Fuck, fuck, fuck! Spike snarled as Xander helped him through the door.
Thanks, not in your condition, Xander said wryly.
Im getting bloody sick of this!
Its your own fault, Xander said. If you didnt insist on taking those things on by yourself
Somebodys got to.
And theres a whole Scooby Gang of somebodies planning to do it later this evening. And of course theres your faithful sidekick, who strangely enough is never allowed to do much more than spectate.
Well, if a hydra can do this to me, Spike growled, What the bleedin ell you think itd do to you? In point of fact Spike didnt want to think what a hydra could do to Xander. Hydra venom couldnt hurt Spike his blood made him immune but what it could do to humans . . . Spike shuddered slightly. Hydra venom killed humans. Slowly. Horribly. Of course, they generally went mad with the pain long before they died.
Guess well never know now, Xander said patiently, settling Spike into the bathtub. Seeing as how its dead, I mean. Yuck. At least no guts hanging out this time, but that arm is definitely broken.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Spike said sullenly. Look, go see whats in the fridge, will you, Pet?
Xander went, and came back looking worried.
Um, Spike? There isnt anything. Nothing.
Huh? Spike shook his head. Thought I had a couple bottles left from those revenants
You had that yesterday, Xander said anxiously. After that fight with the morlocks.
Oh, bloody ell, Spike groaned, remembering. Shit, shit, shit, now what am I
I can go to Giles, Xander offered. But I know that pig blood doesnt help much.
May have to do, Spike said unhappily.
Xander unbuttoned his sleeve.
No! Spike said sharply. Not when Im so hungry, Pet. He forced a calmer tone. Sorry. Just it isnt safe, you know.
I know. Xander flushed. But you need blood. Isnt there something I can do?
Yeah. Get in my wallet, pull out a few hundred quid, and go to Willys place.
Carefully Xander extracted Spikes wallet.
Willys? The bar? he asked.
Yeah. Tell im I sent you for at least five pints of his special reserve. You may have to push a bit; he dont like selling to mortals. Take the cooler with you.
Xander stood there, staring at Spike.
Willy sells blood? What, human blood?
Yeah. Spike grimaced. Look, it isnt what you think, Pet. Ill explain when you get back, but Id rather you hurry, if you dont mind, all right?
. . . right. Xander hurried, taking Spikes wallet with him, but Spike didnt care. He slumped back in the tub and tried to relax, knowing it would probably be close to an hour before Xander returned.
Why the bloody hell was he piling into every battle with every creepy-crawly in Sunnyhell? Sure, it was a lark beating things up, but a hydra? Hed been bloody lucky to come off with nothing more than hellacious bites and scratches and one broken arm. So whyd he dived in like that?
Xander, of course. Why anything, these days? Xander. He didnt give a rats bollocks about the Slayer, but Willow and Tara couldnt seem to keep out of harms way, and Dawn seemed to share Xanders uncanny luck for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they were in danger, Xander would charge right in and get hurt. If they were hurt, Xander would eat himself up with guilt and would throw himself in harms way twice as vigorously the next time. Therefore Spike was stuck with watching out for the Scoobies. Which occasionally meant taking stupid risks, fighting stupid battles, and even getting the snot kicked out of him now and again.
Spike had estimated an hour for Xander to talk Willy into the sale and get home with the blood. In fact it was thirty-six minutes which meant either Xander had been damned persuasive or Willy hadnt had any merchandise available. Spike heard the squeal of tires outside a split second before the door opened. Xander plunked the cooler down on the vanity; his expression was strange, anxious and slightly fearful.
He didnt have any? Spike asked, trying not to panic.
No, I got it, Xander said. He cut open the corner of one plastic packet and handed it to Spike, picking up the cooler again. Go on and drink that, Ill warm the rest up for you.
Spike didnt know what was bothering Xander, but at the moment he wasnt in any condition to ponder the issue too deeply. He gulped down the blood it was slightly cool, but very fresh, and it still had a bit of that precious zing of life left in it. By the time hed finished the first bag, Xander had returned, carrying a big mug of heated blood, and he could hear the microwave in the kitchen warming the next batch.
Drink up, Xander said, watching worriedly as Spike set the mug aside.
Not yet. Spike adjusted his position in the tub. Help me set the arm first. Dont want it to heal up crooked.
This was just a simple break, not nearly as bad as the fracture from the Vorgost fight, and Spike was able to stay conscious and direct Xanders efforts. When that was finished, he found the mug of blood still warm enough and drank up while Xander fetched the next. He drank gratefully, feeling his tissues knit and mend, feeling his body nourished and energized. He sipped the last mug more slowly as Xander cleaned him up.
Ummmm . . . Spike? Xander asked while he worked. You said youd explain how come Willy has human blood for sale.
Oh. That. Spike shrugged uncomfortably. Remember Riley? Theres plenty of mortals wholl sell their blood and glad to do it. Some do it direct, in feeding houses like Riley went to. Not the safest or smartest thing to do theyre banking on a vamps willpower to cut off before they kill their donor.
Smarter donors do it this way, sell blood by the pint. Pays better than selling to a blood bank. If they dont mind hanging about in back of the bar to give fresh in an emergency, pays even better. Spike shrugged again. Thats what special reserve is. The house red goes a lot cheaper. He didnt mention that the house red was often far less scrupulously obtained when someone brought in bottles of human blood to sell, Willy didnt ask any questions as to where it had come from.
Oh. Xander kept working, not meeting Spikes eyes. There were a lot of other vampires in there. A lot. I didnt think I mean, it was daylight outside, and I didnt expect
Shit. Bloody, bloody hell. Spike fought down a groan. I didnt think. Couldve gotten him killed.
Sorry, Pet, I didnt think, Spike said quietly. Willys got an access in his basement from the sewers. I shouldnt have sent you.
No, I was
okay. Xander glanced up, wearing a strange expression on
his face. Ummm . . . some of them started kind of hassling
me, you know? Calling me Renfield and daywalker
and stuff. And then Willy came out from the bar, told them to
leave me alone, that I was your Consort. And they all got real
quiet after that and stopped bothering me.
Oh, bloody hell. Spike sighed.
So are you going to tell me what that was about?
Spike grimaced. He hadnt planned on confronting this particular issue just yet. Apparently rumors had gotten around faster than hed have liked. Probably Lissik.
Well, Pet, its like this remember Renfield in the movie Dracula? He got about in the daytime, sort of took care of Vlads errands while the vampire was stuck underground? he said, waiting until Xander nodded. Well, sometimes vampires have a mortal like that, somebody to protect their lair or take care of their daytime business. Sometimes the vampire feeds on em now and again, sometimes not. Theyre called renfields or daywalkers. Its not a particularly flattering term, Spike admitted.
I kinda figured that, from the way they said it, Xander said wryly. He put down the sponge. Why would anybody want to do that? Take care of a vampire?
Spike gave Xander a pointed look; the mortal flushed.
Uh . . .
All kinds of reasons for a renfield to hang around and do is job, Spike said. Threats to the mortals loved ones. Money. Blackmail. Drugs not usually, though. Power. Protection. The promise that the vampirell turn him one day. All sorts of things.
Uh-huh. Xander looked at Spike searchingly. And what about Consorts? Why did Willy call me that? He swallowed. Does it have something to do with you feeding me your blood?
Wh-what? he asked softly.
Xander glanced down.
Funny how when I pour myself a glass of that V-8 it tastes different, he said. I didnt start wondering until I kissed you that time after youd bitten yourself. It tasted . . . familiar. And then Xander took a deep breath. I did this experiment. I had a bruise I got at work one day. So I came home and rubbed some of that liniment on it. Felt nice, but the bruise didnt go away. I even put more on before I went to bed. The bruise was still there in the morning. Funny thing, though. After you brought me my morning V-8, the bruise went away. Fast. Real fast. Like the way the welts on my back went away. I mean, I watched it fade.
Help me out of the tub, will you, Pet? he said tiredly.
Dont you want He touched his forearm uncertainly.
Not right now, Spike said, mustering a faint grin. Well see what you think about it after we talk, eh?
Well . . . Xander helped Spike out of the tub, but stopped him on the bathroom mat. Wait a minute, let me finish. He wet a towel and finished cleaning the blood and grime from Spikes skin, toweled him dry and wrapped him in a robe, then followed him out to the living room, installing Spike on the couch.
Beer? Xander offered.
Xander brought back a bottle of stout for Spike and one for himself and sat down, not in a separate chair as Spike expected, but next to Spike on the couch.
Okay, Xander said quietly. Go for it.
Spike took a sip of beer and cleared his throat.
Consorts are to renfields what Childer are to minions, he said. Theyre not daytime errand boys or guard dogs or a handy snack when foods short. Theyre . . . companions. Trusted. Cared for. Chosen. Not there because a vampire needs someone; there because a vampire . . . wants . . . them.
Wants? Xander repeated slowly. As in
Yeah, Spike said, grinning slightly. As in. Feeding, sex, the whole package. Only master vampires take Consorts, cause only master vampires have the self-control not to drain their Consorts and the strength to defend their claim. Other vampires wont touch a masters Consort. Even demons respect the . . . he grimaced. The bond.
Yeah, lets talk about that, Xander said. He leaned forward slightly. Why do I feel so close to you? I have these strange thoughts, these . . . He shook his head.
Desires? Spike guessed.
Yeah. Xander stared down into his beer. Why youre feeding me your blood. He swallowed, barely whispering. And why it tastes so good.
Answers are all the same, Pet, he said. I gave you a little of my blood at first to help you heal up. Later I gave you more cause you were feeding me your blood and I didnt want to leave you weak. As long as a vampire gives his Consort a little of his blood each time, a Consort can feed a vampire almost exclusively. The exchange of blood makes a bond between them, sort of like the bond between Sire and Childe.
Its more than that, though, isnt it? Xander asked, gazing into Spikes eyes.
Spike grimaced. Hed hoped to stop there.
Vampire bloods powerful stuff, he admitted. Especially a masters blood. Regular doses make you healthier stronger, faster, more resistant to diseases. Have enough, or long enough, and youd be a fair match for the Slayer, I guess. He didnt tell Xander the rest that regular doses of Spikes blood could keep Xander from aging.
But thats not all, is it? Xander pressed. I could taste your blood on your lips. That shouldve made me blow chunks. But I liked it. Your blood isnt He suddenly went pale. Its not, like, turning me, is it?
No. Spike shook his head. Youve got a bit of a taste for it, thats all. Sort of like the stout. He gestured at the bottle. Just cause you like it doesnt make you an alcoholic, see? Anyway, not much for you to worry about. He shrugged deliberately. Youre not my Consort, Pet. And probably wont never be, either.
Curious, he watched the expressions flit over Xanders face startlement, relief . . . hurt.
Why not? Spike managed a grin, reached out and traced one fingertip down the side of Xanders throat. Not what youre thinking, Pet. Simple, really. Cant bite you.
You cant Xander blinked. You cant?
Spike smiled and tapped the side of his head illustratively.
Chip, remember? Cant do it.
Xander licked his lips.
And that, um, matters?
Fraid so, Spike said, sighing. Puts my mark on you. Important, you know. Kind of hmm. The vampire/Consort equivalent of a wedding, say.
Oh. Xander finished his beer silently. Spike waited, not knowing what he was expecting to hear. At last Xander spoke again, very quietly, with obvious reluctance.
Do you want to, um, stop then? I mean, if you cant have, you know, everything.
Spike sat silent, rocked to his core. Hed expected indignation that hed kept this from Xander, anger, outrage; hell, hed half expected the whelp to be out the door without bothering to pack. He debated his answer, settled on what was more or less the truth.
Pet, knew I couldnt have the whole package when I started, he said simply. Wont say it doesnt matter. It does. I bloody hate it. If you knew what Id like to do to those Initiative gits . . . well, it wouldnt do nothing for your appetite. Doesnt matter, theyre gone and Im here and Im buggered and theres nothing I can do about it. He shrugged, meeting Xanders eyes squarely. Id like to have what I can. Thats the truth. Wanted it enough that I didnt tell you hell, didnt tell myself that thats what I was doing. I always found some reason healing your wounds, keeping you strong so you could feed me, such as that. Easier than admitting to myself that you mattered matter to me that much.
Xander sat silent for a long moment, twirling the beer bottle in his fingers.
I used to really hate you, he said idly. Then when the Initiative put that chip in your head, I I dont know, I didnt hate you less right away, but it felt bad hating you, like, I dont know, hitting somebody when theyre down. I dont really know when I stopped hating you. I guess maybe around when Buffys mom died. The funny thing is, I started wanting you before I stopped hating you. Weird, isnt it?
Spike smirked, remembering his days with Angelus. Hed never stopped hating Angelus. Even when he loved him.
Sorry, Pet. Im the wrong one to call it weird, he said.
You really confused me when you brought me back here that night, Xander said, giving Spike a faint smile in response. It seemed I dont know, impossible, that somebody Id hated so much could take such good care of me. Could care about me. I mean, Id never given you any reason to do anything nice for me. Youd tried to kill me, Id tried to kill you, but you brought me back here and took care of me when you didnt have to. My parents were supposed to love me and take care of me and they and they but you, you were good to me. For no reason at all.
Wouldnt exactly say it was for no reason, Spike said, giving Xander what he hoped was a seductive look. But he hadnt had any designs on the whelp that first night, had he? Oh, sure, hed looked, thought, but thered been no intent then.
You know when I really realized it was I dont know, something? Xander said. His face flushed. When you took the pictures. I mean the pictures I knew about you taking. The me naked pictures. That was I dont know. His blush deepened. It made me feel, you know, beautiful. Nobody, not even Anya, ever made me feel since never mind.
Spike reached over and clasped Xanders hand, very loosely, stroking his fingers.
S all right, Pet, he said quietly. I know.
Xander squeezed Spikes fingers.
You know what? Xander said, staring at the floor. Youre the first person who ever let me decide how far, how fast, and didnt just push for what they wanted. You know? I mean, Cordy dragged me into closets, Faith just kind of threw me down on the bed and went at it, and Anya walked into the basement, held out a bunch of condoms and dropped her clothes. But even with that first blowjob, youve never pushed me to do anything for you. Maybe it was just the chip. He glanced over at Spike. But I dont think so.
Spike squirmed uncomfortably.
Yeah well He shrugged. Theres always the Slayer whod gladly poke a stake through me if I did you wrong. Course, she could be really cruel and vicious and leave me at the mercy of Red and her little chum. Spike shuddered melodramatically. Scary thought, that.
Xander grinned, apparently as relieved as Spike at the change of subject.
Of course, they could just tie you to a chair and let Giles lecture you for hours on end.
Bloody ell! Spike groaned, throwing the back of his wrist over his eyes as if swooning. Not that! Anythin but that! Bring the stakes, bring the garlic and holy water, take me out sunbathing, but not that!
Xander howled with laughter and collapsed into Spikes arms. Spike, laughing too hard to kiss his almost-Consort, gave him a big hug.
At last, when Xander had regained his breath, he looked up at Spike and said softly, Does this mean you really want me to be your Consort? I mean, as much as we can?
Spike swallowed. Hard.
Guess so, he said as nonchalantly as he could. As much as we can, yeah. Xander had an odd look on his face, and Spike decided he still wasnt convinced. He reached out, tracing his fingertip down the side of Xanders neck again, making the mortal shiver. Id do the lot if I could, Pet. Believe it. He gave Xander his best seductive gaze. Would you want me to?
Xander shivered again, still wearing that odd look.
Yeah, he whispered. I think I think I would.
The mortal swallowed heavily.
Does that mean you still want He half extended his forearm.
Want? Thats putting it mildly, Pet, Spike said wryly. He gazed at Xander more seriously. Two things first, though, Pet. First off, the stuff from Willys will do me. Im all right. So dont think you have to if you dont want to.
I dont mind, he mumbled. I like He swallowed. I like how much you like it, if that makes any sense.
Makes sense to me, Pet.
Xander took a deep breath, steadying himself.
Okay, whats the second thing?
Second thing. Spike mentally braced himself for argument or downright refusal. If were doing this, were doing it right. That means anytime you feed me anything more than just a taste, say you have a bit of my blood. Enough to make sure you regenerate your own supply fast. You dont like the taste, I can keep mixing it in something, but thats the way its gonna be, Pet.
Xander glanced down, then up into Spikes eyes again.
. . . all right, he said, very softly.
Im telling you, Spike argued, Its important for
All right? he repeated. Just all right?
Xander flushed again.
Uh-huh, he said, a little defensively. I mean, if Im your Consort, thats how it works, isnt it?
Spike held perfectly still, feeling a grin growing, growing, until it threatened to split his face.
Yeah, luv, he said quietly. Thats how it works.
Xander licked his lips.
Okay, he said. Just making sure.
He pulled something out of his pocket Spikes scalpel.
You carrying that around with you now? Spike asked, amused and a little unsettled by the implications of that.
Sometimes, Xander admitted a little embarrassedly, but he met Spikes eyes. When we patrol. Just in case. Because you keep getting hurt.
Hmmm. Spike took the scalpel, glanced at it. You sterilize it?
Uh-huh. Xander looked slightly offended. Im not stupid.
No, but if you planned on giving me your blood first off when Im badly hurt, youre a bloody fool, Spike said bluntly. He handed the scalpel back. Youd do better to pack up the cooler and put it in the trunk of the car, maybe. And if were going to keep doing this, well have to get you something better to use.
Xanders eyebrows rose.
Better than a scalpel?
Spike shrugged a little sheepishly.
Doesnt seem right, he said. Considering some of the things Ive used that for. He shook his head. Sides, its sharp, but scalpels arent made of a metal hard enough to hold that edge, and we cant put that kind of edge on it, either. A good knife would be better.
Oh. Xander smiled shyly, as if he liked the idea of Spike planning for the future. Okay. Then well find a good knife. But in the meantime He uncapped the scalpel and made a shallow cut in his forearm, offering the wound to Spike.
Spike gave Xander a dark smile and deliberately licked slowly up the shallow cut, savoring the hot droplets that welled up from the cut. He licked again, slowly, contentedly, like a cat, careful not to hurt, just enjoying the rich flavor of Xanders life willingly shared. Ahhhhhh, good, so good. Finally, reluctantly, he bit the inside of his lip and closed the cut, purring contentedly as he sat back.
Gimme that, Pet, he said lazily, holding out his hand for the scalpel. Xander looked surprised, but handed it over. Without even blinking, Spike cut deeply into the fleshy base of his thumb, holding his hand out. Quick, Pet, before it heals.
Xander blinked, hesitating for a brief moment before he took Spikes hand in his own Spike could feel the warm fingers shaking slightly. He watched through slitted eyes as Xander raised his hand; then there it was, that first amazing touch of warm lips against his skin, the hot wet flicker of a tongue. Hed expected the grimace that appeared on Xanders face even before the mortal had the chance to taste, but that expression was quickly replaced by others in rapid succession surprise, relief, wonder, then hot greedy desire, and Spike shivered as he felt Xander draw on the wound, tentatively at first, then harder.
He didnt take much, no more than a mouthful, which neither surprised nor dismayed Spike; the cut was small and would close up before Xander swallowed any appreciable amount anyway. Spike hadnt drunk much either. It was the gesture that mattered right now, the acknowledgement.
Xander apparently understood, because when the cut closed, he gave the skin a gentle kiss, then went straight into Spikes arms. Spike held Xander close, listening contentedly to the steady lub-dub of his mortals heartbeat. Under other circumstances, such an exchange would be a passionate thing, quenching one desire and igniting another, but not now. Theyd both just been given a lot to absorb.
Theyll be waiting for us, Xander said, breaking into Spikes revery.
They who? Oh, bloody hell, Spike groaned, remembering.
Buffy & Co., Xander sighed. Remember? Going to head out tonight to kill the hydra you already killed.
Suppose we should call em and tell em they might as well stay in and order pizza? he smirked.
Not unless you want another garlic facial, Xander chuckled.
Dont imagine youd rather just stay here and fool around? he said hopefully.
Muchly, he admitted. But weve hardly seen everybody in the last couple of weeks. If we dont show up, theyre going to start wondering.
Spike sighed again, but he released Xander resignedly.
Guess Id better clean up, then, he said unhappily. Going to have to go shopping soon, Pet. Im going through shirts and jeans bloody fast nowadays.
Tomorrows Saturday, Xander said speculatively. We could go tomorrow night if you want. He hesitated. Ill let you pick stuff out for me, hows that?
Spike perked up at the thought of his Xander wearing something other than those hideous mums-boy disasters he called clothing. All right, so hed have to buy a little goodwill with another nasty evening with the Scooby Gang. Hed weathered worse in his life. At least theyd be out chasing down an already-dead hydra instead of cooped up at Giles house. Who knew, maybe theyd stumble across something to kill.
In fact, however, the evening turned rather exciting, due to an unexpected fight with a pack of ghouls welling up from a broken-down crypt in the cemetery. Ghouls were slow-moving and stupid, not horribly dangerous although their bite was notoriously filthy, but they were rubbery and tough and hard as hell to kill they either had to be beheaded or burned or pretty much cut in two at the waist and a pack of them was a lot more troublesome than a single ghoul or two. Fighting them and chasing down the stragglers took up most of the rest of the night, and although Giles was worried about what might have driven the ghouls aboveground, nobody was ready to investigate the crumbling hole at the bottom of the crypt from which theyd emerged. Nobody even gave more than a weary sigh of relief when they found the hydra already dispatched, although Buffy managed one suspicious glance at Spike, who did his level best to look innocent. They all returned to Giles briefly to scrupulously disinfect any ghoul bites or scratches, then split up to stagger home in the dim predawn light.
Spike was glad the next day was a day off for Xander; between getting up early for his construction job, trying to spend some time with Spike, and fighting whatever nasties they encountered on what Spike cheerfully called his grocery shopping for blood, the mortal was short on sleep already. Spike, too, had been fighting his natural sleep schedule, trying to sleep at night when Xander slept in order to maximize their waking time together. But tomorrow today, rather was Saturday. Theyd both sleep all day, then brave a hazard worse than Sunnydales cemetery.
The shopping mall.
Spike gave a little shiver, curled tightly around Xander, and wearily closed his eyes.