Apocalypse Laterish



One lone, high-pitched tone filled the hospital room. Jennifer rose quickly and tried to find the little switch that would stop the awful sound. A nurse appeared behind her and turned it off. Jennifer saw her check her watch.

Her eyes went to her husband. James gripped his father’s hand; no more tears, just the tired, swollen eyes. “Dad?” he said.

Jennifer came around the bed quickly, tried to wrap herself around her husband.

He looked at her in confusion. Still, he held the old hand in a tight grip. “Sweetie,” said Jennifer, touching his hand lightly. “Let go, honey.”

“No,” said James simply. “No, the last thing I did was hang up on him. The last thing I did was yell at him… and…” He looked at his wife. His brows came down in puzzlement.

The doctor had come into the room. She stood back in a practiced respect. James saw her and his puzzlement appeared to deepen. He looked back at his father. He was so absolutely still. It seemed impossible. He stared at the man who had taught him everything he knew about the heart and the soul. “Oh,” he said. He pointed, like a small child, at dark marks above his father’s hospital gown collar. Two maroon spots on the old wrinkled neck. “What are those?” He looked up at the doctor again who came around the bed now, taking charge of the body, taking charge of the situation.

“Mr. Harris, Mrs. Harris, I am so sorry.” The doctor looked up at the nurse, who nodded and left the room. “We can take your father to another room, now,” she said, as if offering some care option. “Without the machines. You may stay with him for a while there, while you…” she looked up at Jennifer.

Jennifer nodded obediently, and tried to raise James from the position in which he had sat for so many hours. “Honey, we’ll sit with your father in another room…”

“What are those marks?” James whispered. His fingers wandered up to his own throat, brushed it vaguely. He looked at his wife. Jennifer felt the sorrow try to grasp her, but she firmly pushed it away. She had to get James through this first.

“Sweetie, come with me,” she said. She saw the orderlies hovering outside the door, waiting to remove the body. She led her husband, suddenly so unsure he seemed an old man himself, out of the room.

Carefully making certain that James’ attention was in the opposite direction, she watched over his shoulder as orderlies smoothly removed her father-in-law from the room and wheeled him quickly down the hall.


Well, this wasn’t so bad, thought Xander, looking around. The building was well lit, the interiors painted in soft colors. Unlike the hospitals of his lifetime, there was no antiseptic smell or clinical feeling of linoleum and machinery.

It was peaceful. A sweet, ritualistic smell, like something from those little churches he had visited when on business trips. Frankincense maybe? And villagers dressed in the silky polyester clothing, smiling in a friendly manner as he and Spike passed them in the halls.

Spike had been silent throughout the journey; apparently nursing some personal grievance that Xander could not, at the moment, be troubled to care about. Spike stopped outside a door and just stood there, sullen. Hands thrust in pockets, head dipped.

Xander looked at the door; anxiety, excitement, a kind of pinched emotion he couldn’t describe. “He’s here?”

A nod. Xander hesitated, hand on the door. “Can I just go in?”

Spike swallowed and nodded. “Xander,” he said quickly, before the boy could open the door. He didn’t look up to see with what expression Xander paused and regarded him. “I tried, Harris,” said Spike. He struggled to think of words, could think of nothing. He shook his head.

“Yeah, I’m sure you did,” said Xander coolly. He opened the door and stepped inside.

The reason he was allowed in the room, apparently, was that Giles lived behind glass.

Or some kind of polyplastic equivalent of it, thought Xander, walking the three full feet across the floor from the doorway and pressing his hand to the floor to ceiling transparent wall.

On the other side of the glass, in the middle of the room, Giles sat at a huge wooden library table. So much like the one they had sat around while researching, back in the early days of Sunnydale High, Xander would have sworn it to be the same one. He was bent over a book, smiling, nodding excitedly. Stacked all around him were ancient texts, scrolls. He was obviously happily unaware of Xander’s presence. Xander’s stunned eyes finally moved from his old friend to scan the room. The walls were bookcases, a staircase behind leading to more bookcases. Xander studied the wooden railing. It was so familiar…

They had recreated the library. Xander had a swimming feeling in his knees. He looked around himself dizzily and saw a plastic chair pushed against a nearby wall. He dragged it over noisily. Giles did not look up. Soundproof, then, thought Xander, eyeing the clear barrier once again.

As if to immediately belie this impression, a phone, sitting on the counter on the other side of the glass, began to ring merrily. The sound startled Xander. He hadn’t heard a dial-up phone ringing in a very long time. It seemed quite loud and abrasive. But Giles appeared unperturbed. He merely stood from his place, his eyes scanning but not lighting on Xander as they went to the phone. He strode over, a bounce in his step, and picked it up. “Hello,” he said in that precise British accent. “Rupert Giles speaking.”

The sound of Gile’s voice unmanned Xander. He gripped the slim plastic sides of his chair, his chest tightening painfully.

“Yes, Buffy,” said Giles into the receiver. And the tightening in Xander’s chest moved up to his throat, clogging it somehow. He covered his mouth with one hand, as if to hold in the grief. And watched, heart breaking, as Giles removed his glasses and carefully polished them.

Giles replaced his glasses and spoke into the receiver. He had an air of great forbearance about him. “Yes, Buffy, I understand how important a Sadie Hawkins Day dance is in the great scheme of things, but we have a new nest of vampires to rout.”

There was a tiny snick of the door behind him. Xander heard someone enter.

“Harris?” said Spike cautiously.

Xander shook his head. He couldn’t speak and had no wish to. He watched Giles, who seemed so young now, from the perspective of a man who had lived well past forty. This was Giles in his prime, doing the life’s work he had trained for. Before the disillusionment and the bitterness. The falling out from, and eventual destruction of, the Watcher’s Council. Before Buffy’s death, before Spike’s ensouling. Xander felt tears on his cheeks, not for the loss of his friend but for what must have sent him back into this place of comfort. “What happened?” he finally managed to get the whispered words out. Not looking at Spike yet.

“He just snapped,” said Spike softly. He stood near Xander, wishing he could put a hand on his shoulder or something. Anything. “He was fine, it seemed, first coupla days. I was showing him around. He talked to Angel for a bit. Met Dahla. He was a little edgy, kinda like you, but he seemed to be takin’ it all in his stride. You know, Watcherlike. Kept sayin’ ‘Hmmm. Quite.’”

“That’s what Giles would say when he didn’t know what to think,” said Xander.

“I made him really nervous,” remembered Spike. Giles had stood and was obviously searching for some book amongst the stacks. Spike watched him, head tilted. “He couldn’t sleep with me in the tent, couldn’t leave his back to me.” Spike sighed. “So, after a day of him jumpin’ outta his skin and wavin’ stakes every mo’, we brought him down here to Dahla’s place.”

“And something happened,” said Xander.

“He just snapped,” Spike repeated. “Dahla said he just stood up and walked over to an empty wall and started looking for somethin’ he called ‘Brethxin’s Text’. And that was it; we couldn’t get through to him after that. No matter what we did. It was like he couldn’t see us.”

Giles pulled the book down and spun around excitedly. Then, horribly, he began talking and gesturing as if he believed there were someone else in the room with him. Perhaps one of the Scoobies, sitting there at the table. Xander felt his own mouth grotesquely twist with the sorrow of it. He rubbed his hand over it, then over his eyes, his face, as if he could wash this away.

Spike looked sideways at Xander. “He’s happy, Harris,” he said helplessly.

Xander nodded. “Yeah, I got that right away,” he said in a snuffly wet voice. He laughed. Or exhaled. Laughing was a bar a bit too high at the moment. “He has his books. That would make him happy. He always missed them after the …” Xander watched Giles back at the table again, merrily researching. “Is there anything in them?” he asked with a sudden, sad intuition.

Spike mulled over his answer. “No,” he said finally. “Least not to us. But he sees it and that’s all that matters.”

Xander nodded. “I want to talk to him.”


Xander stood, the chair pushed back with a loud squawk. He wobbled a bit but then he got hold of himself. “I’m the Xander Harris he remembers, Spike.”

Spike had the worst kind of feeling about this. “No,” he said with absolute certainty. “You are NOT the Xander Harris he remembers. I thought that, y’ know. Here I am,” he gestured. “Same old Spike, right? What’s different? I got them ta bleach my hair, did the whole rig. But ol’ Rupert is smart, Harris. He saw right through it. He was talkin’ to me and then… then he just knew. And it was bad, Harris, okay? You don’t wanna do that to him.” He watched in sympathy as Xander slowly absorbed this. “You’re different Harris. A lot. You’re more confident, less” Spike frowned and thought. “Less fidgety, I guess. He’d know. Hell, I’d know.”

Xander nodded, thinking. “I want to talk to someone about this.”

Spike’s voice was bitter. “You don’t believe me.”

“Why would I not believe you, Spike?” said Xander his tone so cool that Spike could not guess whether or not Xander actually thought the vampire was lying. “I want to speak to a professional.”

“You don’t have the language.”

“You can help me,” said Xander smoothly. “And I have a lot more of the language than you’d think, Spike.”

Spike sighed. “Sure, I’ll help you. I’ll get Dahla to set somethin’ up. But I don’t want you to get disappointed, Harris. Some things you just have to accept.”

“You know, Spike,” said Xander, and the eyes that flashed towards him were hard and black. He pointed, with one angry finger, at Giles. “That man in there is the one who taught me to never accept failure.” Xander turned and preceded Spike out of the room.


It was late when they finally made their way back. Xander was mostly silent. They had had a little chat with a doctor. Xander had made arrangements for further consultations. As soon as they left the building, he had gone quiet, and he hadn’t spoken to Spike since.

He didn’t appear to be angry with Spike, but then again he didn’t appear to want him around much, either. He eschewed dinner and stayed outside, examining the spotlight. Or just crouched in front of it in more silence. When Spike walked up he looked at him once, then pointedly looked away. Spike went back into the tent alone.

Having had a few weeks of constant companionship. At times combative, always sarcastic, and quite often irritating, Spike nevertheless felt excruciatingly lonely without Xander’s company. He poked about, cleaned and tidied. When he heard Angel returning from the village, he came out of the tent and excitedly followed Angel into his own.

“Oh, hello, Spike,” said Angel distractedly. He sat down on the bed and didn’t appear to have any plans to do anything else.

“Took the whelp into town,” began Spike, pacing.

“That’s nice,” said Angel. He slowly began unlacing his shirt.

“We went to the hospital, Angel. I didn’t want to tell him, but he figured it out and he wanted to see the old Watcher…” Spike stopped. He looked at Angel, who had tugged his shirt off over his head and was methodically working at the laces of his boots. “Are you listening, Angel?”

Angel looked up, squinting, as if Spike stood before a bright light. “What is wrong, Spike?”

Spike cocked his head to one side and studied his old Sire. Angel looked down again, pulling at his shoelaces and vaguely brushing at a spreading dark spot across his upper thigh. “What is that, Angel?” asked Spike, sliding down next to him and touching the foul smelling stain lightly.

Angel’s mouth opened in wonder. “I’m bleeding,” he said. “It must have hit me.”

“That ain’t blood, Angel,” said Spike in a sudden panic. He urged Angel onto his back, pulling down the drenched slacks. There was a large pool of some vicious looking black oil lying over an open wound on Angel’s thigh. It was ugly and smelled hideous. “Magic,” said Spike with assurance. He looked up at Angel who was staring, almost unseeing, up at the roof of the tent. “Where were you, Angel?”

“Dahla sent me to find a child,” said Angel. “There was a cave.” He looked sideways, at shadows rippling across the wall of the tent; he smiled and waved his hand at them. “I think I’ll sleep now, Spike,” he said.

“No!” Spike grabbed Angel’s shoulders and violently dragged him upright. “Fuck,” he said “Harris!” he bellowed. “GET YOUR FLABBY ASS IN HERE!”

Xander appeared in the tent door a second later. Looking royally pissed off, until he saw Angel and the mess now spilling from his thigh and over Spike’s desperate hands. “What do you want me to do?” he said immediately.

“Run like hell and get that faerie bitch up here,” Spike growled out. “Tell her to bring her medicine or spells or whatever they call them now.”

“Greimlich,” Xander informed him, spinning around. He took off at a dead run.

“Greimlich,” said Spike. He shook Angel hard. The older vampire’s eyelids were slowly closing and Spike slapped him once, hard, trying to keep him awake. “ANGEL,” he shouted an inch from his ear. “You’ve been hit by a spell, ya old poof!” He shook him again hard, then pulled him tight and embraced him. “Don’t you leave me, you old fucker,” he cried against Angel’s neck.


Xander ran down the steep, dark path so fast, it was more like a controlled fall. He jumped the fence that encircled Dahla’s house and banged on the door, pushing it open as he knocked. Shouting every word in the alien tongue he could remember.

She came from the corner as if she had materialized. Her eyes wondering and huge. She moved so slowly, that to Xander’s adrenalized brain, she seemed to be floating. “Angel!” yelled Xander, gathering supplies that looked vaguely familiar to him from his few hours at the hospital. He shoved them at her. “Greimlich! Angel!” He saw the information register in Dahla’s eyes.

The run up the hill seemed to be even faster than his sprint down, thought Xander, feeling a wild energy in his legs pushing him easily up the steep incline. Dahla sped ahead of him, running with the bounding, easy leaps of a weightless deer.

By the time he made it up to Angel’s tent, she was already inside and Spike was outside pacing up and down.

“Is he okay still?” panted Xander.

Spike shook his head; his hands tore at his hair. “Passed out,” he said after several attempts at speech.

“Spike.” Xander caught at the distraught vampire, vainly trying to stop his agitated movements. “Spike.” In the past few days he and Spike had both seemed to be avoiding body contact. Which had been fine with Xander. The football incident too terrifying to revisit. But now he gave in and wrapped his arms around Spike.

Spike stilled immediately. He gave a great shiver and leant his forehead onto Xander’s broad shoulder.

Xander patted him, rubbed a circle in the center of his back. “He’ll be alright,” he said.


When Dahla emerged some time later, they were both still standing like that. Xander’s entire larger frame wrapped around the slender, smaller figure. Spike’s head pressed into his shoulder. Xander stroking his hair. She met Xander’s eyes and smiled, nodding.

“He’s alright,” whispered Xander into Spike’s hair. Spike looked up at him. Their faces were an inch apart. The warm lips parted in a gentle smile. “He’s alright, Spike,” said Xander again.

Gold light, like flakes of raw amber, floated in the depths of the eyes that looked down into Spike’s. Xander’s eyebrows furrowed and his lashes flicked over those eyes. “You okay, now, buddy?” he asked.

Spike nodded dumbly. He pressed his body further into Xander’s. Xander didn’t try to release him, but something seemed to stir at the bottom of those clear depths. Something darker. He took a deep breath and Spike saw the tip of his tongue. A quick pointed thing, briefly fly across his lower lip then disappear. Then Xander did release Spike, dropping his arms and half turning away. His eyes spoke once more, some troubled thought, and Xander looked in the direction of Angel’s tent.

“We should go in and check on him, right?”

Spike nodded. The parts of his body that had pressed against Xander had tiny fireflies of energy dancing over them.

They stumbled through the door. Once again, careful not to touch each other.

Angel sat propped up on his bed. His upper torso bare, his face pale even for him. But his eyes were clear and steady, with that intense gaze that chilled Xander to the bone.

Spike stomped about, his immense relief covered in a show of annoyance. “Bloody Hell, Angel,” he waved his arms. “What were you about goin’ off again without telling me?”

“I’m sorry, Spike,” said Angel calmly. He looked at Xander. Xander met his gaze stoically and Angel nodded once. “Harris,” he said with something approximating respect.

“I’ve told you not to do it, you great ape,” whined Spike. He plunked dramatically down on Angel’s bed and caught his hand up in both his. His head bent to hide the emotion in his eyes, though it was so clear in his voice. “So what was so bloody important you were gonna leave me here ta clean up the mess alone?”

“There was a child,” said Angel. He flexed his hand in Spike’s, then surprised him by turning his palm up and clasping Spike’s hand. He gave it a gentle squeeze, intertwining his fingers through Spike’s.

Xander could see how violently this small gesture affected Spike, and felt a twinge of annoyance that Angel could so easily hold Spike’s loyalty with these tiny little hints of affection. Tease, he thought spitefully, as he might about a flirtatious but cold woman. Spike was holding Angel’s hand, looking up into his face.

“Thought you were gonna dust this time,” he laughed shakily.

“Not my destiny,” said Angel. The word appeared to have some secret meaning between them, because both vampires laughed and seemed to bend their heads closer together.

“Well, I’m off to…” Xander gestured vaguely, there being no occupation that demanded his immediate attention. He shrugged and dipped to leave the tent. No one remarked on his exit.


Xander was concentrating on tortilla rolling about ten minutes later, all his energy focused on NOT attending to the sounds that he was nevertheless straining painfully to hear, when Spike came through the tent door and threw down his overvest as if he meant to stay.

Xander pretended a disinterested surprise. “Thought you guys were having a Hallmark moment.” He slapped a tortilla hard into the flour.

“Yeah, well…” Xander glanced quickly sideways and saw Spike standing in the middle of the tent, looking back towards the door. “Angel’s tired,” said Spike. He sighed and plunked down onto the bed. Pulled at the hair-tie at the back of his head and rubbed his neck.

Xander paused, a tortilla held between both hands. “There’s blood on your neck,” he said, like he might point out spinach between someone’s teeth. Some spring in his belly tightened. He gripped the tortilla and saw the veggie mixture plop out the end. He put it down, nauseated and no longer hungry.

Spike shrugged. “Angel needed blood.”

“He drinks from you?” Xander was amazed that his voice still sounded so casual. The spring in his belly having wrapped around his lungs.

“Yeah, well, he is my Sire.” Spike yawned and plopped backwards to lie on the bed, arms spread out to either side. His face, gazing sightlessly up at the tent ceiling, seemed small and wan in the meager light.

Xander found that he was gritting his teeth. “He took too much,” he growled. “Look at you.” His head jerked in a kind of nod. “You’re all…”

Spike’s head rolled to regard Xander in mild wonder. “I’m fine,” he said.

“No, you’re not, he’s… he’s.” Xander stood, gestured. Turned and sat down again. “It’s like he’s just using you.”

Spike watched him, his lips parted slightly in surprise.

“Using you. Like he does everybody. Poor Angel. Poor, poor suffering Angel,” said Xander, his voice ugly in his own ears.

Spike struggled to a sitting posture. He watched Xander.

“The big Hero. Funny thing, he’s the hero and everybody around him dies. He’s the big General…”

“He is a hero, Harris. Several times over.”

“So are you!” Xander pointed out, as if arguing some case.

Spike’s eyebrow went up. “Yeah. Guess.”

“Well?” Xander waved his hand around.

A smile touched the corner of Spike’s mouth. “I’m okay, Harris,” he said.

“No you’re not! He’s…he’s sucking the life out of you!”

Spike laughed outright. “Like a vampire?”

“Yes!” Xander felt the spring tightening in his head now. Crazy thoughts were twisting around in there. He turned back to the tortilla preparation board and brushed, with jerky agitated movements, at some crumbs on the edge.

Spike grinned at the back of the troubled young head. “Thanks for worryin’ about me, Harris,” he said. He smiled again when Xander made a disgruntled noise and shrugged one shoulder. Spike chuckled. There was something warming and sweet about the kid’s outrage, however misplaced. The White Knight was protecting his honor, he realized with a little thrill. Who would have ever thought it?

He cocked his head and watched the boy shakily cleaning off the breadboard, tisking and muttering. Xander’s ears and the back of his neck were red. With embarrassment, Spike imagined. “Hey, Harris,” he purred, seeking to lighten the mood with a little humor, “am feeling a bit drained, you know. Care to top me off?”

Spike’s voice, like a thick mink coat, slithered across the room and slid itself silkily around the craziness in Xander’s brain. ‘Care to top me off?’ Xander’s entire body shuddered as those words slid right into his cerebral cortex and seemed to touch every nerve. A heavy pulse of desire throbbed through him, and he put his hands flat on the counter to keep from falling forward.

The pheromones that surged across the room almost knocked Spike flat. He gasped. Which gave him an even greater whiff. He saw Xander shudder, grab the surface in front of him. What the hell?

As in the presence of incomprehensible Magic, Spike became extremely cautious and aware. Heat and hormones came at him in little pulsing waves. The boy’s breathing was loud and raspy as if his mouth were open. Spike found himself thinking of that mouth, as if the thought were a hypnotic draw, and then steadfastly drew his mind away from the thought. Xander swayed, seemed to relax. Spike drew in a deep breath and felt the pulse of scent fading. He looked down at his hands where the hairs stood on end, and at his lap, where other things would have stood on end if it weren’t for the tight rayon/poly of his pants restraining them. He reached over and grabbed the blanket, threw it over his lap, before Xander turned with downcast eyes and clenched fists.

“Fuck off, Spike,” said Xander in a pathetically shaky voice.

“Sure,” said Spike. His own voice sounding a bit out of control as well. He cleared his throat. “No problem, Harris.” He tried to laugh. “’S what I do.”

“I mean it, Spike. Fuck off. Get out of here.” Xander still spoke with downcast eyes, but his voice was gaining strength.

Spike managed a little snort. “What, brat?”

“Get OUT of this tent, Spike!” Xander raised his head enough so that he was glaring at Spike from beneath his lashes. His lips twisted and he spat, “Get the fuck out of here and stay away from me!”

Spike stared and then reacted. “Go to hell,” he said quietly.

Xander stood. His whole body was trembling with rage. Spike slid his eyes up the long legs, allowing Xander to see him dwelling speculatively on the thick lump on the inside of one thigh. He purposely dwelt for an appreciatively long time on Xander’s neck also before allowing his eyes to once more meet Xander’s. Spike put every ounce of evil intention and arrogance in the smirk with which he met Xander’s eyes.

“This is my place, whelp,” he said. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

“Then I’ll leave.” Xander strode across the floor towards the entrance, grabbing blindly at a vest as he went.

“No,” Spike said, blocking the door in a wink. “You’re stayin’ here.”

Xander stopped dead. He was only two feet from Spike. Far too close. He took a step back and growled. “You can’t keep me prisoner.”

“I ain’t gonna, brat. I don’t need to. You can’t run away from yerself, Harris.”

“Oh, for crying out loud…” Xander expostulated in great aggravation. “Spare me, please, Dr. Ruth!”

Spike took an insolent step forward. He grinned at Xander, with the tip of his tongue between his teeth, allowing his eyes to give the kid another once over.

Lightning struck at the core of Xander’s panic zone. “Fuck you, Spike!” He took a step back.

Spike took another slinky step forward.

Xander stared at him with huge, terrified eyes and Spike immediately felt like an ass. Poor kid was ready to have a stroke of some sort and here he was taunting him. He relaxed, ceded ground by stepping backwards. Bent his head to give the kid a chance to recover, then looked up again, schooling his expression to neutrality.

Xander still stood, panting, his mouth open, his eyes black. “Yeah,” he said.

Spike raised an eyebrow in surprise.

“Yeah, you’re right.” Xander huffed. “I can’t run away from…” He took a breath.

Spike shrugged infinitesimally, as if to indicate his dismissal of the whole issue.

“From myself,” said Xander. And he stepped across the two feet between them, grabbed Spike’s surprised face in his warm hands, tipped his chin slightly and fastened his mouth to Spike’s lips.

Spike hadn’t been kissed in over three hundred years.

He opened his mouth and it was as if he had lived in a small, dark cottage in the middle of an uninhabited wood forever, and suddenly some stranger opened the door and just walked inside. The fire surged at the hearth, the lights brightened, the cat yowled. A million notes of music burst from the possessed pianoforte in the corner.

Spike melted into Xander, his arms wrapping around and up, twisting themselves to clasp the back of Xander’s head, his warm neck. He felt Xander’s arms pulling him in, his tongue skating along the roof of Spike’s mouth, warm, soft, pressing into Spike’s tongue. Spike wriggled and writhed against him. Somebody moaned and the sound vibrated inside their shared mouths.

“Spike!” The voice in Xander’s head was screaming at him, drawing attention to what he was doing. “Spike!” ‘Yeah, shut up,’ thought Xander fiercely, sucking on the cool, strong tongue he had found, ‘Yeah, I’m kissing Spike. Shut the fuck up.’

“Spike! Help!” A tiny space appeared between the shared Heaven of their mouths as Spike drew back. “Spike!” The voice was coming from the other tent. Spike looked up at Xander, his eyes were black with swelled iris, his mouth red and swollen. “Spike!”

“It’s Angel,” breathed Spike, staring up at Xander.

“Spike! Help me, Spike!”

They separated and it was as if Spike had suddenly regained his own body. He looked down in wonder at hands and arms that had just seconds earlier been part of some other universe. He heard Xander take a big, gasping breath.

They jumped and ran out of their tent and into Angel’s.

Angel was sitting up on his bed again, looking very much as he had when Xander had seen him earlier. Except his covers were pushed off and he was running his hands up and down his completely naked torso. Xander looked away.

“Spike,” panted Angel, his breath coming in fast, hyperventilating gasps. “What’s wrong with me, what’s going on?” Xander could hear him patting himself. He glanced back to see Spike, kneeling beside Angel, helpfully dragging the covers back over him, but Angel pushed them away and grabbed Spike’s hand, pressed it to his chest.

A surge of something Xander immediately recognized as pure male jealous rage pumped through his body and he stepped forward. But Spike had stilled and put his other hand on Angel’s chest. Then bent forward and pressed the side of his head there.

Xander rocked on his feet, not knowing what to do.

“Fuck, Angel,” said Spike, drawing back and staring at the naked vampire. He swiveled and stared up at Xander. Xander noticed randomly that Spike’s lips were still swollen and red. “Fuck,” said Spike, through his kiss-bruised lips. “Angel’s alive.”


“How did it happen?”

They were sitting, more or less alone, finally, in a corner of Dahla’s house. After Spike and Xander had dressed and urged a bizarrely embarrassed Angel to walk down the hill to Dahla and present himself, fully shanshued, the entire village had risen up in an explosion of celebration.

Bright, colored solar lights, used only at the darkest night celebration, were strung across the main street. Troubadours strummed shining, lacquered, long-necked mandolins while the ringing percussion cymbals beat out a rocking, Asian sounding, beat. Young women danced; long, complicated lines of them weaving though the town, behind a festooned symbol held aloft by a small child. Food gifts were brought. Decorated with flowers and ribbons of clinging, shiny cloth. The people sang and reached towards Angel, their faces bright with joyous smiles.

Dahla wept.

Angel had clung to Spike, throughout. Xander shadowed them, feeling the odd homesickness of someone caught at a family celebration in a foreign land. Angel seemed unable to take a step without at least one hand needfully gripping Spike. Xander imagined how weak he must feel, how vulnerable. Poor Angel, thought Xander, snidely. And was immediately disgusted with himself. This one day in all of the centuries of Angel’s existence, Xander had to give him. No matter how much he hated the guy, he had to appreciate the meaning of this moment.

He just wished Spike would acknowledge him for a minute.

But Spike was completely taken up. As teary as Dahla one moment, excitedly enervated the next. He alternately embraced and encouraged Angel. Making him blow out candles. Bringing him reflective surfaces and laughing when Angel automatically lifted a hand to fix his hair. Finally, with the look of pride and sadness Xander recognized as that of a parent giving away his daughter, Spike held Angel’s shoulders, gazed into his face, and with a little shove walked away to leave him with Dahla. The human couple walked slowly into the back of the house and disappeared behind a door.

Spike came back and sat beside Xander.

“How did it happen, Spike?” Xander asked again.

Spike sighed and shook his head slightly. “I dunno, Harris. Guess it was the kid in the cave. The counter finally turned over or somethin’.” He looked towards the hallway down which he had lost Angel, his expression unfathomable.

“Are you alright?” asked Xander softly. He wanted to take Spike’s hand, but wasn’t sure of it. He could have told himself it was to comfort, but Xander was being honest with himself today. He wanted more than to comfort.

Spike looked back at him with bright eyes. “Yeah, thanks. I’m good.” His eyes lost their focus as his thoughts went internal again. “Gives a bloke hope, don’t it?” He looked down at his knees and his lips curled in a little smile.

“You think it’ll happen to you some day?” asked Xander, surprised that he had never thought of it.

“Nah,” said Spike, shaking off redemption like a dog would shake off water. “Think that prophecy was kinda a one-off. Its been drivin’ Angel for so long. Kinda wonder if he didn’t make it happen himself, wanting it so…” He looked off towards the hallway again.

“You don’t want it,” stated Xander.

Spike shrugged. “I like being a demon. Kinda hate the idea of hell, mind you. But I wouldn’t mind…” his voice went soft and he looked off into space, “wouldn’t mind Heaven, I think. There’s a few people there I’d be pleased to see again…” The happy tilt at the corners of his eyes turned down and Xander saw him frown.

He didn’t know what to say, so he took Spike’s hand.

It was funny how much personality and feeling could be in a hand. Spike’s hand was strong and hard, a man’s hand. But his preternatural healing had kept him from calluses and the skin was as soft as a small boy’s. The bones were long and elegant. They were refined hands, a poet’s hands. Xander’s big, thick fingers closed around Spike’s hand and the vampire turned his wrist and wrapped his fingers firmly through Xander’s. The grip was cool, but a warm centered feeling emanated from it and settled in Xander’s chest. He sighed and leaned back against the wall, resting their hands between them.

He was content with this, he thought, until he felt Spike’s thumb brushing softly up and down the inside of his wrist. He looked up into hungry, dark blue eyes and a wave of desire took the room away.

He hadn’t realized he was leaning towards Spike until they touched lips. His mouth opened against Spike’s and his mind greyed out to just that circle of contact.

“Harris,” whispered Spike against his mouth.

Xander managed to make some sound.

“D’you know what your doin’?”

Xander shook his head, and leaned forward again into Spike’s lips. His free hand tangled in Spike’s shirt collar, pulled him closer. He licked across Spike’s full lower lip, so soft, so… Xander moaned.

Spike pulled away. He straightened and, grasping Xander’s shoulders, forced him to straighten also. “Harris, you ain’t some teenage girl. Think about what you’re gettin’ into here.”

The eyes that looked into Spike’s seemed a kaleidoscope of velvety colors. “I don’t know what I’m getting into. Teach me, Spike,” Xander whispered.

Spike whimpered helplessly and grabbed Xander violently against him. His mouth latched onto Xander’s with a ferocity that overwhelmed Xander’s senses. He felt himself handled, overpowered. He heard himself make some small acquiescent sound and then he was lifted, Spike easily pushing him to his feet, they stumbled backwards. A door opened behind him and he was tripping over feet, practically carried across an unlit room. Xander felt his legs hit something hard and then he was tumbling backwards into the dark.


The wake room was small and tastefully lit with recessed lights. The thick scent of lilies lay over everything. Jennifer understood, with that constantly pragmatic part of her mind, the necessity for the lilies, but she hated the way their thick scent crawled to the back of her nose, almost gagging her.

James sat hunched over in one of the dark wood, velvet upholstered chairs. The guests remained outside, it being highly unusual these days for people to actually view the body at the viewings.

Jennifer was still unsure why James had suddenly changed all the plans and insisted on a burial instead of a cremation. The heavy mahogany casket, it’s half-lid open, revealing the blush and make-up enhanced old man, nestled in white satin. James stared at him with an intensity that Jennifer found disturbing and frightening.

“Everyone is here, honey,” she prompted him softly.

James looked up at her. His face seemed terribly alert and ready for something. “Okay.”

“They…” Jennifer allowed herself a small moment of sorrow. It rose in her throat. “You should hear the lovely things people are saying about him…” she said in a teary voice.

“Yeah,” said James. He stood. “Dad was a real hero.”

Jennifer looked at him oddly.

James walked out of the room, steady and serious and his wife went with him, her arm looped through his. As they left she glanced back at her father in law’s casket. The small blue and white paperweight that James had fetched from the house, now balanced above the old man’s clasped hands.

Jennifer had been lucky in her life and had not experienced a lot of personal loss. But she thought that maybe James was taking this strangely and she wondered how long one waited before calling in grief counselors. Or a therapist. She thought, perhaps, she should make some phone calls.


“What do you want, Xander?” Spike whispered against the warm ear, wet where he had been sucking on the lobe.

Xander shifted under the lithe body that seemed to move constantly as it pressed down onto him. Cool and hard, like a giant massage tool, Spike’s legs pressed into his thighs, his hands gripped and caressed and teased, his mouth was all over Xander’s face, his ears, his neck. He gripped the vampire’s narrow hips in his hands as if they alone kept him anchored to the bed. Inhaling in little surprised gasps and exhaling in shaky little grunts as Spike’s hardness rubbed and rocked and bumped against his own.

“Oh God, Spike,” panted Xander, his head twisting under Spike’s assault. “I just want you to, just…”

“What do you want me to do?” Spike’s tongue plunged into Xander’s ear.

“What… Ooohhh,” moaned Xander, as Spike’s hands pulled apart his shirt and two strong cool thumbs ran back and forth over his nipples. He whined pitifully and arched up when Spike stopped and drew back.

“Don’t stop,” growled Xander, in a seriously threatening voice.

Spike grinned. “Focus, whelp. What do you want?”

Xander blinked. “May I see the Wine list?”

Spike laughed and wriggled his hips into Xander and Xander’s mind shot off sparks and stopped having linear thoughts.

“Gah,” he said.

“Hokay,” said Spike. He wiggled downwards and Xander felt the long fingers at his pants, material falling away and suddenly the utter bliss of a strong fist wrapped firmly around his cock.

“Gah,” he said in as encouraging a tone as he could.

“Sure,” said Spike and bent to take Xander’s cock into his mouth.

Both Xander’s arms flew out to either side and tried to hold onto the bed as his entire body was sucked into the cool, soft tunnel of Spike’s mouth. He thrashed and felt hands holding him down; he bucked and felt himself restrained. He started crying out, a series of helpless, pitiful nonsense that his mind couldn’t follow as Spike’s throat closed around him, swallowing, the soft walls of his throat rhythmically gripping Xander’s cock. Suction, unbelievable suction, demanded the cum in his balls to pull towards his shaft, and Xander keened and tore at the sheets and flailed at Spike’s head as his balls drew up so hard and tight they felt like they were caught in a vise. He gasped out vowels, as a tongue flicked across his slit, that throat closing around him again, and a wet finger, two wet fingers, pushing against his hole. Pushing and circling; Xander tried to twist away, couldn’t. The fingers pressed hard, breached the muscle. Xander yelled. And fire flew up his body, stiffening the muscles of his thighs and chest, shooting white fire through his brain where it undoubtedly exploded out of the top of his head.

When his vision cleared he was laying gasping like a landed fish. Spike sat on his haunches above him, licking his hand like a cat with cream. His white torso, patterns of blue shadows moving as his muscles worked, stretched forward and hovered over Xander’s.

Xander reached up and ran his spread fingers over that smooth cool beauty. Down to the arching, hard cock. He wrapped his fingers around it, feeling suddenly enormously inadequate. He looked up at Spike pleadingly.

“What should I do, Spike?”

Spike moaned. His eyes appeared to roll back into his head, and he swallowed noticeably. The cock in Xander’s hand twitched hard and he tightened his grip on it, staring at it in wonder.

Spike shifted and crawled up Xander’s body. He stopped with his cock hovering, dripping, just inches from Xander’s mouth. “Take me in your mouth, Xander,” demanded Spike, in a growling voice that sent sparks to Xander’s just-sated groin. Xander leaned forward and tentatively, gave it a little lick.

Spike hissed.

Xander looked up at him again, merry mischief appearing in his eyes. This time he leaned forward and captured the head firmly between his lips, pulling it back with him, as he let his head rest again on the pillow. Spike moaned and rocked forward into the wet heat of Xander’s mouth.

Xander flickered his tongue rapidly across the little slit at the end of Spike’s cock; he tasted precum drooling there and sucked at it hard.

Spike cried out as if in pain. One hand came down and gripped Xander’s hair. The other flew down to his shaft and began rapidly jerking up and down, pulling his foreskin back and forth. Xander felt a strange surge in his own groin as his tongue caught at the slide of foreskin and slid under it. He sucked harder, a kind of fierce desire for the sour salty liquid spilling into this mouth pumping in his belly, heating his groin. He reached up with both hands and found Spike’s firm buttocks, dug his fingers in and groaned.

“Ah, Xander!” Spike was bucking now. His cock pushing into the back of Xander’s throat, making him gag and then a rush of cool liquid, filling his mouth completely and dribbling down the sides of his face. Spike practically tearing his hair out and wailing.

With one last long wail, the gush of cum let up and Spike stopped rocking. Xander still gulping and trying not to gag, Spike pulled himself, with a little pop, from Xander’s still suckling lips.

Spike scooted back a bit then let himself collapse over Xander. Xander wrapped his arms around the cool body and squeezed apologetically.

“I’m sorry,” he said sadly. “I’m not very good at that.”

Spike made a choking noise and his body vibrated somehow, he lifted his head, looking into Xander’s face and Xander could see him laughing. He felt a little stunned. “I’ll get better,” he said defensively.

“Christ, Harris, you get any better and my fucking heart will start beating. You about did me in, brat.”

Xander grinned. “Yeah?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Spike warmly, his lips closing over Xander’s. They tasted each other for a long time, tongues sharing each other’s cum, until their lips became hungry again. Spike drew back and smiled into Xander’s eyes. “Course, I’ve been hard for you for days. Wasn’t gonna take much.”

Xander didn’t know if he should pout or blush. He did neither but looked up at Spike wonderingly. “How do you do that?” he said finally.

Spike bent down and gave Xander another kiss. “Do what, Xan?” he said. He kissed the end of Xander’s nose.

“Stick yourself out there like that? Admit that you wanted me? I mean, I could say it was a fluke. You know? Or I was in a bad place and confused…” Xander stopped. Spike’s smile had died, his expression gone still. He watched Xander like an old recluse might from behind a curtained window.

“Is that what you’re gonna say?” Spike asked in an inflectionless voice.

Xander looked into eyes that had been hurt so many times, it was what they expected. And yet, and yet kept letting it happen. “Is that what you think you deserve?” he said with the brilliant insight of an old man who had spent too much of his life watching television with women. “Is that what you want me to do?”

Spike was still. He didn’t move, but Xander could feel him withdrawing, getting ready for the punch in the nose, the kick in the groin. “I’ve been hard for you for days, too, Spike,” said Xander sincerely. He tightened his arms around the slim back. “I’m hard for you now,” said Xander, wriggling around to prove his point.

Some candle flickered in the depths of Spike’s eyes. He studied Xander as if mystified.

There was a hard, quick rap at the door.

They had left the door open, realized Xander in a pique of embarrassment, grabbing at the tumbled sheets, trying to hide Spike’s nakedness from the eyes of others. He and Spike peered at the silhouette in the doorway. Small, graceful, edges blurring and sliding as she swayed in the light of the hall.

“Es Angela,” said Dahla’s voice urgently.

Spike laughed. He let his head drop to Xander’s chest, then raised it and cocked an eyebrow at the boy. “It’s always Angel,” he said.

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