Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: NC17/Slash
Spoilers: Through end of season 5.
Summary: Spike reflects on the changes time has wrought in his life.
Notes: Written for Summer of Spike.
Warning: Character death.
Feedback: It’s ALL about the feedback (and naked Spike)! Don’t make me beg, it’s not pretty.
Disclaimer: I don’t own these characters, just borrowing them for awhile. Everything belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Grr Argh, the WB, UPN and whomever else they really belong to, although I wouldn’t mind having a Spike of my own. Who would? The story is mine, though.
Thanks: To Tammy, for the most excellent beta! You are a gem among—uh—other shiny stuff.
Written: July 7, 2004






What Brought Us Here


by
Spikedluv



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Part One

Spike sat in the padded deck chair, looking out into the night. The moon shown down brightly, lighting up the back yard and shining off the small pool, and stars twinkled merrily in the sky, but he paid neither any attention. He sighed deeply as he considered the changes in his life. Sunnydale. He shook his head. That’s where everything had gone so wrong for him, from the very beginning, from the moment he’d stepped into this godforsaken town. He’d gotten hurt here, lost Dru here, been chipped here, and fallen in love with the Slayer here.

It was also where everything had finally gone right for him. Where he’d found a new family. He hadn’t seen it coming. It had happened slowly, gradually, but one day he’d looked around and realized he was surrounded by family. And not the kind of family who have to put up with you, but the kind that grows from friends becoming more, forming a connection, sliding their way into your heart until the pain of separation would hurt worse than any torture Angelus could have inflicted.

He had that now, that deep connection, but change stood just around the corner and it made his heart ache. Life never stood still. No matter how much you were enjoying a moment, or maybe because you were enjoying it so much, it was bound to change. He shifted the weight in his arms, pulled her a bit closer, and gently kissed the top of her head, her hair soft against his lips, and contemplated how she had come to be here. In his life, in his arms.

The summer after Buffy died had been rough. He’d only gotten through it by concentrating on Dawn and the healing his body had to do so he could protect her like he’d promised. He’d failed once, he bloody well wouldn’t do so again. Dawn started high school that fall, and once she was distracted with school work, friends, and boys, Spike fell into a depression. Strangely enough, it had been Tara who’d attempted to comfort him. Who listened to him when he talked about Buffy, held him when he cried, and insisted time would dull the pain he felt each time he thought of her.

He’d let the scent of her wash over him, reveling in her touch, and in soft words he didn’t believe. Nothing would make the ache go away, because it was pain borne of guilt as much as love. It was his fault that Dawn had been cut, that Buffy had been forced to die in her place. He hadn’t been quick enough, smart enough. He used to dream, every night, of saving her. Of doing something different, being faster, more clever. But every morning he’d wake up, and she’d still be dead.

In the end, it was Dawn who pulled him out of it. She harangued him about getting on with his life, having fun, meeting a nice vamp lady. When that didn’t work, she did the only thing that would have. She got on with her own life. When Spike found out that Dawn had gone on her first date without him knowing about it, much less having done a thorough background check on the boy in question, he realized he needed to live in the now. If for no other reason than to make sure Dawn was protected from the opposite sex.

He remembered how he’d roared when the witches told him she was out on a date, and then stalked through Sunnydale—slaying any demon unwise enough to cross his path—until he found her at the Dairy Land. He hid in the shadows and followed her until she was safely home. Deciding that was going to be the last time that happened, he made sure he knew who she was with and where she was going so he didn’t have to search for her next time.

For nearly five years he shared the Summers’ home with Willow, Tara, and Dawn, sleeping in the basement he’d helped Xander renovate. Despite the Council’s urging, Giles had remained in Sunnydale. He’d no longer had a Slayer to watch, but he owned a business and, as he’d told Quentin Travers, had a family to care for. He’d continued to run the Magic Box with Anya’s assistance.

Xander and Anya announced their engagement and, almost a year after Buffy’s death, got married. They decided to wait to have children so they could save up for a small house, as Anya explained in excruciating detail, showing Spike pictures of houses interspersed with sickeningly cute pictures of babies. Naked on a blanket, in frilly dresses and bonnets, sleeping, laughing, crying, until he was nearly in tears himself.

That phase ended, though Spike knew Anya had one of the baby pictures laminated and kept it in her wallet. He’d caught her mooning over it once, and she’d smiled sadly, then turned it over and showed him a small pencil drawing of a house Xander had designed, and called it their dream home. He shook his head. She’d wanted the ‘American Dream’ so badly.

Life went on as quietly as it could on the Hellmouth. The next year, Willow and Tara graduated from UC Sunnydale. Tara became a counselor for victims of demonic attacks and started a small coven. Willow went on to grad school and helped Tara with her coven duties. The year after that, Xander was promoted at work to Assistant Foreman. The following year, Dawn graduated from high school and made preparations to go to UCLA, where she’d be close to home if she needed them, and far enough away so they’d let her grow up, while everyone else made plans for the graduation party to end all graduation parties.

That summer, Anya got pregnant. Spike got a perverse pleasure out of seeing the ex-vengeance demon both giddy and fearful, and even more pleasure out of the way she drove Xander nuts with her baby books and lists. Xander could often be found hiding in Spike’s basement, and once made a joke about the irony of it. Spike, still evil, thank you, was quick to point out that his basement was nicer.

To Spike’s utter surprise, he and Xander had grown closer over the years since Buffy’s death. Another gradual process that culminated in the relationship they shared now. Spike saw the way Xander cared for his girls, the way he fought when there was no way he could win, and the way he used humor to defuse even the most tense situation. Xander once told him that he’d noted how Spike had stuck around to protect Dawn, extending his protection to all of them, even though Buffy wasn’t around to impress anymore, and it had made him question his deeply-held beliefs about the vampire.

One night, not long after returning from their honeymoon, a drunken Xander had confided that he’d hated Spike because, even though he had Anya, a small part of him had still been in love with Buffy, and he wasn’t sure what he’d have done if she’d chosen a vampire over him again. The next night, Xander had appeared in Spike’s basement looking sheepish, nervous, and angry. He’d asked Spike if he was going to tell Anya what Xander had said about Buffy.

Instead of taking offense, Spike had slapped him on the back and asked him if he wanted to go play pool, and then taken the basement stairs two at a time. “Does that mean ‘no’?” Xander’d yelled after him. He grinned at the memory of Xander practically running to keep pace with him as he headed for The Bronze, scuttling sideways and grabbing at his duster sleeve as he tried to pin Spike down.

Finally he’d stopped walking and turned to Xander. “Look, Harris,” he’d said casually, “we’re friends, right?” Xander had looked at him with wide eyes, a deer in the headlight look, and then admitted that, yes, they were friends, he supposed. “Friends tell each other stuff,” Spike said with a shrug, “and they can count on the other not to repeat it.”

The worry on Xander’s face had slowly faded, and a small smile curved his lips. For the first time in...well, ever, he supposed...Spike had a male friend. From the look of relief and surprise on Xander’s face, Spike figured it had been a long time for him, too.

The girls let Xander use the shed in the back during the fall after Anya announced her pregnancy. He’d stocked it with the equipment he needed, and then made a cradle for the baby. Spike had watched him measure, cut, and sand each piece, grumbling when Xander put a rag in his hand, and then eagerly setting to work with the stain. When it was complete, both men had proudly contemplated it.

Despite both working, Xander and Anya hadn’t been able to save enough for a down payment on a house that was within their price range, yet big enough for the family they envisioned. Now that Anya was pregnant and they had the expense of the baby to worry about, house hunting was placed on the back burner in favor of cleaning out the closet which would serve as the baby’s room until they got something else, and picking out furnishings, toys, blankets, and clothes.

Anya was in heaven when she wasn’t worried about how she could possibly screw up her ‘spawn’s’ life. Xander assured her that she would be a great mother, and recruited the rest of them to do the same, and then took his life into his own hands when he forbade her to watch any more daytime talk shows until after the baby came. The first time Anya had an ultrasound and they saw the baby, they came over to the house with the pictures which the girls ooh’d and aah’d over, though Spike thought it looked sort of like the monkey-demon they’d killed the week before. Xander’s hands were shaking when Spike stuck a glass of scotch in them.

***

Christmas that year was an especially festive occasion. Dawn was home after her first extended stay away from her family, and Anya was showing. Most of the gifts for Xander and Anya were for the baby, and many of the gifts from them to the others were handmade by Xander in his new workshop—a picture frame holding a picture of the entire group for Dawn, small compartmentalized boxes for the witches to hold their herbs, a small liquor cabinet with fancy scroll work for Giles, and a bedside table with one drawer and shelves to hold the books he thought he’d had well-hidden for Spike. January was depressing after the joy of the holidays, but Spike and Xander managed to spend some quality bonding time at The Bronze when Xander wasn’t busy trying to find the odd foodstuffs Anya was craving.

In February, a month before her due date, Anya had started bleeding. She was at the Magic Box where she’d been doing light duty for the last month—she was afraid to leave Giles in charge of the cashbox—and Giles rushed her to the hospital. Giles had tried frantically to reach Xander, but by the time he’d arrived at the hospital, the baby had been delivered and was in a premie incubator. Anya had lost too much blood to survive.

Giles had met Xander in the doorway of the waiting area, his face streaked with tears. “G-man?” Xander had asked worriedly, looking behind the man he considered a father figure to his friends’ grim expressions.

“The baby’s fine,” Giles told him. “But Anya... They couldn’t stop the bleeding. I’m so sorry, Xander.”

Xander hadn’t broken down, not then. He’d gone to see Anya, to say his goodbyes, and then his friends had led him to the nursery. He and Anya had talked about names for the baby, Jesse if it was a boy, and Joyce or Elizabeth if it was a girl, and Anya’s last act, the only act she’d get to perform as a mother, was to name their baby. The card on the incubator read ‘Jesse Joyce Elizabeth Harris’.

“Quite a mouthful for such a tiny bit of a thing,” Spike observed as he’d stood next to Xander before the glass window, shoulders rubbing in a supportive manner.

“Yeah.” Xander had given a half-laugh. “I hope it’s a girl.” And then he’d started crying. Spike gave him a manly pat on the shoulder and then stepped back by the Watcher’s side so the girls could smother him with love and compassion.

Xander had visited the hospital everyday to hold and feed Jess, even the day they buried Anya. When she was allowed to go home three weeks later, Xander took time off so he could get used to being a father. A single father. The girls visited him each day, taking turns to hold, feed, and change the baby. Spike usually showed up after patrol, when he thought Xander and Jess would be alone. Each night he left later and later, until some mornings the sun was already coming up and he had no choice but to stay the day.

It didn’t take Spike long to realize that this was right where he wanted to be. Where he needed to be. Dawn was away at college, and the witches didn’t need him living in their basement. But Xander.... Xander needed him. Jess needed him. He didn’t know how to broach the subject to Xander, so he didn’t. The next time he came to visit he brought an overnight bag...and never left.

Because Spike was normally up all night, he took the late-night, early-morning feedings, and then slept the rest of the day away while Xander spent time with Jess before Willow showed up after her classes. Tara joined her after work before they both headed over to the Magic Box for research. Spike would go with them and patrol before returning to Xander’s apartment to take his stint with Jess.

One night, after Spike had been living with Xander for a couple weeks, Xander stared at him funny when he returned to the apartment after patrol. “What?” he’d asked, checking himself over to make sure he didn’t have blood on him anywhere.

“Are you living here?” Xander had asked while he bounced Jess on his shoulder.

Spike froze, unsure in the face of Xander’s odd reaction. “Depends,” he finally said.

“On what?” Xander asked.

“On how you feel about that,” Spike admitted.

Xander stared at him. “Hmmm,” he said, and then handed Jess to him and went to bed.

Jess had looked at him, gurgled, and smiled. Spike smiled back. “That went well,” he whispered.

The next day the witches delivered the rest of Spike’s stuff from the basement. Xander went back to work after his eight weeks were up, and Spike stayed at the apartment to take care of Jess. When Xander got home from work, tired and sore, the three of them spent some time together, and then Spike would go on patrol, leaving Xander and Jess alone for some father-daughter bonding.

Eventually, Xander got tired of being cooped up in the apartment and brought Jess to the Magic Box for research. Luckily there wasn’t a pending apocalypse, since no actual research got done that first night. Spike and Xander went on patrol like old times, while Giles and the witches watched Jess. After that evening, Xander made a point of attending research a couple times a week so he could get out once in a while.

***

Dawn, who had returned to Sunnydale briefly for Anya’s funeral, and for a week over spring break, came home for the summer. Willow finished grad school that year, and she and Tara got married in a commitment ceremony that was performed on the beach under the light of the moon. Spike held Jess while Xander danced with Willow and Tara, keeping one eye on Dawn who was dancing with a boy she’d dated in high school, and who was home for the summer just as she was.

Life continued to move forward, small changes sprinkling their lives. Dawn and Keith, the boy she’d danced with at Willow and Tara’s commitment ceremony, started seeing each other, Jess got her first tooth and learned to crawl, and the witches began talking about adopting. Jess spoke her first word. Luckily Spike and she were alone at the time, because it wasn’t ‘Dada’ as Xander thought, and Spike resolved to stop swearing around the baby.

They celebrated Jess’s first Christmas as a family. Dawn divided her holiday between spending time with Willow and Tara, helping out at the Magic Box, and hanging out with Xander, Spike, and the baby. Jess began to walk and turned one. Xander drove himself nuts planning the best birthday party for her, and after a day loaded with excitement, Jess fell asleep in Spike’s arms while Xander giddily opened her presents.

A couple months after her first birthday, Jess had fallen down and bloodied her lip when Spike wasn’t home. Xander freaked and raced her to the hospital. When Spike got home from patrol, he smelled blood and freaked in turn when he couldn’t find Xander and Jess, or a note. He was just calling the witches when he sensed his missing family coming down the hallway. He rushed to the door and yanked it open, admitting a white-faced Xander carrying a sleeping Jess.

“What happened? Where in hell have you been?” Spike asked, nearly whining due to the residual fear choking him. He reached out and ran a gentle finger over the small cut on her lip.

“Hospital,” Xander whispered. “Just let me put her down.”

Spike had nearly vibrated out of his skin while waiting for Xander to return to the living room, wondering what could have happened to their little girl that meant Xander had to take her to the hospital without calling him. He’d checked his cell phone to make sure it was on and there weren’t any missed calls, and was just stuffing it back into his pocket when Xander had appeared. He’d watched the other man stumble to the couch and drop onto it. Xander had slouched forward with his elbows on his thighs and ran his fingers through his hair, making it stand up. He’d dropped his hands between his knees, and Spike could see they were shaking.

“Xan....”

“Sh-she fell,” he’d said, his voice cracking. “We were playing. I twirled her around, and put her down, and.... She must have still been dizzy but I didn’t.... I mean, she smiled at me, and then she turned around and just...fell. She hit h-her face on the coffee table. Cut her lip.” He’d huffed a self-deprecating laugh. “Didn’t even need stitches.”

“Xan....”

“God, I suck at this!” he’d yelled, fingers once more in his hair. “I’m the worst father ever. Even worse than mine.”

Spike had shucked his jacket and jumped over the back of the couch. Xander had barely registered him. He’d grabbed Xander’s arm and shook him. “Stop it,” he’d commanded. “You’re not a bad father, much less the worst. In fact, you’re a great father.”

“She got hurt because of me.”

“Kids get hurt. It’s a fact of life. Yeah, scary as hell when it’s happening, but normal. She won’t even remember it tomorrow,” he’d tried to reassure the other man.

“It could have been so much worse....”

“But it wasn’t.”

Xander had leaned forward and rubbed the corner of the table. “Maybe I should round the edges....”

Spike grabbed his fingers. “Yes, Xander, by all means, round the edges if that will make you feel better. But stop thinkin’ you’re a bad father. ‘Cause you’re not. You’re a great dad. The best bloody dad ever, in fact.” He paused as his words sunk in. “I didn’t mean....”

“I know.” Xander turned his hand so he was clutching Spike’s fingers. “Thanks for saying that....”

“‘M not just sayin’ it, Xander,” Spike whispered urgently. “I mean it.”

Xander had just looked at him sadly.

“C’mere.” Spike pulled Xander into a hug and leaned back against the couch.

“She’s so little.”

“I know, pet.”

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“No one does first time out. But you’re smart, you’ll figure it out.”

Xander sniffled. “Did you just say I’m smart?”

Spike shrugged. “Tell anyone and I’ll have to kill you.”

A tear slid down Xander’s cheek. “I can’t do this alone. It’s too hard.”

“You don’t have to.”

“It’s not just.... Being alone sucks, and I just....”

Spike had gently wiped the tear away, and Xander closed his eyes. “You don’t have to be alone,” he said softly. “Not if you.... If you don’t....”

Spike hesitated, and then shook his head. This was the hardest thing he’d ever done. The most important thing he’d ever done. He couldn’t screw it up. But he wasn’t just nervous that Xander would turn him down, maybe ask him to leave so that he was no longer part of his life, of Jess’s life, he’d also been filled with shock and wonder.

He’d never realized, never imagined that his feelings for Xander ran so deep. Sure, they were friends, good friends. They shared a home, a child, a bed—though platonically. They watched movies together, played pool, shared beer and conversation, argued over whose turn it was to cook or change Jess’s diaper. And there might have been the occasional sexual fantasy that brought home just how long it had been since he’d had a good shag. He was almost afraid to ask for more. And surprised to realize he even wanted to ask for more.

“Spike?”

He turned back to see Xander looking at him with worried eyes. Hell! How could he even think of telling Xander what he was feeling? Not only might it irreparably harm their friendship, his timing was atrocious. Jess had been hurt and Xander was upset, he couldn’t take advantage of that.

“Spike?” Xander sounded concerned.

He shook his head and tried to smile. “Sorry, Xan, I....”

In a move he didn’t expect or see coming, Xander had cupped his cheek, and then leaned into him and pressed their lips together. Spike, frozen in shock, didn’t respond. Xander pulled back.

“Sorry,” he said, clearly embarrassed. “You didn’t....”

Spike grabbed him before he could move further away or finish his statement. “No, I did!”

“You did?”

“Yeah, I just....” Spike’s eyes drifted to Xander’s lips.

“Just what?”

“Didn’t want to take advantage.”

“Why not? You keep telling me you’re evil,” Xander teased.

“Afraid....”

“Of what?”

“Of...losing this.” He indicated the apartment, their life.

Xander leaned close again, his breath feathering against Spike’s face, their lips almost touching. “What if I promise you won’t lose this?”
Spike moved closer, as if a magnet tugged at him. “I want more, Xander.”

“More?” Xander asked against his lips.

“More than one night.” Spike sucked on Xander’s bottom lip.

“Mmm, ‘kay,” Xander agreed, and then took Spike’s mouth in a desperate, hungry kiss.

An hour later, when they lay naked, sticky, and sated on Xander’s...their...bed, Spike asked, “Do we have to talk this to death?”

“Talk what to death?” Xander asked sleepily.

“This. Us. The male-male thing.”

Xander’s eyes grew wide. “Wait, you mean you’re a man, too?”

“Shut up, tosser,” Spike growled.

The next day had been horrible. Spike shyly touched Xander’s hand before he left for work, and then spent the rest of the day worrying that Xander was having second thoughts. By the time Xander got home, Spike was a nervous wreck and his mood had infected Jess, who was whiny and crotchety. When Xander opened the door, Jess was throwing a tantrum and Spike was ready to pull his hair out.

“Xan!” he said when he saw the other man standing there, jaw dropped open in shock at the scene that greeted him.

“What’s going on?” Xander asked.

“Nothing,” Spike said, ignoring the wailing child.

“Nothing?”

“Want tinky!” Jess sniffled.

“What?”

“Tinky!” she screeched angrily.

“Wha—?”

“She wants a bloody Twinkie,” Spike said in a defeated tone, his shoulders slumping as he tossed a doll onto the couch.

“Spike....”

“You havin’ regrets?” he interrupted to ask, head bowed against the look he was afraid he’d see on Xander’s face.

“No. You?”

Spike closed his eyes, shook his head, and fought back tears of relief. He was a vampire. A bloody demon. An evil creature of the night. He would not cry.

“Spike?”

Spike opened his eyes and Xander was standing right in front of him, a worried expression on his face.

“‘M fine,” he said, trying for breezy and casual, but failing miserably.

“Is this how I’m going to be greeted when I come home from now on? No hugs or welcome home kisses?” Xander teased.

Spike launched himself at Xander and scattered kisses all over his face. “Xander,” he breathed, “so glad you’re home. Missed you, luv.”
After a scary teeter, Xander planted his feet and laughed at Spike’s response, and then started giggling when Spike’s kisses became ticklish. “Spi—.”

Spike cut him off by the expedient measure of covering Xander’s lips with his own. Xander groaned into his mouth and soon the kiss had taken on a life of its own. Hands squeezed his buttocks and lifted him, and Spike hooked his legs around Xander’s waist.

Unbeknownst to the two men who were totally wrapped up in their kissing, Jess’s complaints had died when no one listened to them. She interrupted them now. “Dada kiss!”

“Dada kiss!”

“Me!” She stomped her little foot angrily.

Spike and Xander pulled apart and looked at each other sheepishly before disentangling themselves so Xander could greet Jess. That night at the Magic Box, Jess announced, “Dada kiss!”

Xander grinned, Spike blushed, and Willow cooed, “Oh, that’s so cute! Give Daddy a kiss.”

Xander cast a challenging glance at Spike. Not one to let a challenge pass, Spike smirked back at him. “All right,” he said to Willow, still looking at Xander, and then leaned over and placed a kiss on Xander’s waiting lips, still curved in a smile.

Jess laughed. The rest of the table fell silent. “Dada kiss!” she cried again, obviously loving this new game.

Xander kissed Spike. They pulled apart and turned to look at the stunned faces sitting around the research table. “Everyone all right with that?” Xander asked softly.

“Dada kiss!” Jess chirped happily.

“Of course,” Tara immediately replied in her soft voice.

Willow’s mouth gaped. She just nodded slowly.

Tara slid out of her chair and pulled a speechless Willow after her. She seated herself on Spike’s lap and pushed Willow towards Xander. “But what about our kisses?” she asked.

Spike grinned at her, and then gave her a quick peck on the lips and a longer hug. Tara smiled back, and then looked at Willow and Xander, who were both staring at them. “Well?” she asked. “Hurry up and get your kiss from Xander so I can get mine!”

Willow slowly broke into a smile, and then leaned in and kissed Xander softly on the lips, cradling his face. “I love you,” she whispered. “Are you happy?”

Xander nodded, blinking back tears. “I love you, too. And very,” he said.

Willow nodded, and then hugged him. Jess didn’t let them ignore her for long, and then they were all kissing Jess, while Tara sneaked a kiss from Xander and Willow ended up on Spike’s lap. “If you hurt him....,” she whispered.

“I won’t,” he assured. “Not on purpose, anyway.”

When the girls were seated back in their chairs Xander turned to Giles. “G-man?”

Giles looked startled. “Of course....,” he began.

“You ready for your kisses?”

“...I, er, um, what?” he asked, removing his glasses.

“I just wondered if you wanted us to kiss you, too,” Xander replied with a smirk.

“Oh, um, no, I don’t think a kiss will be nec—,” he began as he slipped his glasses back on.

“Kiss!” Jess insisted.

“Well,” Giles said. “For you, I might be willing to change my mind.”

Xander let Jess go and she crawled across the table to Giles, who merely shoved his book aside and held his hands out to her.

***

Dawn came home that summer and worked at the Magic Box. She and Keith had broken up and she was now casually dating someone named Deke. Spike grilled her on Deke, whom he had never met, every chance he got. When he threatened to hire a private investigator to check Deke out, Dawn suggested he hire Angel Investigations, which shut him up immediately, though not for long.

Mostly, Dawn just smiled and answered all his questions, then grilled him on his relationship with Xander, which had come as a surprise to her when one evening she followed Spike and Xander into the training room and found them pressed against each other trying to ‘find their tonsils’, as she put it when, to Spike’s disgust, she’d had to tell the witches what she’d witnessed.

“Dawn!” Spike had squeaked when he’d realized they had an audience.

“Dawnie,” Xander said, trying for a deeper, manlier sound, and almost achieving it.

Dawn had stood in shocked silence, and then a grin slowly split her face. “So,” she said, waggling her fingers at them, “you two?”

“Ummm, yes?” Spike said, and Xander elbowed him in the side. “I mean, yes,” Spike repeated with a little more certainly, slipping an arm around Xander’s waist.

Dawn had just stared at them disconcertingly, and then rushed from the room with a tinkle of laughter. “Dawn?” Spike called after her. “Dawn!”

The two men ran after her, reaching the front room just in time to hear Dawn squeal, “Did you all know Spike and Xander were doing it?”

“Oh bloody hell,” Spike groaned.

“Doing what?” Giles had asked, blushing at the telling silence that reigned after his statement. “Oh, that. Yes, well...we try not to think too deeply on it....”

“They were just kissing in the back!” Dawn interrupted him. “Wow. Who knew two men kissing could be so hot?”

“Not us!” “Nope, definitely not us! Really?” Tara and Willow both hastily denied, glancing at each other and blushing.

“Thank you so much for that mental image,” Giles groused, removing his glasses and wiping them clean as he undoubtedly wished he could do to his mind.

“Dada kiss!” Jess added.

“So,” Dawn said as she dropped into one of the chairs, “are all vampires bi?”

“What?” Spike yelled.

“Oh ‘ell,” Jess muttered.

“What did she just say?” Xander asked.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Spike turned to Dawn. “Why do you ask, Bit?”

“Well, you know, with Angel and Wesley....”

She was interrupted by Giles choking on his tea.

“Wesley?” Willow asked. “Watcher Wesley? Kinda dorky? That Wesley?”

“Did she just swear?” Xander asked.

“Yeah, that Wesley,” Dawn said. “You okay, Giles?”

“Yes,” he managed to choke out. “Please, do continue,” he said facetiously, waving one hand at her while wiping up spilled tea with the other.

“Well, you know, after Cordy and Angel had their thing....”

“What?” Xander yelped. “Cordy and deadboy?”

“Yeah,” Dawn said. “You know, he really doesn’t like that nickname.”

“Really?” Xander asked sarcastically.

“Yeah. Anyway, in a nutshell, Cordy and Angel had a momentary fling, decided they were better friends than lovers....”

“Oh, god,” Xander moaned.

“...and then Angel and Wesley got together. Though I don’t think it was quite that easy, but they don’t talk about it. Anyway, they fight like cats and dogs, and then go upstairs to work it out. Please,” she scoffed. “Like we don’t all know they’re having sex.”

“Oh, god,” Xander moaned again. “And did my little girl just swear? Spike?” he whined.

***

Spike remembered the first time Xander had gotten hurt after they were together. Tara and Giles were researching and watching the girls while Spike, Xander, Willow, and Dawn went on patrol. They hadn’t heard anything about a new demon visiting the Hellmouth, but there had been some suspicious deaths over the last couple of nights, which were what Giles and Tara were researching.

Willow and Dawn were chatting quietly while they walked through the cemetery. Xander, their relationship still new enough to warrant the look of wonder he kept directing at Spike, walked beside the vampire, the back of their hands brushing.

In the park, the scent of blood and death assailed Spike’s nostrils. He paused and held up his hand for silence. Everyone froze. A snuffling noise reached his ears, and then a chilling ‘crunch!’ It sounded as if they’d come upon some beastie making a meal of whatever it had killed. Spike’s nose told him the victim was human and he wished he could spare the others the sight that most likely awaited them.

“There’s somethin’ back there,” he whispered to the others. “Big and ugly by the sounds of it.” He paused. “It’s already made another kill,” he told them.

“How...?” Xander’s voice trailed off as he took in the expression on Spike’s face. “Oh,” he said, swallowing hard and paling.

“Stay behind me,” Spike said brusquely. “Be careful.” His eyes took them all in, but lingered on Xander’s face before he turned and loped towards the bushes.

The demon had been big and ugly, but impeded by its lumbering gait and eyes set too close together to have much peripheral vision, it wasn’t much of a fighter. Spike had everything under control with the demon until the shifty bugger revealed a tail it had kept hidden inside a fold in its body, and swept him off his feet. The last he knew, Xander and Willow were comforting Dawn, who had caught a glimpse of the demon’s latest meal, so he was very surprised when the other man jumped between him and the demon.

Another swipe of the powerful tail lashed Xander in the side and sent him flying through the air to land heavily in a fall that knocked the breath out of his lungs in a loud, ‘oomph!’

“Stupid soddin’ git,” Spike growled as he regained his feet. He wasn’t sure if he was more angry with Xander or the demon. He threw his axe and lopped the demon’s tail off. The demon squealed in pain and tried to run. Spike, high on adrenaline and an instinctive need to protect his family, hacked at the demon, cutting through its tough hide and slowing it down even more. A few more swipes and the demon was on the ground, hamstrung. Spike had taken great pleasure in cutting the demon’s head off.

When the demon was dead, he turned to Xander. Willow and Dawn were helping him sit up. “Are you all right?” he asked as he ran over to him.

“Yeah, I think so,” Xander said, wincing and grasping his side. “Ribs hurt a little. You?”

“You’d better be,” Spike said, brandishing the gore encrusted axe, “or I’ll kill you myself.” He helped Xander to stand and they began their trek back to the Magic Box where Spike checked Xander out thoroughly to make sure he hadn’t been cut or broken a bone.

The two men cleaned up before gathering Jess and her diaper bag and heading home. Spike was silent during the drive, fuming. He made sure Xander and Jess were safely in the apartment, Jess snugly tucked into bed, and then told Xander, “I’m goin’ out.”

“Out? Wha—where?”

“For a walk.” Spike knew he was being short and uncommunicative, but he couldn’t shake the images of Xander lying dead on the ground.

“Now?”

“Need to kill somethin’,” he’d growled. Preferably not his lover.

Xander had stared at him in shock. “You’re going back out? Alone? Why?”

“Because kickin’ your ass would set off the chip,” he’d snarled angrily.

Xander’s eyes had widened. “Wha—?”

“You could have been killed!”

“So could you!” Xander retorted.

“I’m a vampire, Xander. I’m stronger than you, faster than you, and I heal more quickly than you.” He poked Xander’s side.

“You’re mad at me because I tried to help you?” Xander looked confused, which pissed Spike off even more for some reason.

“I’m mad because I could have lost you!” he nearly yelled, surprised at himself for admitting it.

“But you didn’t,” Xander replied softly, reasonably.

“No thanks to you!”

Xander ignored Spike’s outburst and continued. “Don’t you think I worry about you, too?”

“I’m harder to kill than you are, Xander.”

“Doesn’t make it any easier to watch you get hurt,” Xander said earnestly, “and don’t try to tell me you weren’t hurt tonight.”

“But I’m nearly bloody healed. Are you?” He prodded Xander’s bruised side again.

Xander slapped at his hands. “Might be if you’d stop poking me!”

Spike couldn’t believe they were having this conversation. He turned to leave.

“Please don’t leave,” Xander pleaded in a small voice. “I’m sorry if I scared you, but you scared me, too. I don’t want to lose you, either.”

Spike’s anger deflated.

“I know I’m not as good a fighter as you, but I can’t stay home knowing you’re out there.”

Spike turned back to face Xander. “Pet....”

“I can’t promise I won’t get hurt again, and I can’t just stop worrying about you, but I’ll try to be more careful. I will, I don’t know, take lessons, or something. I’ll....”

“Xander, luv, don’t.” Spike could see that Xander was getting worked up.

“Please don’t leave me,” he said, a lone tear breaking free and tracking down his face. “I couldn’t bear it if you left, too.”

Spike’s heart thumped. “Oh, Xander, luv, I’m not gonna leave.” He couldn’t take the waves of misery pouring off his lover. He enveloped Xander in a hug. “Not gonna leave.”

“Sorry, Spike, I’m sorry....”

“No, my fault. ‘S okay. Shh, I’ve got you, pet.”





Part Two



In the fall of that year Willow had flown to China to bring home her and Tara’s baby girl, Alexandria Joyce, whom they called Joy for short. She was gone for eight weeks and Tara, lonely and worried, spent most of her free time with Spike, Xander, and Jess. When Willow returned, they all drove down to LA together in the minivan Tara had purchased for their new family, picked up Dawn at UCLA, and headed to the airport to greet Willow and the newest addition to their growing family.

Jess was thrilled to have someone near her own age to play with and took to Joy immediately. Xander was promoted to Foreman and, after discussing it with Spike, began looking at houses again. Realizing the importance of family, they decided to look for something close to Willow and Tara. Together they walked the block Willow, Tara, and Joy lived on, but nothing was for sale. They walked a couple blocks in each direction, finding nothing, then resorted to checking the local listings.

Christmas that year was going to be the most joyous celebration of all, as Jess was now old enough to enjoy it, and it would be their first with Joy. Also, it was their first as a couple, and with Dawn home their family was complete. Willow and Tara were hosting the festivities that year, and Spike already had their bags packed so they could spend the night when Xander arrived home early on Christmas Eve Day. While Jess was napping, they took a ‘nap’ of their own.

When they arrived at the old Summers house, Giles’ car was already parked in the driveway. Xander unhooked Jess from her car seat and carried her inside to Willow’s waiting arms before hurrying back out to help Spike with their bags. But Spike wasn’t unloading the car, he was staring off down the street. He turned to Willow and demanded, “Did you do that?”

“Do what?” Willow and Xander both asked at the same time.

“That!” Spike said, pointing a shaking finger in the direction he’d been staring.

Willow handed Jess off to Tara and followed Xander down the steps. All three of them stood staring down the street. Finally Willow found her voice. “No, I...I didn’t do that! Xander?”

“Get inside before you catch cold,” Spike told her brusquely, tossing his jacket over her shoulders and twirling her around, giving her a gentle shove towards the house.

He turned to Xander who was still staring at the ‘For Sale’ sign stuck in the lawn two houses down. “Xan?”

Xander didn’t respond. “What’s going on?” he heard Dawn ask from inside the warmth of the house.

“Xan, luv?”

“Is it real?” Xander asked. “Do you think it’s a sign?” His eyes never left the sign that hadn’t been there the day before.

“‘Course it’s real,” Spike said. “And yep, it’s a sign. A ‘For Sale’ sign,” he added cheekily. Xander turned on him with a scowl, and Spike grinned. “Think it’s close enough to the witches?” he asked.

“Do you think.... Do you think it’s meant to be ours?” Xander asked.

Spike nearly choked when Xander said ‘ours’. “Not ours yet,” he said, “but it could be.”

“What do you think of it?” Xander asked.

“Hard to tell in this light,” Spike said. He closed his eyes and sifted his memories of their walk up and down the block for an image of the house. A good-sized one-story ranch with a porch in the front and an attached garage. “From what I can remember, it’s nice enough, and what I can see from here looks all right. That porch is saggin’ a bit, though. Good thing we know a good carpenter.”

“We need to contact the realtor,” Xander said. “The porch is really sagging?” he asked, taking a step towards the sidewalk.

“Realtor, right,” Spike agreed, pulling Xander back and into his arms, and placing a light kiss on his lips. “After Christmas, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Xander agreed with one last look at the house. He returned Spike’s gentle kiss with one that turned hungry, greedy for more. “Our place,” he whispered against kiss-swollen lips. “Our home.”

Despite the chill air Spike felt warm all over. “I think it’s a brilliant idea to give Jess a real house with a lawn and everythin’, and being close to the witches, but Xan...” He paused. “It’s just.... I want you to know, wherever you are, that’s home. For me and Jess. We don’t need a house with a big lawn and saggy porch. We just need you.”

Xander stared at him wide-eyed, lower lip trembling. “Really?” he asked.

Spike rolled his eyes, embarrassed at his display of emotion. “Don’t be a git,” he said. “And I ain’t repeatin’ it, either.” Then he pressed his forehead against Xander’s. “Love you.”

Xander gave a watery grin. “Love you, too.”

“Let’s get inside before Dawn can’t take it anymore and has to come out and see what we’re doing.”

Xander looked up to see the younger girl’s face at the window and grinned at Spike. He was still smiling when they got their luggage into the house and down the basement steps where they’d be staying the night. Dawn got to keep her own room, and Joy was going to sleep with her mothers so Giles could use the twin bed they’d left in Buffy’s old room when they’d converted it into the nursery.

In the kitchen, Willow and Tara were piling platters with food that Dawn was carrying into the dining room. Spike tugged on Xander’s arm and drew him into the hallway, out of the path of scurrying females and into an all-too-brief moment of privacy. He just stared at Xander, smiling at the other man. Xander smiled back, and he felt so damned happy at that instant.

He had Xander and Jess, Dawn, the witches and their little one, and even the watcher. His family. And they were all here, home, sharing the holiday, but mostly, just being together. Despite not celebrating Christmas as part of their religion, the witches were willing to do this for Dawn, Xander, Jess, and Giles, though he insisted he didn’t need anyone to fuss over him. That, Spike thought, was what family did. He kissed Xander, and then took his hand and led him down the hall.

When they stepped into the living room, Giles was ensconced on the couch with Joy in his lap and Jess leaning against one leg, her bony elbow poking into his thigh, her pointed chin resting in her palm. One hand was waving theatrically, and they looked to be in a deep and serious discussion. The room was decorated with lots of fresh greenery and red bows, and a live tree in it’s pot of dirt stood in the corner. It had been covered with colored lights that blinked, shiny balls of blue and red and gold, and silver tinsel that Dawn insisted was supposed to resemble icicles.

Spike sighed as he remembered falling into one of the deep, comfy chairs the witches had purchased for the living room and pulling Xander down with him. The brunette had laughed gaily, a sound that made Spike’s heart glad, and turned to him with a gorgeous smile that he didn’t get to see often enough. Too much loss, heartache, and responsibility weighed on his lover. He resolved then to see that smile, and to hear that laugh, as often as he could.

The day after Christmas Xander had called the realtor and arranged to view the house that evening. They’d dropped Jess off with Tara, who was home with Joy that evening, and walked down to meet the realtor. After she’d shown them through the house, Xander asked if they could have some time alone. When she left, he reached out for Spike’s hand and pulled him close.

“What do you think?” he’d asked with some trepidation.

“That wallpaper in the livingroom has to go, Xander!” Spike said. He’d almost vomited when he’d seen all those little roses. The house itself seemed to be in good shape, and luckily there were no other decorating disasters. “The master bedroom’s big enough for a king-sized bed.” He leered at Xander. “The back yard is perfect; I can just picture Jess and Joy splashing in the kiddie pool.” He nodded his head, smiling. Then frowned. “I just sounded like a girl, didn’t I?” he asked.

Xander fought to hide his grin. “What? No!” he said unconvincingly.

“Right,” Spike said sadly. “Well, since my rep is already shot to hell, can I just say that those cupboards in the kitchen are also hideous and way too modern for the rest of the house?”

“So, you’re going to actually cook in this kitchen?” Xander asked in pretend shock.

“Don’t be bloody ridiculous!” Spike scoffed. “Will need to get m’ blood out of the fridge, and Jess’s treats, though.”

That night Xander, Spike, Tara, and Willow talked about the house. The next night the realtor came back and took them all through, including the babies. Jess picked out the room she wanted. Xander made an offer. Despite Xander’s insistence that without bad luck he wouldn’t have any luck at all, everything went smoothly and they closed on the house before the end of January.

Xander took a week off and shored up the porch, then everyone chipped in to help clean the house from top to bottom. They painted the room Jess had chosen a pale yellow, and Willow and Tara stenciled the walls while Spike and Xander papered the livingroom. Spike didn’t have the patience for it, but each glance at the tiny roses on the wall steeled his resolve.

They moved into the house in early February, just before Jess’s second birthday. Dawn came home for the weekend to see the new house and attend the birthday celebration. To Spike’s delight, she was no longer seeing Deke. He was even more surprised when she presented him with a housewarming gift. He told her she didn’t need to get them a gift, but she pushed the envelope into his hand.

“I know it’s gonna seem like it’s all for you, but I figure it’ll be good for Xander, too, since you won’t need heavy curtains and stuff, and you won’t have to worry about whether you forgot to pull the shades,” she babbled, attracting the attention of the others who wandered over to watch Spike open the envelope and pull out the single piece of paper.

He read it over, then read it again. It looked like a recipe at first glance, but was a spell, with all the necessary ingredients listed. “Bit?” he asked, waving the paper at her.

“It’s a spell,” she said quickly.

“I figured that out,” he drawled. “What’s it for?”

“To sun-proof your windows,” she said. “And it really works, too,” she assured them.

Willow grabbed the paper out of his slack grip and she and Tara pored over it.

“How do you know it works?” he asked.

“Angel?” Willow supplied.

Dawn nodded, her eyes darting from Spike and Xander to Willow and Tara. “Cordy said something about tapping the resources of an evil law firm, or something. I didn’t really get it. But she wanted you both to have this.”

“Wait,” Xander interjected, “Cordy knows about us? How?”

Dawn flushed guiltily. “It’s not a secret, right?” she asked worriedly.

“Well, no, of course it’s not,” Xander said, absently curling his fingers around Spike’s nape and stroking his neck with his thumb. “Just seems odd that.... I don’t know. I haven’t seen her in years, and suddenly she knows all about me.”

“But I told you all about her and Angel, and Angel and Wesley,” Dawn offered.

“Yeah,” Xander agreed with an ‘euww’ face, “but I really wish you hadn’t.”

***

Dawn stayed in LA that summer. She said she’d gotten a summer job, and the witches let slip that she was seeing someone named Connor. What kind of poncy name was Connor, anyway? Spike thought, and his eye started to twitch when he realized that she was growing up and away from them. She’d be graduating next year, and then maybe moving away for good and starting a family of her own. Change. How he hated it. Then he remembered how change had conspired to bring Xander and Jess into his life.

That summer they went to the carnival held two towns over. The four of them took Jess and Joy on all the kiddie rides, Spike won them both teddy bears, and then Willow & Tara held onto the girls while Spike dragged Xander to the Ferris wheel so they could make out during the ride. As soon as they disappeared from sight, he stuck his tongue down Xander’s throat and his hand down the other man’s pants.

When they slid back into view, he withdrew his hand and waved to the witches and the babies, nudging a dazed Xander with his elbow, and then returning to his fun as soon as they rose high enough. By the time the ride was over, Xander was needy and desperate. As the operator unlocked their seat, Spike whispered, “Don’t worry, luv, gonna do you good when we get home.”

Xander rushed them home and got Willow and Tara to keep Jess for the night. Tara gave them a knowing look as she unbuckled Joy from her seat, and then the four girls disappeared into their house while Spike and Xander raced across the lawns to their own. Spike let Xander take him down to the floor in the foyer, both men struggling to get their pants down so they could feel the other as they rubbed together.

Three rooms and an hour later, they staggered to the shower, and then to bed. At four o’clock they were wakened by the doorbell. Xander stumbled down the hall, with Spike right behind him, and pulled the door open to reveal a sleepy and rumbled Willow holding a teary-eyed Jess.

“What happened?” Xander asked worriedly, reaching out to take the child who was sobbing piteously and holding her arms out to him.

“She woke up,” Willow said wryly. “Homesick. Goodnight.” She turned and shuffled down the sidewalk, her housecoat swirling around her ankles over the fluffy tails of her bunny slippers.

***

That Christmas season held bittersweet memories for Spike. It was the first Christmas in their new home, which he and Xander were looking forward to, and the anniversary of the fight Spike feared had ended their relationship.

When it came time for the company’s annual Christmas party, Xander told Spike that he had to put in an appearance now that he’d been promoted. No one had actually said anything about his absence last year, but he claimed to have received vibes. They’d been together about a year and a half by that time, and though he wasn’t blatant about it, Xander made no secret of their relationship, but Spike was still surprised when he casually asked, “So, ya wanna go?”

“Me?”

“Who else would I take?” Spike’s face must have shown his surprise. “What, you thought I’d go alone?”

Spike immediately realized he needed to backtrack, and quickly. “Just wasn’t sure they were ready for the reality of...us.”

“You’ve met Todd and Bill...!” Xander began heatedly.

“I know, luv,” Spike said soothingly, pulling a slightly-resisting Xander into his arms. “Meant the big muckity-mucks. ‘Course I want ta go with you. Only way to make sure they keep their hands off my honey, yeah?”

Xander had melted under his touch, at his words, and a reluctant smile curved his lips before he leaned in to kiss Spike senseless. Spike had no idea then how prophetic his words would turn out to be.

The night of the party Willow and Tara took Jess and they both got dressed up in new suits Xander had purchased for the occasion. Spike figured he must look all right, ‘cause Xander wouldn’t let him out of the house otherwise, but Xander looked smashing. Spike grew hard just watching him stand before the mirror, nervously smoothing his jacket and adjusting his tie. He stepped up behind Xander, slipping both hands beneath the jacket to cup his lover’s groin.

“You’re gorgeous, Xander,” Spike told him.

“So are you, Spike,” Xander said, and then leaned back with a moan as Spike’s hands moved. “You’re gonna wrinkle me,” he complained without much heat.

“Gonna do more than wrinkle you,” Spike promised.

Even so, they were only twenty minutes late to the party, and Spike assured Xander that they’d make a grand entrance that way. Xander just shook his head and grasped Spike’s fingers as they walked into the ballroom of the Sunnydale Country Club.

Xander spent most of the night at his side, introducing him to co-workers, to Todd’s and Bill’s wives, and at one point, to his bosses. Everyone was polite, if not downright friendly—and he didn’t think it all had to do with the booze, and Spike was enjoying himself. The only dark spot on the evening was Mrs. Henry W. ‘Call me Clara’ MacDonald, the wife of the man for whom Xander’s company was building a multi-million dollar hotel on the site Xander was managing.

Seemed Clara, even mentally Spike spat the name, had taken a liking to Xander on one of her husband’s weekly visits to the site for a progress report. Xander had mentioned her before in passing, but Spike hadn’t realized how...tenacious...she was. Like one of those ugly yappy beasties, he thought, wishing uncharitably that she looked like one as well, instead of being a sexy, long-legged brunette.

The fact that Xander was already seeing someone didn’t deter her, nor did finding out that Xander swung the other way. In fact, Spike was sure her eyes flashed at the challenge, and he had a nearly uncontrollable urge to scratch them out.

It was late in the evening when Xander left Spike with Todd and his wife Bev to go to the bathroom. When he hadn’t returned by the time Bev was making noises about leaving, Spike went in search of him. Without his preternatural senses, he might never have found him. Them.

Clara had trapped Xander in a dark, shadowed corner of the balcony. Spike had to fight his demon down when he saw Xander being...pawed...by that bitch in heat. Snarling as he stalked across the balcony, Spike ignored the woman rubbing against Xander as best he could, reached between them to grab Xander behind the neck, and pulled him forward.

“Thought you got lost, luv,” he growled against Xander’s lips, slowly easing him out of Clara’s clutches and replacing her body with his own. He knew he couldn’t just toss her away from his lover like he wanted to do—preferably over the balcony railing—without the chip firing. Unless she was a demon, he thought hopefully, and then quickly squelched it. Xander might be a demon magnet, but Spike’s luck argued against it.

“Spike!” Xander yelped.

“Missed you,” Spike said, his voice full of warning.

“It’s not wha—.”

“I know, you were just talkin’, right?” Spike purred.

“Not for much longer,” Clara replied cattily.

“I was just explaining to, uh, Mrs. MacDonald that we were....”

“Together? Exclusive? Gonna fuck like mink later?”

Xander’s eyes widened.

“What’s the matter, Spike? Worried about a little competition?”

Spike looked her over and made sure his smirk showed that he was neither impressed with what he saw, nor worried. “Not a bit, pet,” he said. “‘Cause my hole’s tighter than yours, I’d wager, especially if you keep farmin’ it out like this, and besides, my Xan likes a nice fat cock up his ass.”

“Jesus Christ, Spike!”

Spike ignored him. “Don’t you have a husband you ought to be...talking...with?”

Clara’s face turned purple, whether from embarrassment or anger Spike didn’t know. Nor did he care. “Is that a threat?”

“Does it need to be?” Spike asked, flashing amber eyes at her.

Clara blanched, and then turned and stormed off, but not before glaring at them both. Spike turned back to Xander, whose eyes were dark and stormy, but not with lust. He pushed Spike away from him.

“I cannot fucking believe you just did that! Besides being way too much information, she could convince her husband to pull out, or maybe pull strings that get me fired!” Xander yelled.

“That’s not what I was worried about her pulling!” Spike yelled back. “Maybe you should have thought of that before you ended up in a corner with her. Or is that what you wanted? Did you enjoy having her rub up against you like that?” Even as he said it he knew it was a bad idea, but that didn’t slow his mouth down.

“You know it’s not,” Xander ground out. “I was trying to get out of it with a small amount of tact. Jesus, Spike, don’t you ever fucking think?”

“What about your dignity?” Spike spat back.

Xander brushed past Spike without answering.

“Xander!” Spike yelled after him, but the brunette didn’t slow. “Xander!” Spike ran after him, pushing his way through the remaining crowd until he reached the door. He raced across the lobby, dodging drunk couples, and reached the door just as Xander pulled out of the parking lot. He slumped against the doorway, watching the taillights disappear down the drive.

A hand on his shoulder made him jump. “Did you find Xander?” Todd asked.

“Yeah,” Spike said, not taking his eyes off the driveway Xander had disappeared down, “I found him.”

“Clara MacDonald is livid,” Todd continued in a light tone. “You didn’t have anything to do with that, did you?” He clapped Spike’s back.

“Might’ve,” Spike said. “Xander’s not too happy, either,” he admitted.

“What’s he worried about?” Todd asked seriously.

“The hotel, his job. The fact that I told Clara my hole was tighter ‘n hers.” He felt like crying, and was trying damned hard not to.

“You’re kidding!” Todd barked, laughing. “Spike?” he said, when he realized Spike wasn’t laughing with him.

“Xander left,” Spike said.

“Oh,” Todd said. “He was that mad, huh? Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll get over it soon,” he said, trying to cheer Spike up, but he wasn’t in the mood for cheering up.

“Need to call a taxi,” he said. “Gotta talk to Xan.”

“We’ll give you a ride,” Todd said.

“You don’t have to....”

“It’s no bother,” Todd interrupted. “We’re going that way. And besides, what are friends for, huh?”

“Thanks,” Spike whispered, wondering if his jealousy and his big mouth had lost him the one...two things he loved most in the world.

When Todd and Bev dropped him off at home, Xander’s car wasn’t in the drive. There were no heartbeats from inside the house, so Spike knew without checking that it wasn’t in the garage, either, but he checked anyway. He trudged into the house, wondering where Xander could be. His first thought was Willow, but the car wasn’t parked in their driveway, or on the street in front of their house.

He changed his clothes and decided to go out looking for Xander. He walked the entire town twice, checking The Bronze and every other bar he could think of, the bowling alley, the movie theater, Giles’ apartment, and the cemetery where Anya and Buffy were buried. There was no sign of him.

Worry turned to anger, and Spike easily, if brutally, dispatched the nest of vampires he found living in his old crypt. Anger soon turned to despair when he couldn’t find his lover. Disheartened, Spike slowly made his way back to their house and sat on the front steps, waiting for Xander to come home.

He wondered if he’d done it this time. Irreparably damaged their relationship. He thought about packing, but was too lethargic and depressed to bother. He let his mind drift over the last couple years since Jess’s birth and knew he didn’t want to go on without his family. If Xander broke up with him he’d just as soon greet the sun. He buried his face in his hands and laughed bitterly, knowing he sounded melodramatic even in his own head, but his heart ached so damned much. The last time, when Buffy had died, he’d survived for Dawn. But Dawn didn’t need him anymore. She was all grown up.

If Xander didn’t want him, he had nothing. Sure, the witches liked him well enough, but if they had to choose between him and Xander, he knew who they’d choose. The thought that the only family he had left was Angelus and Dru didn’t bear thinking about. Sunrise was about half an hour away. If Xander didn’t come home soon....

Rough hands grabbed his shoulders and lifted him, throwing him across the porch. “What in hell do you think you were doing?” Xander raged. “The sun’ll be up in....” He hesitated, looking down at the guilty look on Spike’s face. “You son of a bitch,” he grated. “Of all the stupid...!” He stormed across the porch and pulled Spike to his feet, slamming him back against the wall. “What were you doing?” he demanded.

“Waitin’ for you to come home,” Spike said truthfully.

“And if I’d been 20 minutes later?” Xander growled.

Spike didn’t answer.

“Damn you! Damn...son of a...fucking.... Why?” he insisted urgently. “God damn it, Spike, why?”

“Thought I really screwed up this time, Xan. Maybe you weren’t coming back. And if you did, figured you’d kick me out, anyway.”

Xander slammed him into the wall again. “Of all the stupid...stupid...! Don’t you ever, ever, fucking leave me, Spike. Ever.” And then Xander was all over him—bodies pressed together as if he wanted to merge into one; hands touching, assuring; lips sucking, bruising; teeth biting, marking.

With a moan, Spike’s arms went around him. Xander pulled away and wrenched the screen door open one-handed, and then fumbled with the keys to the front door. Successful, he dragged Spike inside, and both men went to the floor. Demanding hands tore at his clothes and Spike, already hard and aching to have Xander touching him, wanting him, did his best to help.

Xander didn’t wait for them both to be naked. As soon as Spike’s duster and t-shirt were off and his jeans pulled down, Xander leaned over him and began marking him. Sucking hard and leaving bruises on his neck and chest, biting around a nipple and leaving teeth marks. He rolled Spike over and pulled him up so he was on his knees.

Spike didn’t think about the fact that they had no lube until Xander’s tongue was on him, in him, slick and firm. He groaned low and deep, and pushed back eagerly, desperate for more. The burn when Xander inserted two fingers and quickly stretched him was exquisite. He trembled at the rustle that meant Xander was lowering his pants. He moaned and shuddered when the blunt head of his lover’s cock was at his entrance. “Yessss, Xander, please,” he begged.

Hands gripping his hips, Xander slowly pushed inside him. Once fully seated he began to thrust, mumbling words that Spike could barely make out. “Mine...love you...stupid, stupid argument...leave me...sorry, sorry, sorry.” And then he draped himself over Spike’s back, fingers still digging into his flesh as he drove into him.

“Love you,” he whispered just before blunt teeth closed on his shoulder and held on tight as he rode Spike’s ass.

Spike was already flying high to have Xander back, and nearly came when he realized Xander was going to bite him. He roared at the sweet pain of Xander’s teeth breaking his skin and the scent of his own blood. Still clinging to him, Xander reached beneath him and wrapped tight fingers around him. He pulled once, his thumb sliding over the moist head, and Spike sobbed as he exploded, barely feeling the pulse as Xander filled his ass.

They slid to the floor in a heap. Xander had to be exhausted, but he didn’t rest. He gently pulled out of Spike and pushed himself to his knees, and then began removing his clothes. Naked, he rolled Spike over and pulled off his boots and jeans, and then lowered himself onto the vampire. He lapped at the blood oozing from the bite on his shoulder, and then slid down his body.

Xander licked and sucked and nipped his way down Spike’s chest and over his belly until he reached his goal. Hot breath teased his reawakening cock, and Spike moaned. Fingers that had danced over Xander’s back and shoulders slid into his hair, tightening when his lover’s tongue flicked the head before his mouth closed over him.

Spike cried out as Xander sucked hard, bucking his hips before Xander planted his hands on them to keep him still. Xander bobbed his head up and down, sucking and licking until Spike thought he’d explode again. Before he could, Xander pulled off and fell to his back, dragging his fingers through the come that had transferred to his own belly. He spread his legs and brought his knees up.

“Xan?” Spike asked.

“My turn,” Xander whispered hoarsely as he shoved two fingers inside himself. “Need you, Spike.”

“Oh, fuck....” Spike grabbed the base of his cock, staving off his impending orgasm at the sight of his lover preparing himself. “Xander.” He rolled to his knees and crawled between Xander’s legs.

“Now, Spike,” Xander breathed.

“You’re not ready,” Spike said.

“Now,” Xander repeated, pulling Spike to him.

Spike wanted to slide into Xander so badly and fuck him into the floor, drive the remaining pain and fear away, and he’d never seen Xander so abandoned. But he didn’t want to hurt him. He pushed two fingers into him, and then a third to make sure he was really ready. The way Xander’s body was writhing and humming beneath him, he stayed away from his prostate. Satisfied, Spike removed his fingers and replaced them with his dick.

“Finally,” Xander whispered as his legs went around Spike’s waist and pulled him against him at the same time he lifted his hips. Spike, completely encased by his lover, groaned into his neck. “Please, Spike,” Xander whispered.

Spike began to move, slowly at first to keep from shooting too soon, and then more quickly. He licked and sucked on Xander’s neck as he picked up speed, until he was pounding into Xander’s ass like a man possessed.

“Please, please,” Xander begged, the fingers of one hand digging into Spike’s back as the other moved to the back of his head.

“I’ve got you,” Spike whispered. “Never gonna let you go.”

Xander pushed Spike’s head into his neck and tilted his head back. “Please!” he cried.

Understanding caused Spike to falter, and Xander slapped his ass to get him moving again. “Xan, I....”

“Please, Spike, please!” Xander sobbed.

They’d never tried this. Spike had often wished he could bite Xander, taste the sweet blood he could hear and smell as it pumped through his body, but the chip had always prevented him from bringing it up, much less attempting it. And now Xander was begging him to do it. To...to mark him. Claim him. Realization that Xander had already marked him brought the demon forth, and he growled, snarled around his fangs.

Xander was quivering beneath him. Spike licked Xander’s neck, right over the pulse point, and then nicked him with a fang, eagerly lapping up the droplets of blood. “You want this?” he asked.

“Gaaagh, yes!” Xander cried. “So much,” he added in a near-whisper.

Spike, surprised he’d had as much control as he did, gave in to his own desire to taste Xander, to make him his, and sank his fangs into the flesh of Xander’s neck, moaning as it parted easily for him, as blood spilled onto his tongue. He swallowed, drinking in the essence of his lover, and then he began to suck.

Xander’s body stiffened and he cried out. His hold on Spike tightened as his body gave itself over to the pleasure of having the vampire buried inside him. When Xander was limp and sated beneath him, Spike withdrew his fangs and roared, the demon reveling in the taste of his lover, in the claim he had made. His hips jerked as he emptied himself inside Xander, and then he slumped over him.

Spike wasn’t sure how Xander had any energy left, but his hands were moving over Spike, soothing, calming, as he whispered, “I’m sorry, Spike. Sorry about the fight, sorry I left you there....”

“‘S all right, luv,” Spike assured him, voice slightly slurred from fatigue. All he wanted at that moment was to curl up with his lover and sleep the day away.

“I was angry,” Xander went on, “mostly at her, ‘cause she wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer....”

“Bitch,” Spike muttered.

“...and embarrassed. I mean, fuck like mink? That was....”

“Did, didn’t we?” Spike said, grinning into Xander’s neck, and then darting his tongue out for one more taste.

“And then the thing with the...the hole....”

Spike stiffened. “Guess I could have been a little more...tactful,” he admitted.

“I’m not sure tact would have worked with her,” Xander admitted in turn. “But, holy moly, Spike, you told her I like a big, fat cock up my ass!”

Spike leaned up on his elbows so he could see Xander’s face, and then wiggled his hips. “Do, don’t you?”

Xander moaned, and then narrowed his eyes. “Yes, but that’s not the....”

“I love you, Xander. Hated seeing her touch you. Sorry I embarrassed you, though.”

“I love you, too, Spike.” Xander cupped his cheek, and then shuddered. “And I hated having her touch me.”

“Wanted to throw her off the balcony,” Spike told him.

“Yes, that would’ve.... No, no, that would have been bad. No throwing women off balconies. Unless they’re demon women.” His brow furrowed. “You don’t think she was a demon, do you?”

“Considered it,” Spike said. “What with you bein’ a demon magnet and all.”

“Ha! Very funny. You know, if Todd or Bill say anything to me about mink on Monday, I am going to spank you until you can’t walk!”

Spike hardened. “Really?” he asked, interested.

More sweet than bitter, he reflected, remembering the look Xander had given him from beneath his eyelashes before landing a stinging blow on his ass. His eyes had widened in surprise at this side of his lover. “Come on, Xander,” he whispered, “I’ve been a much more bad boy than that.” And then the sounds of flesh slapping against flesh as he fucked Xander into the floor to the accompaniment of stinging smacks on his eager ass filled the house. Good thing Jess was with the witches, he remembered thinking, before all thought fled.





Part Three



The Christmas holidays were too short, and Dawn left soon after the New Year to go back to LA, but she did return to Sunnydale in February for Jess’s third birthday. Once again, Xander went all out planning the birthday party. He decorated the living room with crepe paper, banners, and balloons while Spike baked and decorated the cake. He insisted that Jess deserved a homemade cake instead of a store bought one, and thus garnered the chore.

When the house was clean and decorated, the dining room table covered with a Spiderman tablecloth and matching paper plates and napkins, and the party favors set out, they set about showering and getting dressed for the party. Spike sat on the couch with the newspaper as he listened to Xander and Jess chattering as he dressed her in the new clothes he’d gotten for the party.

“Look at me!” Jess cried.

Spike lowered the paper and glanced over the top. Jess stood before him in a blue velvet dress with white lace trim and white tights. She twirled and the skirt of the dress flew out. Giggling, she stood facing him. “It’s a dress!”

Spike smiled. “And a very beautiful dress it is, too. But not as beautiful as you. You gonna let Daddy do your hair?”

Jess sighed a very put-upon sigh. “Yes. I just wanted to show you my dress.”

“I’m glad you did. Thank you, precious.”

Jess beamed, and then turned and raced out of the room. He could hear her stockinged feet pounding as she ran down the hallway. “You need to do my hair!” she squealed.

Spike let the domestic sounds wash over him as he continued to read. He didn’t really care about world events, but Dawn was out there, and now there was Jess to consider, so he figured he needed to keep up on what was going on.

“Daddy, buckle my shoe.”

Spike smiled to himself as he read. Little chit was already demanding. He felt sorry for the man she decided she was gonna marry. A sudden, sharp pain to his shin made Spike swear and drop the paper so he could rub it. Jess was sitting on the coffee table in front of him.

“Did you just kick me?” he whined.

Jess ignored him. “Buckle my shoe,” she said, daintily placing her foot on his knee.

Spike’s mouth dropped open.

“Daddy?” she said, staring at him with big brown eyes.

Spike blinked back hot tears and sat up, dropping the paper. “You, um, need me to buckle your shoe?” he asked stupidly.

Jess rolled her eyes, and then leaned back on her hands. “We don’t have all day,” she said, repeating the words Xander had been telling Spike all morning. “Com’ny is gonna be here soon.”

“Right. Well then.” Unable to see well through watery eyes, Spike struggled with the buckle. When he was done he patted her foot. “All done.”

Jess merely removed her foot and replaced it with the other. “I have two feet,” she informed him.

“Of course you do,” he said, buckling the other shoe.

Jess swung her foot down and stood up. “Thank you, Daddy,” she said, lifting her face for a kiss.

“You’re, um, you’re welcome, luv,” Spike said after giving her the obligatory kiss, still shell-shocked. He watched Jess skip across the room, and then saw Xander standing in the doorway. “Xander!” He fidgeted nervously. “It’s not what you think,” he began. “I didn’t.... I mean, you’re the daddy. I know you’re the daddy, and I would never....”

Xander had crossed the room while he babbled, and now slid onto his lap. Tears shone in his eyes. “Did you think I’d be mad that she called you ‘Daddy’?” he asked.

Spike’s mouth opened and closed at Xander’s reaction. The thought had crossed his mind.

“Idiot,” Xander whispered, and then kissed him.

Jess climbed onto the couch beside them and wrapped her arms around both their necks. “You have to stop that now,” she whispered. “Com’ny’s here.”

Xander pulled back with a grin, and then placed a wet kiss on Jess’s face.

“Euwww!” she squealed, jumping down off the couch and racing for the front door when the bell rang.

“Come on, Daddy,” Xander said as he stood and tugged on Spike’s hand. He frowned. “Shit.” He adjusted himself. “How deranged is it that Jess calling you Daddy makes me hard?” he asked before pulling Spike to the foyer to greet their guests.

Spike moaned and adjusted himself as he followed Xander out. He barely remembered greeting their ‘com’ny’, too busy thinking about ways he could get Jess’s other dad naked. Preferably sweaty and squirming beneath him.

***

Later that afternoon, Jess and Joy asleep on the floor, the adults sat sprawled around the living room chatting, catching up, and laughing softy so as not to wake the babies. Spike got up to get everyone refills, and Dawn said, “I’ll take a beer this time.”

Spike looked at her appraisingly.

“What? I’m old enough.”

Without another word he got the soda and beer from the fridge and brought over the bottle of scotch for the watcher, all the while wondering what she was up to. He knew she had something planned, since her heart rate had accelerated, and he didn’t think it was just because she’d asked him for a beer. He handed out the drinks and gave Dawn’s to her last. She took the bottle with a soft, “Thanks,” and proceeded to twist it between both hands without taking a sip.

“Spike,” she said seriously before he could resume his seat beside Xander.

“Niblet,” he replied, just as gravely.

“I need to tell you something. And could you stop calling me that? I’m 22 now, you know!”

“You could be 80 and you’ll still be my Niblet,” he told her.

She sighed in annoyance, offering a small, pleased smile at the same time.

“What is it you needed to tell me?”

The smile faded and she looked up at him intently. His heart flipped at the worried expression on her face, and he wondered what she had to say that had her so worked up.

“I’m seeing someone!” she blurted. “A boy.”

Spike felt faint with relief. “I know,” he said.

“I didn’t....” Her head snapped up. “You know?” She glared at the witches. “You told him?” she whined.

“You made us spit on our hands and shake on it,” Tara reminded her. “Of course we wouldn’t break such a sacred promise.”

“Spit?” Giles shuddered.

“They suggested a blood oath, but I’ve had enough cutting,” Dawn explained earnestly.

“Of course,” Giles said, nodding as if it all made sense.

She looked back at Spike. “Well, if they didn’t tell you, how’d you know?”

Spike just looked at her, then tapped his nose. “Vampire, pet. Smelled him on you.”

“Oh,” Dawn said. “That’s kinda creepy.” She turned to the witches. “Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” they both assured her.

“This boy have a name?” Spike asked.

Dawn’s face lit up. “Connor,” she said.

“Connor,” Spike repeated thoughtfully. “Seems I’ve heard that name mentioned once or twice.” The witches fidgeted nervously.

“Um, yeah,” Dawn said distractedly, her brow furrowed in thought. “When you say you smelled him on me, what exactly did you mean?”

Spike’s only reply was a raised eyebrow.

“No,” Dawn said, shaking her head. “Tell me that doesn’t mean you can tell I’ve had sex!”

“Wait, you’ve had sex?” Xander asked. “You knew she had sex?”

Giles made a strangled noise.

“Oh. My. God,” she breathed, her face going blotchy, as if her blood was unsure whether it wanted to rush to the surface of her skin or drain away. “That’s...disgusting. And so embarrassing. What else can you smell?” she demanded.

Spike remained silent, but glanced out of the corner of his eye at Willow, whose mouth dropped open in stunned disbelief.

“No!”

Spike shrugged. “Blood’s blood, pet.”

“Euwww, gross!” Dawn yelped in understanding.

“Oh...crap,” Willow muttered, flushing crimson and crossing her legs.

“Dear Lord,” Giles said, probably wishing he was back in the Motherland, or fighting a Crimshaw demon. Anywhere but here. Spike handed him the bottle of scotch off the coffee table.

“How long you been seeing this...Connor?” he asked.

Dawn swallowed hard. “About a year,” she admitted, and then hurried on. “We’ve known each other longer. Since, um, well, since Cordy introduced us my first year in LA. But we didn’t get to really know each other....”

“I presume you don’t mean carnally?” Xander mumbled, but everyone ignored him.

“...until last year. He’s really nice,” she added, pasting a hopeful smile on her face.

“He treats you right?” Spike asked.

Dawn’s smile widened. “Oh, yeah,” she said sappily. “He can be really sweet. When he’s not killing things.” Her smile faded when she realized what she’d said.

“Something else you need to tell us, pet?” Spike asked, stiffening. He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like this part.

Dawn mumbled something beneath her breath and Spike’s eyes widened. His demon visage flickered.

“What was that?” he growled.

“He’s Angel’s son,” she whispered.

Spike felt frozen. He could almost live with the fact that Dawn had been afraid to tell him about her new boyfriend, given his track record, but to find out that it was Angel’s mutt, and that the poof had known about their relationship before he had, tore a hole in his gut. He turned away from everyone and stumbled towards the doorway.

Dawn called his name, but it was the sound of Xander’s worried voice that got through to him. “Just need some air,” he said, squeezing Xander’s shoulder without looking at him, afraid Xander would see the depth of the pain in his eyes. He escaped to the roofed-deck Xander had built onto the back of the house last fall with the help of Todd and Bill, whose wives came over and joined them, the witches, and the babies as they christened it with a bar-b-que. Spike had helped Xander install the hot tub, and they’d christened that alone.

He lit a cigarette and smoked it slowly, letting the familiar motion calm him. He sensed Dawn coming long before she stepped out onto the deck.

“Spike?”

“Jess called me ‘Daddy’ today,” he blurted.

“Oh my god! That’s so cuuute!” she squealed.

Spike shrugged. Dawn playfully punched his arm.

“You loved it.”

“Yeah,” he admitted, “but....”

“But what?”

Spike shrugged again.

“What’s wrong?”

“Was afraid Xander would be upset. He’s her dad. Her real dad. I didn’t want....”

“You’re an idiot,” Dawn said lovingly.

Spike grinned. “‘S what Xan said.”

“Well, he’s right.”

“I hate him, ya know?”

“Xander?” she asked, confused.

Spike snorted. “No.”

“Connor?” she guessed.

“Only if he acts like his father. Or his mother.” He’d heard all about the bloody miracle child, human baby born of two vampires. And the prophecy.

“Oh. Well,” she considered, “he doesn’t brood.” She moved up to stand beside him, one hand gripping the railing, the other, the beer bottle she still held. “Although, I think he used to. Of course, Angel doesn’t brood much anymore, either. He’s too busy arguing with Wesley and then having make-up sex.”

Spike choked on smoke. “‘Nough said, Bit,” he said, begging her not to mention the ponce and his boy toy again.

“Boy toy!” Dawn giggled.

“Well, wanker’s over 250 now, right? He’s gettin’ up there in years, and the watcher, he’s just a babe.”

“He sure is!” Dawn replied wickedly. She turned serious. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, Spike, but I didn’t know how. I know how you feel about Angel, and....”

“That’s all right, Bit,” Spike lied. His issues with Angel shouldn’t be her problem. “Come here.” He held his arm out and Dawn slipped beneath it, settling against his side. “You gonna drink that?” He indicated the warming beer.

“No,” she said, offering it up to him. “I don’t like beer. I just asked for it to remind you that I was old enough to drink before telling you about Connor,” she admitted.

Spike dropped his cigarette butt into the sand-filled container Xander had put out there for that purpose, took the beer, and drank half of it down. “You got a break comin’ up, right?”

“Yeah, spring break,” Dawn said.

“Got your tickets to go anywhere, yet?” he asked.

Dawn laughed. “Yeah, I’m heading down to Cancun. No. I figured I’d stay in LA. Get ahead on my class work.”

Spike snorted. “See your boy.”

Dawn blushed pink.

“You’ll be coming home for spring break this year,” Spike said firmly, having made up his mind.

Dawn’s jaw dropped. “Spike!”

“Bring your boy with you. ‘Bout time we got to know him, yeah?”

Dawn smiled even as a tear slipped out of her eye and ran down her cheek. “Really?” she asked.

“Bloody right,” Spike said, setting the bottle on the railing and pulling her into a tight embrace.

“Everything all right?” Xander asked hesitantly.

“Everything’s fine, right, Bit?” Spike said, holding one hand out. Xander took it and wrapped his free arm around Dawn’s back.

“Yes,” she sniffled. “Thanks, Spike.”

“You’re welcome.” He let go of Xander to cradle Dawn’s face in both hands and kissed her forehead.

With a watery smile at Xander she left them alone. Spike yelled after her, “He’s sleeping in the basement! And you’re not! And the witches are gonna spell the door to make bloody sure!”

“All right, Spike, geez,” Dawn’s happily irritated voice drifted back to them.

“Really okay?” Xander asked.

“No,” Spike admitted, letting his honey snuggle him. “How the bloody hell dare she go and grow up?” he asked. “I’m not standin’ for it,” he added petulantly.

“It had to happen,” Xander said sadly, repositioning them so Spike was leaning against the railing and Xander was at his back, arms wrapped tightly around him. “I love it out here,” he said, resting his chin on Spike’s shoulder and looking out over their lawn.

“Me, too,” Spike agreed.

“Remember our first night in the hot tub?” Xander asked, grinning, his hand rubbing Spike’s chest.

“Hell yeah! Maybe we can use it tonight.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Xander said, his wandering hand pausing to play with a nipple.

“Mmm, luv,” Spike moaned.

“Did you ever smell me?” Xander asked out of the blue.

“Smell you?”

“Yeah, you know.”

“Ahh,” Spike said in sudden understanding. “Sex?”

“Well, not...actual sex...exactly,” he hedged.

Spike turned in his arms. “Not exactly? I’m not following you, luv.”

“You know,” Xander said, gesturing with his hand as he tried to come up with the words to explain what he meant.

“Ahhh,” Spike said. “Jerkin’ off?”

Xander’s expression was cross between mortification and relief. “Yeah.”

“Smelled it,” Spike told him evenly. “Usually heard it before I smelled it, though.”

Xander froze. “Heard it?” he squeaked.

“Yeah. Heart rate gets goin’, breathin’ speeds up, then there’s the, uh, actual....” He made a hand motion.

Xander slapped his hand down. “Got it!”

“...and the moaning and groaning....”

“Oh god.” Xander dropped his forehead onto Spike’s shoulder, then lifted it and dropped it again for good measure. “Please tell me you did not hear me call out your name,” he begged.

It was Spike’s turn to freeze. “You called out my name?”

“Spike, please,” he pleaded.

Spike lifted Xander’s head. “You thought about me when you....” He waggled his eyebrows.

“Are you trying to embarrass me to death?”

“Just answer the question, luv.”

Xander huffed. “Yes!”

“You mean, before we....”

“Yes.”

“How often?

“Spike!”

“How often, Xander?” He followed the question up with a grind that showed Xander how turned on he was getting.

“Once. A month.” Rub. Moan. “A week.” Slide. Groan. “Okay, daily!” He grabbed Spike’s hips and pushed back. “Maybe twice a day. But that time I did it three times was purely a one-off!”

Spike shut him up with a kiss.

“Would it bother you if I knew?” Spike asked when he pulled back so Xander could breathe.

“Yes,” Xander gasped. “I mean, not now, obviously, but then. If you knew and didn’t....”

“I didn’t know, but I wish I had. Do you have any idea how many times I came listening to you? Imagining you spread out naked, touching yourself? Pretty cock all hard, and purple, and aching.”

“But you said....”

“Yeah.” Spike smiled sheepishly. “Thought it was just sex, those feelings. Guess I was lying to myself for a long time.”

“And it’s not just sex now, right?”

“How can you ask me that, Xander? Especially after....”

“Because I’m me. Underneath all this, I’m still the Zeppo. And I’m jealous and insecure, too. And because I...I made you do that.”

Spike looked at him in disbelief. “You really believe that? You silly sod!” He gently shook his lover. “I’ve wanted to mark you, claim you...forever! Christ, Xander, I....”

He never got a chance to finish. Xander kissed him as if he wished he could crawl inside him.

“I...oh, dear Lord, sorry.” Giles did a swift about turn. “I just came to let you know I was leaving. Lovely party.”

“Sure you don’t want to stay?” Spike asked while Xander leaned against him and caught his breath. “We’ll be using the hot tub later.”

“No, no, I have a book and a glass of port waiting for me at home.”

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” Spike cajoled. “Get enough beers in Xan, he runs around the back yard screaming, ‘Mine, mine, all mine!’.

“Shut up, Spike!” Xander socked him in the shoulder. “Besides, I only did that once.”

“Yes, well, as lovely as that sounds, I think I’ll pass.”

***

Dawn had brought Connor home to meet her family over spring break. Spike had driven everyone crazy in the weeks leading up to the visit with his desire for everything to be perfect. He was certain he’d easily find a dozen things to dislike about Connor the moment they met—and that wasn’t counting the fact that he was Angel’s boy and nicknamed The Destroyer, a fact he hadn’t found out until Dawn left to go back to LA the day after Jess’s birthday party—but he was determined that Connor not find them lacking in any respect.

As much as he hated cleaning, he made sure the house was spotless, going so far as to dust off the light bulbs while Xander looked on in wonder as Spike scurried about. The night before Dawn was expected, he snuck out after sunset to re-mow the lawn Xander had mowed two days previous. His lover just shook his head, kissed him when Spike slowed down enough for it, and let the vampire get it out of his system.

Dawn and Connor drove down from LA early Saturday morning and arrived at Willow and Tara’s in time for brunch. Spike nervously paced the house while Willow and Tara cooked and arranged trays, and Jess and Joy played in the family room while Xander watched cartoons in the guise of keeping an eye on them. During one circuit of the house he pulled Xander out of his chair and nearly squashed him to death with a desperate hug.

“Nervous?” Xander whispered.

“‘Course not,” Spike lied, and then started when he heard a car pull into the drive. “Just the watcher,” he whispered as he snuggled closer to Xander’s warmth.

Excitement reigned when Giles entered the foyer as Jess and Joy, who both adored the older man, squealed and abandoned their toys to race over to him and be swept up into a hug. Giles greeted the rest of them with smiles and ‘good morning’s, and then turned his attention to the two girls who sat on his hips and clung to his neck. Spike, still wrapped in Xander’s arms, let the cozy, homey sounds wash over him—Willow and Tara’s softly spoken words in the kitchen, punctuated by frequent pauses to share a kiss, and the animated chatter as Jess and Joy tried to outdo each other in capturing Giles’ attention for themselves.

Spike buried his face in Xander’s neck, breathed in the scent of him, and then kissed him, taking strength from his lover’s presence. He tensed when he heard a second car pull in. “They’re here,” he choked out. He pulled away from Xander and smoothed his shirt. “Do I look all right?”

Xander had made a show of looking him over carefully. He’d worn a new pair of black jeans and a light blue Henley, both washed twice so they didn’t look new—he wanted to make an impression without looking like he’d actually made an effort, and black boots. No matter how Xander tried to expand his wardrobe, he wouldn’t let his lover mess with the boots.

“You look fabulous,” he whispered, and then pulled Spike in for a deep kiss that momentarily took his mind off the impending visit. Xander pulled back and looked at him, eyes on his lips, and then ran a thumb over them. “There,” he said with a satisfied smile, “now you look better. Well-kissed. I like that look on you.”

Spike blushed and hardened. He grabbed Xander’s ass and pulled his lover against him, watched Xander’s eyes go dark. “You should know better than to tease a vampire, luv,” he purred. “Remember what happened last time?”

He could tell Xander did remember by the way his eyes glazed over. The last time he and Xander had visited the witches, his lover had teased him relentlessly with shy glances, loaded comments, and soft, seemingly-innocent touches until Spike hadn’t been able to take it any more, and dragged Xander into the bathroom for a buggering they wouldn’t soon forget. Nor the witches, if the blushes and hint of arousal in the air when they returned to the living room were any indication.

Tara’s laugh drew him back to the present. She had opened the front door and stood on the porch, laughing at something Dawn had said. When she stepped back inside she carried one of Dawn’s bags, a wide smile on her face. Dawn and a slender boy followed her. They set their bags down and Dawn greeted Willow with a hug and kiss, and then turned to Giles. As she pulled away from the watcher, the babies transferred themselves to her. Dawn had grown up, but she hadn’t grown very tall. With her arms full of the two girls, she looked like nothing more than a young girl herself.

As much as Spike wanted to throw himself at Dawn, her greeting of the others gave him a moment to examine the boy who stood behind her. He was slim, several inches taller than Dawn, and had light hair and eyes. He looked nothing like the great brooder, which surprised him. He’d almost been afraid that Dawn had fallen for an Angel-clone, and the fact that she hadn’t made him feel a bit better. Actually, he thought with a internal smirk, the kid resembled him more than Angel.

When Dawn put the girls down, Spike pushed Xander forward. Xander gave him a raised eyebrow and a smile, and then pulled Dawn into a hug. When he was the only one left to be greeted, Spike self-consciously held out his arms and Dawn raced into them. “Bit,” he whispered hoarsely.

“Spike,” she whispered back.

He hugged her until her bones creaked.

“Ugh, Spike, you’re squishing me!” she laughed.

Spike loosened his hold so she could turn around and stand at his side, but draped his left arm possessively over her shoulder. Feeling more himself, he raked his eyes over the boy he’d already examined, and said, “So, you’re Angel’s whelp.”

“Spike!” Dawn smacked him on the chest. The boy merely raised an eyebrow.

Oh, he was good! Spike thought. Aloud, he asked, “What?” with faked-innocence as he grabbed Dawn’s hand so she couldn’t hit him again.

“This is Connor.” She pulled her hand out of Spike’s grasp and reached out for Connor’s hand. The boy allowed himself to be pulled forward. “Connor, this is Spike, Spike, Connor.”

Connor held his hand out to Spike. “I’ve heard a lot about you. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

Spike raised an eyebrow of his own—he was the master—and smirked as he slowly reached out and clasped his fingers around the proffered hand. “If you’re pleased to meet me, you’ve not been hearing the right things.” He tightened his grip. Connor’s eyes widened slightly, and then his own grip tightened. The mutt had a bit of strength, he’d give him that.

He pulled Dawn tight against him with a little warning shake. “Heard they call you The Destroyer,” he said to Connor. Dawn gulped audibly.

Willow and Tara interrupted their manly display. “Why don’t we talk about that later.... Don’t want the food to get cold.... Come on, everyone, let’s go sit down.... Spike.... Spike.... Spike let go of Connor.... And Dawn.”

Brunch was filled with loud voices, laughter, and the squeal of babies, and Spike refrained from grilling Dawn and her boy. He did, however, keep a close eye on them, noticing the shy glances and reassuring touches they stole. He tried to keep a stern expression on his face so neither one got complacent, but that plan went out the window when Jess crawled onto his lap and demanded kisses.

After brunch, Dawn and the witches cleaned up, the babies scampered off to the living room to play, and Xander and Giles strove to dominate the conversation with Connor in an attempt to keep Spike from interrogating him. Spike crossed his arms over his chest and stared in an intimidating manner, but listened closely to Connor’s answers, surprised to learn so much about the boy, who was very open about his past. And a little too open about Angel and Wesley’s past for Spike’s comfort.

When the clean-up was done, they separated. Giles had to open the Magic Box for the afternoon, having closed it for the morning so he could attend the brunch, Willow and Tara were going to walk around town with Dawn and Connor, giving him a tour of Sunnydale, while Xander and Spike watched the babies. Spike darted under the car port the witches had built just for him and dove into their car, behind the safety of spelled windows. He drove back to their house and pulled into the garage while Xander walked across lots with the two girls.

While the babies napped, Xander pulled Spike into their bedroom and took his mind off everything but the feel of skin sliding over skin as he was sucked, bit, pulled, spread, filled, and loved until there was nothing on his mind but Xander, and then, wrapped around each other, they fell into a light doze. When Spike woke he was alone, but he could hear Xander down the hallway talking quietly with the girls. He stretched like a cat and considered snuggling back down for more sleep when he remembered that Dawn was home. He jumped out of bed, quickly showered and dressed, and then joined Xander, Jess, and Joy in the living room.

The three of them were on the floor playing with Barbies. Spike smirked at his lover, and then dragged him to his feet for a kiss. “Why don’t you go take a shower, luv?” he suggested with a raised eyebrow.

“Sounds like a good idea,” Xander replied, and then handed him the Barbie. “Here.”

Spike stared at the doll. Xander laughed and slapped his bum, and then ran out of the room and down the hall to their bathroom. With a shrug, Spike sat on the floor. “What ‘re we playin’?”

A couple hours later the doorbell rang. Jess and Joy ran to answer it with Spike and Xander following behind. Willow, Tara, Dawn, and Connor stood on the porch, red-faced, sweaty, and drooping.

“Looks like you folks could use a cold drink,” Xander said with a laugh. “Why don’t you go make yourselves comfortable in the living room while Spike and I get the drinks?”

“Need a pool,” Dawn muttered as she pushed into the cool house. “Why didn’t we ever put in a pool?”

“I have to use the bathroom,” Tara announced softly. “Hi, sweeties,” she greeted the two girls, then nearly ran down the hall.

Refreshed, they all piled into the mini-van and Xander’s car to head over to the Magic Box for research and patrol. Everyone but Spike usually took turns staying with Giles and the babies, since they needed his strength on patrol, but since Dawn refused to stay back, and no one wanted to be parted from her, chaos reigned while they tried to decide who would watch the girls. Finally, a shrill whistle cut through the air.

“Why don’t I just take them both to Willow and Tara’s?” Giles suggested. “The three of us will be fine. I’ll take a book,” he forestalled Tara’s argument. “Go, patrol, have fun. Oh, wait, no, don’t go! Help me get their car seats into one vehicle.”

Because of the size of their group and the loudness of their chatter, patrol wasn’t too busy that night, but Spike did have an opportunity to see how well Connor fought when they came upon a group of vampires having a party with two co-eds. He didn’t fail to notice how the boy moved in front of Dawn at the first sign of danger, either, the same way he’d stepped in front of Xander. Or the way both Dawn and Xander rolled their eyes at each other. Wankers.

The next day, everyone slept in. Later that afternoon, the witches, Joy, Dawn, and Connor trooped over to their place for a bar-b-que. Everyone sat out on the deck, with Spike in a shaded spot behind a rose-bush-covered lattice that Xander had built for him, drinking cold beer, iced tea, and soda while the girls splashed in the kiddie pool until they were tired and cranky and had to be put down for a nap.

Stomachs eventually began to growl. Xander put on the steaks while the witches and Dawn cut up the greens for a salad. When Connor slipped inside the house with the excuse of getting another beer, Xander slid onto Spike’s lap. “This is nice,” he said.

“Sittin’ on my lap?” Spike teased as he ran his hands over Xander’s legs while his lover snuggled up against him.

“Yes,” Xander said with a smile, “but I meant, this.” He waved his hand to encompass everything. “Having everyone here.”

“Yeah,” Spike agreed, “that is nice. Like havin’ you on my lap, too.”

Xander pulled back and grinned down at him, and then kissed him until they were interrupted by Dawn’s, “Euww, get a room!”

After everyone left, Xander found Spike out on the deck. He wasn’t smoking as one might have expected, something he only did now when he was stressed. His shoulders were slumped and he knew he radiated misery. Xander placed a comforting hand on his back and rubbed.

“Spike? What’s wrong, sweetheart?”

They didn’t use endearments often, so Spike knew he had Xander really worried. He turned to his lover, his face screwed up in anguish. “I like him!” he wailed.

“Like who?” Xander asked, confused.

“Angel’s soddin’ miracle destroyer mutt!” he yelled. “I want to kill him! I don’t want to like him! Wanker’s takin’ Dawn away, he deserves to be skinned alive and left out for a pack of Moreay demons to devour! Instead he’s nice,” he spat, “and good to her, and strong enough to protect her,” he finished, breathing hard after his passionate speech, despite the fact that he didn’t need to breathe at all.

“I’m sorry?” Xander replied.

“Jess isn’t dating until she’s 30,” Spike muttered, pouting.

Xander laughed as he pulled Spike into his arms. “Wait until she’s 13. You’ll be trying to give her away.”

“I have mentioned that I hate change, right?”

“Once or twice,” Xander said, and then kissed him. “Wanna go skinny dipping in the hot tub?”

The rest of the week went horribly fast. The witches and Xander each took a day or two off so they could spend it with Dawn, though Spike figured they just wanted to make sure he didn’t drive them back to LA ahead of the scheduled time.

Before she left, Dawn had brought up graduation and told them that Angel had offered to let them all stay at The Hyperion while they were in LA, if they wanted to. As soon as Dawn and Connor had driven out of sight, Spike quickly put the kibosh on that idea. “There is no way I’m stayin’ with that wanker!” he’d growled, and then stormed across the lawn to their house.





Part Four



Time moved too quickly, and Spike couldn’t remember ever being that nervous—not when he’d written that drivel for Cecily, not when he’d made his first kill, not when he’d fought his first Slayer... His baby was graduating.

After discussing it over the course of the next couple weeks after Dawn’s visit, Tara had taken care of making the arrangements for them. Once the graduation date had been confirmed, she reserved a three-bedroom suite at a hotel near the university and ordered food and drink for a small private celebration to be held in their suite following the ceremony. Spike couldn’t get out of seeing Angel at all, but he did have the small satisfaction of being on his own turf, surrounded by his family, when they met again.

The day before the graduation ceremony they drove to LA in two cars as soon as the sun set. Willow and Tara took the babies in the mini-van while he and Xander rode in the back of Giles’ convertible with the top down. Giles claimed it was so he didn’t have to hear the noises they made as they groped each other in the back seat.

As soon as they were shown to their suite, Spike called Dawn. By the time she and Connor arrived, their luggage had been brought up and stowed away, and they had put the babies into their pajamas, only allowing them to stay awake so they could see Dawn before being put down to sleep. Dawn was excited and chatty, telling them how she’d already packed up her room and was storing most of it at The Hyperion until the fall, when she would return to school for her teaching certificate.

When the witches yawned and Giles made noises about going to bed, Dawn and Connor got up to leave. After sharing a look with Xander, Spike asked to be shown around town. He’d visited LA before, but he wanted to see Dawn’s LA. Leaving the girls behind with Willow, Tara, and Giles, Spike and Xander followed Dawn and Connor out into the LA nightlife.

Hand-in-hand, the two couples walked around the campus, and Dawn pointed out the library, and the coffee shop where she’d worked part time. She showed them a few clubs she liked to go to, the movie theater she frequented, and the diner where you could get the best pancakes in LA—though second-best in the world, since Tara’s were the best ever—and then the park where she liked to lay in the sun during the afternoon and slay at night. Spike would have had a heart attack at that casual announcement if he could.

“To what?” he’d growled.

“To slay,” Dawn repeated. “I’m not stupid, Spike,” she went on. “I don’t go alone....”

Spike glared at Connor.

“...and I’m careful. Besides, I’m good. I had a great teacher.” She grinned at him.

He was unreasonably flattered, but he still wanted to rip her head off for slaying without him there to protect her. “Flattery will not get you anywhere, Bit.” Dawn rolled her eyes. “I mean it! You’re here to learn something other than slaying and demons. Want you to have a normal life.”

“That would be great, but it’s never gonna happen, Spike,” Dawn replied softly. “I’d have to give up my family to have a normal life, and I would never be able to do that. Besides, I’m not normal. And I don’t want to be. I love us,” she spread her arms. “And none of us is normal. Especially you, vampire with a male lover and a baby.”

He scowled at her. He knew all that, really he did, and it just annoyed him that Dawn had to remind him of it. “I know that!” he snarled. “But that’s what I want for you anyway. I just.... I wanna make sure you stay alive, and normal people don’t get killed fighting demons.”

“And I won’t either,” Dawn assured him as she moved in for a hug. “Because in addition to me, I’ve got all of you watching my back. ‘Sides, I’d be miserable if I tried to be normal.” She smiled at him.

“And you’re not now? I mean, you’re happy now?”

“Yeah, Spike, I’m very happy.”

“What’s wrong?” Xander asked worriedly, and Spike lifted his head, diverting his attention from the small brunette in his arms to see Connor standing stiff, his head tilted back as if he was scenting the air.

“Vampires,” Connor answered him. “Stay here,” he said, directed at Dawn, and then took off for the group of vampires hassling some tourists.

“You too,” Spike said to Xander, and followed Connor. He didn’t need to see them to know they were both rolling their eyes, pulling stakes, and following them. He grinned at the image, and then promised himself that the vamps would be dust before they could reach them, much less receive a scratch.

Giles, Willow, Tara, and the babies met Dawn and Connor for brunch the next morning while Xander and Spike slept in. Spike woke while the witches were busy getting the girls dressed and trying to keep them from waking Spike and Xander, and then couldn’t fall back to sleep after they left.

He folded his arms under his head and stared at the ceiling. He remembered the first time he’d met Dawn, the year he and Dru first came to Sunnydale looking for her bloody poof of a sire. Of course, he realized that those early memories of her—sitting on the couch with Joyce the night he’d gone to Buffy for help getting rid of Angelus, or perched on a stool at the island drinking hot chocolate that time he’d returned to Sunnydale after Dru left him—weren’t real, but they felt real. Just as real as the memories he had of her visits to his crypt, helping her collect the ghora demon egg, her first day of high school, her first date, high school graduation. She’d gone and grown up on him, and now she was graduating from university.

He could smile now at the memory of her asking him for advice on how to kiss a boy, but at the time he hadn’t found it amusing in the slightest. He’d been a bit flattered, partly mortified, and mostly enraged. He’d growled and demanded to know what boy would be stupid enough to even attempt to kiss her, at which point she’d burst into girlie tears that had him flustered until she blubbered, “You don’t think anyone’ll want to kiss me?”

He immediately realized his mistake and assured her that many boys might want to kiss her, but they’d be taking their lives into their own hands if they dared attempt it. What followed had been one of the most difficult conversations of his life—unlife, whatever—when Dawn had said, “I wish I was pretty like Buffy.”

“Hey.” Xander interrupted his reverie. “Whatcha thinkin’ ‘bout?” he asked sleepily as he rolled over and snuggled into Spike, resting his head on the vampire’s shoulder, one arm snaking possessively over his waist.

“What makes you think I’m thinking?” Spike asked, bringing his arm down around Xander’s shoulders.

“I can hear it,” Xander said, yawning. “It’s like another presence in the room.” He waved his hand around. “A big, foreboding presence.”

“Ha!” Spike said sarcastically, burying his fingers in hair he’d convinced Xander to leave a bit long, and dragging his head back. He rolled them slowly, letting Xander read the intent in his eyes as he brought his other arm down and braced his hand on the mattress on other side of Xander.

“Mmm, umm, Spike? We, uh....”

“No one else is here,” Spike assured him, lowering his head to Xander’s neck.

“Oh. Umm....” Xander tilted his head back. “O-okay.”

Spike grinned as he licked and suckled at Xander’s neck, making his lover moan and wriggle beneath him. “You fell asleep too quickly last night, luv,” he purred.

“Too quickly?” Xander yelped. “It was nearly sunrise! And what time is it now?” He twisted until he could see the clock. His eyes widened. “I-it’s not even noon! How can it not even be noon?”

“My thinking woke you up,” Spike reminded him as he slid down Xander’s body and latched onto a nipple.

“Yeah, you loud think—, oh, ah, god,” he finished on a sigh, spreading his legs so Spike could nestle between them, and gripping the vampire’s shoulders with strong fingers.

“Wanna go back to sleep?” Spike asked before moving to the other nipple.

“Ungh...what? Er, no, no. Lack of sleep is the—oh, yeah, right there!—new orange. Or something.”

“Black is the new orange, pet.” Spike slid down further and nibbled on Xander’s ticklish sides as Xander squirmed and giggled, and then licked across his belly, eliciting a gasp. His tongue dipped into Xander’s belly button, and his lover bucked against him.

“Spike, for the love of...oh, god!” Xander cried out when Spike swooped down and engulfed his cock. “Oh! Spike!”

Xander tugged on Spike’s hair and lifted his hips as Spike dove down and buried his nose in Xander’s groin, and then issued a long, low groan when Spike exerted strong suction on him as he drew his mouth up his lover’s shaft until he was sucking on the head, his tongue working the sensitive spot just below the ridge.

“Spike, Spike, please....”

Spike stuck his finger into his mouth alongside Xander’s cock and slicked it up to the accompaniment of his lover’s sweet voice pleading for more. With little warning, Spike circled his wet finger around Xander’s opening, and then slowly inserted it. He twisted and wiggled until his lover was used to the invading digit, and then searched for Xander’s prostate.

His finger rubbed over the swollen nub and Xander yelped. “Oh, god, again!”

Spike lifted his head and gazed on his lover. Xander was flushed, and a fine sheen of perspiration covered him. “Pushy bottom,” he muttered lovingly, and then once more sucked Xander into his mouth while his finger stroked Xander’s button continuously.

Xander writhed, fingers pulling at Spike’s hair while he cursed and cried out. Finally he tensed, and then his whole body began to tremble as he came, spurting his release into Spike’s mouth. Spike swallowed, sucking until Xander was completely spent and limp beneath him, and then crawled up his lover’s body until he was draped over him, forearms on either side of Xander’s head supporting his weight.

He kissed Xander while his cock nudged his lover’s ass. “Want you, luv,” he whispered between kisses, moving his hips enough to elicit a reaction. “Need you.”

“Brought...stuff,” Xander croaked as he reached for the bedside table.

Spike batted Xander’s hand down and reached for the drawer. Xander’s legs went around him, holding him tight as if Xander was afraid he was trying to leave. “Just gettin’ the slick, pet. You really don’t have to worry ‘bout me leavin’,” Spike muttered as his questing fingers found the tube.

He liberally coated his fingers with the lube, and then wormed his way down Xander’s body so he could reach between them. Xander spread his legs and brought them back, opening himself up to Spike. Two fingers went in easily. Spike stretched him, but was too excited to wait any longer. Kneeling, he slicked himself up, and then lifted Xander’s hips.

“Ready, luv?” he asked.

Xander looked back at him through hooded eyes, wet bangs sticking to his forehead and falling into his eyes, looking completely debauched. Spike groaned, and then pressed into his lover. Xander was always hot and tight, and he made the most delicious sounds when Spike was inside him. Spike would never be able to get enough of him.

Fingers tightly gripping Xander’s hips, Spike began to thrust. Xander got his toes on the bed and pushed back. Spike threw his head back and roared, “Xander!” as he furiously pumped his hips. He could tell that he was hitting Xander’s prostate by the way his lover’s eyes rolled back and his fingers gripped the sheet.

He needed to come, but he wanted to send Xander over the edge one more time. He forced his orgasm down and continued to pound into his lover. His partner. That thought was nearly enough to undo him. His partner, he thought again. He’d loved Xander before, but the other man became a part of him when they’d claimed each other. Literally and figuratively.

When Spike looked back at him, Xander was staring at him. “My love,” he whispered. Xander’s eyes widened. “My love,” he said again. Xander’s head went back and his back arched. “My love,” Spike said, louder. Xander came in powerful spurts that sprayed semen across chest and shoulder, hitting his chin, and then dribbling onto his belly with his final pulses. His ass closed around Spike, who paused momentarily during the most violent contractions, and then began a series of short, jerky thrusts until he stiffened, and then shot his load into Xander’s body.

Trembling, he lowered himself onto Xander. The door suddenly burst open, and both men turned wide, surprised eyes to the doorway.

“Daddy kissing!” Jess announced to the suite at large.

“Bloody....”

“Gaagh!”

Both men grabbed frantically for the sheet they’d kicked to the bottom of the bed during their loving.

“Willow!”

“Red!”

Two hours later, showered and dressed, they pulled up to the building that was hosting the graduation ceremony. Spike, blanket over his head, raced into the building. Xander and Willow got the babies out of the mini-van and then Giles and Tara went to park the vehicles. Before they returned, Spike’s head went up as he scented the air. Angel!

He looked around and spotted Angel and Connor walking down the hallway. He hadn’t come in the front door and Spike briefly wondered if he’d taken the sewers before reminding himself he didn’t care.

Connor greeted Xander and Willow and fussed over the girls while Spike and Angel stared each other down. Spike refused to be the first to speak.

“Spike,” Angel finally said. Even though it sound more like, ‘This is my town. What are you doing here?’

“Poof,” Spike replied scathingly.

Angel sighed, as if dealing with a recalcitrant child, which got Spike’s back up. Before he could say or do anything, Giles and Tara appeared and he took the opportunity to turn his back on Angel and ignore the other vampire.

“Whelp,” he greeted Connor, who just rolled his eyes and said, “Spike.”

When Tara and Giles had joined them, Connor said, “I have something for you.” He opened an envelope he’d been carrying and pulled out a tag that said ‘Father of the Graduate’. “Dawn forgot to bring these over this morning, so she asked me to give them to you.” He handed the tag to Spike, who fought back tears. He would rather fry in the sun than let Angel see him get emotional.

“That’s so sweet,” Willow cooed.

“Ta,” he said brusquely, and then turned to Xander who took the tag from nerveless fingers and pinned it to his jacket. “Thanks, pet,” he said softly, patting the tag.

Connor pulled another tag from the envelope and held it out to Willow and Tara. “She tried to get two, but they’d only let her have one,” he explained.

Willow took it and pinned it to Tara’s dress, and then smiled at her partner. “You were more the mommy. I was the...big sister! And the big brother!” She took Xander’s arm in hers, and turned to Connor. “Do siblings get one?” she teased.

The approach of Cordy, Wes, Fred, and Gunn broke the moment. There were greetings and introductions, and then Connor said, “We should probably get seated. Everyone have their tickets?”

Spike patted his pocket. He’d triple-checked before leaving the hotel, but you could never be too sure. They filed into the auditorium and found their seats. Spike wasn’t sure who’d thought to seat him on the opposite end of their group from Angel, but he was grateful to them.

He didn’t remember too much of the actual ceremony. Deans and valedictorians droned on, but his eyes were glued on Dawn. She was beautiful in her cap and gown. His chest tightened and he got teary-eyed. Xander, who was holding Jess, patted his leg and handed him a tissue. Spike clenched it in one hand and held Xander’s with the other.

Directly after the ceremony there was a reception for the graduates. Dawn was glowing. There were pictures, and then Dawn held Connor’s hand while she introduced her friends and some special professors to her family. Every time she told someone that Spike was her father, he got choked up. One friend of Dawn’s who’d been introduced as Caro, flirted with him, and Dawn was quick to inform her that Spike was taken.

“Darn it! By who?” she’d pouted prettily.

“By this one!” Spike said, tossing Jess into the air. She giggled happily, placing a wet kiss on his cheek when she was once more safely ensconced on his hip. He glanced over to see Xander smiling at him. “And that one,” he added softly.

Caro blushed crimson. “Oh. Sorry,” she said to Xander.

“That’s okay. You can look,” Xander said. “But only I can touch.”

“Oh, man, like I needed that image,” she groaned.

“Euww, Caro!” Dawn squealed.

“What? They’re hot!” She giggled in embarrassment and turned a deeper shade of red.

“Yeah, but....” Dawn looked them over. “That’s my dad you’re talkin’ about!”

Spike’s chest swelled so much he wouldn’t have been surprised to find out he’d ripped his shirt.

Dawn quickly grew bored with the reception and they headed back to the hotel. Tara had called after the ceremony to make sure everything was set up. The first thing Spike did was remove his jacket and tie, tossing them onto the bed. He rolled his sleeves up as he walked around behind Tara, checking out the food platters and tubs of bottles covered with ice. She raised her eyebrows and smiled at him. He grinned back. He hadn’t been sure this would be a happy day, but it had been pretty special so far.

“Mom,” he teased.

“Yes, Dad?” she replied.

A knock at the door drew their attention. Spike stiffened, smiling tightly at Tara when she patted his arm reassuringly. Xander, still dressed in his suit jacket and tie, pulled the door open, scooped a laughing Dawn up, and twirled her about.

“Look what I found!” he called out to the room.

Jess and Joy squealed and immediately started begging for ‘rides’. Xander set Dawn on her feet and picked up Joy while Dawn picked up Jess, and then they both twirled. Spike ignored the rest of the gang that piled into the suite and walked across the room to his lover and the girl he considered a daughter. He touched Xander’s shoulder, and then picked up Dawn.

“How’re my two best girls?” he asked.

“Twirl us, Daddy!” Jess cried, and so Spike did until Dawn begged him to put her down before she heaved.

“Nice language,” Spike teased as he put her down, grabbing her arm when she stumbled.

“Oh, man,” she said as she handed Jess off to Xander, “I don’t think I’m gonna be able to eat now.”

“We got spicy chicken wings for you,” Willow said.

“Really?” Dawn grabbed Connor’s hand and led him over to the table where the food had been set up. “Wow, look at all this!” She turned back to the group. “Thanks guys,” she said a little self-consciously. “I’m so glad you came.” Her voice cracked and she started crying.

“Oh, hey now!” Spike said helplessly as the witches gathered Dawn up in their arms, hugging her and whispering in her ear.

“Everyone, come eat,” Dawn sniffled when they let her go. “Look, Cordy, dip!”

“Ha, ha,” the brunette replied as she wandered across the room to look at the spread. “This is amazing. Is that coffee?”

“That one is,” Tara replied, pointing. “This is blood.”

“Euww!”

Spike stayed as far away from Angel’s gang as he could. They’d been introduced briefly before the ceremony, but he didn’t have any sense that they cared to spend any additional time in his company. Not that he wanted to get to know them better, either. They were Angel’s friends, which would automatically put them at odds with Spike. Xander snuck up to him while he was lost in thought.

“Where’s Jess?” Spike asked as he pulled Xander into his arms.

Xander pointed. Both girls were tangled together on the couch, sleeping. “They’re pooped. Been a couple of busy days.”

“So, this is your worse half,” Cordy said. Spike glared at her. Unaffected, she popped a grape into her mouth.

“Cordy,” Xander said, drawing her name out. “We’ve discussed this. He’s changed....”

“Have not!”

“Well, he’d probably still shove hot pokers through Angel, but other than that....”

“I was talking about you.”

“Oh. That was a joke, right?”

***

Summer had gone much too quickly, and now here he was, holding his baby girl the night before she started preschool. She was smart as a whip. The cleverest little thing he’d ever met. But he didn’t want her to go. He’d gotten so used to taking care of her during the day, he wasn’t sure how he’d spend the time now. Plus, he’d miss her like crazy. Granted, she was only going to be gone for the morning, but....

“Hey.” Xander’s soft voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Hey, luv,” he said, trying to smile.

“Couldn’t sleep?” Xander asked, running his hand over Jess’s head and pretending he was talking about her.

“Nah, was just a bit restless,” Spike said. After a pause he added, “I’ve mentioned I hate change, right?”

Xander smiled sadly and knelt beside the chair. “Yeah. Change can suck. And hurt like hell.”

Spike knew Xander was talking about the losses time had visited upon them. Anya. Buffy. He was surprised to realize that there was only a dull ache where the sharp pain of her death, of his own failure, used to be.

Xander looked up at him with beautiful, expressive eyes. “But it’s what brought us here, together.”

Spike knew Xander wasn’t as dumb as he let most people believe, but sometimes the other man could still surprise him. “You’re right, it did,” he agreed.

Xander’s smile widened. “Come to bed?” he asked. “I’ve got a present for you.”

Spike pushed his blue thoughts aside and waggled his eyebrows. Xander blushed. Spike loved that, even after all they’d done to each other, his lover could still be made to blush so easily.

“Not that!” Xander whispered.

“Okay, luv, let’s tuck her in.” Spike stood and rubbed Jess’s back when she fussed at the movement. Xander locked the door and followed him through the house to Jess’s room. He leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed over his naked chest, and watched Spike pull the sheet up to cover Jess.

Done, Spike walked over to Xander and leaned into him, hands resting on his hips, foreheads pressed together. Xander opened his arms and wrapped them around Spike. He played with the waistband of the sweats Xander had thrown on when he came looking for him. He felt the tension in Xander’s body, and would probably never know how hard it was for his lover to refrain from offering him a platitude, telling him that everything would be all right.

“Love you, Xan.”

“Love you too, Spike.” Xander tilted his head and placed a gentle kiss on Spike’s lips. “Come to bed?” he asked again.

“For my prezzie?” Spike asked suggestively.

Xander laughed softly, giving Spike a little squeeze. “Yeah,” he said, “for your prezzie.” He backed out of the moonlit room and down the hall, pulling Spike with him. They laughed when their feet tangled and they tripped, shushing each other loudly, until Spike gave Xander a push that toppled him onto the bed. Xander didn’t let go of Spike, and his momentum pulled the vampire down on top of him.
Spike nuzzled his neck, and then playfully bit him. Xander giggled and Spike moved down his body, licking and sucking a path down to his belly. He looked up at Xander. “Time for my prezzie now, luv?”

“Yeah,” Xander choked out.

Spike pulled the sweat pants down.

“Spike, I really....”

Ignoring him, Spike nuzzled his groin.

“I really have....”

“Love my present, Xan. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Spi—.”

Spike shut Xander up by the expedient method of closing his mouth over him.

Twenty minutes later, Xander was breathing heavily, both men sprawled across the bed on their backs. “I think you blew the top of my head off,” he said, and then reached up to check.

Spike gave a huff of laughter. His muscles were still trembling and they felt like Jell-o. “Sleepy now,” he mumbled tiredly.

“No! Pr-present,” Xander reminded him.

“There’s really a present?” Spike asked in surprise.

“I told you....”

“Well, give!” Spike demanded, still not moving.

“Can’t move,” Xander replied.

Spike reached across the bed and poked him.

“Ow!”

Poke.

“Spike!”

“Prezzie.”

Xander rolled over with a loud groan and fumbled with the drawer on the bedside table. He withdrew a package, flopped onto his back, and handed it to Spike.

Spike turned it around in his hands. He could tell it was a book, but he wondered what kind of book Xander might have gotten him.

“Gonna open in?” Xander asked.

Spike ripped into the paper. The book was bound in black leather and had gold embossed lettering. He turned it so he could read the front cover, ‘Journal of William the Bloody.’ He opened it. In black calligraphy, the first page said, ‘Wonderful father, incredible lover, and true friend.’ He was so moved he couldn’t speak.

“Spike? D-do you like it?”

He ran is fingers over the calligraphy. “Yeah, I.... It’s beautiful. Why...?”

“You said once that you ought to write a book about your adventures, so....” He shrugged. “I thought it might give you something to do while Jess is at preschool. You don’t have to, though. I mean, you can use it for anything....”

Spike closed the journal and ran his hand over the cover. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had known him well enough to buy him something so perfectly fitting. Dru had been too insane and flighty to care about anyone but herself, much less listen to Spike and purchase him a gift that reflected his desires.

“Spike?”

“I love it. I love you. Thank you, Xander.”

“Love you, too.” Xander moved closer to him.

Spike regretfully placed the book on his bedside table and turned into his lover’s arms.

Having been awake most of the night, morning came too early for Spike. He helped Jess get dressed, listening to her chatter excitedly about her first day of preschool with a heavy heart. After goodbye kisses from Jess and Xander, Spike watched in dread as the door closed behind them. The whole morning stretched out in front of him. Willow would be picking Jess up from preschool and dropping her off around noon, but he had several hours to kill until then.

He crawled back into bed, but couldn’t get comfortable, couldn’t shut his mind down. Finally, he gave up. He took a shower and got dressed, and then looked at the journal. He picked it up, heated a mug of blood in the kitchen, and carried both out to the shaded deck to sit in his chair. He sipped from the mug, and then set it aside. He opened the journal and stared at the blank page, and then picked up the pen and started writing.



The End







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The Spander Files