The Pandora!Verse


by
Estepheia



Alatheia's Gift

"If I said I wanted to tie you up, would you let me?" It's a question that has been spooking around in Xander's mind for some time now. He's gazing at the naked vampire who is lying sprawled beside him outwardly relaxed except for one perfect foot that's languidly twitching in an inaudible rhythm the way a restless cat flicks its tail, when suddenly the words spill out. The foot stills.

Saturday morning. No work. No apocalypse. They're still in bed, lazy and content, lips and fingers sticky and sweet from eating sugar-coated donuts for breakfast. Sex would be next on the agenda, then a shower.

For a moment Spike seems frozen. Then, locking eyes with Xander, he wordlessly offers his wrists. Several seconds pass in which neither man makes a move. Xander can feel his own pulse hammering in his throat. Finally, Spike slowly lifts his arms above his head and rests his hands on the pillow, wrists crossed as if bound. There's an inscrutable look on his face.

Xander is not sure if he's happy with that answer, even though it whacks him with an almost painful surge of arousal. Being tied up didn't do much for him when Anya experimented with it, but the mental image of Spike straining against ropes or handcuffs is a different matter. "Why?" Xander asks, fascinated by the promptness with which Spike's cock swells to hardness under his gaze.

Spike shrugs as if to say 'Vampire. Kinky.'

"And then? What if I wanted to—" Xander stops. Tries again. "What would you like me to do?" he asks, aiming for sultry. He ends up sounding nervous.

"Up to you. That's the whole point, innit." Spike doesn't move, seems indifferent but Xander is close enough to see the blue of his iris pushed aside by insatiable darkness.

Xander grabs Spike's ankle. Watching Spike's face, he lets his hand brush upwards, towards the knee, along the inner thigh, slowly, marveling at the unnatural smoothness. Muscles tense underneath his exploration and Spike breathes faster, his wrists still crossed above his head, even when Xander's hand closes firmly around Spike's hard-on. Xander loves it when Spike's eyes widen at his touch, that thrilling moment of raw hunger before invariably the long dark lashes come down, shutting him out again.

Xander doesn't like puzzles. Trying to figure out why Spike does what he does is not a top priority. But occasionally his curiosity stirs and he wonders how far he can go. Wonders whether there is a point where Spike will say no.

And then, inevitably, one thought leads to another. What is this to Spike? What does he want with him? Xander has no illusions. He's lost the trim of his swim team days, is out of shape, with handles round his hips from too many snickers bars and extra-cheese topped pizzas, hasn't lifted the weights in the closet for months, and at work he pushes pens instead of wheelbarrows. He's got stamina, a nice dick and is very good with his hands. Past a certain point he has few inhibitions thanks to Anya. But he's twenty-two, never made it out of Sunnydale and probably never will. He's dull and dependable, or trying to be.

So what does a vampire who's traveled around the globe a few times, who's been round the block - what's he want with him?

Xander pumps Spike's cock a few times, then lets go to continue his tactile journey across this addictive body, with its hard muscles, hard bones, and skin as sleek as silk. Upwards, over a taut stomach, ribs far too defined, and a chest so perfect it makes Spike look like a piece of art; except for the multitude of scars - so faint, they're barely visible even from licking distance but Xander knows they're there, can feel them under his lingering fingertips. Tiny imperfections - each with a tale to tell. Only Spike doesn't share. He'll offer his body, give it away freely, but never the stories.

There's one scar Xander recognizes, more noticeable than most, like a dent in Spike's armor. Xander remembers it from when it was still a seeping hole in undead flesh, glimpsed through a tear in a black bloodstained T-shirt, back when he and Giles dumped Spike back at his crypt. When was that? Two years ago? It's a good scar, kind of like a medal carved into flesh, a reminder of how Spike stood up to a hell god. But the others? The cuts over his heart? Self-inflicted, according to Buffy. Xander has touched them before, skimmed over them without a second glance, but today they give him an unpleasant chill. What if—

Suddenly kicked out of the mood, Xander reaches up for Spike's wrists, not to pin them there but to wrench them apart. Then he brusquely turns away and slumps back to stare at the ceiling. His dick is still hard, but his mind isn't.

Spike sits up. "What?" There is about him the intense concentration of a well-trained dog waiting for a cue.

"Sorry. I don't think this is such a great idea."

"Made you hard," Spike points out and were this a perfect world, Spike would smirk and his hand would be there, between his legs, making his point all the—harder. But it's not a perfect world and Spike doesn't touch him unless Xander tells him to. Spike never makes the first move. For a while, Xander enjoyed that, being the one in control. But now? The longer this thing lasts the more he's waiting for the other shoe to drop. What does Spike want with him?

"Look, if it's something I said or did—" Spike begins uncertainly, but Xander doesn't stay to hear the rest. He scrambles out of bed and rushes out of the room like a culprit fleeing the scene of crime.

The bathroom door closes behind him with a hurried bang and Xander stands there, panting, hands gripping the sink so tight his knuckles are white, the cold porcelain pressing against his bare thighs, forehead resting against the unyielding mirror, eyes closed.

It's quite simple really, making a horrid kind of sense, considering their past history. It's stupid, twisted and quite insane, which means it fits Spike to a tee: What if Spike is still doing it, hurting himself, looking for—for punishment? What if Xander is the punishment?

* * *

At the bang of the bathroom door, Spike flinches. He sits on the bed, staring at light blue sheets that are rumpled from brilliant Friday night sex, smelling of lube, spunk and sweat.

What the fuck?

It doesn't help that he should have seen it coming. Mortals. Now they screw you, now they don't. With their short life spans one should think they'd know how to make up their sodding minds. Dealing with humans makes traveling with Drusilla and her headless dollies for a hundred years look like a walk in the park.

What's it take?

A cold and viscous ache seeps into his chest, filling it with blackness, until it feels like it's about to burst. He waits for something, anything to spark the blackness into white-hot murderous rage, but that reflex seems to be muted these days. Not a twinge. A few profanities are all he can muster and even they feel forced.

Spike snatches his pants off the floor and pulls them on, his movements jerky, then fumbles with zipper and button. His hands are shaking so much, it's pathetic. He glares at them reproachfully. "Fucking nancy boy, you are."

This is a right mess. Whatever has gotten into Xander, it's bound to happen again and Spike's not sure he can take another one of those sex-hate-sex-hate roller-coaster rides. Better get it over with now.

Pacing through the room, Spike collects the few bits and pieces that have managed to migrate into Xander's bedroom - comb, paperback, his boots and a few items of clothing, tossing them on the bed. Then he grabs the whole lot and heads out of the room, just as the bathroom door opens and Xander comes out.

They both stop abruptly. The tattered copy of a Stephen King novel that crowns the armful of Spike's possessions tumbles to the ground in a flurry of pages.

Xander's jaw sets in an expression of grim determination. "I'll do it," he says and strides towards him. He bends down, picks up the fallen paperback and points it at Spike, almost accusingly. "You want me to tie you up, Spike? Fine, I will. And if you want to move out of the bedroom afterwards, you can. But for now? Put your stuff back." Xander walks past him into the bedroom and returns the book to its place beside the bed, every line of his body radiating anger.

Spike silently wonders if this is the moment when things get ugly. Because sooner or later they always do. He doesn't point out that it was Xander who brought up the whole bondage thing. He doesn't even ask questions, he just takes a deep breath and does what he's told.

* * *

Not much later, Spike is lying face down, shower-damp and supine, spread-eagled with his wrists and ankles held firmly in place by slightly chafing leather thongs tied to the bedframe. Xander has done a surprisingly good job, tying the ropes just tight enough to make Spike feel like a strung guitar wire ready to be played, but not to the point of real discomfort. A few droplets of water are tickling down his skin as they follow the curves of his body. More drip from his wet hair to darken the clean sheets.

Xander crouches down next to the bed. There is an old-fashioned razor blade in his hand. Lifting Spike's head by the hair until they're eye-to-eye he asks harshly: "What would you like me to do, Spike? Cut you? Make you bleed? Fuck you dry?"

Spike just stares into a face that's flushed with anger and something else. He feels a flutter of fear in his stomach; not the sick gut-churning kind after all this is Xander Harris - but a delicious chill. Spike is already aroused, his stiff cock sandwiched between his hard belly and the sleek caress of new, indigo-blue satin sheets. When Xander touches the tip of the razor gently to his cheek, without breaking the skin, Spike braces himself for the pain, while inhaling Xander's scent greedily.

"Answer me, Spike."

"It's not about what I want," he finally says, wondering if Xander understands what he's being offered.

"Yeah? You think I get my jollies from hurting you and you come running. What does that say about you?"

Spike doesn't answer, just lowers his gaze. How is he supposed to explain that physical pain can bring as much solace as pleasure? His head is a scary place, loud and harsh, crammed full with scarlet images and high-pitched voices, even when he sleeps—but not when Xander's cock is sliding into him or when Xander is holding him or when physical pain blots out the ache in his soul.

Abruptly, the blade is withdrawn. Xander lets go of Spike's head and stomps away. When he comes back he's brandishing a soft black scarf. He expertly ties it around Spike's head, blindfolding him. Spike's anticipation reaches a new level.

He can hear Xander move around in the room, then there's the unmistakable sound of a lighter being worked and wicks sizzling as several candles are lit. The smell of hot wax and jasmine wafts into the air.

The mattress dips beneath Xander's weight as he kneels between Spike's legs, then crawls upwards. A warm wet tongue laps droplets of water off Spike's lower back then wanders up his spine heading for that ticklish spot, right between the shoulder blades, causing Spike to shiver. It seems like a strange overture, but who is Spike to complain? He is straining to hear or smell what will happen next, nervousness and excitement combining headily with the comforting knowledge that bound like this he has very little leeway to bollix this up.

There's motion between his legs as Xander shifts, then an unfamiliar rattling sound. Something soft and cool touches the back of his heel. It wanders upwards at a steady pace, following the curves of his leg to his ass. It's a strange sensation, light and dry but other than that it feels like a big squishy tongue, and it's not so much dragged over his skin but—

"Anya read about this in the Net, in one of her 'better sex' chat groups," Xander says conversationally, maneuvering the unidentifiable softness upwards, across the planes of Spike's back, along his outstretched arm and back, up and down the other arm, then south, footwards, but this time caressing the back of the other leg. Then he pauses. "So it's probably an old hat for you."

Spike exhales audibly and shakes his head emphatically.

The fact that Xander is capable of great patience and precision probably shouldn't come as a big surprise, but after the urgent couplings of the last two weeks, it does. As the fluffy sensation rattles over every inch of his back, the insides of his legs, touching his balls and teasing his cheeks, Spike's hands clench and unclench with his mounting need. Too soft, too good. Small breathy moans escape him, even though they make him sound like a pathetic puppy.

The mattress tilts again and the mysterious object is placed aside. There's an expectant flutter in Spike's stomach.

A sudden lemony tang reaches his nostrils and then hand-warm liquid drips onto Spike's back. Moments later, strong hands are kneading the slick oil into Spike's skin, massaging his back and shoulders. It seems Xander is putting most of his weight into the task, because Spike feels comfortably pinned, grounded. More oil, more rubbing and stroking it's soothing and arousing at the same time. When Xander's hands reach his ass, Spike is straining against the ropes, trying to arch into the touch, then back down to drag his aching need against the bed, but the restraints render his movements pretty much ineffectual. Xander pours more oil into his hands, waits till the liquid has warmed and then massages Spike's inner thighs, occasionally brushing lightly against his balls. "God, yes," Spike moans into the pillow. "Yes, please."

He can hear Xander's breathing accelerate. It could be from exertion, but the heady smell of human arousal says it isn't.

"Please what?" Xander's voice is thick with tension.

Spike pants, trying very hard to fathom what Xander wants to hear but finding it impossible to think while his body is humming with pleasure and need. "Fuck me?" he gasps, hastily adding a "Please?" before holding his breath.

"No. Try again."

Spike gasps with frustration. Still those warm hands continue to stroke and knead, moving to his ass. Firm circular movements that rhythmically and almost unintentionally - tug his cheeks apart. Oil-slick fingers. There. Sliding between his cheeks. Oh God.

"Hurt me?" Spike tries, his voice wavering.

"No." Angry. Hands are withdrawn. Suddenly bereft, Spike tenses, his whole body arches off the bed and the leather creaks harshly, then he slumps down again. He hears a whimper and barely recognizes his own voice. "Xander—"

He turns his head sideways, swallows, tries again. "Xander, please. Just tell me what—"

"No, you tell me!" Xander shouts. "What do you want? Is getting fucked by the glorified brick-layer your idea of penance? Tell me, Spike. Am I supposed to feel like hurting you? Cause if that's what you want you're A) going about it the wrong way and B) you can go find someone else."

Stunned silence. A dozen replies tumble through Spike's head, with 'Are you suddenly gone daft?' or 'Shut up and fuck me already' almost making it into spoken words.

"No. It—it's not like that," he finally manges, feeling strangely naked which is ironic, considering that he's lying here butt-naked, blind-folded and trussed up, but that's never made him feel vulnerable before. Maybe it's because he can't see Xander's face. "I like what you do to me. When you're inside of me—" He swallows. "I need— Please."

"Why? Why me?"

"Ironic, innit?" Spike laughs bitterly. "You and me, after all we've said to each other..."

When Xander stays silent, Spike takes the plunge. "There are times when I'm ready to gnaw my own arms off, like a sodding octopus. But not with you. Not anymore."

For almost a minute Xander is silent, then the bed rocks as he changes position. Warm hands brush over Spike's thighs again, then cup the cheeks of his ass, spreading them slightly. Spike nearly cries out because suddenly there's a wet raspy tongue lapping at his balls. So good.

"How is that?" Xander asks after a moment. From the tone of his voice he's smiling. His hot breath is tickling the sensitive skin between Spike's legs.

"More?" comes the wobbly reply.

"Magic word?"

Spike grins. "Now!"

A slight chuckle and Xander's tongue is back, this time traveling upwards at an excruciatingly slow pace that soon has Spike writhing with want.

"Do that, there, oh god, yes."

Turns out, Xander has a practiced tongue. It also turns out that the leather thongs are strong enough but the bed frame isn't, because as Spike thrashes around with Xander's tongue pushing into him, there's a loud crack as wood splinters. Both men pause for a moment, waiting for the bed to collapse but so far it holds.

"I think we need a new bed," Xander mutters.

"See that you pick something a little more durable."

"Uh-huh." Xander shifts his weight experimentally. The bed tilts precariously. When he reaches for the lube the bed creaks. "Guess we better take this slow. Hear that, Spike? Try not to move so much."

"You try lying still with a tongue up your arse."

"Any time, Spike."

Xander slicks himself and a moment later he is slowly pushing inside. And there it is again, that breathless moment of completion. Underneath him Spike is breathing a happy sigh. Xander covers him, lies on Spike's lemon-scented oil-slick back like a warm heavy blanket. He gropes with one hand at Spike's face and pushes off the blindfold. Then after a moment of hesitation he clasps Spike's hand, the one that's gotten free and threads his fingers through Spike's.

And like that, with his cheek resting on Spike's, he slides in and out, setting up a slow trot with shallow thrusts. Spurred on by the weird mix of endearments and profanities flowing from Spike, Xander slowly gathers speed and momentum, and in the end rides them both to a crushing finish, that leaves the bed in pieces and the two men spent but laughing on the floor.

"You definitely want metal for the next bed," Spike tells him, drowsily, once the first mirth has abated. He feels well-fucked and his head is wonderfully quiet. A cigarette would be nice.

"And proper handcuffs," Xander adds.

"That's the spirit." Spike props up his head. "So, what was that thing you used?"

Xander grins and fumbles among the debris of the bed, then triumphantly brandishes a paint roller. "It's the lambskin," he explains. "Cool, huh?"

Spike wordlessly hold out his hand. Xander passes him the paint roller and Spike touches the lambskin, gives the cylinder a spin, then trails it experimentally across Xander's leg.

"What was that about octopuses?" Xander asks.

"They say octopuses eat their own arms when they get—" Spike stops, visibly embarrassed.

"Get what?"

"Lonely. Sad. Lovesick."

Xander thinks of the Anya-shaped hole in his life and his apartment and nods.

AN: Alatheia was the Greek goddess of truth.





Living With Proteus

While Xander showers, Spike drifts aimlessly through the apartment. Chewing on a cruller, he peers into the fridge, puts the kettle on for a left-over tea-bag that reached sell-by date two years ago, and flicks through Xander's depressingly country CD collection. With every breath he takes he can smell lemons and jasmine. He feels strange, unable to give the feeling a name. It's not in his nature to be sated, but this is coming close.

It fills him with dread.

It's too good to last. Inevitably, he'll do or say the wrong thing, true to form, like a stupid wind-up toy banging its cymbals, and then he'll be out in the cold again. Probably when it cuts deepest. Just who or what is fucking with him, universal justice, divine retribution, or just plain rotten luck Spike has no idea. And it's not like it matters anyway.

When Xander reappears in his white bathrobe, vigorously toweling his damp and soft hair and sprouting a genuine smile, his skin pink and rosy, Spike has a coffee ready for him. Instant coffee, but still. It's the first time he's ever made anything for Xander and he pushes the mug towards him with a self-conscious shrug that clearly translates into 'don't get used to it.'

Leaning against the counter, dressed in nothing but his pants, Spike watches Xander climb on the barstool, take a sip and grimace.

"Too strong?"

"Maybe just a little," Xander chokes out and shovels more sugar into the mug. "How many spoonfuls did you put in there?"

"Three or four, don't remember. Never drink coffee, caffeine makes me all jittery."

"Four! That would make anyone jittery, Spike."

"Lemme pour that away. I'll make a new one," Pod-Spike offers.

"Nuh, don't worry about it." Like a dog with a bone, Xander holds on to his mug and braves another mouthful, trying very hard to look appreciative, when a white powdery substance on Spike's lower lip catches his attention. "Hey, don't tell me you ate all the donuts."

Before Spike can decide whether to stick out his chin defiantly, or affect contrition, Xander has grabbed him by the shoulders and hauled him in, until Spike is standing before the barstool, hip lodged between Xander's thighs. A moment later, Xander's coffee-flavored mouth is on his, sucking and licking the sugar off his lips, tasting him without urgency. It's a soft kiss, and literally bittersweet.

When Xander lets go, they're both stunned. Then, in telling clumsiness, Spike knocks over his tea mug and in the hubbub of frantic tissue grabbing and carpet cleaning the moment quietly slips away. Once they've dealt with the mess they're no longer sure what they've seen in the other's face and they're too irresolute to bring it up.

+ + +

Together they dismantle the wreck that used to be Xander's bed and put the mattress on the floor. The wooden legs and other parts of the splintered bed-frame wander into Xander's storage room.

"What d'you want with that rubbish anyway?" Spike asks, when the bedroom is habitable again.

"Waste not, want not," Xander lectures him cheerfully. "Stakes. You can never have too many of those."

"Pfft. I use whatever is close at hand," Spike mutters. "Queue stick, broom handle. Improvisation, that's the thing."

"Yeah well, I like mine smooth and pointy," Xander insists, proud of his workmanship and the finely whittled stakes he can produce. "That long," he holds his hands 10 inches apart, "And just thick enough to wrap your hand around."

Spike gives him the raised eyebrow.

"And..." Xander continues with a lopsided grin, "... I'll just pretend that this remarkably cliched piece of double entendre was deliberate, before I lose my wise guy credentials."

Spike's answer is a fleeting grin, easy and good-natured, with just a hint of goofy thrown in. It reaches parts in Xander's anatomy where no vampire and no guy has ever gone before. Their eyes meet and there it is again, that weird tongue-tied awkwardness.

It's their first full day without work, slaying or other commitments. They could veg out, decapitate a few bottles, watch a DVD, something with lots of explosions. Or maybe they should do something special. The sheer sappiness of the thought jolts Xander off cloud number nine.

"Now what?" he asks abruptly. Sex! They could always have more sex. There's no such thing as too much sex, not when you're twenty-two. And Spike is sex-on-a-stick.

Sex-on-a-stick shrugs. Fidgets. Rubs the scarred eyebrow with his thumb. Pats his pockets in search of his cigarettes. When he should be sticking his cool hands down Xander's pants and stroking him to hardness.

Xander's eyes narrow as his good cheer slowly dries up.

Xander never thought he'd miss Anya's direct and bossy requests for sex, as ill-timed and embarrassing as they were. At least with her Xander never had to play 'guess what I'm thinking now'. Why does Spike have to be Mr. complicated? Xander doesn't like complicated. Normally, if something's uneven, he whittles the offending bumps away.

"Right—uh--gonna fix myself some lunch," Spike announces, when the silence grows awkward, and makes a beeline for the fridge, where he keeps his blood in a large jar. It looks almost like raspberry syrup.

Xander follows him and for a brief, breathless moment he considers pushing Spike against the fridge, grabbing his hand and placing it on his hardening dick. Within seconds, his pants would be open. One nudge or word and Spike would be on his knees, Xander's dick between his lips, sucking and licking, taking him all the way in. Guh! Xander doesn't think he'll ever tire of watching his cock slide in and out of Spike's mouth.

Xander swallows. His heart is pounding and he's rock-hard.

Spike sets his jar aside and regards him silently. There's a question in the way he raises his eyebrow.

Xander shakes his head. He opens a cupboard, grabs a mug and thrusts it into Spike's hand.

While Spike heats and sips his blood, Xander putters about, preparing his own lunch. Under Spike's watchful eye, Xander chops mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers and beats eggs, making himself an omelet, one of the few proper meals he's able to make from scratch. There's something about Spike's silent scrutiny, that's making Xander nervous. Xander compensates for Spike's reticence by babbling about stuff like work, movies, comic books.

Sometimes the mind works in mysterious ways. It's only when he looks at the white, red and yellow heaps of evenly cut vegetables in front of him, that Xander realizes he's made enough for two.

+ + +

They end up whiling the afternoon away in amiable boredom. Of course Xander wouldn't be Xander and Spike wouldn't be Spike if they didn't find a way to rub each other the wrong way. It's like giving in to an itch and scratching the scab off a slow-healing wound.

It starts off harmlessly enough: Xander goes on about his favorite TV-shows, Spike slags off every single one of them - while displaying a frightening familiarity with them.

"Dru used to think them Klingons were demons. Wouldn't listen when I told her that it was just humans with funny make-up. Dru liked her version better," Spike says, an uncertain smile on his face. If Xander didn't know better he'd think this is a clumsy attempt at geek-bonding.

Whatever. Xander's pretty sure he doesn't want to be regaled with tales of Spike's evil past. The unbidden image of Spike and Dru sitting amiably in front of a blood-splattered TV-screen, surrounded by cooling bodies, sullies precious childhood memories of Xander's favorite shows. Or maybe it's just the mention of Spike's ex-love of over a hundred years and the fondness in Spike's voice when he says her name.

"I think I'll go without the nostalgia, thank you very much."

Spike falls silent, and that's not what Xander intended.

"What, no snarky comeback? Cat got your spine?" It's supposed to come out jokingly. Xander has no idea where the sudden venom comes from.

Spike looks up, stung. A host of unguarded emotions flit over his features, faster than Xander can name them, and not all of them pleasant. His face sets into a grim mask and he pulls back, looking like a poisonous snake poised to strike. "You want spine? When did that happen? Must've missed the memo," he scoffs, erecting a fence of barbed wire sarcasm.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Come on, admit it. You like me best when I'm down." Spike's lips curl into a suggestive sneer. "On my knees."

Xander's jaw drops. His cheeks burn, because some of that is true, but not the way Spike is making it sound and oh god, is that what Spike thinks and how did everything get so complicated?

"I like you best when you're not acting like a complete asshole!" he shouts.

"Oh, and when is that? When I've got your cock up my ass? Kind of ironic, don'tcha think?" There's a hairline fracture in Spike's voice and a muscle in his jaw tenses.

"Is that what you think, Spike?"

"Well, I don't know, do I?" Spike bursts out, dropping all pretense. "I mean, what else is there?"

Xander is stunned by the display of sheer desperation.

"Remember what you said, when this... started?" Spike starts to pace as pent-up words break out of their cage. "The 'five reasons why you don't hate me anymore' countdown? Lovely speech that was, pet. But believe me, in here..." Spike raps his temple harshly with his palm "I'm still the same thing you hated before I went and got that soul. Still me. Don't feel different. Well yeah, there's the guilt an' the self-loathing, plenty of that, but the soul? Doesn't make me a better person. Doesn't make me want hugs and puppies for everyone. It just screws with me for all the things I've done. So, it's either you feelin' sorry for me cause that's how you work or--"

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Lemme get this straight. You think I'm shagging you cause I pity you?" Xander finally manages to get a word in.

Spike stops and turns to face him, breathes deeply as if bracing himself for the coup-de-grace, then looks up to meet Xander's gaze. When he finally answers, Spike's voice is calm but slightly strained, as if he's trying very hard to be reasonable about this.

"I think you're shagging me cause I'm a good lay. Beats spanking the monkey. Bit of a power trip too, doin' a vamp. Which, I s'pose, is as good a reason as any. And this—" he gestures vaguely at the apartment, "this—actually, I don't know what this is. You tell me." He falls silent, looking spent, all his fire turned to ashes.

For a moment Xander is speechless, and that's saying something. "Okay Spike, for the record: I don't pity you. If you feel rotten about 100 years of Carnage 'R Us, that's as it should be."

Spike takes this without flinching, just stands there, like he's made of stone, with barely enough life in him to keep his dead body animated. Or maybe like he exists in a different, much slower time continuum, standing still while the normal bustle of life rushes past him.

It's not the first time they seem to be out of synch. If this were Star Trek we'd be talking temporal anomaly. There'd be level three diagnostics, a re-calibration of couplings or manifolds and plenty of manual compensating, and at the end of the episode they'd be synchronized and primed for a wisecrack remark or two.

Unfortunately, it's not that easy.

Xander stares at Spike, wondering why these phases of stillness are making him sick in his stomach. The more he thinks about this, the more he prefers his vampire twitchy and restless and annoying. And how is he supposed to fix this? "Come on, Spike, grab your blanket," Xander says on the spur of a moment. "We're going out."

* * *

"This is your idea of a Saturday night out?" Spike asks incredulously, breaking the long, gloomy silence that has lasted the whole twenty minutes it took them to drive here.

"This is my idea of fun, yeah. I come here every week, because furniture is such a turn on."

Beds. Dozens of them.

They're standing in the bedroom department of the large windowless furniture store. About now, Xander realizes that this is a phenomenally bad idea. They're two guys looking at beds. Okay, Spike is keeping his distance, his face a blank mask, but they're still two guys looking at double beds. Eeep.

Spike doesn't look like a customer, not even remotely. It's not the clothes and the hair, more his almost metaphysical indifference. He's there in the flesh but not in spirit a bit like the Dalai Lama, except at the other end of the moral spectrum.

"Pick one," Xander says, suddenly in a hurry to get out of here.

Spike shrugs and points at the nearest bed. It's too small and it certainly doesn't look sturdy enough for the things Xander has in mind.

Xander blinks at the bed. "I want to tap into a hundred years worth of kink and this is what you want me to buy? I'm deeply disappointed."

Spike tilts his head, giving Xander an inscrutable stare that's quite chilling in its remoteness. What Spike is searching for, Xander can't tell. He tries not to squirm and stomps on the nervous impulse to burst into inane babble. His heart is beating way too fast and his palms are sweaty.

"Kink." Spike echoes, eyes narrowing in speculation.

"Yeah, you know, the whole falling asleep and waking up together deal? Pushes my buttons. Big kink of mine. Actually works best with a bed, though."

Spike contemplates this, his face a mask of concentration as if he's trying to add things up, his eyes never leaving Xander's face. The ghost of a smile appears, faltering and uncertain.

"I'm a bit of an octopus myself," Xander adds and flaps his arms in an imitation of tentacles.

Spike nods at that, as if to say, 'it'll do', or 'good enough' and then an unexpected grin curls his lips, wicked and sensual. Vintage Spike. He closes in on Xander in one liquid, graceful move, until he's almost touching him. Now they very much look like they're together. Xander swallows but doesn't move away. He can be stubborn like the best of them. He stood up to a troll once, heck, he can stand up to this.

"You wanna tap into some kink?" Spike leans even closer. "Tap into this," he murmurs into Xander's ear, cool breath ghosting over hot skin, his crotch almost but not quite touching Xander's hip. "Fuck me."

"Now?" Xander squeaks. All the blood in his body seems to rush to his cock at least that would explain the sudden absence of coherent thought in his brain.

"No, tomorrow," Spike snaps. "Of course now, you nit."

"You're nuts." But Xander's practiced eye is already roaming the store, searching for a secluded spot. Why does Spike have to pick the most embarrassing and inappropriate moment to finally show some initiative? Because he's Spike, that's why. Well, it could be worse. Spike could have come on to him in front of Buffy. That would have been disturbing.

Spike leers and steps back, slipping seamlessly into his old evil swagger, heads for a sturdy looking double bed and shouts loud enough for everybody to hear: "This one looks good. The manacles could go here and here," he grips one of the brass bedposts and slides his fist up and down in a pumping motion. Lucky bedpost.

"Spike!" Xander guffaws, a slightly hysterical note creeping into his voice. God, it's hot in here. No wait, it's the stares of at least a dozen other customers, grilling him. Trust Spike to turn an embarrassing situation into a truly mortifying one. "He's kidding." Xander affects a goofy grin, while glaring at Spike.

"I'm kidding," Spike affirms with a bashful smile that could charm a nun out of her knickers. When he walks back to Xander the predator act is gone. Spike surprises Xander by grabbing his hand. Walking backwards, holding his gaze, Spike drags him towards the bed he's chosen.

Xander can almost physically sense the shift in perspective among their onlookers going from 'sick perverts' to 'aww, how romantic.' Funnily enough, he feels the same way, which is stupid, since this is just an act. A bit of play-acting for the rapt audience. Spike's rapid mood swings are making Xander dizzy. And this particular one is making him horny.

He doesn't pull back his hand, because Christ - Spike would definitely take it the wrong way, but inwardly Xander can't help doing a swift Leporello, mentally going through a long list of friends, work-buddies and family, wondering what the odds are that they turn up in droves to buy a new lamp only to find him holding hands with a guy. Ho boy!

"I'll stake you for this," he whispers, a smile plastered across his flushed face that's only half fake. "Slowly."

"That's the general idea," Spike tells him, eyes dark under heavy lashes.

"You do know you've just beaten Anya's world record in public embarrassment?" Xander's fingers take on a life of their own, tightening their grip on Spike's hand.

"Yeah?" is Spike's interested reply. "Good."

"The restroom is over there," Xander points out.

"Then what are we waiting for?" Spike starts to drag him off.

"Could you possibly be more obvious about this?" Xander cranes his neck, checking for onlookers. Sure enough, they still have an audience.

"If that's what you want..."

"Spike!"

Spike does a half-arsed impression of innocence: raised eyebrows, flutter of lashes, pout.

"Spike, restroom. Now. I'll just...um... pay for this and then I'll... um.... come. Oh, and try to look sick."

Spike chuckles and heads for the restroom. Xander whips out his wallet, grabs the nearest salesperson, thrusts his credit card and ID at him, points at the bed, hurriedly tells him to get everything ready for signature, grimaces, mumbles something about stomach cramps and that they shouldn't have eaten the shrimp, then rushes off towards the restroom.

***

Thank heavens for small blessings. The restroom is empty save for Spike, who's leaning against the wall, a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth, and hastily unbuckling his belt.

The image and the metallic clink of the buckle send a surge of dizzying lust through Xander. He reaches for the cigarette, tosses it into the nearest sink and attacks Spike's mouth in an urgent kiss. His hands need no prompting to seek out some of their favorite spots. Before Xander knows it, he's clutching coarse bleached hair to hold Spike's mouth in place as he thrusts his tongue inside, while the other hand kneads Spike's ass through the denim of his pants. He pushes one leg between Spike's thighs and grinds his hard-on against Spike's hip, as eager for this as Spike.

When Spike pushes him off, they're both panting.

"Here, put this under the door." 'This' is a makeshift wedge, fashioned from a jagged piece of plastic ripped off the condom-dispenser. Xander forces it between the door and the floor, effectively jamming it from the inside.

"Hurry up, Harris, I haven't got all day," Spike snarks and pushes down his pants. His cock springs out, hard and urgent.

Xander gives the doorstop one last kick, then his hands fly to the zipper of his own baggy pants.

Spike plunges his fist into the condom dispenser, punching a neat hole into glass and metal and digs out a packet of condoms.

"You could have paid." Xander's pants slide down, revealing his own turgid hard-on. He frowns. "And you're worried I'm gonna give you what?"

"Don't fancy a wet spot in my pants after," Spike tells him and holds up a red rubber. "So be a good boy and use a Little Red Riding Hood—"

Xander snatches it out of Spike's fingers. It's amazing how quickly one can put a condom on.

Spike salvages the still burning cigarette from out of the sink and takes a deep drag, then balances it on the rim of the sink, before dropping to his knees to take Xander's straining cock into his mouth. Spike doesn't waste time, he quickly wets it thoroughly with saliva while bringing Xander's arousal to a fevered pitch.

Then he gets up, takes one last pull from his smoke, and turns to face the wall, pale ass sticking out, legs parted, flat palms pressed against cool blue tiles. Xander steps into the cloud of smoke, spits on his fingers, and hastily prepares the impatient vampire. Then he aligns himself and reaches around to grab Spike's cock. Aware of the barely sufficient lubrication he slowly pushes inside, while starting to jerk him off.

"God yes," Spike groans, loving the feel of Xander's strong warm hand on his cock and loving the feel of Xander's thick cock even more. "Perfect fit," he chokes out.

Xander is too breathless to reply. He just rests his forehead briefly against the blond head before him, then kisses the nape of Spike's neck. As Xander starts rocking his hips in short but hard thrusts, Spike arches backwards, baring his throat, greedily sucking unneeded air through his open mouth. Xander licks the offered throat a few times and then starts to pepper it with tiny bites that drive Spike wild.

"Perfect," Xander agrees belatedly, meaning the ideal way their bodies mesh as much as the look of rapture on Spike's face and the way he is pushing back against him, wanton, debauched. Xander begins to thrust in earnest now, slowly building up speed while experimenting with different angles until Spike's "Fuck, yeah," indicates he's found the right one. "Harder, give it me good, Xander. Oh, fuck!"

"God, Spike," Xander chokes out in between thrusts. "I'll never be able....to visit another ... restroom....without thinking about .... this... thinking about ...you."

The lithe body in his arms bucks at this and Xander thinks he hears a breathless "Good," but he can't be sure..

It's a hurried fuck, without great finesse. Fast and furious, but that's part of the fun. Xander slams into Spike with a confidence bred by familiarity, able to read his lover's sounds and moves, knows that this time Spike wants it hard. At one point, Spike pushes Xander's hand away and impatiently starts pulling on his own cock, his frenzy seemingly at odds with the previous hand-holding and the talk about Klingons and octopuses. Xander roughly fondles Spike's chest, pinching, tweaking and scratching his swollen nipples, eliciting frantic moans, grunts, and groans and a string of profanities.

"Oh fuck... so good... god, I love your cock... yeah... "

Xander finds himself pulling fiercely on Spike's hair and sucking hard on his taut neck, responding to his lover's urgency. Spike comes with a strangled howl and collapses, still impaled on Xander's cock. The shock-waves of his release push Xander over the edge as well and he comes in a long drawn-out climax, claiming his undead lover in a crushing embrace.

"If we could bottle this, we'd be richer than Bill Gates," Xander gasps, about a minute later, when he's finally regained his ability to form complete sentences. He trembles, as another after-shock courses through him, causing Spike to shiver too. His knees feel rather wobbly.

"No kidding," Spike mutters, chuckling.

His words are underscored by a sudden rattle at the door. The handle is pushed down a few times as someone tries to get into the restroom.

"Ack. How's that for timing?" Xander pulls out with a hiss and a shudder and a fervent desire to grab Spike and find a nice comfy bed to be boneless in. Spike makes a displeased sound, but he bends down and quickly pulls up his pants, while Xander staggers into one of the stalls. Spike grabs the makeshift doorstop and wrenches it out of the gap, then steps in front of the sink to wash his hands.

The door is pushed open and a thin, nervous-looking man stumbles inside.

"Door stuck again?" Spike asks evenly, innocence incarnate, except maybe for the happy just-got-thoroughly-fucked vibe. His hair is a mess, standing up in all directions.

The man hurries towards the urinal. His panicked mien changes to one of bliss as he finally gets to relieve himself.

Spike presses the little lever at the soap dispenser and squishes some pink liquid soap into his palm. "You know," he says loudly over the noise of running water and towards the closed stall, "You know what would be a great leap for mankind?"

The thin man freezes, momentarily worried Spike might be talking to him.

A sigh comes from behind the closed door, together with the sound of a zipper being pulled up. "Nope, and I don't wanna know but I've got the funny feeling you're going to tell me anyway."

The thin man's gaze travels back and forth between the black-clad wanna-be punk and the closed stall.

Spike waits, heightening the tension until the thin man is almost ready to snap and ask.

"Lube dispensers in restrooms, you know, like them soap thingies," Spike declares solemnly. "That's what the world needs."

Five seconds later the restroom door slams shut and Spike and Xander are alone again.

"He didn't even wash his hands," Spike observes.

Xander comes out of his stall and holds his hands under the tap. "Yeah, some people are just sleazy."

He looks at Spike, Spike looks at him and then they both burst out laughing.

"You're evil, you know that, don't cha?" Xander gasps, when he's able to speak again. Then hurriedly back-pedals. "And when I say 'evil', I mean not in the good versus evil sense of the word, but evil as in wreaking havoc with my h- hormones."

Spike gives him a reassuring pat on the back. "S'alright, mate. I know exactly what you mean."





Finding Eros

"All done," Xander declares, ineffectually wiping his hands on his pants.

Together they regard his work.

"Looks sturdy enough," Spike gives the bed post a tentative rattle then tilts his head to look at Xander.

Spike's trademark smirk is a breath-hitching blend of indolence and come-fuck-me. Xander knows only one possible response. The screwdriver is tossed aside, missing the tool-box by a whole yard, and grimy hands home in on their favorite spots: one clutches an angular hipbone, the other cups a sharp cheek bone. Xander's thumb leaves a smudge on pale skin, but he can't see it because he's too busy thrusting his tongue into Spike's sin-flavored mouth.

Xander pushes forward, jostling Spike backwards. If Spike wanted to, he could dig his toes in and play brick wall, immobile and intractable, but instead he gives up ground, inch by inch, while his tongue pushes against Xander's. Spike loves to be persuaded and Xander loves to persuade. There's nothing like that butterflies-in-his-gut moment when Spike's defiance and attitude melt into compliance at his hands.

One more shove and they tumble down on the bare, unmade mattress, causing the stack of fresh sheets and pillow cases to tilt and spill to the floor unheeded.

Using his full weight to pin the breathless, open-mouthed vampire down, Xander rocks against his lover, rubbing his hardness against Spike's, pushing his knee between denim-clad thighs and fumbling with the buttons of Spike's shirt.

Meanwhile Spike's hands are raking over Xander's bare chest, strong, demanding touches. "Got another hole for you to drill," he murmurs against Xander's shoulder.

"Cheesy much?" Xander mutters almost unintelligibly, hampered by the fact that his tongue and lips are busy worrying Spike's neck and throat. He pulls back and they share a lopsided grin before diving at each other again. Xander starts to work his way down from Spike's sineous neck, across his chest, biting nipples that are hard and pert like pebbles. Spike's hands are buried in his hair, almost but not quite demanding a southbound course.

"Admit it, you like it when I talk dirty," Spike gasps, "love it when I make your ears burn. Oh yeah... do that. There. Christ!"

Xander used to think that Spike would be so much more tolerable with a padlock on his mouth. Boy was he ever wrong. Nowadays getting Spike to babble and moan and spew out a string of profanities ranks right up there with opening Christmas prezzies.

Xander's hands and lips find the waistband of Spike's pants and make short work of buttons and zippers. Moments later his hand and mouth close around Spike's straining dick.

"God, yes... Xander... oh God, do that, suck me...."

Xander grins, then relaxes his throat to take Spike's cock in more deeply. With a lover like this, who needs Christmas?





Hestia's Charm

Christmas, time of strife, where you're cooped up with your so-called loved ones, until they're so drunk that the false smiles crack, and the roast turkey hits the fan. Literally.

When Xander informs Spike about the no-Christmas rule at casa de Xander and his solitary sleeping bag plans, Spike shrugs and lowers his gaze.

Of course, vampires aren't into Christmas, either.

Later, Xander fishes a dented, inexpertly wrapped box out of the trash. A LotR logo peeks through torn gift-wrap.

Xander gapes, then grabs his car keys.

He returns with a tree, a turkey, eggnog, and a two-person sleeping bag.




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