Warren was dead. The first thought that went through Xander’s brain was, ‘That makes things easier.’ It was followed closely by the realization that Willow was not going to share that attitude.
Xander could feel the murky waters of responsibility closing over his head. He was running on too little sleep to handle this situation. There was only one course of action that made sense. Call for back up.
“I’m calling Giles,” he said.
Giles picked up on the third ring. “Hello,” he sounded rushed, as if he’d been halfway out the door.
“We have a situation, Giles. How soon can you get here?” Xander was not in a friendly greeting mood.
“Xander,” Giles said, still sounding rushed but listening. “What sort of situation?”
“We’ve got dead bad guy with high chance of emotional fallout. Listen, I really don’t want to go over the whole thing on the phone. Can you come here?” Xander wanted out of the house in the worst way. He knew it was cowardly to just dump this on Giles and run but that was the current plan.
“I’ll be right there.”
“Thanks, Giles.” Xander breathed a little sigh of relief. The cavalry was on the way.
He turned back to the living room to find Jonathan staring at him with helpless confusion. “I’m not sorry,” he said. “Does that make me a monster?”
Xander searched for some shred of regret in his own psyche. He couldn’t find any. He’d worry about the whys later. “The guy was a couple seconds away from murdering you in cold blood. If not being sorry he’s dead makes you a monster I’m right there with you.” Practicality won out over brooding over morality. “Did they say when he died?”
Jonathan seemed a little bolstered by the fact that Xander was unperturbed by Warren’s demise. “He died on the way to the hospital. Least that’s what they said.”
“Good, then he probably didn’t get a chance to name names. That makes things much simpler.” Xander found himself pacing as he tried to think of what else they might need to worry about. “Let Giles break the news to Willow. She’s going to seriously wig.”
This was more than Tara could handle alone and Xander felt completely out of his depth. Spike would be less than useless. He’d probably complain that they hadn’t killed him in a sufficiently gruesome fashion. Moral quandaries were not his forte.
He was just about to sit down with Jonathan to see if there was any further coverage when Giles knocked on the door.
“Would you mind explaining to me what has happened?” Giles demanded as he stepped inside.
Xander gave him a thumbnail sketch of the previous night’s events. “Jonathan can fill you in on the rest,” he concluded. “Just as a sidebar, you might want to have a little talk with Will about casting spells on people without their permission.”
Giles gave him a questioning look.
“Look, I don’t care how little the spell is, I want to know if it’s being cast on me, I’m just saying.” Xander felt like he was being petty with the larger issues they had to deal with but they couldn’t just let it go or it would get out of hand.
Xander grabbed his hard hat and tool belt while Giles tried to find his voice. Before Xander could make good his escape Giles put a hand on his arm. “You do realize I have no more answers than you.”
“Maybe not, but you fake it a whole lot better.”
Giles dropped his hand and Xander went to work.
It was not Xander’s most productive work day. Having delegated the Warren situation to Giles, his brain was free to hijack him on the Spike front. He wondered if he would have been so cavalier about Warren’s death a year ago. He could hear Anya’s voice telling him that Warren was just lucky she didn’t still have her powers. If he was on a path of moral decay, it hadn’t started with Spike. What was it with him and his attraction to the morally ambiguous crowd?
Of course, being attracted to Spike was nothing new. He’d had lusty thoughts about Spike since one immediately repressed, never-to-be-mentioned wet dream right after parent/teacher night. It had been pretty easy to keep a lid on while Spike was actively trying to kill them. It had been a little harder since the chip.
The big blow had come when Xander saw Spike being straddled by the Buffybot. Convinced he was going to have to be understanding with Buffy, who had obviously lost her mind, he let slip a few appreciative words that Anya had tucked away in that steel trap brain of hers.
Okay, so he might as well have hung a sign around his neck saying, “I lust after Spike.” Even if embarrassment had allowed him to forget what he’d said, Anya’s faithful repetition had made sure it burned in good and hard.
“It’s understandable. Spike is strong, and mysterious, and sort of compact but well muscled.” He still cringed at the memory.
That night, having gotten Spike back from Glory, Anya brought up those words as the groundwork for an extremely disturbing idea. She wanted a threesome with Spike. What Xander had found the most disturbing was how very tempting it was.
At first, he insisted that he wasn’t attracted to Spike. Anya kept repeating his words back to him until he crumbled. It didn’t take long. When he confessed that he was afraid two people as gorgeous as Spike and his Anya would ditch him for each other, he got a much more sympathetic hearing. He had a suspicion that she hadn’t dropped the idea, just put it on the back burner, but things with Glory got crazy, and then she was dead.
She’d been dead for six months now. Xander was still only 21 and it was natural his libido would start stamping its foot. He and Spike were friends now, confidantes. Even so, Xander had no illusions that Spike was attracted to him. If Xander let slip his own interest, that could lead to awkwardness of epic proportions. Logically, he needed to find himself a more appropriate outlet.
If only dating in this town wasn’t such a nightmare.
Willow was not taking Warren’s death well. Xander came home to find her baking, a sure sign of guilt overload.
“She been at this all day?” Xander whispered to Tara.
“All day,” Tara confirmed.
Noting the distinct lack of watcher, Xander asked, “Where’s Giles?”
“He and Jonathan decided to go ahead and open the shop a couple hours ago,” Tara said. “I think Jonathan’s going to be okay. He wants to try to reverse the spell on Andrew. I told him not to get his hopes up. It’ll be hard without knowing the spell.”
“Wait, Giles just left you holding the bag here?”
Tara shrugged. “I think we can handle it. Family dinner in an hour. Willow baked bread.”
Xander couldn’t remember Willow ever baking bread before. “Yeah, that’s bad. You okay?”
Tara gave a wan smile. “I hurt when she hurts.”
Xander squeezed her shoulder. “I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
He went upstairs and got himself cleaned up for dinner. All his stuff had been returned to its proper places in the bathroom. This wasn’t as freaky as finding them in the new bathroom. He imagined Spike was staking a claim to the new facilities. Not that the girls would let him get away with it, but it would certainly be amusing to watch.
Having gotten cleaned up, he headed for the kitchen. He poked his head around the corner to see if he could help. What he saw was Willow bustling about like she was preparing for the next apocalypse while Tara rescued something from becoming flambé.
“Willow,” Tara gentled “it’s just the five of us, we don’t need a seven course meal.”
“I can do this,” Willow babbled. “You always do the cooking, I can do my part.”
“You do, baby,” Tara whispered. “No one blames you.”
Xander withdrew without letting his presence be known. Tara had the situation in hand. He turned to go into the dining room and nearly ran into Spike.
“Bell, I’m definitely getting you a bell,” Xander gasped. Spike gave him a “you and what army?” look.
“Been keeping my head down today, little witch is acting like she could go off the deep end,” Spike explained.
“Nah, she’s a little extra tightly wound. That’s all,” Xander hoped he wasn’t lying. “Listen, thanks for grabbing my stuff this morning.”
Spike was peering past him into the kitchen, probably listening in on Willow and Tara. He shrugged in response.
Evidently, the thoughtful gesture hadn’t meant as much as Xander had, subconsciously, hoped. He kicked himself for his stupidity and changed the subject. “Where’s Dawn?”
“She’s hiding out in her room. Imagine she’ll poke her head out for dinner.”
“How’s she taking this mess?”
Spike’s focus returned to Xander. “She’s practical.”
Xander wondered just how horrified he’d be to hear what Spike and Dawn talked about. “Want to grab some tube time before dinner?”
Spike broke into a grin. “Only if I get to pick what we watch.”
One sitcom’s worth of mindless entertainment later everyone convened at the table. Willow had obviously been crying, and Tara looked to be at the end of her rope.
“Who made the bread?” Dawn asked in total innocence as she bit into a slice. “It’s good.”
“Thanks,” Willow choked out. “I’ve got cookies and brownies for dessert. Do you think I should take some to Mr. and Mrs. Mears? You’re supposed to take food at a time like this, right?”
“Willow, you don’t know them at all,” Dawn said, rolling her eyes. “Don’t you think that would look kind of suspicious?”
“Don’t know what you’re getting all worked up over. Way I hear it, that Warren bloke needed killing,” Spike interjected.
Tara shot him a glare. “Not all of us can be that cold blooded over taking a life.”
“I can’t believe I killed him.” Willow stared at her plate, moving her food around without eating any.
“Willow, I was there,” Xander said. “The only person to blame for Warren’s death is Warren.”
“But I could have hit Jonathan, or you,” she insisted.
“Learn something from that did you?” Spike’s words sounded very much like “I told you so.”
“I won’t be using any spells in combat until I know all the ramifications.” She sounded like she was reciting something Giles had made her write fifty times.
“Right, that’s sorted then.” Spike seemed satisfied that the matter was closed.
Willow continued to look miserable, Dawn looked like she might duck under the table and Tara seemed ready to join her. They needed a new topic of conversation.
“I’m thinking about dating again.” Xander winced as he threw himself on the grenade.
“What brought this on?” Tara asked. She looked pleased at the distraction.
“Hey, I’m a red-blooded American male. I have needs.”
Dawn giggled behind her hand.
Willow eyed him speculatively. “Are you sure about this?”
“Sure I’m sure.” He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “Women of Sunnydale, the Xan-man is back on the market.”
“You mean back on the menu, don’t you?” Dawn giggled.
Xander shook a finger at her. “None of that, missy. I’m changing my luck. Only 100% human girls need apply.” After a brief pause he added, “If I can figure out how to meet them.”
“Oh, you could take a yoga class,” Tara warmed to the subject very quickly. “There are always more women than men in those classes. Or dancing classes.”
“Okay, you’ve just picked two ways I can display my complete lack of grace to a roomful of prospective dates.”
“It’s a way of declaring that you aren’t afraid of being laughed at,” Willow chimed in with a big grin on her face.
“Gee thanks.” Xander tried to scowl but wasn’t very successful. The diversion was working too well. The rest of the meal was spent with suggestions like outdoor activities with lots of sunshine. The grocery store was even suggested as a possible pick up spot. Xander had a vision of himself holding a zucchini and trying to flirt. In the end, Willow and Tara started coming up with a list of potential blind dates among their acquaintances.
At the height of the hilarity, Xander looked around to see what Spike was going to hit him with and found his place empty.
True to their word, Tara and Willow set him up on several dates which Xander supplemented with the old, “hang out at the bar and see if anyone shows interest” approach.
The results of both methods were predictable.
He ended up complaining to Willow. “What the hell is it, I ended up having to stake two of my dates in the last month.”
“Face it Xander, you’re just irresistible.” She giggled.
“That’s not the worst part, the best conversation I’ve had with a date in over a month was that Sarva demon. Hell, I would have kept dating her but she wanted way more commitment than I’m ready for. Poppa to fifty pupae is way farther than I want to go on a second date. She was cool about it and she was way more interesting than the two dates I had that actually turned out to be human. Am I just completely unable to connect to plain old human beings any more?”
“Well, it doesn’t help that you can’t talk about your night job.” Willow sipped from her mug and snuggled further back into the couch.
“And there’s only so much you can talk about hanging drywall before I start to bore myself. I love my job but it’s not really a good conversation topic.”
“Just give yourself time. Aren’t you going on a date tonight?”
“Yeah, I even met her in daylight at the grocery store. Who knew that was the hot pick up spot?” Xander fiddled with his spoon. “She works at a funeral home. I’m pretty sure I’ll be one of the few guys interested in hearing her talk about her work.”
“Always a big plus.” Willow nodded. “Is she pretty?”
“Oh yeah.” Xander was getting a kick out of girl watching with Willow. It was a new kind of bonding for them, but it was fun. “Long brunette hair, big brown eyes, definitely works out.”
“Give me the breast stats,” Willow demanded.
“Looked like a B cup to me,” Xander grinned.
“Oh pooh, you had me till then,” she teased.
“Hey, I’m a leg man, and she had some mighty fine gams.”
“Willow, where did you put my throwing daggers? I want to practice some before patrol tonight,” the Buffybot complained as she walked in.
“Did you try the garage? I think we might have shoved some of the weaponry out there the last time Social Services came by,” Willow responded smoothly. Xander’s skin tried to take a vacation elsewhere.
“I’ll check,” the robot said, heading out to the garage.
“Damn that’s creepy.” He said when the bot was out of earshot.
“Everyone accepts her as Buffy, don’t they?” Willow’s eyes lost the humor of a moment ago. She was tired of this argument.
“That’s what’s so creepy,” Xander insisted. He wasn’t tired of the argument yet. Willow had used magic to enhance the bot’s personality subroutines. It now talked and acted so much like Buffy that Xander found himself constantly having to remind himself it was a thing.
“For once it would be nice if someone said ‘thank you, good job, Willow’ instead of being creeped out all the time.”
“You don’t think it’s creepy at all?” He stared at her incredulous.
“It’s necessary. We all agreed to it. Full Scooby meeting and everything.”
“Just because I agreed to it doesn’t mean I have to like it.” Xander couldn’t help but feel sorry for Spike. Given a choice he would hide for days rather than face the bot. He wondered how he’d feel if it had been necessary to have an Anyabot running around.
Willow crossed her arms, a look of indignation plastered on her face. “And your solution would be?”
“I don’t have one. You know that. But what’s it doing active right now?”
“Tara and I have found a possible way to tap into Dawn’s power. We’re going to do some experimenting with that after school. Spike has some mysterious errand and you have a date. Someone has to patrol.”
Xander knew what Spike’s mysterious errand was. He was hustling pool up at the college. Fleecing frat boys out of their allowances was one way he supplemented the family income. Xander had caught him at it one night and been amused at Spike’s pitiful attempts to prevaricate. He’d relaxed when Xander explained he was far from disapproving. He’d even helped every now and then. He thought Spike had called it being a shill.
“You’re right,” he admitted grudgingly. “Thank you, Willow. You’ve done an amazing job on our little mechanical slayer.”
Willow brightened. “Why you’re welcome, Xander.”
“But it still creeps me out.” Willow hit him with a pillow.
The date was going really well, Xander was shocked to realize. His particular brand of off beat humor seemed to be hitting an answering chord in Michelle. He hadn’t figured out how to bring the topic up, but he suspected she actually knew the Sunnydale score. Thus far, his dates with actual humans had ended with frozen smiles and hastily closed doors, accompanied by complete certainty there would be no second date. It was nice to be with someone who wasn’t convinced he was a serial killer.
The Espresso Pump made a safe, neutral meeting spot. Xander sipped his Froofy Frappachio (which he had not been given a hard time about) and laughed at Michelle’s latest story.
“So, you just put a scarf around her neck and no one wondered?” he asked.
“Hey, it’s better than trying to explain how you lost the body. After awhile decapitation is standard operating procedure with neck wound cases.” Michelle cradled her double espresso and smiled winningly.
Suspicion grew into outright certainty. “I’ve always wondered, embalming doesn’t help with that little disappearing corpse problem?”
“Not so much.”
An idea worked its way into Xander’s brain and wouldn’t leave. “What do you do with the blood?”
“Goes down the drain. We use the embalming fluid to push it out of the bodies, makes the blood safe to dump.” She cocked her head at him like she was charmed that he was concerned. “We’re not a blood bank.”
“Yeah.” He took a sip of his frap. “Guess that stuff would make it pretty unpalatable.”
The idea wouldn’t let go, all that perfectly good human blood going down the drain when Spike could really use it. “I don’t suppose you could drain the blood without the embalming fluid.”
Michelle’s charmed smile got frosty around the edges. “What would you need blood for?”
“I have a friend,” Xander said, and found he didn’t really have a very reasonable explanation to go along with that opening. In the end he went with the truth, lame as it was. “He could really use it.”
“This friend wouldn’t happen to be bumpy around the forehead, mouth full of fangs.” The smile was gone now and the atmosphere was icy.
“Listen, it’s not what you think,” he backtracked.
“I should have known you were too good to be true.” All the warmth had disappeared from her voice as she grabbed up her handbag. “Might have known you were a vamp whore.”
“A what?” Xander exclaimed in shock.
“You can just tell your master that I’m not providing take out.” She stared at him like she’d just scraped him off the bottom of her shoe.
“Are you insane?” Xander hissed, keeping his voice down around the civilians. “I’ve been dusting vamps for five years. I don’t call them master.” Well, there was that once, but he was hardly going to bring up his little bug eating adventure right now.
“Then who’s this ‘friend’ of yours?” Disdain dripped from her words.
He wasn’t making any headway, and he couldn’t come up with a reasonable, concise way to change her mind.
“He’s an exception,” he said. Not exactly his best line but he was willing to go with it. “He fights with us.”
“So, what’s his story? He’s not to blame for what he is? He never wanted to hurt anyone? Is he working for redemption?” Her tone was so bitter it made him flinch.
“Well, no actually.” Everything Spike had ever said on the subject led him to believe Spike viewed his turning as a gift, and he was absolutely certain Spike not only wanted to hurt people but downright delighted in it. Redemption, that was Angel’s gig. “He’s got this chip.”
The laugh that escaped her had more to do with pain than humor. She bolted for the door.
Xander sprinted after her before he really thought about it. It was early evening in Sunnydale and, as emotionally stressed as she was, she could be vamp chow. He caught up to her a couple blocks away in the park just off the town square. It was out of the main traffic of downtown, slightly isolated while still being in sight of the busy street. In other words, prime vampire hunting territory.
“Michelle, what the hell are you thinking? Do you want to get eaten out here?” Xander yelled his exasperation.
“He had a chip too,” she said blandly, as if it was a tired pick up line.
Rage flickered in her eyes. “The vamp that killed my sister.”
“Okay, I think I’m coming in about reel three here.” Xander spoke in the most soothing tone he could muster; she sounded unbalanced.
She told her story like she was reading the back cover of a novel, like she wanted to keep the whole thing at arm’s length. “About a year ago my sister started acting strange. She was tired and pale all the time, we thought she was on drugs. Turns out she was letting some guy live with her, said he’d been burned out of where he was staying. When I tried to check him out I couldn’t find anything. He didn’t work, he slept all day. We thought he was a dealer. When I told her I was going to call the cops she told me he was a vampire.”
“Let me guess, you didn’t believe her.”
“I work in a funeral home in this town. I believed her.” Her eyes flashed and he took a step back. “Two weeks later we found her dead in her apartment. She had bites on her that were months old.”
“If he had a chip, trust me, he couldn’t have bitten her. Pain to a human gives them the mother of all migraines.” Xander was trying his best to be reasonable. He’d seen the effects of the chip first hand. Hell, he’d baited Spike into attacking him just so he could laugh while he rolled on the floor in agony. The memory made him wince.
“Who said anything about pain? Half the vamps in the suck house had chips in their heads.”
Xander wasn’t sure what to say to this outpouring of information. All he could think about was bringing this date to the safest end he could manage. “Let me take you home.”
“I don’t want you knowing where I live.” She made no attempt to soften the blow.
Xander gritted his teeth and backed up. “Then I’m putting you in a cab. You’re not walking home at night when you’re this upset.” He waved an arm back toward the street. She nodded her assent.
As he was holding the door for her she looked back at him. “Don’t trust this friend of yours. You may still be able to get away.”
“I’ll keep it in mind,” he said mechanically as he shut the door.
He started walking away before the cab pulled out. He didn’t want her to think he was trying to discover clues about where she lived. He didn’t feel like going home: he could do without the questions the girls would level at him. Instead, he headed toward the college. Maybe he could watch Spike hustle pool for awhile.
Reluctantly, he mulled over what Michelle had said. It was a little like getting new pieces to a jigsaw puzzle you thought you had finished. The vamp that killed Michelle’s sister had probably moved in after Buffy barbequed the local suck house. He wasn’t sure he believed that he had a chip. Then again, the night they took down the Initiative had been total chaos. It wouldn’t be too surprising if a few chipped vampires had high tailed it out of there. The very fact that things like suck houses existed suggested that the bite must be able to bring some kind of pleasure, a high of some kind. Being more familiar with the “rip your throat out” kind of bite, the idea that it could be pleasurable hadn’t really occurred to him. It was a loophole in the chip’s design he’d therefore never considered.
It made a strange kind of sense. This vamp probably kept giving Michelle’s sister her fix, but without other donors he eventually took too much. Giles had said it happened sometimes. He could picture the girl all too clearly, bites along her arms, neck and shoulders, maybe her legs as well.
What he couldn’t picture was the vampire in question helping Dawn with her history homework, or going out to kill demons with the Slayer. Most of all, he couldn’t imagine this nameless vamp holding him while he wept over his dead girlfriend. It was impossible that Spike was setting them up. For one thing, there was no way he had the patience for a con this long. For a vicious killer Spike was a lousy liar. Pulling a scam like this off would be beyond him.
In the end, his musings just made him more angry at Michelle’s attitude. Someone who hadn’t been through what the Scoobies had been through together would never be able to fully understand the bond between them. They’d see Spike, displaying his Big Bad persona like protective camouflage, and see a vicious predator. Of course, he was a vicious predator, but that’s not all he was.
Xander entered the college bar seething. Michelle had judged him and his family without knowing any of them. They put their lives on the line for people like her day after day, and she had the nerve to call him a sick freak because her sister was an idiot. Xander scanned the bar and found Spike at a table with a couple of frat boys. He settled into a chair where he had a line of sight to the game without being obvious.
Spike was moving around the table, taking shots in smooth, economical movements. As each ball dropped into the pocket the frat boys began grumbling as they watched their money disappearing. Spike met Xander’s gaze briefly as he was sinking the last ball. If these two gave him trouble, he knew Xander would back him up.
As it turned out, no intervention was necessary. They handed over the money with ill grace and went to the bar to drown their sorrows. As Spike didn’t have any other marks lined up, Xander joined him at the table.
“Want to play a round?” Xander asked. “See if I can manage to sink a ball or two before you wipe the floor with me?”
“Your funeral.” Spike racked the balls again while Xander chose a cue stick. They played in silence for a little while. Xander found the feel of the smooth wood sliding through his fingers calming. Focusing all his attention and control on the game forced his anger into the background. Eventually, Xander gave voice to the questions roaming around in his head.
“Spike, why didn’t you do the whole biting for cash thing when you got chipped?”
Spike raised an eyebrow at him then took his shot, sinking the ball, naturally. “Not exactly my style.”
Xander smiled at that. “Yeah, running to the Slayer for help, much more your style.”
“Well, yeah.” Spike looked a little confused. “Done it before. I helped her with Angelus. She owed me.”
“Oh, I’m sure she saw it that way.”
“Didn’t dust me, did she?”
“Still, you could have gotten blood and money,” Xander pushed.
“Or, I could have gotten myself into a world of hurt.” He spoke matter of factly while sinking the nine ball. “Places like that, not generally run by your scrupulous types. Didn’t know I could hit demons yet, figured I was helpless.” He stood and leveled a look at Xander. “Got any idea how much damage someone like me can take without turning to dust? If the Slayer wanted to take me out, she’d do it quick and clean. Certain dignity to dying at the Slayer’s hands.”
Xander thought of the shape Spike was in when they carried him out from Glory’s clutches. His knuckles whitened on the pool cue. He didn’t want to think if it could get worse than that.
“Eight ball, corner pocket,” Spike called his shot. A quick jab of the cue stick and the ball sank into the designated pocket, ending the game. “What brought all this on?”
“My date didn’t go well,” Xander said simply. He wasn’t sure he wanted to talk about it.
Spike tilted his head to one side, studying Xander’s face. “Want to head to the crypt and spar?”
“Oh hell, yes.”
Dawn still took combat lessons from Spike once or twice a week with an emphasis on defense, but after the initial rush of being allowed to learn to fight, the lessons had paled on her. She lacked coordination and the lessons soon became frustrating to her. The lessons under Giles and Willow’s tutelage suited her strengths much better. She had the scary love of book learning Xander had only seen equaled by Willow.
He and Spike had continued on without her. Spike and he hit the mats practically every night. Xander was pleased with his progress. Spike was teaching him all sorts of dirty tricks and countermoves. Right now, he just wanted to work out some frustration. Neither of them wanted to go back to the house just yet so they had defaulted to Spike’s old crypt.
Most of the furniture had been moved or discarded. What remained was pushed to the edges so they could move freely in the center. Xander began throwing punches which Spike easily deflected. Xander wasn’t truly trying to connect, this was just a little light practice with Spike offering commentary on his form.
“She had me all labeled and shoved in a box. She wouldn’t even listen to me.” Xander grumbled as he jabbed at Spike. “It’s speciesist, I tell you!”
“Speciesist?” Spike chuckled.
“Well, it’s something intolerant. I just wanted to get you a little human blood, blood that was going to be dumped. As far as she’s concerned that means I spend my spare time calling you master. She doesn’t even know you.”
Spike ducked a punch and moved to the side, keeping Xander moving. “Knows my kind, doesn’t she? Don’t mistake me for a white hat, mate.”
Xander got in a glancing blow on Spike’s shoulder. “Bullshit. I know for a fact you would die for Dawn.”
“You would die for someone you didn’t even know. That’s what makes you a white hat. To me, most of the population is walking juice boxes.”
Xander spread his arms wide in exasperation. “Spike, most people don’t care if the rest of the population lives or dies. Do you think my parents would rush to save me?”
“Then they’re sodding idiots.” Spike grabbed Xander’s shirt and yanked him forward. Xander prepared himself for a throw which didn’t come. Instead, Spike’s mouth closed on his in a deep, passionate kiss.
Spike was a good kisser. Xander’s brain was far too overwhelmed with shock to register much more than that. As a result, Xander was receiving the best kiss he’d had in months and he was too frozen in pure amazement that it was happening to respond at all.
Then Spike started to pull away. That broke Xander out of his shocked paralysis into instant motion. He grabbed onto Spike’s upper arms, the soft cotton of the worn t-shirt bunching under his fingers, preventing Spike’s withdrawal and deepening the kiss.
He felt Spike’s arms slip around him. Powerful hands forced him against Spike’s hard chest. One hand wandered to the back of his head, making sure he stayed right there, where he most wanted to be.
His own arms snaked around Spike’s waist, pulling their hips tighter together, relishing the delicious friction created.
Eventually, the need for oxygen forced him to pull away, flushed and gasping while staring into dazzling blue eyes.
A smug grin curved across Spike’s face as he said, “Got tired of waiting. You could be an old geezer before we got together if I waited for you to make a move.”
Xander let that pronouncement sink in while he caught his breath, then he dived in for another kiss. He took his time tasting every bit of Spike’s mouth, running his tongue over palate and teeth, his hands wandering over the hard planes of Spike’s back. It was a much better goodnight kiss than he would have expected from Michelle.
This time Spike pulled away to smile wickedly at him. “So, that was alright, then?”
“Nice,” Xander panted while regaining his breath and contemplating a repeat performance. “Really, really nice.”
“Could be nicer,” Spike purred.
Xander felt his stomach flutter in anticipation and just a hint of terror. “New territory, seriously new territory. I think I need to sit down.”
Spike guided him to the recliner which he collapsed into. “This is impossible,” Xander whispered.
“Why?” Spike asked. “If you’re about to suggest I damaged your innocent psyche, you can forget it.”
Xander was too dazed to pay heed to the undercurrent of hurt in Spike’s tone. “Since when?”
That had clearly not been the response Spike expected. “Since when what?”
“You, interested in me. Can I just say, does not compute?”
That brought Spike’s good humor back. “Not so strange, is it? Good looking bloke like yourself, living and working together in close quarters day in, day out. Sparks are bound to fly sooner or later.”
Xander was still trying to wrap his mind around “handsome bloke” in reference to himself. “Funny, I don’t remember going to sleep.”
“Been dreaming about me, pet?” Spike’s confident swagger was back full force, as was the pleased, sexy smirk.
Since this was obviously a dream, parallel dimension or other form of non-reality, there didn’t seem to be any harm in answering truthfully. “Once and awhile ever since Junior year.”
Spike perched on the arm of the recliner, grinning like he’d just been offered two desserts. “Should have known, what with you shaking that cute little arse of yours in my face after you tied me to the barcalounger. And you a hard-core Slayerette. What did you imagine, hmm?”
Xander blushed furiously as he stared up at the vampire smiling at him. “Just fantasies. I’m not so deluded that I thought you were all eager to guide a teenage boy on voyages of sexual discovery.”
Spike brushed Xander’s hair from his face and allowed the backs of his fingers to trail over Xander’s cheek. The cool fingers left an electric tingle in their wake. “Don’t know. For you I might have been tender.”
Xander felt giddy as he said, “I roll disbelieve.”
“Yeah, well, you looked pretty delicious, tucked under Angelus’s arm and still mouthing off.”
“And you said you wouldn’t bite me.” Xander ran a hand down Spike’s thigh making the words provocative rather than hurtful.
Spike slipped his hand to the back of Xander’s neck, drawing him forward into another bone-melting kiss.
“Got a confession of my own to make,” he said as he pulled away.
“Yeah?” Whatever it was Xander hoped it would be short and they could get back to more kissing, possibly accompanied by other, more naked, things.
“When Rupert and I cleaned out your apartment I found your box of sex toys. Got them here.” Spike kept his hands on Xander, running them lightly over his neck and shoulders while Xander blushed furiously. “Couldn’t help but notice the strap on in there and that the restraints looked like they had been used on someone your size rather than Anya’s.”
“Yeah, Anya left no kink unexplored,” Xander said fondly. “Sometimes, when things got overwhelming at the site, she’d take control. It’s probably not very manly to admit it, but being tied up made me feel safe and cherished. She said it made her feel powerful and she didn’t mind doing all the work once in awhile. She could be incredibly generous that way.”
“Still and all,” Spike said like he was leading up to something, “it’s been over six months and I imagine you’re in need of something your average Betty isn’t likely to provide.”
“I kicked around the idea of a club but, well--”
“Hellmouth” they said in unison.
“Thing is, you need to be out of control, have someone take the responsibility for a few hours. I want to be in control, take back a little of being a master for a few hours. Figure we might be able to help each other,” Spike suggested.
A couple of Xander’s more vivid fantasies flashed before his eyes. He looked around for a relatively comfy flat surface they could use. “Now, please?”
“Not tonight. Don’t want you regretting this in the morning when your head clears.” There was pain in Spike’s voice, and Xander ran a thumb along his jaw, wishing he could erase every rejection Spike had ever suffered.
Spike closed his eyes in pleasure and leaned into the touch. Then he pulled back and fished a plain leather collar from a pocket. “I’ll be here, eight o’clock tomorrow night. If you want to do this, come downstairs wearing nothing but this collar. Only you can put it on, only I can take it off. If you haven’t shown by eight thirty I’ll assume you regained your sanity, and we’ll never speak of this again.”
Xander took the collar and threaded it through his fingers. “Deal.”
“But, before we leave,” Spike said, curling his tongue provocatively. “How about you tell me a few of these fantasies?”
Xander stood in the upper level of Spike’s crypt with the collar in his hand. It was ten after eight and he hadn’t gotten past taking off his shoes and socks. He hadn’t put on the collar yet. Until he did, he could change his mind, walk out of here.
At home, Willow had been preoccupied with fixing the bot when he left. A mishap on patrol had damaged it. He didn’t really know the details, he’d been far too preoccupied. He just nodded when spoken to and hoped no one noticed. He didn’t want to tell the others anything yet. This could be a one time thing, and Xander didn’t think he could face the full Scooby firing squad over one bout of stress relief.
He’d had all day to think about tonight; it wasn’t like he could really think of anything else. He reminded himself that Spike had kissed him, had propositioned him. As improbable as it seemed, Spike gave every indication that he wanted this as much as Xander did. This couldn’t be just an elaborate scheme to mock him, could it? Spike had never mentioned Xander’s breakdown in the basement, so it seemed an unlikely goal. But that had been an understandable emotional breakdown. This could make him truly look ridiculous.
In addition, Xander needed this. The responsibility was getting to him. He sometimes felt like he was carrying the whole house on his shoulders. Everyone tried to help but, financially, it was primarily up to him. He was putting money in a college fund for Dawn, the house had needed some serious plumbing repairs lately, he put in overtime and tried to economize but when Dawn looked at him and asked for something frivolous he found it so hard to say no. He was trying so hard to keep them secure, always desperately afraid he was forgetting something vital.
If he put on this collar, he wouldn’t be responsible for anyone for a few hours. He wouldn’t even be responsible for himself, he’d be handing that over to Spike. So the real question was just how much did he trust Spike?
He finished getting undressed, put on the collar, and headed downstairs.
When he reached the bottom of the ladder, he turned to take in the room for the first time. Half a dozen pillar candles cast flickering light on a large brass bed with wrist and ankle restraints already attached to the frame. Spike stood by the foot of the bed, wearing nothing but a skin tight pair of black jeans.
Before Xander had a chance to get nervous, and without looking his direction at all, Spike said, “You kept me waiting, pet. For that you must be punished. On the bed, face up.”
Oh yeah, that was the stuff. Xander eagerly complied, stretching his arms out towards the restraints. The enticing aroma of the supple leather cuffs was comforting and familiar. Spike began buckling him in, looking him over with a considering eye. “Very nice, I like my toys eager.”
Xander breathed in and tried to calm himself down. How did Spike know what drove him crazy? Well, there was the fact that this scenario was Xander’s idea. That could have been a clue. Spike buckled the ankle restraints and slid his hand up Xander’s inner thigh pressing only his fingertips to the sensitive flesh. “Tonight you belong to me, you’re mine to play with, to tease and use as I see fit.” He locked gazes with Xander and gave a feral smile. “I’m going to take you to the edge, and I’m going to hold you there until you think you’re going to die of it. Then, I’m going to let you fly.”
There was no air in the room. There was only one answer to a statement like that, “Yes, please, Master.”
Spike let his fingers trail very lightly down the underside of Xander’s stiff cock, past his balls, over his perineum to trace the edges of the large, black butt plug Xander had put in half an hour ago. “Seems you started without me,” Spike smirked.
“I just thought, with the chip and all.” It had been well over six months since he’d done any ass play, if he was going to bottom for Spike it had seemed logical to get himself stretched out first.
Spike tapped the plug sharply, causing Xander’s explanation to dissolve into a moan. “Didn’t say I was displeased, did I?”
Spike put a little more pressure on the plug, causing Xander to arch and cry out in pleasure. Then the pressure stopped. Xander blinked open his eyes to find Spike’s face inches from his own as he straddled Xander’s body.
“So lovely,” Spike whispered. “All laid out for me like a banquet.”
He licked under Xander’s chin in a long, slow motion. Xander threw his head back in response, and Spike lavished attention on the neck he’d just exposed. Spike was very much in command here, a fierce, dangerous creature. As certain as Xander was of his safety, having a vampire paying so much attention to his neck sent a thrill of fear through him. Carnival ride fear, not “big scary monster going to eat me” fear.
Spike’s hands seemed to be everywhere, stroking his sides, playing with his nipples, dancing across his waist. When something got a reaction he repeated the motion a little harder.
Spike raised his head from Xander’s neck to stare into his eyes. “So, you like things a little rough, do you? I think I can oblige,” he said in a seductive purr, and raked a fingernail down Xander’s side.
It was a sensation right along the pleasure/pain border and Xander writhed under the assault, begging for more.
Spike gave him a wicked smile then began kissing down his chest while his fingers played with Xander’s more sensitive spots. There was a dreamlike quality to the whole scene, like a high end porn film, and Xander was enjoying his role of sexual slave.
Spike continued his downward progress. Just as he was reaching Xander’s navel, Xander’s stomach gave a loud growl.
Xander could have died on the spot. He was sorry there wasn’t enough slack in the chains, so he could at least cover his burning face with his hands.
Spike was momentarily startled by the sound right under his ear. Then a smile curved his lips and he laughed. It wasn’t mocking, humiliating laughter either. It was warm and rich, like a hot drink on a cold night. He tumbled to the side and continued guffawing for over a minute. Xander spent a few more seconds in indignant humiliation before the ludicrous nature of the situation hit him and he found himself joining in the laughter.
When he could contain his mirth Spike asked, “skip dinner, luv?”
“Well, yeah,” Xander responded. He rattled the restraint chains for emphasis. “I kind of thought it would kill the mood if I had to ask you to unchain me so that I could go to the bathroom.”
“Oh pet,” Spike said with a grin. “How little faith you have in me.”
He sprang off the bed, gave Xander an affectionate swat on the thigh and headed up the ladder. “Be right back, try not to get into trouble while I’m gone,” he called back over his shoulder.
“Very funny!” Xander yelled after him then collapsed deeper into the bed. He thought he’d planned so well. He certainly hadn’t meant to bring human bodily functions into the pillow talk here. The terrifying stray thought that Spike might have gone home and left him there had just entered his mind when the vampire in question slid down the ladder, a plastic grocery bag hanging off one arm.
“You went grocery shopping?”
“Lifted a few odds and ends from the house on my way over tonight,” Spike said as he laid the contents of the bag on the edge of the bed. Two apples, a big bunch of grapes and a large knife. He took the knife and one of the apples and began cutting it into sections. “Planned to give them to you with breakfast, but I think you need them now.”
“Breakfast? I thought we’d be heading home in a couple hours,” Xander exclaimed. Spike popped a piece of apple in his mouth.
“Eat, you’re going to need your strength. Trust me,” Spike said with a lascivious grin. He kept feeding Xander the apple pieces before he could launch a protest. “Don’t worry, I still have some of that disgusting kiddie cereal you fancy, and milk, for breakfast.”
Xander stopped trying to protest as Spike feeding him bits of apple became part of the game they were playing. Spike rubbed the sweet sticky fruit against Xander’s lower lip and raised it slightly so Xander had to lift up to bite at it. The juice ran down his chin and Spike leaned in to lick him clean.
“Course I planned for breakfast,” Spike said in between licks. “If I do this right you won’t be able to move time I’m finished with you.”
A goofy grin spread across Xander’s face. Spike had transported groceries through the cemetery for him, groceries that included Fruity Pebbles. It made him all warm and fuzzy.
Both apples were gone by this time, and Spike plucked a grape from the bunch to hold it above Xander’s mouth.
“What, not going to peel it for me?” Xander teased.
“Brat,” Spike mock growled and dropped the grape, which Xander caught, smirking as he chewed.
Spike put the next grape in his own mouth and fed Xander accompanied by a lingering, juice-drenched kiss.
They were nowhere near through the cluster of grapes before Spike asked, “So, feeling better?”
Xander was barely able to articulate an answer so he merely nodded before straining up to try to capture Spike’s lips again. Spike descended on him, his tongue exploring the roof of Xander’s mouth.
Xander was in a sensual daze, sucking in Spike’s tongue and reveling in the feel of their bodies moving together. Vaguely he realized that both of them were now naked and, very dimly, wondered when Spike had stripped off his jeans. By now Xander was straining at his bonds. He wanted to touch, to pull Spike flush against him, to wrap his arms around him and hold him close. Instead, he was flexing his hands, pulling against the comfortable restraints and being soaked in sensation.
Spike gathered both of their erections in one hand and began pumping them together. The precome leaking from both of them provided all the lube necessary and Xander arched into the silky feel of Spike’s cock rubbing against his own. He could feel his orgasm building, and he tried to hold off, tried to make the blissful stimulation last, but it had been too long and his need was too great. His world reduced down to the pulse in his cock as he flew apart, spattering both their chests with his come.
Panting with the force of his release he felt Spike’s come mingle with his own a moment later.
Thoroughly relaxed, Xander felt the air rushing in and out of his lungs as he tried to get his breath back. Spike lay pressed against his side, his fingers tracing patterns in their combined spendings on Xander’s belly and chest.
“Damn,” Xander finally gasped. “I was really planning on lasting a little longer than that.”
“S’alright, pet,” Spike soothed. “Next time we’ll take our time.”
“N-next time?” Xander asked, hope skittering around the edges of his mind.
“Got all night,” Spike assured him. His fingers ran back down to manipulate the butt plug in and out a little. “And you brought me such lovely toys.”
Xander groaned as he squirmed into the stimulation. “Spike, I’m only human, remember?”
“You’re all of twenty-one. Bet I can make you come at least twice more tonight,” Spike smirked, but his touch was gentle and only lightly arousing while Xander recovered.
“So this is your new nefarious scheme,” Xander groaned even as he spread his legs a bit more. “You’re going to kill me with sex.”
He considered what he’d just said for another minute. “Okay.”
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