“Uh-oh, Pet,” Spike said uneasily. “I think we may be in trouble.”


Xander swallowed.


“They look dangerous, all right,” he said. “Shit. I’m not really up for a fight tonight, you know? Can we just make a run for it?”


“They’re between us and the car,” Spike said worriedly. “And they’ve already seen us. You could run, I’ll hold ‘em off long enough for you to get away.”


“Or you could run,” Xander said fatalistically. “I think they’re more likely to kill you than me.”


“Wouldn’t count on it, Pet,” Spike warned. “Don’t like the look in that one’s eyes.”


They exchanged resigned glances.


“Bluff?” Xander suggested.


“Bluff,” Spike agreed.


They continued toward the car, clutching the shopping bags tightly.


“Hey, Buff,” Xander said cheerfully. “Nice night, huh?”


Buffy, scratched, battered and bruised, not to mention doused in some kind of slime, did not look amused.


“Where have you two been?” she demanded.


“Uh – “ Xander glanced down at the dozen or so bags that he and Spike were laden with, then back up. “Shopping?”


“Shopping,” Buffy said flatly. “We called and called and called before heading down under the crypt without you. Where we fought about a dozen trolls who were trying to get out while we were trying to get in. Also without you.”


“Hey, I needed clothes,” Xander said defensively. “And nobody told me there was anything going on tonight.”


“We tried to call,” Giles said, rather irritably. “Repeatedly.”


“Well, you must not have called before sunset, ‘cause that’s when we left,” Xander retorted. “What am I supposed to do, sit by the phone 24/7? Or should I just check in every half hour?”


“You’re the one who always whines about being left out,” Buffy snapped.


“And you’re the one who told me to stay out of it! Let’s see, how did it go?” Xander said coldly. “’Me Slayer, you bartender’?”


Buffy didn’t answer, just whirled on Spike.


“And what about you? We pay you to help us!”


Spike rolled his eyes.


“And you pay me to get garlic in the face, too, hmm, is that it?”


Buffy flushed.


“I apologized,” she said between gritted teeth. “Not that I wanted to. But still, we give you blood and money.” She hefted her purse meaningfully. “And I don’t introduce you to Mister Pointy.”


Spike sneered.


“Sorry, ducks, must’ve missed the small print in the contract where it said I wasn’t permitted to set foot outside my door without your permission.”


“You liked it better tied to chairs or chained in the bathtub?” Buffy said sweetly. “’Cause we can go back to that arrangement.”


“Over my dust,” Spike snarled.


Buffy smiled and pulled a stake out of her purse.


“Can do,” she said brightly.


“Cut it out!” Xander said, stepping between Buffy and Spike and glaring at Buffy. “Overreacting much? We didn’t know you needed us, we went out, you decided to go on without us. Deal already.”


“Yes, I believe this is getting out of hand,” Giles interjected. His suit was ruined for good and the left lens of his glasses was cracked.


“Yeah, we didn’t really try calling Spike’s place until we were almost ready to leave,” Willow added. She had a big black bruise on one cheek and a bandage tied around one wrist. Tara looked unhurt, but she was definitely the goopiest of the lot.


Xander’s expression softened.


“You okay, Wills?” he said worriedly.


“Yeah, I’m all right,” Willow said embarrassedly. “One of the trolls grabbed me and kind of threw me against a wall, and Tara hit him on the back of the head with a rock, and he started to turn around on her, and I cast this spell, only I didn’t get it quite right ‘cause I was hurrying, it was just supposed to stop it, but instead it kind of, um, blew up. All over Tara.”


“Ewwww,” Xander said, grimacing sympathetically. “Yak much?”


“T-t-twice,” Tara confessed in a small voice.


“Yeah, well, Giles got stepped on and Dawn almost got eaten,” Buffy said impatiently, “and we could’ve really used some extra help, you know? From the people who are supposed to be helping us with this stuff anyway.”


“Most of the time you don’t want our help,” Xander pointed out. “Either of us. Me you just ignore. Spike you insult all the time.”


“Oh, so what now, your feelings are hurt so we can all go get killed? Is that it?” Buffy snarled.


“Oh, so now you’re saying I’m the difference between life and death, huh?” Xander said hotly.


“I’m saying you’re supposed to be one of us, not the bleached wonder’s shopping buddy!” Buffy shouted.


And grabbed the front of his shirt, giving Xander a good shake.


“Back the fuck off!” Spike roared, charging forward, chip forgotten in his sudden red rage. Mine! Touching MY Xander! Threatening MY Xander!


Buffy whirled and punched, and with amazing speed Xander pushed Spike out of the way –


-- and Buffy’s fist connected solidly with Xander’s face, the impact of flesh on flesh very loud.


Spike snapped. He never felt the transition to game face; he howled and leaped at Buffy, intent on gory murder. He plowed into Buffy, knocking her back onto the hood of Xander’s car.


And then the chip kicked in.


Momentum carried him forward; with Buffy out of the path, he plowed into the windshield of the convertible, but he never felt the impact as his brain exploded in exquisite agony. He screamed, blind, deaf and near paralyzed with pain, but he still tried to crawl toward Buffy, fully intent on ripping the offending hand off her arm and shoving it so far up her arse that she could pick her nose from the inside. It was a futile gesture; in his unthinking, unseeing agony he only rolled off the hood onto the pavement, shuddering helplessly, waiting and half wishing for the stake to end his pain.


Dimly the sound of voices intruded into his consciousness; then he became aware of warm hands holding him still, and that one of the voices was addressed to him.


“Spike! Spike, just lay still, it’s okay, hold still, don’t move – “


“Xander – “ something, something, “ – doctor, hadn’t you better – “


“Can’t believe you – “ something “ – how could you?”


“Didn’t mean – “ something, something, “ – accident, I didn’t – “


Something, something, “ – broken, need to – “


“Spike, are you all right? Can you open your eyes?”


Xander sounded funny, his voice thick and liquidy, and that knowledge brought Spike jarring back to the present. He forced his eyes open; little flashes of pain-light were still exploding across his field of vision, but he could see Xander’s face. Blood was running down his lips and chin, his eyes were swelling shut, and Spike could see even at a casual glance that his nose was broken. Weakly and hating his weakness, Spike reached up a shaking hand to touch Xander’s cheek.


“You’re a mess, Pet,” he whispered.


“Yeah, you too.” Xander mustered a bloody grin. “From now on I’m doing all my shopping on the Internet.”


“You got it,” Spike said rustily. Then he made the connection between Xander’s face and Buffy’s fist and he growled, fighting to force himself upright. Hurriedly Xander held him down.


“Don’t, don’t, don’t,” Xander said frantically. “Uh – uh – “ He glanced around as if searching for a distraction. “Why don’t you take me to the clinic, okay?”


Emergency room, rather, Spike thought grimly. He didn’t look at Buffy. He didn’t know what he’d do if he did, but whatever it was, it would delay Xander getting treatment. He forced himself to his feet and helped Xander into the car, even though he was still reeling himself.


“Throw our bags in the back,” he said stonily to whoever might be listening. He heard bags crinkle but never took his eyes off Xander. Not bothering to check and see if anyone was in front of the car – privately he hoped Buffy was, chip and his head be damned, he roared out of the parking lot.


Three hours later Spike was still seething. Xander’s nose was indeed broken – not only was the cartilage displaced, but the bony structure had been cracked and he almost needed surgery; both his eyes were swollen almost completely shut, his lip was cut and several of his front teeth were loosened.


Giles, dressed in clean clothes and wearing his spare glasses, had showed up at the emergency room with the other recently-washed Scoobies in tow. Spike had been astonished to learn that Xander had listed him, not Giles, on his insurance as his medical contact. To Spike’s glee, Xander refused to see anyone but Willow, who was allowed to come back and sit with him while the x-rays were being developed. Willow’s eyes were swollen and red, and she clutched at Xander’s hand as if he was her only anchor to sanity.


“I’m so sorry,” Willow whispered. “Buffy’s sorry too. She didn’t mean to hit you like that. She didn’t mean to hit you at all, I mean, it was – “ She glanced guiltily at Spike.


“Oh, yeah, like that’s so much better, hitting somebody who can’t hit back,” Xander rasped hoarsely; Spike guessed his throat was sore from the blood that had been dripping down the back of his throat from his broken nose.


“I know, I know,” Willow said miserably. “That’s not an excuse, I know that.” She fell silent for a long moment, then asked humbly, “Do you think some more of that liniment might help? You said it was so great – “


Xander grimaced.


“I don’t really think – “


“ – we have all that much left,” Spike finished smoothly. “Good idea, Red. We could use another batch if you don’t mind the bother. Probably put him right in no time.”


“I can do that, I can do that right now,” Willow babbled, looking desperately relieved. “I’ll run home with Tara and have it done in a few hours and – “


“Willow,” Xander croaked.


“Yes? What?”

“Breathe,” Xander chuckled painfully.


“Oh. Okay.” Willow flushed. “I’m just so sorry, Xander.”


Xander grinned bitterly and closed his eyes.


“It’s okay,” he rasped. “It’s not the first bash in the face I’ve ever gotten.”


Willow winced, and Xander’s eyes shot open.


“I didn’t mean that to sound – “


“No, I know what you mean.” Willow squeezed Xander’s hand. “At least this time I can help a little.” She smiled tremulously. “Thanks for letting me help.”


Xander squeezed her fingers.


“Tell Tara her hair still stinks,” he quipped. “I can smell it on your hands, and you always play with her hair. Go on, get out of here. Thanks, Wills. You’re a friend.”


Willow hesitated at the door.


“Buffy wants to apologize,” she said tentatively.


“No.” Xander’s eyes were closed and his voice was flat. “I don’t forgive her, and frankly I don’t even want to hear her apologize for punching me out instead of Spike. I’m tired of her shit and I don’t want to see her, not tonight and not for a good long while.”


Willow sighed softly.


“Okay,” she said, and was gone.


Between x-rays and insurance papers and prescriptions, it was almost dawn when Spike helped Xander into the car and drove him home. There was a sad sort of synchronicity to it – the times Xander had supported a staggering, injured Spike through the door, and the times Spike had brought a wounded hurting Xander home. This time Xander was almost unconscious from pain medications, and Spike forestalled any effort from Xander by simply scooping him up and carrying him inside. He gently stripped off Xander’s blood-spattered clothes and tucked him cozily into the waterbed, then quickly fetched their purchases from the car before the sun rose. After all they’d gone through to buy Xander a few nice clothes, Spike, weary as he was, took the trouble to hang the garments up before he stripped and crawled into bed with Xander.


He roused sometime around noon to a ringing phone. He stumbled out into the living room, picked up the receiver, identified Giles’ querying voice, muttered, “Bugger off,” and stumbled back to the bedroom. He checked the time, shook a pain pill out of the bottle, and took that and a glass of water with a straw in it to Xander’s side of the bed.


“Wake up, Pet,” he said. “Pill time.”


“Whuzzat?” Xander muttered blearily, trying to open his eyes, then wincing as swollen flesh protested.


“Open your mouth, Pet,” Spike said patiently. He carefully slid the pill and the end of the straw between swollen lips. “Swallow.”


Xander swallowed blindly.


Spike thought a moment, then went to the kitchen, fetching one of his empty blood-collecting bottles. He took it back to the bedroom, slid it under the covers, and positioned it carefully, grinning when Xander yelped as cool glass contacted sensitive skin.


“Piss,” Spike instructed.


This time Xander managed to get one eye open, and he used it to glare at Spike balefully, but he pissed. Spike took the bottle to the bathroom, emptied, rinsed and discarded it – he just couldn’t see using it for blood again, no matter how he washed it – then went back to bed, curling cozily around Xander.


“Sleep,” he murmured in Xander’s ear.


Xander slept.


Spike roused again shortly after sunset, this time to a knock on the door. He threw a robe on this time before stumbling out into the living room.


“If it’s that bloody Watcher, he’s doomed,” Spike grumbled, peeping out through the peephole, surprised to see Willow standing there. Oh, right. Liniment. He sighed and opened the door.


“Evening, Red,” he said. The young witch looked like she hadn’t slept. Probably hadn’t. Tara stood behind her, looking just as weary, her hair rather frizzy and dry as if she’d washed it several times in harsh soap. Spike grinned.


“C’mon in, ladies,” he said, stepping aside. “Xander’s still asleep, though.”


“No, that’s okay,” Willow said embarrassedly, pointedly not looking at Spike in his robe. “I just wanted to, you know, drop this off right away. Is Xander okay?”


Spike shrugged.


“He’s hurting,” he said flatly. “Be nice if he had a week when someone or something didn’t pound the hell out of him.”


Willow winced.


“I know,” she said. “Giles is really upset, and Buffy’s not talking to anybody, and . . . well, it doesn’t matter. Just – let me know if there’s anything I can do, okay?”


“Sure will,” Spike said, accepting the jar of liniment Willow was holding out. He liked Willow, but frankly wanted her to go away; he wanted to go take care of his mortal. “Thanks, Red.”


He heard Xander stirring as he walked back to the bedroom, and in fact found the mortal trying to sit up on the side of the bed.


“Hey, hey, easy there,” Spike said, gently pushing Xander back down. “Not ready to go beat the shit out of any more monsters tonight.”


“Willow’s liniment.” Xander grinned slightly at the sight of the jar in Spike’s hand. “If she only knew.”


“Yeah, well – “ Spike set the jar down. “I’ll give you something that’ll help more than that.”


Xander glanced up at Spike.


“You mean – “


“Uh-huh.” Spike pulled out his boot knife. “Want me to mix it in something for you, Pet?”


Xander swallowed, then slowly shook his head.


“Right, then.” Spike helped Xander into a half-sitting position, supported by the pillows. He pushed up his sleeve and cut deeply into his forearm, holding the bleeding cut to Xander’s mouth. Xander swallowed almost instinctively once; then his hands came up to clasp Spike’s arm and he fastened his mouth on the wound, drawing hard on it. Spike didn’t stop him, let Xander drink until he felt the wound closing, then reluctantly pulled away.


“Stop for now,” Spike said softly. He wiped the smears of blood around Xander’s lips away with his thumb, then absent-mindedly licked the blood off his thumb. “More later.”


Xander was panting, gazing at Spike with wide eyes which were already far less swollen.


“Is that – dangerous?” he asked in a small voice. “I mean, can it – “


“Turn you?” Spike shook his head. “Mortals can’t be turned unless they’re bloody close to death already. Nah, worst – or best, I’d say – my blood can do is change you a bit, just as I said, stronger and faster and so on. ‘Course, enough and you’ll start giving the Slayer twinges,” he added reluctantly.


“I don’t care.” Already Xander’s voice was clearer, less nasal. “I don’t want to see her. And I don’t care what she thinks.”


“Don’t blame you,” Spike said mildly. “But you’d better care what she thinks. ‘Cause if she gets the notion I’m turning you or changing you or whatever, she and her stake don’t need no invitation to come bursting in here, and then I wake up with the wrong kind of woody altogether. And wouldn’t be nothing I could do. Get it, Pet?”


Xander grimaced.


“Yeah, I get it,” he said. “I just don’t like it. Wow, I feel funny.” He lay back woozily.


Spike stroked Xander’s cheek absently, watching as the bruising faded, as the swelling eased, as the split in Xander’s lip closed and vanished. The mortal had never had this much of Spike’s blood at once and the effects were understandably stronger. He watched Xander healing before his eyes and felt a thrill at the thought of his blood nourishing and healing his Consort.


Not my Consort. Never my Consort.


Xander’s eyes snapped open as if he’d heard the thought, and he captured Spike’s hand, holding it against his cheek.


“I want you,” he whispered, blushing furiously but meeting Spike’s squarely.


Spike snorted, amused but not surprised. It was the blood, of course. Not to mention teenage male hormones.


“Think you’re up for that, Pet?” he said mildly.


Xander pulled Spike’s hand away from his face and drew it down his body to a firm lump in the covers.


“Does this feel like I’m up for it?” he whispered.


Spike grinned and stretched out on the bed beside Xander.


“And what do you think you’re up for, hmmm?” he teased.


“You.” Xander’s eyes burned. “I want you.”


Spike fumbled with the tie on his robe, flung the garment off the bed.


“You got me, Pet.”


“No, I mean I want you.” Xander’s cheeks flamed. “To – you know. Do me.”


Spike froze.


Do you?” he said numbly. “As in, er, fuck you, Pet?”


“Yeah.” Xander’s cheeks darkened to an almost alarming shade of red. “As in, um, fuck me.” Then he looked anxious. “I mean, if you want to.”


“Want to? Want to?” Spike almost came at the thought.


Then reality set in and he sighed.


“Can’t,” he said briefly.


Xander’s face lost all expression.


“Can’t?” he repeated softly, worriedly. “Why not? I mean – “ He blushed. “I’ve seen that everything, you know, works.”


Spike snorted.


“Yes, Pet, everything works,” he said patiently. He tapped the side of his head. “The bleeding chip works, too, remember? And the first time I give you the least twinge of pain, you say ‘ouch’ and I say ‘Fucking OWWWWW’, get it? Kind of kills the mood, if you know what I mean.”


Xander’s brows shot up as he understood.


“But – “ He licked his lips. “You wouldn’t hurt me.”


Spike chuckled.


Oh, I wouldn’t say that. But I’d never hurt you more’n you’d like.


“Pet, your confidence is nice, but if you’ve never had nothing up there before, then chances are, you’re giving me too much credit.”


“Oh.” Xander’s face fell, and for the millionth time Spike cursed the damned Initiative who had yet again come between Spike and his rights as a master vampire.


“Pet.” Spike gently turned Xander’s face toward him. “Don’t mean we can’t do something special if you want. Just means you have to be the one doing it.”


This time Xander’s blank expression was almost comical.


“You mean – “ Xander gulped. “Me? Do you?”


Spike grinned and kissed that beautiful gaping mouth.


“Yeah,” he said simply. “You do me.”


Xander blinked.




“Is that a ‘yes’ oh or a ‘no’ oh?” Spike chuckled.


Xander blinked again, then rolled over on top of Spike, kissing back.


“That’s a ‘hell, yes!’ oh,” Xander said. Then he paused. “But, um, don’t we need, um, something?”


“What, like rubbers?” Spike said amusedly. “Can’t get me preggers, Pet, and if we were gonna give each other something, swallowing each other’s blood would pretty much do the job, wouldn’t it?”


Xander grimaced.


“Not that,” he said. “Um, like, uh, lube or something.”


“Oh.” Spike frowned. That was a poser. When Angelus had claimed his rights as Sire, Spike had been lucky to get anything more than spit and blood as lubricant. It had been so long since Spike had gotten his end down – long before he’d taken over Angel’s building – that he didn’t have anything himself, and he very seriously doubted that Angel would’ve had anything to leave, either.


Then an idea occurred to him and he grinned.


“Right back, Pet,” he said. He fetched what he wanted and returned. Xander stared at the naked vampire, not to mention what was in the vampire’s hand.


“Butter?” Xander said, his voice squeaking.


“Well, it’s that or olive oil, Pet,” Spike chuckled. “And comes to that, I’d rather smell like a scone than a salad. So, Pet, you want to do it, or d’you want to get up, get dressed, toddle on out to the chemist’s for whatever you use in this century?”


“Gimme that!” Xander said, grabbing the butter out of Spike’s hand. Then he sat there, staring down at the waxed-paper-covered brick. “Ummmm . . . so what do I do with this now?”


“Here, I’ll show you.” Spike hopped back up on the bed, knee-walking up to straddle Xander’s hips and pushing the covers out of the way. He unwrapped the butter, pinched off a bit and took Xander’s hand, rubbing the butter slowly over Xander’s fingers. The butter quickly melted on the warm skin. Gazing into Xander’s eyes, Spike drew Xander’s hand around behind him, guiding one slick finger to his target.


“Like this,” he said huskily, pressing the slippery fingertip in. He shivered as the warm finger penetrated, pushing back against it. Xander got the idea quickly and moved the finger himself, sliding it gently back and forth.


“Now another,” Spike whispered, purring as Xander worked a second finger in beside the first. Bloody hell, this was good. With Angelus it had always been about power and submission, pleasure and pain; gentleness didn’t even enter into it. Spike couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually allowed another male to top him; once he’d become a master vampire, it would’ve hurt his status. But this was his Consort, and there was nobody to say how a master vampire and his Consort could please each other.


“More?” Xander asked huskily.


“Don’t have the patience,” Spike muttered. He pinched off another piece of butter and rubbed it up and down the heat of Xander’s erection, moaning as he licked his fingers clean, savoring the intoxicating mixture of butter and precome. Pushing Xander’s hand back and away from him, he scooted forward slightly and lowered himself, groaning as hot, hard flesh pressed, then slid in.


Xander echoed his moan as the mortal’s heat slowly, slowly filled him.


Bloody hell, it was good. He couldn’t remember it ever feeling so good, so easy, so right. Spike sank down slowly, savoring the gradual penetration. Hell, he loved a good hard fuck; he didn’t mind pain – liked it in its place, actually – but there was something to be said for this, nice and slow and easy and loving? relaxed. Then he groaned again as Xander’s pubic bone pressed against him and the hard length filled him completely.


“Oh, God,” Xander whispered, his eyes wide, an expression of utter wonder on his face. “Oh, God – “


“Wrong team, Pet,” Spike purred, and began to rock.


Purrs of delight became whimpers when Spike found the perfect angle to send Xander’s slick cock skidding over his prostate. Whimpers became moans when Xander wrapped butter-slick fingers around Spike’s cock, pumping it in rhythm with their coupling. Moans became cries when Spike deliberately clenched his muscles around Xander’s erection and scratched his nails softly over his mortal’s nipples. Cries became screams when Xander lost control and began slamming upward into the vampire riding him. Spike felt his control slipping, felt the contours of his face change, but Xander apparently didn’t care because he continued without pause. Screams became howls when Spike met Xander’s upward thrust with one last slam downward, burying the hot length deep, deep inside him and felt the hot spurts flooding him, prompting Spike to pump out his own room-temperature jets into Xander’s hand, exercising every last iota of his will to keep from sinking his fangs into the beautifully bared throat below him.


Spike collapsed on his lover, savoring the odors of their rut – his sperm, Xander’s sperm, sweat, lingering traces of Spike’s blood, butter. Drowsily he licked sweat off the side of Xander’s throat, fighting down his own lingering frustration. Damn, it was fucking hard not to bite.


“Spike?” Spike pulled his head back to find Xander watching him, a sympathetic expression on his face. Xander reached over and picked up Spike’s boot knife from the bedside table; before Spike realized what his mortal was up to, Xander drew the sharp tip over his upper chest, opening a fine cut there.


“Is that what you wanted?” Xander whispered, his fingertips unwaveringly tracing the contours of Spike’s game face.


“This is what I wanted,” Spike whispered too, bending over to kiss Xander, plundering the mortal’s mouth with his tongue. Then he turned his head, slowly licking the droplets of blood from the scratch Xander had made. It hadn’t been that long since Xander had drunk his blood, and the cut healed almost immediately, but the small taste was enough. Spike rolled over in the bed, content, pulling Xander over to him to cuddle.


“That was – amazing,” Xander murmured. He laid his head on Spike’s shoulder, absently stroking the vampire’s chest.


“That it was,” Spike agreed, tangling his fingers in Xander’s sweaty hair. He grinned. “God, we’re spunky, Pet. Better have a wash or we’ll wake up glued together.”


Xander grinned and kissed Spike’s shoulder.


“Would that be so bad?”


“Might make patrolling entertaining,” Spike snickered. “And just picture the look on Red’s face, the next time she and her girlfriend visit.”


Xander laughed until he almost choked.


“Wonder if she’d blame it on the liniment?” he gasped.


Spike smacked his forehead.


“The liniment!” he exclaimed. “Should’ve tried that.”


Xander’s forehead wrinkled.


“You mean instead of your blood?”


“Nope.” Spike grinned. “Instead of the butter. That way you’d have had something to put on your toast when you get up.”


“What the hell, I can’t imagine a better way to waste butter,” Xander grinned. “Besides, there’s always your orange marmalade.”


“Oh, no, Pet,” Spike snickered, tracing one finger suggestively down Xander’s chest. “Come to think of it, I’ve got plans for that.”


“Oh yeah? Well, let me tell you a story about Anya, the bathtub, and eighteen packets of Strawberry-Kiwi Jello . . . “


Email: Shadow