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 hadnt been too stunned to do so.
Which pain the chip in Spikes 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 wasnt meant to go on forever. Gradually Spike became aware of the strangest situation hed ever encountered in his life he was being held, by God, held in warm unfamiliar arms, while a very familiar voice chanted, Oh, God, Im sorry, Im sorry, Im sorry, Im sorry.
S all right, Pet, Spike croaked. Not your fault. Which was another bald-faced lie, of course, because it certainly was the whelps fault, but looked at the right way, it was really the fucking Initiatives 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.
Im so sorry, Xander repeated helplessly, sniffling and wiping his tears off Spikes face. I didnt 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 didnt see you and
I said its 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, Im okay, Xander mumbled. He averted his eyes, and even in the darkness Spikes 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.
Dont have a stroke, Pet, youre the one jumped on me, Spike chuckled, flipping the sleeping bag over his lower body. So whatre you doing up? Idve thought youd sleep twelve hours at least, full bladder or not.
Xander shrugged awkwardly.
I dont 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.
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 hadnt had time to work yet. Hed probably need to get the whelp antibiotics, but he couldnt go out in the daylight to get them. He couldnt give Xander more painkillers, either, not so soon after the first dose. There was something else he could do, but hed have to work up to it or hed 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, youre not gonna sleep, Pet, which means Im not gonna sleep either, Spike said patiently. So you might as well talk. So what was this particular bout of Xander-bashing over?
Cmon, I can take it, Spike chuckled.
Well, its kind of complicated.
Mostly is hereabouts, Spike shrugged. So?
Well, I lost my job
What, they were afraid you couldnt 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
Nothing like a little consistency here, he said sarcastically. Id think hed 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, dont 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 Xanders humiliated flush.
What, so youre 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 youre not 21 and using a false ID, but anyway.
Its not that. Xander sighed. Dad got mad, said he wouldnt 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, thats when Xanders 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 youve 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.
Seems to bother you more than me, Pet, he said. Nah, vampires get over fretting over that sort of thing pretty early on.
Xanders head snapped up, a shocked expression in his eyes.
You mean youre I mean vampires are um, like bisexual or something?
Hmm. Dont suppose that much covers it, Pet, Spike said thoughtfully. More like trisexual as in well try just about anything. Ill 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.
Didnt hear me, Pet, Spike chided. I said Angelus, now, didnt I? Dont know about the broody one, dont 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 youd understand other then. I mean, it had parts I dont 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.
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.
Dont thank me yet, Pet, Spike said. We still need to do something about your back.
We do? Xander said faintly.
Spike took Xanders hand and guided it around to one of the welts.
Feel that heat? he said. Thats infection setting in.
Oh, shit, Xander sighed.
Now, I could get you some antibiotics
I dont 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 Ill . . . put something else on those welts. He turned out the light, not wanting Xander to see him change to game face.
Dont 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 wont 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.
Wh-wh-wha what a-a-are you
Well, it was better than Spike had expected; hed 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 Xanders shoulder to hold him still.
Easy, Pet, he said. Dont 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 dont never see the bite marks when a vampires drained somebody theyre gonna turn, right?
Uh Xander took a moment to engage his brain again. Yeah.
Thats because of the vampires blood. Its got powerful healing in it. A little bit in my spits plenty to take care of these welts, and then youll feel a whole lot better. Itll even help the bruising a bit, maybe. Spike patted Xanders shoulder. No harm, Pet, I promise.
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, dont you like it? Spike purred in Xanders ear. Daringly he licked another long welt, sending a shudder through the mortal.
Dont, Xander whispered helplessly and as insincerely as Spike had ever heard.
That husky, quavery tone that said Dont 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 Xanders shoulders, holding him still for insurance. He neednt have bothered; other than shivering uncontrollably, Xander made no move to escape; indeed, Spike could feel the slight, almost indiscernible press of Xanders body as he arched slightly upward against Spikes mouth.
The natural anticoagulant in Spikes 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 Xanders blood fear, wonder, arousal, need, hunger, desperation, pleasure, loneliness, hope such a maelstrom of feeling.
Spikes tongue dipped low to attend to a welt at Xanders 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 didnt 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, dont hurt yourself. Just close your eyes, relax, feel good, eh?
Before Xander could say anything, Spike bent down and took the head of Xanders 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, couldnt 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 Xanders voice. Nothing, I guess.
Go to sleep, Pet, Spike told him. We could both use it.
Yeah. Xanders 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. Youd think hed 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, couldnt just enjoy it. One of the reasons he never played with mortals himself; one of the reasons hed thought Angel so daft for doing it.
But now hed done it, and why? To make Mr. Sugary Goodness happy? And what was that about? Hed blown (ha-ha!) his entire night nursemaiding one of Her Blondenesss Slayerettes, tending his boo-boos and swaddling his butt in Spikes comfy bed. What had gotten into him?
Spike grimaced. Two reasons, plain enough: He was lonely, and he was randy as hell. He couldnt exactly call the Scooby Gang his best mates, eh? And when was the last time hed gotten his end down? He didnt 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 wasnt used to feeling neutered and vulnerable, he wasnt used to being alone, he wasnt 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 whyd he made such a barmy pick of it? Buffy and Giles wouldnt take kindly to Spike showing any interest to one of her Scoobies. And gay bar or not, Spike would bet a lifetime on pigs blood that his mouth on Xanders 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 Spikes Pet and playtoy and all-around bouncy-bouncy partner?
Which brought up another troubling thought. What was he going to do with the whelp? Couldnt send him home, thats for sure. Couldnt send him to doss with Giles or Buffy if Xander didnt want them to know about his happy family. What, then? The boy obviously couldnt afford a place of his own. Spike grinned. The situation was obvious; hed 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 hadnt found the robe, or hadnt 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 Spikes eyes and blushed furiously. Coffee?
Sorry, Pet, I didnt come from the coffee side of the ocean. Choices are tea, stout, and blood.
Uh. Guess Ill go with tea.
Spike pulled out the kettle and, under Xanders 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 Spikes eyes. Spike checked the refrigerator and the cabinets, then frowned.
Sorry, Pet, I havent exactly stocked the shelves, he said sheepishly. Theres stuff for toast, two boxes of Weetabix, and not much else. Suppose well have to make a run to the grocer.
Xander looked up, startled, then blushed and looked down again. This time Spike guessed he wasnt 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 Xanders 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.
Ill 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 Im letting you go back to them?
Spike Xander took a deep breath, clenching his fists tightly, but still not meeting Spikes eyes. Dont, okay? Just . . . dont. I cant stay here. I cant.
Spike snorted. Hurt and anger chased tails inside him until he didnt 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. Thats 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 didnt 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 dont know why you why you did that, he said in a low voice. And, okay, I liked it, maybe thats what you were trying to do, make a point or something, I dont know. But, see, the thing is, it really doesnt matter why you did it because I liked it, because theres no way I can stay here and not think about it. Itll drive me nuts, okay? And I cant get involved with you, I know that, and I cant not get involved with you either because Im so fucking tired of being used as Cordys closet boy-toy and Anyas sexual experiment and Faiths human dildo, okay? I just cant do that anymore. So I cant 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 Ill 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 hed come in, and realized he hadnt showed Xander where hed put his things and was headed for the door.
Spike didnt think; if he had, hed 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 Spikes shove, sat.
You mean to tell me that youd rather go back and let your dad pound on you some more than stay here if I cant 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.
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 Sunnyhells 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 havent asked for one bloody thing in return for any of it, and youre getting ready to walk out the door cause I dont hand you a bleeding engagement ring or summat, Id like to know who the bloody ells getting used here!
They both stared at each other; Spike didnt know who hed astonished more with his outraged spiel, Xander or himself. Then Xanders lip quivered, and for a moment Spike was afraid the git was going to cry, and then hed probably well, who the hell knew what hed do, hed certainly lost his dignity already! Then Xanders lips quivered some more, and Spike realized Xander wasnt 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 Xanders 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 arent 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 Im staying here then. I mean if the offers still open, he added hastily.
Spike rolled his eyes.
I didnt never say it wasnt, did I? he said.
Well Xander bit his lip. I mean, Ive probably lost my job, since I didnt show up today or call in or anything. So I cant really pay any rent until I get another job.
Didnt ask you for money, did I? he said. Doesnt 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 didnt sleep with me last night, Pet, he said patiently. What, you want me on the couch now?
No, I Xander grimaced. Ill take the air bed and put it someplace else, okay? I just mean I dont want to um
Right, I get it, Pet, Spike said, shrugging. No fucking. Im not a bleedin idiot, all right? You dont want it, I get it.
Its not that, its 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 Im, 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. Havent neither of us died from not getting it regular yet, I dont 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 Im staying here?
Spike, who had once been William the Bloody, would hardly have survived a century as a vampire if he hadnt 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?