Spike was yanked abruptly out of sleep by the forceful connection of a bare foot with his bare side. Shortly followed by a startled yelp and a minor earthquake in the air mattress as the kicker flailed wildly for balance. Shortly followed by a heavy, Xander-shaped weight landing WHUMF! on Spike, elbow in solar plexus, knee in groin, all the trimmings. Followed by a cry of pain which Spike would have made if he hadn’t been too stunned to do so.


Which pain the chip in Spike’s brain interpreted as his fault.


Aching balls and bruised abdomen were instantly forgotten. Spike screamed hoarsely as red-hot pokers thrust through his brain, as acid ate down his spinal column, as electrical bolts sizzled through his eye sockets, as jackhammers split his skull end to end and side to side. He clutched his head as if somehow his hands could contain the pain, hold it in, compress it to some manageable, bearable level.


For long moments the pain just seemed to echo around his head, front to back, side to side. Gradually it slowly tapered down, of course; it wasn’t meant to go on forever. Gradually Spike became aware of the strangest situation he’d ever encountered in his life – he was being held, by God, held in warm unfamiliar arms, while a very familiar voice chanted, “Oh, God, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”


“’S all right, Pet,” Spike croaked. “Not your fault.” Which was another bald-faced lie, of course, because it certainly was the whelp’s fault, but looked at the right way, it was really the fucking Initiative’s fault, and Spike would much rather blame the Initiative when Xander was holding him so nicely and those were tears, by God, dripping down on his face.


“I’m so sorry,” Xander repeated helplessly, sniffling and wiping his tears off Spike’s face. “I didn’t know where I was and I had to go, you know, I mean go to the bathroom, and I just kind of stumbled toward the door and I didn’t see you and – “


“I said it’s not your fault.” Spike sat up, rubbing his head crossly, suddenly angry and embarrassed that the whelp had seen him so helpless. “You all right? Your ribs, I mean, and such?”


“Yeah, I’m okay,” Xander mumbled. He averted his eyes, and even in the darkness Spike’s eyes picked up his blush.


Then Spike realized what had caused the blush. Xander was pretty much holding Spike in his lap, and Spike, of course, was stark bollocks naked.


Which Xander had only just realized.


“Don’t have a stroke, Pet, you’re the one jumped on me,” Spike chuckled, flipping the sleeping bag over his lower body. “So what’re you doing up? I’d’ve thought you’d sleep twelve hours at least, full bladder or not.”


Xander shrugged awkwardly.


“I don’t know,” he said. “I just – I had to pee, and I woke up, and I realized I was someplace strange.” He shrugged again.


“Hmm.” Spike could sense there was more to it than that. “Hurting, eh, Pet?”


Sharp indrawn breath, then a long sigh.


“Kind of.”


“Mm.” Spike scooted around so he was sitting on the air mattress but leaning against the side of the bed. He could smell that the welts were inflamed and heading toward infection despite the treatment, but there was no point in dressing them again; the antiseptic in them hadn’t had time to work yet. He’d probably need to get the whelp antibiotics, but he couldn’t go out in the daylight to get them. He couldn’t give Xander more painkillers, either, not so soon after the first dose. There was something else he could do, but he’d have to work up to it or he’d send the whelp screaming out into the daylight at the first suggestion. “So what happened?”


“What?” Xander looked taken aback. “What do you mean?”


“Well, you’re not gonna sleep, Pet, which means I’m not gonna sleep either,” Spike said patiently. “So you might as well talk. So what was this particular bout of Xander-bashing over?”


Xander squirmed.


“C’mon, I can take it,” Spike chuckled.


Xander grimaced.


“Well, it’s kind of complicated.”


“Mostly is hereabouts,” Spike shrugged. “So?”


“Well, I lost my job – “


“What, they were afraid you couldn’t make the rent on that shitty basement room?” Spike scoffed.


“Well, Dad was pissed about that,” Xander admitted. “Losing the job, I mean. But then I found another job, and Dad was even more pissed about that – “


Spike snorted.


“Nothing like a little consistency here,” he said sarcastically. “I’d think he’d prefer you doing just about anythin’ to bartending.”


“Well, it was still bartending,” Xander said in a low voice.


“What, less pay?” Spike guessed.


“No, actually it was better pay,” Xander said, even lower.


“Well, don’t make me pry it out of you, Pet,” Spike said patiently. “What, then?”


“It was – it was at Glitz,” Xander said, almost inaudibly.


Spike smirked, started to make a smart comment, then registered Xander’s humiliated flush.


“What, so you’re bartendin’ in a gay bar,” Spike said as gently as he could manage. “Last I heard that was no crime. Well, I suppose in your case it is, seeing as you’re not 21 and using a false ID, but anyway.”


“It’s not that.” Xander sighed. “Dad got mad, said he wouldn’t have me working there where everyone would think I was – was a goddamned faggot. And I got mad at him and said, Well, maybe I am!”


Spike winced. Good initiative in standing up to the bleeder, but fucking lousy timing.


“Anyway, that’s when – “ Xander’s voice trailed off.


“Yeah, I get it, Pet,” Spike said softly.


There was a long moment of silence.


“So – “ Xander cleared his throat. “Does that bother you?”


“Which?” Spike chuckled. “That you lost your job, that you got a job in a gay bar, that you’ve got a smart mouth on you big enough to hold your foot now and again, or that you think you might be queer?”


Another long silence.


“The last one,” Xander said, very quietly.


Spike snorted.


“Seems to bother you more than me, Pet,” he said. “Nah, vampires get over fretting over that sort of thing pretty early on.”


Xander’s head snapped up, a shocked expression in his eyes.


“You mean you’re – I mean vampires are – um, like bisexual or something?”


“Hmm. Don’t suppose that much covers it, Pet,” Spike said thoughtfully. “More like trisexual – as in we’ll try just about anything. I’ll give you a clue, though. Sires do pretty much what they like with their Childer, and Dru being a few lumps of coal short of a full cart, Angelus always treated me more or less as his Childe instead of hers.”


“You mean Angel – “ Xander choked.


“Didn’t hear me, Pet,” Spike chided. “I said Angelus, now, didn’t I? Don’t know about the broody one, don’t much care, either. Anyway, most vampires go for male, female, other, you name it.”


“Other?” Xander repeated blankly.


“Hmph. You should see that demon Dru took up with,” Spike said sourly. “Guess you’d understand ‘other’ then. I mean, it had parts I don’t know the names for.”


“Oh.” Xander seemed to be flailing for something to say. “And to think my dad got all bent out of shape for me pouring drinks in a gay bar.”


Spike snorted.


“See, all a matter of perspective, innit, Pet?” he said.


Xander chuckled too, faintly, although it was better than nothing.


“So. Feel better?” Spike asked.


A brief pause; then, surprised,


“Yeah, I do. Weird, but I do, kind of.” Xander grinned. “Thanks.”


“Don’t thank me yet, Pet,” Spike said. “We still need to do something about your back.”


“We do?” Xander said faintly.


Spike took Xander’s hand and guided it around to one of the welts.


“Feel that heat?” he said. “That’s infection setting in.”


“Oh, shit,” Xander sighed.


“Now, I could get you some antibiotics – “


“I don’t do very well on those,” Xander said worriedly. “I, like, break out in hives and things.”


Spike groaned inwardly.


“Right, then,” he said. He got up and helped Xander carefully back up to the bed. “Plan B, then, Pet. Run off to the loo.”


Xander turned on the light this time and hurried off. Spike took the brief respite to inspect his dangly bits for damage. They were unhappy but intact.


Xander returned from the bathroom, and Spike gestured to the bed.


“Stretch out and I’ll . . . put something else on those welts.” He turned out the light, not wanting Xander to see him change to game face.


“Don’t you need the light?” Xander asked, but he stretched out obediently.


“Nah, I can see just fine,” Spike said. He sat down on the side of the bed. “Now just take it easy, Pet. This won’t hurt a bit.”


“What are you – “ Xander began. Taking advantage of the distraction, Spike let his fangs emerge, nipping the inside of his lip slightly, mixing the small amount of blood with his saliva. He bent down, trailing his tongue up one long welt.


Xander froze.


“Wh-wh-wha – what a-a-are you – “


Well, it was better than Spike had expected; he’d pretty much resigned himself to a startled jump and more pain for both of them. He drew back before Xander could bolt upright, laying one hand on Xander’s shoulder to hold him still.


“Easy, Pet,” he said. “Don’t get in a fluster.”


“But – but – but – “


“You sound like a bloody motorboat,” Spike chuckled.


“You were licking me!” Xander said tremulously.


“Yeah, Pet, I was,” Spike admitted. “See, if you remember, Pet, you don’t never see the bite marks when a vampire’s drained somebody they’re gonna turn, right?”


“Uh – “ Xander took a moment to engage his brain again. “Yeah.”


“That’s because of the vampire’s blood. It’s got powerful healing in it. A little bit in my spit’s plenty to take care of these welts, and then you’ll feel a whole lot better. It’ll even help the bruising a bit, maybe.” Spike patted Xander’s shoulder. “No harm, Pet, I promise.”


Xander shivered.


“Yeah,” he said, very faintly. “But do you have to, you know, lick me?”


Suddenly Spike placed that intoxicating scent he was detecting. Arousal. He fought down a chuckle. God, he loved horny teenagers. Harmony had been a bloody Energizer Bunny.


“Whassamatter, Pet, don’t you like it?” Spike purred in Xander’s ear. Daringly he licked another long welt, sending a shudder through the mortal.


“Don’t,” Xander whispered helplessly and as insincerely as Spike had ever heard.


That husky, quavery tone that said “Don’t” and begged “Please do” was the most arousing thing Spike had ever heard, and he trailed his tongue lingeringly up another welt, his hands on Xander’s shoulders, holding him still for insurance. He needn’t have bothered; other than shivering uncontrollably, Xander made no move to escape; indeed, Spike could feel the slight, almost indiscernible press of Xander’s body as he arched slightly upward against Spike’s mouth.


The natural anticoagulant in Spike’s saliva made the welts bleed slightly before they healed under the influence of his blood, and the forbidden, intoxicating taste of live, fresh human blood drove Spike to a near madness of delight. And ah, the things he could taste in these tiny droplets of Xander’s blood – fear, wonder, arousal, need, hunger, desperation, pleasure, loneliness, hope – such a maelstrom of feeling.


Spike’s tongue dipped low to attend to a welt at Xander’s lower back, and Xander moaned tremulously. Daringly, Spike slipped one hand under Xander, touching the hot, hard length under the silk boxers. Moaning again, Xander raised his hips slightly, and Spike took advantage of the motion to slide the boxers down and out of the way. Xander froze again.


“What are you – “


“Shhhh, Pet, just relax,” Spike murmured. He licked along another low welt, simultaneously caressing the hot erection with just the tips of his cool fingers; he didn’t want the whelp coming too soon. Biting the inside of his lip for more healing blood, he unhurriedly traced each remaining welt with his tongue, feeling the inflammation begin to subside, the healing begin. Xander was whimpering continuously now, and Spike could feel pre-come trickling down the hard length.


“Over now,” Spike said, guiding Xander to turn on his back. “Slowly, Pet, don’t hurt yourself. Just close your eyes, relax, feel good, eh?”


Before Xander could say anything, Spike bent down and took the head of Xander’s throbbing erection in his mouth, and then all Xander could do was moan incoherently. Spike sucked slowly, gently, his fangs carefully retracted now, not pushing Xander too quickly toward orgasm, alternating shallow suckling with deep swallows with long, teasing licks up the length, savoring the heat, the flavor. Somebody, Spike had no idea who, had once mentioned that semen was pretty damned close chemically to blood, but any vampire could have told you that without worrying about chemistry. It was all there, the vitality, the energy, the taste of salty rich life.


Xander, as Spike had expected, couldn’t last long through this kind of sweet torture; all too soon Spike could feel the tensing as the fluids gathered. He pulled back slightly, enough that he could taste the offering when the mortal gave it up, the hot liquid filling his mouth in powerful pulses. Xander cried out hoarsely, his entire body shaking, but fortunately the pleasure was enough to overcome whatever protests his ribs might have made, and at last the mortal slowly, slowly relaxed, muscle by muscle, back down to the soft sheets.


Spike grinned and pulled the sheet up, covering Xander warmly.


“All better?” he asked with a chuckle.


“All – what?” Xander sounded wearily incredulous. “You – you – “ A bewildered pause; then: “Why did you do that? Just to – to make me feel better?”


“’Course, Pet,” Spike said cheerfully. “Why else?”


“I – uh – “ Spike could hear disappointment in Xander’s voice. “Nothing, I guess.”


“Go to sleep, Pet,” Spike told him. “We could both use it.”


“Yeah.” Xander’s voice was dull now. He said nothing more, and slowly Spike heard his breathing even out in sleep.


For Spike, however, rest came less easily. Why the hell should the whelp be disappointed? His welts were all healed, he was comfy, and got a nice blowjob in the deal too. You’d think he’d be bloody grateful.


Spike grimaced. Why had he taken it into his head to suck off the mortal? All right, it was fun, it tasted nice, but now he had a bloody hardon and nothing but a wank to offer it, and the whelp was probably going to go round and round and round about the whole thing. Mortals made such a fuss about sex, couldn’t just enjoy it. One of the reasons he never played with mortals himself; one of the reasons he’d thought Angel so daft for doing it.


But now he’d done it, and why? To make Mr. Sugary Goodness happy? And what was that about? He’d blown (ha-ha!) his entire night nursemaiding one of Her Blondeness’s Slayerettes, tending his boo-boos and swaddling his butt in Spike’s comfy bed. What had gotten into him?


Spike grimaced. Two reasons, plain enough: He was lonely, and he was randy as hell. He couldn’t exactly call the Scooby Gang his best mates, eh? And when was the last time he’d gotten his end down? He didn’t want to try to calculate; it was just too depressing. He supposed he was nostalgic for the good old days when Dru needed him to take care of her, when he was getting it regular from her or his minions or at least bloody Harmony or somebody or something. He wasn’t used to feeling neutered and vulnerable, he wasn’t used to being alone, he wasn’t used to going without regular shagging, and he was bloody sick of it, too.


All right, so he was looking for somebody to take care of and fuck. So why’d he made such a barmy pick of it? Buffy and Giles wouldn’t take kindly to Spike showing any interest to one of “her” Scoobies. And gay bar or not, Spike would bet a lifetime on pig’s blood that his mouth on Xander’s cock had been the first experience the whelp had ever had with another man. What made him think that Xander had any interest in becoming Spike’s Pet and playtoy and all-around bouncy-bouncy partner?


Which brought up another troubling thought. What was he going to do with the whelp? Couldn’t send him home, that’s for sure. Couldn’t send him to doss with Giles or Buffy if Xander didn’t want them to know about his happy family. What, then? The boy obviously couldn’t afford a place of his own. Spike grinned. The situation was obvious; he’d simply have to keep the whelp. No alternative, eh? Just the way he liked it.


Closing his eyes, Spike yawned and let sleep take him.


Spike jolted abruptly out of sleep – again – at a clatter from the kitchen. He yawned, stretched, pulled on a pair of boxers and wandered into the kitchen, to find Xander poking through the cupboards.


“Looking for something, Pet?” he asked mildly. Xander apparently hadn’t found the robe, or hadn’t bothered with it. He looked yummy in the arse-hugging black silk boxers, despite the heavy bruises mottling his torso, arms and legs.


“Uh – “ Xander followed Spike’s eyes and blushed furiously. “Coffee?”


Spike snorted.


“Sorry, Pet, I didn’t come from the coffee side of the ocean. Choices are tea, stout, and blood.”


Xander gulped.


“Uh. Guess I’ll go with tea.”


Spike pulled out the kettle and, under Xander’s startled gaze, made the tea. Xander watched with a kind of horrified fascination as Spike poured himself a cup of blood and microwaved it.


“Yuck,” Xander said faintly when Spike sipped his blood.


Spike snorted again.


“Pet, a bloke who eats week-old cold pizza, drinks flat Pepsi and eats chocolate covered donuts with those little colored sprinkles all over has no lookout saying ‘yuck’ to anything.”


Xander had the good grace to look sheepish. He stared down into his cup, apparently unwilling to meet Spike’s eyes. Spike checked the refrigerator and the cabinets, then frowned.


“Sorry, Pet, I haven’t exactly stocked the shelves,” he said sheepishly. “There’s stuff for toast, two boxes of Weetabix, and not much else. Suppose we’ll have to make a run to the grocer.”


Xander looked up, startled, then blushed and looked down again. This time Spike guessed he wasn’t going to get out of the conversation.


“So,” Spike said casually. “Way I see it, you should stay for a while.”


“Wha- -- “ Xander glanced up again, his eyes wide and startled. “Stay – here?” He blushed.


“Well, where else you think?” Spike said, shrugging. He let Xander figure it out for himself, watched the thoughts flit across Xander’s face, watched the frown lines deepen as Xander realized just how limited his options were. Giles: Nope. Willow, Buffy: Nope. Own apartment: Nope. Other options: None.


“I’ll go home,” Xander said, very softly.


Spike felt his jaw drop. A flash of anger – how dare the stupid git prefer going back to his fucking parents over staying with Spike! – turned instantly to something Spike was totally unprepared for: Hurt. Immediately he translated it back into anger.


“Not bloody likely,” he snarled. “You think I’m letting you go back to them?”


“Spike – “ Xander took a deep breath, clenching his fists tightly, but still not meeting Spike’s eyes. “Don’t, okay? Just . . . don’t. I can’t stay here. I can’t.”


Spike snorted. Hurt and anger chased tails inside him until he didn’t know which was which.


“Over me blowing you, eh?” he said scornfully. “Got to get out of here ‘cause you hated it that much, right?”


“No,” Xander said inaudibly. “That’s not why.”


Spike clenched his own fists, feeling his nails cut into his palms.


“Why, then?” he said, hating the trace of hurt that came out in his tone.


When Xander answered, it was the barest whisper, so soft that even Spike barely heard it.


“ . . . because I didn’t hate it.”


Spike stopped. Counted to ten. Counted to ten again in four demonic languages: Phrygic, Pyyrhic, Xecltic and Meshril.


“Run that one by me again, Pet,” he said, keeping his voice level with surprising difficulty.


Xander stared down into his now-cold tea.


“Look, I don’t know why you – why you did that,” he said in a low voice. “And, okay, I liked it, maybe that’s what you were trying to do, make a point or something, I don’t know. But, see, the thing is, it really doesn’t matter why you did it because I liked it, because there’s no way I can stay here and not think about it. It’ll drive me nuts, okay? And I can’t get involved with you, I know that, and I can’t not get involved with you either because I’m so fucking tired of being used as Cordy’s closet boy-toy and Anya’s sexual experiment and Faith’s human dildo, okay? I just can’t do that anymore. So I can’t stay here.”


Anger. Hurt. Anger. Hurt. All liberally mixed with something else, or maybe several something elses – a desire to protect Xander, shelter him; a kind of fierce possessiveness, loneliness – Bloody hell, at this rate I’ll end up on Oprah talking about my emotional fucking needs!


“Fine,” Spike said, angry and hurt and confused. “Go, then. Have it your way.”


To his astonishment Xander just nodded, got up and left his teacup where it was and walked away. Before Spike got over his amazement enough to move, Xander had already pulled on a pair of pants and a shirt – Spike noted with a grimace that they were the same ones he’d come in, and realized he hadn’t showed Xander where he’d put his things – and was headed for the door.


Spike didn’t think; if he had, he’d have doubtless talked himself out of doing anything, especially as the living room was dappled with a few patches of sunlight that made it past the heavy curtains, and Xander already had the door partway open, too. Spike charged through the living room and grabbed Xander, yelping with pain as sunlight sent a puff of smoke from his singed hand, but he never let go; he pulled Xander back to the couch and pushed him down, thankfully not hurting him; another go-round with the bleeding chip in his head was just about all he needed now.


“Sit!” he ordered.


Xander, who was already on the couch thanks to Spike’s shove, sat.


“You mean to tell me that you’d rather go back and let your dad pound on you some more than stay here if I can’t come up with a bloody declaration of undying love here and now, ey, is that it?” Spike demanded. “You telling me that after one night and one blowjob, those are me choices, hey?”


Xander had the good grace to look slightly abashed.


“Well – “


“And as far as using goes, let me tell you something here, Pet,” Spike snarled. “After I follow you through the bleeding cemetery beating up Sunnyhell’s baddies to keep them from jumping you, after I bring you home and clean you up and put you in my bed, after I take care of your welts and fucking blow you and offer you room an’ board, and mind you I haven’t asked for one bloody thing in return for any of it, and you’re getting ready to walk out the door ‘cause I don’t hand you a bleeding engagement ring or summat, I’d like to know who the bloody ‘ell’s getting used here!”


They both stared at each other; Spike didn’t know who he’d astonished more with his outraged spiel, Xander or himself. Then Xander’s lip quivered, and for a moment Spike was afraid the git was going to cry, and then he’d probably – well, who the hell knew what he’d do, he’d certainly lost his dignity already! Then Xander’s lips quivered some more, and Spike realized Xander wasn’t going to cry, that he was in fact fighting back laughter, and that did it, Spike bit his lip hard to keep from grinning.


Then Xander lost the battle and snorted, a big loud snort like a fucking pig, for chrissake, and that did it; Spike threw back his head and howled with laughter, and Xander did too, and they both laughed like bleeding idiots until the tears running down Xander’s cheeks were as much from the pain of his ribs as from the laughter itself.


“Right, right, enough of that,” Spike said, forcing down the remainder of his semi-hysterical laughter. “Have a lie down, let those ribs have a breather, eh?”


Xander scootched around obediently, wheezing in relief.


“So – “ He glanced up tentatively. “So, if you did all that, I mean, all those things you said, and you aren’t going to let me go back to my parents’ house – “ He bit his lip. “I guess that means you kind of care about me, right?”


Spike snorted again, feeling the laughter barely confined before a new outburst.


“Guess you could deduce that, Pet,” he admitted sourly.


“Then I guess – “ Xander took a deep breath – as deep as his ribs would allow, anyway. “I guess I’m staying here then. I mean if the offer’s still open,” he added hastily.


Spike rolled his eyes.


“I didn’t never say it wasn’t, did I?” he said.


“Well – “ Xander bit his lip. “I mean, I’ve probably lost my job, since I didn’t show up today or call in or anything. So I can’t really pay any rent until I get another job.”


Spike shrugged.


“Didn’t ask you for money, did I?” he said. “Doesn’t worry me, Pet.”


Xander dropped his eyes.


“And can we – can we – “ He hesitated. “Can I not sleep with you for a while?”


Spike rolled his eyes again.


“You didn’t sleep with me last night, Pet,” he said patiently. “What, you want me on the couch now?”


“No, I – “ Xander grimaced. “I’ll take the air bed and put it someplace else, okay? I just mean I don’t want to – um – “


“Right, I get it, Pet,” Spike said, shrugging. “No fucking. I’m not a bleedin’ idiot, all right? You don’t want it, I get it.”


“It’s not that, it’s just – “ Xander shrugged helplessly. “I mean, can we wait a little while while I, um, kind of figure this out? I mean, this just kind of, um, came out of the blue, and I’m, like, really confused.”


You and me both, Pet, Spike thought sourly. Celibacy had certainly never helped him figure anything out, but what the hell.


“Fine,” he said. “Haven’t neither of us died from not getting it regular yet, I don’t expect we will now.”


Xander sighed with evident relief – then his brow furrowed.


“Oh, shit,” he said.  “Giles and Buffy and everybody. What am I going to tell them when they find out I’m staying here?”


Spike, who had once been William the Bloody, would hardly have survived a century as a vampire if he hadn’t had the ability to think on his feet.


“Got it,” he said. He picked up the phone and dialled. “Hey, Rupe. You might want to grab your patch-up stuff and hoof it over, mate, and have a look at the whelp ‘ere. Yeah, Xander. Right. See you in a quarter hour or so, eh?”



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