“Giles?” Xander gaped and felt reality wobble a bit. He checked all the corners of his mind. Mentally pinched himself. His old friend sat there, mildly amused, light reflecting off his glasses.
“Yes,” said the Watcher calmly. “Yes, Xander, it is I.”
This was a miracle on so many levels. Insane, behind-glass Giles had been, to Xander, the same as a memory. Intangible and untouchable. But here before him… Xander took a step and saw Giles getting closer. He took another step. Here before him, where if he took one more step and reached out, he would be able to touch him, was a friend who had died. Xander had been to his funeral. Had thought of all the things he had never said. Had missed him over and over in little tidal waves lapping into his mind, ever since.
Xander took the step.
“Really, Xander,” huffed Giles, embarrassed and flushing as the dark head sobbed into his shoulder. He looked up at the doctor for help. But the little white faced man withdrew, pulling the door closed behind him.
“Ikntlev it,” Xander snuffled into Giles’ hospital gown.
“I beg your pardon?” said Giles politely, patting Xander’s shoulder.
“I can’t believe it,” said Xander, drawing back, holding Giles in place with both hands on his shoulders. “God, its great to hear your voice.”
“I’m pleased to see you, too, Xander,” said Giles.
Xander checked all the corners of reality again. “Are you really you?” he said wonderingly. He lightly touched Giles’ face. The Watcher endured the contact; a small smile tipped his mouth.
Xander let go, grinning with chagrin, rubbing at his wet face with the back of one hand. He laughed.
“Xander, are you all right?” Giles asked gently.
“What? Me?” Xander looked puzzled then, “Ohhh… you mean the whole ‘raised from the dead in some futuristic world’? Yeah.” He shrugged. “Yeah. I’m dealing. But you…” Xander just sat there smiling joyfully.
Giles patted the heavy volume that still rested under his right hand. “I saw your rune figures, the ones you had reproduced and I…” his brows came down, his eyes narrowed in thought. “It was like the needle was stuck on the record and this,” he indicated the book, “pushed it forward. They told me you did this.”
Giles sat beaming at him with pride. Xander felt the wonder of a child receiving the gift he never thought he’d have.
“I did…?” said Xander; he looked at the book disbelievingly. “I was just trying to remember, you know, the thing I messed up.”
Giles shook his head. “The figures are perfect,” he said warmly, and a metaphorical fairy wand seemed to thump Xander in the chest. Sparkles of happiness flowing to his head, his arms.
“Heh,” said Xander, weakly. “Hard to believe.”
“Perfect,” Giles repeated. “Thank you, Xander.”
Despite sitting in a hospital bed in a gown tied together with string, Giles got a look on his face that spoke of tweed and Oxford cloth. He pulled the book into his lap and touched the rim of his glasses thoughtfully.
“It’s a particularly apt passage, as it happens,” he said, his fingers sliding easily along the borders of Xander’s drawings. “And, oddly enough, could be interpreted as an accurate assessment of our current situation.”
“Oh no,” groaned Xander, “let me guess. It’s a …”
“Prophecy about a pending apocalypse,” Giles finished for him.
Spike was punching out a pile of bed linen. It wasn’t that the linen had done anything to him. And the sheets and coverlet hadn’t displayed any particularly demonic tendencies. Actually Spike had been going to just strip their bed and deposit the soiled linens in the laundry baskets Dahla kept off her main rooms. He was stuffing them deep into the hamper when he suddenly was overcome by a fit of rage.
The innocent linens were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When one of Dahla’s girls came in some time later, she found Spike and the remains of the sheets from the guest room. She skipped backward out of the room as quickly as possible and ran to fetch Dahla.
The Master was having one of his ineffable tantrums.
Spike sat in the middle of the cold laundry room floor, his head in his hands, and tried to find something outside his own interior to be angry with. There was nothing. His demon, snotty rooster that it was, was crowing joyfully about its Mastership and Ownership of the Boy. It would not shut up, even when Spike wrestled it to a whimpering crouch with threats of starvation and exile.
He had ruined him. Tainted him thoroughly. Everything light and clean about the boy now had that blood lust saturating it, like a white shirt washed in rusty water. Xander was stained.
And it made Spike only want him more. He rubbed his hands through his hair, tugging at the new growth, as if he could pull some idea out of his mind. He didn’t know what to do, what action he should take.
Spike wasn’t given much to moral imperatives or ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’. After several centuries, the ambiguity of morals and ethics was more than even an above average mind could handle. He didn’t dwell on his guilt. What was the point? He used his instincts and gut feelings of right and wrong as guideposts.
And when he wasn’t sure, he looked to Angel.
But Angel wasn’t here, and Spike was fairly certain that his instincts were wrong. Because his instincts demanded that he hunt down the boy and shag him silly. Lock him in a room and feed him blood and semen until he was saturated with Spike thoroughly.
If Angel were here, he would know what was wrong. He would… Spike raised his head and tried to visualize the old poof sitting across the laundry room from him. That weary, beleaguered forehead creased as he grappled with yet another situation created by his errant child.
“Spike,” the Angel in his mind said with a sigh. “Spike. Spike. Spike.”
“Oh come on, Angel,” Spike said impatiently. “You can’t tell me you never had this happen with a human?”
Angel gave him a look. “The curse?” he said.
“Convenient excuse, that,” muttered Spike. “Nah,” he said to the Angel in his mind again, waving off Gypsies with impatient fingers. “Before that.”
“Spike, before the Gypsies, I DID turn them.” Angel nodded at him grimly. “Look at you. And how well that went.”
“Hey!” said Spike, offended. “I didn’t say I wanted to turn him,” he added quickly.
“Didn’t you?” Angel could be so bleedin’ annoying when he got that ‘I know you better than you know yourself’ look on his face, thought Spike irritably.
Dahla cleared her throat and Spike jumped a foot.
“Fuck!” he exploded. “Don’t just…” he reviewed the last few minutes in his mind. Shook his head, burying it once more in his hands. “*Sorry,*” he said.
“*Do you need anything?*” asked Dahla calmly.
Spike looked around him. The bed sheets seemed to have multiplied as they were shredded and he was now surrounded by a sea of torn fibers. Dahla’s laundry room looked as if a cotton bomb had exploded in it.
“*Sorry*” said Spike again, thinking he should just have a sign with that word on it that he could hang around his neck. Like a leper. Permanently penitent. He banged his forehead with the heel of his hand when he realized how like Angel that sounded.
“Fucking poof picked a fine time ta…” he cut himself off, looking guiltily at Dahla, and forced himself to shakily find his feet. “*I’ll, uh,” he waved around himself, “clean this up.*”
Dahla shook her head and waved off the mess. “*What can I do for you?*” she insisted.
“Well…” Spike reflected. “*You got anythin’ ta drink?*”
“They had fire, Giles,” said Xander excitedly. He was sitting at the edge of Giles’ mattress, the little meal tray pulled up over his knees, excitedly sketching out a blueprint of the demon encampment as he could remember it.
All those hours in Technical Drawing class had really paid off, he thought, watching as Giles went over his little map with interest.
“Fire?” Giles looked up at him.
“It smelled like pine,” reported Xander.
“Hmm. Interesting,” said Giles. He reached up and took off his glasses, absently cleaning them on the edge of the bed sheet, and Xander was suddenly overtaken again by tears.
“God,” he said.
Giles looked up at him, and smiled gently. He raised one hand and clasped Xander’s shoulder warmly. “I have no idea why they chose to bring you here, Xander,” he said, his eyes shining, “but I can’t tell you how grateful I am that they did.”
Xander nodded, cleared the lump from his throat. “Do you remember?” he asked. Not even sure he himself knew to what he was referring.
Giles studied him. “My death?”
Xander looked back at his drawing, his finger traced around and around an ellipse. “I visited, you know. I don’t think you remember…”
Giles was silent for some moments. Xander looked up and saw his old friend, glasses removed, eyes shining. “I don’t remember the pain, Xander, if that is what is concerning you.”
Xander nodded. He could not speak.
“The Powers have been kind in that regard. I remember… I remember friends around me. Love. I do remember being loved.” Xander had to look away again and didn’t see the thoughtful eyes suddenly look inward, pause, troubled.
“You know when you’re old, there are things you wish you could have changed,” said Xander slowly. “And I always wished I had told you … told you how much…” he stopped, tongue stuck in his throat. Staring at the paper on his lap, shaking his head helplessly.
“Did you become old, Xander?” asked Giles wonderingly, gazing at the healthy adolescent boy sitting beside him, struggling with his emotions.
“Well, yeah,” said Xander. “I, uh…” It was weird. Even though it was in the past, thinking about his own death was difficult. His mind kept slipping around it, like it was a greasy sphere that couldn’t be grasped. “I guess I died in my sleep.” A short laugh. “Like everybody wishes they could…”
“And then you woke here.” Giles said it like a statement.
Xander nodded, chewing his lip. He thumped at his drawing with his thumb. “You know,” he said slowly, letting his mind return, relieved, to the present. “A lot has happened, Giles, since you, uh…” his eyes widened and he stared up at Giles, stuck.
“Went mad?” suggested Giles gently.
Xander worried at his lip, studying Giles. “Yeah. I should tell you everything. So that you aren’t surprised.”
“Go ahead,” urged Giles.
“Well,” Xander took a big breath. “First, uh, Angel became human…”
“What?!” Giles jumped forward, grabbing Xander and staring into his face at very close quarters. “What are you saying?”
“Angel became, uh, human?” repeated Xander.
“The shanshu prophecy? Dear Lord! It really happened?” Giles looked as if someone had just proved the existence of God. “That’s, that’s amazing, Xander. Absolutely amazing. I must speak to him immediately!”
“Well, there’s a problem,” said Xander. “He’s uh…Giles, are you sure you’re ready for all of this?”
Giles was now impatiently pushing himself up out of bed. Xander averted his eyes with some haste as the eager Watcher immodestly loped around the room in his hospital gown, looking for his clothes.
“I can assure you, Xander, that my faculties are fully restored and in no danger of slipping away, so to speak, in the near future.” Giles found his slacks neatly folded in a cupboard and pulled them hurriedly on. “That, um, lapse was merely my mind’s attempt to restore a memory. One it found necessary under the current circumstances.” He had fastened his pants and was sliding on the dark rayon shirt he had been provided.
“Well, good,” said Xander. “Because Angel is dead.”
Giles paused in his movements. “I beg your pardon.”
“He died,” said Xander, staring at the blanket flung over the foot of the bed. “Demon got him,” he explained.
Giles was appalled. “Dear God,” he said. He came and sat down wearily next to Xander. “Dear God,” he repeated. They sat there in silence for some minutes. “All those years,” said Giles, finally. “One wonders what the point was after all,” he said. And he sighed.
“Yeah,” said Xander uncomfortably. “But, um, Spike is still doing the…”
“Spike,” said Giles distastefully.
Xander glanced quickly at him. “Yeah?”
“I was not pleased to find him still here,” said Giles.
Xander was silent.
“If any demon were to be granted a soul. Any demon,” Giles shook his head, “why did it have to be Spike.”
“He…” Xander felt that he was about to say something foolish, but he barreled ahead. “But he won his soul, Giles. Didn’t he?”
“So he says,” said Giles.
Xander was silent again.
“So,” Giles sighed. “What is the bleached menace up to now. Now that Angel is not around to keep him from mischief? Harassing the local maidens, I presume? Causing bar brawls?”
“No!” Xander flushed and reined himself in a bit. “I mean, no, he’s not doing anything like that. He’s been helping the villagers. Training them. He’s trying, Giles,” he added.
Giles pursed his lips, looking unimpressed. “Well, I suppose the head woman and I, and you of course Xander,” he added warmly, “will have to carry on.”
“Sure,” said Xander. Finding himself pleased to be so easily included. Like getting picked first in gym class. “I.. I can …”
Giles stood. He picked up his book. “Well?” he cocked his head to the side expectantly.
Xander looked up at him.
“Aren’t you going to show me where you live?”
‘Grog with a kick’ Spike had called it. And he had meant it. This was definitely alcohol. He glared hard at the bottom of his glass, which had allowed itself to become empty again and growled menacingly at its cheek.
Definitely. Alcohol. Spike half crawled, half fell sideways and came up against the large smooth earthen jug that Dahla’s girls had helped him drag up to the camp. The tiny spigot opened for him and more of the soothing blue liquid spilled into his cup.
“Thas a goood girl,” Spike patted the jug as if it was a tremulous heifer. He tipped his cup back and let the blue liquid just flow to the back of his throat and into his stomach.
“Ssss not … not a bad thing ya know,” he told the jug, nodding. “I wouldn’t hurt him…” He wobbled and slid softly from the jug to the floor. The alcohol slopped over his hand. “Just wanna little … “ he sighed. “Xander,” he said. “Bloody Hell,” he added. He turned his head miserably to the side and heard the earth vibrate with approaching footsteps.
“Says he loves me,” Spike told the tent ceiling. He raised a finger and pointed. “Thas the… the thing. Brat.” He wiggled his finger, flexing it back and forth in the air for a minute. “Hafta tell ‘im,” he said after a while. “Hafta…” The thump of footsteps was loud enough that even a human could have heard by now, and Spike’s supersensitive ears, and alcohol sensitive head, could not ignore them.
“Whas out there, huh?” he asked the jug, owlishly. “Whas…”
“Spike?” It was Xander’s voice. Xander was calling him. Spike sat up too quickly and toppled immediately over again. He giggled.
******** “That’s weird,” said Xander cheerily. “He usually comes out here and starts yelling about now.”
“Yelling?” asked Giles, looking around, still slightly askance. He hadn’t expected Xander to be living up here with the vampire, clearly. And he was even more surprised to see the lights, the various human additions, benches and tables.
“Yeah, yelling about how I’m waking the dead, summoning the demons, you know…” Xander chuckled to himself. “Just Spike. Bitching like he does. Yo!” he yelled again. “Spike!”
“I see,” said Giles. He stepped carefully over what looked like a broken bit of crockery. They had made it to the crest of the hill and were approaching the tents.
“Its kind of a mess, still,” said Xander, looking around puzzled, as if seeing the place for the first time in weeks. “I guess after the party, and then everything that happened…” he strode up to one tent door and poked his head inside. “Spike?”
“Party?” said Giles.
Giles was coming up behind him quietly. Actually Giles had been progressively more and more quiet ever since Xander had informed him that he lived up here with Spike. Xander looked around the tent for his lover and suddenly saw its interior with the eyes of the older Englishman rapidly coming up behind him.
The unmade, grungy, palette bed. Obviously the only bed in the tent. Clothes strewn all about. Several half empty bottles of oil lined up by the bed. The huge brass tub in the center of the room. He pulled his head quickly out and jumped back. “Not there,” he said brightly and spun about as if to march back down the hill.
“Xan!” Spike fell out of the other tent and ran at Xander. He came up against him with such force he nearly bowled Xander over, then still hanging on, sort of melted down his chest.
“Whoa,” Xander barely kept his balance. His nostrils were blasted with an intense ethyl sting and he registered Spike’s drunkenness about the same time as Giles.
“Dear God,” said the disgusted Britisher. “How does he manage to do it?”
Xander was wondering the same thing himself.
“Hey, Spike.” he wrestled briefly with the remarkably malleable body before managing to get Spike back onto his own feet. But Spike just leaned back into him, leering suggestively.
“Whereavyabin,” he said, blasting him with more alcohol fumes.
Xander flinched, glanced nervously over Spike’s shoulder at Giles and gently pushed Spike upright again. “Hey, Spike, look! It’s Giles!” he said loudly, giving Spike’s shoulders a little shake. He shoved Spike a bit harder away from him.
But Spike had spun, elbows out and wildly flapping, around to confront the Watcher. His mouth gaped and he pointed.
“Look, Xander!” he flapped a hand behind him as if beckoning the boy forward. “it’s the ol’ Wacher. All woken up like… like wut’s the bint’s name Cinder or Sleeper or …” Spike pointed, and swayed back onto one foot, looking down a critical nose at Giles. “What’re you watchin’ now, Watcher?” And he grinned at his own joke, swayed sideways. Caught himself.
Giles made a disgusted noise.
Spike stomped forward before Xander could stop him. He peered at Giles and put his hands on his hips in an exaggerated pose. “Wut?” he asked.
“Xander,” said Giles with an obvious effort. “I really think the best thing would be to leave him here to sleep it off.”
“Sleepitoff?” said Spike. He reeled in an arc and looked at Xander again. “Not sleepy Zan, don wanna sleep.” He grinned. “Wannnaaaa shaa…”
“Whoa, Spike, look at you,” said Xander loudly, coming forward quickly. “Here, lemmee help you, fella, lemme get you into your tent.”
“My tent?” Spike looked around confusedly. “I got me own tent?”
“Sure, Spike, sure. See?” Xander had Spike by the shoulders again, and gently swung him to face their tent. “See, your very own little hidey hole. Why don’t we just go on in and get you settled.”
“Get me settled, Xan,” said Spike, wriggling his backside just a little too obviously into Xander’s pelvis as the boy urged him forward.
“Good Lord,” expostulated Giles behind them.
“It’s not a problem, Giles,” Xander laughed. “He’s just. This is really kind of strange for him.” He wrestled the vampire, who was now happily collapsing against him as they walked.
They made it through the tent door and Xander managed to get Spike to the bed. Spike was agreeable and cuddly until they reached the bed, then he spun around and grabbed Xander by the neck, pulling him down. “Mizzed yooooo…” he said through a mist of alcohol.
“Spike,” hissed Xander intently, laughing, but still trying to unlace the strong fingers from around his neck. “Spike, Giles is standing right outside.”
“So, let ‘im in!” said Spike. He leered and waggled his eyebrows. “Let ‘im watch. Watcher.” He giggled again.
“Man, that pun is as old as you are, Spike,” said Xander, still struggling to free himself. Spike gave a good tug and Xander tumbled forward onto him.
“Gotta tell you, Xan,” said Spike in that mournful tone of the serious drunk. “Gotta tell yooo.”
“Spike,” said Xander. “I am so not ready to …” he protested breathlessly, nevertheless wriggling into the pliant body beneath his, as Spike applied a broad wet lick to his chin. Xander made a huge effort and managed to twist himself free of Spike’s inebriated grasp. “Spike, I’ve got to walk Giles back down to the village, okay? Then… then I’ll be back.”
“Yer leavin’ me,” pouted Spike. He flung his arms out dramatically to either side. “Xander, don’t leave me!” he howled suddenly loudly up into the sky.
“Quiet! Geez!” Xander laughed but looked nervously towards the tent door. He hopped up and bounced towards it.
“Xander?” Giles voice sounded just outside. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” called Xander, bounding out the door, leaving his howling drunk vampire behind. He almost ran right into Giles as he emerged. “Yeah, yeah, everything is…” he skidded to a halt. “Everything is of the good, G-man.”
Giles looked him over with a frown. “You’re sure?”
“Sure I’m sure,” said Xander cheerily. “Just, you know, drunk Spike.” He waved his arms and bounced. “Can do that in my sleep.”
“Do me in yer sleep, Xaaanderrr,” slurred Spike from the tent door behind him.
Giles expression was going from disgust to a kind of low boil anger.
“I believe we’ve heard enough, Spike,” he said snappishly.
Spike sneered, wobbled, blew Giles an exaggerated kiss.
Xander found himself forcing down a smile. “C’mon Giles, let’s…heh heh,” Xander thought he should put some distance between Giles and the leering vampire. He came over and looped one arm through Giles, urging him in the direction of the path back to the village. He saw Spike’s eyes narrow and focus on their linked arms. He wobbled and opened his mouth. “Giles!’ said Xander, desperately tugging.
Giles relinquished his position and, with one last steely glare at Spike, allowed Xander to lead him back down the hill. “Xaaannnderrr,” they could hear Spike calling in a suggestive voice. “Come baaaack.”
“Really, Xander,” said Giles after they had distanced themselves somewhat from the tents and the caterwauling vampire. “You shouldn’t be expected to babysit him.”
“What? No, I’m fine with it, Giles. Really.” Xander babbled desperately. “Spike and I are getting along fine. It’s just like the old days, when we were roomies, isn’t it?” Without the denial, he thought to himself. “Heh, just like the Good Old Days. With the patrolling, and the wet towels everywhere.” And it appears that we still have someone in a closet. “Except now, he doesn’t steal my money because, hey, I don’t have any! And a plus! We don’t have to keep blood in the frig, because we, er, keep it down in the village. Walking around.” He rubbed at his bite nervously.
Giles nodded, distracted by this new and equally disturbing subject. “Yes,” he said, “the arrangement. I… I don’t know what to make of that.”
“Yeah, it wigged me out at first too, Giles, but it seems to work for them.” Xander frowned and thought of the young man who had helped heal Spike last night. “Seems a little indiscriminate sometimes, though,” he muttered.
“Indiscriminate?” Giles stopped walking and looked at him sharply. “You mean Spike is feeding at will?”
“At will?” said Xander confused. “Uh, no, I don’t think so, Giles. I mean, I think it’s mutual consent and all. Of course it is,” he said at the look of increasing concern on Giles’ face.
Xander was starting to feel that he had over compromised his loyalty to Spike.
“Spike takes it very seriously, Giles,” he said. “He’s extremely conscientious.”
“I’m sure the vampire takes blood seriously,” said Giles coolly.
“No, I mean, he really respects these people, Giles. He … he cares about them.”
Giles didn’t look convinced in the least. “You are sometimes too naïve, Xander,” he said.
Xander felt like a chastised child.
Magically accelerated healing abilities bring with them, unfortunately, magically accelerated sobriety, and Spike was miserably hung over and wishing to die within an hour of Xander and Giles’ visit.
He could, unfortunately, remember the entire episode quite clearly.
Or at least he remembered the incidents. His perception being slightly distorted by the alcohol and his own special Spike-point-of-view. Xander had brought the watcher up here and then pretended he and Spike were just acquaintances. Like Xander was Spike’s ‘keeper’ or something. Of course. Spike had played this little scenario out before. He knew how it went. And Giles’ dislike had obviously survived his mental lapse. He was undoubtedly, now, trying to influence Xander to hold the same opinion as he.
Spike, at the moment, wouldn’t blame Xander if he did.
He rolled his head carefully to the side, so that the pounding ache would travel across his frontal lobes and slowly drain into the other side of his brain. Giving him a temporary respite from the most intense pain.
He stared at the tent wall and let his mind drift over the swell and ebb of pain.
But Xander had said that he loved him. And that made all the difference in the world.
Love wasn’t something Spike had thought about for many years. Centuries actually. He couldn’t even remember how long it had been since he had let go of the idea of eternal love, or fated love, or even soul love. It was all a crock, if you asked him. Some wanker’s idea to talk shy birds into dropping their panties. That he, himself, had essentially been such a shy bird was a fact he could accept now.
Oh, yeah, he had been love’s bitch. Willing and eager to throw himself into any mouth of Hell for his romantic ideal. Something pure. Something worthy. Anything would be better than to turn around, finally, and face the monster he had become.
But Angel had taught him to see all that twitter for what it was. An escape, a high as heady as the blood lust. Family. Responsibility. Duty. These things were real. His relationship with Angel, dutiful friend, sidekick, almost manservant. Had been real and useful and in the end had had more longevity than all his dallying after the girls. He had been willing to accept that. Embrace it with a maturity that the demon shrank from.
And then had arrived Xander Harris.
He wasn’t sure what had happened the other night. Something had taken control of him. Maybe it had been his demon. Spike thought that he felt the deep tidal pull of that influence more of late than he had in many years. Something about Xander brought it out. Something made him want to mark the boy, possess him, keep him close. The words he had spoken had risen out of an ancient memory Drusilla had raved, a thousand moons ago. Spike wasn’t even sure what they meant. Only, after he had said them, he had felt peace.
For a moment the pain about his head and back and arms disappeared as Spike saw again Xander Harris. He could almost feel the warm hands on him, hear him speaking those words, see those eyes, opening to him a world of sincerity and passion and warmth. No one had ever looked at Spike that way. He couldn’t imagine why they should.
Why should anybody love Spike? The flood of blood was now throbbing on the side of his head that he pressed to the mattress, and Spike carefully rolled his head to ease the pressure again. His eyelids were weighted and his torso felt numb. He thought maybe he should pass out.
Xander walked Giles down to Dahla’s house. She opened the door, and it was like two magnets clicking. She immediately dragged him in, babbling at high speed in her own tongue. Giles responded with excitement and they went hurrying off into Dahla’s parlor. Xander heard the frequent repetition of the word for magic, and waved at Giles over Dahla’s shoulder, as he beat a hasty retreat.
“I have a feeling you guys are gonna come up with something soon that’s going to involve a lot of mayhem and stuff, so I think I’ll get back and get some sleep,” he called, heading for the door.
“Wait, Xander,” Giles gently moved Dahla aside. “Do you have to go back up there to sleep? Can’t you…” he looked around the spacious house. “Can’t you take a room down here?”
“I…” Xander found himself stumped. “I…” he looked at Dahla. She gazed back at him, nonplussed.
“I live up there, Giles,” said Xander simply. “With Spike.”
Giles looked exasperated. “Yes, yes, I understand, Xander. But you should in no way feel an obligation…”
“It’s not an obligation,” Xander interrupted. “I want to do it.”
“That’s very admirable, Xander,” said Giles. “Very altruistic. Giving up your own comfort and convenience to keep an eye on…”
“Actually,” Xander interrupted again, a bit testily. “It’s kind of selfish.”
This silenced Giles. But still he stood there patiently, waiting for an explanation.
Xander studied the floor. He shifted to one foot and thought about things. It didn’t take him long to make up his mind. “I want to do it, Giles. Because Spike and I are…” What the heck were they? Xander wondered. “We’re together,” he finally said.
There was something about light reflecting off glass that could make the wearer of the glasses look blind. “I don’t understand,” said Giles.
Xander looked again to Dahla, who clearly did not understand the situation at all. “We’re lovers,” said Xander. A little thrill escaping across his tongue as he spoke the words. He grinned suddenly. “I love him.”
Giles’ face, behind the blind glasses, was immobile. Xander didn’t know what he expected Giles to say but it certainly wasn’t what he said next.
“Nonsense,” said Giles calmly. “You will move your things down here tomorrow.”
“I…uh…what?” stammered Xander.
“Obviously you have been taken advantage of. The situation, the stresses of this place. The surprise, your undoubted vulnerability…”
“No, no, I thought of all that, Giles, it’s not any of that, it’s something…”
“He’s a vampire, Xander.”
“Well,” Xander chuckled. “Yeah, I noticed.”
“You spent a good portion of your life fighting his kind.”
“Not Spike’s kind, Giles…” began Xander.
“Demons,” snapped Giles a bit impatiently. “I thought you knew better.”
Xander thought briefly of a small blond former vengeance demon and flushed with anger. “I’ve rethought some things, Giles.”
Giles folded his arms across his chest. “And you are not a homosexual,” he said.
Xander rocked back on his heels. “Huh?”
“I have known you for most of your life. You had a wife. A child.”
Xander’s jaw set. “Giles, they have nothing to do with it.”
“Was that all a lie, Xander?”
“God!” exploded Xander. “Stop it…just stop it, Giles. I…. You don’t know how I….” He flung himself around and towards the door. “I have to get back,” he announced over his shoulder. “He…he might need me…” He grabbed the door handle, thrust it open with his shoulder and bolted from the house.
Spike woke feeling a lot less sick and a lot more repentant. He lay on his back, arms spread across the mattress and wished Xander were here. Because he needed to talk about stuff. Trouble was, Xander was the stuff he needed to talk about.
Funny thing, that.
He heard the familiar loping footsteps when they were still distant from the tent, and forced himself to sit up, noting the lack of headache. He ran a hurried hand over his tangled and sweaty hair, and yanked perfunctorily at the wrinkled bed sheets.
He worried about what he would say, how he would apologize. What the whelp must think of him, reeling about drunk as a fool.
When Xander burst through the door, red faced, distraught, his mouth a tight line of withheld hurt, Spike forgot about all of that.
“Hey, what’s all this?” He was on his feet and cradling the upset man in a second. Xander simply folded into him, like a child. His head pressed into Spike’s neck. The damp silky hair catching in Spike’s mouth. His hands gripped Spike’s back and pulled him down with him onto the mattress.
“Xander, what’s wrong, what’s happened, pet?”
Xander shook his head against Spike’s neck and punched him softly in the back with the knuckles of one hand.
“Right,” Spike chuckled and rubbed his cheek in Xander’s hair and stroked the hot tense back. “Sorry about that. Pet.” He smiled when the knuckles punched him a little harder.
Xander pulled back infinitesimally. “Everything sucks,” he pronounced.
Spike tried to look into his face, tipping his head back, gently caressing Xander’s cheeks with his thumbs.
“You and the Watcher had a nice talk, I take it?”
Xander’s mouth drew into that tight line again.
“Ah,” said Spike.
“He doesn’t get it.”
“Of course not,” said Spike. He brushed the dark hair back from Xander’s eyes. “What doesn’t he get?”
“Wha…” Spike drew back. “You told him? What did you tell him?”
“That we’re…” Xander shrugged. “I don’t know. I told him that I love you,” he said.
Shivering corkscrews were released in Spike’s belly. He pulled Xander in and hugged him hard. “Why’d you do that, Xan?” he whispered.
“Because it’s true,” said Xander simply.
Spike felt suddenly that he could conquer the world. Or destroy it. Fight a thousand demons. March across the face of the planet, leading an army of humans. Climb to the top of one of those gushing volcanoes they had in the south. Stand in the sunset. Anything. Whatever Xander wanted.
Instead he folded his arms just a little more closely around the unhappy boy and rested his cheek on the top of his head. “You hungry?” he asked softly.
“No,” said Xander.
“You hafta eat, luv. If I make somethin’, will you try to eat it? For me?”
Xander nodded and Spike rose and went to the kitchen area. He pulled out the little container of food and pushed a couple of the packages into the stove.
Xander curled in a fetal position on the bed, pulling at a bit of sheet with one hand looking like a small child about to suck his thumb.
“Hey,” said Spike, coming back to Xander and gently drawing him upwards again. “Lemmee make up the bed again and get you a warm blanket…” He wandered over to the piles of clothing. “Probably should clean up in here,” he added, poking at the heaps of laundry.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Xander woodenly, having fallen back to the mattress. “God,” he addressed the tent ceiling. “I feel like such crap. Like… like it’s all back to what it was again.”
Spike found a relatively clean blanket, brought it back to the bed. Xander accepted it without comment or movement, still staring with great sorrowful eyes up at the ceiling.
Then suddenly he sat up, miraculously energized. “Hey, Spike?” he asked. “Where’d you get the booze?”
Xander stood, legs wide apart and arms folded across his chest, looking with disdain down upon his fallen comrade. “There,” he said, “that proves it.”
“Don’t prove nothin’,” said Spike to the dirt. He pushed himself up on his forearms and his head swiveled in a liquid arc to find Xander. He glared at Xander’s kneecap.
“Come down here with the rest of us, whelp,” he demanded.
“Spike,” said Xander wearily. He swayed. Caught himself.
“Yeah?” said Spike. He pushed himself up with great concentration and victoriously found himself sitting upright.
Xander looked down at the ringlets of gold and brown hair falling around Spike’s face. At the soft pink lower lip. From this angle Spike looked like a pretty doll. Xander laughed.
“What?” said Spike.
“Nah ah ah…” said Xander, shaking his head solemnly from side to side. When Spike pouted and frowned, that luscious lip poked out further. The scar showed more prominently against the black eyebrows. It made Xander feel all tingly. He laughed again.
“Damned irritatin’ fool child,” growled Spike. “Would you get yer arse down here and tell me what is so funny?”
“I would,” said Xander. “But I can’t.”
Spike carefully placed his hands behind him and successfully tipped back far enough to look up at Xander without falling over once more. The lights in the tent behind Xander’s head swayed back and forth. Back and forth. “Stand still,” said Spike. “And sit down,” he added.
Xander laughed again. “I can’t.”
“Why the hell not?”
“I can’t bend my knees.”
“Oh,” said Spike. He regarded said knees for a few long moments. Then he tackled Xander.
Giles frowned at the wall in front of him and reflected that he really did not have a stick or any other particularly stiff object stuck up his ass.
He wasn’t rigid in his thinking. He wasn’t narrow-minded. He certainly wasn’t a bigot. He couldn’t think what had possessed him to so cruelly attack Xander. It was just that of all the creatures in the history of the human race the last one he would have hoped to see survive to the end of time, was Spike.
And to find his young friend involved with the obnoxious wastrel of a vampire was intolerable.
Dahla came back into the room with the newly filled pot of tea and Giles sat up, taking the things from her helpfully and setting them to the side of the books and sketches laid out across the table.
Then Hope entered the room and Giles was completely distracted from his musings. He felt again that almost hypnotic fascination with the child. She came shyly up to him, her eyes curious but intelligent.
She handed him a plate of cookies.
“*Thank you,*” said Giles and she dimpled when she smiled. He reached impulsively to tuck a strand of flaxen hair behind her ear and she turned her head slightly into the small caress. It was a movement so oddly familiar it made Giles ache.
Dahla murmured something, bent over the drawings. Giles pulled his attention away from Hope.
Later, perhaps during the sunset ceremony, he would speak to Xander again. He would make things right again between himself and the boy.
“*Platenspalllllmmm….*” moaned Spike, panting.
Xander released Spike’s cock with a little ‘pop’. “You know,” he murmured, laying his tongue against the crease at the top of Spike’s thigh. “I hope you’re just babbling,” he mumbled into the cool, soft flesh he found there. He laved the skin and dragged his tongue into the curling hair, “and not putting a curse on me or anything…”
“Bluuurgn…” whined Spike and thrust his cock urgently towards Xander’s mouth.
Xander smiled and allowed his tongue to run up the underside of Spike’s cock. The soft foreskin tugged under his tongue and he felt a throb in his own cock as he wrapped his lips again around the head, sucking gently, enjoying the taste, the feel.
He could so get used to this, he thought, with absolutely no sense of surprise in his own mind.
“Xan…” Spike whined and panted, trembling as he fought not to thrust.
Xander dipped his head obediently, taking Spike’s cock to the back of his throat in one easy movement. There were certain things at which Xander had always been a very quick study.
He gently pushed Spike’s balls up against the underside of his cock and started swallowing rhythmically. The body beneath him jerked and quivered and nonsensical vowels and cries filled the air.
Xander felt taloned fingers buried in his hair, a voice screamed ‘luv!’ and cold salty cream flooded his throat and spilled out the corners of his mouth.
He could so get used to this.
Giles and Dahla set aside their various research materials when the patrolmen arrived to escort Dahla to the sunset ceremony. Giles smiled at their surprise to see him alert and apparently sane, and at their easy acceptance almost immediately afterwards of his presence.
For such a formal people they were remarkably flexible, he thought. He was a little taken aback at their reactions to Hope. The child apparently did not usually attend the sunset ceremonies, and her appearance at Giles’ side, and apparent determination to remain there, was obviously noted with a kind of nervous rolling of eyes and occasional glance backwards.
He wondered what it was about the little girl that made the other villagers so nervous.
Berynn had fallen in beside him, as if Giles were his by some kind of default and he readily accepted the attractive young man’s easy company. Berynn didn’t speak much. Although Giles had quickly learned the villagers’ language, it was after all merely an evolved form of Gaelic, he was more comfortable when he didn’t have to converse in it constantly. Berynn glanced up at him occasionally and sometimes he would touch his shoulder. Now and then he would gesture at some landmark he thought Giles might find noteworthy. He was altogether a pleasant companion.
They were almost past the vampires’ tents, approaching the cliff stairs to the greenhouses when they heard the unmistakable moans and cries coming from the tents.
Giles was stunned to a halt. He looked quickly, blushing, around the gathered people. Expecting to see, he knew not what. Fear? Disgust?
They appeared, instead, to be tolerantly amused. Berynn grinned up at him. His cheeks glowed pink in the dim light.
The voice coming from the tent was unmistakably Xander.
“Ah! Spike, yes!” followed by a thud and a loud groan.
Berynn dipped his head, still grinning. Some of the others smiled knowingly at one another.
Giles wanted to put his hands over Hope’s ears. He wanted to march up to the tent and demand that they stop.
What he did was stride away as quickly as possible. Hoping that the sounds of passion would not interrupt the solemnity of the ceremony.
He and Xander were going to have to have a little chat.
Xander blinked the sweat out of his eyes and shook his head heavily from side to side to clear his brains a bit.
Spike lay under him practically folded in two. His heels above his head. His bound hands stretched up to the foot of the stove. A big grin on his face. A glob of cum slowly slid from his chin and fell with a soft plop to the floor.
“Fuck,” said Xander. “I think that sobered me up.”
Spike laughed softly.
Xander found his limbs still attached to his body and eased himself slowly out of and off of Spike. He helped him lower his legs and reached to untie his hands.
“No, leave it,” growled Spike, yellow amber flickering in his eyes.
“Yeah?” Xander grinned down at him. His gaze, like a soft caress, stroked the planes of Spike’s body and rested with possessive pride on the already hardening cock. “Yeah, oh fuck yeah,” he whispered, crawling down to gently touch that member with his sensitized mouth.
Spike moaned and arched against him.
It takes a people many years to design a religion. Because it’s an emotional creation, not a logical one. It evolves from a need for some sense of meaning. A need for resolution, for redemption. A need to release the past in order to get on with the living. And a need for hope.
The people of Earth solemnly lit their tiny precious lights, one at a time, as they recited the lore of the birth and life of the sun. How the evil had conquered it. They told of the ones who had stood by the light until the end. Of their reward in the times to come, when the sun would return in glory.
They shared the lights amongst themselves, passing them from hand to hand with the ritual words. Then they all gathered near the small altar of burning incense and flowers, and in unison, repeated The Promise.
Giles stood respectfully at the back of the small throng and watched as the ritual was performed.
Dahla emerged towards the end and came towards him holding in her hands one of the tiny flickering lights. With an awe that surprised Giles, given his adopted role of non-participating observer at this event, he took the small light and repeated the words to Dahla. She smiled up at him and he saw something soften in her eyes. Some pain lessen just slightly.
He wondered what she hoped for.
They finished the ritual, and attended to their gardens. Giles followed Berynn and his family, curiously. He noted the distance between the young man and his relatives. They seemed to avoid his touch. It was very strange, reflected Giles. Knowing how soothing Berynn’s touch could be.
When they came away, walking slowly and contentedly back to their village, Giles found a place next to Berynn and purposely looped his arm with the other man’s. Berynn looked up at him in surprise and pleasure. And Giles reminded himself that different didn’t necessarily mean bad. And that when he spoke to Xander, he should keep that in mind.
As they once again passed the tents, Giles paused and released Berynn’s arm. He gestured “*Go on,*” he said. He stood there as the villagers departed and wondered what he was going to say.
Once, Xander had been given an ice cream cone by a strange man. Even if his parents had bothered to tell him not to accept offers of candy and rides from strangers, Xander would have probably accepted this man’s offer. It was late in a long hot summer. One in which his friends had gone to camp, or spent days at the pool participating in YMCA events. Things Xander’s parents hadn’t thought to enroll him in. So he had had nothing to do for weeks, and no one to do it with. His hollow, overly tall, boy’s body was perpetually hungry, and he had no allowance money with which to buy treats.
The man was obviously harmless, Xander had thought. He had had a soft, friendly face, and was smallish and looked not at all dangerous. And he was standing in the door of an ice cream parlor on a very hot summer’s day, gesturing towards Xander and offering to buy him a treat. For no reason whatsoever.
Later, Xander would look back on that and realize that there had been some kind of cruel joke in the gesture. Some want to humiliate. But all he really remembered was the size of the ice cream the man had bought him. Five dips of chocolate ice cream, teetering perilously atop a slender sugar cone.
“Now don’t let it melt before you eat it,” said the man, grinning.
It was over a hundred degrees in the shade, and as Xander stepped out onto the sidewalk, the ice cream began immediately to dissolve into liquid. Xander had devoured the confection as fast as he could. But still, his brain wincing with the freeze, his throat convulsing to try to stop the cold liquid from flooding it even as his mouth continue to bite off and lick great mouthfuls, the ice cream melted helplessly down his hand and his face, down his neck, great chocolaty rivers staining his shirt and pouring in pools of brown liquid to the concrete below.
He felt like that as he moved now over Spike. His mouth hungrily sucked and licked the satiny, cold skin, his tongue seemed not wide enough to catch it all, his lips were sore but couldn’t stop gnawing at the delicious taste. He rubbed his hot chest and pelvis into Spike’s agreeably aroused flesh and groaned as he tried to consume him before he disappeared.
Somehow he found his teeth pressing into the soft bit between Spike’s collarbone and Adam’s apple. Blindly, instinctively, with overwhelming hunger, he tried to bite into and swallow Spike.
The vampire yelped beneath him as his teeth gouged bloody holes into his skin. Xander chewed ferociously. He held Spike down and devoured him, vaguely registering the skin beneath his lips shifting, the pelvis thrusting into his, increasing the urgency and force of its thrusts.
Spike’s blood was cold chocolate ice cream on a hot boring summer’s day. It was a glass of pure sparkling mineral water. The first beer after a morning of yard work. A nutrient in which he had unknowingly always been deficient.
Xander licked and sucked and drank. He felt hard hands lift his head away and whimpered, trying to go back to the source.
“No, luv,” said Spike. His mouth closed over Xander’s. Xander felt teeth prick at his lips. His hands came up and pulled that sensation closer. More. He wanted more, he needed more.
Giles stood pensively, some ten paces from the tents, and pondered what he would say to Xander.
He was surprised to realize that in all the years of Xander’s adolescence and early adulthood, although Giles had spent time with him daily, and although he was, obviously, the only real adult influence in Xander’s life, the boy had never asked him, and they had never discussed, sex.
There had never even been the quick passing of a package of condoms or the meaningful nod of the head and ‘be careful’ that was standard between a man and a boy for whom he had some responsibility.
Giles felt slightly ashamed and confused about this.
But Xander had seemed, really, to manage it all quite nicely without Giles’ help. And Giles acknowledged to himself now, standing several centuries later in his quandary, that it had been something of a relief not to have to discuss the subject with Xander.
Giles had his own obsessions and nebulous dark past to wrestle. Xander only brought up issues with which he had made an uneasy and shaky peace. He had been happy not to have to approach those topics with the boy.
But now, Giles found he was both trying not to hear, and listening avidly for, the sounds issuing from the tent in front of him. Now, the subject was raised and staring him in the face like a medieval Gryphon guarding the path. Now he had to deal with it.
Xander flailed and managed to pull the shirt off his face from where it had fallen. He rose on one elbow and found Spike’s face, by touch, somewhere down the length of his tingling body.
“Hey,” he said.
“Agh,” said Spike. He raised his head slowly, a pair of silky boxers sliding off it, and stared up at Xander. His tongue came out and licked at something clinging to his upper lip. Xander blinked and grimaced and wondered what it was.
“God,” he said. “We lost control again, I think.”
Spike laughed, raised himself and crawled up to collapse across Xander. His lips pressed into Xander’s and just stayed there.
“Lvooo,” said Spike, his eyes wide open and burning, two inches away, into Xander’s. Xander pushed Spike’s face slightly away, with weak and shaking hands. “What?” he whispered disbelievingly.
“I love you,” said Spike breathlessly, his voice rough and broken with all the screaming. His eyes a pure blue, like new cornflowers in an untouched field. Vulnerable as an innocent boy’s.
Xander’s thumb softly stroked Spike’s jaw.
“Xander?!” Giles voice. Just outside the tent. Xander’s heart leapt and his body came alert with a painful suddenness.
“Yip?” he squeaked. “Yeah?” he squeaked again. Pathetic much? He cleared his throat. “Yes, Giles,” he managed to call out in a general approximation of his normal voice. He and Spike stared at each other.
“May I speak to you for a moment?” Giles sounded uncomfortable.
Xander became suddenly horribly aware of his face. He brought a finger up and rubbed it at what felt itchy and dry on his cheek. Looked at his finger. Rusty red. And gooey. He had blood on his face. He wriggled free of Spike, who jumped away from him immediately, looking scared and almost transparent in his insecurity and Xander really really wanted to grab Spike and fix that fear right away but…
“Give me a minute, Giles,” he shouted. He tried to give Spike a reassuring look, while he desperately searched for, found and yanked on some clothes lying nearby. He scrubbed at his face desperately.
“Do we have any water?” he whispered. Spike’s eyes jerked to the extensive supply of water jugs propped against the one wall of the tent. Xander ran over and wastefully tipped a full jug over his face, splashing his entire head and neck and a good part of the shirt he wore with the liquid.
He stood, shaking his head hard, water spraying from his flopping hair.
“Xander?” called the old man outside.
Spike was looking up at him. And Xander wanted to call out to Giles to go fuck himself. That he had better things to do. He wanted to grab Spike and tell him things. And show him things.
“I’m coming, Giles,” he called, and turned to the door of the tent.
Giles was grateful for the darkness when Xander emerged from the tent, dipping his damp head through the flap and stretching unconsciously as he stood outside, looking for him.
Giles could feel how red his face must be, from the heat in his skin. He cleared his throat, and Xander’s shy, dark gaze found him where he stood beneath the trees.
Giles gestured towards one of the benches that had been placed there.
And then they sat there, looking out over the darkness at the end of time. A man and a teenage boy. And talked about sex and love and what those things meant. Or rather, Giles being wise, Xander talked and Giles listened.
Xander talked about being surprised by miracles and finding compassion where none was expected.
Giles recommended perspective and caution.
Xander laughed because this was a conversation he had had once with his own son.
“I told him, he should think about what he wanted in the long run, Giles,” said Xander, shaking his head and gazing into the distance at some fond and self-mocking memory. “You’d think I’d know better, growing up on a Hellmouth. There is no guaranteed long run. There’s just here and now and what we have.”
Giles thought uncomfortably of a similar conversation he had had once with his own father. “There’s duty and obligation, still, Xander,” he said.
Xander glanced at him. The remaining distant glow in the sky slid across those dark eyes, and for a moment Giles saw the man Xander had become. A man with a life of experience, in an adolescent body. “I have an obligation to live my own truth, Giles,” Xander said. The words seemed so incongruous spoken by the young earnest face.
Giles felt suddenly a moment of heart-piercing doubt. He thought of the passion his father had warned him against and for the first time in many decades remembered the ache of roads not taken. “Perhaps,” he murmured. “But…” he shook off the memory. “But, Xander, think. This is Spike.”
“He’s not as bad as that, Giles,” said Xander softly, leaning forward on his knees, looking off towards the boiling clouds as they hung, barely glowing still from the setting sun.
“His demonic status notwithstanding, Xander, Spike is quite old. Ancient, really. Don’t you wonder what agenda he might have?”
Xander swiveled slightly to look at him with disbelief. “Agenda? Spike?”
Giles smiled at this. “Yes, er, well perhaps that word implies too much thought.”
“He’s not stupid, Giles,” snapped Xander. And Giles wondered if Xander realized just how protective he sounded. Xander sighed and shook his head. “Sorry. It’s just… Spike’s not the planning type, you know? He doesn’t work out some game ahead of time and then play it. He’s not like Angel,” he pronounced the last word with an unconscious but obvious distaste.
“Yes, I would agree with you there, Xander,” said Giles, wondering what had happened between Angel and Xander during his period of instability. “Spike has no sense of mission, no remorse…”
“Just because he doesn’t walk around moaning about his sins doesn’t mean he’s not sorry, Giles.” Xander rubbed at his neck fitfully. “There’s a lot of guilt in there. I don’t think even Spike sees it. But he hates himself so much, thinks he doesn’t deserve anything…” he drifted, seeing Spike’s eyes as he had left him in the tent. He rubbed his bite again, feeling unsettled.
And that was what drew Giles eyes, finally, to the scars. The small wounds. “Xander,” he said, the blood rushing to his head, his temper unfurling and licking through his blood. “What is that on your neck?” he said distinctly.
Xander froze. “Ah…”
“Xander,” said Giles, icy and precise. “I think that now you are going to tell me that those marks on your neck are the result of a freak accident and not…”
“Bite marks?” said Xander softly.
Giles could not speak. He could not move. He looked at his hands, the fingers were clenched, the knuckles white.
“It’s not uh, what you might think,” Xander began lamely.
“That you are addicted to vampire bite?” said Giles.
“Its not exactly an addiction.”
“Really,” said Giles, his mind sailing smoothly over his rage like a windjammer over a rough sea. “How long has it been since the last time that that…” he couldn’t say the word, “that thing bit you?”
Xander looked away, his voice seeming to come from a distance. “Maybe half an hour.”
Giles wondered if he would have to sneak up on Spike, or if his rage alone would give him the strength and speed he needed to stake the vampire. At the moment, the anger felt superhuman in its power.
“I asked him to,” said Xander. “It… it makes me feel connected to him.”
Giles wanted to weep. “Yes,” he said. “I have heard that.”
“I…I bite him too,” said Xander, turning back to his friend, a hopeful look on his face as if somehow this changed things. Made the taking mutual.
But Giles was staring at him with, if possible, even more horror. “My God,” he breathed, “he’s trying to turn you.”
“No!” said Xander.
And the alarm horn sounded from the village.
Xander jumped to his feet and spun around. The horn sounded again. There were sounds of hurried movement in the tent, and even as the boy sprinted down the hill, a half clothed Spike burst from the tent, running after him.
Giles followed as quickly as he could.
|Feed the Author|
|Home||Categories||New Stories||Non Spander|