safe," he said again, his free hand petting Spike's mussed curls.
Xander shuddered as Spike nosed against his throat, biting back a cry when the vampire's head dipped unexpectedly and he felt the cool wetness of Spike's tongue against the scratches he'd made. "Spike, what - ?" Xander moaned softly, his nipples tightening instantly. The cuts had been shallow, but deep enough to draw blood. And by the feel of Spike's erection against his thigh, Xander supposed he was enjoying it.
He had no idea what he was supposed to do. This seemed even more wrong than the one-sided jerk off sessions Spike was fond of giving him. But then he realized that Spike had finally gone quiet and still again. His cheek now resting atop Xander's healed scratches. He wrapped his arms around Spike to keep him still in case he had another nightmare, then dipped is head to drop a kiss on Spike's crown. "Sweet dreams, Spike. I'll protect you." He tightened his arms minutely then closed his eyes and tried not to think about everything that had just happened.
Twice more during the following day, Xander woke to find Spike snarling and twitching beside him. He moved automatically to comfort the vampire, who whined unhappily until Xander would finally reopen the shallow scratches on his chest and let Spike lap at the small beads of blood. He worried what would happen when Spike finally woke and found out. He was too embarrassed to call Wesley or Angel and ask about the odd behavior, or if Spike's tasting his blood would cause any permanent... changes.
Xander couldn't help reaching out to caress Spike's cheek as he sipped from the straw, his eyes fluttering as if he were still fighting to awaken. He wondered how often Spike had these nightmares, or if the pain of his injury had somehow brought up bad memories.
After rinsing the mug out and grabbing a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich for himself, Xander returned to Spike's side. Spike immediately curled up to Xander's side, laying his head against Xander's shoulder. It would have made Xander feel uncomfortable except that he couldn't help hoping that Spike's movement meant that he'd fallen more into a regular sleep instead of the weird still coma of his healing sleep.
His arms automatically encircled Spike's slight frame, and he bit his lip as he felt Spike's thickening shaft against his hip. Xander's guilt made a knot in his stomach, knowing that Spike would be angry and rightfully indignant once he woke. But Xander couldn't bring himself to leave Spike alone, and he couldn't help thinking that his presence was some kind of comfort to the injured vampire.
"Spike?" Xander whispered. "Don't hate me okay?"
Spike merely shifted closer at the sound of Xander's voice.
Spike wanted more than anything to rip the medallion off his neck and cease the burning agony that bloomed in his chest. His whimpers turned into screams as fire pulsed through him. Then as if he'd been dumped into a vat of ice cold water the pain stopped.
He moaned at the cool sensation that invaded him, driving away the burning agony the medallion had wrought. He was surprised when he heard an echoing moan and the thundering sound of a human heartbeat. He blinked -- *Xander*?
"Shh, it's okay. You're safe. I won't let anything hurt you." Xander's words confused Spike even more. His head was fuzzy and he didn't remember coming home, and he especially didn't remember Xander having another nightmare. So what was he doing in Spike's bed?
Then something tickled his nose, a familiar scent that left him salivating like hot buttered rum on a cold day. Instinctively he reached for it, nosing his way across Xander's chest until he tasted the flavor he sought. Just a dab, a tease, but it was enough to bring him fully alert. "*Xander.*"
Xander jerked at the sound of Spike's rough whisper. "Spike?" His hips bucked as Spike licked at his scratches. Spike answered by thrusting his erection against Xander's thigh and they both moaned.
Heat and spice and blinding arousal coursed through Spike as Xander's cuts healed and he groaned his frustration at the loss. The boy's hot breath teased the short hairs on the nape of his neck as his mouth fastened on a pebbled nipple.
"Oh, god. Please be awake. Please don't be dreaming," Xander murmured, his hands pulling Spike's head closer, keeping him in place. And Spike couldn't tell whether the boy was talking to him or himself.
Annoyed at the chafing feel of cotton, Spike whined as he pushed at Xander's shorts. His unspoken request was quickly complied with and Spike found himself rubbing up against a naked, aroused Xander. Even with just the small taste he'd had, Xander's blood buzzed through him giving him an incredible high.
He reached down for the familiar pulsing flesh of Xander's shaft, stroking until Xander was writhing mindlessly against him. Biting down on Xander's nipple, he pulled at the aroused nub until Xander was moaning his name. The sound of it drove Spike crazy and he shifted until he was laying between Xander's thighs, their cocks pressing and rubbing together with each shallow thrust of his hips.
"Oh, *Jesus*." Xander's hands found Spike's hips and urged him on.
With a growl, Spike buried his face against Xander's throat suckling at the throbbing pulse just beneath the skin. The taste of Xander still tingling on his tongue, Spike vamped out, careful to keep his fangs from prickling Xander's flesh.
Xander threw his head back, offering his neck without thought. Spike groaned, the effort to pull away before taking what Xander offered so freely an agonizing ache in his chest. Swirling, inhuman, yellow eyes stared into deep brown. He watched as Xander's focus shifted to his lips. Spike stilled as he fought against the desire to taste Xander's lips. He still had enough sense to avoid the intimacy a kiss would bring.
Instead, he pressed his ridged forehead against Xander's shoulder and quickened his thrusts. Xander's hands were on his ass, squeezing and pressing and urging him faster and harder. He could feel his orgasm tingling at the base of his spine, his whole body prickling as if waking from a long sleep.
Then Xander cried out his name, his come splashing across Spike's belly. Spike lost all control then, and came for the first time with Xander in his arms.
Xander woke hours later to an empty bed. "Spike?"
He found his wayward vampire standing by the sliding glass doors that led to their tiny patio and staring out at the moonlit courtyard of their apartment building. "Spike?" Xander reached out for him, grasping his elbow and trying to turn him back to the bedroom. "You shouldn't be up. You're not fully healed yet." Xander pulled away when Spike turned to him with dark, unreadable eyes. "W-what's wrong?"
Xander watched as Spike ran unsteady fingers through his sleep-mussed hair. He'd put on his black jeans, but left his torso bare. And Xander could see that he'd removed the bandages, leaving a faint scar on his stomach which Xander assumed would fade in time.
"Xan, I'm sorry." The words confused Xander until Spike continued. "I didn't mean to... to touch you. To use you just to get my rocks off." He paced in front of the patio doors, waving his arms as he spoke.
"Oh." Xander couldn't look at Spike, didn't want the vampire to see how much he had *not* been expecting those words. Except, well, maybe he had been expecting them. But he hadn't wanted to *hear* them. "No, that's okay. I mean, yeah, you were sick and probably dreaming or delusional or something. So, no big."
Spike acted as if he hadn't even heard Xander speak. "You shouldn't have let me taste you, luv." Even now he still craved more of Xander. It wasn't blood lust so much as... need. The need to feel close to someone again, to have the gift of something freely given. And not just anyone, but Xander.
"Yeah, that. Sorry. It... It was an accident. I didn't mean to. You were having a nightmare and I was trying..." Xander's brow furrowed as he stared at Spike. "Why didn't you tell me you had nightmares, too?"
"Because I can handle them. They aren't that bad," Spike said, irritated. "And don't change the subject."
Xander clenched his teeth, refusing to give into whatever emotion was making him want to cry and strangle Spike at the same time. "I'm sorry, okay! I was worried about you. I wanted to stay close, so I did. I didn't mean to... to trick you into anything. And I'm sorry if you're mad or embarrassed or whatever." Xander was breathing heavily, wishing he could run from the room or have a gigantic hole open up beneath him and swallow him whole. "But I didn't mean to do anything but... but take care of you."
"I know." Spike growled. "I didn't... I know."
"Look, you're obviously better now. You don't need me anymore. I'll just go back to my room." Xander turned and headed down the hall, pausing just before entering his bedroom. "I'm glad you're awake again." Then he disappeared behind the closed door.
Spike wanted to kick something. To tear it apart with his bare hands. He hated whatever it was that had just happened. Hated being able to still feel Xander's skin rubbing against his. To still taste Xander's blood on his tongue. Hated himself because he *did* still need Xander.
The next morning Xander got up and went back to work. He left a note for Spike letting him know that there should be enough blood left for the day but he might want to call and get a delivery later, or go pick some up after sunset if he wanted to take a walk. Xander decided that the best thing to do was pretend that the whole thing never happened. It was obviously what Spike wanted, so Xander would do his best to comply.
He spent the day taking meetings that he'd missed while caring for Spike. The first half-hour was spent reassuring Angel that Spike was awake and back to his normal self. He wondered how Spike would react if he knew that Angel cared enough to ask about him, or how concerned Angel had looked when he'd carried Spike up to their apartment. Xander figured it would go just about as well as their confrontation had, so he decided to keep it to himself.
When he got home Spike was gone and he tried not to wonder whether it was for good or not. He ordered a pizza and took a seat on the couch, flipping channels randomly until his hand got tired and he finally stopped on a game show he'd never seen before. By the time the pizza had grown cold and he'd gotten drunk on a case of beer, Spike still hadn't returned. Trying not to care, Xander cleaned up his mess, crushing each can with a stomp of his sneaker before tossing it in the trash bin.
Emotionally exhausted, he fell asleep above the covers with only his boxers on.
Lying awake in bed, Spike heard the muffled shout and sat up, realizing that Xander had had another nightmare. He waited, listening as the boy's heartbeat slowed and he paced in his room as per normal. Then he heard the soft shuffling steps he took as he made his way to the kitchen for a glass of water.
Spike waited impatiently for Xander to appear, wanting to comfort him, knowing how much the nightmares hurt and confused him. He threw back the covers as he heard Xander's quiet tread down the hall. He saw the shadow fall across the light shining beneath his door, then after a minute it moved off.
The quiet click of Xander's door was loud in Spike's ears.
The dreams were coming almost every night now. Xander had trouble focusing from lack of sleep. It was partly the dreams and partly the uncomfortable awkwardness that now existed between him and Spike. Xander hated it. Hated that he'd messed everything up, that things were all different and bad and wrong. He wanted to go back to the way things were before. Wanted to go back to feeling safe and... *right*.
But Spike barely spoke to him now. And Xander didn't know how to fix things. Every once in a while he'd catch Spike looking over, but before Xander could ask what was going on, he'd make some excuse and then go hide in his room. Which in itself was so wrong. Spike wasn't the kind of guy who went into hiding. He was the kind of guy that confronted his problems and then kicked their asses.
Maybe it was time for him to think about moving out, finding a place of his own, Xander thought idly as he twirled the pencil between his fingers. He was supposed to be studying the proposal on the new Highland Towers acquisition, but his concentration was off. Not like it had been *on* any time in the last three weeks... Xander shrugged.
"Xander, perhaps you should call it a day," Wesley suggested, his eyes concerned. "You don't look as if you've been sleeping well. Is everything all right?"
"Sure," Xander gave a half-hearted smile. "Why wouldn't everything be all right?"
Wesley didn't look convinced. "Is it Spike?"
"Spike? Why would you ask if it was Spike?" Xander cringed as his voice squeaked.
"I... " Wesley raised a brow at Xander's odd behavior. "I just assumed that perhaps he hadn't yet fully healed and you were worried."
"Oh." Xander shook his head. "No, yeah, he's fine."
"Xander, maybe I can help if you tell me what the problem is," Wesley offered, closing the text he'd been studying.
"I don't think you want to hear about *this* problem, Wes, but thanks."
"I may be a more sympathetic ear than you know, Xander."
Xander sighed and turned away. He really had no one else to talk to. It wasn't as if he could call Buffy or Willow or even Giles. None of them would understand. They hadn't even understood why Xander had agreed to live with Spike in the first place.
"It's just... I thought Spike and I were friends, you know? But then something... something happened, and I guess we weren't as good friends as I thought we were." Xander felt his cheeks warm as he flushed in embarrassment.
"Something?" Wesley prodded.
"Yeah... while I was taking care of him. Something... something I guess 'just friends' don't do, you know?" Xander could feel the sweat gathering on his brow as he tried to explain without actually giving details.
"Ahhh, I see. And I take it Spike wasn't very receptive?"
"See that's the thing! He *was*." Xander frowned. "And then he wasn't."
"Perhaps he wasn't sure of *your* reception."
Xander mulled that over for a few seconds. "You don't think this is weird, or wrong? Me and Spike, I mean."
It was Wesley's turn to flush and Xander's to raise a brow at the odd behavior.
"No. He does have a soul after all, and he has been helping us fight the good fight, as it were."
Xander wanted to ask Wes what the blush was all about, but figured that now was not the time. He sighed again, Wesley's encouragement having done nothing to actually make him feel better. "I think maybe I should just move out."
"Is that what you want?" Wesley asked skeptically.
Xander shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck. "No."
"'Ello?" Spike rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he answered the blaringly loud phone.
"Spike, get your head out of your ass or one or both of you are going to end up dead."
"What the hell are you on about, peaches?"
"Whatever is going on between you and Xander needs to get worked out. I saw how close you came to losing your head last night," Angel snarled. "And I don't need either one of you distracted when we're taking on a group of Yerna demons. You could both be dead right now."
"Get off your fucking high horse, Angel. We're both fine. And if there's a bloody problem between us then it's between *us*. Don't go sticking your fat gob in where it doesn't belong," Spike growled back.
"Just take care of it," Angel said before clicking off.
Spike gripped the phone so hard he heard the case crack. "Rat bastard. Thinks he knows everything about everything. He doesn't know jack shit." Spike threw the covers off and made his way to the bathroom for a hot shower.
Though Angel was an ass, Spike had to grudgingly concede, to himself at least, that there had been a spot of trouble last night. Spike had been watching Xander, who'd seemed distracted and clumsy the last few weeks. It was almost as if he were reverting to his old self. So, instead of watching his own back, Spike had been too intent on Xander's and had nearly gotten himself dusted.
Maybe it was time to talk to the boy. The ignorance and denial gig didn't seem to be working out as well as Spike had hoped.
"Well, I thought you'd be a tad more subtle than that," Wesley said softly as Angel hung up the phone.
"You've met Spike, right?" Angel answered. "Subtle doesn't exactly work on him."
Wesley sighed. "I suppose you're right."
Angel pulled him into a tight embrace. "Don't worry, it'll all work out."
"I just hate to see them both so unhappy," Wesley admitted. "It's obvious they care for one another."
"I'll give Spike that. He's good at the caring. It seemed like he loved Dru forever. And he was completely devoted." Angel remembered the way Spike doted over his Dark Princess.
"Do you think he truly cares for Xander, then?"
"I hope so."
"Me, too, love," Wesley sighed. "Me, too."
Spike was waiting for Xander when he got home. The conversation with Angel had done more than just piss him off. It had made him think about Xander and whatever it was that was going on between them. He'd ordered some Chinese delivery and had waited in the dark living room while trying to decide what it was he was going to say. And what it was he really wanted.
He still hadn't made up his mind when the door finally opened.
But instead of any of the words that had been milling around in his head all day, all he managed to blurt out was -- "What the bloody fuck happened to you?"
"Nothing." Xander tossed his keys on the dining room table and headed to the kitchen for a beer and an ice pack.
Spike clenched his fists at his side, fighting the urge to go out and pummel whatever had bruised Xander's one good eye and split his lip. "At least tell me you killed it," he said through gritted teeth.
"Couldn't," Xander said, plopping down on the living room couch and taking a long swig of his beer. "They were human."
"And what the fuck were you doing fighting humans?" Spike asked, irritated as he took a seat next to Xander. He had to fight to keep from reaching out and checking Xander's wounds for himself.
"Spike," Xander sighed heavily. He held his beer between his thighs as he leaned back, closed his eye and placed the ice pack on top of it. "I'm really not in the mood to fight tonight."
Xander in fact, hadn't even been sure he wanted to come home. After his talk with Wesley he'd spent the last few hours out walking. Trying to think things through, and figure out what the hell he was doing. The only thing he'd figured out in the last few hours was that like always he'd somehow screwed everything up again. And that he was dreaming if he didn't think things were always going to be awkward and messed up and wrong if he stayed.
Spike stared at Xander's defeated slump, the sound of his quiet plea for peace echoing in the room. Giving in, he reached out and took the ice pack from Xander's hand. "Let me see, luv," Spike said when Xander began to stir. Xander didn't argue; he just fell back against the cushions, his rapidly swelling eye still closed. Spike tugged at the eye patch, relieving Xander of that accessory as he studied the black eye he was sporting. "Tell me what happened."
"It was just a couple of drunks," Xander finally answered. "They were hassling this woman. A waitress, I think. It was just outside this coffee shop, in the alley next door. I thought they were vamps at first, but no, they were just assholes."
"And you had to wade in like a bloody white knight," Spike said softly, matter-of-factly.
"Well, yeah. What did you want me to do? Just walk on by while she shouted for help?" Xander sat up, his gaze tired, beaten.
"It would've saved you the split lip at least," Spike said quietly, careful as he fingered the cut, trying to ignore the surge of need the scent of Xander's blood sent spiraling through him.
Xander pushed him away. "Look, I know I'm not the first guy people run to when they need a hero, but I can hold my own," he said angrily, a little hurt. "You should see the other guys."
"I don't doubt it, luv," Spike said, pushing Xander back into the couch. "And I never said that. Stay still will you?" He frowned. "Don't move. I'm just gonna get the bloody kit."
"It's not that bad!" Xander called after him, but Spike only grumbled something back and Xander sat still as ordered, waiting.
Spike brought the first aid kit and a clean wet cloth. He wiped at Xander's lip, ignoring the hiss of pain as the cold cloth swabbed over the clotted blood. He took pains to clean and disinfect the cut, inspecting it until he was satisfied that it wouldn't need stitches or any other medical care.
Xander let Spike fuss over him. A part of him liked the attention. Liked thinking that Spike cared enough to fuss. But the other part hated that before their "fight" Xander wouldn't have thought twice about letting Spike do this. That neither one of them would have seen anything wrong or extraordinary about taking care of each other. They'd just done it. Now Xander found himself questioning everything, wondering what every gesture and word meant. He hated it.
"You aren't going to be able to eat the sweet and sour I got for you, that's for sure," Spike murmured. "Maybe the egg drop soup, though."
It was then that Xander noticed the cartons of food on the coffee table. Realized that Spike had gotten them dinner. Something they hadn't had together in at least three weeks. He wondered what it meant, and then suddenly realized how exhausted he felt. Right down to his very bones. He didn't want to do this anymore.
"How's your eye?"
Xander mumbled something like "Fine" and Spike nodded.
They ate in relative silence. Spike heated a bowl of egg drop soup for Xander and grabbed a carton of chow mein for himself. Xander winced each time his cut lip was stretched and gave up after a couple of spoonfuls.
Spike looked as if he was about to say something, but Xander cut him off. "I'm sorry, Spike." He shook his head and stared out the glass patio doors at what little bit of night sky he could see. "For messing things up. Ruining whatever... whatever friendship we had going." He sighed heavily, resisting the urge to rub his suddenly dry eye. "I didn't mean to and I'm sorry."
He turned back to face Spike who was staring at him as if he had no idea what to say. "I wish things could go back to the way they were, but I know they can't. Things are awkward and weird and... and *wrong*. And I can't do this anymore." He stood, wiping his sweaty palms on the leg of his jeans. "I'm moving out at the end of the month. Maybe we can... start over. You know, if you want. Later."
And then he was gone and Spike was left sitting alone in the dark room, a carton of cold chow mein in his hand.
Spike refused to believe that Xander was actually leaving. For the next two days neither of them said a word about it, and they continued on as if nothing had happened. Or at least, as if nothing besides their one life-changing night had happened. Spike assumed, wrongly, that Xander had changed his mind, or had otherwise regretted his hasty announcement.
Then one night he came home to find Xander in the living room boxing up some books.
"What are you doing?" Spike asked stupidly, still unable to believe that Xander was moving out even with the evidence in front of him.
Xander looked up with a frown. "I'm packing."
"I can see that, but why?" Spike asked, not realizing that Xander had never actually *said* he'd changed his mind.
"I..." Xander stood looking confused. "Spike, I told you. I'm moving out. I... I found a decent place, too. It's not too far. I've already put the application in."
"But you weren't serious," Spike said, almost to himself.
"Spike." Xander took a step forward and then stopped. "I *am* serious. I want... I want to be friends again. And it didn't seem like... like that was going to happen if I stayed."
"But you think it's going to bloody well happen if you leave?" Spike said, incredulous and a little angry.
"I didn't know what else to do!" Xander shouted back, throwing up his hands in defeat.
"Fine!" Spike yelled, grabbing his duster. "Leave! Good fucking riddance!" And then he stormed out the door.
Xander winced as the door slammed. "I'm sorry," he said to himself.
Spike prowled the streets looking for something to kill. He was livid. He didn't care that Xander had warned him, or that he should have known it was coming. Xander was leaving.
This is what he'd tried to avoid. This is why he hated change.
Xander was leaving and Spike was going to be alone again. Not only that... Xander wasn't just moving out. He was moving out of Spike's life.
Spike didn't have any illusions about what would happen once Xander was gone. They wouldn't go back to being friends. There wasn't any going back now. They probably wouldn't ever see each other again unless Angel called them both in together.
He turned down an alley and snarled at the sight of another vampire. He strode ahead purposefully, pulling him off his victim and growling at her to run. He waited until she scrambled away and then he attacked, taking his time. He needed to release all the pent up energy that had been growing inside him since the day he'd woken up to Xander's taste on his tongue.
Spike threw the vampire against the wall, smirking in satisfaction when he heard bones breaking.
"You're gonna pay for that." Spike laughed at the threat and waited for him to make a move. When he did, Spike side-stepped the punch and grabbed his wrist, twisting until he heard the satisfying pop that meant he'd pulled the bones free. The vampire howled in pain, and dropped to his knees. Then he ran.
Spike gave him a five minute head start before following.
By the time Spike got home he was bloodied and exhausted. He took a cursory shower, paused for a few seconds outside Xander's door and then headed through his own. The boxes were still in the living room, one or two filled and already sealed shut.
He regretted the shouting match they'd had earlier, but knew it was too late to take the words back. He lay in bed, wide awake as he listened to Xander's breathing through the thin wall that separated their rooms.
He tensed as he heard the hitch in breath that meant Xander's nightmare was beginning. He hated it, knowing Xander was suffering and not being able to help. He knew what the memories were like, how real the dreams could be.
Listening to the familiar sounds of Xander's waking and restless walking, Spike wished he could go back in time and say something else. Take back whatever it was that had caused the rift between them after Xander had... had practically *given* himself to Spike.
He heard the water running in the kitchen and knew Xander was taking his customary glass of water back to his room. He waited, listening as the boy tossed and turned beneath the covers, trying to go back to sleep when Spike knew he would be unable.
He still couldn't believe that Xander was leaving. Even though he hated it now, having Xander here and being unable to help, how much more would he hate not even knowing that Xander was in trouble? Spike knew that he had a horribly obsessive tendency to latch onto people. To find someone to care about and then do everything in his power to actually care *for* them. He'd tried with everything in him to avoid that trap with Xander, but it looked like he'd fallen in it without even knowing it.
He didn't want Xander to go, but now he wasn't sure how he was supposed tell him that.
Spike threw the covers off and pulled on a pair of shorts as he sat on the edge of his bed. He listened to Xander toss one more time then making up his mind he stood, swiping at his face with an open palm as he made his way into the hall. He waited just outside Xander's door and listened with his hand on the door knob.
When only silence greeted him, he knocked softly and entered without waiting for an invitation. Xander looked up, confusion and exhaustion written across the lines of his face. 'Spike? W-what's wrong?'
"I --" Now that he was here, Spike wasn't sure what to say. He stared down at his feet, running all the words through his head that might make Xander stay. "I... I have nightmares, too."
It was on the tip of Xander's tongue to say that he knew that already, but he refrained. He watched Spike fidgeting in front of him, wondering what the lost look on his face meant. "Did you have one tonight?" he said instead.
Spike breathed a sigh of relief. And even though it was a blatant lie, one which he suspected Xander knew, Spike nodded. Then he looked up, almost imploringly toward Xander and the bed.
And without a word Xander threw back the covers and waited for Spike to slip in beside him.
Tentatively, Xander wrapped his arm around Spike's middle and pulled him close; his back to Xander's front. A reverse of their normal mode of sleep after one of Xander's nightmares. He wasn't sure exactly what Spike wanted or needed, but he wanted to let Spike know that he would comfort him no matter what fight they were in the middle of. A part of him wondered whether this was all some elaborate scheme on Spike's part to show him he didn't have to leave, or something. But then the other part laughed at his own sense of self importance. Did he really think that Spike would go to all this trouble to keep him from moving out? Enough to admit vulnerability to someone like him?
"Do you want to talk about it?" Xander asked.
Spike shook his head and they both grew silent once more.
Xander closed his eyes and tried to relax enough to go back to sleep. But having Spike in his arms, having Spike in his bed, had made that almost impossible. He could still remember the feel of Spike rubbing against him, the sound of his voice as he cried out and came in Xander's arms. He shifted a little, just enough to keep Spike from detecting his unwanted arousal.
What seemed like at least an hour later, when Xander thought Spike might actually have fallen back to sleep, the sound of Spike's voice made Xander jerk against him. "Don't go."
"I lied," Spike admitted, swallowing against a dry throat. "I didn't use you just to get my rocks off. I... don't go," he said again.
"What are you saying?" Xander asked, shifting up onto an elbow so that he could look down at Spike.
"Do I have to bloody spell it out for you?" Spike's voice was irritated but Xander could see the nervousness coming off him in waves. "I don't want you to move out. I... I care about you, and I don't want you to go."
"Why... why did you say those things? Why have you been avoiding me?" Xander asked, confused but hopeful.
"I think it's more like we've been avoiding each other, luv," Spike said and then sighed. "I was afraid. I knew things were changing and... and I don't seem to be the kind of bloke that gets to have what he wants. Not for very long, anyway. I didn't want to lose this. Lose you," he admitted, turning his face away so that Xander wouldn't see how much it took him to say the words aloud. "But you're leaving anyway."
The quiet words left Xander aching. They sounded... lost and a little desperate. "I won't," he said immediately. "Not if you don't want me to."
Spike looked back up at him then. "I don't."
"Okay, then. I'll stay," Xander reiterated.
Spike turned to him then, closer, nuzzling his face against Xander's neck. "Spike? What... what are we doing?"
"Tell me to stop, Xan, and I will," Spike murmured, lips moving over Xander's sensitive flesh.
"I... no." Xander's arms banded around Spike and pulled him even closer. "No, don't stop."
Spike groaned at that and shifted so that he could look Xander in the eye. He leaned forward slowly, letting Xander know that he could stop Spike at any time. But he didn't. And then their lips were touching, soft and sweet and so hesitant that it made them both ache just a little. Spike ran his hands through Xander's hair, cupping the back of his head to hold him in place. He deepened the kiss, tasting Xander's mouth for the first time, taking his time as he explored every inch of gums and teeth and tongue.
"Spike." Xander pushed at Spike's shorts, wanting to feel soft silky skin and hard jutting flesh.
Spike didn't waste time complying and then reaching for Xander's shorts. Then naked, they came together again. Xander's fingers encircled his cock and Spike threw his head back against the pillows as his body arched toward the hot hand. For almost a year now he'd wanted Xander touching him like this, just there, and now the reality of it was driving him insane.
He growled and flipped Xander onto his back, settling himself between thick, muscled thighs. Xander was hard against him, pulsing shaft sliding roughly against his own. "Xan," Spike croaked the name, his voice deserting him. "Want this, want you." The words were jumbled, but he wasn't thinking straight. He'd lost the ability to think much beyond the need to pleasure them both.
Spike thrust against Xander, their cocks moving in rhythm against each other. "Yes, please, Spike," Xander responded, hands gripping Spike's hips and urging him on.
Xander wanted so much more. Wanted Spike inside him, surrounding him. But they were both too aroused, too needy to do more than push themselves over the edge as fast as humanly possible. And Xander thought, or at least hoped, that they'd have time for that later. Time for more and everything and all that Xander *really* wanted from Spike.
Xander shuddered as Spike buried his face against the column of his throat. His body erupted in goose bumps as he considered what it was he offered as he tilted his head back. Spike growled and tried to pull away, but Xander held him in place. "*Please*."
That one whispered word and Spike was lost. He vamped and scraped his fangs against the heated flesh of Xander's neck. Slowly, carefully he let just the tip of them break skin. Blood beaded immediately to the surface and he licked at the incredibly spicy essence of his lover.
Spike snapped his hips against Xander's -- faster, harder -- until they were both incoherent with lust. Xander came first, his body convulsing beneath Spike's as he moaned his name. Two, three more thrusts and Spike followed, jerking as he spent himself between them.
Long minutes after Spike could feel Xander tensing and pulling away. Swallowing against his own nervousness, Spike gripped Xander around the waist and pulled him back. "No." Then silence hung between them until Spike finally spoke again, eyes trained on Xander's. "Don't leave me, luv." Just a whisper, but Xander heard and understood the double meaning.
"I won't," he answered both pleas, finally relaxing in Spike's arms.
Sleepy and sated, Spike tucked the blankets more firmly around them both before giving Xander another soft kiss. "Sweet dreams, luv."
"You, too." Xander let himself burrow further into Spike's embrace before shutting his eyes and giving in to exhaustion.
*Six Months Later*
Xander woke with a start, his heart hammering in his chest. He reached out a hand to feel the bed cold and empty beside him. The lingering pain of the dream left his empty eye socket tingling and he threw the covers off and stood. He shivered as the cool night air enveloped him and he tried to blink away the rest of the dream.
When that didn't work he made his way to the kitchen and gulped down a glass of water. He hated that dream. Hated how it left him feeling. How he couldn't seem to shake it on his own.
He rinsed out his glass and placed it in the dishwasher, then stared at the closed door at the end of the hall. Sighing reluctantly he made his way toward it and paused. He knocked softly but didn't wait for an answer before letting himself in.
Spike blinked sleepy eyes up at him, making Xander smile.
"'Nother nightmare, luv?" Spike stood immediately when Xander nodded and made his way to his lover's side. "Been a while since you've had one. You all right?"
He could hear the concern in Spike's voice and as always, it warmed him and banished the last of the nightmare from his mind. Xander leaned his head against Spike's when the vampire embraced him, closing his eyes and inhaling the scent of leather and smoke. "Come to bed?"
"'Course, Xan." Spike answered immediately, dropping a kiss on Xander's temple before pulling away to shut down for the night.
Xander watched as Spike moved around the room, shutting down the computer and turning off the desk lamp. He looked around and marveled at how much the room had changed in the last six months. Gone were Spike's old bed and his bureau. They'd changed the room into a study when Spike had moved in next door with Xander. He shook his head as he thought about how close he'd come to losing this all when he'd thought that running away was the best plan.
Xander couldn't imagine what his life would be like now if Spike hadn't decided to ask him to stay. He was glad that there was no reason for him to even think about it.
"What's got that doofy grin on you're face, luv?" Spike asked when he returned to Xander's side.
"You." Xander smiled.
"Dozy git." Spike shook his head, but smiled back as he took Xander's hand and led him back toward their bedroom.
Xander only laughed and followed.