No, no, no, Spike scolded. Put more back into it and less shoulder. Less up, more out. Losing all your thrust, you are.
Im trying, Willow said unhappily. She was becoming discouraged, and Spike could see why. She was trying, that was the hell of it. Her aim was decent, too. Only problem was, casting spells and turning book pages hadnt built any strength in her arms and shoulders. Try as she might, the practice spear was barely sticking into the bales of hay Spike had set up behind the target. And he knew from personal experience that a body was a hell of a lot harder to stick something through than a bale of hay.
Here, Willow. Xander took the practice spear. Let your whole upper body go with the throw. Like this. He threw. His aim wasnt quite as good as Willows he missed the center of the target by a hair but the spear impaled the bale of hay solidly, the point and most of the shaft emerging from the other side.
Wow! Tara said, impressed. I dont know why the Tooth didnt choose you, Xander. Youre really good at that.
Xander grinned, flexing his arm to make his bicep bulge.
Just call me muscleman, he chuckled. All that heavy lifting on the job ought to be good for something. Spike didnt comment. There was a hell of a lot more behind that throw than construction muscles, but of course he wasnt going to say that.
Does it have to go all the way through like that? Willow asked worriedly.
Couldnt hurt, he said. Actually, bit of good news. Dunno whether you actually have to skewer this Tiger in Red for the Tooth to work; as far as I know, just a scratch might do it but then again, it might not, so Id keep working for a good stick if I were you. Anyway, if our fellow is really biplanar, itll be easier to heave something through him seeing as hes not quite solid here. So I expect once you work up the strength to stick those bales of hay good, youve probably got him nailed. Kind of like staking a vampire, only you get to do it from a nice safe distance.
Oh. Willow retrieved the spear thoughtfully, then gave Spike a worried look. Does that bother you? I mean, talking about staking vampires.
Nah, why should it? he said. Long as youre not practicing up for me, that is. Ive done my share of em. Be different if they were my fledglings or such, I guess. Strangers, nah, just a nice workout. Not much loyalty among vampires outside the bloodline; we stake each other all the time. Even inside the bloodline sometimes, over territory or power or a dozen other reasons. Hell, Ive staked me own minions if they got too ambitious, or just too plain annoying.
He retrieved the practice spear and walked around behind Willow, grinning to himself when she shivered at his proximity. He gave her the spear, wrapping his fingers over hers.
Right, lets go through this again. He guided the spear back. Relax, Pet, even if I was minded not to mention able to bite you, Id scarcely have put a wooden stick in your hand, eh? Right, back like that. This time when you throw, follow through like this right, youve got it. Try again. Back, then follow through. Good, youve got it. He released Willows hand and stepped aside. Now, this time you got to get mean, Red. Dont look at that target and see bales of hay. See some mean scabby demon whos gonna pull out Taras guts while shes still alive and use em for shoelaces unless you stop him, and youve got just the one chance. Now throw that thing like you mean it.
Willows face flushed and she threw. This time the spear sank several inches into the hay.
There you go, Red, Spike applauded. Keep practicing, youll work up a good arm. He glanced at his watch; it was nearly midnight. Gonna try that tracking spell tonight?
Willow was panting. She shook her head.
We wouldnt have time tonight, she said. Tara and I have to get the spell ready, and you have to catch something for us to use it on, something that we know came out of one of the portals and will probably go back to it. She gave Spike a worried glance. And its got to be in good enough shape to go back.
And even then, weve got to have everybody ready to track it right away, Tara added unhappily.
Spike knew what she meant; that meant Buffy. He couldnt really argue, much as he would have liked to. Following some creature blindly down into the tunnels under Sunnydale, they were bound to run into a hell of a fight. The witches had spunk and meant well, but their sort of gifts werent much good when the fighting got hot and close, and Spike knew Xander would insist on leaping into the fray with him. Better to have the Slayer there. She could fight with the best of them, Spike couldnt deny that, and two more fists between Xander and danger was a Good Thing.
Besides, there was always the possibility of a bonus, the Slayer getting slain by something. Spike had promised not to kill her, but he didnt think even Xander at this point would shed too many tears if Buffy got torn limb from limb by some other nasty.
So what are you guys doing for Christmas? Willow asked, wiping her sweaty face fastidiously with a handkerchief.
Yeah, big winter holiday, three days from now? Willow teased. Tara and I are leaving day after tomorrow and meeting up with a group of cyberpagans celebrating midwinter. Buffys off visiting her dad, so we cant do anything about the tracking spell till she gets back anyway, so we thought we might actually do something fun for a change. Dont you two have any plans?
Bloody hell. Spike had Xanders present one of them, at least stashed away, but in the excitement hed completely forgotten the holiday. Bloody fucking hell. He meant to give the whelp a holiday to remember this year. Somebody had dropped a comment at one of the Scooby meetings about Xander having to camp out on the lawn every Christmas Eve, because of his worthless parents, no doubt. He wanted this Christmas, Xanders first as Spikes Consort, to be memorable. Special.
And now he had only three days or nights, rather left to make it so.
You got Christmas Eve off? he asked Xander, trying to sound casual. Hopefully the whelp would be working, giving him that much more time to get things set up.
Uh, no, Xander said apologetically, looking a little panicked himself. Theyll probably let us go early, though. There probably wont be enough people there to get anything done anyway.
Fuck. Two and a half days, then. Not much time. And there wouldnt be much chance for shopping. Xander would be home evenings, and by the time he went to bed, the shops would be closed. Well, thanks to Angel, Spike had a credit card and a telephone. He was starting to learn that very little in life couldnt be procured with those.
On the drive home, Xander was uncharacteristically silent. Spike, lost in his own thoughts, took a while to notice, but at last he realized that Xanders typical chatter was absent. Realizing that his Consort was probably brooding over past unhappy Christmases, Spike wondered how to cheer Xander up without giving too much of a hint of his plans.
Abruptly, however, it was Xander that opened the conversation.
Spike . . . I guess vampires probably arent much for celebrating Christmas, but would you mind if we got a Christmas tree?
Hmm? Spike raised his eyebrows. If you like, Pet. Why should I mind, unless youre planning to hang crucifixes and garlic all over the bloody thing?
Nah, I just Xander shrugged a little uncomfortably. Its just, until this year I never really had much to celebrate at Christmas. And this year I do, he added shyly.
Spike was touched.
Then well have one, he said. Want a real one? Live one, I mean?
Uh . . . fake, actually, he said, keeping his eyes on the road. You know, they arent really. Live, I mean. I mean, they look alive and everything, but theyre actually dying right there before your eyes. Its kind of nasty to think of. Theres something kind of heartless about cutting a tree down, hauling it home, decorating it up while its dying, and then after the holidays over, you just throw it out to finish dying somewhere where you dont have to look at it fall apart.
Spike glanced at Xander and frowned. The whelp looked truly depressed now, and Spike had a pretty good idea of what was on his mind. He was thinking about his mortality versus Spikes immortality. Did he see himself as a Christmas tree, something Spike would enjoy for a short time and then discard when he began to wilt? Well, it wasnt an unreasonable thought; there had been times back at the beginning of their relationship when Spike had thought of Xander as temporary or disposable.
Spike left Xander to his thoughts until they were home. As soon as Xander hung up his jacket, however, Spike led him to the bathroom.
Cmere, he said, drawing Xander in front of the mirror. Want you to see something. Look there, tell me what you see, right?
Xander shrugged uncomfortably.
Me, he said shortly. No reflection of you. Why?
Missin the point. Hang on a mo. Spike ducked into the bedroom and pulled out their box of pictures. It was getting pretty full now, considering their love of camera play. He picked out one hed taken that first time, while Xanders bruises were still slightly visible, and carried it into the bathroom. Here, look at this, then look in the mirror. Tell me what you see.
Xander glanced at the photograph and bit his lip.
Well, the bruises
Sod the bruises, look at you, Spike instructed. Look at your color. The texture of your skin. Your hair.
Xander glanced from the picture to the mirror. Looked again.
I guess I look healthier, he said, shrugging again. Fatter. I dont know what you want me to say. Its a Polaroid, not exactly fantastic photography.
Spike sighed exasperatedly.
Your new clothes, Pet. Had to size you up, didnt we? He ripped open Xanders shirt abruptly, exposing his chest and abdomen, smooth healthy skin over hard muscle. Look. You see any fat there?
Put on muscle awful fast and easy, havent you? Spike pressed. Had any colds lately? Flu? Sore throats? How about headaches? Between work, patrolling, and shagging, you dont sleep moren four, five hours a night most nights. Feeling draggy, run down?
Uh. Thats a no. Xander turned slightly, glancing uncertainly at Spike. Spike, what are you telling me? That your blood
Good for what ails you, innit? Spike said, meeting Xanders eyes squarely. Heals you when youre hurt, makes you stronger, keeps you healthy, lets you shag like a demon time after time . . . powerful stuff, innit, to do all that?
Yeah, uh, weve been through this, havent we? Xander said puzzledly. Whatre you getting at here, Spike?
Vampires can see it, smell it, sense it, you know, Spike continued. The dying. Its in the blood. Cells dying fastern they can be replaced, systems slowing down, getting less efficient at maintaining themselves as things go wrong, as the life leaks out of the system. So tell me this, Pet: What happens if that dont happen? What if something puts the life back into the system fastern its lost? What happens if cells repair themselves, systems stay strong and healthy, maybe even better than before? What if it just kept on going like that? You tell me.
Xander was silent a long moment, looking confused; then his eyes widened, his mouth opening slightly.
I guess it wouldnt I wouldnt He swallowed hard. Spike, are you trying to tell me Im uh
Youre not immortal, Spike said frankly. You can die. You could fall off that building youre building or some moron could drop a girder on your head. Some demon could rip out your liver and eat it up. Hell, you could walk out the door and be struck by lightning, I wont say it couldnt happen, this is bloody Sunnydale. But no Consort ever died of old age or natural causes, not unless they were cast aside or left an stopped getting the blood. Ive heard of Consorts being kept for decades and not aging none. Now, thats the best I can tell you, cause most usually Consorts either get killed or turned before nearly that long. But fars I know, failing unnatural causes, theres no end in sight, Pet.
Xander was still staring openmouthed. Spike gripped his shoulders hard, hard enough for Xander to feel the bite of his fingers.
When I said forever, I meant forever, he said. You think Id let you go? Not hardly. Way I see it, theres three ways it can go. One, I turn you and we get Red to stick your soul on nice and tight. Two, we find some other way to make you immortal; could happen, its fucking Sunnydale, innit? Three, we take a chance on my blood keeping you young and healthy, and if later on it starts looking like thats not working long-term, then we rethink our choices. But Im not letting you go, Pet, and the fact of the matter is that if you dont make a choice, someday someday I will. And thats the truth. Youre mine, and whats mine I keep.
Xander shivered, but Spike smelt no fear about the boy, and the chocolate brown eyes darkened with arousal and something else, some nameless hunger that was not entirely of the body.
If Im yours Xander murmured, licking dry lips. If your bloods running through my veins, does that make you mine too?
Mmmmm. Spike smiled slowly. Sure does, Pet. Bond works both ways, dont it? Think I could ever find me another Consort who could do the like of that little knife-tease you done, tie me to the bed and shag me crosseyed, set me broken leg and fight demons back to back with me? Never found another in two centuries. If I was the breathing sort, I wouldnt be holding my breath on finding another.
Spike pulled Xander back against him hard, held him tight. He twined his fingers through Xanders hair tenderly, then abruptly pulled his head back, exposing his throat. Xander moaned softly still no fear! and sheer arousal brought out Spikes game face. He licked the taut length of Xanders throat, let Xander feel the very tips of his fangs trace the vein throbbing beneath the skin.
You think I wouldnt turn you in a second? he purred. What do you thinks holding me back, eh? Fear of what the others might do? Dont make me laugh. Think Im afraid how the demon would change you? Not hardly. Been there, done that. Might change you, might not and if it did, hell, Pet, might be a change for the better. Course, Willow would probably insist on sticking you with your bloody soul, but thats all right too. Wouldnt much matter, would it? Either way Id have you, immortal and my Childe, and a hell of a lot harder to destroy.
Xander moaned again. One hand came up, caressed Spikes cheek, cupped the back of his head. Pulled Spikes mouth more firmly against his throat.
Why havent you, then? Xander whispered.
Cause you dont want it, Spike whispered back. Not yet, at least. I love you, and you dont want it. Thats why. But one way or another, Im keeping you. This trees staying green forever, you got that?
Xander shuddered, and Spike smelled the dark musk of his arousal.
Got it, Xander gasped.
Want to show you something. Still holding Xander tightly, Spike pushed the bathroom door shut with his foot. He turned Xander so they were facing the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Hed put the mirror up for Xander, trying to encourage the whelp to see how good he looked in his new clothes and hopefully bolster his pitiful self-image.
Well, if this didnt do it, nothing would.
Look at you, Spike said. He stroked Xanders flat stomach, dipped under the open edges of his shirt to thumb his nipples. Nothing there but you, touched by me. Loved by me. Look at the heat in your eyes, the glow on your skin. Thats my blood in you, my touch on you. Hot and hard and so fucking alive. Thats what I see when I look at you.
Spike flicked open the button on Xanders jeans, slid the zipper down. He pushed jeans and boxers down impatiently, forcing Xander to hastily toe his sneakers off so he could step out of them. Some mortals would look idiotic in a ripped-open shirt and socks and nothing else; Xander just looked that much more naked. That much hotter.
Look at my Consort, Spike purred in Xanders ear. Look how fine he is. Strong shoulders, good broad chest theres a man who can take my weight in bed and give back as good as he gets. Strong arms to hold me tight when I want to be held, or make it enough challenge to be fun when I want to play rough. Hard, flat belly dont I love to run my tongue down here, right down this little trail of hair?
Xander was panting now, trembling, but he made no effort to pull free of Spikes grip, made no effort to raise his hands from where they hung at his sides.
Look at my Consorts cock, how long and thick it is. Big enough to fill me up good, mouth or ass, just as I please, but not so huge that its more work than fun to get it in either end. I like it that my Consorts cut and Im not. Like the difference. Makes it interesting, dont it? Look how hard my Consort is, how ready. Just as hard and strong here as he is everywhere else. Looks like an angel, fucks like a demon, thats my Consort. And the taste of him. Almost as fine as his blood, that is. Spike slid his fingers up Xanders cock, gathered the welling pre-come, and licked his fingers. Xander couldnt see the gesture in the mirror, of course, but he could hear, and he shuddered.
Look at those strong thighs, Spike continued relentlessly. Strong enough to grip my hips tight. Hes tough, my Consort can take it rough or gentle, and give it back the same. Love to see those thighs spread wide for me. Makes me want to nip my way all up the inside of em. And you should see the arse on my Consort. A work of art, that is. A thing of beauty. But youre not gonna see it right now, cause its going to be too busy.
He pushed Xander almost roughly to his hands and knees on the bathroom rug, following him down, detouring only long enough to snatch up the little tube of waterproof lube from its place on the rim of the tub Bloody hell, didnt we have fun with that? Nearly swamped the place, too. Stuffs a bit on the goopy side, but never mind, itll do.
Xander was glancing over his shoulder at Spike, and the heat in that gaze made him shudder, but he didnt want Xander looking at him.
No, Pet, he said, grabbing Xanders hair again and turning his face forward by main force. Look in the mirror. Want you to see what I see when I look at you. Not me, only you. The beauty of you, the strength of you, the heat of you. Just look.
No kisses, no tender caresses, not this time. Spike prepared his lover hastily, Xander groaning and pushing back against the slick fingers. Yeah, no need for extended foreplay tonight. Xander needed this just as much as Spike did. More.
Spike withdrew his fingers, substituted his cock, and slid into his Consort in one firm thrust. Xander let out a primal howl and pushed back just as hard, impaling himself violently on Spikes length. Spike allowed himself and Xander a few deep, hard thrusts before he pulled Xander up and back, still inside that boiling heat, Xanders back arched against Spikes chest now.
Look, Spike growled, pumping Xanders erection in time with his thrusts. See yourself giving me everything. See how you look when I take it all your ass, your pleasure, your love, your blood. Its all there in your eyes, all naked and hot and alive. All mine.
And it was there, laid bare as Xanders body, and briefly Spike wished just once he could see himself too, see if the heat and emotion in his own eyes was half as intense as that of his Consort. But he couldnt, too bad, and he had to lose the spectacle of his Consort, too, as he pulled Xanders head back and sank his fangs into his Consorts throat, barely maintaining enough presence of mind to miss the main artery.
Xander was screaming, and Xander was coming, but Spike barely noticed it hell, barely noticed his own orgasm as he drowned in the maelstrom of his Consorts blood/ecstasy/pain/love, so much, so fucking much, more than Spike had ever had or ever dreamed of having, almost more than he could bear. And he might have drowned, might have taken too much or, hell, maybe given too much, who knows, if Xander hadnt given one final howl of pleasure and passed out in his arms.
Spike gently withdrew, fangs and cock, and lowered Xander to the rug, turning him over on his back. His mortal was a beautiful mess, come and sweat and blood, and Spike was sorely tempted to just start licking him clean. But that would start the game all over again, and Xander had had a busy night already, and he needed some sleep before work tomorrow. So Spike wet a washcloth with warm water and gently sponged Xander clean, frowning slightly as he did so. Xander was pale, and no wonder; Spike had bitten harder and drunk deeper than he really should have.
In fact it took a few moments before Xander stirred, long enough for Spike to begin to worry, but when Xanders eyes opened, they were full of love and wonder.
Wow, he whispered. I passed out.
Sure did, Pet, and no wonder, Spike chuckled ruefully. Here, have a bit of a pick-me-up. He bit into his wrist and offered it, smiling as Xander unhesitatingly pulled Spikes wrist to his mouth. Yes, Spikes blood was working in Xander more than the mortal realized, but that was probably to the good; didnt want the whelp panicking, after all.
Xander let go of Spikes wrist reluctantly when the bite healed, licking his lips to get the last drops.
. . . good, he murmured drowsily.
Spike grinned broadly.
Not half, Pet, he said affectionately. He bent down to kiss Xander, exploring the mortals mouth deeply, savoring their mingled flavors. He pulled back slightly, enough to see Xanders eyes. Liked that, then, ey?
Xander flushed but nodded.
Yeah, he whispered. You made me feel He blushed even more deeply.
Feel how, Pet? Spike insisted, combing back Xanders sweaty hair with his fingers.
Xander was silent for a long moment; then, almost inaudibly, he whispered, Special. Beautiful.
You are, Spike said simply. Always were. He sighed. Come on, Pet. Floors hard and youve got work tomorrow. Stagger just a few steps and well cuddle some more, and you can sleep.
Stagger was right; although the bite mark on Xanders throat had healed with the infusion of Spikes blood, and his color was normal again, Xander was plainly exhausted, and they fell into bed in a comfortable tangle of limbs, Xander already more than half asleep. Spike sat up for a while, watching his Consort sleep. Xander had had a good drink of his blood tonight; that and the exhaustion afterward meant the blood was having a profound effect. Already Spike could see the difference a finer texture and tautness to Xanders skin, more of that vital glow. Spike would have to be more careful in the future. A few more exchanges like that and Xander would be setting off Buffys instincts, and neither Spike nor Xander were ready for that confrontation not quite yet. Better if it could wait until after the current crisis, when maybe Spike could persuade Xander to leave town if the choice came down to that versus a dead Buffy or dusted Spike.
Silently Spike picked up their digital camera and took a picture of sleeping Xander, then reached for the box of photographs. Picking out a few in sequence, he shook his head, smiling ruefully. Xander couldnt see the difference until it was pointed out, but he looked in the mirror every day. To Spike the changes were glaringly obvious. Sooner or later somebody else had to notice. He was amazed they hadnt already.
Then again, was it so surprising? The others had been ignoring Xander for years. Theyd missed signs of abuse which, in retrospect, seemed to Spike just as obvious as this. Nobody had noticed Xanders ring; hell, nobody had even commented on Xanders drastic change in clothing! So what if the whelp looked uncommonly fine and strong of late? If they didnt notice him hurt, why should they notice him healthy? The thought was both relieving and infuriating.
Spike put the photos back in the box and slid down beside Xander, smiling when the sleeping man instinctively moved closer.
Never mind them, Pet, he murmured softly, wrapping his arms around his lover. Gonna take good care of you. No tree on the trash-heap for you, no, love. Healthy and strong forever, thats you. Forever young and strong.
Xander sighed in his sleep and threw one arm over Spikes chest. Spike glanced at the ring on Xanders finger and smiled. He couldnt have chosen better if he had picked the ring out for his Consort. Darkness and light. Demon and mortal.
Yes, Pet, I believe thatll do.