Quantum Xander 2
In Wake of the Curse


by
Jameschick



Part Sixteen

Buffy came, but she wasn't alone. Willow, Tara, Dawn and Anya were all with her. Xander sighed and opened the driver's door and Buffy scooted into the middle between him and Anya.

"They insisted on coming with."

"No big."

"So, where to?"

"Where do you think? Back to the hellmouth, source of the big evil. Some vamp said she saw a bunch of robed guys dragging Spike in there earlier."

Willow popped her head in between Xander and Buffy.

"And you believed her? 'Cause I'm thinking, you know, vamps not so big with the honesty."

"There's a lot of that going around."

Buffy put her hand on Xander's thigh and squeezed it in support. He sighed and ran his hand through his hair.

"I'm sorry, I'm just a little frustrated. Yes I believe her; I have my reasons to, and can we just go and check this out without the second-guessing. Please?"

No one said anything else until they were at the school and standing in front of the blood-covered wheel that was positioned in front of a big bronze-looking thing in the floor.

"The Seal of Danthazar."

"Huh? The seal of who?"

"Danthazar, Buffy. It's bad. Very, very bad."

Xander looked at his ex-fiancée and saw the way she was slowly backing away from the seal.

"What's this thing do, An? I mean other than sit here and look evil."

"It opens. And then bad things happen. If it's been opened - and by the blood I'd say it has - then trouble is on its way."

"Okay, that doesn't tell me a whole lot, An."

"I'm sorry, Xander. But that's all I know. If I hear anything, I'll let you know."

Anya teleported out and Xander was left standing there looking down at the seal.

"Okay, people. What say we bury the satanic manhole cover and call it a night?"

Xander left the room and returned shortly with an assortment of shovels. Everyone grabbed one and got to work. Xander was silently going insane; he could smell Spike's blood on the wheel and he was scared something horrible might have happened. By the time the seal was buried, everyone was tired and Xander drove them all back to Buffy's house.

After Dawn went to bed and Willow and Tara were immersed in books researching the seal, Xander slipped out the back door and sat wearily on the step. Buffy joined him moments later.

"Hey, Xan. How you holding up?"

"Okay. Well, I could be better. You?"

"About the same. What happened at Willy's? You look like you haven't slept in days."

"Just a bit worn out. I kinda turned a bar full of demons into kittens."

Buffy gaped at Xander and then snorted in laughter. She tried to cover it with her hands but couldn't hold it in. It was infectious and Xander soon found himself joining in despite the desperate situation they were all in.

"Oh, God. I'm so sorry, it's just... Kittens? Cute, fuzzy, little kittens?"

"Yep, cute and fuzzy. Now imagine Willy having to clean up after all those kittens."

Xander smiled and Buffy laughed again. Soon her laughter turned to sobs and Xander pulled her close and held her. He rocked her and made soft shushing noises while she pulled herself together.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't keep doing that. I need to be focused; strong."

"Nothing wrong with leaning on a friend, Buff. It's what makes you better than other slayers, your ability to trust others to be there for you. Besides, if anyone knows how you feel, it would be me."

Xander looked at her seriously.

"How do you feel, Buffy? It might be none of my business but ... do you love him?"

"I... I don't know. I care about him, Xander. But I don't know if I love him."

"That's okay. You don't have to make any decisions yet. But just so you know, it's okay if you do."

"Thank you."

The pair sat in silence for awhile longer. Then Tara opened the back door and they looked up at her.

"I'm sorry to interrupt. Willow and I were thinking - maybe a locator spell would help? We could use it to try and find the First - I could try it."

Buffy and Xander both stood. Buffy smiled at the shy witch and nodded her head.

"It couldn't hurt, right?"

Xander groaned noiselessly. Leave it to Buffy to jinx the whole thing. He followed the two women back inside where Willow was sitting in front of her computer still researching the seal. He knew she had sworn off magic - only performing the one spell since his disappearance and that was a locator spell to find him. He was proud of her, even if he was still angry for her actions. Perhaps he could learn to forgive her in time - as long as she stayed away from the magic. He didn't trust her when it came to spells - she abused her gifts.

While Tara set up the spell, Xander watched Willow. He could see her resolve not to participate, and it melted some of the ice that had formed around his heart. He still wasn't ready to forgive and forget but this was as least a step in that direction. He was brought out of his musings by Tara's screams.

Xander was shocked by what he saw. It had to be the First; there was no other explanation. Tara slumped to the floor crying, saying that she could still feel it - that the evil was inside of her now. Buffy and Willow both held her and assured her she would be okay. Xander shook his head ruefully. It wouldn't be okay, not for any of them. This was way more than anything they had ever faced before.

"Hey, Buff? I'm gonna head home."

"You sure? We could make up the sofa?"

"Nah. Thanks anyway. I got a few things I have to take care of at home."

"Okay. Xander?"

"Yeah?"

"Be careful. Don't do anything ... stupid. Okay?"

"Okay. Nothing stupid."

Xander drove home at breakneck speed and took the stairs up to his apartment. He knew there had to be a way to find Spike. They should have done the spell on him instead of the First, but after what had happened to Tara he couldn't ask her to try again. No, he would do it himself this time. Then, he would get Buffy and they would rescue the vampire.





Part Seventeen

Xander was back at Buffy's house before daybreak. He knew where to find Spike, where he was being kept - but he wasn't stupid enough to try and rescue the vampire by himself. A bar full of demons was one thing but the evil that all things evil were afraid of? Nuh uh, no way. He was smarter than that. Besides, he knew Buffy needed to be involved in this. Even if she wasn't ready to admit it, she felt something for Spike. It was obvious she was jealous of the closeness that he shared with the vampire.

He was a bit surprised to find Buffy up and alert at this hour - it was no secret that the slayer was not a morning person. He had to assume that like him, she hadn't bothered going to bed.

"Morning, Buffy."

"Xander. Come in, did you..."

"Did I what? Do anything stupid? No. But I did do a locator spell on Spike. I know where he is."

Buffy sagged in relief.

"Thank God. Alright, where is he?"

"I can show you."

"Let's go then."

Buffy opened the door again only to step back in surprise.

"Giles."

"Buffy."

Buffy smiled and was about to reach out for her former watcher when she was elbowed aside by a strange teenage girl - followed by two others. Giles smiled somewhat sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders.

"Sorry to barge in. We have a slight apocalypse."

Xander groaned and followed behind Buffy as she trailed Giles and the three girls into her living room. He just knew something like this would happen. He really wanted to just leave Giles and the new girls and drag Buffy off to find his vampire! Roommate! His vampire roommate! He was not feeling possessive of this Spike.

"I'll go wake the girls."

Xander sighed as he trudged upstairs to wake the other members of the estrogen brigade. How the hell Spike could stay in a house full of women - even if he was in the basement - was beyond Xander. He loved them all dearly but he did not want to cohabitate with them.

He knocked on Dawn's door and grinned when she sleepily muttered 'bugger off' at him. He just knew she had picked that up from Spike. He knocked again and then covered his eyes before opening the door - he didn't want to see Dawn in any state of undress; she was like a little sister to him.

"Xander!"

"Ah, the high-pitched shriek of a startled female. I've missed that sound."

Xander grinned goofily and continued to hold his hand over his eyes.

"You decent, Dawnie?"

"Nope. I'm completely naked here. Wanna see?"

Xander opened his mouth to reply but only managed to squeak as he brought his other hand up to cover the first one - just in case his fingers moved of their own volition.

"Relax, Xander; I'm kidding. Although, I think I'm insulted. What's so horrible about the thought of me naked?"

Xander could feel himself blushing and wished that Dawn hadn't spent so much time around Spike. She was picking up very bad habits - embarrassing him being one of them.

"Oh. Uh, nothing. I - I mean, I'm sure you're very... attractive. Just not for me to ... see? I mean, you're like my sister. I..."

Dawn burst out laughing and shook her head.

"God, Xander. You are too easy. Like I'd want to be naked in front of you. Gross. You're like my big brother."

"Okay, good. Now that that's settled, I came up here for a reason. I'll be damned if I can remember what it was now, though."

"Hmm, the idea of me being naked just made you lose all thought, did it?"

Xander was about to stammer out a denial but then saw the smirk on the girl's face. He shook his head and chuckled at her.

"You're evil. You know that?"

Dawn smiled at him.

"You say that like it's a bad thing?"

"Get up, brat. We have company - Giles and a bunch of teenage girls are downstairs; something hellmouthy this way comes."

Dawn groaned and flopped back down on the bed. Xander headed down the hall to Willow and Tara's room to wake them, as well. Hopefully Giles wouldn't take all day to tell them what was happening. He had a bad feeling about Spike and really wanted to get him away from the big evil thing that had him.

They were all assembled in the front room listening as Giles told them about the fate of the council. Xander was the only one not surprised by Anya's sudden arrival; the new girls screamed and ran for cover. Anya rolled her eyes in annoyance and turned to Xander.

"Did you find anything?"

"Yeah, but we haven't been able to do anything about it yet. Giles was just about to explain to us what happened in merry ole England."

Giles took a deep breath and then continued speaking as though he hadn't just been interrupted by the sudden appearance of a millennia old demoness.

"As I was saying, the council is gone."

Willow interrupted by asking a question.

"So does that mean all their records are destroyed?"

Giles motioned to one of the girls and she opened a pack and took out a stack of files and a couple of books. She laid them out on the coffee table and then stepped back.

"That is what is left."

Giles motioned to the table and then continued.

"The mystic secrets of the Watchers. And whatever I could find on the First. When I learned what was happening, I-I, um, I stole them."

"And you blew the council up! See, this is what happens when you're all stuffy and repressed. You overreact."

Anya looked at Giles and shook her head pitifully at him. She just knew he had a personality buried somewhere under all that tweed. And after Xander telling her about how happy she had been with the Englishman in another reality, she often found herself wondering what he was really like - what the man - Rupert - was like, as opposed to the watcher - Giles.

"I most certainly did not! It must have been an agent of the First. Demons do that sort of thing; but you would know all about that, wouldn't you, Anyanka?"

Xander interrupted before things turned ugly.

"Okay, G-man, so what do those files say about the First?"

"Very little. Only that it can change form. It ah, only appears in the guise of someone who has passed away."

Willow looked sadly at Dawn and then whispered,

"Our ghosts."

Xander and Buffy exchanged a look, as well. They had both assumed it was the same entity that had been messing with all of them - now they knew for sure. Xander was furious. The nerve of that thing pretending to be his mate. He would see it destroyed if it was the last thing he did. Giles snapped him out of his thoughts when he continued speaking.

"It has eternities to act, endless resources. How to defeat it ... I ... I honestly I don't know. But we have to find a way. If the slayer line is eliminated, then the hellmouth has no guardian. The balance is destroyed. I'm afraid it falls to you, Buffy. Sorry. I mean, we'll do what we can, but you're the only one who has the strength to protect these girls - and the world - against what's coming."

One of the newbies - Xander was pretty sure her name was Kennedy - stood up and looked at Giles as if he were crazy.

"And if this thing is the root of all evil, isn't the hellmouth its number one vacation spot? I mean, don't you think we should be hiding our asses on the other side of the globe?"

One of the other girls cried out in shock at her outburst, but Buffy was quick to step in.

"No. She's not wrong. We need more muscle. We need to find Spike. Xander? You're with me. The rest of you? Hit the books. I want everything you can find on the First."

Xander grinned and followed Buffy out the door. He loved it when she got into full-on slayer mode. He was well aware he had issues with dominant women. Faith, Buffy, Cordelia, Anya - it was a good thing he was gay now.





Part Eighteen

This is a fucking mess! Giles came back - potential slayers in tow - and informed us that the First - the newest and biggest evil we've faced to date - is trying to wipe out the slayer line. Add to that the fact that Spike has been abducted by said evil and we were unable to get to him because of a fucking Neanderthal vampire, and I'm far from being a happy Xander.

I led Buffy to the place where the spell said he'd be. She went down in this hole - apparently she'd been there before, years ago when Angel was the vampire with a soul that was being targeted by this thing. At least last time it didn't have a fucking crazy-super-strong-ubervamp working for it.

It almost got Buffy. Fucking hell, how tough does that thing have to be if it almost got her? I mean yeah, Angelus came close - so did Spike a time or two - but that was before. That was when Buffy was still trying to be a normal girl. Now she accepts who and what she is - she is the slayer. She beat a hell God; she came back from the dead - twice. But this vamp? It kicked her ass.

To make matters worse? We lost one of the new girls. She panicked - ran out into the night. The damn Turok Han - aka ubervamp - got her. Then it went after Buffy again. I found her under a pile of rubble - she looked as dead as she did the night she fought Glory. Thank God it was just in appearance this time.

So now what? I won't give up on getting Spike out of there. No way am I leaving him at that vamp's mercy. I could smell his blood on that thing. It made me want to rip it to pieces.

Which brings me to my feelings for Spike - this Spike. Oh, don't get me wrong, I still want my mate back, and I will find a way to bring him back, but I feel something for this Spike. Something more than just friendship - something base, primal, like on an instinctual level I feel connected to him. It has to be the bond - the claim I have with my Spike. The blood that this Spike spilled on the counter - the blood that I ingested without his knowing - must tie me to him in a way, as well.

I know he loves Buffy, but he feels something for me. Something that goes beyond friendship, beyond gratitude. He looks at me almost possessively at times. I have to wonder if he feels something from the claim my Spike made - or would he have to drink from me to feel it?

I tried to will Spike back - you know, the same way I turned a bar full of demons into kittens - but it didn't work. Too bad too, 'cause if I could get it to work, I could use it to bring my Spike back, as well. Fuck, I miss him. I really wish he were here right now to hold me. I always felt safe in his arms. I haven't felt safe since I lost him. Not completely anyway; there was that one night when the other souled Spike held me while I slept, but that wasn't even close to how I feel when I'm with my Spike, my lover, my mate.

I need to call Angel. I should have done it awhile ago - after Spike told me about Darla being resurrected by some demonic lawyers in L.A. But, as usual, the hellmouth rears its ugly head and interferes with my life. The spell they used had drawbacks, though. Darla came back human. I don't want a human Spike - I want my Spike, demon and all. But I'll do what I have to do. Even if it means convincing Angel to turn him again.

He won't be happy about it. I know he won't; he refused to do it for Darla, so I doubt he'll do it for Spike - or me, for that matter. I wonder if Angelus would be a better choice? I'm sure I can find a way to strip him of his soul if necessary - but I doubt I could trust Angelus to follow through on the turning. He'd probably just drain Spike and leave him for dead. Oh God. Or worse - he could claim sire's right and take him as mate - taking him away from me. No, not going to risk that! Have to find another way - a way to bring him back as a vampire. Shit, this sucks!

Xander closed his eyes and sighed in frustration. This was getting him nowhere. He had hoped that if he wrote it down it would make more sense - that somehow the answer would just magically appear out of thin air. He stared at the blank page opposite of where he had written - willing it to fill with the answers he desperately needed. It didn't.

"A bit much to expect it to be that simple. Blank pages will remain blank... Unless they're in a spell book!"

Xander jumped up off his bed and ran to his closet. He pulled the book he had purchased from the strange Asian woman - demon - whatever, down and opened it.

He turned page after page; they were still blank. He was about to give up when he saw it. It was very faint, but it was there. He could see the words if he looked just hard enough. Xander concentrated and the words filled in before his eyes. It was a spell to banish a Turok Han.

"YES!"

Xander read and re-read the spell - committing it to memory in case the words faded once again. Once he was sure he wouldn't forget a single thing, he closed the book - put it back where he had hidden it in the first place - and left for Buffy's house. He would need some supplies and he would need Buffy to keep it distracted while he cast the banishment spell.

Buffy was wary about the spell, but having no other options at the time, agreed to Xander's plan. She wanted him to discuss it with Willow and Tara first, but Xander refused. He explained that he just wasn't ready for Willow to know about him and that even if he was, he just knew he had to do this on his own. The spell had appeared for him, after all, not Willow or Tara or anyone else.

So while Buffy fought the ubervamp, and the potentials - including a new girl who had shown up that morning - watched, Xander hid just out of sight and set up his spell. He had to wait until the vamp was in position before he could banish it. It was up to Buffy to get him there.

It was a hell of a fight. Xander was afraid - more than once - that Buffy would lose or that she wouldn't be able to get the Turok Han into position. But finally, it happened. The whole thing flowed together seamlessly and Xander couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe someone up there was looking out for them all.

With the final words of the spell still ringing in his ears, Xander watched as the vampire disintegrated as though he had been staked. He knew that to everyone else it looked as though Buffy had gotten him. That was exactly what they wanted them to think, as well. He cleaned up his supplies as the others rushed out of their hiding places and ran to the battered slayer.

Buffy got to her feet and staggered toward Xander. They smiled at each other and then sent the girls back to the house with Tara and Willow. They had a vampire to rescue.

Spike opened his unswollen eye and glared at Buffy as she walked toward him. He knew it wasn't her - that it was just that thing that liked to pretend it was her. Or Dru, or Angelus, or Glory, or any number of the thousands of people he had killed. But without its pet vampire, it was unable to hurt him. He waited for the verbal taunts, knowing that that was the worst it could do to him.

"Come to tell me I'm a bad dog? Won't work any better than last time. I won't join you. They will come for me."

Buffy pulled a knife out of her sleeve to cut the leather straps that held him in place. Xander watched them from a few feet away. He wanted to give Buffy some privacy, just in case she decided to come to any decisions.

"Knives now, is it? You can't hurt me; you're not real. Just a figment of my bloody imagination."

Buffy cut him free and he touched her face. He felt her skin and smiled.

"You came for me?"

"We both did."

Buffy pointed to Xander who stepped out from the shadows.

"Xander."

"Hey, Spike. Let's go home."

Spike nodded and let Buffy and Xander help him walk out of the underground cavern. He looked back and saw himself standing in the far part of the room. He knew it was not over yet, but he was too tired, too relieved that they didn't abandon him, too hurt and weak to care right now. He just wanted to leave this place, to go home.





Part Nineteen

By mutual agreement, Xander took Spike back to his place for the day. With the new girls and Giles all staying at the Casa de Summers, it made more sense for Spike to not be there. Xander was doing a little happy dance in his head at the thought of having Spike to himself again. Then he mentally slapped that thought right back out again.

As they entered the apartment, Xander pushed Spike toward the shower with a gentle nudge and then headed for the kitchen to warm up some blood for him. He wanted nothing more than to take the blonde in his arms and hold him close. He knew that Spike must have been terrified by what he had been through, but he also knew that he would never admit it, not even to him.

By the time Spike emerged from the bathroom, clean and looking better than he had when he'd gone in, Xander was waiting for him with a mug of warm blood in his hand.

"Drink up, plenty more where that came from. You probably haven't eaten in awhile."

"Thanks, luv. I'm bloody starved, plus I'm hurtin' something fierce. Don't know what the hell that thing was but it was stronger than it was ugly - an' it was plenty ugly."

Xander snorted.

"Turok Han. The Neanderthal of vampires. Or as we so affectionately named it - Ubervamp."

"What happened to the bloody thing anyway?"

"Banished it. But as far as the others are concerned, Buffy slayed."

"Got it. Still not ready to out yourself to the group, then?"

Xander choked and Spike laughed.

"I meant about the magic, pet. Not the sexual issues. Although, I doubt you have anything to worry about there either. The witches are together and Rupert and that wizard of his were more than friends back in the day. Slayer doesn't seem to have a problem either."

"I know, but if I bring that up then I have to bring up the spell, and I'm not ready for that yet."

"Alright, fair enough. But don't leave it too long; these things have a way of festering if you don't deal with them."

"I know."

They spent several minutes in silence while Spike heated and consumed more blood and Xander watched him. Finally, Spike had drunk enough to feel his body start to heal and he looked over to see Xander watching him with concern.

"What's up, Xan?"

"Nothing. I was just... "

Xander broke off. The emotions of the past few days were catching up to him. He could feel his eyes well up with tears - tears he hadn't allowed himself to cry before. He was so scared that he was going to fail this Spike as well. That he would be too late to save him. He felt cool arms wrap around him and he let himself go, leaning into Spike and allowing the smaller man to support him as he wept.

Spike was relieved. This was a long time in coming. Xander had been so strong for so long he was afraid the man would never let himself grieve. He knew that his capture had only brought up painful memories for Xander of his mate's capture and subsequent death.

"Shh, s'oky, luv. I'm fine. I never doubted that you'd come for me, not for a moment."

Spike rubbed soothing circles on Xander's back and then walked him toward his bedroom. He gently undressed the man and tucked him into bed.

"Sleep, luv. You'll feel better for it."

Spike turned to leave and Xander grasped his hand.

"Stay? Please, I... I don't want to be alone."

Spike studied Xander quizzically. He wasn't sure what Xander was asking of him, and he wasn't sure what the answer would be either. After a minute he gave up on trying to figure it out for himself and gingerly sat on the edge of the bed.

"What are you asking, Xander? I mean is this just about not being alone or are you looking for..."

"No, I just want to hold you while I sleep. Nothing else, I promise. I want... comfort, Spike. Don't you want comfort?"

Spike thought it over for about all of thirty seconds before stripping down to t-shirt and boxers like Xander and climbing into bed beside him. He did want comfort; it was all he had wanted since he'd gotten the damn chip in his head. Now that he was souled, it was even worse.

"Comfort sounds... bloody comforting, mate. Yeah, could use some of that about now."

Xander smiled softly and pulled Spike into his arms. He breathed in the familiar smell of the man in his arms and smiled. It was a bittersweet feeling - having this familiar and well-loved body in his arms again. He missed his mate, but that wasn't what this was about. This was about gleaning comfort in the arms of a friend. Maybe more than a friend. He sighed and then leaned up on his elbow and looked at Spike.

"Are you okay? I mean really? I know you don't believe me, but you don't have to pretend with me. You can be yourself here, Spike. I promise you, I won't think any less of you if aren't the Big Bad all the time."

Spike studied the serious expression on Xander's face and then felt his resolve crumble. He knew Xander was serious, that he was offering him a place to just be himself, where he didn't have to be "Spike" all the time; where he could be William or Spike, or as was most often, a combination of the two. He could relax and let down his guard. It was an attractive idea, but at the same time it scared the hell out of him.

"I don't know if I can do that, luv. It sounds like an appealing offer, but I don't know if I can let it go. I feel like I've been in a play for the last century or so. I've been playing this part so long I don't remember how to stop. What if I switch it off and I can't get it to come back? Buffy doesn't need a snivelling poet right now; she needs a master vampire. She needs Spike's strength, Spike's viciousness, Spike's cunning."

"Are you sure about that? I mean, you got the soul for her; don't you think she'd want to see it?"

Spike fell silent for a moment and then sighed.

"I don't know. I mean, after what I did, it was the only thing I could think of to do that would show her how bloody awful I felt about it. I wanted to give her the man she deserved. William - I - was a pathetic mother's boy with allusions of grandeur, but I knew how to love; I was a good man. I wanted Buffy to have a good man. She deserves that much, you know?"

Xander nodded and waited for Spike to continue.

"I'd like to be William for her. I can see that Spike still scares her, that she hasn't forgotten what I did, what I almost did to her. She's never going to love me, Xander. Not in the way I want her to. You know, I once told her and Angel that I was "love's bitch"; I really and truly am. All I ever wanted was for someone to hold me in their arms and tell me they me they loved me and mean it."

Spike closed his eyes before the tears that had welled up had a chance to spill over. He might be a souled poof now, but he was not going to cry like a chit. Xander pulled the cool body closer to him and placed a soft, chaste kiss against his pliant lips.

"I love you, Spike. And I'm not just saying that; I do. Not the same way I love my mate, but I do love you. You're Spike. How can I not?"

Spike shuddered in Xander's arms and felt the tears rolling freely down his cheeks. He didn't even care that Xander could feel him shaking, that his tears were soaking into the man's shirt. He was loved. Not by Buffy, but by Xander. Not as a lover, but as a friend - as a person. It wasn't everything he had hoped for, but it was more than he had expected.

"Give Buffy time; she does care about you. Maybe in time she'll come around. She won't let herself love Spike because he's a demon, but now that you're William, as well... Give her time Spike; don't give up hope."

Spike nodded into Xander's chest and allowed himself to relax into the warm embrace. His demon felt content lying in the arms of its mate - its claimed, and the soul felt at peace for the first time in longer than he could remember. He wasn't alone in the world; he had a friend who loved him. He felt himself purring and for once didn't care that it might make him look soft. Xander loved him, accepted him for who and what he was. He could be himself here.

Xander relaxed to the sound of a soft, rumbling purr coming from the man next to him. He had a dopey grin on his face as he drifted off to sleep.





Part Twenty



"Mmmm, the beach again?"

"You seem to like it here, and I'm not complaining about the sun, love."

Xander smiled and leaned back into Spike's chest. He tilted his head as he felt his mate nuzzle into his neck. His eyes closed and his lips parted slightly as a cool tongue washed over his claimant scar. He shuddered.

"Like that, love?"

"Love that. I always love it when you're touching me."

"Good, 'cause I like touching you. I miss touching you."

"Me too, Spike. This is nice, though."

"That it is, love."

"How much time do we have?"

"Long enough."

Xander smiled and turned in his lover's embrace. He gently lowered Spike down and rose over him.

"You are so beautiful. God I love you."

"Show me?"

Xander dipped his head and brushed his lips softly across the cool lips of his mate. He smiled as they parted in anticipation. He let the tip of his tongue out to trail along the full lower lip of his lover.

"Xander. Don't tease, please, love."

Xander lowered himself until he and Spike were touching from head to toe. Their lips fused together as they moved against one another. Xander groaned at the sensation of all that cool, silky skin against his own.

"I've missed this, missed you so much, Spike."

"Me too, love, me too."

They rolled until Spike was on top; he drew back and looked into Xander's eyes, his own flashing amber with repressed desire.

"Mine."

"Yours, always yours."

Spike kissed Xander ferociously, his fangs coming down and nearly slicing the flesh of lips. Xander didn't care; he only kissed back harder, spreading his thighs in invitation. He was thankful that he was always naked and ready in his dreams, no matter which way they played out.

Spike slid into Xander and swallowed his cries with his mouth. He kissed him, softly this time, as he started to move. Xander wrapped his arms around Spike's shoulders and his legs around his waist. He hung on for all he was worth, wanting to savour the feeling - knowing that all too soon he would wake up and he would be alone again.

Both of them struggled to hold off their orgasms - not wanting this to be over so soon. It had been too long though, and they both cried out as they came, Spike burying his fangs deep into his mark on Xander's throat. Xander bucked up and came again.

As they lay still connected, Xander petted Spike's hair and felt him vibrating against his chest. He held him tighter, not ever wanting to let go. He thought that maybe if he held him tight enough, he could pull him out of his dreams and into the real world with him.

"Are you really here? I mean is this just a dream or are you real?"

"Don't I feel real to you, love?"

"Yes. You do. Does that mean you are?"

"I don't know. Maybe I'm the one dreaming; maybe you aren't real."

"I haven't given up. I will find a way to bring you back. I promise you that."

Xander felt his eyes tear up and then a cool thumb brushed the tears away as they fell.

"I know, but if you can't..."

"I will."

"But if you can't, you have to promise me you won't waste your life trying to save me from my fate. You have to live, love. You deserve to be happy, to be in love, to have someone real."

"I only want you."

"Yeah, well, m'not exactly one of a kind now am I? You could have him; he's me. Sort of."

"No."

"Just think about it, Xan, okay? I'm not asking you to give up on me, not yet anyway. And hey, I am still with you in your dreams, love, and that's better than not getting to be with you at all. I'll take this over nothing any day."

They fell quiet for a few moments, both just enjoying the feel of the other man in their arms. Eventually Xander broke the silence.

"I read your journal. I'm sorry, I just... I missed you so much and I wanted to feel close to you again."

"S'okay, love. They're just words; was going to show it you someday anyway. So, how bad were they?"

"How bad were what?"

"The poems, what else?"

"Poems? You wrote me poems?"

"In the back of the book. Guess you never looked there, huh? Should'a kept my bleedin' mouth shut."

"I didn't look. I... I won't if you don't want me to."

"Only words, Xander, nothing more. Never do you justice anyway."

Xander kissed Spike and rolled them onto their sides; groaning as Spike's softened penis slipped out of Xander's hole. Xander traced over the scar in Spike's eyebrow and then down one sculpted cheekbone. He cupped Spike's face and brought their mouths together again. This kiss was full of feeling, full of love, sadness, pain, and a hint of desperation.

"I won't give up, Spike. I need you."

"Okay love, okay. We won't talk any more about that for now. It's time for you to wake up anyway."

Xander tightened his hold on Spike and crushed him to his chest.

"No. Not yet, please, not yet."

"It's alright, Xan. I'll be here waiting for you next time. I love you."

"I love you too. God. Don't leave me again."

Xander woke with Spike crushed to his chest and tears in his eyes. He gasped and then opened his eyes, hoping beyond all hope that his mate was here in his bed, in his arms. He saw blonde hair and tried very hard not to be disappointed. After all, it wasn't Spike's fault that he wasn't the vampire Xander was hoping for.

Luckily, Spike was still asleep and didn't see the tears in Xander's eyes or the disappointment on his face. Not to mention the evidence of his dream that stuck to the inside of his boxers. Carefully, Xander climbed out of bed and stumbled across the hall to the bathroom.

Xander turned on the taps and stepped into the shower. He quickly washed away the evidence of his climax and then began his regular shower activities on auto-pilot. He couldn't help wondering if he was going crazy, or if he was just so miserable that he was conjuring up visions of his mate in his dreams.

He squashed down the tiny flicker of hope that it was more than that. That somehow, he still had a connection to Spike and that he really was there, that he was in his dreams - not some figment of his imagination.

After stepping out of the shower, Xander dried his body and hair and then wrapped the towel around his waist and went to the sink. He got his razor and his shaving cream and was just about to make himself presentable when he noticed it.

His mark was bleeding.

He had been bitten.

It was fresh.

"Oh fuck!"




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