Journey of the White Cave Clan

by
BmblBee



Part Eleven

"Slow down!! I don't want to walk anymore!"

Liam nodded to Hawk, the clan leader's next in charge. Hawk took the point position and kept the steady march forward of the clan while Liam fell to the back of the pack where Web stood obstinately, shouting his refusal to take another step. When Liam reached him, he swung his open palm with the intent to soundly box the boy's ear, but Web had anticipated just such a response. With a fast bob and weave, he skillfully dodged his brother's wrath and pouted, untouched.

"I'm tired. You're making us go too far each day. My leg hurts. I think I have a wound inside my foot. Why can't one of the big men make a drag and pull me? You have to help me. Xander never forced us to travel like this. He let us stop and get water and piss. Xander was a better...OW!"

This time Liam didn't miss, and Web wore the bright red outline of his brother's hand on his cold cheek.

"Don't you dare! Don't you dare talk about Xander. I might not know exactly what you did, but I know it's your fault that he is lying dead at the bottom of that cliffside. Now, you wanted me to be the clan leader and I am. So as clan leader, I'm telling you to get your ass moving or we will leave you behind."

"You wouldn't do that! You can't leave me. I'm your brother and by my birthright, I am next in line to be leader if anything happens to you. And it might. Accidents happen all the time."

Liam suddenly grabbed a fistful of his brother's furs and he violently shook the boy before jerking him forward until they were nose to nose.

"Are you threatening me? Are you looking for a rocky cliff to push me off of?"

Web's eyes bugged and his chin quivered in terror at the fire he read in Liam's eyes.

"No! No, Liam I just meant...."

"That's the biggest difference between me and Xander. I would NEVER be foolish enough to turn my back on you. You are a vile snake and our mother should have smothered you in her furs when you first dropped from her body. You will never be the leader of the Wind Clan. I will make sure of that! Now, you get your ass moving. The clan is nearly out of sight and until we catch up to them, I'm going to smack you every step you take."

Web puffed hot fogs of breath between his clenched teeth as he and his brother remained in a locked standoff. He knew this time he couldn't win. Liam was twice his size and strength. For now, there was nothing to do but concede and remember. And Web would remember. He would remember each and every one of these assaults and violations. Liam would be sorry. Someday, he would pay.

"Fine. I'm going. I'll walk but I hate you."

Liam rolled his eyes and shook his head at the boy's pointless announcement. Being loved or even liked was not a clan leader's job requirement. His only answer was to clamp his frigid-cold fingers around the back of Web's neck and give him a rough shove. A quick stumble-shuffle of his feet kept Web from landing face first in the snow, and with a growled mumble he hurried to fall in with the rest of the clan.

True to his word, Liam helped his brother along with several swats and whacks that ensured the incident would be implanted in his brain for at least as long as it took for the bruises to heal. When they finally caught up with the rest, Web fell in at the rear of the moving pack while Liam continued his quick pace until he joined Hawk at the front. Hawk glanced over his shoulder to see if Web had rejoined the clan or if this was to be the Wind Clan's lucky day.

"He gonna make it?"

Liam tried to keep his head high in the face of the humiliation that his brother was heaping upon them.

"He will. I know we are pushing harder than usual, but the smell of a coming snow is in the air and we have to make the shelter of the foothills by nightfall. If we continue to keep this pace, we will get there and still have time for the hunting party to break off and find some meat to feed the clan. Even with a couple fires, we can't risk bedding down out here in the open."

Hawk looked up at the sky, and the heavy, dark clouds that obscured the sun confirmed what Liam had said. The storm was moving in fast.

"You're right, of course. While you have the lead, I'll fall back and make sure none of the women and children are having trouble."

"Hawk?"

"Yes?"

"Is this what Xander would have done?"

"It doesn't matter, Liam. You're clan leader now and we will follow you."

When Liam did not respond, Hawk gave his friend a pat on the back of his shoulder before he fell out of formation to allow the bulk of the silent clan to march past him. He visually checked the mothers with infants in their arms and tied by fur slings to their chests. There were several older men and women whose bodies were bent from the
arthritic damage caused by the years of cold and damp.

The harsh reality was that most of them would not still be with the clan when the pack arrived at the warm lands. They would not be intentionally abandoned, but the clan also would not risk itself for a weak member that couldn't hold his own.

Like a herd of animals, the clan moved as a pack. Clustered together to break the wind from the women in the middle and to preserve body heat, they continued to walk. Southward. Ever southward.



~*~*~*~*~



Xander pulled himself to an upright position and was pleasantly surprised to find that his pain had greatly diminished over the night. So much so, in fact, that while the others inside the cave went about their morning busy work, Xander decided to get his feet up under him and test his stability.

With this goal in mind, Xander scooted back until he was pressed against the side of the cave and he then gripped a hand-hold in the craggy wall. He grunted and with an intense effort, he pulled his legs underneath himself in a squat that he held while gauging his level of pain. Bolstering his confidence was the fact that his legs no longer hurt, which told him that there was no damage inside, only the cuts and bruises on the skin.

In direct contrast was the excruciating, blinding pain that stabbed him through his side, making breathing difficult and nearly driving him back to his knees. But he wasn't ready to give up. Not yet. His face screwed up in a grimace and he hoisted, shifting the majority of the strain to his legs and away from his upper body. Gripping the interior rocks of the wall, he shoved until he was upright then quickly held on as he took a moment to steady himself on shaky legs and wait till the wave of pain and nausea ebbed.

After a few minutes, the pain seemed to ease, at least that's what he told himself as he stood there. He was able to breathe and he knew for sure that the wounds on his legs would not stop his walking to find his clan.

It was a liberating realization. It gave him hope. Turning toward the mouth of the cave, Xander gazed out into the white of the snow. It covered the ground and it coated each branch of every tree. Although it had technically stopped snowing, the bitter cold wind continued to whip around what had already fallen, causing it to mound up. To Xander it was time that was building up. Each flake and each inch was another notch of the sun that should be
seeing him further south.

Spike had been to the rear of the cave checking on Willow, and when he returned to the fire he was surprised to see Xander standing upright. Remaining in the shadows, Spike took some time to just observe the injured stranger. He was taller than Spike had realized. Broad at the shoulders and long and lean up his legs and back. His outer furs had been discarded in the heat of the cave and the only part of his body covered was a scant wrap at his waist.

The effect the sight of the nearly naked man had on Spike was indescribable and he couldn't look away. Spike had never felt an overwhelming urge to touch another human, especially the females of his clan, but as he stared at this very masculine body, it was all the leader of the White Clan could do not to reach out and let his flexing fingers learn every dip and ridge of Xander's muscular frame.

It was baffling, but worse, it was arousing and Spike fought the need to reach into his own skins and stroke his man-part to release. It was a shocking thought that he had no time to examine as Xander, sensing he was being watched, turned his incredible dark eyes directly on the man who was staring at him. At that instant, Spike saw something in Xander's face that contradicted the usual mask of arrogance he wore.

Crippled and alone, abandonded by his people, Xander looked lost. He looked unsure and homesick. It tugged at Spike's heart in empathy. He was also a leader with a lost clan. Apparently Spike and Xander weren't so different after all. Quickly, Xander turned away. "Spike. I didn't hear you. I guess my mind was out there in the snow."

Spike crossed his arms over himself and he moved to stand beside the other clan leader at the mouth of the cave. Together they stared out at the frigid serenity of the vast white expanse.

"You miss your clan, yeah?"

"Yes. They are probably moving. If they started at the dawn of yesterday's sun they are ahead of the storm."

Spike tried to imagine a whole clan of people, moving like a single body, traveling in the open air and at the mercy of the snow and wind and rain. How was that possible? There was so much he didn't understand about how a clan could survive out in the wilderness with no cave for protection.

"How can so many people.... Xander?"

Xander buckled over. His hand clutched his side and his face told the story of his pain. Fearing the injured clansman was about to fall over, Spike looped his arm around Xander's waist and allowed the bigger man to rest his weight against him. Gently, he lowered Xander back down and helped him until he was again prone on the cave floor.

Gratitude and shame competed in the tone of Xander's mumbled voice. "Thank you. I'm sorry. I know I'm a burden to your clan. If you want to put me out I...."

Spike sat down cross-legged next to Xander's shoulder and he did the unthinkable. He reached out and gently ghosted his fingertips across the injured man's forehead. Xander's eyes opened wide and he stared into the soft, sky blue ones for an explanation. Spike just shrugged and continued to pet the stranger.

"It isn't the way of our people to throw away a member of the White Clan."

"But I'm not White Clan."

"Yes you are. While you are here, you are welcome into our clan. We will offer you our food, our protection and our companionship. When you are well, you will go with our goodwill."

Xander finally relaxed. He held up his hand, which Spike gripped and, in locking their fingers, they reached an agreement. After that, Xander sighed and closed his eyes. When Spike resumed his odd petting of Xander's forehead and hair, neither man found objection.





Part Twelve

The clouds in the sky finally ran out of snow as it all lay over the land. It had piled up cold and wet, as high as a man's mid-thigh, and ensured that the White Clan would be cave-bound for the next cycle of the sun. It was a depressing prospect that silenced the clan during their sparse evening meal and had Spike again thinking the unthinkable.

The rest of the clan had gone to bed early to conserve their strength after a day of very little food. They bundled beneath their heaviest furs in anticipation of Spike's conservation of their wood supply during the night and, sadly, there were no sounds of rutting.

For Xander, this was what he had waited all day for. Ever since the break of dawn, he had watched the white-haired clan leader as Spike had fussed around the cave, attempting to bolster his clan's mood and inspire confidence and encouragement. Spike had made a point of interacting with each individual member, giving them his time and attention while Xander observed silently.

Everything about the smaller man fascinated him. The fluid movement of his body, the sound of his voice, and especially the shape and countenance of his face. Xander stared at the shifting expressions that altered regularly from a wrinkled scowl to a smooth, small smile and, at one point, a soft, loving glow as he briefly bumped noses with the earth-woman, Willow.

Xander found Spike very pleasing to look upon. He had long, wispy white hair that hung around his narrow shoulders and whipped into his face when the winds of the snow burst into the cave. His arms and upper body were hard-shaped and Xander imagined the leader of the White Clan to be a skilled spear thrower. When Spike's outer furs were discarded in the heat of the cave, his thighs were revealed to be enticing, as Xander pictured the man running like the wind through the heather fields and the deep forests.

Spike was several inches shorter than Xander. A point that had not been obvious until Xander had pulled himself to his feet. When Spike wrapped a strong, corded arm around Xander's waist, it was like the perfect fitting of two stones into the open knot of a tree trunk. It felt good. It felt natural and it caused a quickening of Xander's heartbeat.

This was a reaction Xander had never felt towards another person, man or woman, and Xander wanted time alone with Spike to explore it further. He anticipated the rise of the moon with a tingling in his loins. After everyone but Willow had drifted away, Xander frowned as Spike placed a hand on her face. He whispered into her ear and bumped her nose with his.

For some odd reason, their obvious affection for each other stirred uncomfortable twinges within Xander that he was unable to identify. The one thing he was certain of was that it was finally sundown. Willow went to her nest at the rear of the cave as Spike returned to the fire and they were alone at last.

"How are you feeling?"

Xander ran his hand around his mid-section and was surprised to note that the sharp pain had dulled, and as he sat up his breathing was unhampered.

"I'm better. I should be able to stand on my own by the rising of the next sun. I know my being here has been an added hardship to your people and I will go as soon as I can."

Spike sat at the side of the small fire but his attention was locked on the mouth of the newcomer as he spoke. Spike liked the way Xander's full lips tipped up in the corners when they formed the words. In fact, he was so enraptured that it took a few moments before he realized what had been said. When he did, he blinked.

"What? NO! I mean, no, you can't go. Not yet. You said yourself that your own clan would already be far away and you know that one man alone cannot survive in the harsh conditions of the winter season. You have to stay here. You need to stay with m...with us."

Xander glanced all around at the stone walls that seemed to close in around them, and he wondered if this was what it felt like when a dead warrior was covered with rocks. He was surprised to admit to himself that despite his better judgement, over the course of the three days he had been here, Xander came to the realization that he liked the White Cave people very much.

Especially their leader.

They were different than his own clan, and it was those very differences that were spelling their demise. The Wind Clan was ruthless. They raised their boys with an iron hand and every member of the clan understood that they could be sacrificed for the good of the whole at any time. It was all about the survival of the clan. It was why Xander himself had been discarded. It was simply what had to be.

The White Cave people were more individualized. Each person's needs were addressed. It was coddling. It was the way of an old woman rather than a pack of strong warriors. Xander saw this ideology as ridiculous and fatalistic. But that wasn't the reason he had to go.

Xander was nomadic. Every cell of his body craved the open skies, and the deeply ingrained history of his ancestors urged him out of this forced confinement. His feet itched to walk and the shifting seasons tugged at him relentlessly. Each rise and fall of the sun mocked him as he failed to move, and Xander understood that his chances to go were beginning to run out. Soon the heavy snows would stop melting off and the ground path would become impassable.

"I can't stay here, Spike. I am grateful to your people for their generosity of food and I know your woman saved my life, but I just can't live like this. Don't you see that your people are dying here trapped inside this hole in a rock?"

The statement stirred a panic inside Spike. It was a double dose of alarm encompassed around both the thought of Xander leaving and the putting of Spike's fears for his clan into words. As Spike had gone about his day within the cave, he found himself staying close to the fire and the man that held an attraction for him. In his shame, Spike felt
himself tempted to fuss over Xander in much the way Dawn did over Coy.

Spike sat down next to Xander. He kept his voice low so that none of his own people would hear his words. Spike knew their future was bleak and while he was nowhere near ready to leave the cave of their forefathers, he was ready to talk about the possibilities.

"What is out there, Xander? How do you know where to go? Where do you sleep? How long do you walk? I just don't understand how it is possible to live in the outside. I'm not asking because I would take my people on such a journey but only because part of my people chose that. They turned their backs on the way of the White Cave and they began the walk in search of another life. I fear for them. For their fate."

Xander was shocked. No pack of gentle people such as the White Clan could possibly survive in the wild without a knowledge of the land.

"What? When? How could you let them go?"

Spike jumped to his feet. His fists were clenched, his jaw was tight and his face flushed as red as the blaze at his side. He was furious at the insinuation that he failed as a clan leader. Xander was cruel and ignorant to make judgements on a situation he didn't understand.

"You have no right to talk to me like that. My people are not prisoners that I force to stay here. If they want to leave, I will not stop them. Every man must choose his own fate. Besides, they could be all right. They might be...."

Spike choked and couldn't go on with the words that he did not believe. Xander was right. Spike had allowed his clansmen to march off to an unsure future and a certain death. He sank back down to sit and stare silently into the fire. His shame prevented him from looking the other clan leader in the eyes. Immediately, Xander regretted what must have sounded like an assault. He scooted over and sat so close to Spike that their knees were almost touching.

Again, Xander was struck by the incredible intimacy of being here alone with the other man. His skin flushed and warmed beyond what the fire could have caused, and this time when he felt the tingle in his groin and the raising of his man-part, Xander didn't feel any fear or confusion, only pleasure.

Reaching over, Xander ran his fingers through the soft, white hair as he pushed it back off  Spike's shoulder. It was every bit as wonderful as Xander had imagined and the feel of it as it tumbled between Xander's fingers caused a surge of excitement that immediately brought his penis to a full, fat erection.

The unexpected contact flushed all thoughts of conflict over his clan's division from Spike's mind and his head snapped around. Their faces were just inches apart. The shadows of the fire danced on the walls of the cave as the faint smoky smell swirled around their heads. Spike could hardly breathe. His eyes darted between Xander's dark, erotic eyes that were staring at him intently and Xander's nose. The nose that Spike wanted so badly to bump.

Spike was horrified to realize that his man-part was fully hardened and he wanted to rut with another man. Xander seemed to be less put off by the unheard-of concept of two men rutting. While his mind could find no reference point for it, his body seemed to have an ancient understanding and acceptance.

"Spike. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that you aren't a good clan leader. I don't know what happened. If your people left early enough in the shifting season, they could have found the trail. If they made it over the high mountain pass by the rock of waterfalls, they might be safe."

It was exactly what Spike had wanted to hear. It was a chance. His people could have made it into the land of warm grasses and ample herds. And if that was possible....

His voice was low and guarded.

"Could we survive? I'm not saying I would agree to take the rest of my clan and go, but if we had someone who knew the way...someone like you...is it possible? Could my clan survive outside the cave?"

Xander was surprised by the question. He glanced outside the cave and noted the depth of the snow. On his own, traveling at top speed, he believed he would be able to make it and rejoin the rest of his clan, but slowed by a group of people unaccustomed to long hours on their feet in the open elements, he had grave doubts.

"I don't know. We are at the end of the season of moving. Your people are children and your woman is carrying your unborn child. It is a hard trip. Once you go more than one moon, there is no turning back."

Neither Spike nor Xander commented on the oddity of Xander's hand as it continued petting and stroking Spike's hair and face. In fact, rather than refute the physical contact, Spike leaned even closer. So much so that it occurred to him that if he tipped his head just a breath closer, their noses would bump. It was an outrageous thought that sent a tingle throughout his body while his mind struggled to stay on topic.

"My people are strong. We can endure hardship. The boys are good hunters with strong legs and Dawn is almost at the time of her bleeding. They are not children. Our weakest is Willow but Penn and I will carry her if we need. She is my sister. She is Penn's woman and her unborn child is the future of our clan. I promise that we will see to her well-being."

Xander blinked.

"Your sister? Willow is not your woman?"

"No. Why would you think...oof."

Before he knew what was happening, Spike found himself flat on his back as the leader of the Wind Clan bumped his nose off Spike's. He rubbed their faces together and Xander sniffed Spike's hair and neck. Spike moaned and reached beneath his furs.





Part Thirteen

For a moment, Spike put up a cursory struggle. He placed his palms flat against the muscular, firm chest of the leader of the Wind Clan, but his pressure was more of a tactile touch than a forceful shove as his fingertips were distracted by the hard, pebbly nipples with the dark, dusky rings around them. Still, his voice and words attempted to display an anger and disgust that his body was not fully on board with.

"Stop it! What are you doing? I am not a woman."

Xander made no move to remove himself from atop Spike's prone form and he noted that despite the protestations, Spike was not actively trying to escape. Xander wondered if it would have mattered if Spike was. Probably not.

When Xander answered, his voice was breathless and full of wonder.

"I can tell that you are no woman, but your body pleases me. It is strong and your smell is that of a man, a warrior. It inflames me. It makes me want to touch your manhood and to release with you. I have never spilled my seed with another, Spike, but I want to spill it with you."

The confession from the leader of the Wind Clan was a revelation. Spike stared into those deep, dark eyes and he knew that this was what he had waited all these years for too. The touch of this man and the weight of his heavy body stirred feelings in Spike that he had often seen reflected in the faces of the clan members when they mated and rutted with the ones they loved. But he had never seen...was it wrong?

Lying back with his eyes closed as Xander continued to sniff him and lick his neck while shoving the thick furs from his chest, Spike tried to put his concerns into words.

"My clan doesn't...two men together isn't...do your people do this?"

At this point, Xander would have confessed to living in a clan that mated and rutted with the demon beasts of the mystical forests. He wanted this pale, gentle man more than any hunger or urge he had ever felt, and he felt no compulsion regarding truth or lies.

"Yes. My men rut together. It is a good thing. A man knows how to please a man. I can feel that your breeding meat is ready. Please, Spike. Touch me under my furs. Feel how hard it is for you. My man-part seeks to rut with you and we can spill our seed together."

That was good enough for Spike. His hands fumbled with the straps and ties that held the other man's furs bound at his waist. Above him, he could see in the muted light that Xander's face was contorted in pain as he held himself up high enough to allow Spike's hands access.

"Lay down on your back and I will sit on top. I will free us both and bring us to pleasure together."

Xander considered the offer for only a second. It would be more comfortable. It would be easier. It would relieve the sharp stab in his injured ribs. Having Spike straddle him would remove the pressure from Xander's side. Yet the very concept was unimaginable. The leader of the Wind Clan simply did not lay down like a female. Pain or not, he would remain on top.

"No, no, you almost have it. Just...yes. Push that...yeah...open...OH YES!"

Spike couldn't imagine why Xander was reluctant to lie down but the why was unimportant since the how had just achieved the goal. And when the cold, damp air stung and snapped against their heated, dripping man-parts, nothing else mattered.

Immediately, as though he had done it a million times, Xander dropped down to mash their bodies and their rigid erections together. His hips rolled and humped as he sought release and satisfaction with his man.

For Spike it was a revelation. He was squished by the glorious weight of the most erotic being he had ever seen. While his body was being claimed, his mind was claiming. Lying flat on his back, the cold, dirt floor of the cave was buffered by the fur that tickled his shoulder blades yet never touched his lower back as it arched upwards.

Spike's hands wandered. They pushed against Xander's chest, first in almost a motion of self-defense then they would immediately grip the larger man's shoulder and try to tug him closer before sliding up to cup his cheeks and pull his face in for a quick nose bump. All the while, Xander's palms were braced at the sides of Spike's head and their cocks rubbed, pressed and rolled frantically together.

The campfire that had burnt itself to a flickering bed of coals seemed to suddenly give off an enormous amount of heat. It was stifling and Xander was sweating profusely as he sought seed release for both of them. His thick, dark mop of hair that tumbled down into Spike's face was damp with perspiration and the increased sharp tang of masculine underarm smell shot Spike's sexual need to new heights.

Every inch of his skin itched with a craving to crawl inside Xander's body but he had no clue as to how to do it. His gut churned and his legs burned with the strain of pushing his crotch higher and higher.

Reality shifted. As Spike looked around him, the painted stick figures of the warriors on the cave walls appeared to jump and wave their spears over their heads in the orange glow of the cave fire. They danced the dance of a successful hunt and capture, while the sound of the stomping feet of the great wooly beasts that the warriors chased pounded in Spike's ears as if they stampeded around the circumference of the cave.

Together, Spike and Xander filled the cave with the sounds of rutting. It echoed off the rocks as they whined in frustration and grunted with the force and exertion. Finally, blind instinct that had no origin sent Spike's hands between them to grab both hard breeding sticks together and stroke them toward a much anticipated spill. Their pre-cum coated foreskins slid smoothly, like the velvet on the antlers of the summer elk, back and forth, up and down until finally....

"Spike. Spike."

"Xander. Feel it? Oh, yes. It feels so good. My stones are boiling over. I am going to spill. Spill with me. Xander. Xan.... Ugh. Ugh. Ugh."

Both men stopped moving and held their bodies together as their man-parts jerked and pumped out the seed of their clans. Together, in copious amounts, it pooled on Spike's belly and smeared against Xander's before dripping down Spike's side to wet and stiffen in a cooling crust on his furs. As the spill slowed and eased, a warm glow of euphoria filled both men with a well-being neither had ever known before, and as Xander tumbled off, he bumped his nose against Spike's one last time and took one quick sniff of the white, soft hair.

Within seconds of landing on his back, Xander was snoring, sound asleep with a wide grin on his upturned lips. In contrast, Spike's cognitive abilities were a bit sharper. Although he had no problem with the pleasant activities, he had an uncomfortable apprehension that carried no specific name nibbling at the back of his brain. He hoped he hadn't just made a mistake.

Despite the frigid cold, Spike shuffled his nude body toward the mouth of the cave where he scooped up handfuls of snow and cleaned off the traces of his coupling. He considered doing the same for Xander but decided against it. It was what the women did for their men who had spilled, and Spike would do nothing that made him appear to be a woman. Nothing more.

Shivering in the cold, he hurried back to the warmth of the fire. He put on a few more logs, and he stood with his naked body by the heat of the flames as he stared at the sleeping man on the floor. He wondered about the meaning of what he had just done. Xander said it was common for the men of his clan to rut together and Spike had to admit it certainly felt right. But he had never known of such a thing. Rutting was exclusively for the making of babies for the clan, wasn't it?

Finally, after much confusion and consideration, Spike chalked it up to being akin to the pleasures a man gave himself by his hand. And that would be the end of it except for one major sticking point. Rutting with another is not done lightly or indiscriminately. A man ruts with his mate. Only. And that was the name to his unnamed apprehension. According to the laws of the ancient White Cave Clan, they were mated!

When his skin had shed its chill in the comfort and security of his cave, Spike silently padded back over to where his furs and his man laid spread out. Spike considered sleeping at the far side of the mouth of the cave but he was suddenly bone tired and his body sought the comfort of the other. He stepped over Xander's prone form and he eased down beside him. Gathering up their furs, Spike tossed them over both their bodies and with a sigh,
he spooned his new mate and fell asleep.



~*~*~*~*~



Willow rolled over and faced her man. Her green eyes were bugged and her mouth hung open.

"Did you hear that? What was.... Who.... Did Spike just...."

Before she could finish her question, Penn rolled over on his other side and yawned.

"Go to sleep, woman."

With his back turned to his woman, Penn trusted that she couldn't see the shocked, worried look on his face as he wondered what sort of magic spells this stranger had woven around the leader of the White Cave Clan. This did not bode well.

The rest of the night was silent. The snow had stopped and when the sun began its slow, lazy rise in the sky, it promised a warmth that would melt the long icicles that framed the mouth of the cave and cause a slight retreat of the snow that covered the ground.

As clan leader, Spike always woke before the others, and on this particular morning it was a tradition that he was enormously grateful for. When he opened his eyes and realized that the weight on his body was Xander's arm and leg that were draped over him, the memory of last night exploded in Spike's brain.

Immediately he shoved the wandering limbs away, and Spike scrambled to clothe himself in his own skins and furs. The scampering activity woke Xander and he pried one eye open as a huge grin covered his face and his arms stretched lazily over his head.

"Good morning. Hmmm. My man-part wants release. Come and lay back down, Spike. Tend to my hardening."

Spike was horrified. He was furious and aghast at being spoken to in such a disrespectful manner. He drew himself to his fullest height and even stomped the butt of his spear handle on the ground for emphasis.

"I am chief of this clan. The damage to your head must have rattled your thinking! You are MY mate and if anyone's man-part is to be seen to, it is you that will be doing the seed spilling!"

Xander screwed his face up and stared at the blue-eyed man who was babbling nonsense. Was Spike's memory so poor that he could not recall who had been on top and who had taken the woman's position last night? Without even noticing the lack of pain in his body, Xander scrambled to his feet and he tied his furs around his waist.

There, with the pale pink light of the dawn creeping above the horizon, the two clan leaders stood face-to-face and shouted their back and forth.

"I'm the man!"

"NO! I'm the man!"

"NO! I am!"

Within minutes, all the shouting brought the rest of the White Cave Clan running to see what was happening and the day began in chaos. The other clan members paced and tried to out-yell each other in an attempt to determine the crisis. The only two people who were now silent were Spike and Xander as they squared off.

Suddenly, the whole picture and what it must look like to his clan came very clear to Spike. It was critical that, as their clan faced the most serious time of their history, Spike must not do anything that put his authority or his power in question. Therefore, before Xander could open his mouth, Spike visibly relaxed, giving the impression that the argument was of little consequence to him, and he turned his back on his secret mate.

"It was nothing important. Xander and I just don't see eye to eye on things. The rest of you go on with your morning. He and I have something to discuss."





Part Fourteen

Spike wrapped his heaviest furs around his body and he collected his spear. He had calmed and appeased his clan by telling them that there was no conflict between him and Xander beyond a basic difference of cultural understanding. Although Spike could read the clear disbelief in Willow's eyes, he had no intention of discussing it further.

When he announced that he was going out to hunt, Xander had demanded that he be allowed to go along. Harshly he whispered, "You can't just pretend it didn't happen. Spike. We need to talk. Let me go out with you. My pain is nearly gone and my legs are stronger. I can help you hunt and we can talk away from your clan."

"Keep your voice down, Xander!"

A brief examination of Xander's injury and an evaluation of the Wind Clan warrior's capabilities determined him to be fit enough, and with a huff, Spike agreed.

With that, Spike marched from the cave. Immediately he sunk to his knees in the deep snow, and the cold pierced his skin. Showing no sign of weakness, he plodded on as Xander hurried to catch up. Together they moved in silence as the icy wind whipped their hair around their red, stinging faces. Hoping for an injured or frozen fox or, even better, a goose whose feet had sealed into the ice, Spike headed for the forest and pond.

For Xander, a man who was accustomed to hunting in the worst of conditions, his eyes squinted against the blinding glare of the sun off the snow and he scanned the surface of the white powder. If the shelter of the tall tress didn't provide one sort of food source, the open air may give up another. In the meantime, he wanted answers.

"You know, Spike, in my clan when a man spills his seed onto the body of someone who has never coupled before, it is automatically assumed that they are mated. Unless I am wrong, that is exactly what we did. In my eyes, we are mated. Why didn't you tell your clan?"

Spike continued on towards the line of trees. Because of their windbreak, the snow depth was much less in the dense areas and he could move about more freely as he watched for the tracks of an animal. It also gave him time to think before he answered. In his mind and heart and by the ways of the White Clan, Spike considered himself mated too, but that was not the issue he wanted to discuss.

When they finally reached the tree line, Spike began following the frozen moss on the sides of the oak. It often led to the hidden dens of a family of fox, and he prayed that today they would get lucky. If all went as he hoped, his clan would need as much nourishment as possible. When he felt Xander close in on his left, Spike began to speak.

"I didn't tell them because my clan does not need the stress and confusion of a leader who has mated with another clan. I need for the remaining members of the White Clan to be solid as they stand together. As far as us spilling and rutting together, that is not important. That is not what I want to talk about."

"Not important?"

Spike stopped walking and he turned to lock his intense blue eyes on the deep brown ones of his new mate. When he saw the confusion and the hurt there, he looked away.

"I want you to take us to the warm lands. Show us how to follow the migrating birds. You are right, Xander. If we don't go, all of us will die here. I know we can't go on our own. We need someone who knows the way. Although I am still the leader of the White Cave Clan, I need you to guide us."

Xander was dumbfounded. He really hadn't given any consideration to the repercussions of last night beyond the fact that he was more than enamored with the man who had coaxed him from his celibacy. Xander scowled as he now considered the alternatives. Could he stay and live in a cave? Certainly not! He would wither and die in the forced confinement. Did he think Spike would walk away from his own clan and become a peon, a lackey in the
Wind Clan? No way would Xander stand for that. Then what? What?

Xander turned his head as his brain looped, 'What can we do? What can we do? What can we do?' Then he stopped as another even more distressing speculation slammed into him like a falling rock.

"This was your plan all along wasn't it?"

Spike blinked his confusion and shook his head. "What plan? What are you talking about?"

The more Xander thought about it the more he was certain that his conclusion was the only reasonable one. Now he understood why copulation should be done only with the intent of making babies and pleasing the flesh. He had foolishly allowed his feelings to become involved.

"You used my man-part to commit me to you, knowing that I would not leave you and your people behind when I leave. You tricked me into mating with you."

Spike stepped backward as the shock of Xander's accusation punched him in the chest. His honor was being questioned. He was being accused of the most diabolical, devious evil that a man could do. Xander had put into question Spike's word as a man.

"WHAT? How dare you? As I recall, it was your great, lumpy body that climbed onto me. I did not force your breeding meat to harden and spill. You were the one that made it feel so good that my man-part sought you out. If you did not want us to be mated you should have kept it in your furs."

The tension seemed to melt away from Xander's body. The tone of Spike's words rang with truth, and Xander found his error to be a great relief. Now, as Spike continued to shout his denials and wounded pride, Xander stepped closer. He kept his spear pointed toward the ground to show that he was no threat, and he could already feel his body beginning to respond to his mate.

"If I wanted you to take us, I would have ordered it to be so. I am the clan leader. I don't need to trick...hey, what are you doing? If you think I'm going to...."

The frozen noses bumped, rubbed and mashed together as both men felt the warm flush of passion and completeness rush through them. Automatically, Spike's arms were flung around Xander's neck and a small whimper slipped out as he tried to press as close as he could. They sniffed each other's hair and necks to imprint the scent, and the physical contact calmed and comforted them. In the back of their minds, they each knew they faced an unlimited list of problems and obstacles ahead, but one thing was certain. They were no mistake. Their mating was their destiny.

Immediately, Xander began fumbling his cold fingers through the layers of furs that covered Spike's body as he sought the hardness he knew would be hidden. Jumping back with a laugh and a flurry of swats, Spike ducked and dodged just out of his mate's reach.

"Oh no you don't! I have no intention of spilling into my furs. We would both be left with a frozen puddle of ice that would be very uncomfortable."

He then pointed a stern finger that waggled in emphasis with each word.

"First we find food. Then, after we return to the cave, you and I can...."

Xander grinned like a loon as his head snapped in every direction. Suddenly he spotted exactly what he had been watching for. A light skittering across the surface of the snow that signaled a small flock of wild turkeys. With a wave of his spear, he cut Spike off in mid-sentence and he shouted, "There! That way! Come on!"

With a whoop and a leap of excitement, both men took off in a wide-strided lumbering run through the heavy, high snow banks. Driven on by the excitement and exuberance of their newly confirmed feelings for each other, the two warriors shouted and waved their spears high over their heads as they tracked down the small flock of wild turkeys.

Within minutes, they skidded to a halt. In front of them, snapping their beaks at the berries of a short bush, were five scrawny feathered birds. Totally oblivious to the men behind the trees, the turkeys gobbled, ruffled their feathers and trotted around on the surface of the snow crust.

It was as if Spike and Xander had hunted together a thousand times. With a few general hand signals, they separated and circled around as they carefully closed in. They silently moved into position while never taking their eyes off their prey. And then they pounced!



~*~*~*~*~



"Willow! Harmony! Lida! Dawn!"

The sun was centered high in the clear blue sky when the two-man hunting party returned in triumph. Xander had three turkeys slung over his shoulder and Spike carried two. As soon as they entered the cave, Spike summoned the women to prepare the abundance of food for the clan's evening meal.

When the dead birds were dropped to the cave floor, the women gleefully slipped to their knees and colorful feathers began to fly everywhere. Penn gave Spike a congratulatory slap on the back and he gave Xander a suspicious glare. It was hard to look at the stranger and not imagine the images that would accompany the din and racket of his rutting. Penn wanted to ask Spike about it, but he and Willow had agreed to wait until Spike himself brought the odd subject to the forefront.

Spike picked up a narrow tree branch and wrapped the end of it in dry cave moss that he scraped from the high walls. He shook it to assure it was tightly bound and he stuck the end of it into the cave's campfire, igniting it.

"While they clean and prepare the food, Xander and I need to talk. Alone. We are going to the far turn of the cave, past the whistling wind to the dark place of the ancient ones. None of you are to follow. We are not to be disturbed. When the sun has set and the food is prepared, we will return and at that time, we must have a clan meeting where all voices will be heard."

The rest of the clan shared a look amongst themselves that said they read the seriousness in their leader's voice. Coy turned a frightened face toward Dawn. "Is Spike mad at us?"

Dawn patted his arm reassuringly. "No, honey, whatever it is, it will be all right. Come on. Spike wants us to clean these birds and get them cut up for the spits. Why don't you help me?"

Coy nodded happily and sat near his intended, eager to do whatever task she assigned him. The others went about their chores with nervous apprehension. Penn was especially upset and the worst part was that he had no one to blame but himself. He should never have insisted they bring this dangerous stranger into their midst.

Before Xander's arrival, Penn had been Spike's right-hand man. His best friend since childhood and the White Clan's second in command. Spike valued Penn's opinion and regularly asked his counsel. Now, he felt discarded. He was left standing with the women while Spike and Xander went off on their own for reasons that Penn was not privy to. To a place that Penn had never seen.

Even more confusing was the memory of the sounds of the night before. There was no denying the sounds of a furious rut and it was clearly Spike's voice, but what could that mean? Penn had never heard of two men rutting together. Was it the way of the Wind Clan? Even more troubling was the question of what kind of magic Xander had cast in order to force Spike's man-part to harden without the touch of a woman.

Was Spike turning his back on the ancient traditions of the White Clan and adopting the bizarre habits of Xander's people?

It was a terrifying thought. If they lost the ways of the ancients, the White Cave Clan would cease to exist





Part Fifteen

"Wait, Spike, slow down. Geesh, it is so DARK in here. How far are we going? How can you breathe? It feels like the walls are closing in on me. WAS THAT A BAT?"

Spike stopped dead in his tracks and Xander collided into his back. The pitiful, small flame on the end of Spike's torch did not even supply enough light to reach the floor beneath their feet. It seemed to Xander as if they had been walking down these dark, dank, cold tunnels forever although it was probably less than one notch of the sun in the sky. A sky that Xander wondered if he would ever see again.

As a member of a nomadic tribe, Xander was accustomed to living out in the elements with the moon and stars over his head. He breathed the clean, fresh air filled with the scents of pine and snow and animal scat not mold, mossy fungus and the sharp nasal burn of bat urine.

The main room of Spike's cave where Xander had recuperated had felt claustrophobic and constrictive, but these tunnels were downright suffocating. When his fear overrode his pride, Xander gripped the back of Spike's furs for fear of being lost and separated in the dark as Spike moved stealthily down each twist and turn.

For Spike, this was like coming home. He had snaked his way down this path so many times that he knew it by heart. Starting from the time he was just a young boy and his father, the old clan leader, would whisper to him of the reverence and the importance of this place while he led his boy blindly through the tunnels. Spike was told of the history and the purpose of this hidden world. Listening to the sound of his father's voice as they walked erased any fear and filled him with reassurance that even in the dark, he was never alone.

When Spike awoke this dawn and knew that today was the day for the final decision that would sway the future of his clan, something deep inside him drove him to come back here. And it seemed right that, considering Xander's place in this decision, his mate should be with him.

When his mate's whining and complaining started to irritate him, Spike stopped and barely kept his balance when Xander ran into him.

"This is a sacred place so stop whimpering like an old woman."

"Old woman? It's dark in here, Spike! And little! I can reach up and touch the rock top over my head and if I extend my arms at my sides, my fingertips feel the slimy, cold mold on the walls. I gotta get out of here, Spike. I can't breathe. I think I might die. Please, let's go back."

Spike had never considered such a strong reaction, and although to him it didn't seem rational, he was sympathetic to his mate's fears. Turning around, Spike closed the gap between them. He bumped noses with his lover and whispered reassurances and calming words much in the way his father had done for him.

"Just a few more steps. We are almost there. There is nothing within these walls that will hurt us. I have been here all my life and I want to share this with you. Here, you take the torch. I don't need it. Just follow me a little bit more."

Xander was not sure if it was the fact that he was now in control of the sparse, weak light source or the words spoken in such a calm, comforting voice by a man he trusted, but Xander felt his body quiet and the images of wild cave demons dissipate. He took a deep breath and he nodded. Spike spun around and hurried on with Xander again in tow.

The next time he stopped, he took the torch from Xander's hand and with a tone of awe in his voice, Spike whispered, "We're here."

For Xander, it was just more dark. Then Spike began touching his torch to several others that were stuck into crevasses and cracks in the cave walls. When enough of the torches combined their circles of illumination, the small round chamber came into view and Xander's eyes gradually adjusted.

Gingerly, Xander stepped in further and he began an intent study of where he was. The room was small and round, and Xander reckoned that this must be the farthest point of the White Cave. The ceiling was much higher and now, if he stretched up on his toes, he could not touch. The dirt floor was level, flat and free of stones as if it had been deliberately raked and smoothed over.

Without comment, Xander watched as Spike intently continued to work his way around the chamber. The last two torches to accept the flame were at the furthest side. When they sparked and blazed, Spike tossed his own torch to the floor.

Xander blinked and squinted. He could see that Spike was facing some sort of rock shelf but it was not clear what the objects on the shelf were. As his curiosity overrode his apprehension, Xander eased closer to where the leader of the Wind Clan stood silently with his head tipped down.

Stepping cautiously forward, Xander's eyes strained to see through the yellow, flickering light. When he reached Spike's side and craned his neck to see around his mate, Xander's stomach flopped over and his heart leapt into his throat at what he saw. With a strangled gasp, he slapped his hands over his mouth and he stumbled backwards.

"AHH! Spike! Is that...? Is that...?"

Spike serenely turned to face his terrified mate and the chieftain of the White Clan held out his hand and smiled. "Come and see. Please, let me show you."

Xander trembled in terror as he stared at the gruesome sight. There, on the long, flat shelf of stone sat seven sets of bones, each arranged in an X pattern and topped with the skulls that wore them in life. It was horrific and fascinating. It was like nothing Xander had ever seen. The vacant eyeholes seemed to stare at him, while the mouths gaped open in silent screams.

"Who are they? Why are they here?"

Spike smiled and turned all his attention back on the row of familiar bones as he lovingly ran his hand over the last one in the line.

"These are my ancestors. This is the sacred chamber of the old ones. This is my father, his father and so on. These are the leaders of the White Cave Clan. I had always believed that someday my bones would be here too, and that my son would come here and seek my counsel on matters of the clan as I seek the wisdom of these men. I know now that that will never be. My loins are without cause. I used to think that my inability to harden and mate with a female was my failure. I used to come here and ask the elders why I could not
create a male child to be the next clan leader. And now I know. The elders have finally given me an answer."

Xander stared at the bones and he tried to imagine them covered with skin and hair and walking and talking. The very thought of Spike being here, like this, caused a sick churning in Xander's gut.

"What is the answer, Spike. What have the bones told you?"

Spike's face snapped around and Xander could see the desperate need in the clear blue eyes to explain. Xander could see how badly Spike wanted his mate to understand.

"I am the last, Xander. I don't know if it is through my fault or just the destiny of the sun and the moon, but the White Clan is not going to survive. I was not to have a woman for a mate because a male child is not what I need. You are what I need. Your strength. Your knowledge. You were sent here by the ancients. You were chosen to be my mate and to guide the last splinter of the White Clan to a new land. After today, these bones will never be looked upon again by any man of any time."

Perhaps if they had been standing in the logic of the sun and breathing the cleansing air of the snowfall, Xander would have scoffed at such nonsense. To consider that Web was doing the deeds of the dead was simply irrational nonsense. Or was it? Standing here, in the dark and looking at the bones of men who had ceased to exist long ago during the days when the wooly mammoth still fed the clans, what Spike was saying actually felt right.

One thing was certain. The conviction and the sadness in Spike's voice was not imagined and it tugged at Xander's heart. It was a reaction that surprised and confounded him. Sympathy was a woman's emotion. It showed weakness and vulnerability. Yet, here, in this place of mystery and whispers, showing compassion for his mate made Xander feel stronger than he ever had before.

Setting aside his fear and repulsion, Xander collected the smaller man in his arms. He placed his nose gently against the side of Spike's and he held them there. There was no bumping and no sniffing. There was just a show of strength, love, support and promise. The promise that together they would face what was to come.

Spike would stand by his man who now shared the weight and responsibility of the lives of the White Cave people, and Xander would be the life and future for a leader who was struggling to maintain a clan. Each man who tried to fulfill his destiny alone would surely fail but together, together they may just have a chance.

Pulling back a fraction, Xander looked down into the beautiful, trusting eyes. His large, calloused hands cupped Spike's head and Xander's fingers dug into the flowing white hair. This time when he pulled the face toward him, it was with intent and purpose. Spike's heart quickened as the reflection of the torch flames seemed to dance within the dark, intense eyes.

"Lay down with me Xander. Here in this sacred place. I want them to see us as we mate. I want them to know that I understand their future for the clan and I want them to know that my heart and my body accepts the mate they have chosen for me. My bones will never rest here and no son of mine will ever stand before this altar but I will give them what I can. Our combined seed will soak the earth of this place and part of us will always be here."

Xander was speechless. His hands trembled as he untied the furs that fell away from Spike's body and then his own. His man-part stood erect and impatient in its need to bump against its mate. Both Spike and Xander understood that there had to be more to their coupling than just rubbing and stroking to release but they had all their nights ahead of them to discover new ways to share pleasure and achieve release. This time was to bond. This spill was to leave something behind.

Quickly, Xander spread out their furs on the floor in front of the altar and he laid down. He would not shame Spike in front of his ancestors by insisting on taking the man's place. That was Spike's right.

Spike stepped over the prone body, straddling it with one foot on each side of Xander's spread thighs. Gazing down, Spike stared at the man whose dark skin glowed in the flickering dancing flames of the torches. Xander lay flat on his back. His thick, long hair spilled around his head and his face held the trust and unquestioning faith of a devoted mate. His body was strong and perfectly formed. It was beyond pleasing, and Spike reached for his rigid breeding meat.

When Xander lifted his arms over his head submissively, Spike dropped down in a squat, taking the weight of his body on his legs. With his butt hovering just above Xander's
crotch, Spike took both of their man-parts, one in each of his hands and he began to stroke.

As he did, he stared at the skulls of his forefathers while they watched him silently. He mumbled low, inaudible chants and Xander closed his eyes as he floated along in the unreal world of the mystical chamber.

When the time of imminent release grew closer for each of them, Spike stroked faster with a firmer grip as his butt bounced up and down in rhythm, nearly, but never touching the tops of Xander's thighs.

"AH!" Xander gripped fistfuls of his own hair as the intensity increased. He made no move to touch his mate or himself to assist in the activity. He understood that this was Spike's offering to his people. Xander's participation was almost inconsequential beyond his contribution of spilled seed. To do otherwise would have been a breach of respect.

"OH! OH!"

With a shout that echoed and bounced off the walls of the small, confined cave chamber, Spike and Xander both erupted and spurted, dumping their release onto Xander's stomach and chest. Immediately, seeming to defy gravity, the puddle of combined seed swirled, blended and rolled into a stream that ran down his left, injured side and soaked into the dry dirt floor of the sacred place.

A sudden wind whipped through the chamber, extinguishing the torches.

The unearthly sound of a dozen men moaning filled their ears, and every place on Xander's body that was touched by their spilled seed, was healed.