Spike took a break after installing the new starter, tightening the brakes and replacing the alternator, distributor, plugs, plug wires and valve cover gasket. The car wasn’t done yet, not by a long shot, but everything that might imminently break down was fixed. Good thing, too, because auto repairs had taken up all morning and a bit of the afternoon, and Xander would be home in a couple of hours, and Spike still had phone calls to make.


The first one was easy. The secretary answered on the second ring.


“Law Firm of Brumwalt & Keppelhorn,” she said. “How may I help you?”


“Let me talk to B, Pet,” Spike told her. “Tell ‘im it’s William.”


“Just a moment, please.” It was, in fact, a very brief moment before Spike heard the Thrilk demon’s smooth voice.


“Brumwalt,” he said. “Good afternoon, sir. Ready for an update on your case?”


“Yeah.” Spike tossed a towel over the chair so he wouldn’t get motor oil on it, then made himself comfortable. “What’d you think?”


“Easier than finding fur on a werewolf. I forwarded your offer via courier first thing this morning.” Brumwalt chuckled. “Do you actually know the mortal’s blood and the father’s fingerprints are on the pool cue and the belt?”


“Blood, yes,” Spike said, shrugging. He could smell it when he’d stolen the cue and the belt – handy thing, having a pre-existing invite to the house. He’d had no difficulty picking out the particular pool cue; it was still lying across the pool table, and even if it had been on the rack, the scent of Xander’s blood had been plain on it. The smell of the father’s boozy sweat had been equally plain, but he couldn’t vouch for fingerprints. If he’d wanted to bother, he could’ve had plenty more evidence – the pool table, for example, and the carpet nearby. “Doesn’t matter, does it? What matters is he thinks we know for a fact.”


“True. And the photographs you sent are excellent under the circumstances. I have a feeling we’ll have the settlement on my desk tomorrow, possibly tonight. Although I think your demand should’ve been higher, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir.”


“That was fast,” Spike said, ignoring the last statement.


“I gave it top priority, of course, Master Spike. I’ll call the attorney this afternoon and give him a push, say it’s a short-time-only offer. As soon as I have a settlement, I’ll have a messenger bring it over, if you wish.”


“Yeah, that’ll do,” Spike said, grinning.


Spike wasn’t nearly as eager to make the second call. He stalled for a long time, pacing up and down, deliberating. He’d talked himself into it – and out of it – a dozen times before he finally picked up the phone, muttering, “Oh, bloody hell,” and dialed. It took several rings before it was answered.


“Angel Investigations, Cordelia speaking.”


“Ummm, yeah. Can I speak to Angel, please.”


Cordelia sounded bored, which meant, Spike supposed, that she hadn’t recognized his voice.


“Who should I say?”


“Tell him William Barstow, please.”


“Hold on.”


A moment later Cordelia came back on.


“I’m switching you to his phone,” she said. “If I can figure this thing out. If you get cut off, call back, okay?”


“Right.” Spike braced himself. A moment and several clicks later, one quiet word.




That tone said it all. Flat, emotionless, not angry. He didn’t even merit anger. Right. State your business and bugger off.


“Won’t keep you,” he said, just as quietly. “I want my stuff, the stuff you had stored – if you haven’t done something with it, I mean. And access to my accounts.”


A long pause.


“You’ve got a hell of a nerve, Will,” Angel said in that same measured tone. “Giles tells me you’re living in my building.”


“Yeah, well – “ Spike grimaced. “If I had the money, I’d buy it off you. Look, Angel, I don’t care what you think of me – “


“Yes, you do.”


That flat, matter-of-fact tone again. Spike swallowed, closing his eyes briefly.


“All right, I do,” he admitted. “But this isn’t about me. It’s for Xander.”


“Xander?” This time Angel’s tone changed, sharpened. “Xander Harris? What about him? Is he all right?”


“He’s all right – now,” Spike said hesitantly. How much should he tell Angel? No matter what subset of the truth he told, Angel would know he was holding back. “Look, Angel, it’s not my secret to tell. Long and short of it is, he’s living here, he’s broke and unemployed, and I need to pay a lawyer.”


“A lawyer?” Now Angel’s voice was really sharp. “Who?”


Spike sighed.


“Brumwalt,” he admitted. Letting Angel find out that he’d hired Brumwalt told Angel that Spike thought the matter was urgent enough to pay the Thrilk demon’s exorbitant fees – but aboveboard enough to be handled through the human judicial system.


Another long silence. When Angel spoke, his voice had softened slightly. Not much, but enough to let Spike know that forgiveness, while still only a remote possibility, wasn’t completely out of the question.


“Your belongings are at Millenium Self Storage in Sunnydale,” he said. “I’ll FedEx everything you need for your accounts, plus the key card to the storage unit. You’ll have them tomorrow before sunset.”


Spike swallowed.


“Thanks,” he said quietly. “Angel, I – “


“Shut up, Spike,” Angel said, his voice hard again. “I don’t want to hear it. And I heard about the chip. Don’t show up on my doorstep expecting my help with that.”


Spike grinned. The very fact that Angel was giving him this lecture – well, it was good enough for him.


“Thanks,” Spike said again.


“Fuck you, Will,” Angel said coldly.


“Could happen,” Spike said cheerfully, hanging up on Angel. Suddenly the day seemed much nicer, darker and less sun-drenched, and who knew, maybe they’d even get a storm later on.


Right; enough serious business for one day. Spike rewarded himself with a lengthy tub bath. He’d timed it pretty precisely; Xander went in to work early, at 6:30, and he got off early too, at 3:30. It wasn’t all that far, but since Spike had been working on the car, he’d have to walk home, which would put him coming in the door right about –




“In here, Pet,” Spike called back, smirking. He’d left the bathroom door open on purpose. This time, however, Xander apparently had no compunctions about peeking in. His eyebrows shot up when he saw Spike in the tub.


“You and that tub,” Xander said, grinning. “And here I was hoping for a shower. I’m grimy.”


“Achy too, I’ll wager,” Spike said sympathetically, noting Xander’s stiff posture. “Come on and join me, eh, Pet? Nice hot soak’ll do wonders, and I’ll trot out the liniment after, give you a good rub.”


“I’m sure there was a double entendre in there somewhere,” Xander said, sighing, “but I’m too tired to care. Make room, I’m coming in.”


Spike drained out a little of the water and added more hot water, scooted back and made room for Xander to sit down between his legs, his back to the vampire. Spike coaxed Xander to sit back against his chest, and he picked up the sponge, washing Xander slowly.


“Mmmmm, that feels good,” Xander sighed, laying his head back against Spike’s shoulder, his eyes closed. Spike tried resolutely to ignore the beautiful length of Xander’s neck, bared and arched by his position. Definitely a vampiric ‘take me, I’m yours’ pose. Of course, Xander didn’t know that.


“Warm,” Xander said sleepily, confusing the hell out of Spike.


“What, the bath?” Spike asked, momentarily distracted from his inspection of Xander’s neck.


“No, you,” Xander murmured. “First time I’ve ever touched a warm vampire.”


“Oh.” Spike grinned. “Like that, do you?”


Xander considered briefly.


“Nope,” he said at last, shaking his head.


“No?” Spike raised his eyebrows. “Thought you’d like it.”


Xander opened his eyes slightly, turning his head to look at Spike.


“Nope,” he said again, shyly. “Because . . . it doesn’t feel like you.”


Touched, Spike kissed the side of Xander’s throat chastely, sternly denying the temptation to nibble just a bit.


“Well, it is me, or used to be, anyway,” he said thoughtfully. “I mean, I wasn’t always a vampire, y’know.”


“Yeah, Buffy told us about it,” Xander said hesitantly. “She said you were a poet, you know, before.”


“Mmm.” Spike waggled his hand. “Sort of. Wasn’t a very good poet, I’ve got to admit.”


Xander half turned, looking at Spike over his shoulder.


“And your hair wasn’t – “ He blushed. “I mean – “


“You mean is it a bottle job?” Spike smirked. “Yep, ‘fraid so.”


“Why?” Xander asked directly. “I mean, why bleach your hair like that?”


Spike shrugged.


“Dunno, Pet,” he said. “Guess I just wanted to look different. Why, don’t you like it?” To his disgust, he actually cared.


Xander grinned.


“Yeah, I do,” he said. “The whole vampire punk leather look works for you. Kind of goes with the whole attitude thing.” Then he raised his eyebrows. “But you don’t sound much like a poet.”


Spike shrugged uncomfortably.


“Guess not.”


“Is that on purpose too?” Xander asked, with one of those uncanny flashes of insight that always unnerved Spike.


“Guess so,” Spike said shortly.


Xander frowned slightly, then turned back around and sat back against Spike again.


“Sore subject, huh?” he said quietly.


Spike sighed. If there was one person in Sunnydale who undoubtedly understood peer ridicule, it was Xander Harris.


“Got tired of people sneering at me, I guess,” he said. “Just wanted to be somebody else. Somebody respected, feared. After all, a nancy-boy poet don’t make much of a vampire. Hanging about with Angelus, you learned to toughen up fast. Or else.”


“Dru didn’t,” Xander pointed out, purring as Spike ran the sponge over his skin.


“Dru was mad,” Spike said, chuckling. “And that amused Angelus. Amusing Angelus and Darla was almost as good as impressing them. Problem is, I’d been amusing people too long. Didn’t want to go that route anymore. ‘Sides, Dru had visions – real visions, I mean, scattered in with all her wonky imaginings. A few times those visions saved us. So Angelus and even Darla respected her for that, a bit.” Spike finished washing Xander. “Ready to get out? I’m wrinkling up. Got a TV dinner in the oven for you.”


“Sure. Thanks.”


Spike enjoyed this era almost as much as he enjoyed the unfamiliar sensation of having a male roommate with whom he stood on fairly equal ground. They could lounge around in boxers, with (Spike) or without (Xander) a robe, eat TV dinners at the kitchen table with their feet up on the chairs across from them, and Xander didn’t make a fuss if Spike put little marshmallows in his cup of blood. Spike sipped sweet blood, picked at a piece of Swanson’s fried chicken, and stared at a mostly-naked Xander, deeply content.


“Spike?” Xander glanced at him, caught Spike ogling him, and grinned even as he blushed. “Would you – tell me about, you know, before you got vamped?”


Spike grimaced. He didn’t like to think much about his mortal life, probably because there weren’t many good memories. Angel might wax nostalgic about his breathing days, but Spike thought his undeath was a vast improvement over his life.


“If you want,” he said, forcing a casual tone. “Nothing much to tell, really. At least nothing interesting or nice.”


“I’d like to know,” Xander said, gazing down into his TV dinner as if it vastly interested him. “I mean, if you don’t mind. All we ever heard from Buffy was, you know, the ‘relevant to Slayers’ part.”


Spike shrugged and fetched himself a bottle of stout from the refrigerator. He glanced at Xander, raising his eyebrows, and received a nod. He opened both bottles and pushed one over to Xander, sitting back down.


“Never knew my father,” Spike said without preamble. “Mum said it was William Barstow, even named me for ‘im, but I doubt it. She just said that ‘cause she’d been his mistress for a year when she got her belly up, and he had money and kept her in a little flat of her own, and the idea that I was his meant he’d do the right thing and take care of us. Didn’t look nothing like him, me, but he didn’t make nothing of it, probably ‘cause Mum might make a scandal with his wife. She was a real looker, Mum was, and that was enough to get her by most times. She’d traded up to Barstow from a solicitor who probably had as much money but wanted more of her time. Barstow paid for the flat, gave her money for food and nice clothes and stuff for me later on, and only bothered her once a week or so. Best of all, he put me in public school, which got me out of Mum’s way most of the year. And that suited Mum too, ‘cause there was lots of things Barstow didn’t know nothing about.”


Xander nodded, his eyes on Spike’s, but said nothing.


“Mum had some bad habits,” Spike said, shrugging. “Champagne and soda was the genteel one – all the ladies did that. Cocaine too. Got to remember, in those days you could nip down to the chemist’s for all the cocaine you might want. Absinthe, that was fashionable, even. Nobody thought nothing of it. Opium, though, that was the secret one. Opium was a poor man’s vice. Stank of wharves and gutters and Chinese sailors. And it cost, too. Barstow never knew that most of the money he gave Mum went into her pipe.


“And there was Mum’s other addiction. Men. She wasn’t nearly as particular as she could’ve been. Never met a kid with so many ‘uncles’ as I had. New one every night, most times. She weren’t exactly a whore ‘cause she didn’t mostly get money, just gifts and trinkets and the like. If there was something worth selling, she’d have me sell it, and that’s when I could put back a shilling or two for food, if I was lucky. Mum didn’t care much for food if her pipe was full. Odd life, it was – sleeping on silken sheets with an empty belly most nights, listening to Mum and her latest gent, staying out of the way as best I could. Reading was my escape, mostly.


“Then school. Got to remember, what we called public school is what you Yanks’d call a private school, a live-in boys’ school. Only these days no school in America could get by with the likes of what went on in our public schools. Children, even rich men’s children, were basically property in those days. Schools were there to turn out presentable little lordlings by whatever means worked fastest and easiest. A headmaster could bugger a pupil or flog ‘im or horsewhip ‘im, came to that. Bigger pupils beat the smaller ones, or buggered ‘em, or both. Rather like a pack of vampires,” Spike said, surprised at the realization. “The tough got tougher, and the weak got eaten up.”


Spike nearly jumped out of his skin at the unexpected sensation of warm fingers clasping his. He glanced up, startled, and met the warm brown of Xander’s eyes. Xander didn’t ask, but Spike felt the silent question anyway.


“Oh, I was a bit of a nancy-boy in those days,” Spike said, grimacing. “Daydreamy and thin and quiet. So I qualified as weak. It pretty much got around the school that I was a bastard, too, and that didn’t help none. I was too spineless to make trouble, so the headmasters left me more or less alone – a few canings and the like, but nothing worse – but that just made me all the more target for the other boys. Wasn’t a nice time, we’ll just leave it at that. I used to dream about being the biggest and baddest of the lot, tough enough to make ‘em all sorry they ever messed with me, but it was just a dream.”


Xander nodded quietly. Spike didn’t know what he’d do if he saw pity in those brown eyes, but thankfully there was none, only understanding.


“Mum died before I finished,” Spike said indifferently. “Dunno if it was the opium finally got ‘er or what; I just got a letter at school from Barstow. He paid up till the end of term, got me a job as a junior clerk in a solicitor’s office, and I was on me own after that. So I scraped by, or nearly, and wrote bad poems, and one day I saw a beautiful lady named Cecily and fell head over heels like a right dimwit, and you know the rest.”


Xander didn’t press for more details; he simply got up, pulled out another bottle of stout, opened it, and placed it in Spike’s hand to replace the empty bottle there.


“That’s sad,” Xander said. “I mean, you know, that you hated who you were so badly that you kind of became your own alter ego.”


Spike shrugged uncomfortably.


“Well, Pet, I’m happier now than ever I was then, so guess I did something right,” he said. “Never seemed to have a lark back then.” He grinned. “Never seemed to get my end down, either. Can’t say that was ever a problem after I met Dru. Until lately, that is.”


“Hey, speaking of that – “ Xander gave him a sly look. “I seem to remember something about liniment and rubdowns.”


Spike raised an eyebrow. For a moment he thought Xander was just trying to cheer him up after his maudlin little trip down memory lane, but Xander’s eyes showed more than a casual interest. Love those teenage hormones.


“Come to think of it, I do seem to recall something about that myself,” Spike said, grinning. “You up to collecting?”


“Oh . . . I think so,” Xander said, grinning back. Spike led the way to the bedroom, and Xander dropped his boxers with suspiciously teasing slowness, giving Spike a sultry look over his shoulder as he stretched out on his belly on the black sheets.


Spike licked his lips, glancing at his latest acquisition on the nightstand – a digital camera. As soon as he got access to his accounts, he’d buy a computer and have Red show him how to work the bloody thing. In the meantime, though –


“Can I take a pic, luv?” he asked.


Xander chuckled.


“You and your pictures,” he said good-naturedly. “Haven’t you got everything already?”


“That was on the Polaroid,” Spike argued. “’Sides, I only got the front that time.” He didn’t say that he’d wanted to wait until the bruises had faded from Xander’s back and arse. After the few small doses of Spike’s blood (and possibly some help from the liniment, who knew?), the bruising was gone now, and Xander made an image of unequalled beauty against the black sheets. Taking Xander’s lack of denial as good enough, he grabbed the camera, took a moment to figure it out, and shot several pictures. Xander grinned saucily over his shoulder and struck several poses, and after filling up the camera’s memory with photos, Spike hastily put the camera down, pulled his boxers off, and grabbed the liniment.


“Tell me where it hurts,” he suggested, straddling Xander’s hips and rubbing the liniment over the back of Xander’s neck and shoulders.


“Uh-uh,” Xander negated, sighing as Spike’s fingers dug into his muscles.


“No?” Spike said. “Why not?”


“’Cause I want you to rub – uhhhhh! That’s grrrrreat! – everywhere.”


Spike grinned.


Everywhere?” he said suggestively.


“Um – “ Spike felt a sudden nervous tension in the muscles under him. “How about I give you a provisional ‘everywhere’ with option to veto?”


“Works for me, Pet,” Spike said easily. Silently, however, he promised himself he was damned well at least going to get privacy for a wank today, if Xander didn’t feel up to anything more. His bollocks couldn’t take much more of this halfway-there crap.


“I don’t mean to tease,” Xander said suddenly, apropos of nothing, and Spike paused momentarily. Damn. He’d forgotten that just as the growing bond between them allowed Spike a kind of insight into Xander’s feelings, it gave Xander a similar hotline to Spike’s feelings.


“’S all right, Pet,” Spike said, working his way down Xander’s back. “You’re doing all right. I’ve got by for months now on less.”


Then he paused again, holding back his game face with difficulty. He’d been distracted by Xander’s naked flesh under his hands, by the gorgeous sight of that ambrosial body. Those distractions had kept him from noticing what the new lack of bruises should have revealed immediately. What his sensitive fingers had only just discovered.




He should have expected them, he supposed. He’d never deluded himself that this latest beating was the only one to draw blood; he doubted this last beating was even the worst Xander had ever had, although he hadn’t asked. But the slender, near-invisible scars under his fingers bore mute testimony to the severity of what Xander had suffered.


“What?” Xander said, raising his head slightly.


“Nothing,” Spike said hurriedly, resuming his massage.


There was a long moment of silence.


“They don’t show much, do they?” Xander asked quietly.


Spike sighed silently.


“Don’t show at all, Pet,” he said. “Didn’t even notice ‘em until now.”


“Anya noticed them,” Xander said, almost idly. “She never asked how I got ‘em.”


Spike bent down and traced his tongue up one long seam. Xander shivered.


“Wish I could heal these,” Spike murmured. “Can’t, though. Here, turn over a minute, Pet.”


Xander rolled over, gazing at Spike quizzically.


“See this?” Spike said, brushing his fingertip over the scar that split his eyebrow. “Got that fighting the Slayer in China during the Boxer rebellion. Damn good fight. Damn good. One of the best fights of me life. Got her, too.”


Xander squirmed.


“Um, I’d say congratulations, but . . . “


Spike smirked.


“Never mind, Pet, I know we don’t see eye to eye on this one. That’s not the point. Point is, some scars are like a trophy. A mark that shows you survived. That you won. Just a reminder every day that you were tougher than whatever made those scars. Yours are like that. They’re there to remind you that you survived, you got away. That whatever your dad thought of you, you’re tough enough to kill a Vorgost. That you can live how you please and fuck who you please and they can’t do a damn thing about it.”


“They’re trying,” Xander said uncertainly.


“And they’ll fail,” Spike said smugly. “Just you wait.”


Xander blinked.


“How do you know?” he said in a small voice.


Spike grinned.


“Told you I’d see to it,” he said. “Who’s the Big Bad, eh? You think your dad’s got anything on William the Bloody, eh?”


“Well – “ Xander smiled slowly. “There is that. I suppose there’s something to be said for having the baddest, toughest roommate in Sunnydale.”


“Roommate?” Spike said, raising one eyebrow.


“Uh – boyfriend?” Xander suggested hesitantly.


Spike considered.


“All right, that’ll do,” he conceded. “Now stop worrying about that piece of shit that put your mum’s belly up, shut your mouth, and close your eyes.”


“Huh?” Xander frowned slightly.


“Close your eyes,” Spike repeated, grabbing the jar of liniment again, “and enjoy.”


Truth to tell, Spike probably enjoyed these massages as much as Xander did. He took full advantage of the opportunity to map out Xander’s body, find all the sweet spots, where and how Xander best liked to be touched. Spike found it both magical and infuriating to see Xander discover these pleasures of his own body too: Magical, because Xander was such an innate hedonist, and Spike so loved those little purring moans Xander made when Spike showed him that wonderful place right behind his scrotum or the amazing sensitivity of the thin skin on the backs of his knees; infuriating because despite all her millenia of experience, Anya the ex-vengeance-demon had, during all her time with Xander, apparently been a hell of a lot more interested in exploring her own erogenous zones than his.


Spike went over Xander’s back again, making sure all the aching muscles were soothed and relaxed. The liniment made his hands feel warm and tingly without burning like some liniment he’d known, and that gave him an idea. At last he rolled Xander over again, straddling his thighs once more, shivering as Xander stretched, grinning with sleepy arousal.


“Somehow I don’t think you have a massage in mind anymore,” the mortal chuckled. His own erection testified that he wasn’t averse to the idea.


“On the contrary, Pet,” Spike smirked. “I plan to give you a rub you’ll never forget.”


He scooped a dab of liniment out of the jar and rubbed it over his own erection first, gasping at the tingling warmth that flowed over his aching flesh. Scooting forward just a bit, just far enough, he scooped out another dollop and liberally anointed Xander’s cock, grinning at the gasp and lurching thrust of Xander’s hips. Immediately Spike gathered both slippery lengths together, making a liniment-greased tunnel of both his hands, and rubbed up and then down, just once.


Xander cried out, shuddering, and Spike echoed his cry as the pleasure of his touch seemed magnified a hundredfold, thousandfold, by the heat and sensitivity the liniment created. He pumped them both together, slowly, drawing out the pleasure as long as he could.


They were both tired – Xander had put in a hard day of construction work, and for Spike this was the middle of his “night” – both needing and wanting the relief of climax more than anything else, so Spike didn’t try to draw it out too long. When he felt Xander’s body tensing, his balls drawing up tight against his body, he intensified his stroke, rubbing the liniment over the drooling heads of both erections. Xander howled, threw his head back, and came, and the sudden slickness of Xander’s hot semen was all Spike needed to lose control, slide into game face and join Xander in climax. Burning for the taste of blood, his fangs aching to slide into flesh, Spike bit savagely into his own lower lip as he pumped out the last delicious thrusts of his pleasure over Xander’s belly, then slumped limply over the mortal’s chest, shaking in the aftermath.


Spike was dimly aware of warm hands moving him over gently, warm dampness cleaning his skin. Warm lips covered his and he opened to them, welcoming the probing tongue that explored his mouth.


Xander drew back, and Spike grinned lazily up into the warm brown eyes. Xander blushed but grinned back.


“You bit yourself again,” he said, one finger tracing Spike’s lower lip.


Spike shrugged.


“Happens,” he said. “You all right, then?”


“Uh-huh.” Xander’s blush deepened. “Think we can get the recipe from Willow for that liniment?”


Spike snickered.


“Oh, I’ll get it, Pet,” he said. “Or you will. Hopefully lots and lots.”


Xander grinned again, then yawned.




“So’m I, Pet,” Spike said. He scooted over on the bed, feeling the sheets. A bit damp with Xander’s sweat, but he didn’t mind that. “Come on, have a bit of a lie down. We’ve got to work out some schedule where we can spend some time, other than you up all night or me up all day, eh?”


“Tomorrow’s Friday,” Xander murmured sleepily against Spike’s shoulder. “Then there’s the whole weekend.”


Spike groaned something he hoped Xander would take as agreement.


“ . . . can take your car tomorrow,” he muttered as he slid into sleep. “Should get you there and home now, at least . . . “


Xander sighed, smiled and closed his eyes.


“Like a man who’s good with his hands,” he breathed, ending on a snore.


If Spike had been awake to hear it, he’d have heartily agreed.


Email: Shadow