Disclaimer:Joss is God. I own nothing.
Summary: The scoobies are needed for a ritual.





Ritual


by
Velvet Crypt



Part One

The door crashed open on the Scooby meeting. Buffy and Spike stopped mid tirade, Willow and Tara looked up from their positions on the couch, Giles placed his just wiped glasses on his face, and Xander looked up from inspecting his cuticles.

In a matter of seconds, ten assailants dressed in camo gear and carrying what looked to be automatic weapons surrounded the gang.

Which were pointed at the Scoobies. A moment later, a heavyset balding man, dressed in heavy velvet robes, stepped inside the Magick Box.

“Who the hell are you?” Buffy demanded.

The man smiled, his cheeks pouching. “If one of the witches speaks, shoot the other witch. If the watcher speaks, shoot the slayer. If the boy speaks, shoot the watcher. If the vampire speaks, shoot the boy. If the Slayer speaks, shoot the vampire.”

The scoobies looked at each other in confusion. “You know,” Buffy grinned. “Telling me you’ll shoot Spike is not the way to make me shut-“ As one, the ten gunmen cracked one shot each into the body of the vampire. Screams echoed through the air and Spike flew backwards into the counter. In unison, the gunmen trained their weapons on Xander, waiting for Spike to speak.

Xander stared wide-eyed at the barrel of the gun in front of him. Well, this is just not how I saw myself going out. Willow let out a small moan, but said nothing that would give them reason to hurt Tara. The grin dropped off Buffy’s face. As Spike vainly attempted to pick himself up, he glared at the Slayer…but held his tongue. He caught Xander’s eye and the demon railed against its cage in his mind. Demanding that Spike protect the boy, kill the men who were threatening him, that were causing that glazed look of fear in his eyes. Instead, he gave Xander a brief nod. No way was he going to say anything that might cause harm to his nummy. Even if his nummy didn’t know that he was his nummy.

Xander accepted the nod by releasing the breath he’d been holding. Somehow, Spike managed to convey enough protection, safety, trust…and something else he couldn’t quite identify, with one look, that he wasn’t really afraid anymore. Just wary and worried. Bizarre. I’m thankful that I have the vampire that tried to kill me numerous times watching out for my back. What the hell am I thinking?

“Well, I trust I have made myself clear?” The robed man chuckled. “Now, if you would all follow me, I have a ritual to complete.” He turned and walked back out, leaving the scoobies to be herded by the gunmen. Silently, Xander and Giles stepped up, helping the vampire to his feet and each pulling one of his arms over their shoulders to support him. Silently, they walked out to their fate.


~*~*~*~*~


As the last of the group stepped tentatively into the small room, the man rubbed his hands together happily. “As long as you are in this room, you may speak. Have fun! I’ll be back with the tools momentarily.” And the door slammed shut behind him. A brief red glow could be seen around the edges of the door.

“Well, there goes that,” Willow said in disgust. “He’s warded it.”

“What the fuck is your problem, Slayer?” Spike bit out as Giles and Xander placed him on the floor. Buffy winced.

“I’m sorry, Spike. I really thought…”

“Thought what, Slayer?” he snapped, then grimaced as his head connected with the wall. “That the nice men with the semi automatic rifles were just kidding?” Buffy blushed. Actually, that rather had been her thoughts at the time.

“I said I was sorry, Spike.” She crossed her arms and sat down in a corner.

“Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but we need to get these bullets out of him and figure out what the blazes we are doing here.” Giles said with a sigh. “Take your shirt off, Spike. Let’s see the damage.”

Still glaring at Buffy, Spike attempted to strip, but caught an unneeded breath when he felt a grating. “Bloody hell,” he mumbled. “One of the bullets must have cracked a rib.” Xander touched his flailing arms firmly and gently helped him out of the shirt, pausing whenever he heard a catch in the vampire’s breath. Finally, the shirt was removed. The bullet holes were in a neat cluster pattern on his chest. Not a single one ventured outside of a six-inch radius.

Xander winced in sympathy when he saw that none of the bullets had an exit wound. The blood was oozing out of Spike’s chest like syrup, making small rivers of crimson across his pale flesh.

“Lie down, Spike. This commando knowledge is still good for something.” He pulled out his pocketknife and began working the bullets out of the cold flesh. Nearly thirty minutes later, a shaking Xander finally dropped the last bullet to the floor. He’d have given a lot never to have to go through that again. He knew it had to have hurt like hell. He could feel Spike flinching under his hands. He watched the muscles in his arms and his jaw tense as Xander dug deeper and deeper for the elusive metal. But he never uttered a whimper. His eyes just glazed over in pain, and he looked as though he might pass out several times.

Xander began muttering under his breath, silly nonsense things, designed to keep the vampire with him, conscious. He told him about his dream last night, the one involving being buried alive under chocolate frosted donuts. About the cat he’d been feeding around the apartment that wouldn’t take ‘go away’ for an answer. About running out of bath soap and having to use shampoo to wash with. He kept his voice low enough that the others couldn’t make out what he was saying. Which was good, as he knew he wasn’t making any sense at all.

Not only were his stories stupid, but what the hell was he doing coddling a vampire?

When he finished, he helped the vamp sit up and noticed that the blonde swayed and, if possible, got paler. “You ok?” he asked lowly. Spike nodded, but nearly fell over when Xander turned loose of his arm.

“M’fine,” he mumbled. “Just lost a lot of blood. Need to heal.” He slumped against the wall and closed his eyes. Heal with what? His chest was soaked in his own blood. The floor around him looked as though someone were murdered there. Xander himself wore quite a bit of the red fluid as well. He didn’t have enough blood to keep him up, much less to let him heal himself. Xander clenched his jaw and made his decision. Grasping the pocketknife firmly, he made a quick slash on his left wrist.

“Xander! What are you doing?” Willow squeaked. Buffy came up from her seat in horror.

Xander gave Willow a taste of her own resolve face. “Next to Buffy, Spike is the strongest fighter here. We don’t have a clue what we're facing and we need him at full strength. Besides, it’s my choice.” That stated he waved his arm under Spike’s nose, nearly smiling as Spike’s nose twitched like a bunny. A moment later, icy blue eyes met chocolate brown and a silent permission was given. Spike latched onto Xander’s arm.

What a feeling. Xander thought, floating. Why do we save vampire victims again? It’s nothing to scream and thrash around about. It’s…nice. He watched the blonde head on his arm and concentrated on feeling Spike’s soft tongue lapping at his flesh. On the rhythmic pull he felt curling around in his belly. Then, it was over. Spike pulled away and lay back against the wall, closing his eyes.

Xander plopped next to him and stared at the cut, ignoring the others. Eventually, they too sat down, though they continued to watch both men with confused expressions.


~*~*~*~*~


The door opened again. The velvet clad man stepped in. “Hello, children,” He smiled. “Are you ready for the ritual? It’s a doozy!” He tossed several bags on the floor and leaned against the wall. “Now, you must make some choices. Don’t worry, you really can’t choose wrongly. It’s foreordained. But, I thought it might make you all feel better to come to the decisions yourselves.”

“What exactly is this about?” Giles snapped.

“I told you, Watcher. I need to complete a ritual. You are going to help me. Or I will shoot one of you.” He grinned. “And I’ll make sure that it’s one that won’t heal as fast as the vampire. Now, time to make your choices. There are six roles: The Punishment, The Violation, The Claiming, The Marking, The Transfer and The Sight. Let me tell you a bit about each.”

“The Punishment requires spilled blood and excessive extended pain.” He nodded and put his finger to his chin. “I think a beating would best suit, don’t you?”

“The next role is The Violation. It requires, well the violation of someone, obviously,” he chuckled. “I’m sure that one will be tossed about. Humans and their revulsion of casual sex and all.”

“The next is The Claiming. It calls for the person to be bound together with a demon. Claimed as property.” A shrug. “Or I suppose as a mate, if the demon were so inclined.”

“Next is The Marking. It requires the permanent scarring of flesh with a particular symbol.”

“The last two are rather intertwined. The Transfer calls for one to give something precious and dear to another so that the giver may be open to The Sight.”

He threw his hands out to encompass them all. “You may now choose which role you would like. Each may only choose one role. When you’ve chosen, the supplies for each…act are in the bags at your feet.”

“I’ll take the Punishment,” Buffy volunteered. Xander shot her a disgusted look. Geez, Buff, let’s not jump on it or anything. She crossed her arms again. “What? You think you can hold out as long as I can on an extended pain beating?” Xander just rolled his eyes.

“I’ll take The Marking,” Giles sighed. “If it is as I believe, it will tie the wearer directly to the ritual. It may well be that if a sacrifice is needed that the one with the mark will be taken.” Willow looked as though she would protest, but Giles silenced her with a slight shake of his head.

“Well,” she said instead. “That leaves the pair of Transfer and Sight, and the…Claiming and…the…er…”

“Oh, bloody hell, Red,” Spike bit out with a growl. “I’ll take the bloody rape. It’s not like it’s not been done before.”

Buffy frowned. “You were raped? Who raped you?” Spike snorted and smirked.

“Of all people, Slayer, you really don’t want me to go there.”

Buffy looked confused for a moment, then all the blood rushed from her face and she leaned against the wall.

Xander hid a wry smile. Leave it to Buffy. Schooling his features, he looked at the witches. “I don’t know what this Transfer and Sight thing is, but both sound a lot better than being claimed. So you girls take them. I’ll go with the demon.” Once again, Willow looked as though she would protest, but then dropped her eyes in shame and turned into Tara’s arms.

The Velvet Man laughed. “Excellent, you have all chosen correctly! Oh, by the way, children, I forgot to tell you before you started: only you six are allowed to perform in the ritual. I’m sure you can figure that out?” He turned and walked out, leaving the scoobies staring at each other once again.

“Oh, God,” Willow whispered. “He means that we have to…to do these…things…to each other, doesn’t he?”

Giles nodded wearily and slid down the wall to a seated position.

“I get to beat the fucking Slayer,” Spike growled. “I owe her.” Buffy turned her nose up.

“I suppose that you’re the only one who could knock me out. However, how are you figuring on doing that with that chip in your head?”

Spike sneered. “It may take me awhile, Slayer. But I guarantee, I’ll get the job done.”

“Willow, would you be so kind as to carve the symbol for me?” Giles interrupted. Shakily, she nodded.

“Great! Everything is hunky dory now!” Spike snorted. “I do believe that, as I am the only demon in residence, that I will be claiming Xander.” He watched the boy out of the corner of his eye, waiting for the flinch. What he saw instead gave him pause; a spark in the boy’s eye that had nothing to do with fear. He determined to look into that when this whole thing was over. “I guess that just leaves choosing who gets to bugger me!” He plastered a leer on his face and hooked his thumbs in his belt. Might as well go out with a blaze, cause I’ll be damned if I let them hear me whimper.

Everyone looked everywhere else but at him. Finally Xander sighed. “I’ll do it.” And he turned away.


~*~*~*~*~


Giles sat next to the door, staring at the bloody symbol recently carved into his chest. How droll. A pentagram. He looked up at the one-sided battle waging in front of him. Buffy struggled to remain upright. Spike did his damnedest to knock her down. They’d been going at it for nearly fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of: punch the Slayer, clutch his head as the chip retaliated, curse at the chip for hurting him, curse at Buffy for not going down. To his credit, the anger in Spike’s eyes had burned out after the first dozen or so hits. Now he just looked frustrated…and in pain.

“Bloody hell, Slayer. Drop already!” Spike gritted. “I’m starting to feel bad here, and not just cause my fucking head is about to explode.”

“Love to help you ou-…out, Spike, really I wo-…would.”Her head rocked back with each blow.

Another five minutes later, and Buffy’s face was so bloody and swollen that it would have been hard to recognize her. Spike’s jaw was clenched against the pain and tears were leaking unnoticed out of the corner of his eyes. He’d taken up a steady litany to accompany the blows. He started quietly enough, but his voice had risen with his desperation. Now, everyone flinched away from the pain. Both that he was dealing to Buffy, and that which he was obviously experiencing .

“Please, go down Slayer…please go down…I’m so sorry, Buffy….Please go down Slayer…please go down…-” Finally, her eyes rolled up in her head and she dropped like a ton of bricks. Spike followed her to the ground, kneeling forward to rest his head on the floor.

Giles, Willow and Tara rushed to Buffy’s side and began cleaning up her face.

Xander felt a peculiar clench in his chest as he watched his friends cluster around Buffy leaving Spike awake and obviously hurting...alone. Quietly, he made his way to Spike's side and pulled a piece of his overshirt off. Hesitating a moment, he shrugged and spit on it to moisten it. He then took Spike’s hand into his lap and began wiping away the blood. He found as he did so, that not all of the blood was Buffy’s. Spike glanced up at him in wary thanks and settled down onto his ass, watching the Slayer.

It didn’t look like his spit idea was going to be repeated with Giles. The Watcher pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and began to dry wipe Buffy’s face. Xander scooted around behind Spike and placed his fingers on the vamp's scalp. He felt Spike tense, but when he began a soothing massage, the vamp slowly relaxed and even sank into Xander’s chest, making little happy noises.

When Buffy had been made comfortable next to her Watcher, Willow and Tara exchanged a look. They went to the bags and emptied out the contents. They pulled out various magical components and candles and set about creating a magical circle.

“Ummm, what exactly are you two going to be Transferring and Getting?” Xander asked. He never stopped rubbing Spike’s temples, his forehead, the back of his neck. He was hyper aware of the soft curls wrapping around his fingers, the cool flesh under his fingers, the slow liquid melt of Spike’s body into his as he soothed away the vampire’s headache.

“I have to give my magic to Willow,” Tara whispered. Everyone in the room looked up in shock. “In return, I become…” Her voice petered out.

“Sorta what Cordelia is,” Willow finished for her. “She’ll get Seer powers when I take her magical powers.”

“So how does that make you sacrifice something?” Xander looked confused.

Spike tilted his head back into Xander’s chest to look him in the eye. “Red has to spend the rest of her life knowing she took something precious from Tara. She’ll be reminded of it every time she casts a spell. Every time Tara has one of her visions. And from what I hear, those visions are pretty painful.”

“Oh, Gods…I’m sorry Tara, Will.” He bit his lip and watched the rest of the ceremony in silence. It was remarkably non-showy. No lights, no mists, no strange noises; just a look of pain and understanding on each woman’s face. When it was over, they embraced and sat holding each other.

Long minutes later, the girls quietly gathered up the spell components and blew out the candles. Giles had nudged Buffy awake and Spike and Xander had, by silent agreement, retreated to the far wall, both looking to escape what was coming up next.

Finally, the others confronted them. “I’ve been thinking, Xander, Spike,” Willow interrupted their musings gently. “I can probably make you a…well, like a privacy wall across the back of the room. So you can…you know…in private.” She blushed furiously and clutched Tara’s hand.

“Yeah, that’d be good, Wills, thanks.” Xander sighed tiredly.

“Er, how long should I keep it up for?” She looked between Xander and Spike. Spike snorted.

“Why the hell are you looking at me, Red? It’s not like I’ve been buggered by him before. I have no idea how long the whelp stays hard.”

“Oh, God,” Xander’s head fell back against the wall. “Jesus, Willow. Give me fifteen minutes. No, wait. Give me a half hour. That way if I can’t…well, I’ll have time to daydream of Jeri Ryan, and if I can…I’ll have time to compose myself against the embarrassment of having you all staring at me afterwards.”

“Actually, Red, give us an hour. I’ll claim him behind it also, so you don’t have to watch.” Xander cracked an eye open at him, but then just nodded.

“Ok, then…I’ll get started.” She rummaged around in the bag again and came up with a few ingredients. Five minutes later, Xander and Spike were staring at an opaque wall separating them from the other scoobies.

Unfortunately, Giles, Buffy, Willow, and Tara, were staring in horror at the equivilant of a one-way mirror.


~*~*~*~*~


“So, you come here often?” Xander joked. Spike rolled his eyes but cracked a smile.

“So, why’d you volunteer, whelp?” he asked

“I think it had to do with the look of abject horror in Giles’ eyes.” They shared a grin. “That and I know what it’s like.” Spike raised an eyebrow. Xander shrugged. “I’ve spent my share of time buried under some bastard wondering if it made me a sick person that I was contemplating fucking him back to make him come faster and get the hell off of me.”

“Who?” Spike asked, curious.

“My dad. Since I was about ten. He started ‘sharing’ me with my uncle when I was 12.”

“Do the others know?”

Xander snorted.

“Right. I think not.”

“Why not? I’m sure they’d all love to coddle you,”

“Very funny. Can you picture what would happen if the Scoobies found out that I had concerns other than getting my ass kicked by demons and cracking jokes to make all of them feel better?” He glanced at Spike. “I’m Xander the funny guy. Xander, the one to come to with boy problems. Xander the dork who can’t keep a job for more than a week. I’m not supposed to be funny to keep from crying. Or be there for boy problems because I don’t have a girlfriend who understands that I get fucked more than she does. And it’s just easier for them to think I’m a dumbass who can’t put a burger together than it is for them to know that most every job I’ve been fired from has been because my father beat and raped me into a stupor the night before and I couldn’t get out of bed.”

They sat in, oddly enough, a comfortable silence for a few minutes. “So, Spike, what about you? Anyone you’ve told?”

Spike barked out a laugh. “I think not,” he repeated Xander’s words.

“Why not?”

“Vampire society is strange, mate. Your sire can do any damn thing he wants to do to you. It’s a little like slavery. He owns you. So, no vampire I told would give a shit one way or the other. They’d probably tell me to shut up and enjoy it. And as for humans…well, you’ve heard Buffy. I’m a soulless unfeeling thing. Why wouldn’t I like it? Even if I didn’t, why would it matter?” His voice was strained against the pain.

Xander scooted closer to him, their thighs touching. “I’m sorry for all the shit I’ve said and done that’s made you feel like it wouldn’t matter to me,” he said quietly. “Because it does matter. It matters a lot. You can say you’ve gotten over it, moved on. Even to yourself. But it’s a lie. You never feel clean. You never feel good enough for anyone. It hurts, the not feeling worthy part.”

Spike met his gaze. “What hurts worse is the powerlessness. Knowing that there’s nothing you can do. Blaming yourself. Thinking that somehow something you did sent a signal out to them that you were weak.”

“Who would have thought we had so much in common?” Xander grimaced.

“Except the fact that you’re a white hat, Xander Harris.” Spike tipped his head back against the wall.

“Yeah, well you’re not such a bad guy, either, William the Bloody,” At Spike’s snort, Xander smiled. “You just can’t do it, can you?”

“Can’t do what, pet?” he asked glancing at Xander.

“You can’t take a compliment.”

“I can so.”

“I just said you were a good guy too, and you snorted.”

“Yeah, well…you don’t do so well at taking compliments yourself, you know.”

“I can take a compliment.”

“Can’t.”

“Can.”

“Can’t”

“Try me.”

“Ok, Xander, you are an intelligent man.” Xander choked back a laugh. “See!” Spike pointed at him. “You are intelligent, Xan. I don’t buy that dozy twit gig you’re pulling with the scoobies. You may not be book smart, but you’re street smart. You're a survivor. You have to be intelligent to be a survivor. To know that you can’t depend on someone else.”

Xander blushed. “Fine, shuddup already. My turn. Spike, you have a big heart.”

“Now wait a minute! You said compliments, not insults!”

“For fuck’s sake, Spike,” Xander growled.“There’s no one else in here. No vamps, no humans, no one. And I’m obviously not going to take a potshot at you since I brought it up. Why is it such a horrible thing to have a big heart? You think it makes you weak? Well, it doesn’t. It makes you stronger. You’re different from every other vampire I’ve ever heard of, Spike. Ever read about. Its like your sole existence is to make someone happy. You don’t feel whole unless you're taking care of someone. Even if you have to give something up for yourself. Look at all you’ve given up for Dru. Look at all you’ve given up for us.”

At Spike’s bewildered look, he shook his head. “You think I haven’t noticed that you’ve adopted us? All of us? Who sits with Giles for his stupid teatime? Not us…we hate tea. But you know it makes him feel better to have a touch of home, so there you are every evening, as regular as clockwork. You come in bitching about something or another and wind up staying for tea.” Spike blushed.

“And how about Willow and Tara?

How many times do you ask Tara what she thinks cause you know she won’t volunteer it? Or make it look like Willow just kicked a demon’s ass so she can bounce around calling herself the Big Bad Witch? And who was in tears because he had to beat Buffy’s thick head in? And don’t try to tell me it was your head hurting. I’m not deaf, and you really weren’t paying attention to how loud you were apologizing to her, were you? Not to mention the reigning factor here, who volunteered to be raped so none of us would have to experience it?”

“Awright!” Spike growled menacingly. “Shut the bloody hell up, whelp. You’ve made your point. I’m a poncy nancy boy.”

“Jesus, Spike, I obviously haven’t made it yet. Whose opinion matters more to you? The demon population or ours?” He stared at Spike’s temple, watching the muscle jump. Finally, Spike bowed his head.

“Yours,” he said quietly.

“Then take it as a compliment,” He answered just as quietly.

“Fine. Taken. Not liked, but taken. Happy? I like your hair.” Xander did a double take.

“What?”

“I like your hair. It looks soft…like petting a mink.” Xander smiled.

“Thanks. I like your eyes. I’ve never seen a blue like that before. And it’s really cool when you get pissed and they have little yellow sparks in them.”

Spike grinned. “Well, Xander, it sounds like you’ve been staring into my eyes an awful lot.”

Xander narrowed his eyes. “Really? Wanna pet me, Spike?” Spike stopped grinning.

“Yeah, well…whatever.”

“You amaze me when you fight, you know. You’re like pure energy. You’re everywhere at once, whirling, jumping, dodging. But you’re so small. It’s like dynamite in this tiny package.”

“You could do it too. You have the build and the muscle structure. You’re also pretty damn graceful when you aren’t pretending to be donut boy. I could teach you some moves if you like.”

“Yeah, I’d like that.”

“You realize we’re just postponing the inevitable?”

“Yeah. I know.”

Spike stood and shed his duster. He’d started unbuttoning his shirt when Xander got to his feet.

“Um, what are you doing?” he asked nervously.

“I’m stripping, Xander. I would have thought that were obvious. We have about forty-five more minutes before Red takes down this wall and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to get caught in the middle of something. So, let’s just get on with the raping.” He twisted his lips in a parody of a smile. Xander felt that peculiar clenching in his chest again. He stepped forward and put a hand on Spike’s busy fingers.

“Please. Not like this,” he murmured. “The man said violate. Not rape. I’m sure that having my dick in your ass will be violation enough to satisfy the rules. The rest is up to us. And I don’t want to rape you. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Spike cocked his head to the side. “So you want to shag?” Xander grinned and nodded.

“Shagging is much better.”

“You ever been with a man, deliberately shagging?”

“Once. You?”

“One bloke, but several times.”

“Angelus again?”

“Yeah, well there were times he wasn’t a complete git.”

Xander moved Spike’s fingers away and began unbuttoning the shirt himself. Spike’s fingers moved to Xander’s shirt and they undressed each other. When they were both shirtless, they stopped for a moment and gazed at each other.

“Pure dynamite,” Xander whispered with a smile.

Spike smiled back and ran a hand up Xander’s stomach, over his chest, and up around his neck. Wrapping a hand around the nape, he pulled the taller man down for a kiss. Xander felt his knees give way under the gentle assault of Spike’s lips. He felt Spike encircle his waist and hold him upright. He parted his lips and Spike’s cool tongue thrust into his mouth, teasing and flirting with his own.

He was melting. He could feel a warm tingling flooding his body and he forgot to breathe. Spike imprinted his taste onto Xander’s tongue. Xander knew that, never again would anything taste as sweet as this. He nearly whimpered when Spike pulled his head back a tiny inch.

“I want to tell you something, Xander,” he said huskily, running the pad of his thumb over Xander’s swollen lips. “I like you, pet. A lot. More than I should. You haunt my thoughts, you make my gut clench, you make me want to shag the bloody hell out of you and protect you from anything that would hurt you. I haven’t felt like this…ever. You’re like a combination of everything I loved in Dru and Angelus, only without any of the bad parts. And you’re you. Which is decidedly better than both of them.”

He watched the wonder grow in Xander’s eyes and tried not to let hope crawl from the pit of his stomach. “I’m sorry if I just made this harder for you, luv. I’ve pictured our first time in a million ways, but never like this. I couldn’t let us get any further without letting you know how I felt.”

Xander felt that warm curl blossom. Spike liked him. Really liked him. Maybe even more than liked him. Maybe he…no. Don’t get ahead of yourself, Xan. I should tell him. NO! What if he laughs? Don’t be imbecile. He told you first. Why would he laugh at you? Just tell him.

Great, you bleedin’ pillock. You freaked him out. He’s trying to think of something to say that doesn’t sound like ‘ewww’ cause he’s so bleedin’ sensitive that it’d kill him to hurt me before he shagged me.

“I-I like you too, Spike. A lot. More than I should. I dream about you. I hurt for you. You make me want to hold you until the need to be the Big Bad goes away and all that’s left is Wil. You make me want to kick the shit out of anyone who’s ever hurt you: Angel, Dru, …Buffy. I know I should be wigged out right now. You’re a vampire. You’re a guy. And those things matter out in the real world, I suppose. When I can wonder what the hell I think I’m doing.”

He cupped the wide-eyed vamp’s face and smiled. “But when I’m with you, none of it matters one fucking bit. I don’t see the vamp. I don’t see the man. I just see Wil. My Wil. And it makes me happy.”

Spike blinked slowly. “Can I kiss you now?” he whispered. Xander nodded and their lips met once again. If it had been sweet before, now it was intoxicating. They drank in one another. They couldn’t press close enough to each other. Spike pushed Xander against the wall and devoured his mouth. After spreading kisses over the boy’s jaw line, he moved down the column of his neck, burying his face into the juncture of neck and shoulder.

“God, you smell good,” he breathed. Xander’s eyes fluttered open and he gave a half laugh.

“It’s called soap. Latest craze.” Spike grinned into his flesh then gently raked his teeth over the muscle in Xander’s shoulder. He reveled in the gasp of pleasure it caused the boy.

“Don’t be a twit, Xan. I meant you smell good. Spicy, crisp, clean. Like autumn.” He forestalled any return comment by licking his way across Xander’s chest and capturing a pebbled nipple. Xander whimpered. Spike rolled the nubbin of flesh between his lips and laved it lovingly with his tongue.

“Y-you can keep doing that for as long as you w-want,” Xander panted.

“But if I keep doing this, I wont be able to do this.” He nibbled his way down the boy’s chest, making short side trips to his sensitive sides and then knelt before him. With an impatient tug, he snapped the button open and grasped the zipper with his teeth.

Click, click, click…Xander was about to go mad. He thrust his hips into the blonde and whined. Spike only chuckled.

“Patience, Xan. Patience.” So very slowly, he tugged the pants down off of the boy’s hips, taking his boxers with them. Xan popped out of his confines in all his glory. Spike nuzzled the boy’s erection, breathing in the more pronounced scent of Xander. Then, he opened his mouth and engulfed the boy whole. He let Xander’s cock slide down his throat until soft hairs were tickling his nose.

“Oh, Jesus fucking Christ,” Xander hissed.

Using one hand, he cupped the boy’s heavy sack and kneaded it. The other reached around and clutched his tight ass. Thanking whomever created the first vampire that he didn’t need to breath, he applied suction and began moving. He felt Xander’s fingers wind their way through his hair and his own cock twitched each time the boy tugged the silken strands.

Xander had never felt anything like this before. Well, what do you know? Here’s another reason why staking vamps is bad, bad, bad. No need to breathe means one happy Xander. Spike’s cool tongue swirled its way across the expanse of his cock, his teeth gently scraping on the upstroke. Xander could feel that he was close, but he wanted to be inside Spike when he came.

Spike growled in displeasure when Xander pushed him away. “Quit grumping, Wil,” Xander smiled down at the gold flecks in sapphire eyes. “I’m getting the best part of the deal here. The least I could do is share my good fortune.” He toed his shoes off and shucked his pants, then traded placed with Spike. As he was pulling the vamp's pants over his hips, Spike reached out and tilted his head up with a single finger.

“Xan, you don’t have to do this.”

“Do what?”

“Pretend. I can take it. You don’t have to touch me like this. You don’t have to ‘share your good fortune.’ I don’t want you to start something you can’t finish.”

Xander frowned. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Spike sighed. “Not like that, you twit. I meant…oh fuck. Do you know how easily attached I get? How simple it is for me to convince myself that any affection at all means a hell of a lot more than it really does? I’m weak, Xan. Very fucking weak. So what I’m telling you is don’t be nice to me now, if you’re not willing to be nice to me later. If you can’t handle that, then just fuck me now and leave off with the charity.”

Xander jerked the vamp's pants down around his ankles and started angrily pulling at the laces of his Docs. “What the hell is wrong with you, Spike?” he snarled, taking his frustration out on the bootlaces. “Oh, wait. I know. It’s the same thing that’s wrong with me. We both have victim stamped on our foreheads.” He jerked one boot off, causing Spike to grab his shoulder to keep upright. Oh the feel of that hand on his shoulder.

“Why is it so very hard for you to believe that I want to do this? That I want it to be good for you too?”

Spike gazed down into the flashing dark eyes. “Because I want to believe it,” he replied softly. “I want to believe that you don’t hate me like the others do. That you don’t keep me around because no one else will have me and you feel sorry for me. I want to believe that if it came down to it, you might choose me over the Slayer and your mates. But I can’t believe that. Because if I believe it, it will tear me up inside when I find out I was wrong.”

He closed his eyes against what he wanted to see in Xander’s eyes. “Because even though Angelus left me, and Dru left me, they’re still here. I can still feel them when I’m alone or afraid and I close my eyes. I can feel them in my blood, Xander. So I never really lost them. There’s a special tie in a vampire family. The blood calls to you. It overwhelms everything else. I know that if I really needed them, no matter what we’d done to each other, how badly we’d hurt each other, they’d be there for me. They’d take me back and all would be forgiven.”

He opened his eyes again. “I don’t have that guarantee with you, Xan. I’d know I could lose you at any minute to your friends. And when you leave me, you’ll truly be gone. I have nothing to tie you to me. This claiming thing. It’s like a fucking curse. I finally get to taste you; to make you mine. But I have to live with putting you into bondage. It’s like what I was telling you about Red. I’ll know for the rest of your life that I took your freedom.”

“Maybe I’ll like it.” Xander said quietly, the anger having dissipated. Spike snorted.

“Of course you’d like it. I’d make you like it. I couldn’t stand the thought of you being with me and not liking it. But that’s the point. I don’t want to take it from you. I want you to give it to me. Freely and of your own volition. I guess I’m as weak as the poof in that aspect.” He laughed bitterly.

“What if I want to give it to you?”

“Oh, please, Xan. I'm an evil vampire. A demon. Get real,” he scoffed.

“No! You get real, Spike.” He jerked the other boot off. “Have you been listening to yourself? Have you heard anything you’ve said? Do you sound like an evil demon? No. You sound like a person who’s hurting, who’s lost so much that they can’t even contemplate letting anything else in to hurt them again. I understand that. More than you could imagine. He stood up and cupped Spike’s face in his hand.

“I’m tired of being alone, Wil. Alone in a group of people. I’m tired of not being heard, not being noticed. I want to love and be loved but I haven’t the faintest idea of how to go about doing that. I’m scared that we aren’t making it out of here. I’m more scared that if we do make it out of here you’ll hate me for doing ‘that’ to you. But mostly, I’m scared because I think I see something in you that’s calling me, and I don’t know how to answer it, how to call back to you.”

He leaned forward and gently claimed his Wil’s lips. He tried to imbue his kiss with every bit of emotion he felt and couldn’t put into words. He nearly cried when the vamp began to return gentle pressure.

Oh, bloody hell, Wil, what are you doing? It was his turn to whimper as the boy drug his hot lips across his jaw to nibble at his ear. Xander’s warmth crept through him even as his hands seared his own pale flesh. Xander ran his nails down his bare arms and Spike couldn’t help the low moan that escaped his lips at the mix of pleasure and pain.

The boy moved his tongue to the blonde’s hardened nipples and began suckling. Spike swore that they were connected directly to his cock. Watching the boy kneel before him nearly brought tears to his eyes. How bloody beautiful. How could anyone not want to take him, to steal him away from any pain?

And then he felt the boy’s warm breath on his cock and he lost control of his thoughts. Xander nibbled along the shaft, running his tongue under the uncircumcised skin and tracing tiny patterns on the sack that lay beneath it. He heard a rhythmic thumping above him and lifted his eyes to see Spike’s eyes screwed tightly shut and his mouth gaping slightly from the pants that issued forth. He was also beating his head back against the wall.

Slowly, he slid the vampire’s hardened length into his mouth one inch at a time, listening to a keening noise issuing forth from above him. Though he needed to breath, he took his breath on the up stroke and drew Spike’s entire length deep into his throat. The vamp began to thrust uncontrollably into Xander’s mouth and Xander lost all will to continue teasing.

He concentrated instead on pleasing his Wil. If Xander were autumn, then Wil was winter. Cool flesh, skin as pale as the snow. He smelled like Christmas, a hint of pine, probably from the trees around his crypt, the bite of the cinnamon incense Willow had been burning in the magick shop. He tasted…oh Gods, he tasted like heaven. He felt a strange combination of lust filled satisfaction and saddened melancholy as Spike’s whimpers became louder and his hips sped up, signaling the nearness of his orgasm.

Bloody hell, the boy is killing me! Spike tried to hold back, to not ram his cock deep into Xander’s throat when the waves began cresting over him. But he lost all sense of reality at that moment and couldn’t, for certain, tell what the hell he was doing. His world narrowed down to the sound of Xander’s heartbeat and the suction on his cock.

When the spasms passed, Xander gently pulled the limp vampire down into his arms and lay him across his lap. He began rocking him and covering every spare centimeter of the pale skin with tender kisses. When the peculiar hitch to Spike’s unneeded breathing had halted, he lay him gently on his back. Wide blue eyes stared up at him.

“Shhh,” he whispered. “I want to see you.” Putting two fingers into his mouth, he wet them so as to not cause his lover any pain. Eyes locked on each other, he slowly inserted first one, then added the second, into the crevice between Spike’s cheeks. A tiny intake of breath as he pushed past the ring of muscles was the only sound his Wil made.

We’ll soon fix that. He curled his fingers slightly and was rewarded by the vamp’s hips rocketing off of the floor and another keening wail. Better.

Spike could feel his eyes cross and shut them against the pleasure. In the dark, he could see tiny pinpoints of light flashing each time his nummy his that spot. When the fingers withdrew he nearly howled in disappointment. Moments later, he felt something else snuggling at his entrance.

“Yes, yes, yes…please, Xan, please…” he begged incoherently. Xander eased the ache as he gently penetrated that place his fingers had teased so unmercifully. He was intending to go slowly, but as soon as Spike felt him press inside, he impaled himself on Xander’s cock with one quick thrust. This time, the moan came from Xander’s lips as he felt Spike’s muscles contract around him, trying to relax enough to let him begin moving.

Soon enough, he was slamming his lover into the floor as Spike kept whimpering, “Harder…yes, Oh bloody hell right there…” He knew he was close to coming and he grasped Spike’s cock in front of him and began stroking it in rhythm with his thrusts.

“Oh, fuck, Wil…” he felt the tingling begin, “I’m…gonna…oh, fuck, fuck, fuck…yes, Wil!” he emptied himself into his lover, feeling the cool spray over his chest at the same time. He collapsed on top of Spike in exhaustion. After a moment, he realized that he was probably crushing the smaller man and made to move. He was stopped as cool arms threaded around his back clasping him to Spike’s chest.

“Don’t go,” he heard. “You’re not too heavy, and I don’t want you to leave yet.”

He smiled and snuggled down, burying his face in the crook of Spike’s neck, listening to the soft rumble coming from his chest. “I won’t leave you, Wil.”

Long minutes passed before either of them even tried to move.

Finally, Spike sighed. “We’re running out of time, mate. Are you ready?”

“I’m ready, Wil.”

Spike grinned. “Have I mentioned that I like when you call me Wil?”

Xander kissed his forehead. “You didn’t have to. I could tell by the way you caught your non-existent breath the first time I said it. I like it too. It fits you. The you that purrs when I pet him.”

“Oi, bloody hell, that better not get around,” Spike warned with a glare.

“Or what?”

“Or no more shagging.” Spike laughed briefly, then stopped at the look on Xander’s face. “What?”

“I just want you to know how much that idea really bothers me.” Spike felt an almost giddy rush of blood to his head. “So, you gonna bite me now, or what?”

Spike looked deeply into his eyes. “I need to know what you want, Xan. I can make you a minion or a mate. Your choice.”

“Why my choice? I thought the biter made all the choices, not the bitee.”

“Normally, I suppose they do. And the fact that I’m offering you a choice should tell you which one I prefer.”

“What’s the difference?”

“To claim a human as a minion, you bite him, and put a visible mark on him.

In general, it’s the least bonding of actions. You’d feel the need to do what I tell you to do, but with the scoobies around, I don’t think it should be a problem. And I promise you that I won’t abuse it. I know that my word probably means next to nothing to a human, but I mean it.”

Xander captured his eyes. “Bullshit. If you say you won’t use it against me, I believe you. You’re word is just as important to me as anyone else’s.”

Spike smiled a shy smile and continued, “To claim a human as a mate, I would bite you, drink a small bit from you, and then let you bite me and drink from me. It puts us as equals. Of course it also bonds us together. We’ll…need each other.”

“Like, we can’t survive without each other?”

“More like we won’t want to. It’s not a spell. It just links you together. You feel what I feel. I feel what you feel. I know when you hurt. You know when I need. It’s like a deep empathy but only between us. Sort of like the Childe/Sire bond. But I wouldn’t hurt you, because I’d feel your pain. It would become my own. That’s the danger of the bond. If you die, I’d probably stake myself. If I died, you’d take a very long time to heal emotionally.”

“That hurts, Spike.” Xander looked at the floor next to Spike’s head.

“What hurts, luv?” Spike asked, confused.

“You say if you lost me, you’d stake yourself. But if I lost you, I’d just get over it eventually? I don’t know what you call it, but this bond, this mating thing, sounds an awful lot like love. Why can’t you fathom that I would love you just as much as you love me? That I wouldn’t want to live without you any more that you would without me?”

Spike gaped at him. “I…err…I didn’t mean it that way,” he whispered.

“I’ve made my decision. If you’ll have me, Wil, I’d like to be your mate.” More gaping.

“Are you sure, pet? Later, we could break the minion bond fairly easily. That’s probably the one you should choose. Mating may be more than you’re ready for.”

Xander glared at him. “Is this how we're going to spend the rest of forever, Wil? Me telling you something and you running roughshod over the top of me cause you think I haven’t thought things through?”

Spike smiled a tiny smile, so full of warmth that Xander’s heart ached. “Forever, huh? I won’t turn you, Xan. You’d change. You wouldn’t be you anymore. I couldn’t take that. I want who you are now. Not some angry bloodthirsty version of you. If you’re really interested in forever, we’ll have to look for another way.”

Xander hugged him. “Do you realize how bizarre this is? We’ve gone from snippy dislike to discussing mating and being together forever in less than an hour.”

Spike returned the embrace, and resigned himself to heartache.

“Ok, silly twit. Time to bite you. Where do you want it? Remember, it’ll last as long as your body does. It won’t fade. So be sure that you have me put it somewhere you won’t be embarrassed to have it.”

Xander kissed him softly on the lips, then tilted his head to the side, exposing his neck. Spike drew in an unneeded breath at the gesture of trust…and more. Linking fingers with Xander, he placed his lips on the boy’s warm neck, feeling his steady and strong heartbeat.He switched to game face and gently pierced Xander’s flesh. The boy’s blood filled his mouth and he nearly swooned. Hot, salty, smooth. The very essence of his Xander. Being given to him willingly. To make him into Spike’s mate. Forever. God, he was getting hard again.

Xander felt no pain. It was even better than when he’d fed Spike earlier. This time, he felt linked to him. He could hear the blood rushing from his body and into his lover’s. Filling Spike. Bonding Xander to him. With every swish of Spike’s tongue, every pull from his lips, Xander’s cock twitched. Jesus, if it was always like this, why didn’t he go to Spike earlier? It was sheer bliss.

All too soon it was over. Spike pulled out his fangs and licked the twin wounds shut. “Do you just want to drink, Xan luv?” he asked softly, loving the dazed took on his lover’s face. “I can bleed myself, if you’d rather.” He was pleased, and greatly aroused when Xander growled and his eyes flashed.

“Mine,” he rasped. “I get to mark you.” Spike smiled approvingly and tilted his head to allow Xander access. With a sound, not unlike Spike’s own purr, Xander attacked Spike’s neck. He didn’t want to hurt, even though he knew he had to with his blunt teeth, so he bit hard and fast. As his teeth sunk in, he heard Spike moan. From the flesh pressed into his own thigh, he assumed it wasn’t a sound of pain. Pulling his mouth away, he gazed proudly at the indentions slowly filling with blood. Possessively, he lowered his head again and began to drink.

He knew that the blood he was drinking wasn’t originally Spike’s. He knew that some of it was even his own. But somehow, Spike cleansed the other’s taint away and it was wholly the vampire’s essence. Rich, enhanced blood that made his tongue tingle and his body shiver. He would have drunk forever had Spike not gently tugged him away.

“Enough, luv. Too much will make you sick.” He licked the last of his blood off of Xander’s lips. “My blood to yours. Your blood to mine. Bonded, mated, marked, claimed. One soul in two bodies,” he whispered.

Xander didn’t know why, but he needed to repeat the words. “My blood to yours. Your blood to mine. Bonded, mated, marked, claimed. One soul in two bodies,” He echoed. As the words left his lips, he felt a rush of heat. He felt a part of himself leave his body, and take up residence in Spike’s. Strangely enough, rather than feeling a loss, he felt completed.

“It’s done, luv.” Spike brushed a kiss on his lover’s forehead. “You’ll be tired. Sleep. I’ll protect you.” Heavy lidded, Xander nodded. He sleepily found their pants and after tugging them on, he wiggled into the vee of his mate’s legs and leaned back against his chest. With a tender smile, Spike kissed the tousled hair and enveloped him in his arms.

Small snores filled the room and Spike leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes, the smile still curling on his lips. “I love you, Xan.” He breathed, and started to purr.





Part Two

Spike felt the wall coming down before he saw it. The magic ran across his back like spider legs. One second the wall was there. The next it was not. And he looked across the expanse of the room to wide eyes and wary expressions.

“Hello, children,” he smirked. No response. Well, what the hell? “Did you miss us?” Ah, Red and Tara were blushing furiously. Buffy covered her face with her hands. Giles pulled off his glasses to wipe them. Spike’s smirk faded. “What?” he demanded. Willow desperately didn’t make eye contact.

“Umm…the errr, wall…didn’t work quite…right,” she choked out. Spike’s eyes narrowed.

“Not quite right?” he repeated.

“Errr, I guess on your side…it was a wall. On our, umm, side…it, err, umm, …wasn’t,” she finished in defeat.

“So what you’re saying is that you saw everything,” he stated tonelessly.

“W-we heard everything t-too,” Tara added, looking away.

“Bloody hell,” he groaned and smacked his head against the wall in irritation, then fixed each of them with a deadly gaze. “I don’t want to hear one word out of any of you, understand? Xander doesn’t need to know you saw…or heard anything. Just shut the hell up about it.” Vigorous nods all around.

“Shu’ the h’ll up ‘bout wha’, Wil?” Xan’s sleepy voice murmured as Xander turned on his side and nuzzled Spike’s chest. Spike looked down and caught the warm gaze of his mate. He couldn’t stop the smile that came across his face. With a sleepy smile in return, Xander began rubbing small circles on Spike’s stomach.

“Hi, Wil,” he breathed.

“Hi, Xan. The wall is down,” Spike warned, wanting to give his nummy all the time he needed to adjust to having just shagged and mated a vampire. A vampire that all of his friends hated.

Xander tilted his head to eye the others but didn’t stop rubbing. “Hi, guys,” he called and lay his head back down on Spike’s chest.

“H-Hi, Xander,” Willow stuttered. Spike rolled his eyes. Oh, well done witch. Why don’t you just say, ‘Hey Xander, I just watched you shag an undead bloke into the ground and then let him steal half of your soul’.

“Are you feeling all right, Xander?” Giles asked, wiping his glasses. Xander stretched against his lover like a cat. He smiled and nodded.

“Doing great, G-man. Never better.” He rolled onto his back, but didn’t move away from Spike. “I spose you’re wondering what this is about,” he began. A flurry of activity greeted his comment.

“N-no! Not wondering,” Willow grasped Tara’s hand and they both turned away to inspect the door.

“Not at all, Xander.” Giles began digging through his pockets.

“Don’t wanna know.” Buffy just turned bright red. She continued to stare at them, though. Xander furrowed his brow.

“What’s going on?” he demanded. No response. “Spike, what the hell is going on?” Spike sighed and scooted Xander forward a bit so that he could stand. He reached a hand down and helped Xander up.

“You people are bloody terrible at this, you know,” he glared at them.

“Bloody terrible at what, Wil?” Xander stepped up to him. “What aren’t you telling me? What are you trying to-” He stopped as the world exploded into color. Swaying, he felt strong arms surround him and hold him upright.

“Xander?” Spike shook him slightly. “What the fuck is going on? Your eyes just changed color.” The others began to gather around, worry evident on their faces.

Xander blinked and slowly dropped his gaze to Spike. “Did you know you have a sparkling white light shooting from your chest?” he asked absently. Spike looked down, and seeing nothing, brought his eyes back to his mate.

“I don’t see anything, luv.”

“Oh, damn. Too bad, there are lots of other pretty lines of light coming from you too. Red ones, blue ones, green ones.” Xander still sounded dazed. “But the white one…it’s right there. It’s pouring from your chest…and into me.” He reached out to touch something in between their bodies.

As soon as his hand passed through the lines of crystalline light, his head rocked back. He felt worried, scared, guilty, angry, frustrated…and then his hand found the white light. He stared from his hand to Spike’s face in awe.

“You love me,” he whispered. Spike tensed.

“What are you going on about, whelp?” He tried to sound angry. Xander only shook his head.

“No, I can feel it. It’s in the light. You love me.” He smiled and tears began to fall. “I never knew. But it’s all here. It’s warm, and safe and welcoming.” He laughed, throwing his head back and closing his eyes to drink in the feeling. “Everyone should be loved like this.”

Spike had given up on ‘angry’ and moved onto panicked. “The boy has obviously lost his mind.” He waved a hand weakly at Xander.

Xander opened his eyes and smirked. Glancing over at the others, he was again astonished to see lines of light extending from them as well. Some lines extended out through the walls, but most reached out to connect to another in the room. All colors, all levels of brightness. He gaped at their beauty. Looking down, he saw the lights connecting him to the others as well.

He narrowed his gaze and traced the other white lights from body to body. The next brightest was linked between Willow and Tara. Moving up to them he carefully reached out a hand and slid it into the beam. He jerked as he felt the same kind of love pouring between the two women. Laughing, he tried another line; this time leading between himself and Willow. Still white, but smaller.

Love poured through again. This time, however, it didn’t have the same connotations. He didn’t know how he knew; only that he did. It was the love of a sister for her brother. He tested Tara’s link to him. The love of a good friend. Placing a kiss on each of their brows, he moved on to Giles and Buffy. In Buffy, he felt the love of an older sibling for her beloved younger brothers and sisters. He felt a strong love of a daughter in her link to Giles. With a frown, he saw that a white light extended to Spike.

Curious, he dipped his hand into it. Then he laughed. “What the hell? Buffy, if you love him like an annoying older brother, why do you keep trying to kill him?”

Buffy blanched and shot a guilty look at Spike. “I think Spike’s right. You have gone kinda wacko.”

Giles gently gripped Xander’s chin. He tilted the boy’s head right and left. “Are you reading our minds?” he asked pointedly.

Xander shook his head. “No, I told you. There are a million of these lines of lights. They run from person to person. I think white is love. I’m not sure about the others yet.” He shrugged. “I can tell how you’re feeling by the colors, I think. But the real emotion comes through when I dip my hand into the stream.”

Giles hmphed and continued to stare at Xander, so Xander went back to Spike. He pinned him against a wall and rested his forehead on Spike’s.

“I can feel it, Wil,” he whispered. “I can feel it and it warms me like nothing ever has before.” He gently brushed a kiss over the vamps lips. “I wish I could show you how I feel in return.” He looked lost in thought for a moment. “Maybe I can.” He linked fingers with Spike and drew their clasped hands directly into the stream of white. Opening his mind, his heart, his soul…he poured it through the link.

Spike whimpered and his legs dropped out from under him. Now it was Xander’s turn to hold him up. He stared into his lover’s face and watched his eyes turn from icy blue to chocolaty brown. Just as he was about to ask Spike what was going on, the white light between them pulsed and flared out along the white lines connecting Spike to the others.

Xander watched in amazement as, simultaneously, the girls and Giles jerked from an unseen force. They kept their feet, but they were obviously thrown for a loop. He held Spike against him as the light dimmed again. Willow and Tara slowly blinked and then turned to each other. With duplicate smiles, they embraced. Giles pulled his glasses off again and began to frantically wipe them down.

“What the fuck was that?” Buffy breathed. “How? How can you feel that way?” She peered at Spike as though he were a fascinating specimen. “How can a vampire with no soul love like that?” Spike buried his head into Xander’s chest.

“I think I missed something, here,” Xander said, confused.

Giles replaced his glasses. “Yes, well…you don’t appear to be the only one who’s received a gift, Xander.” He began circling the entwined men. “You seem to be able to see emotions. To dwell in them, as it were, should you touch one of these ‘strands of light’. I think Spike may be able to project emotion. Either that, or I am very much in love with you and live only to devise new ways to make you happy and proud to be mine.”

Spike groaned into Xander’s shirt. Giles continued to circle them. Xander looked at the girls with a huge sappy smile on his face.

“So, Spike-”

The door was thrown open. Standing in the doorway was their large balding torturer. Only he looked like the tortured. His clothing was wrinkled, his hair unkept, tears streamed from his eyes and his face was drawn up in a rictus of pain.

“What have you done?” he shrieked. “Undo it! Take it back! Make it stop!”

Buffy didn’t hesitate. She launched herself at him. She sent a spinning kick to his head and then booted him into the room to lay flat on his face in the pile of ritual supplies. He didn’t even try to get up. Buffy looked in confusion from him to the scoobies.

He scrounged in the bags for a moment and then rose to his knees. Still weeping, he now began to laugh as well. He held up the ritual knife used to mark Giles. “No more! I will not endure this any longer.” Before Buffy could kick the knife away, he placed the blade at his throat and dug it in deeply, running it from ear to ear. Moments later, he lay dead in a pool of his own blood.

No one moved. Even when the gun toting men in camo stepped into the room, no one moved. They took a brief look around the room, and then began to file out. As the last one left, he turned back to the gang.

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know why he wanted you. He paid up. Now he’s dead. We’ll be on our way. If you’re interested, he kept a study on the floor above you. Heard him chanting and saw smoke creeping out from under the door. Maybe you’ll find some answers.” He nodded shortly. “Have a nice day.”

The scoobies still didn’t move. “What the hell just happened?” Buffy asked, staring at the corpse in front of her.

“I have no bloody idea, Buffy. But I rather think the answers may be in that room,” Giles replied absently and began to move toward the door. As one, the others followed, stepping over the body of their captor.


~*~*~*~*~


“I think I found it!” Willow exclaimed. After hours of searching through mystical tomes and scrolls she was exhausted. Not to mention that their captor had terrible taste in incense. Whatever he’d been burning had given her a headache that was settling right behind her eyes. She held the book up in triumph and scooted over to allow Giles and Tara to each take a spot on the couch next to her.

“It says here, that there is a ritual designed to rid one of unclean emotions,” She began, talking to the boys who were curled up in a love seat together and Buffy, in the chair across from them, as Giles and Tara quickly scanned the paragraph over her shoulders. “Through this ritual, the caster uses a vessel to pour from himself, each unwanted emotion. Each emotion has its own separate ritual designed to bind that emotion to that particular vessel. Oh, look…there’s a list.”

She winced a bit, but continued reading. “The vessel partaking the ritual of Punishment shall endure everlasting pain. The vessel chosen as the Marking shall dwell in everlasting fear. The vessel of the Transfer shall ever be consumed by guilt. The vessel filled with the Sight shall ever see futility. The vessel that is Claimed shall exist in eternal submission. The vessel of Violation shall endure eternal degradation.”

She looked up. “But I think we’re okay.” Raised eyebrows met her comment.

“Of course we are, Red,” Spike said snarkily. “I personally am looking forward to my future of degradation. It’ll have all the comforts of home.”

“Wil,” Xander admonished, tapping him on the nose with a gentle finger. “Let her finish.” Spike sighed, but snuggled down against his lover’s side anyway.

“Ummm, well…it seems to be that when the vessels take these curses on during the correct ritual, the caster loses them forever.” She furrowed her brow. “I think this guy was really unhappy. He was so determined never to feel the icky emotions again, that he tried to never feel anything but the good emotions. I don’t think he really thought about that. You can't enjoy the good emotions unless you have the bad to show you the difference.”

“Are you feeling sorry for this asshole, Wills?” Buffy sighed.

“I guess a little bit,” she blushed. “But, the rituals didn’t work out. They backfired. And when they did, he became consumed with only the emotions he’d been trying to get rid of. He couldn’t feel any of the good things at all anymore. I think it drove him a little insane.”

“And so he killed himself to get away from them,,,,” Xander said quietly. Willow nodded. “So what went wrong with the spell?”

Willow blushed. “Actually, you and Spike went wrong.” She tried to look everywhere but at her childhood friend. Tara took pity on her.

“I think I see where Willow is going with this,” she said softly. “The rules of the ritual were very specific. The individual rituals had to be performed under the rules of the emotion. Such as, Giles had to have been marked knowing that it could lead to his death or at very least put him under the control of an evil power.” Giles nodded, a thoughtful look on his face.

“Buffy had to be beaten, knowing that she was so strong, it would take what seemed to be an eternity to go down, especially since Spike kept having to stop due to his chip going off. Willow knew that she was taking something very special from me. She knew that for the rest of her life, she’d feel guilty for that. I knew that I would spend the rest of my life seeing visions and knowing there was probably nothing I could do to stop them.”

“But, you two didn’t follow the rules.” Tara continued. “Spike expected you to…r-rape…him, Xander.” She stumbled over the words now unable to meet their eyes. “But you didn’t. You chose to make it…pleasurable for both of you. He wasn’t violated. He was…loved.” She smiled and chanced a glance at the boys. They were staring into each other’s eyes.

“And Spike, you were expected to claim Xander as a minion; make him your slave. But you didn’t. You gave him a choice, and then you made him your equal.” She shrugged. “By breaking the rules, you broke the ritual.”

“So, where does that leave the rest of us?” Buffy asked.

Giles opened his shirt and looked down at his chest. His bare, unmarked chest. Eyes wide, Tara muttered the words to a simple spell and a tiny ball of light appeared in front of her. Gleefully, the witches threw their arms around each other.

On the other side of the room, Xander and Spike looked warily at each other. As one, they each tilted their heads to expose their necks. Xander saw the imprint of his teeth still fresh on Spike’s neck and he smiled. Spike saw two nearly healed puncture marks in Xander’s throat and he smiled back.

“I guess the ritual only took away the bad stuff,” Spike whispered. Xander leaned forward and brushed his lips across his mate’s. Buffy hid a smile.

“Now all we have to do is figure out what happened to Xander and Spike.” Willow beamed.

“It seems that they are connected through the mating claim in some way heretofore unknown to us and the antithesis of the magic has caused a peculiar mirrored effect in them both,” Giles pondered.

Buffy’s eyes glazed. “In English Giles.”

“Oh, yes…hmmm, sorry. When the ritual backlashed, Spike and Xander were caught in it because they broke it. And because they were bonded through the claiming, it seems that they share the power the backlash created. I think Xander can see and feel emotions, and Spike can project them,” he declared.

“That’s so cool!” Buffy exclaimed. “Let’s try them out!”

Giles sighed. “Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for, but I suppose that she is right. We do need to know what these new powers can do. Can you see the lines, Xander?”

“No, he’s turned off,” Spike replied. “When he’s looking at the pretty lights his eyes turn blue.”

Xander grinned. “It’s only fair. When you’re sending out shock waves, yours turn brown.”

“Hmmmm, fascinating. Yet another link.” Giles perked up again. “So, can you…err, turn on?”

Xander shut his eyes and shuddered. When he opened them again, they were blue glaciers. “Got it.”

“Excellent. Now, I want you to watch the, err…lines, while Spike tries to send various emotions across.” Giles commanded.

“So, who’s gonna be our guinea pig?” Spike asked.

Buffy practically bounced. “Ooooooh, me! Me!”

With matching grins, the boys turned to face her.


~*~*~*~*~


“This bloody well sucks.” Spike complained. “Why can’t I send scary things?”

For the last thirty minutes, Xander had been dipping into emotion streams, learning what each color meant. After each discovery, he would ask Spike to try to send something of that emotion down the light. So far, they’d found Spike could only send emotions that were the opposites of those imposed by the ritual.

“I can’t bloody well believe this. I have this really amazing opportunity to be evil again, and all I can send are fluffy bunny feelings,” Spike snarled in disgust.

Buffy tried really hard not to giggle, but Spike caught her anyway.

“Oh, I’m so glad that you're amused by this, Slayer,” he growled and threw himself back onto the love seat.

“So, what are the emotions we’ve come up with so far?” Giles interrupted.

“Um, looks like…joy, love, comfort, hope, strength, and various themes on the same,” Willow catalogued, then got an evil grin. “Oh, hey, we haven’t tried out pleasure yet.”

Giles looked confused. “We have joy.”

“No, no, no.” She shook her head. “Pleasure. That thing caused by joy and love.” She wiggled her eyebrows at Spike, who began an evil grin of his own.

“You’re absolutely right, Red,” he said sweetly. “Hang on a mo, will ya? Got to get in the mood.”

He turned to Xander and, grinning wickedly, took possession of the boy’s lips. Nibbling on Xander’s lower lip, he swung a leg over Xander’s lap and nestled down, pressing his crotch against Xander’s. He was immediately rewarded by a low moan and the capture of his own tongue. They dueled passionately for a moment with each other, and then Spike forced himself away.

Xander muttered in protest and Spike kissed him on the nose. “Later, luv,” he whispered. Turning around, he found the witches watching him with grins, Giles wiping his glasses again, and Buffy staring with her mouth slightly open.

Narrowing his gaze, he bundled all of his need and desire into one tiny ball and rammed it down the link into the Slayer. Buffy got wide eyed and her hand shot down to the vee of her legs. Then her eyes glazed over and she dropped to her knees with a keening wail.She curled down, resting her head on the floor as she continued to whimper and small shudders could be seen making their way across her back.

Willow gaped at Spike and then ran to Buffy’s side. Putting her arm around her best friend, she leaned over to whisper. “Buffy, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it would hurt.” Buffy gave one final shudder and laughed weakly.

“Hurt? No. Not at all.” She sat up carefully and grinned at Spike. “I think I’m jealous.”

Spike preened and Willow looked confused. Buffy leaned over to whisper in her ear.

“Spike just made me come harder than I’ve ever come in my life. And he did it with a fucking thought.” She grinned again, and Willow giggled.

“That good?”

Buffy shuddered again and her eyes rolled up briefly. “I’m so jealous.”




ON HIATUS




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