New World

Tisienne Blue

Part Nine

26, April, 1779

I find myself confused.

No, I do not believe that word to be strong enough.

I am rather more baffled and disturbed than merely confused.

I had thought this America would be a land somewhat like my own, although perhaps a bit less developed and yet I have been traveling with Zephyr—who is also Alexander Summers!—for close to a fortnight and we have yet to reach his tribe.

In all honesty, I am not entirely clear upon the manner in which he came to be a member of a tribe. As he is Hank Summers’ son, he is a White Man, but Zephyr—Alexander—has assured me it is so, and more to the point has promised that I will understand once we reach his people.

I hope so.

I also hope that they will not hold me in the contempt I know my own sort in London would hold someone of Alexander’s—Zephyr’s sort.

Even writing the two names is awkward. There is only one man in question, correct? Thus he should bear one single name for the sake of ease between friends.

I believe I shall call him Xander… if only in my own mind and between these pages, for the name combines the two and calls to mind… safety. For me, in any case.

This country is vast. Much more so than even I had believed possible, regardless of the length of time I spent on the train from Boston.

And yet, as I am merely writing this and my traveling companion has shown no inclination to pry, I must also admit that there is a sense of… freedom here that was decidedly missing at Home. Perhaps that is the true reason Father sought to live apart from us these many years.

Or perhaps not.

Zeph… Xander has been quite good about not calling attention the nightmares I continue to experience, although they never fail to wake him. It worries me that his mere presence can still the worst of the terror as I do not know why that might be.

He… rescued me, certainly, and I can not find it within me to fear him.

He is a killer. He ended seven lives, leaving the bodies to feed whatever scavengers might exist in this barren wasteland, and he did it for me.

I can never tell him this, but far from fearing him, I… admire him. I esteem him greatly, in point of fact.

Much as Faith is and always will be a true lady, Xander is a gentleman.

That he found such a poor specimen to prove it to as me is my shame.

I have learned to care for my own horse, though she be a nag, certainly. Xander has seen to it.

He has instructed me upon finding water and food in this desolate land, which is somehow far more welcoming in his company than I ever would have expected, although he provides both for us. It is an odd sensation to have this man looking after me with every appearance of caring.

But he has not kissed me again and this both relieves and saddens me.

I can not say that the idea does not create strange feelings in the pit of my stomach, because it decidedly does. In truth, they are the same sort of feelings I experienced on board the ‘Smiling Eyes’ while hearing the distressed sounds coming from the crew quarters below… yet stronger.

I have no idea of why that might be because Xander is definitely not unwell and has not been making those sorts of noises. In fact, he is remarkably quiet in the night, but for the occasional sleeping moan.

I suppose it shall remain a mystery.

And still there is the relief that he has chosen not to treat me as one of his tribe.

I will never tell Xander this, but somehow the thought of being touched enrages me as it never did before.

And yet… I feel that if he were to touch me, that rage might become something else entirely.

He has been so very strong. He has done nothing but be a friend. And yet I find myself craving his touch just as much as I do not.

It is my own response to his very presence that has me relieved at the lack of contact and I can hardly wait to be surrounded by other people, though I know them not. I refuse to feel this way any longer.

He says we are to reach his tribe on the morrow and that we have already been spotted by scouts. I saw no one, but I am a man of cities, so perhaps I am less aware.

It pleases me that we are not far. I am entirely uncertain of how much longer I can abide this odd sense of wanting.

The fact that I have no idea of what it is I yearn for does not help in the slightest.

His kiss, yes.

I can not help but remember the sensation of his mouth on mine. But still, there is something… more. I can not fathom the depths to which I have fallen that I have turned a very ordinary Injun custom into something else.

And I can not reconcile myself to the fact that I somehow teased Milton Hargrove—unknowingly—into attempting to…


As much as I would like to forget everything that led up to Xander saving me, I can not ignore the fact that it was seven men Xander killed for my sake. They all wished to… defile me. Violate me. Hurt me.

I must believe Xander’s words and accept that I am not to blame. That such actions were their way.

I dislike having to admit this, but I am happy that Xander chose to collect their pistols and spare bullets before we rode away. Bows and arrows are all well and good, but pistols!

I am determined that I will learn to fire one accurately before I reach Father’s Esta… Ranch.

My pocket watch has stopped working and so I am uncertain as to the time, but the moon is bright and I can see the stars as I never did in London. The night air is sharp and clean here, and perhaps… just perhaps, of course…

I may actually like this America more than I had thought to.

Spike ~aka William

He re-read his entry from the night before, then closed his book and gave his ink bottle a shake and set it back in his bag before frowning. There wasn’t much ink left, but maybe Xander’s tribe would have something of the sort.

Then again, he wasn’t planning on spending much time there in any case, so he might just as well wait until he reached El Sangre. Surely his Father would have such necessities in great supply.

A tiny smile crossed his lips, although it was tinged more with sadness than pleasure. He would miss his new friends, after all. Xander and Faith were truly the only ones he could call such thus far and he had a sneaking suspicion that Father wouldn’t exactly approve of them as company for him.

“Ready, Will?” he heard, the soft voice drawing his eyes easily.

His smile grew larger, although not by much, and Spike nodded as he pushed the journal into his carry-sack. “Yes, of course, Xan… Zephyr,” he blushed, getting to his feet and kicking rocky, sandy soil over the small crumbs left from their midday meal.

Zephyr grinned. He couldn’t help it. Not when the boy’s still-pale skin flushed so appealingly. “And what, William, is a ‘Xan’? Oh, wait. It’s one of those English words that we ‘mere savages’ wouldn’t understand, isn’t it?”

If anything, Spike’s blush grew deeper, although he hid it by tying his bag to the horn of his horse’s saddle. “I… something of that nature, yes. It is… well. We should be on our way, I suppose. We would not want your tribe to worry, assuming those scouts you spoke of actually exist.” He grunted softly as he placed his foot in the left stirrup and swung up to seat himself firmly.

Brown eyes sparkled as Zephyr heard the lie, but he would manage to pry the truth from the younger man eventually, so there was no point pushing… no matter how much he truly enjoyed making Spike blush.

“Oh, they exist, alright,” he answered with a grin. “In fact, we should be there very soon. Our camp is just over that next rise.”

“Bloody… you could have said so, Xander! It is entirely uncivilized of you to let me eat those nasty, hard… pellets of bread when I might have enjoyed something less stale!”


Spike had given him a new name.

Zephyr’s mind was still reeling from that. Only Jesseh had given him a secret name before and he’d never expected to have another, and yet Spike—Will—had not only chosen one, but it… fit.


A combination, he understood immediately, of the tribal and White Man names he bore, and it was… good, he thought.

“Xander,” he murmured to himself, tasting it in his mouth. “Xander.” Louder this time. “I like it, Spike,” he admitted even as he spurred his horse on with soft heels in its sides. “I would… enjoy… being called Xander by you.”

God, he was never going to stop blushing, Spike thought, his own horse following Zephyr’s—Xander’s. He’d been doing it for hours, it felt like… days, even. And yet there was just something about the other man that made him blush; especially when Xander’s voice held that tone of happy surprise overlaying something deeper that just made him want to shiver… in the good way.

“Right, then,” he announced, easing his ‘Spike’ persona over his William-ish self. “Xander it is…” He didn’t quite have the nerve to call the Injun ‘mate’, but he’d work his way up to it. He’d heard the lowborn in the streets of London, after all, and they frequently used that particular term. So could he. It would make him sound… tougher.

Xander allowed himself only one tiny, hidden smile as he topped the rise and paused, letting Spike draw abreast of him. After two weeks of traveling in the sun-blond’s company, he knew the act when he saw it. ‘Sweet, sweet Will’, he thought, ‘My sweet, sweet boy…’.

The smile faded after less than a moment, though, because… Spike had been hurt—damaged by what the Hargroves had done to him—and chances were, he’d never want the things Zephyr desired, regardless of whatever the tribe’s Healers could do.

‘Xander’, he reminded himself. ‘I’m Xander now. For Spike.’ He sighed. ‘And maybe I’ll never be anything more to him than a friend, but… a man can dream, right?’


For his part, Spike didn’t even notice the fleeting expressions dancing across the other man’s face. He was too busy staring wide-eyed at what was revealed by topping what had seemed to be a small hill.

And it was small from the direction they’d approached it, but…

He looked down… and down… and further down. It had to be “At least a hundred feet!” he gasped before covering his sudden fear with a cough. He’d never been so… far above the world although he’d heard rumors of canyons and such, even in the Arizona Territories. He’d simply not understood—hadn’t had any sort of internal referent for—that sort of… height. It was… dizzying and exhilarating all at once. “My word…” he breathed out on a shaky sigh.

Xander’s tribe was right there for anyone to see. Assuming, of course, they approached from this direction.

He saw the tents, arranged in concentric circles; saw the small shapes of those who must be his companion’s people moving about…

He saw small fires, mostly because of the groups gathered around them, and horses tied there, to the westernmost side of the camp.

But mostly… oh, mostly William saw that these people… these ‘Injuns’… were completely at peace with the land.

There was no black smoke pouring into the sky; no odd shade to the river flowing just beyond their encampment.

There was no sign whatsoever of any attempt to turn nature to their will; instead, it seemed clear that they lived within nature, rather than opposed to it, and… he suddenly understood Xander’s reaction to the Hargroves and what they’d tried to do.

“You… don’t believe in force, do you?” he whispered, still watching the camp. “I do not mean just you, Xander. I mean all of you. Your people.” Spike swallowed slowly and felt himself smiling a stunned sort of smile. “You just… don’t. You let the world simply… be.”

The brunette almost gasped at the blond’s first words, then made himself breathe slowly as he understood the true content of Spike’s words.

“We imagine ourselves to be of so much importance,” he finally answered, just as softly as the boy had spoken. “That our Gods have made us the caretakers of the land we exist upon. We… do no harm to it and in return, it treats us well. Or poorly, if we have somehow been less than conscientious.”

One brow arched and Spike cast a small glance at the darker man. “I can not imagine you being anything but attentive.”

It wasn’t much of an opening, but Xander couldn’t help taking a chance on planting a few seeds of thought in the younger man’s head.

He turned his attention completely to Spike and spoke slowly and carefully.

“We could… pillage the Earth. Tear Her bounty from Her. We could rip Her open and dig deep within Her for the sake of taking what we want and having the pleasure of immediate gratification. And yet…” he smiled slightly. “And yet… we love Her. She is our Mother and we are a patient people. Anything taken out of pure selfishness or desire harms Her… and we have found that Her gifts—given out of love and a desire for our happiness—far outweigh any discomfort we might feel while we wait for them.”

Xander forced himself to look down at his tribe’s camp again, and he hoped it was soon enough to keep Spike from seeing the true meaning in his eyes.

“To force anything into doing what one wishes,” he added, “is darkness and evil. Evil as my father-of-body’s God defines it. I… WE… do not force. We simply accept gifts as they are given and seek to love, nurture and comfort in return. It is our way, Sp… Will. And I am convinced that our way is the right one.”

And that was pretty much as erudite as he got, so he hoped it made some sort of sense to his… to Spike.

The blond considered that, then nodded slowly. “Perhaps you have the right of it,” he replied, his heart and mind assigning meanings he was certain Xander hadn’t intended to those words. Of course Xander didn’t mean anything but exactly what he’d said, and besides, he was clearly reading far too much into a purely customary kiss… and a late-night rescue.

Part Ten

May 7, 1779

Xander couldn’t help laughing as he watched Spike touch Cordaha’s stomach so gingerly.

It was almost as though the young man thought he would break her, though the look on the blond’s face when the young woman rolled her eyes and pressed his palm harder to the swell was awed… and priceless.

It had only been eleven days since they’d reached camp, but already Spike was able to talk with Xander’s tribe.

Not well and not fluently, granted, but it was amazing nonetheless.

Even more amazing was the fact that Spike didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave.

Xander smiled softly as the boy he was most definitely in love with leaned down and spoke a few words to his new sister’s belly. Spike fit in with the tribe. Even with still being so pale, he fit.

It was odd that the Englishman hadn’t tanned or even burned yet, like any other White man would have done, but then again, Spike was odd.

Of course, his various oddities were part of what made him so dear to Xander.

Those and…

The Healers had spoken with Spike.

They’d taken him into the hogan and had a sweat with him more than once… and they’d all said the same thing.

The Hargroves had frightened the boy enough that he was still shaking over it on the inside where no one could see… but they hadn’t harmed his body. Spike—or William—was untouched, physically. Still untouched.

It wasn’t that fact that had Xander counting the boy as dear to him, though. It was the glances he kept catching the blond giving him. He honestly wouldn’t have cared if Spike had shared himself with every person he’d met since coming to America—male and female.

It was those looks that had Xander so committed, and they were very… bold looks; especially for someone not of the tribe.

They were the sort of glances that one of his own people would have cast to invite another into their teepee… or at least to invite them to courting, and Xander wanted that.

He wanted to court the young man in the way of the tribe. Wanted to hunt and bring him back the most tender parts of the kill, bring him the soft skin of a deer’s belly… and the antler of an old buck so his boy could make him many things to offer before the always hoped-for feather charm.

But that was hopeless, Xander knew.

Spike didn’t know their ways, and even if he did, he’d likely be insulted at being treated like a female. And Xander wouldn’t blame him, especially since he wanted to know William’s deep touch just as badly as he wanted to sink into the boy’s undoubtedly tender heat.

He sighed softly and turned away, only then realizing that his Mother had been standing behind him.

“You haven’t told him,” Joyce said sadly, one hand finding her son’s shoulder. “Why, Zeph… Xander?” Truth be told, she liked the young Englishman and the new name he’d given her firstborn.

Xander smiled slightly and pulled her close, letting his head drop to her shoulder. “He isn’t staying, Mum,” he mumbled, his arms sliding around her body to hold her tight. “One day soon he’s going to want me to take him to his Father, and…”

Xander swallowed manfully and pulled away, giving Joyce a bright and obviously fake smile. “I gave him my word.”

Joyce’s small smile on the outside was matched by a much larger internal frown but she simply nodded and hugged her son again. “You are definitely a man of honor… Xander.”

And as there was nothing more to say, they eased out of their hug and turned to watch the blond with Cordaha and Chance.

Spike would leave, Xander knew… and when he did, Xander would be spending much more time in Texas. It really didn’t matter whether he was welcome there or not. If Spike was there, Xander would be too… if only to watch over him.

There was nothing else he could do, after all.


It was odd to Spike, but the time since he and Xander had reached the tribe had been… idyllic. He never would have imagined himself as the sort to ‘go native’, so to speak, but the lack of indoor plumbing and wood stoves didn’t bother him.

Hell, going down to the river to dip his and Xander’s clothes and bang them on rocks didn’t even bother him, although he’d gotten a few laughing looks from the women who were usually there doing the same for their men.

He truly didn’t even mind sleeping in a tent on a stack of furs with only a few patchwork sheets of soft, thin leather covering his nakedness.

He wasn’t the same boy he’d been when he’d reluctantly boarded the ‘Smiling Eyes’ for America; that was sure. Hell, he wasn’t even the same boy he’d been in Boston, before he’d made the fateful decision to get on the train and go to his Father’s.

After a fortnight of dried meats, berries, nuts—and clearly, dried bread as well—the simple fare available with Xander’s tribe had been a revelation and he wondered how he could ever have been such a snob as to turn down beef tenderloin just because it wasn’t cooked to the exact temperature he’d requested, though it wouldn’t have been as tasty and wonderful as the tribal fare.

Still, that was months and a lifetime ago—before he’d lost Mother, before he’d crossed the ocean, before he’d met the older Summers men… before he’d met Xander and been nearly raped by the Hargroves, then saved by his… whatever.

Before he’d spent time with the tribe’s healers and come to understand himself so much better, and…

He was a better man in America, he realized, than the boy he’d been in London even before his Mother had died.

He had a sneaking suspicion that he understood his Father far better now, too—after his time with Xander’s tribe—than he ever would have otherwise.

He felt… almost entirely free.

Free to laugh loudly when he chose, or yell… free to strip naked and slip into swiftly running water instead of into a bath… free to ignore his cravat completely and wander about without even a shirt if he chose to.

So, yes. Spike was in a sort of heaven. But it was also a sort of hell.

He’d been picking up the language of the tribe slowly. He’d been saying things in English then waiting and listening closely while Joy-of-my-heart, Xander or Chance translated… and he’d been watching.

He hadn’t seen the sort of kiss Xander had given him in Painted Desert repeated by any of the tribe who weren’t ‘bonded’, which he took to mean married; not even by Xander when he’d gotten back after however long, and that had made him wonder.

The older man stirred him. That was a given.

All it took was a moment like this—when he could feel those deep, dark, speaking eyes on him—to want something he didn’t even have a name for.

His hand moved gently over Xander’s brother’s wife’s stomach and he felt himself blinking as the child within her moved.

It was a sensation he never would have known in London… not even if the girl had been his own wife, most likely, as she would have entered into her confinement once the blessed event was recognized. And yet it was so… visceral. So primal and striking.

To feel that child moving within the body of Xander’s beautiful… sister-in-law, Spike decided was the proper term… was like touching Xander’s Gods.

And of course the thought of touching when combined with the thought of Xander was just…

He jumped when Cordaha’s hand brushed his groin and stroked his hardness, then he gave a panicked look to her husband. “I didn’t…” he began, only to have his words drowned out by their rapid conversation in the tongue he didn’t fully understand.

He was still mortified a few minutes later when the woman let her husband help her to her feet and toddled off.

“I promise you, Chance, I didn’t…”

Chance looked at the blushing White man, seeing the redness spreading down his chest. “I know,” he said sincerely. “She was trying to find out whether you’re good enough for our brother. Whether you… care enough.” The brunette man smiled.

“Cordaha sees things.” Chance added. “She always has. I didn’t know about that until after I accepted her charm, but it wouldn’t have mattered.” His lips twitched slightly, one corner turning up. “She is my… cara-ha, just as I am her coro-ho. Uh, in English, it means something like… ‘beloved other half’. Even if it did take Zephyr to point it out… I mean Xander. “

Did he care enough? Spike wondered.

Did he want Xander so much that he could ignore the memories, the terrifying and horrifying reminders of what he’d experienced in the desert with the Hargroves?

“I… I can’t! It’s just too..” Too something, but he didn’t know what. “Too real,” he finally supplied, his entire body tight from feeling Xander’s eyes still on him.

Chance smiled slightly and rested one hand on the man’s pale shoulder, something within him almost screaming that this particular White Man needed to stay… and he drew on his Mother’s logical approach when he responded.

“You would rather have it be false?” he said after a moment, and when the blond man simply gaped at him, he shrugged and stood. “It’s up to you, William. But…” he looked beyond the blond and saw his brother and his Mother, both of them looking tense and nervous. “But if I were you, I’d make a decision. Soon. It isn’t fair to… keep him wondering. Not when it’s been so long since Jesseh left us for the Great Wheel, and… Gods, I know Xander didn’t feel this way even about him. He never watched him the way he watches you.”

Blue eyes narrowed, then settled into a frown as the blond processed what Chance had just implied. “Jesseh?” Spike demanded and Chance groaned.

“I’m guessing he hasn’t told you about his first love, then.”

Spike frowned and tried to harden his heart. Xander’s ‘first love’ would have to be some strapping and stunning warrior, just like Xander was. He could even picture him in his mind.

Tall. Dark. Beautiful. And entirely Xander’s. And Xander would have been completely his. Would have given himself fully, and…

And the man had just walked away? Left Xander to be alone? Well, apparently so.

But whomever Jesseh was, he’d realize his mistake sooner or later, and when he did, he’d undoubtedly make a play for Xander again, and…

It wasn’t until he knew he had a rival that Spike fully understood that he wanted Xander. Wanted him so badly that he was willing to swallow hard and try to forget how furious and petrified he’d been when those men had tried to…

“I need to speak with your brother,” he finally said, giving Chance the look that had never failed him with Mother.

Chance sighed but nodded. “I… think you really do, Spike. Uh, good luck.”


Joy-of-my-heart’s smile was knowing and hopeful as she stepped away from her first born. “Perhaps, my son, you do not know the young man as well as you think,” she said in her native tongue for the benefit of the approaching Englishman.

Xander frowned, turning to hold his Mother’s eyes.

“I know enough,” he answered sadly in the same language. “His father is Liam O’Leary, and of course he wants to get to El Sangre. What difference does it make if I love him? Will it make him stay when he is the heir to so much? He is a White Man. Much more so than I am. He will do what is… fiscally appropriate.”

Xander sighed, not noticing his mother’s slightly wicked smile. “It wouldn’t matter. No difference. He’d still leave.”

“It might make more difference than you know,” she answered, eyes deliberately not pausing on the frozen young man a few feet behind her son. “Perhaps he would stay… if he knew that he was loved and adored and desired for himself, Xander… and not simply for the fact that he’s more beautiful than the Gods had any right making one man be, much less for his Father’s wealth.”

Spike felt himself blushing hotly at the older woman’s words, though he knew she didn’t mean them in any sort of… inappropriate manner. Still, he held his breath, waiting to hear what Xander would say.

If the brave refused to even entertain the notion of them together, he’d… die, he figured. Especially now that he knew he had competition from the absent Jesseh.

And why had he assumed that Xander was available anyway? Just because he’d kissed him?

Well… yes. Once he’d noticed the lack of deep, slow, thorough tongue-kisses between most of the members of Xander’s tribe, he’d assumed… something.

And Xander’s Jesseh obviously didn’t have a problem with…

Spike didn’t even know what to call it.

His only referent was what the Hargroves had tried and he couldn’t imagine anyone wanting that, and yet…

He’d liked kissing Xander.

He’d liked the way it had felt when he’d been draped over that longer, broader, tanned body back at the Lucky Strike. He couldn’t deny it. Xander had made his private parts… active.

But if Xander loved him, then… shouldn’t the brave have made some sort of declaration? Or even have implied…

And he was thinking like an Englishman, Spike realized with a small mental slap for himself. And this… wasn’t England.

In England… well, aside from himself and Xander being of the same gender, there would have been visits and calling cards exchanged—always while chaperoned.

There would have been dinners and pre-configured dance cards at Almack’s, only allowing the approved number of dances until negotiations were complete.

There would have been a thousand and one conventions to uphold and even more traditions to follow, and… this wasn’t England!

It was almost an epiphany.

He wasn’t sure of whether he loved Xander… but he for damned sure wanted Xander to love him. More than he loved that absent Jesseh, anyway. Hell, he wanted Xander to love him so much that when Jesseh came back, Xander just gave him a look and a ‘sorry, not interested’. And if that meant…

Spike swallowed hard.

If that meant letting Xander have him, then so be it.

He stepped forward, just as Joy-of-my-heart stepped back, and if his hands were trembling as he pressed them to Xander’s dark, sun-bronzed skin, well… he couldn’t blame them. The rest of him was trembling as well.

“So,” he heard himself say deliberately, “Do you love me… Xander?”

He was amazed that his voice wasn’t even slightly tremulous.

Part Eleven

He could actually feel his heart in his throat, Xander thought. It was big and hot and pounding harder than the one in his chest, and… and that didn’t make any sense, but it was how he felt, and… those soft hands—a gentleman’s hands—were touching his back and it was the most contact he’d had from the young blond since… since the desert and the Hargroves, and…

“I… w-what?” he stammered, flushing hotly and hoping the nut-brown of his skin would hide it, “I… what?”


All of a sudden Spike knew what he was feeling, aside from hot skin grown hotter from the sudden rush of deep red beneath it.


He had power over this man… this beautiful, strikingly strong savior of his. He had power! He wasn’t trapped, taken off-guard; wasn’t threatened with death and pain. He was wanted, even if the somewhat larger man hadn’t admitted as much yet. It was… a revelation.

His movements were awkward, but then he’d never truly touched another person of either gender with any sort of intent.

Boot-clad feet shuffled in sandy soil as Spike moved a few inches closer, his long, pale fingers standing out in stark relief against the pinkish-bronze canvas he so wanted to paint with his… he didn’t know what, but something within him told him there would be artistry in what he desired.

“I said,” he murmured softly, chin tilting an inch higher as he spoke for Xander’s ears alone, “Or rather, I asked… is your Mother right, Xander? Do you… love me.” He pretended his own heart wasn’t about to burst from his chest; tried not to notice that it was keeping time with the staccato rhythm he felt beyond his fingers.

“I am afraid that I am being entirely too bold in asking,” he admitted, the words spewing forth with no direction from his conscious mind, “but I truly must know.” His fingers moved delicately, tentatively on tense muscles, even as he inhaled slowly, drawing in the sunshine-musky-male-clean-sweat scent of the man he held.

“Is this… are we…” Spike swallowed hard. “I… do you…? Tell me, Xander…” he whispered.

Every part of him was crying out to simply shout ‘YES’ and drag the boy off to his tent… and yet those fingers, those hands. So gentle on his skin and yet so piercing at the same time. The tiny, almost unheard quaver in the younger man’s voice… the nearly desperate tone.

Xander’s eyes closed tightly and he forced himself to swallow, sending that phantom heart back into his chest to join the true one as he stepped away and turned.

Brown eyes opened to stare fixedly at the slightly shorter and more slender form, this one pale but strong, those elegant hands still suspended as though waiting for his back to return to their molten caresses.

“I…” Xander began, frowning slightly when wide blue eyes dropped to the sand and tight shoulders slumped.

“N-never mind,” William whispered. He should have known better. No matter what Chance or Joy-of-my-Heart had said; no matter what Cordaha’s touch had allegedly implied, he should have know better. He was… sick. Twisted. There was something wrong with him, and… and there were hands on him. Hands! Xander’s hands! And they were big and strong and warm, just as he knew the rest of the man was and…

“William,” Xander whispered, “Look at me.” He sighed when the boy simply froze.

One hand remained on a cotton-cloaked shoulder but the other found the slightly sharp chin and tilted it up.

Brown met blue and Xander swallowed again at the depth of emotion he saw there.

Fear. Depression. Sorrow. Anguish. But also hope and desire and… Gods, he thought he saw love there, too. He wanted to see love.

“There is no ‘never mind’, William… Spike. Not here. Not now. I…” Xander groaned, hearing his Father’s voice laughing somewhere behind him, then his Mother’s mock-outraged response. “We should… that is, will you accompany me, Spike? I… we may require some privacy.” And apparently Hank’s lessons had paid off because what he’d really wanted to say was ‘You. Me. Furs. Now!’.

Spike couldn’t say exactly what he saw in the taller man’s face, but whatever it was, he found himself blushing. He’d completely forgotten that they were in public, as it were, which would have had Mother scandalized… not to mention the fact that he’d been touching Xander’s unclothed flesh, and…

And he’d rather be rejected privately, he admitted. At least nobody but Xander would see him if—when—he cried.

“I… alright,” he managed to say, eyes once again locked on the sandy earth beneath his feet.


The temptation to take the boy directly to his teepee and just show him how he felt had been almost too much, but Xander had somehow managed to resist.

Instead, he’d used his grip on Spike’s arm to lead him down to the river bank, then a few hundred feet upstream from where the women washed… whatever it was they washed.

It hadn’t been a particularly comfortable walk for either of them, of course, because Spike was wondering what exactly needed to be said that couldn’t be spoken of in Xander’s tent or even just a few feet outside of camp, while Xander was worrying that he would actually regress to the ‘Furs. Now!’ line… all of which had them sitting silently on the bank of the river, staring out at flowing turquoise.

“I’m sorry,” Spike began, just as Xander spoke.

“I don’t want… I’m sorry. Go on, Spike… Will…”

“No, I…” Spike felt himself cringing even more inside. Xander didn’t want… him, most likely. “Please. You go on.”

Xander almost laughed at how very polite and almost formal they were both being, especially considering that he himself was shirtless and clad only in his deerskin britches. Still, he managed not to and simply gave the younger man a small smile before reaching out to take his hand in a loose grip.

“Spike,” he said after a small pause created to let him to enjoy those fingers in his own, “Spike. I… I don’t want you to think I was ignoring your question. I wasn’t. It’s just…” His eyes returned to the river, following a small branch as it flowed with the current.

“I’ve always been very lucky,” he said softly after a moment or three. “Mother could have died in that raid before I was even born. I could have been killed at birth instead of raised as Father’s son.” He closed his eyes. “My tribe could have been one in which men such as myself are exiled… shunned… even put to death.”

“And yet, I am here. I live. Mother and Father love me just as they love Chance. I am accepted as a warrior and a hunter. And so I have been very lucky.”

Spike frowned, his fingers tightening just a little around the thicker digits threaded with them. “Yes, but…”

Xander smiled a little bitterly. “I have not been lucky with love. I… loved once. I…” he shook his head, eyes opening on the stunning shades of the river and the bank around them. “I lost him. And I thought I’d never… oh, Gods. I’m messing this up.” And he was. He was confusing even himself, which meant Spike had to be thinking he’d lost his mind, and…

“Ask me again,” he demanded, turning to face the young man whose hand was so warm in his own. “Spike… William. Ask me again. Please.”

The blond didn’t even know he was holding his breath until it escaped him in a sudden rush of air, only to be replaced by another, and his eyes were fearful but brave when he nodded.

“Xander,” he breathed, the words barely audible over the rushing flow of the clear water, “Do you… that is, do you think you might…” He closed his eyes and steeled himself for disappointment. “Do you… love me…?”

One deep breath taken and exhaled. Another. One more and Xander could feel his heart swelling even as his free hand rose to cup one pale, slightly flushed cheek.

“No, William,” he murmured, hands tightening when those eyes flew open as a pained gasp burst from softly pink lips. “No… this… what I feel… Spike, I… this is… so much more, I…” Xander shook his head, eyes holding the blond’s desperately. “I… I’m in love with you, Spike. I… these last few weeks… watching you, seeing you, knowing you’re… Gods, I just…” He groaned. “I can’t explain the difference; it’s just…”

He’d gone from terrified to saved before; from worried to pleased, even. But Spike had never gone from broken to reborn in a single moment. Not until just a few seconds earlier, he admitted, and it truly did feel like he’d been reborn.

Xander loved him! Xander was ‘in love’ with him! And the man hadn’t even mentioned that ‘Jesseh’ Chance had talked about, or not by name, and that was…

“Good,” Spike whispered. “I… not to be too terribly forward, Xander, but… may we… bloody hell, will you kiss me again now? Please? I… I rather liked tha… ngggggghhhh…”

Lips met and melded and when Xander’s tongue slipped out to prod lightly at soft pink, another tongue met his, hesitantly but also eagerly.

Hands roamed, sliding over heated, tanned skin and under cotton which was quickly lifted and when silken pale skin met sun-and-wind-roughened dark; when chests connected, rubbing together, both men cried out.

“B-bloody…” Spike moaned, pulling back a few scant inches to gulp great swallows of air, “Xander, I… that… we…!” He was nearly speechless. If having just Xander’s fragrant skin against his own had made him feel so… right, then what would it be like to… “Bloody… I don’t even know the words for what I want, Xan! I only know I…”

“Want,” the brunette nearly growled. “Need!”

“Y-yes,” Spike answered hesitantly, not truly sure of how what he felt he needed could translate into reality and be good. But Xander knew. Xander had been with a man before, and… “I trust you,” he whispered. “I… I’m sorry Xander, but I’ve never… done this. I… will you… teach me? Show me what…”

It was the fact that Spike was shivering that brought Xander out of his lustful fixation. It had just been so long since Jesseh’s death and Spike was nothing like his lost lover and he loved Spike, even more than he’d loved Jesseh, and while that felt like a betrayal, it also didn’t, and… and Spike was afraid. Afraid of him!

Then he looked closer, and… while the younger man hadn’t said the words yet, the emotion was right there in his eyes, along with… not fear but nervousness, and Xander could understand that. Gods, he’d been beyond nervous the first time he’d gone into Jesseh… and even more so when his lover had done the same to him, and he hadn’t had anything like the experience his new—but none the less true—love had had with the Hargroves, and…

His eyes closed tightly while he reined himself in and when they opened he gave Spike a sheepish smile.

“I’m sorry,” he said, standing and pulling the boy to his feet before letting his fingers dance under the edges of the cotton shirt again, “I just… Gods, I love you. So much. I can’t help wanting to show you. But we can take this slowly, Spike. I… I don’t want to… nothing like what they did, and…”

Spike frowned for a moment, then gave the other man an angry glare when he realized the reference. “Do not ever dare to compare yourself to… them! I… that was… horrible, yes! But this…? Us…? We are not what that was…” He hoped, anyway. In fact, he was almost entirely sure, considering what he’d learned in the hogan from the tribal Elders and the Shaman.

Strong muscular arms closed hard around him and Spike found himself nearly melting into the hold that was somehow both comforting and arousing. His own hands gingerly found Xander’s sides, moving skittishly along ribs before sliding shakily to the brunette’s spine. “I… we’re not that, Xander. This is…” he sighed, losing the words.

“This is the opposite of what that was, coro-ho,” Xander whispered against soft blond hair. “This is me… wanting you to let me love you.” He rubbed his cheek lightly against the sun-lightened locks. “Will you let me, Spike…? Will you let me… love you…?”

It was only a tiny shift. No more than a few inches closer. And yet it was as though he’d stepped into a whole new world.

Spike’s shaft brushed lightly against Xander’s, separated by two layers of leather, and… he could have cried at the sheer pleasure of that tiny bit of contact and friction and something even more… unknown.

Still he took the question seriously and after a few moments of disjointed thought he shook his head.

“N-no,” the blond whispered, “Spike w-won’t.” He forced himself to pull away just enough to meet shattered brown eyes. “William, however, is… rather enamored of the idea.”


He had no idea of how they’d managed to get back to Xander’s tent. He had no clue of when or how he’d come to be fully unclothed.

He almost wanted to ask but he wouldn’t have gotten an answer anyway.

Not when his fingers were tangled deeply in long, unbound hair… and not when that lovely hot, wet mouth was sliding down from his happily tormented nipples, either. And in all honesty, William didn’t care enough to stop what was happening in order to find out. It was enough that he was naked and that Xander was, as well. The rest… could take care of itself.

William groaned, fully aware of the fact that such sounds were frowned upon in the circles he’d always known and been a part of…

But then again, so was the notion of two men openly caring for each other, and if that was wrong, then… to hell with Society.

His fingers slid deeper into dark silk, rubbing gently at Xander’s scalp as the other man’s journey south continued… and when the urge to moan and groan and whimper struck him? He did.

“B-bloody hell, Xander,” he gasped as one hot breath was released across the tip of his aching, swollen shaft, “Please!”

Xander was more than happy to oblige.

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