Apocalypse Laterish


by
Metaforgirl



3

Xander stood just outside the door of the tent. The flap was tied open so that Spike and Angel could sit safely inside, but Spike could remain close enough to prompt Xander should any of the people speak to him. The silvery rayon material of the shirt he wore, covered only with the thick poly stuffed vest, shone with the red lights of the sunset. His face was solemn and still, the sun’s deep golds enhancing the tan, glinting off the shining black hair. Spike watched Xander watching the remaining peoples of earth and grappled with his own odd emotions.

It was as if Xander alone had not been resurrected, but the entire Scooby era. As if the boy’s body carried the atmosphere of that time period with him. Watching him standing there, nervous with who knew what fears, Spike saw not just Xander, but an Age of Mankind. Xander’s extreme health and vigor, a quality long lost to the people’s of earth, only served to remind Spike of so many other qualities long lost. The spirit of heroes and heroism. A certitude of victory against all odds. He imagined how the young man must appear to those people trooping by him. Xander would be at least a head taller than the tallest man of the area. His skin the color of precious metal, his musculature intimidating and impressive. He would be as a God to them. And for a moment, the sun making the shadows on his face and his eyes dark as night, Xander Harris looked like some mythic star god to Spike as well.

“They’re looking at me,” Xander whispered, his eyes on something distant. “Is it okay to wave?”

Spike was surprised at his question. “Sure. People still wave.”

Xander raised his hand in a small, tentative gesture of greeting. Spike saw him react slightly and then that impossible grin stretched across the solemn face, transforming him once again into a seventeen year old boy. “They waved back.”

“Good on you, whelp,” said Spike, something deep and dark and soft like earth turning inside him.

Xander stood in the doorway throughout the entire ceremony, occasionally waving again, the grin flashing across his dark features like heat lightning across a dark sky. Once, apparently, some people passed close enough to hear and he whispered to Spike urgently, “How do you say hello?”

“Dia dao,” said Spike. Xander called it out to the night and Spike heard several voices calling it back. He felt an odd sensation across his scalp. A sweet prickling thrill. Xander laughed lightly and the thrill intensified. He turned his glance to Spike and the vampire felt a shock of something run up his spine as the black eyes, dancing and full of delight, smiled into his own.

Xander turned his face back to the night. As he watched, the sun disappeared, light slipping down his face and away. “It’s over, I guess,” he whispered to Spike reverently.

“Yeah, they’ll go home now,” said Spike, still floating in the endorphin of that peculiar sensation, seeking to make it last. “Hey, maybe I can teach you some more words tomorrow.”

Xander turned back to answer him, his face full of shadows but mobile with excitement. The thrill traveled across Spike’s scalp again.

“We should go, Spike,” said Angel, from the other side of the tent.

Spike jumped and felt weird. He had completely forgotten that Angel was present. He stood up, feeling that lovely sense of anesthesia dissipating with a kind of wondering disappointment.

“Where are you going?” asked Xander. Sounding like he was trying not to sound worried. Not to sound like he was about to be left alone on an empty ridge in the dark in a foreign land.

“You can come with us,” said Spike unthinkingly.

Angel frowned and looked a reprimand at Spike, which he pretended not to see, gathering up the thermal blanket and pressing it into Harris’ arms. “Gets cold…”

“It’s too dark for mortals, Spike. He won’t be able to get down the side of the cliff.”

“Cliff?” said Xander, looking from Spike to Angel. “Dark?”

“Won’t let him fall, Angel,” said Spike. He looked up at Xander who was, in turn, looking back at him with very little confidence in his expression. For some reason this lack of faith stung a bit.

“Fall?” said Xander nervously. His gaze settled on Angel and he swallowed noticeably.

There was that look again, Spike observed to himself. Harris got that frozen, fuzzy animal in the headlights expression whenever he looked at Angel. “I’ll wait here,” said Xander, still hugging the thermal blanket. “I’ll… uh…” his eyes skated around and came back to Spike. “That invite thingie works in tents, right?”

Spike shook his head. “Not tents of the undead,” he grinned wickedly, rapidly moving from delight in Harris’ discomfort to dismay that he had caused said discomfort. He frowned.

“Xander, demons very rarely approach this area. They know it’s guarded. I’m sure you’ll be safe. Now, Spike,” Angel slid the blanket around his arms and made for the door, “we have to hurry…”

“Wa … wait,” said Xander. Spike looked back at him with some pity.

“Look,” he said as he walked out. “There’s water in the box, and stakes on the shelf there. Make yerself at home.”

“Stakes?” Xander wandered over to the indicated shelf and found the small arsenal. He slid his palm over one smoothly carved stake.


~*~*~*~*~


It took longer than usual. Angel leant heavily on Spike as they made their way back.

“Did they say when?” Spike waited patiently for Angel to ease his weight from Spike’s arm and sit down on the small palette bed inside the empty tent. Spike moved over to the stove and lit a fire, gathered another blanket from a shelf, and sat on the bed to carefully wrap it around Angel’s bowed shoulders.

Angel gathered the blanket gratefully around himself. “About a week from now.” He lightly touched Spike’s hand as he would have moved off the bed. “No. Stay,” said Angel, not looking directly at him.

Spike hesitated, as always unsure of what was happening. Angel’s hand closed over his and he turned his head halfway towards Spike, eyes downcast. “Stay,” said Angel, part command, part plea. He lifted his other hand and closed it lightly around the bones of Spike’s wrist.

“Sure,” said Spike. He shifted on the mattress and waited to see what Angel would do.

Angel’s head bent towards him. As if seeking something blindly. Spike would have reached up helpfully and pulled Angel into a hug, but he knew intuitively that Angel had not yet made a conscious decision.

The hands that clasped his wrists moved slowly up his arms. Angel’s head came up slightly, his eyes had a sleepy confused look, as he gazed beyond Spike to a spot on the bed slightly behind him, his hands moving as if they had their own will. Then, finally, Angel closed the space between them, making a small needy sound, pressing his entire torso against Spike. Spike let his body be pushed backwards onto the mattress. His senses swam in the scent, emotional need and sheer weight of the torso pushing down against him. Angel carried a lot a muscle mass. Spike’s mouth was pressed into the long thick hair as Angel's head rested against his neck, breathing audibly. After a second, Spike felt Angel's face turn against his skin, his soft wet mouth sucking at him hypnotically, as Angel’s hands slid up and down his arms, slowly peeling loose Spike’s shirt.

Hands traveling down, running now over Spike’s cock, his erection, unenthusiastic but willing to be encouraged, and Angel moved down, untying the laced crotch, slipping the fabric easily from Spike’s hips. Spike felt the dark head moving in slow circles over his abdomen, moving down further still, and felt oddly reluctant.

“Angel,” he hissed, hesitantly touching the soft hair of Angel’s head. “Don’t ya think I should go make sure Harris is okay first?”

Angel murmured, and Spike felt definite blunt teeth close gently on either side of his cock. He gasped and arched and grabbed Angel’s hair. The pressure eased. “Fuck Xander Harris,” said Angel and released Spike’s erection into the cold air.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander heard someone approaching and rolled his stake in the palm of his hand, backing into the corner from which he had ambushed Spike. He could not make out who the voices belonged to and wished tents came equipped with windows. And flashlights. And crossbows. Yeah, crossbows would definitely be nice right now. Xander looked around the room, wondering how Spike and Angel could have so few weapons.

“Oi!” he heard quite distinctly outside, then a flutter of material and more voices. He relaxed a bit. Then became annoyed to realize that he was eager to see Spike and Angel. Then became even more annoyed when he realized they had entered the other tent without stopping into this one to check up on him.

Still clutching the stake, he nevertheless gave up his position of advantage by the door and sat down hard on the pallet. It thumped hard with the force of his weight.

Somebody yelled. Xander jumped to his feet, stake ready.

“Ah! Yes! Angel!”

Xander’s stake wielding hand dropped; he stared at the wall adjacent to the other tent.

“Aah!” yelled the voice. There was a loud moan. And despite the adrenaline rushing through his brain, Xander registered that those cries were not of men being attacked and injured. The fear still moving his feet on the floor, pumping his lungs to breathe, Xander paced, his fist clenching around his stake, his brain clenching around this new Fun Fact. Until, unhappily, Xander could hear flesh against flesh, an increasing rhythm, grunts and short exclamations. His own breathing quickening as the sounds crescendoed. He was backing away but there was not enough room to get away from those sounds, not enough space in here to put between himself and whatever new reality he was being sent to deal with. He looked desperately around the tent one more time, whirled, and ran out the door.


~*~*~*~*~


Angel was curled on his side, his back to Spike, the blanket tucked over his shoulders. He stared at the wall of the tent. Spike sat on the bed, still partly undressed, cum and a variety of other liquids still drying on his chest. He watched his withdrawn Sire, “So,” he said. He thought of putting his hand on Angel’s shoulder, even lifted said hand but then thought better of it.

“So, guess I’ll just go check on the whelp.”

There was no answer.

“Yeah,” Spike sighed. He relaced his trousers, pulled his shirt closed and stood with a little grimace. Angel’s enthusiasm had been rather strenuous. “I’ll…” Spike was startled as a vast loneliness swept through him like a wind. Angel looked so small lying there on the palette under his brown blanket. Spike felt so cold. He stumbled for the door. “I’ll, I’ll sleep over there, yeah, Angel?”

“Thank you, Spike.” Angel’s voice sounded very distant.

Spike could not understand the tears now pressing behind his eyes. He threw his vest over his other clothes and made the two-foot walk to the other tent.

“You decent, Harris?” he yelled as he entered, glancing towards the corner Harris had sprung from last time, just in case. But the tent was empty.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander stumbled over something on the ground and fell forward, feet tangled, coming down hard and at a bad angle on one hand. He felt something wrench in his shoulder and was just able to squelch a yell of pain as he messily collapsed against the cold muddy ground.

He lay there, panting and trying to see the area around himself. He had absolutely no idea where he was. No idea how long he had been running. A few minutes? Longer? Nothing was familiar. The air smelled like sulfur, no like soapy water. The ground was slimy and gritty. Xander pushed himself up, the sharp pain telling him he had actually done damage to himself. All around him was pitch black. No starlight, no moon, no reflected city lights. Not even the sound of small animals or insects to give him a sense of orientation. Xander felt very like … he started breathing hard; his shoulder was throbbing, that must mean something, right? This endless darkness, nothing on nothing, hanging in the dark. But his shoulder ached, his palms stung where the ground had scraped him, he couldn’t be dead, right?

He shivered suddenly, violently as the cold of the ground began to work through his trousers. He hadn’t grabbed the vest Spike had given him which, he now realized, had actually kept him quite warm before. His boots were undoubtedly not meant for outdoor use, they were leaking moisture against the soles of his feet already. Chill seeping into him, the dislocated shoulder shouting periodically into his brain, Xander felt himself numb nevertheless with fear and confusion. He would have shouted for help but who would hear him? The demons he avoided? He was lost in the dark and there was nowhere to go, nothing to be done about it. Xander lay back on the cold, damp ground and felt the chill reach up and wrap itself around him.


~*~*~*~*~


“James?” Jennifer’s soft hands, her voice full of pain and concern, Warm. He turned and let his wife comfort him. “Honey,” she said softly. He felt her cheek against his hair, the soft wool of her coat.

“I remember he used to tell me,” said James, softly, “that girls were soft as kittens on the outside and tough as nails on the inside.”

Jennifer hugged him and caressed his head. They were sitting on a small couch outside his father’s room. The doctors had asked them to leave while they removed the tubes.

“He told me a story once,” said James, watching the door to his father’s room. After the tubes were removed, his father would begin to die. They would be allowed back in then. He watched the door. “I was going to break up with my girlfriend in High School. And he told me a story about a girl who became a vengeance demon because a man broke her heart. He explained about girls,” he took a deep breath, “about how all they want is the truth.” He wrapped his arms around his wife.

Jennifer was crying.

“Give them the truth and someone to love, and a woman can save the world,” quoted James quietly, watching the door to his father’s room.


~*~*~*~*~


“Harris?” The hands on his face were so cold. Xander turned away from them. He was cold already, filled with the cold. He needed heat. But the chill hands pursued him. Tapping, they were tapping at his skin as at a closed door. “Harris, damn your sorry arse to hell, wake up!” Xander turned from the coldness and told them he wasn’t there.

“He said something. I think he’s coming to.”

“He’s delirious with fever, Angel. He’s been sayin’ all sorts of meaningless shit.” Something else cold. And damp, pressed into his brain and it was so perfect. This coolness was bliss. Xander pushed into the cool, damp cloth.

“Mmm,” he whispered. “That feels good.”

“Harris? Fuck, Xander, can you hear me?”

Xander? Spike never called him by his Scooby name. Xander smiled to himself and felt terribly silly about that for some reason. He giggled.

“Somethin’ hurtin’ him. He’s crying. Fuck, Angel.”

“There’s nothing you can do, Spike, just let the fever run its course.”

“Done enough already, haven’t we, ya giant ape. He was a good fifty yards down the side of that hill and soaked through when I found him. We musta scared the holy shit out of him, you stupid fuck!” The coolness that soothed his brain disappeared, but then was back again and better. Xander hummed happily.

“… ridiculous to run off into the night like that.” Angel’s voice. Xander wanted to growl at it. Angel was the Indian Chief, thought Xander giddily. Stomping around in his big robe.

“Just a kid…” Spike’s voice. Spike was a cool, dark thing, thought Xander, drifting. Like a stream. Full of trout. He smiled to himself.

“Ah…” Angel murmured something and Spike’s hands were gone, the cool cloth slipped away. Xander’s head turned, seeking the comfort again. And now there was shouting. Words loud and sharp, like shards of glass piercing his brain.

“Stop,” whimpered Xander, and discovered he had a mouth and a tongue somewhere below the burning of his brain. “Stop yelling,” he managed to say louder.

“Harris?” The cold wet cloth back on his forehead and now the cool hands too, running over the top of his head.

“Keep doing that,” begged Xander.

“Yeah,” Spike laughed weakly. “You in there, Harris? C’mon, open your eyes.”

Xander obediently tried to open his eyes and found them sticky and stinging. Spike’s face was very close to him, those intense blue eyes peering at him. Through the tiny cracks of his barely opened lids Spike looked like he was trying to peek into Xander’s brain.

“Hiya,” whispered Xander, his throat hoarse and dry. “You have anything to drink around here, that didn’t come from an open vein?”

Spike had a cup to his lips and his arm under Xander’s shoulder, urging him up, almost immediately. Xander found it very interesting how he kept discovering body parts. He hadn’t even remembered he had shoulders and now he was delightfully aware of them. Spike was cool and firm as he rocked Xander upward. All marble and soft, rayony silk. Xander wriggled against him. Spike laughed again.

Spike’s laugh was like that stream falling over rocks, thought Xander. He could feel himself drifting again, the idea of a boat, floating on a stream of strong, soft vampire. “Sleepy,” he mumbled.

“Yeah, Xan,” said Spike’s dark voice. And there it was again. The coolness on his head, his brows, brushing behind his ear. “Fever’s breakin’, you’ll be fine. Rest, Xander.”


~*~*~*~*~


He woke later, very warm and with a huge weight on his chest. He inhaled and it sounded like bagpipes warming up. He exhaled and the same bagpipes squealed and died. His hands were firmly buried under that same mass of blanket that weighed down on his chest and Xander rediscovered his fear of bondage when he realized he couldn’t move. He hands jerked, and he desperately pulled his arms out from under the mountain of blankets, pushing back the heavy stacks on his chest.

“Hey, hey, stop that now, you idiot.” Spike was over him, his shirt hanging down in Xander’s face, pulling the blankets out of his hands and trying to tuck them firmly around Xander again.

“I’m hot,” said Xander, his lungs wheezing musically.

“Yer still sick and stayin’ in bed until the infection’s gone.”

“Infection?” Xander’s lungs accompanied his words with another bellows wheeze. He batted at Spike’s shirt as it fell annoyingly over his face. Registered that the shirt was flopping so horribly because it was hanging open, Spike’s bare chest underneath, and Xander’s eyes followed the little track of abdominal muscles, a foot from his face; Spike in boxer shorts? Xander shut his eyes.

“You’ve got the ‘flu. The same ‘flu you had back in your day, but trust me its gotta a hell of a kick now.” Spike was pushing pillows up under Xander’s head. Pulling his shoulders and head up, Xander twisted away uncomfortably and realized that he was naked under all the blankets.

“Spike,” his wheezing was so loud in his ears it hurt. “Stop it. Just.. just, God, don’t touch me.”

The hands and arms completely and absolutely disappeared. Spike stood looking down at him, his expression unreadable. “Okay, whelp,” he snapped finally. And he turned away towards the little stove.

Xander lay and focused on his difficult breathing, trying not to think about how foolishly he was behaving. “Why is it so hot in here?”

“Cranked this thing up as high as it’ll go,” said Spike. Now Xander could see him standing in front of the stove, loose open shirt, short rayon shorts, no shoes. His curling hair tied high off his neck, skin flushed with the heat. “You could bake bread in this room most likely,” said Spike. He donned huge oven mitts and poked at the door to the stove, which was glowing bright orange with the heat. There were piles of the weird wrappings Xander had seen the food come in stacked next to the little table. Blankets and a messy heap of shirts and pants spilling from the stool in the corner. General untidiness everywhere.

“How long have I been sick?”

“Few days.”

Xander adjusted slightly under the covers and felt the sudden insistent presence of his bladder. “Spike,” he said, the flush on his cheeks brightening just a little bit more. “I gotta pee.”

Spike hopped over and matter-of factly produced an adobe bed pan. Xander stared at it. “Uh,” he said. “I choose ‘no’.”

The irritation Spike had been quelling rose in him again. “Whataya mean, mate, you can’t get outta bed now, yer weak as a kitten I’ll bet.” He could see Xander testing his limbs, feeling the truth of Spike’s words. “Besides, you’ve been using it for three days now,” said Spike. Not admitting the sting of the previous incident and so perhaps being just that much more nasty. “Been peeing like a good boy for me.”

“Shut up, Spike!” Xander’s breath wheezed in and out so fast he sounded like a cartoon donkey. Hee haw Heeee haw. “Just,” he pulled the covers tighter to himself and reached for the bedpan angrily. “Just turn around then.”

Spike shrugged and did as he was told. “Seen it all anyway, Xaannderrr,” he simpered. “Nice little piece a man flesh you got there too.” He couldn’t think what he was doing, he couldn’t think why it angered him so that Xander Harris jerked away from his touch or closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to look at him. And he couldn’t stop. “Not as nice as Angel’s, but…”

“Fuck! Shut up, Spike!” Xander squeaked and wheezed and started to cough hard. He kept coughing, desperately dragging air past the phlegm and clogging throat, trying to fill his lungs as they hacked and spat mucous into his mouth. He leaned on the pillow and tried to stop coughing, tried to breathe.

Spike peeked over his shoulder. “You okay, whelp?”

“Shut, ::wheeze:: up, Spike.” Xander took in a huge amount of air, coughed a few more times, collapsed against the pillow. “Just shut the fuck up and leave me alone,” he managed to say, past the coughing.

“Sure,” said Spike, confused by his irritation, confused by his annoyance with himself. Annoyed at his concern for the ungrateful Scooby and generally feeling like a right git for standing about listening to the prat a moment longer. “You got it.” He strode across the room, began pulling on random pants from the top of the clothing stacked on the chair. Hopping and shoving his legs into them. Scanning the room for his shoes, he could see Xander watching him out of the corner of his eye. The sight pulled at him, he couldn’t seem to find his thngs without looking directly at Harris.

Finally he just stopped in the middle of fastening his shirt, threw his arms out to the side and stomped. “What?”

Xander lay, perched up on his elbows, those huge dark eyes, his sweat greased hair sticking up in peaks above his head. He stared at Spike. “Have you been taking care of me the whole time?” he said, his voice nasally and hoarse.

“Yeah, well who else? Oh.” Spike advanced, pointing. “Oh, I get you, you’re afraid Angel’s been checkin’ out yer package as well, is that it? Well…” he thought briefly of telling Harris that, yes, the big Poof had been in here drooling over the dark morsel of a mortal but then he just didn’t have the heart. He stopped, finger still pointing, like it didn’t know where to go.

“Th .. thank you,” said Xander. He wheezed.

Spike’s hand dropped.

Xander took another labored breath, the blanket slid a bit down his chest, shiny with the medicinal salve Spike had slathered there and three days of sleep sweat. “Guess I could have died,” said Xander, looking at Spike. “So, thanks. And,” he shrugged and indicated vaguely the bedpan, himself, Spike, whatever. “Sorry for bein’ such a dickwad. I’m not usually intolerant.” He inhaled noisily and coughed again. “Just a lot to take in.”

Spike rubbed at his neck. “You should cover yerself up,” he said gruffly. “Not out of the woods yet, ya know. Need ta stay warm.”

“Yes, mother,” Xander said stuffily, “but first turn your back again.”


~*~*~*~*~


“Is he feeling better?”

“Yeah, think he might make it.” Spike distastefully kicked at the emptied bedpan. His hand slid to his pockets to look for the cigarettes that had stopped being manufactured long ago. He remembered, shrugged irritably, and cracked his knuckles instead.

“He should try to be present this evening.”

“Why, Angel? Why are you so dead set on Xander Harris bein’ privy to the darkest side of this world right from the get go?”

Angel looked at him oddly. “Why are you trying to protect him?”

“Protect?” Spike crossed his arms, “What the hell do you think, Angel? The Powers wanted him here, right? Just doin’ what I’m supposed to do… protecting… yeah, protecting their interests.”

“Good for you, Spike,” said Angel.

Spike grit his teeth and shot a quick glare at his Sire. “Gotta get back inside,” he said. “If yer gonna make him stand about in the cold all night. Gotta make sure he’s ready for it.” He stomped back towards the tent.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander wasn’t sure why Spike was being so surly. But he was still congested, weak and ill. His brain wasn’t working very well. And truthfully, Xander had never really bothered to examine Spike’s behavior in depth, so he didn’t feel he knew the guy. Angel, Xander hated, and could explain in a detail of well-thought out psychological evaluation, the reasons for his hatred. Spike, well Spike had been more an irritant. An excessively persistent and loud irritant. Xander had endured Spike, he hadn’t really tried to figure him out.

Spike shoved the container of half eaten tortillas back at Xander. “Finish yer meal, Harris,” he said.

“I can’t, Spike,” said Xander. “My stomach is so full, I feel like I’m going to hurl.”

“Make yerself.”

“Obviously,” said Xander, rolling onto his back to take the pressure off his distended abdomen, “you have completely forgotten what it’s like to be human.”

“Obviously you, fat git, haven’t ever had to go hungry. People gave up food for you. ‘s a sin ta waste it.”

Xander became very still, the healthy glow that had risen to his cheeks fading, his eyes brows lowering, his mouth small. “Hungry people had to give me their food?” he said in a little boy’s nasally voice.

Spike wondered how many more centuries he would have to live before he learned to shut the fuck up.

Xander blinked. His mouth turned down unhappily. “Can we … can I give them something?”

“Give them something?”

“Back. You know, payment?” asked Xander hopefully.

“Not much as valuable as food, mate,” said Spike succinctly. “You saw them the other night with their little greenhouses and their solar lights, yeah?”

Xander nodded solemnly, staring at the ceiling.

“That’s their food. It’s hard to grow, hard to keep.”

“Oh.” Xander lay there. Spike could have sworn he was thinking nothing. The soft phlegmy breathing, the black eyes staring sleepily upwards, occasionally blinking, then, “Spike?”

“Yeah?”

“You said they’re vegetarian?”

“Sure. Can’t keep grazing stock alive without somethin’ to graze, right? There’s fish if you can get safely to the water areas, but those are demon infested, so…”

“No animals?” said Xander slowly. “Like, no cow, no pig, no…”

“Right. Mostly vegetarians.” Spike looked at the boy and almost reached to touch his forehead to see if the fever was rising again.

“Spike?”

“Yeah?”

“Where do you get blood?”


~*~*~*~*~


They stood above the ritual area. Xander wearing the two shirts and down vest under the blanket Spike had insisted he drape over him. He stood with his chin tilted up, mouth slightly open to enable easier breathing. His eyes slowly traveled down the candle lit, altar lined path, watching the villagers as they ascended.

“I saw a horror movie like this once,” he said. He pulled the blanket up around him and when Spike moved to assist he dipped away from his touch.

Spike ground his teeth. Stupid, narrow-minded boy. “It’s a privilege, they are … honored to do it,” he said.

“You’ve got quite a little con job going here, Spike.”

“It’s not a … fuck, Harris. It’s not like that!”

“Not like what, Spike? They’re starving to death and you’re sucking their blood. That’s basically what it is, right?”

“We feed them well. And we only take from them once every six weeks.”

“You give them food?” Xander looked at Spike for the first time since he had been told how the vampires survived.

Spike found he didn’t like to look at Xander when his eyes looked back like that. There was something there that made the old vampire see himself as what he was, all the trappings and careful rituals aside. A demon sucking life from people. An evil thing protecting its herd of food. He looked away, back at the group who had been chosen this time. They were entering the small enclosure now. “Yeah, we give them food to take back.”

“And where do you get this food?”

“Its stuff donated.” Spike nodded ahead of himself. “People leave it at the altars.”

“So you give them back the food they gave you to begin with,” Xander’s voice was gaining in volume as he spoke, “in exchange for fucking nothing except the privilege of having their fucking blood sucked by a couple of fucking vampires,” he finished loudly.

Below, a couple of people looked up at them in startlement. And behold, the gods are angry, thought Xander.

“Interesting use of adjectives there, pet.”

“Fuck you, Spike,” said Xander quietly.

“Look, it’s … it’s like a feudal thing.” said Spike. “We protect them…”

“Right, cuz otherwise they’d be getting their blood sucked by vampires.”

“They’d be getting dead and possibly turned by vampires, pet,” said Spike, angrily. “Look, you humans did the same sort of thing when you donated blood, in the day.”

“That was for humans.”

“Why do you bloody think this is not? That’s what we’re here for, to take care a them, to protect them.” Spike swung about in his rage. “They see that, why don’t you?”

“Maybe because I know you,” said Xander.

Spike wanted to shout at him. Wanted to point out that Xander didn’t know him, Spike. That he had never known him, never even bothered to take a good look and see how far the demon had come, how much he had changed. He wanted to grab his shoulders and make him look at Spike now and see it. See that there was something in Spike besides hunger and loneliness and a cold wind blowing through a dead body. Except Spike was afraid to look into those dark mobile eyes again and see that he, himself, was wrong.

They stood for a long time in silence watching the grey-skinned people trooping forward.

When Xander spoke again, his voice had changed to a taut hateful thing, as if he spoke to Spike only because he had no choice. “Tell me how it works.”

Spike slid easily into game face. “Give ya a little demo if you want, pet,” he hissed.

“Not if you were the last fucking vampire on earth, Spike,” said Xander calmly. “How does it,” he gestured towards the people. “How do you know they aren’t coming too often? Does someone keep track? How often do you do this? What about pregnant women or the ill?”

“They have a shaman who does all that.”

“Like a doctor?”

“Yeah.”

“Why didn’t the doctor come while I was ill?”

“She did, pet. You just don’t remember it.”

Xander absorbed this new tidbit. “Stop calling me pet,” he said absently.

Spike grit his teeth.

“I can’t just stand here and let this be done, Spike. I can’t just stand here and let you do this.”

“There’s no choice. This is not your choice,” spat Spike, angry for too many reasons than he could think about. “This is the way it is. Sorry it doesn’t fit your sensibilities but maybe the world wasn’t meant to be the way you thought. And there’s nothing you can do about it, pet. So suck it up.”

“There’s always something a person can do, Spike.”

Spike had half a mind to walk off and leave the boy to freeze here. But the other half wanted desperately to explain somehow, to show Xander the perspective that made this okay. That made Spike’s actions okay. “They call it ‘the wound that heals’,” he said, rubbing his neck self-consciously.

“The what?” Xander cast Spike a disgusted look. “Well, that makes it better, doesn’t it?” he said in a voice light and sharp. “Pretty words.”

“’S a quote from someone famous,” Spike babbled on, uncontrollably. “Angel said it’s from some religious…”

“Angel,” spat Xander. “Figures.” He snorted and breathed hard and stood watching the people.

Spike stewed. Fretted. Stamped his chilled feet a bit on the ground. He kept glancing at Xander. The impulse to stomp off and leave him battling continuously with the desire to force him to understand.

And Xander stood, ignoring Spike’s discomfort. Watching the line with that righteously rigid expression. He gestured toward a smallish, teenage girl in the group. “Let me take her place.”

This came at Spike from far left field. “What?”

“Give her her food, but let me take her place.” Xander was carefully unlacing the rayon sleeves of his shirt. He strode forward to join the line.

“Whoa, wait. Harris…” Spike trotted up behind him and grabbed Xander’s shoulder. “You can’t … you’re ill and …”

Xander had gone complete still at Spike’s touch. “Take your hand off me, Spike,” he said in an even voice.

Spike tightened his grip on Xander’s shoulder.

Xander swung around slowly, his head lowered, eyes narrowed. “Take. Your hand. Off,” he said.

Spike tightened his grip, lifted his chin and narrowed his eyes as well.

Xander was struggling for breath again, his congested lungs trying to pump blood and oxygen to feed his barely contained rage. His cheeks were white with two bright red circles standing out on each. His eyes were pitch black.

And Spike was spun back hundreds of years. To a cold night filled with stars, those same eyes filled with the same anger. Puffs of white smoke issuing from both their mouths and flared nostrils, like cartoon bulls facing off in a field. Two pigheaded men. Yeah, well, I’m here, pet, thought Spike, his thoughts wild with anger, severely tromping whatever other feelings he was unwilling to examine. Know that pisses you off, but I’m still here. Deal with it.

It wasn’t the force of the punch as much as the angle at which it was thrown. Spike lay on the ground, fingering his barely bruised chin and watched Xander trotting down the slope towards the ritual buildings


~*~*~*~*~


The room had already been prepared. The sterile, stiff white fabric laid out over the high palette bed, towels draped over a spotless and ancient metal bar. Tall, thick candles, reeking slightly of the amber resin used in lieu of beeswax, a kind of myrrh mixed with vanilla smell, encircled the ten foot radius of the low ceilinged room. Thick, inedible rushes strewn at the door, to catch dirt, to keep the room clean. All precautions against the infection of open wounds, but still giving the space a cleansed and holy air.

Spike slid into the robes of the same stiff fabric as lay over the bed. Hunger, emotion, all had him tight and edgy. The thought of Harris out there waiting to enter, waiting for Spike to drink from him… Spike sat down suddenly in the ancient, sacred wooden chair, as the image in his head sent such a surge of desire to his groin he was, metaphorically at least, breathless. “Bloody Hell,” he whispered to himself. He pushed the sleeves of his robe higher and noted with amazement that his hands were shaking.

The sound of feet on the rushes, Spike’s head jerked up.

“Bannu,” whispered in a low voice, an unfamiliar blonde head bowed. She looked up at him cautiously, still in the ritual position. Spike shook himself free of whatever possessed him.

“Ta fal,” *Greetings* he responded with the formal ritual, “Kahd is am?” *what is your name?*

“Thalaa,” whispered the young woman reverently. She bowed again. Spike stood and approached her and she came forward to the small pad on the ground there for the purpose and knelt before him. All very regular. But suddenly Spike saw the whole scene through Harris’ eyes. Imagined him standing just outside the door even now, watching. ‘quite a con job you’ve got going here…’

Spike actually glanced at the doorway. Saw the next participant standing in the line, properly solemn with bowed head. He touched the woman’s shoulder and motioned for her to stand, to follow him to the other side of the room, where the palette was situated. Perhaps his movements were a little rushed, the woman looked temporarily concerned, as if she thought she had done something wrong.

Spike took her hand. A non-standard but acceptable form. It was a huge compliment. She stared at him and followed in a kind of joyful trance as he led her to the bed. As she lay down before him, gazing up with fear and awe in her eyes, Spike struggled to treat her with the attention and singular concern she deserved. This was an ecstatic moment for these people, surrounded with parties and gifts and a sense of goals obtained, boundaries passed. He wanted to do it properly. But he was obsessed now with the inner vision of a dark haired teenager watching his every move. Constant sarcastic and overly verbose commentary following him as he sat beside her, cleansed her arm with the precious alcohol. Lifted it to his mouth and slid into gameface.

She gasped and stiffened involuntarily as he sank in his fangs. No matter how often he and Angel urged it, these people insisted on participating in the ritual without taking painkillers. And no matter how gently he tried to pierce the skin and the veins, a vampire's fangs were not a surgical tool. They were made, in part, to inflict pain. And it was simply impossible to insert them deep into someone’s arm without hurting them. The woman he held moaned like a small child and Spike lapped gently around the wound as he fed, sometimes the sensation of his tongue helped soothe the ache of the suction. One hand stroked softly up and down her upper arm. To comfort, he could have said, but the dark eyed Scooby in his head reminded him that the stroking encouraged the blood to flow.

Next door a sharp cry. Whoever was in Angel’s room had not been able to quell their voice. It wasn’t uncommon. And it wasn’t a shameful thing, though there did seem to be a point of pride amongst these people in remaining silent during the bite.

An habituated and controlled clock in Spike’s mind told him that he had to stop now. He withdrew his fangs, blood still laying on his lips, and was suddenly violently assaulted by the vision of himself, a toothy, demonic beast, feeding. He licked his lips, put her arm gently down. Said the ritual words. Stood to fetch her little bundle of food.

The air was rich now with the smell of her blood, her fear, the light tang of arousal. Spike felt himself slipping into the comfort the ritual gave his demon. As seductive to himself as it was to the people lined up outside. The weird nausea he felt was new, though. She sat up. He held her hand, waiting. She stood slowly. He waited beside her patiently. Sometimes they fainted. Finally she was able to turn, take her bundle, look up at him with dazed and pale eyes.

“Thank you,” said Spike absurdly, sincerely. She stared at him amazed, confused at the words. “Dahank,” said Spike formally. They both bowed again. He walked her to the door. The next participant walked in and Spike saw Harris standing in the line. Much taller than the others, his head unbowed. He looked directly at Spike with black, unreadable eyes.

Spike tried to urge the young man that entered and bowed before him to come in further, but the boy had been well trained. He waited patiently for the ritual words. And suddenly Spike couldn’t recall them. He looked again at Harris, saw everything he had feared staring back at him. Was frozen in time and silence. He saw the dark head turn away, and then Harris, walked over towards Angel’s room.

Spike fulfilled the rest of the ritual in a kind of insane dream. He spoke the words, held gently the thin young flesh, counted the seconds of feeding. All the while every sense in his body tuned to the sounds next door. He imagined Angel’s face, his surprise, suspicion and then… satisfaction. He imagined his Sire taking the boy’s arm in his hands, Xander’s face turned grimly away, the bite. Spike groaned and dropped the arm in his hands. The boy he held almost jumped off the palette in his shock and panic and Spike immediately lay a soothing hand on his shoulder.

“Yahm et,” he said. *it’s okay* The boy lay staring at him and breathing hard. Spike repeated the phrase, petting the small bony shoulder repeatedly until the boy calmed, that familiar blood loss glaze in his eyes. Spike turned to fetch his bundle. Led him ritualistically to the entrance. And schooled himself not to look around for Xander.

Twenty four people per vampire. Six quarts of blood apiece. It took six hours and when they were through, Spike was exhausted. His body was flooded with rich, warm, fresh blood, his muscles pumping, his energy high physically, but his mind was a mess, running in circles of maddening thoughts. Why had Xander chosen Angel? What had Angel done to the boy? Xander hadn’t known the ritual; had Angel taken advantage of that, harmed him in some way? Angel could prance about all he wanted with his forgotten Eastern philosophers and ratty redemption story, thought Spike in a now rare fit of jealous pique, but he was still a demon and he could just imagine the pleasure Angel might take in savagely ripping into Xander’s arm. Maybe taking too much of the rich, sweet blood. Leaving some ugly, life long scar on that perfect, silky skin…

Spike tore the robes off over his head and ran out the back door of the enclosure, and up the hill to their tents.

It was silent at the top of the hill. The warm evening breeze not yet blowing. The two tents standing solid and glowing with light side by side. Spike could hear his own footsteps crossing the grit and mud, hear Angel in his own tent fussing with something metallic. Sharpening the swords, then, he thought pausing outside the door and trying not look at the other tent.

“Spike?” Of course Angel had heard him, also. He half opened the tent flap and peered out. The older vampire’s face was dark and vivid with blood, and his eyes glowed. “Are you coming in?” he asked. Spike could have sworn there was something more catlike and satisfied about Angel’s face just then than he had ever seen it.

“Nah ah,” said Spike, surprised at his own words as they emerged from his own mouth. “Gonna go check on the patient first,” a shrug towards Xander’s tent.

There. There it was. The tiniest of smiles. And did Angel just surreptitiously lick at his lower lip?

“Alright then,” said Angel, eyes unfathomable. “But don’t waste time, we have a lot to do before morning.” He disappeared back inside, taking that damned inscrutable satisfaction with him.

Xander, of course, wasn’t in the tent. Spike popped outside as soon as he saw this, looking around in a fresh panic. “Damned stupid puppy,” he growled. “Gonna have ta get you a leash.”

“Funny thing.” The soft sarcastic voice came from just the other side of the tree. “I used to say the same thing about you,” said Xander, not turning to address Spike as he ran up.

“Yer sittin in the damp idiot,” said Spike, for want of something better to say.

“Yeah.”

“Git yer ass inside, whelp. You’re gonna have a relapse.”

Xander continued sitting, back against the tree, one leg bent up, the other thrust forward so that the foot, just barely, dangled over the cliffs edge. He looked straight forward towards the nothing that was their night sky.

“You know, not to sound overly dramatic,” said Xander slowly, blinking at the dark, “but I really don’t care.”

In Spike’s mind a new awareness arched its back, and pranced lightly towards him sideways, like a defensive cat. He took in the scene before him. The young man limp in his apparent apathy. Long body stretched across the tiny expanse of space to the edge of the cliff. One hand resting on his knee, the other tightly clutching the root of the tree. His foot dangling, occasionally twisting experimentally. Spike hadn’t smelled tears in a long time. Xander reeked of the candle’s incense, blood, the spice that pervaded the food and the medicinal salve that coated his body, but underneath it Spike could smell the long ago familiar scent of human tears. Like fresh mown grass, or Christmas pine, it was a scent that brought back another time.

Xander shifted his position. His grip on the tree root loosened somewhat.

“You know I could easily stop you,” said Spike, his entire body a coiled spring of forced inaction.

“Maybe,” said Xander. “This time.”

“Coward’s way out,” said Spike.

“You know,” said Xander conversationally, “I am so over that posturing male bullshit. I did my heroic stint. I think of it as merely a choice.”

“Powers brought you here, Xan. You might not go back to Heaven you do somethin’ they don’t like.”

“Heaven,” said Xander as if surprised. “Right. I’d forgotten about that.” He laughed.

Spike shifted his weight carefully, watching every hint of movement now in the young man’s body. Xander turned his head and then Spike saw it. It startled him so badly he forgot for just a second the danger of the situation.

“That bastard!”

Xander’s head dipped and turned partly back towards him. “What?”

“That fucking bastard! I’ll fucking kill him!”

Xander finally turned fully to look at Spike, his mouth wide with amazement. “Huh?”

“He fucking bit your neck.” Spike stomped and pointed and fumed. “That bastard!” He stomped again.

Xander blinked. “Yeah,” he said. “I asked him to.”

“You?” Spike’s outrage was inexpressible. He opened and closed his speechless mouth.

“I asked him to,” repeated Xander patiently. He turned his head again to look out at nothing. “I didn’t want to copy them, because I don’t… I don’t think of it like they do, you know? It would have been wrong. For them,” he shrugged minimally. “So I asked him to bite me on the neck instead.”

Spike’s mind was spinning. “Stupid git.”

“No argument here.”

“It’s such a dangerous spot, Harris. So easy to …” he sighed. “Well, the old poof has more control than most but still…”

“Yeah, I had a few seconds of serious rethinking,” said Xander. “And then… and…then …” he inhaled deeply. The fingers of the hand gripping the tree root clenched and loosened, clenched and loosened. And Spike suddenly got it.

“You tellin’ me you’re sittin’ out here trying to push yourself off a cliff because you got turned on by a little vampire bite, Harris?” said Spike with that blunt honesty for which there was apparently no cure.

Xander laughed once. Was silent for a moment. Then, “You make it sound so cheap, Spike.”

Spike shook his head with disgust. “Feckin’ child…”

“And it was my first time…” said Xander, laughing again.

“Harris,” said Spike. “Xander…” He took a step closer, saw the boy allow it. Another step. “Come inside, pet. Yer hungry, cold, tired, I bet. I’ll make ya some more to eat…”

Xander was still laughing. The laughter was like tiny bubbles spilling from the edge of the bubble wand. Nervous, foamy, dissolving to liquid. Spike smelled the tears again and wanted to turn away but couldn’t take his eyes off the hysterical boy. “Don’t call me ‘pet’, Spike,” said Xander, through his laughter. “I will fucking kill you if you call me that again.”

“Duly noted,” said Spike, surprised.

“I’m not an animal. I’m not a fucking girl.” Xander got control of himself. Took a deep breath. Spike noticed the hand now moving back up the tree root. Tightening and seeming to pull the boy’s body closer to the tree.

“I hate that asshole.”

“Yeah,” said Spike nodding. “I have noticed that.”

“Just… his mouth… his…” Xander shook his head. His fingers picked at the bark of the tree.

“Vampire bite’s supposed to be seductive, Harris,” said Spike, quickly. “Keeps the victims quiet while feeding. Like drugging them naturally. That’s why it hurts a bit too. Endorphin’s a powerful aphrodisiac, you know…” He paused. Xander was staring at him. His face damp, eyes swollen.

“Thank you, Spike, you can stop now.”

“Right.”

“You have successfully convinced me that suicide at this time would just be another pointless humiliation.” Xander jerked his whole body upright. Held himself steady against the tree for a second, then turned and stepped easily down to stand in front of Spike.

He stood there, hands in pockets, just gazing at him. Probably thinking, in such utter darkness, that he had a certain invisibility. Spike saw the curtain Xander usually dropped between them lift, the emotional blind open just a tad. Saw a yellow wedge of light to hint at an open sunlit room living inside the boy.

Xander smelled like rich healthy blood and salty tears. His lip turned up at one corner cynically and he sniffed. “I keep thanking you.”

“It’s gratifying,” said Spike, that helpless, hypnotized sensation falling over him as if someone had dropped a net.

“Yeah, I’ll bet.” Xander rolled his eyes, the whites still shining with tears, and laughed again. A healthier laugh, that spoke of newly turned fertile earth and warm, electrically lit rooms. He looked towards the tents and the slight glow fell across his damp cheeks, outlining the uptuned lip and heavy brows.

“Never thought I’d see any of this again,” he said.

“What, the future?” Spike laughed. “Missed you last time you were here, mate. You shoulda called.”

Xander looked back at him and raised an eyebrow. “Never thought I’d see you, bloodbreath,” he said, “and your little dog, too.”

“Dog?”

“It’s a Wizard of Oz reference,” explained Xander. That little half smile still on his lips. His eyes reading Spike’s face. Quizzical. Searching. Xander’s gaze was like a touch. As if, somehow, he was finding his way across Spike’s face. “Remember Wizard of Oz?”

“Sure,” lied Spike. He was thinking about how it would feel to put his fingers on the damp places still on Xander’s face.

Xander raised a hand and whapped Spike’s shoulder in a friendly way. Once. Twice.

“Wanna go in?”

Spike nodded numbly.


~*~*~*~*~


“All gone,” groaned Xander, pushing away his bowl. “Xander’s a good boy.”

Spike smiled and leaned back, watching the boy raise his shirt and scratch happily at his distended belly. “You’ll be on the New Diet soon enough, Harris,” he said.

“Okay,” said Xander. “And hey, maybe someone can teach me to garden.”

Spike raised an eyebrow.

“What? Are we the leisure class or something? Okay, listen…” Xander scooched closer to Spike where they sat cross-legged on the bed. “How do you say, uh, you are very pretty?”

Spike snorted. “I ain’t helpin’ you seduce the native virgins, mate. Yer on yer own there.”

“Don’t want a virgin, Spike,” said Xander, laughing. “Too much work. Just lead me to the local hostelry.”

“Just a note, pe… Harris,” said Spike. “Taboo’s a bit strict nowadays.”

“Taboo?”

“Whole bunch of courtship rules.”

“Then you’ll have to teach them to me.”

Spike was silent.

“Oh come on, you don’t expect me to spend the rest of whatever the heck this is completely celibate, do you? Christ, I’m technically seventeen, Spike. I’m a walking hormone.”

“I don’t know the rules, pet.”

Xander shot him a look. “You don’t? I find that somewhat hard to believe. What do you do …” Xander stopped and his cheeks flared bright red. He looked away. “Yeah,” he said finally.

“Xander,” Spike said carefully, trying to think how to explain something that he himself did not understand. About need and pain so deep nothing could dig it out. About answering that need without question as if unable to say no…

“None of my business,” said Xander. There was a short, awkward silence.

“So,” said Xander. “You have any alcohol?”

Spike snorted.

“Porn?”

“Geezus, Harris.”

“Fuck, what kind of girly futuristic place is this anyway?” laughed Xander.

Spike smiled lazily. “Well, we do play somethin’ like poker,” he said, tipping a wicked squint up at Xander. “If you have anythin’ to wager.”

“Oh man, let’s just play for points, okay? C’mon, Spike!” He punched Spike’s arm again with a soft round fist. Pushing into the hard muscle just below his shoulder. Little puffs of energy burst across Spike’s arm with every tap. On the last one, he leaned into it as Xander pulled back. Saw something flicker in the boy’s eyes before he set his hand down beside him.

“Teach me,” said Xander. He licked his lips.

Spike was caught by the action. He found himself dwelling on the nervous twitch at the corner of Xander’s mouth. He looked back up into his eyes.

The tent flap billowed and Angel pushed inside. “Spike,” he said.

Xander’s heartbeat was suddenly the loudest thing in the room. He looked straight ahead at his own feet.

“Xander,” said Angel politely. Xander nodded without looking up. His heart hammered.

Spike felt suddenly unaccountably annoyed with Angel. He knew he was getting to the kid, but he had to twist it, didn’t he? He jumped up and stepped across Xander’s legs to stand between him and Angel. “What’s up, Angel?”

Angel blinked. He looked at what he could still see of Xander’s legs, looked back at Spike. His eyes narrowed. And there was that cat-that’s-got-the cream look on his face again, thought Spike irritably. “We have preparations still, Spike. Remember?”

Oh. Spike shrugged. “Right.” He looked down at the boy behind him who was still studying his feet. “Lesson’ll have ta wait, mate. Gotta do my chores.” He strode out pushing Angel ahead of him.

“Lessons?”

“Cards, ya old poof. Kid’s bored and who can blame him?”

Angel’s tent had been transformed in the past few hours into an armory. Across an ancient oiled cloth running the length of one side of the tent, an array of shining metal and old cast iron glowed. Spike picked up a battle-axe and swung it through the air in a swirling figure eight. It made a lovely sound like scissors. Angel had brought forward a large table on which were a polishing stone and various bottles. He picked up a short sword sitting beside it and drew it swiftly and expertly across the stone. Spike picked up a cloth, doused it with oil and applied it to the ax.

“So. We know when now?”

“Just after sunrise.”

“Great, we’ll be exhausted.”

“I’m sure that’s how they planned it. We’ll have to try to get some sleep.”

“I don’t understand it Angel. Bloody sun is nowhere to be seen, but the fecking demon still insists on frolickin’ all night.”

Angel shook his head and shrugged.

They worked away for some time. Angel explaining the strategy, such as it was. Any details he had been told. The general location of the latest outbreak. They were mostly silent, though, focused on the serious task of making their tools ready for war. Finally they rolled the arsenal back up in two separate cases. Set them at the back of the room. Spike dusted his hands symbolically. He was feeling strangely eager to get back and teach Harris cards.

“Well, if we’re all set then…” He turned to the door.

“Spike,” said Angel. “We should try to get some sleep.”

“Yeah, I know, Angel. I’ll try. Don’t expect much luck though…”

“I thought…” Angel sidled closer. He looked up at Spike almost shyly.

Spike inhaled. They were both hard. The blood they had consumed, the impending battle, and of course just being vampires. Normally he would have been relieved and a little pleased to have Angel approach him so overtly. No accidental fumble, seeming almost unconscious groping and forcing with no eye contact. Angel was actually looking at him. Smiling and stepping slowly towards him in what would pass, in the old man’s head probably, as a flirtatious manner.

But Spike wanted to teach cards to Xander. He took a step back. “Thanks, Angel, guess I just wanna…”

Angel stopped. “Oh,” he said, his eyes widened and his gaze dropped to the floor. Like a man who had been caught in a giant social gaffe. “I’m sorry.”

“Heh, don’t be sorry Angel,” said Spike, suddenly feeling badly again for Angel’s awkwardness, his embarrassing neediness. He walked up and patted him on the arm. And when Angel’s hand slid up and shyly grasped his arm back, he didn’t pull away. “I guess I’m still on edge,” said Spike.

Angel’s other hand came up swiftly and caught Spike around the waist. He pulled gently, bumping himself against Spike. His eyes still lowered he increased the pressure, pulled Spike against him harder. Very, very hard, thought Spike, wriggling. Then Angel bent over Spike’s face, and raised his eyes, inches from Spike’s and intense. “I can take the edge off for you…” he suggested.

Spike laughed and pulled and found that Angel had him held tight. “Heh, bet you could,” he said, his resolve weakening. Angel leant forward, his lips inches from Spike’s mouth. Spike found himself leaning into the contact.

“Okay,” he said quickly. “But keep it down, right? The brat’s just next door.”

Angel chuckled and tumbled them both to the palette bed easily. Their combined weight made a loud rumble and crash and Spike winced. “Quiet! Sheesh. Poor kid.”

“Since when,” Angel bit hard on Spike’s shoulder and smiled when he elicited a harsh cry, “do you care,” he pulled the ties loose from Spike shirt, morphed and ran a sharp talon down Spike’s chest, grinned when this caused another yelp, “what Xander Harris thinks.”

His head came down and began working the skin of Spike’s neck,. His torso covered Spike’s and his hips writhed against the other man’s in a sinuous pressure. Spike moaned.

“I thought you hated him, Spike,” said Angel.

“I do,” whispered Spike, amazed to be talking during sex with Angel. “But …” he groaned and Angel laughed and did it again.

“Take off your pants, will you,” Angel was sitting up, stripping off his own shirt.

“Angel, just keep it down,” Spike pleaded, tossing his pants to the floor.

Angel grinned down at him. “God, Spike you look so hot,” he said in a clear, loud voice.

Spike froze. “Fuck you, Angel.”

“C’mon, Spike,” Angel’s hands came down and fondled Spike’s balls gently, squeezed his cock. “I’m just kidding around,” he murmured, lowering his head.

Spike arched into the contact, biting his lips against the moans he would normally be voicing. His hands ran over the smooth, cool skin of Angel’s shoulder, neck, surprised at how cold his skin suddenly felt, how strangely dead.

A cold tongue wiggled its way over his balls and Spike giggled as Angel pushed his legs slowly up to his own shoulders.

“Something funny?” breathed Angel against his skin, that cold tongue lapping at his perineum, circling his hole.

Spike wriggled and giggled again. “Heh, gah, Angel you’re so cold,” he whispered.

Angel stopped moving, and the grip on Spike’s thighs increased uncomfortably. “I’m no colder than you, Spike,” he said stiffly.

Spike looked up into the eyes that had gone blank. The face stiff and guarded. “Christ, Angel, I’m just ticklish tonight. All that blood, you know.” He wiggled and whispered very low. “Cmon, do it, Angel.”

Angel’s expression didn’t relax. He continued to stare down at Spike with that rigid dark face as he lined his cock up against Spike’s prepared hole and pushed.

Spike grit his teeth against sound and pushed back.

“Ohh,” moaned Angel a bit loudly. He shoved in.

Spike gasped, reached to stroke himself. “Yeah, God, quiet, Angel.”

“Ooooh,” moaned Angel even louder, his tempo increasing.

Spike slapped at him and laughed, “Hush, you giant wanker, he’ll hear…”

“Oh God, Spike, you’re so tight. Oh. God. Oh. God,” yelled Angel as he slammed into him.

Spike twisted and tried to push away, but the sensation was too much and his balls were tightening and his hand flew on his erection as Angel continued to fuck him now, screaming out endearments, descriptions, curses.

“Come for me,” yelled Angel. And Spike arched and cursed and did.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike waited a long time outside his own tent for the tempo of Xander’s heartbeat to die down. It seemed the young man would be awake all night, though, so finally Spike pushed into the tent, head down, jaw clenched and made his way to the stove without looking in the direction of the cot. He stood staring at the stove.

“We’re out of water,” said a low voice from the corner that held the cot.

“Sorry,” said Spike without turning. “I’ll get some more in the morning.”

“Okay.”

After several minutes of silence during which Spike took a great deal more care than usual with the fire and the folding of his clothes, he turned enough so that he could glance in Xander’s general direction.

The boy lay on the cot, back to the room, several blankets piled so high on top of him, that Spike could just see the top of the back of his head. Spike could hear his heart beating very fast.

“I’m … sorry, Harris,” said Spike finally.

The dark hair didn’t move. “For what,” the voice said from under its heap of blankets.

“Maybe I can get you a tent further away from us. Not so…” he drifted off.

“I think they could hear you on the Moon, Spike,” said the blankets.

Spike felt miserable inside. He noticed it and realized he had felt it for some time, and wondered how long that feeling had been there without him having known it. He poked at the miserableness experimentally and found that it was much larger than he had thought. Those mysterious tears rose and tried to push from his eyes again and he stomped confusedly around, laying down the huge polyfill bag that he had been sleeping in during Xander’s illness, throwing pillows down, plopping himself harshly in the middle of his little nest and tearing the tie angrily from his hair. Tossing his head about on the mattress had caused a snarl in it and it tore a little as he pulled. He found he liked the feeling and yanked again, hard. Now the tears that stung in his eyes had a reason. He sniffed.

The blankets heaved upwards and moved as Xander rolled over. Spike blinked rapidly.

“You know, you don’t have to sleep on the floor.” Xander’s voice was muffled by the blankets. One eye peeked out.

“You’re still sick, you need the bed.”

“It’s big enough for two,” Xander pointed out reasonably. “I heard … I heard Angel say you need sleep. I don’t want you to be tired because of me.”

Spike sat and gazed at the one eye peeking out from beneath the blankets and tried to organize the slew of questions that Xander’s last two statements had engendered. “You heard that?” he said finally. Thinking how low Angel’s voice had been when he had said that. Thinking what else had been said at that volume.

“You guys are two feet away from me with nothing between us but a polyester sheet, Spike. I could hear Angel’s brain trying to work.”

Spike was silenced completely. “I thought you hated Harris?” “I do…”

The miserableness seemed to have condensed into a cloud in his chest. It felt like Xander did when he breathed, stuffy and phlegmy. No wonder it made his eyes wet. The one brown eye blinked at him and then, unbelievably, turned up at the corner with a sparkle. The blankets lifted, revealing a fully clothed Xander Harris, with a smile that flashed across the room and smote the miserableness like a bolt from Neptune. “You coming to bed?” asked Xander, grinning.

Spike scrambled towards the bed. Xander rolled onto his back, wriggled his arms up behind his head as Spike settled in, blankets firmly packed down between them.

“Oooohhh,” moaned Xander loudly. He snickered.

Spike hissed. He propped himself up on his elbows and stared into those evil black eyes with delight.

“Ooohhh, baby!” yelled Xander, grinning at Spike. He quirked the eyebrow of challenge. “Aaaaahhhh,” wailed Spike in a voice that would have frightened a banshee. “Peeeett!”

“I told you I’d kill you if you called me that again, Spike,” hissed Xander, punching him once, hard, in a well-blanketed ribcage.

“Oh God, Xander, you’re killing me,” howled Spike and they both collapsed into giggles.

“Ah!” Xander worked one leg free from the blankets and kicked at the tent wall fiercely, until it billowed and flapped. “Ah, ah, harder!”

“All right, you’ve made your point,” came Angel’s surly voice from the other side of the wall. “Now can we all just try to get some sleep?”




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