Wesleysgirl and Jane Davitt

Part Five

Xander was cooking dinner and trying not to laugh at Spike, who was sitting at the table doing some translating work for Giles with his face about four inches from the paper. He gave the pasta sauce another stir -- spaghetti was about as far as his kitchen talents went, thank you very much -- and glanced over at Spike again. "Sit up, would you?" he suggested, like he'd done the night before when the extent of his meal preparation had been picking up the phone and calling for take-away. "You're gonna go blind with your eyes that close to the page." He frowned, mostly at himself. "Wait, maybe that's the TV."

"Did you hear me asking for your advice?" Spike grumbled, but he did sit up and then lean back in the chair, rubbing at his forehead.

"See? You're just asking for a headache." Xander checked the pot of water on the back burner, but it wasn't boiling yet. He heard the front door open and close.

It had to be Giles, but Xander hadn't been expecting him for another half an hour at least. With it being Friday, they'd planned to go out, and Xander was looking forward to a movie, jumbo-sized everything, and Giles beside him in the darkness, not enjoying himself at all, most likely, as there were no sub-titles and far too many explosions, but still there. And, yeah, he planned on seeing how much groping he could get away with. Watching Giles' jaw clench as Xander ran his hand slowly up Giles' thigh was worth the price of admission all by itself.

One look at Giles' face as he came through the door, and Xander was resigning himself to a quiet night in.

"Giles? You're back early, but I'm not seeing a TGIF smile on your face," Xander said.

Giles dropped a heavy briefcase on the table, nodded at Spike, and crossed over to Xander, giving him the brief kiss that was all Xander got when Spike was around and an even briefer hug. "I'm leaving for Munich tonight instead of next Tuesday," he said gloomily. "It seems something's come up and the only time Herr Graustein can join us is at the weekend. Without him, there is no meeting and so -" He shrugged, rubbing his hand across his face. "The car's coming to pick me up in an hour; I'd better go and pack."


What Xander wanted to do was sulk, but he wasn't a kid anymore, so he wasn't going to let himself do that. Much. At least, not until Giles had left. "I'll help you pack," he said instead. "Spike, when the water boils, throw the pasta in? And I don't mean that literally."

Spike grunted something that sounded affirmative, so Xander followed Giles upstairs, trying to think of something to say that would be supportive without making Giles feel guilty, but not managing to come up with anything.

"We were supposed to be going out, weren't we?" Giles said, hauling a suitcase from under the bed. He dropped it onto the bed and flipped it open. "I'm sorry."

He gave Xander an apologetic look, and then came over to him, kissing him almost hesitantly, which made Xander wonder just how pissed-off he was looking. "I really am sorry," he murmured against Xander's lips. "I'll be back late on Sunday afternoon though, so we'll have Sunday night at least."

"Contrary to some of my behavior, I'm actually a grown-up," Xander said, feeling guilty now for making Giles worry. "Don't worry about it, okay? I know you don't want to go." He did know that, he told himself firmly. Sometimes work had to come first. The fact that it seemed to come first more and more often wasn't anyone's fault, it was just... one of those things.

"I wish you could come with me," Giles said, moving over to the chest of drawers and starting to take out what he'd need in the way of socks, shorts and ties. "But there's Spike to consider -- I know he's been fairly well-behaved recently, but even so -- and I'll be in meetings most of the time anyway." He started to fit the clothes into the suitcase. "You can still go out though, can't you? I know you were looking forward to it."

"Yeah, I guess." Xander managed to keep from pointing out that half the fun was going with Giles. "Maybe I'll see if Spike wants to go." He didn't mean it, of course, because the thought of voluntarily spending extra time with Spike was still on his list of things to avoid, even if Spike had been a lot more tolerable the past few weeks.

Giles looked a little surprised, but then he smiled. "Well, he'd probably enjoy it more than me -- the film that is, not your company. And you wouldn't have to sit up waiting for him to come in plastered. It's a good idea." He crossed over to the wardrobe and took out some shirts. "Just make him pay for his own popcorn. He got paid for that last translation yesterday, so don't let him tell you that he's penniless."

Xander sat down on the bed next to the suitcase. "Yeah, I know. He was making a big deal about how he can smoke as much as he wants now that he's got money in his pocket again." He rolled his eyes. Then, trying to sound casual, he asked, "So, what are the chances that back on Sunday afternoon actually means back on Sunday afternoon?"

"Good," Giles said instantly. "Very good. Unless there's a delay at the airport, road works or -- well, I won't borrow trouble." He gave Xander a small smile. "Did you have any ideas about what we could do when I get back? I think you'll find me willing to make amends for leaving you like this." He pushed the suitcase aside and sat down next to Xander, slipping an arm around Xander's waist. "More than willing," he said softly, leaving Xander wishing it were Sunday.

"I'm pretty sure I can think of something," Xander said, but he found himself turning into Giles' embrace and holding on a little bit more tightly than he probably should have. It wasn't that he couldn't deal with Giles being away, it was just that it was so sudden. Or at least that was what he was telling himself.

He felt Giles' hand stroking his hair and then coming down to cup his face, tilting it so that Giles could kiss him, his mouth warm and hungry. "It's two days, that's all," Giles said, sounding as if he was trying to convince himself as much as Xander. "No time at all, really." He rolled his eyes, giving up the attempt to console them. "And two nights, which are going to feel endless."

Xander smiled. "They're going to feel even more endless if Spike drives me nuts and I call you every ten minutes to complain," he said. He kissed Giles again, quickly, and then swatted the part of Giles' ass he could reach when Giles was sitting down. "Come on. Back to work."

Giles twisted his hand so that he could look at his watch. "Yes," he said unenthusiastically. "I suppose I should get on with my packing. And although I won't have time to eat any, perhaps you'd better go down and rescue your supper. I don't imagine al dente means much to an ex-vampire."

"True. Although he has to eat, too, so if he screws it up I'll make him buy me pizza." Slightly cheered up at the thought, Xander stood and walked over to the doorway, half an ear cocked for the sound of the smoke alarm going off in the kitchen.

"Oh -- the people I had investigating Spike's prophecy finally reported back to me today," Giles said, making Xander pause and look back at him enquiringly. Giles shrugged. "It seems it's as he said. No tricks, no sting in the tail... he's human and he's going to stay that way. Which means we don't need to keep an eye on him in case he's about to become a soulless fiend or something." He moved over to a small bookcase in the corner and bent down to study the titles. "Possibly you could encourage him to do some house hunting over the weekend?"

"Absolutely," Xander said. "On the other side of London, right? How far away could we get him and still have him be in London?" The humor was a little bit forced, though. Pretending that he hated Spike that much wasn't as easy as it used to be when he actually hated him. When it hadn't been pretending.

Giles pulled out something that looked like a doorstop and was probably light reading for the plane. "Well, that's up to Spike, isn't it? But I think he'd prefer to be a little closer than that. We're the only people he doesn't need to hide his past from, and that has to be a comfort, although I doubt he'd admit it." He straightened and gave Xander one of his patented Giles-sees-all looks. "I thought you two were getting along a little better?"

Xander shrugged sheepishly. "Yeah, we are."

"I'm finding him better company than I expected, too," Giles said, making Xander feel like they were both confessing a sin or something. Getting along with Spike: did that rank higher or lower than coveting asses?

Giles walked back to the bed and placed the book beside his suitcase, ready to go in his carry-on bag. "And please don't make him feel that he's outworn his welcome. I'm not expecting to find him gone when I get back by any means. It's just -" He shot Xander an appealing look. "I miss being able to do or say anything I want, whenever I want."

Xander nodded, remembering the night when Giles had given him a blow job in the kitchen halfway through dinner. Not much chance of stuff like that happening with Spike around. "Maybe while you're gone he and I can at least look at some places. It'd give us something to do, anyway."

"Right," said Giles, sounding a bit distracted and checking his watch again. "I'm going to have a quick shower and get changed, I think."

"Okay." It was pretty clear to Xander that he didn't fit into any of that, so he sighed and went back downstairs to where Spike had dropped dried pasta all over the stovetop, and some of it was quickly turning black under the gas burner.


"No," Xander said, trying to stop giggling, because giggling was definitely not manly. It was Saturday night, and they were walking -- okay, more like staggering -- home from the local pub, which Spike assured him was not the one he'd gotten shitfaced in on Monday night. "The best part's when the rabbit attacks them!"

"Run away! Run away!" Spike bellowed, managing a brief sprint before he went back to walking. "Yeah, I liked the rabbit, too. Got to admire a bunny with attitude and fangs, right?"

"Until he starts biting you, anyway," Xander agreed easily. It was weird, how things with Spike were so different now that he was human. Admittedly, Spike was also a lot less annoying now. They'd had a surprisingly good time at the movies the night before, so when Spike had asked him if he'd like to go out for a few beers, Xander had said yes without hesitation.

And a few had turned into a lot. Neither of them were so far gone that they'd spend Sunday shuffling around wincing at loud noises like milk pouring onto cereal, but they were well into finding sensible things silly and silly things really worth celebrating.

He'd always known a geek lurked beneath Spike's too cool for school exterior. Just not how much of a one.

"I miss the biting," Spike said thoughtfully. "Not the killing, so don't start lecturing me. But the biting... " He turned to Xander, his face intent. "You ever had sex when you're buried deep in someone, body and mind, and you can't tell where you stop and they start, you're that close? It's like that." His mouth twisted. "But I can't remember just how it was. It's fading."

Taken aback, Xander swallowed and firmly told his body that it was not to respond to the word-pictures Spike had just painted. "Doesn't sound like it's fading," he said. Then, "Wait, fading how? Like, how it felt? Or how to do it?" It was interesting to think that Spike's sense-memories might have been tied to his being a vampire, and that he could lose them.

"How it felt," Spike said sounding distracted, as if his thoughts were occupying all of his attention. "How it tasted... Can't imagine doing it now. Drinking, I mean. Hot blood pumping out, trickling and spurting and filling my mouth -" It seemed to Xander that Spike didn't need to imagine it when he could recall it that vividly. "Makes me feel like throwing up... but it shouldn't -" He turned to Xander, his eyes glittering. "Because it felt good, and they liked it, too." He ran his tongue across his lips. "All those years in Sunnydale and you never got bitten, did you? Ever come close, Xander?"

Spike stepped closer and put his hand flat on Xander's chest, pushing him gently back, until Xander felt a wall behind him.

"Ever get this close?" Spike whispered, sliding his hand up into Xander's hair and tugging down, still with that odd gentleness, so that Xander's head tilted to the side and he felt the warm night air -- or was that Spike's breath? -- ghost across his exposed, taut neck.

Xander told himself not to freak out -- it wasn't like Spike could really bite him, and Xander wasn't convinced he would even if he could have. But that didn't stop his body from reacting; he could feel his heart pounding, his breathing speeding up. "What do you mean, they liked it?" he asked, trying to ignore the little squeak in his voice.

"What do you think?" Spike said, lifting his head and staring straight at Xander, his body somehow managing not to brush against Xander's even though he was so close now it felt as if they were sharing the air they were breathing. "You think it hurts? Yeah, I suppose it does, but trust me, you're not caring about that by then. You want that pain, because when it goes away so do you." His free hand lifted and Xander felt the tip of a finger stroke along the curve of his neck, making him shiver. "And it's the kind of pain that has your body screaming for more, but your mouth isn't screaming. It's making these little, soft whimpering noises. It's saying 'please' and 'stop' and I'm loving every one of them."

Spike's mouth fastened onto his neck, teeth and tongue working at the flesh he'd captured between his lips.

Frozen, Xander did make a sound like a whimper. He was suddenly, painfully hard inside his jeans, his body straining toward Spike's, wanting more contact because Spike's mouth felt so good.

Then reality came slamming over him, and Xander pushed Spike away. They both stood there, breathing hard, staring at each other. There was a wary expression on Spike's face.

"Sorry," Spike said. He brought his hands up to his face, scrubbing them over it as if he was trying to wake up, and then shoving them deep in his jean pockets. He gave Xander an awkward smile. "Yeah. Drunk aren't I? Sorry. Won't happen again."

"It's okay," Xander said. "Me, too." They started walking again, with Xander glancing sideways at Spike every thirty seconds or so. "You're not gonna be sick again, are you? Because I don't know what happened to that bucket."

"Nah," Spike said, giving him a quick smile and relaxing, as if he'd been waiting for Xander to hit him or something. Which probably would've been the right thing to do, because Spike had been way out of line with the talking and the touching and the mouth on Xander's throat-- God, he had to stop thinking about it right there or he'd be walking into a well-lit room with a hard-on in about three minutes time. "You don't taste that bad, Harris."

"Fuck off," Xander said, grinning and reaching out to give Spike a shove that made both of them stagger. Strange how he could go from embarrassed to comfortable again in the blink of an eye. Although maybe all the beer had helped with that.

He managed to get the front door unlocked on the second try, and they went in. Leaning down to untie his shoes was an experiment in balance, but Xander persevered and emerged triumphant, looking up to see Spike leaning against the wall. "Are you sure you're not going to throw up again?" Xander asked.

"Might if you keep going on about it," Spike said. "What about something to settle my stomach? Giles still keep a few bottles of the good stuff around?" He took off his jacket and tossed it so that it landed over the stair rail, something Giles would've given him hell about, and then slid slowly down the wall, giggling as his ass hit the floor. "Ow. Yeah, really could use some medicinal whiskey." He leaned forward and began to untie his boots, frowning in concentration.

Already really damned close to sitting on the floor himself, Xander went the rest of the way down and crawled over to Spike, working at untying Spike's other boot. It wasn't that he was all that drunk, really; it was just that his fingers didn't want to work.

Okay, maybe he was that drunk.

"I'm starting to think we're lucky we made it home," he said.

Spike leaned his head back against the wall, looking quite happy to have Xander waiting on him. "Home for you. Not for me. I'm just the bloody lodger."

"Uh, I think you actually have to pay rent to get called -"

"You're bloody lucky, you know that?" Spike said fiercely. "I've seen the way he looks at you. Like you're sunshine and stars."

Xander was really sure Giles didn't. Did he?

"Like he wants to eat you up," Spike said.

Well, that, yeah...

"Like he loves you."

And whoa. So not discussing that with Spike. Xander hauled Spike's boots off and sent them flying down the hall to thump against the wall.

"Come on," Xander said, struggling to his feet and holding out a hand to Spike to help pull him up. "Let's get you into bed before you start quoting cheesy song lyrics."

"Wouldn't," Spike muttered, but he took Xander's hand willingly enough. He didn't weigh much -- Xander had forgotten about that. Together, they walked back to Spike's room, where Spike, swaying, surveyed his messily made bed with what looked like dismay.

Xander went over and yanked the covers into something resembling order. "Here you go," he said. "Oh, and hey, here's that bucket just in case." It occurred to him that he probably ought to feel guilty for not only letting Spike get drunk again, but for actively participating in said drunk-getting, but at that moment he was really just tired.

"Will you shut the fuck up about the bucket?" Spike said. He stripped his T-shirt off, getting it stuck somehow on his ears so that as he fought to free it, Xander, who'd begun to snicker, found himself staring instead at Spike's chest and stomach, all flat muscles and smooth, bare skin.

Then the shirt came free, and Xander looked up quickly and met Spike's eyes, which held a half-puzzled, half-knowing expression.

"Still early," Spike said abruptly, sitting down on his bed and shifting over so that there was room for Xander. He leaned back against his pillows. "Want to play cards, maybe? There's a pack in my bag somewhere."

"That would require functioning brain cells," Xander said, sitting down on the edge of the bed, and then almost immediately falling over, the side of his face meeting the mattress with enough force that he made a little sound like oof. "Lying down," he said. "Lying down good." Of course, he was facing the wrong way, so that when he opened his eyes he was looking at Spike's feet, but that was okay.

Spike's socks were unnaturally white.

"Your socks are unnaturally white," Xander said.

Spike wiggled his toes in reply, which went off the cute-o-meter as far as Xander was concerned. He giggled -- he really had to stop doing that -- and reached out to tweak them.

"This little piggie -"

"Watch it," Spike growled without managing to sound remotely scary. "I'm ticklish. Might lash out without meaning to and break your nose with the piggie who had none or the one who cried all the way home."

Not wanting to chance it, Xander pulled his hand back. "Giles'd be pissed off if you broke my nose," he said. Then, reasonably, he added, "So would I."

There was a minor earthquake or something, and Xander shut his eyes. When the bed stopped heaving up and down, he opened them. Spike's face was next to his instead of his socks. "Do you really think I would? Break bits of you?" Spike blinked slowly, and then reached out and ran his finger down Xander's nose. Xander went cross-eyed trying to watch it. "Wouldn't do that, Xander. Wouldn't hurt you. Wouldn't hurt Giles."

"I know," Xander said. And he did know that, really. Which was maybe why Spike had been annoying him so much less over the past couple of weeks. Once he'd gotten past the whole mad-because-he-was-scared thing, Spike had been... well, kind of fun. Almost like a friend. Of course, it could be the beer talking. But Xander wasn't sure it was.

"Should go up to bed if you're tired," Spike said, watching him.

"Mm. Good idea." Xander didn't want to move. "In a minute."

"Yeah," said Spike, going up onto his knees and managing to reach the light switch. The room went dark and Xander's eyes closed automatically. "No rush."

He thought the bed shifted again and he felt something soft get pushed under his head, but they were sensations that belonged to the waking world and he was leaving that world behind, rushing towards dreams.

Part Six

Dreams were good. Dreaming, with dream-Giles there to touch Xander and kiss him and say nice things to him that he didn't really say all that often in real life -- which was okay, because Xander didn't say them either -- was wonderful. Xander ran his own hand down along Giles' bare chest, kissing the back of his neck and shoulder, rocking forward against Giles' ass where it was spooned against him.

Xander was hard, which wasn't surprising, not with those sleepily contented murmurs of encouragement he was hearing and the warm body tight and close to his. He smiled against the skin he was kissing, starting to emerge from sleep because the dreams were good, but like most dreams, there were things that didn't belong.

In this case, clothes. Since when did he go to bed fully dressed? And why was his hand, dropping down to tease Giles' cock until it matched his own, if needed, brushing against denim and not skin?

The heel of Xander's hand rubbed the erection that was underneath that layer of denim, and the ass against his own cock bumped back into him, making him groan. The warm, half-dressed body in Xander's arms squirmed around suddenly, eager lips finding his and driving all thoughts from his head as an unfamiliar mouth tasting of beer kissed him. Xander rocked his hips forward again, his cock rubbing against another, his dreamy desire for more causing a second moan to escape him.

He kissed back, harder, his hand splayed over Giles' spine, only it wasn't Giles, because in dreams no one looked like who they really were, or felt like who they really were, or...

Xander opened his eyes and scrambled backward, almost falling off the edge of the mattress in his haste as he realized that this wasn't a dream, that he was in bed with Spike and that he'd been kissing Spike.

A hand -- Spike's hand -- came out and grabbed his arm, saving him from ending up in a heap on the floor, but doing nothing to quell his panic. He yelped and tried to break free, completely awake now even if he was still trying to match up memories and find out how the hell -

"Relax, Harris," Spike said, without releasing him. "Your manly virtue's safe." Spike sounded tense and a little irritable, but as Xander stared at him, still so close that he could feel the warmth of Spike's body, he gave him a lazy grin. "You always wake Giles up that way? No wonder he comes downstairs smiling."

"I was just... we were..." Xander couldn't find the right words, horror at what he'd just been doing sweeping over him and joining the headache pounding at his temples to make him feel more than a little like he might need that bucket he'd been telling Spike about. Spike let go of his arm and Xander sat up, still facing Spike. He blinked and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Sorry."

"For starting something? Or not finishing it?" It could've sounded flip or sneering, but Spike's expression was neutral enough that it came over as just a question.

A loaded, tricky, impossible-to-answer question.

"It's not my fault!" Xander said defensively, trying to ignore the fact that his body still, most definitely wanted to finish. "I was asleep, okay? Also drunk. Not my fault." He licked his lips, and then stopped as soon as he realized that he could taste Spike there.

"That make it my fault then?" Something sparked in Spike's eyes, anger and regret maybe; Xander wasn't sure. "I wake up to find you wrapped around me and somehow I get the blame?" Spike glared at him. "Newsflash, Xander. That was you making the running there."

Spike rolled onto his back, scrubbing his hand roughly over his bare chest as if he was erasing Xander's touch. He glanced up at Xander and his hand slowed, stroked lower, undid a button, eased down a zip... Xander couldn't look away, but he shook his head in answer to a question that hadn't been asked and Spike laughed without humor. "Get out, Harris. Got some unfinished business to take care of."

Xander didn't know what else to do, so he fled the room as quickly as possible.

Spike's door remained closed for the next hour with Xander making noise, lots of noise, because if Spike was jerking off he didn't want to hear it. He showered first, letting the water run scalding-hot over his skin, closing his eyes against the spray. The day before he'd jerked off in the shower, thinking of Giles, remembering what they'd done in there more times than he could remember; not often actually fucking, because there wasn't that much space, but getting each other off with soap-slicked hands, or going dripping-wet from shower to bed, arms around each other, kissing frantically in between laughing at themselves for being so eager they couldn't wait to grab a towel.

And sometimes they did wait, although that was usually Giles' idea, drawing out the anticipation, taking the towels and blotting away every drop of water on each other, rubbing the thick material softly over damp skin, kissing and touching and shivering from more than the cool air.

Today, even if he'd still been hard, he wouldn't have done that. Couldn't.

So Xander showered, threw everything he'd worn the night before into the laundry basket, and then he went downstairs. Spike's door was still closed, so he put on music, not even caring that the CD was one of Giles', and that his head was throbbing, and he waited for Spike to come out of his room, because he sure as hell wasn't going in there.

He settled down on the couch after forcing down some toast, closing his eyes and lifting a mug of coffee to his lips now and then, trusting his hand to know the way blind, letting the sound of some band whose members were either dead or collecting their pension wash over him.

"Open your eyes, Harris. Want to talk to you."

The music cut off, and Xander opened his eyes and stared up at Spike, fully dressed, thank God, and looking determined.

Not a good sign.

"What?" Xander asked. "If you're planning on telling me in great detail what you did after I left your room, skip it, okay?"

"What?" Spike frowned, and then shook his head, looking mildly amused. "Huh. No. Something about you fleeing in terror killed the urge." He pulled over a footstool and sat down in front of Xander. "You're scared I'm gonna tell Giles, aren't you?" he asked abruptly. "Cause trouble for you."

Xander shook his head, looking down at the knee of his pants. "No. I'm going to tell him. I have to. I l--" But he'd hardly ever said that word to Giles; maybe just once, and it didn't seem right to say it to Spike, considering. Even though it was true. "I'll tell him. It's my fault anyway, not yours."

He wasn't sure he wanted to get into why he felt so fucking guilty. It wasn't because of what had happened, not really -- well, a little bit, but he hadn't even been awake. That part had just been a mistake.

The real problem was that, even once he'd woken up, he'd still wanted Spike. And that was something Xander was working very hard to repress.

Spike sighed. "Do you have to? The way my head feels I'm not up to getting bounced off a wall or yelled at. And if he kicks me out, judging by the rent on those places we looked at yesterday, I'm heading for a cosy spot in a doorway."

Flat-hunting hadn't gone well. They'd trailed around the neighborhood on Saturday morning looking at half a dozen places, most of which had been snapped up before they got there, all of which had been over-priced dumps, before giving up and going home.

"Besides," Spike said reasonably, "it's not like we did anything. Not really. Christ, you were fully dressed! You'd be upsetting him for nothing." He leaned forward. "And I've known Giles for long enough to know he's never going to believe you when you say it's not my fault."

"It wasn't either of our faults," Xander said, trying to sound reasonable, too. "We were asleep. It just happened." He looked up, meeting Spike's blue eyes. "But I can't not tell him. That's not... it's not how I want things to be between us."

He got a long, searching look, and then Spike rolled his eyes. "Fine. Tell him. Just let me get the hell out of the way first, okay?" He stood up, fumbling in his pocket. "Going outside for a smoke." He got as far as the door before he paused. "Xander?"


"How do you want things to be between us?"

Oh, Xander so wasn't up to answering that question, because admitting that he hadn't been able to forget what Spike's cock felt like under his hand or what Spike's mouth had tasted like wasn't something he even wanted to do himself, let alone tell Spike. And he couldn't tell Spike and not tell Giles. So he had to pretend like it wasn't true.

"We can be friends," Xander said finally. "I mean... we can, can't we?"

"Could have been," Spike said. "Not sure that's an option any more. I don't mind trying though."

A key grated in the lock of the front door and their eyes met. "I'll give you a couple of hours," Spike said. "If I get back and my suitcase is on the step, I'll take the hint."

Oh, no. Giles couldn't be home early. Any other time, of course, Xander would have been thrilled, but he hadn't figured out what he was going to say yet. He needed at least a few more hours to figure out how he was going to tell Giles what had happened. This was too soon.

He got up without even knowing that he had and was standing in the doorway between the hall and the living room when Giles opened the door, his stomach all aflutter with tension as Spike muttered something to Giles and slipped past him and outside before Xander could say anything.

Giles' eyes met his, and Xander could tell that Giles was pleased to be home early, but the pleased expression faded to concern as Giles saw Xander's expression.

"Hi," Xander said, because he had to say something.

"Hello," Giles replied, turning to presumably watch Spike slouch away, a frown on his face. He closed the door, using his shoulder because his hands were full of suitcases and a clinking bag of duty-free booze with -- oh God, a long carton of the cigarettes Spike smoked sticking out of the top of it. Giles put everything down and stood there looking uncertain. "I managed to get an earlier -- Xander, what on earth is the matter? Has Spike been bothering you?"

There hadn't been enough time, and Xander hadn't figured out what to say. He opened his mouth to say something that would deflect the conversation -- not for long, just enough so that his brain would start working again -- and heard himself say, "I kissed Spike."

The frown on Giles' face disappeared, leaving it closed-off and blank. "Really? And what had he done to deserve that? Or shouldn't I ask?"

Xander could still feel the lingering headache at his temples, and the look on Giles' face -- or lack thereof -- made him feel like he was going to puke. He launched into a hasty, desperate explanation, inching toward Giles as he tried to describe what had happened, because he needed Giles to understand and, hopefully, to tell him that it was okay.

"We went out. Last night. Just to the pub down the street, that one that you and I keep saying we should try, but never do? Which, okay, isn't the point. But we both got drunk, and then we came back here and I kind of... passed out on Spike's bed. Before that there wasn't anything, I swear -- just talking. But I was dreaming that it was you, and there was touching, and then he turned around and we... kissed." Xander ran out of breath and added, in a very small voice, "As soon as I woke up enough to realize it wasn't you, we stopped."

Giles looked tired suddenly. Xander felt guilty about that, too. God, he hadn't even let Giles get through the door...

"Xander, spare me the -- well, the sparing me. Please. I understand." Giles wasn't meeting Xander's eyes anymore, just staring down at the floor, his left hand flexing into a fist and then relaxing, over and over. "Do you mind? I think I'll just - "

Giles turned and moved towards the stairs, reaching out almost blindly for the banister rail.

Xander moved toward him. He couldn't help it. "Giles... it wasn't my fault, I swear. I was asleep." It felt like there wasn't enough air in the air.

"You sleepwalked into Spike's bedroom? Into his bed?" Giles' voice was calm until the final word, and then it roughened with an anger that replaced the lack of expression, but was equally unwelcome. "I don't think so. I think you ended up just where you wanted to be, Xander. Now, if you'll excuse me -"

"No, I'm not going to 'excuse you'," Xander said, more loudly than he'd meant to. "I thought he was you. God, doesn't that count for anything?"

"Yes," Giles said, after a long moment of staring at Xander, his face back to unreadable again. "It adds insult to injury. Satisfied?" He turned and snatched up his bags, the sudden movement unexpected enough to make Xander flinch, and then went quickly up the stairs, the sound of his footsteps punctuated by the slam of a door.

Xander was breathing through his nose, the sound of it uneven and strange. He didn't know what to do; he didn't even know where to start. Giles wouldn't even listen to him, and he didn't have anyone to talk to, or any friends, even. No one who'd understand.

He couldn't talk to Spike, because any chance he might have of making things right with Giles had to be based on him not going to Spike now.

Slowly, feeling like he was moving underwater, Xander went into the living room and sat down. He stayed there until he heard the front door open and close, until he knew Spike was standing in the hall looking at him. Then Xander said, "Don't. Whatever it is, just... don't. Stay away from me for a while, okay?" His voice was pleading enough that Spike obeyed, going down the hallway and into his own room, shutting the door there.

They stayed like that for hours. Three of them, locked away in three private hells. At least Xander thought that was where he was, because Giles had never looked at him like that before, and it would've hurt back in the days when Giles was a friend, but now it left him feeling as if he'd been beaten, his skin tight and bruised and sore.

But life, yeah, life went on, and the strained, heavy silence of the house was broken eventually by the sound of a door opening and footsteps on the stairs.

When Giles just kept on walking past the door to the front room without hesitating and went into the kitchen, Xander let himself start to get just a little bit angry. It was either that or let the stinging in his one good eye become tears and, thanks, but he wasn't there yet. Time for that when it was his bag on the doorstep.

And if it was going to be, he wanted to know sooner rather than later. Getting up, Xander walked to the kitchen and stood in the doorway. "Do you want me to leave?" he asked.

Giles turned, startled, tea leaves scattering across the countertop from the spoon he held. Tea. Figured. Sometimes Giles was every stereotype there was.

But mostly he was Giles.

They stayed like that, staring at each other, for long enough to make Xander start to hope that Giles was about to drop that fucking spoon and come over to him and grab him and kiss him and tell him that he was sorry and let Xander tell him that no, he was sorry. Any second. Yeah, any second now...

Then Spike appeared in the doorway, glancing between them warily. "You two kissed and made up yet? Because I'm getting bored stuck in there. Not to mention peckish."

Irritated, Xander dug his wallet out and thrust some notes at Spike, wondering exactly when he'd learned to throw money at problems. "Here. Go for a walk and get yourself some dinner. Two birds with one stone, okay?"

"Yeah," Spike said flatly, taking the money. "Sure."

Xander couldn't spare the energy to feel bad for Spike, not right then, so he ignored him and kept looking at Giles.

Who was looking at Spike.

"And now you're paying him?" Giles asked. "Well, that's just bloody marvelous! Tell me, Spike, how did you earn that little handout?"

Okay, this was better, Xander told himself desperately. They were speaking at least.

"Not for services rendered, Rupert, if that's what you mean," Spike said. "I'm still young enough to get fucked for free. Unlike -"

The sound of Spike getting slammed up against the wall wasn't as satisfying as it used to be.

"Spike, just shut up," Xander said desperately, not reaching out to touch Giles, because he didn't have any reason in that moment to think it would help. "Giles..." But he didn't know what to say. He felt cold and confused, like he'd woken up to this with no idea how they'd gotten here. "It's not Spike's fault. I just want some time to talk to you. That's all."

"He's not going to listen to you," Spike said, managing to sound fairly relaxed, despite being pressed up against a wall with Giles looking as if he was about to use one of the hands currently gripping Spike's shirt to do some serious damage to Spike's face. "Thinks he loves you too much to know if you're lying, because he can't trust himself to look that deep in case you are. But you'll know if I am, won't you, Rupert?"

"Too bloody right, I will," Giles hissed.

Spike nodded slowly. "Fine. Lad got pissed, passed out on my bed, woke up groping me and muttering your name. Woke up all the way, went paler than I used to look, and was out the door before I had a chance to tell him thanks, but no thanks. Now get your fucking hands off me and tell him you're sorry, you stupid git."

Giles let go and stepped back, his gaze going to Xander and then back to Spike.

"What," Xander said. "You don't believe him, either?"

"It's not that," Giles said slowly.

"Then what?" Xander's gaze was locked on Giles' face. "Spike?"

"Yeah?" Spike said.

"Could you do us a favor and give us a few minutes? Alone?" Xander had to hope that Spike would go along with it, because at that point he wasn't seeing how it was possible that he and Giles could get anywhere with Spike in the room.

"Yeah, sure," Spike said, and left the kitchen.

"I'm sorry," Xander said, still looking nowhere but at Giles. "You know how I feel about you. You can't think I'd deliberately do anything to fuck things up between us."

Some of the tension left Giles' expression. "Deliberately? No, I don't think that." He sighed and turned away to deal with the spilled tea leaves, using the edge of his hand to push them along the counter and into the sink, giving the small task more attention than it needed. "You think I'm overreacting, don't you? Being rather embarrassingly jealous and possessive."

"I don't think you're overreacting," Xander said gently. "I get why you're upset. But it was a mistake -- that's all it was." He eased closer to Giles, wanting to touch him. He hated seeing Giles hurt like this, especially knowing that he'd been the cause of it.

Giles turned and took the few steps needed to bring him within touching distance for the first time since he walked through the door. His hand came up to cup Xander's face, warm and familiar. "Was it? And you didn't like it? And you didn't want to carry on pretending just a little longer? And it'll never happen again?"

The questions were voiced softly, but if Giles had screamed them into his face the effect would've been the same.

Xander flinched.

And Giles' hand fell away.

Xander wanted to grab onto Giles and refuse to let go, to sink down onto his knees and beg Giles to forgive him. With his voice shaking and his eyes threatening tears, Xander said, "I love you. I know I don't say it much, but I do, and if there's anything I can do to make things right again... I'll do it. Just tell me there's a chance."

Now it was Giles wincing, as if that was the last thing he wanted to hear, giving Xander a desperate, almost imploring look. "Xander -- please." Xander didn't know what Giles meant, but he didn't get chance to ask. Giles stepped back -- stepped away -- and said, "Xander, you asked if I wanted you to leave. I don't. Of course I don't. And I won't descend into melodrama enough to kick Spike out either, although I do trust that at some point in the weekend's activities you managed to squeeze in some house-hunting?"

With every word Giles was building up a wall between them, his voice alternating between bitter and casual in a way that was making Xander feel dizzy. Really dizzy.

Xander swallowed and nodded. "Yeah. No luck, but we looked at some places." He really, really wanted to get off the topic of Spike. In fact, in that moment, he wished Spike had never shown up at their door; if he hadn't, none of this would have happened. Everything would have been fine.

Pushing his hair back out of his eyes, Xander decided that he couldn't stand to do this anymore. Not now. Maybe tomorrow, when they'd both had a chance to think. "I'm gonna go lie down," he said, and then remembered that their room wasn't really an option. "Um, in my old room."

He turned away, walking down the hallway and thinking that he might have heard a faint click from Spike's door as he started up the stairs to his old, empty room.

Maybe he could just go to sleep, and when he woke up none of this would have happened.


Spike lay back on his bed staring up at nothing in particular. Xander had retreated to his old room and Giles was being a solid lump of misery in the kitchen, drinking his bloody tea and looking as if he was waiting for the sun to hitch itself over the yardarm so he could move on to whiskey. Spike had emerged, taken one look at him, got a level look from angry eyes that didn't bode well, and gone back into his room. Eventually they'd all have to eat and he supposed there'd be yelling, recriminations and soggy shoulders, but for now it was sticky silence and brooding tension.

Typical English Sunday afternoon in fact.

With nothing to do but think, it didn't take him long to get to Xander's refusal to answer Giles' questions. Spike had been listening -- if they didn't know he was, it didn't count; they still had their precious space, right? -- and he'd waited, resigned, for Xander to launch into a fervent denial, assuring Giles that Spike had cooties, bad breath and all the rest of it. Wouldn't have been true, of course, but it was what Giles had wanted to hear, and Xander could've pulled it off and been tucked up in bed with company right now, with Giles shagging the arse off him just to prove a point.

But he hadn't. He'd stood there in silence, and Spike hadn't needed to see the look on Giles' face to know that that hadn't gone down well.

Trouble was, although Xander had been tempted -- and Spike wasn't just thinking about the morning wake-up either, because Xander had been wide-awake when his neck was getting nibbled on and it'd taken him a while to get around to pushing Spike away. Funny how no one had mentioned that to Giles, wasn't it? So, yeah, Xander had been tempted, but he loved Giles. Spike could tell. Knee-deep in hearts and flowers, the both of them.

So what the hell was Xander doing? And what was Giles picking up on that had made him make a right prat of himself like that? He was old enough to know that was the wrong way to play it. Bit of a manly tear to really put the screws on Xander, and then a spot of magnanimous forgiveness and he'd have had the boy on his knees.

Spike spared a thought for that and shuddered with a swift, savage arousal. Fuck. Xander, all penitent and eager, and there -- God, Giles was a fool!

Except he wasn't.

It didn't help that they'd all known each other for years and been about as close as you could get really. There was something about coming close to death that let you see people clearly. Spike'd watched them both fight and kill and mourn. Watched them laugh and sometimes, yeah, now and then, he'd been part of it with them. Didn't help now though.  Not really. Because this was new; him as human, them as a couple; it changed everything.

And he was on the outside again when all he wanted --

Fuck this. He was hungry and he wasn't leaving the house to get something to eat in case Giles changed his mind and didn't let him back in.

Spike slammed out of his room, not even trying to be quiet, and headed towards the kitchen.

Giles was still there, of course, but he didn't say a word as Spike opened the refrigerator and took out sliced meats and cheeses to make himself a sandwich. Spike could practically feel Giles glaring at his back as he piled ham onto bread and added a smear of Branston pickle, then smashed the other slice of bread down on top and put everything away.

He couldn't keep quiet, though, not knowing that Xander was upstairs, miserable. "He loves you, you know," Spike said quietly.

"We're not talking about this," Giles said. "My love life is none of your business, and neither is Xander."

"Gotta disagree with you there, mate," Spike told him, despite the fact that he'd have shut up if he had any sense. "Not really interested in seeing either of you moping about, not talking, shutting doors in each other's faces. You both deserve better treatment than that."

"It's none of your concern," Giles said, looking right at him. "Leave it, Spike. Xander and I... we'll work things out." He sounded resigned and, Spike thought, not particularly happy.

Sighing, Spike gave up for the moment and went back to his room, deliberately leaving the door open. He spent the rest of the evening in there, reading some books that had to be Giles' and, after Giles and Xander had both, apparently, gone to bed, messing around on the computer a bit. Still, it wasn't all that late when he finally turned off the lights and crawled between the sheets.

Something startled Spike awake a few hours later, the pounding of his heart loud against his ribs as he tried to sort out what had woken him. After a minute, he realized there were sounds coming from the kitchen. Getting up, he pulled on a pair of jeans, and then, thinking about it, a T-shirt. No point in giving either Giles or Xander more reason to act like prats.

He wandered into the kitchen, where Xander was staring blankly into the open refrigerator. There was a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, but he wasn't wearing anything save a pair of soft cotton sleep trousers. In the light from the fridge, he looked pale, his eyes glassy, his hair tousled.

Spike hesitated, not sure if Xander wanted his company, and then shrugged mentally and walked over to him. "You all right?" he asked softly. "Was expecting you to come down and get something to eat before, but you didn't. You must be starving."

"What?" Xander's voice sounded off, but he turned his head to look at Spike. "Oh. No. Not hungry." Which left the question of why he was standing in front of the open refrigerator. "Aren't you cold? It's freezing in here." Xander shut the fridge and leaned against it, pulling the blanket around his shoulders tighter, and Spike saw that he was shivering.

It was warm enough for Spike to wish he wasn't wearing anything; a humid summer night in a non-air conditioned house. He frowned, reaching out and resting the back of his hand against Xander's cheek. Even before he touched him, he could feel the heat radiating from Xander's body, a warning backed up by the rough, dry feel of his skin.

"Looks like you've come down with something," Spike murmured, trying not to panic. Slashed skin, dark bruises; he was used to those. Illness was new and unfamiliar and terrifying. "Bit of a cold, maybe? Better get you back to bed."

"Can't," Xander said, shaking his head and weaving a little bit like his sense of balance was off. Spike could hear something else in Xander's voice now, the thin thread of near-hysteria that wasn't unfamiliar to him, just unfamiliar coming from Xander.

"Why not?" Spike asked reasonably.

"Don't want to," Xander said. "All alone in there. The room's too small, and my hands..." He held them out and they both looked down at them. "Don't my hands look too big to you? I'll keep getting bigger and pretty soon I won't even fit in there. M'only safe with Giles, and he doesn't want me anymore." His eyes, wide and scared, met Spike's.

"Shit," Spike muttered succinctly. This was beyond him. Drusilla's ravings, yeah, those he could take in his stride, but the delirium of sickness had a logic of its own and he was lost. Taking Xander's hands in his, he studied them carefully. "Look fine to me, Xander. And Giles does want you, so don't go fretting about that." He glanced up hopefully, but Xander was staring over his shoulder, his face twisted up as if he was trying to focus on something that didn't exist.

"Sorry to interrupt," Giles said from the doorway, his voice cold. His gaze dropped to Spike and Xander's linked hands. "What am I interrupting, just out of interest?"

"Save it, Giles," Spike snapped, not in the mood for any more of Giles' attitude. "Something's wrong with him. He's hot and he's not making any sense."

Xander's hands clutched at Spike's, tightening. "I'm not sick," Xander said. "And I'm not hot, I'm cold. And... dreaming. I think."

Spike turned to look at Xander's face again just in time to see his eyes go all unfocused, his hands in Spike's going slack as he started to collapse. Spike barely managed to catch him as he fell, sliding to the floor right along with him in his anxiousness to keep Xander's head from hitting anything on the way down.

He was surprised by how much he cared.

Part Seven

If Giles had been the kind of man who froze in a crisis through shock, he would have been dust and bones in a lonely grave by now. It was remorse that held him in place as Xander fell, not surprise.

He had the advantage over Spike of knowing exactly what was wrong with Xander, but that wasn't much help when he was cursing himself for leaving Xander alone all day, when, if they'd been together, he'd have noticed the signs of an approaching attack of malaria.

It was what had sent Xander home from Africa, it was something Giles had nursed him through twice, each time hoping it was the last.

He didn't hesitate long, but long enough that when he knelt beside them Xander was cradled in Spike's arms.

"What the fuck is wrong with him?" Spike asked, his voice urgent and rough. "Call a doctor or something!"

"No need, not yet," Giles said tersely, not sparing him a glance. "It's a flare-up of malaria. We keep a supply of the drugs he'll need; we just need to get some into him and reduce his fever." He stared down at Xander as his eyes fluttered open, gazing blankly up at them. "Why didn't he say he was feeling ill," he muttered. "We could have started the treatment right away."

"Malaria," Spike repeated as if tasting the word on his tongue. "Thought they could give you a jab against that these days."

"No, there's no vaccine," Giles murmured absently, feeling the heat radiating from Xander's skin and cursing himself for the exceedingly bad timing of all of this. Spike's hand was, he noticed, rubbing up and down along Xander's bare arm where the blanket he'd had wrapped around had slipped down.

Xander blinked slowly. "Giles?"

"Right here," Giles said, trying to keep his voice level and reassuring. "You're going to be fine, Xander. We're going to get you back to bed -"

"He wants to be in your bed," Spike put in. Giles glared at him, thinking his comment ill-timed, but Spike went on, "He was getting all upset about the idea of going back to the spare room for some reason."

"Oh." Giles gave in at once, knowing that reasoning with Xander was pointless when he was in this state. And it wasn't as if he didn't want Xander back with him -- he'd been lying there wide-awake for hours, after all, missing Xander more than he'd thought possible. "Right. Help me up with him, will you?"


Between the two of them they managed to get Xander to his feet, although the blanket had to be left behind. The heat coming off Xander was appalling, and again Giles muttered, "Why didn't he say something?"

He hadn't expected Xander to answer, not under the circumstances, but he oughtn't to have been surprised when Spike did. "What are you, stupid?" Spike asked. "You know why he didn't say anything -- because you were pissed off at him and he didn't know how you'd react."

Giles met Spike's accusing eyes. "No matter how I was feeling, he should've known that if he was ill -"

"Save it," Spike said curtly. "Not interested, Rupert."

Biting back a retort because Xander started to shiver, his teeth chattering, Giles lapsed into a silence that ended when they reached the bedroom.

"Hold onto him while I strip the bed," he said.

Leaving Xander in Spike's arms, his dark head resting against Spike's shoulder, Giles pulled back the top covers, and then went to the bathroom for an armful of large towels, spreading them over the mattress.

"Right," he said. "I'm going to fetch the medicine. Get him on the bed and stay with him."

By the time Giles got back with the tablets, a basin and sponge, Xander was curled up on his side on the bed with Spike sitting behind him, one hand smoothing Xander's damp hair away from his forehead. Spike was leaning over and murmuring something nearly in Xander's ear, something soothing, but he stopped as soon as Giles stepped into the room.

"Get that bottle of water behind you," Giles said, gesturing with his chin at the bedside table and refusing to acknowledge Spike's obvious feelings for Xander.

Spike turned and got it as Giles set the basin down on the floor and sat on the side of the bed, running his own fingers gently over Xander's face. Xander opened his eyes again, but it was clear from his dull expression that he was too fevered to make much sense of what was going on.

Giles shook out a tablet and then slipped his hand under Xander's neck, feeling the sweat-damp hair cling to his skin. Moving quickly, he pushed the tablet into Xander's mouth and then tilted the bottle of water against his lips. Xander tried to stop him, his head twisting from side to side, but enough went down his throat to wash down the medicine, and Giles sighed with relief.

It was a start.

The next stage was to get Xander cooled off. A tepid bath would be ideal, but Giles really didn't want to move Xander more than he had to, and he'd decided to see what he could do with a sponge bath.

Which meant stripping Xander out of the sleep trousers he was wearing, but he was damned if he was doing that with Spike around.

"I can manage now," Giles said, giving Spike a dismissive look. "Thanks."

Spike frowned. "What, one pill and everything's fine again? He's burning up... I think we ought to get him to hospital, don't you?"

"He hates it there," Giles said. "I nursed him through the previous relapse at home, and I can do it again. I don't need your help." Or want it remained unspoken, but hung heavy in the air all the same.

Xander curled up around himself a bit more as his chills returned with a vengeance. Fortunately, the medication would work fairly quickly on the worst of the symptoms, but at this point getting Xander's temperature down would make him comfortable a lot faster.

Ignoring Spike, Giles spoke to Xander comfortingly and reached for the basin, bringing it up onto the bed and wringing out the sponge. As soon as the tepid water touched Xander's chest, however, Xander struggled backward, nearly bumping Spike off the bed and drawing a startled exclamation from him.

"Fine," Giles said tightly, as though Spike had voiced a determination to stay and help. "Hold him, will you?"

Spike gave him a swift glance and then pinned Xander's shoulders to the bed, his back to Giles, using a precision of force that was rather chilling, Giles reflected, when you considered how he'd acquired it. But Spike was bending his head and talking to Xander, a stream of soothing words that seemed to calm him, and there was nothing of the predator about him now.

Giles hooked his fingers in the waistband of Xander's trousers and pulled them down, peeled them down in fact, as they were clinging damply to Xander's legs. Impossible not to react to the sight of Xander naked, even like this.

No; especially like this. Giles dipped the sponge into the water again and squeezed it out just a little, his gaze travelling over Xander's body.

He lay sprawled, legs open, arms by his side, palms up-turned, utterly lost in his fever-dreams, his skin flushed and the hair on his stomach, the fine, dark trail of hair Giles had traced and followed down with hand and mouth so many times, a shade darker with sweat. Xander's cock was half-hard, resting against his thigh, as if responding to the weight of Giles' regard.

Edging up the bed a little, and wishing he'd thought to put more on than just a robe, Giles began to sponge Xander down, his arm brushing against Spike's as the man worked to keep Xander still.

Xander whimpered and twitched against Spike's restraining hands as Giles slid the damp sponge down over his fevered chest, his nipples hardening at once into tight points. It was upsetting to see him like this, but Giles couldn't allow himself to indulge in those sorts of thoughts. It was important to concentrate on doing what he could to lower the fever for now; soon enough Xander would feel better.

A droplet of water clung to the hollow of Xander's collarbone, and then slowly slid its way to his shoulder. Giles watched it as if spellbound, and then he glanced up at Spike, who looked up from the same droplet at that exact moment. Their eyes met and held.

"Seems like he's calming down," Spike said, sitting back on his heels and brushing Xander's hair away from his forehead again. Xander didn't protest the next fresh pass of damp sponge across his chest and belly, so Spike must have been right, and yet Giles didn't ask him to leave despite the fact that his assistance was no longer required.

Together, they watched the glowing sheen of damp on Xander's skin, painted on as though it were velvet. They both saw when, as Giles ran the sponge down over Xander's hip bone and along his thigh, Xander's cock swelled and twitched.

They both heard Xander's small moan, a moan that sounded as much like pleasure as pain.

And again, Giles glanced at Spike, seeing in his eyes an arousal that must have been plain in his own. The swift rise of an angry possessiveness was halted before he could give it voice when Xander's hips lifted as though begging for the cool relief of the water-laden sponge, the small movement drawing Giles' eyes away from Spike.

When he dragged the sponge over Xander's cock and Xander cried out softly, his eyes closed, Spike's hand reached out, gripping Giles' wrist.

"Let me help."

Giles wanted to refuse. Spike could look -- somehow he couldn't deny him that -- but his hands on Xander, while Giles watched? That was --

"Oh God," Giles whispered, so quietly it was an exhalation, not words, enlightenment bought at the price of peace of mind. To give himself time to think, he soaked the sponge again and passed it to Spike who took it with a nod and, with more composure than Giles was feeling, started to run it gently over Xander's thigh, down to his knee.

Giles watched him, thoughts tumbling and clashing in his head.

Angry. Yes, he'd been angry and jealous -- but he'd felt hurt, excluded more than anything. And the jealousy hadn't been as simple as wanting Xander for himself; it included Spike.

What the hell has he done to us? Giles thought, resentment and desire tangling within him. Confusing everything -- spoiling it all -

Xander shifted on the bed again, a whimper emerging from his lips. Giles glanced down and saw Spike draw the sponge up along the inside of Xander's thigh, finishing high enough that his fingers brushed Xander's balls.

Giles' hand flashed out to grip Spike's wrist, his fingers tightening brutally hard. "No," he said firmly, almost harshly. "Not like this."

Spike's hand stilled, and then he nodded. "How, then?" he asked.

"What makes you think I'll ever let you touch him?" Giles asked, his voice thin and tight. "Awake or asleep, he's still mine -" He faltered on the final word, because what had been true a week ago was now just a memory of a truth, hollowed-out and empty.

Here with Spike, in the dark hours of the night, with the restless, suffering body of the man he loved and Spike wanted laid bare for them both to see, it wasn't that simple.

The heat they'd taken from Xander with each cool stroke of the sponge was soaking into him. Giles could feel it suffuse his body, a reckless, urgent heat, clamoring and insistent. He laid his free hand against Xander's stomach, low down, so that when he spread his fingers against skin that was already warm, not burning, his thumb scraped softly against Xander's cock, making Xander groan, the sound all the heat inside Giles needed to explode.

"You -- fucking -- no," Giles managed to get out, and then his hand was around Spike's neck and he was pulling him close enough to kiss, biting down savagely on Spike's lip, sucking at it hard.

Spike... well, it would have been an exaggeration to say that Spike kissed him back. It was more that Spike allowed himself to be kissed, and that was enough to make Giles hesitate; but, in the moment he did, Spike turned the tables, making a small, eager sound and returning the kiss with no less desire than Giles felt, lips parting under Giles' determined tongue and letting him in to taste the inside of Spike's mouth.

Just as Xander had -- which was all the reason and all the excuse Giles needed, somehow. And with Spike's tongue warm against his, and Spike's hands sliding inside Giles' robe, pushing the loose folds open, baring Giles's shoulders and chest, it was enough.

His cock was achingly hard and he wanted -- oh God, what did he want? Revenge? No. Not that. Acceptance, assurance that he belonged, that he was wanted? Maybe. Spike's hands on him? Yes, that. He wanted that.

Spike's T-shirt hung loose over his jeans, allowing Giles to reach his back, touch skin he'd seen gleaming cool and pale in the past and been stirred by, aroused by, but he would never -- and he hadn't, no, he hadn't. Vampire. Soulless. Evil.

And none of that was true now, and Spike was warm and alive in his arms, straining to get closer, until they both moved off the bed, sliding to the floor and kissing frantically, pulling and tugging at what little they were wearing, kicking and shrugging out of it until they were naked and close, soft, harsh whimpers mixing with guttural words, all silenced with kisses.

Spike's skin was so warm Not that Giles had touched Spike all that much in the past, but even still, he couldn't get over it now. Had to keep touching, sliding his hands over every bit of skin he could reach, especially that muscled, flat abdomen that couldn't have been more perfect.

They were on their knees, Giles' insistent cock riding the sharp line of Spike's hip, Spike's hands on Giles' arse pulling him closer, seemingly as desperate for more as Giles was himself. Spike's mouth was eager as well, the skill of his kisses betraying his hundred plus years of experience with each talented movement, and Giles couldn't help but wonder what a mouth like that would feel like on his cock... There was a soft sound from the bed that brought him slamming back to a reality that he didn't want to return to, a hoarse, small voice saying his name. "Giles?" Xander sounded confused.

Spike's fingers tightened; a startled reflex that brought their bodies together one last time, and then Giles sighed, leaning his forehead against Spike's for a second. He expected to feel shame, even anger at himself or with Spike, but there was nothing but confusion and disbelief filling him and so much of it that it left him groping for a reaction.

Then Xander spoke his name again, his voice drowsy, and it all became simple, because Xander needed him.

"Go," he murmured to Spike. "Please?"

Letting his arms slip away without regret, even with some relief that when he did as Xander had done and confessed, he'd have no more than this to tell, Giles pulled on his robe and got to his feet.

Spike picked up his own clothes and headed for the door, although Giles could hear that he stopped just outside it, presumably dressing again, as Giles sat on the side of the bed and reached a hand out to touch Xander's forehead, which was still quite hot.

Xander opened his eyes at the touch. "What happened?" he asked, sounding as if the words were difficult to come by.

"Another malaria attack, I'm afraid," Giles said, keeping his voice steady with an effort. "You've taken your medicine, don't worry; you'll feel better soon, I promise."

"Damn," Xander said, closing his eyes again. "I thought we beat it last time." At least he was coherent, Giles thought; that meant the fever had reduced somewhat. Xander opened his eyes, his gaze flickering about. "I'm back in your room." It was clear that he wanted more information.

"You went downstairs for something," Giles said, wondering how much Xander remembered. "Spike woke and went in to you. I was... not sleeping, and I went downstairs."

Because I thought you were going to him. Because I needed to know. Was even looking forward to an argument after the hours of silence, the chance to hurt you both as I'd been hurt -

The shame came then, bowing Giles' head as he tried to compose himself.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Xander didn't seem capable of noticing that anything was wrong past what he already knew. He reached out and tangled his fingers with Giles', but tentatively, as if expecting to be rebuffed. "You still mad at me?"

"No," Giles said, the single word forceful and sharp. "Xander, I'm so sorry about that. We'll -- we'll talk about it when you're better, not now, but you need to know that I love you, and I'm just -- I'm sorry." He brought his other hand up to cover Xander's, squeezing it gently.

God, he could see now why Xander had just blurted out a confession like that. The urge to tell, to be forgiven, was strong, but it would have been selfish and cowardly to give in to it. Xander didn't need to be upset right now, and he deserved to be told when he wasn't reliant on Giles for his care.

Xander tugged at his hand weakly. "So if it's okay for me to be in here, would you lie down with me for a little while? Please?"

Giles began to refuse; shared body heat was the last thing Xander needed, but Xander's anxious face was telling him that he needed more than words to convince himself that Giles still loved him.

He lay down beside Xander, touching him with the tips of his fingers, stroking them lightly down Xander's arm as they lay facing each other.

"I missed you while I was away," he murmured, setting aside the hours they'd been estranged, taking them back to the moment he'd walked through the door. "Hours of endless babbling in public, with all the real decisions made in private -- so pointless in some ways, but you'll never get them to admit that."

He felt Xander relax.

"And if you'd been there you'd have got to see me slamming my fist down on the table and saying something very rude to the Lithuanian delegate, which I'm sure looked very impressive, even if I did have to spend the next five minutes trying not to let the agony show as I'd hit the table a lot harder than I'd planned."

Giles held up his hand, showing Xander the bruise along his little finger, and then let his hand rest on Xander's hip, linking them without getting too close. Xander's eyes were half-closed now.

Xander hitched himself a bit closer, his breathing just a bit too quick as his body fought against the illness that Giles, too, had hoped not to have to watch Xander go through again. "I'm sorry," Xander whispered. "I didn't want to want to. I don't. I want you" The way the words spilled out, easy and somewhat slurred, indicated that he probably didn't realize how honest he was being. "Don't be mad at me."

"I'm not," Giles said helplessly. "Xander, I'm not." He surrendered and took Xander in his arms, just for a moment, holding him close. "I'm not angry at all," he whispered, kissing Xander's forehead, tasting the salt-heat there. "See?"

Apparently desperate for the contact, Xander pressed himself still closer, rubbing against the loosely fastened front of Giles' robe. The fabric parted, and Giles could feel Xander's hot skin flush against his own. Xander's mouth found his in a kiss so hot it made Giles breathless. "Love you," Xander murmured, settling down into Giles' arms, but clinging as though he had no intention of letting go. "Stay here, okay? Don't go."

Giles closed his eyes momentarily against the guilt and longing he felt. "Xander -" he said, and then shook his head. "I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I promise." He eased them apart a little. "But you're so hot, love. Let me try sponging you down again -- or do you think you could make it to the bathroom? Soak in a bath for a while?"

Xander shook his head, hiding his face briefly against Giles' chest, then sighed and pulled back slightly with an expression that Giles recognized well. It was the one that Xander wore when he knew he needed to do something he didn't particularly care to do. "I'm all yours," Xander said, rolling onto his back, spreading himself out for Giles' inspection and, presumably, care.

The fact that seeing Xander like that sent a fresh surge of complicated lust through him was something Giles had to push aside. Resolutely, he reached for the basin and sponge.

Xander whimpered as the cool water dripped on his skin, and Giles managed to smile. "I can practically hear it sizzle," he said lightly, making sure his face didn't show anything but concern. "Roll over; let me do your back."

Xander made a small, protesting grumble at having to move again, but he obeyed, and Giles bent to kiss his shoulder blade briefly. "Ready?" he asked and brought the sponge down as Xander nodded.

By the time he'd finished, Xander had fallen asleep, his body barely reacting to the slow sweep of the sponge.

Giles tidied everything away and stretched out beside him, staring into the darkness until exhaustion rescued him from thought.


Xander woke up from a light doze and groaned softly. The muscle aches from the malaria relapse would have been enough to make him miserable even if he hadn't been feverish, but since he was, all he could do was curl up on his side in misery and wait for it to go away.

He'd spent the night with Giles, sleeping and waking and sleeping again, sometimes waking up fully enough to remember why he felt so upset, but never for a long enough time that he could think about it to any real degree. By the time the alarm went off and Giles got up, Xander was aware enough to ask if Giles was going to work, but Giles had said no, he was going to stay home and take care of Xander.

That had been a relief, because it meant that Giles was committed to trying to work things out. He had, apparently, sent Spike off to the office, and Xander was hoping that one of the reasons for that was so that the two of them could talk on their own. Not that he was really looking forward to the conversation, but he'd do whatever he needed to.

Speaking of conversation, Giles appeared in the doorway with a tray of food, not saying anything right away in case Xander was still asleep.

"I'm up," Xander said, not moving. "Although I have to admit there's part of me that's wishing for that IV at the hospital that makes everything go so soft and fuzzy and un-hurty around the edges."

"Poor Xander," Giles said, with just the right blend of sympathy and serene confidence that he could look after Xander better than any hospital. "But really, when I think of how you were last time, I'm sure this attack is milder. If we'd just caught it a bit sooner -"

He set the tray of food down on the bedside table and pulled a chair over, sitting close enough that he could take Xander's hand but not close enough to jar the bed, for which Xander was grateful.

"And that was my fault, as much as yours," Giles continued. "Leaving you alone while I, well, sulked is a kind way of describing it. Xander, do you feel up to talking about it? Because there's something I want to tell you, but it can wait, honestly."

Xander looked at their hands together, thinking that how miserable he felt now was nothing compared to yesterday when he'd thought Giles might never even be this nice to him again. "Hey, you know me, Blurt-It-Out guy," he said. He figured some more apologizing wouldn't be out of place. "I'm sorry. Really, really sorry." A sudden bolt of fear shot through him, and he didn't know if he should hold onto Giles' hand more tightly or let go of it. "The thing you want to tell me... it's not that it's over, is it? Please tell me it's not."

Giles hesitated, which was so not what he should be doing, and then he shook his head. "I love you, Xander. More than I've ever been able to tell you. I don't want to lose you. Ever." The vehemence was reassuring and scary at the same time, because it was obvious Giles wasn't done. "But that might not be the way you feel when I tell you -"

Giles' fingers clasped his, and then Giles pulled his hand away and took a deep, I'm about to break your heart, breath. "Last night -- Spike helped me get you up here. Do you remember that?"

He tried, really tried, to remember, but most of the night before was a blur. Xander didn't even remember going downstairs in the first place. "No. You didn't... you didn't beat him up or anything, did you?" He answered his own question. "No, I know you didn't. Sorry."

"God, if only!" Giles muttered. He ran his hand over his hair and gave Xander a desperate, pleading glance. "Xander, I kissed him. A lot. On this bed, with you lying between us, then on the floor, and I don't know where it would've ended up if you hadn't called my name, and -"

Giles ran out of words, which just never happened, and sank his head into his hands. "I am so bloody sorry," he said after a moment, when Xander was still staring at him in a stunned silence. He lifted up his head. "I wish you were well enough to hit me or something. I deserve it. I deserve worse than that. The only thing I don't deserve is you."

Xander had no idea what to say. He didn't even know how he felt. Well, other than sick, and that was kind of a given just then.

"Give me a minute, okay?" he said, looking at Giles, then he clarified, "Don't go anywhere. Just... let me think."

Giles didn't move, just kept sitting there with his head in his hands like he was waiting for a death sentence or for Xander to yell that he didn't love him anymore or something.

Some things were simple. Xander did love Giles, and he didn't think anything could change that. Other things were more complicated, like that fact that Xander was starting to think he liked Spike way more than he should.

"You kissed Spike," he said, slowly.

Giles straightened. "Yes," he said, sounding wretchedly unhappy. "You were -- you were naked. I was sponging you down and you were -- you wouldn't keep still. Spike held your shoulders -" Xander felt a sense-memory surface, of strong hands and blue eyes and the splash of ice-water searing his skin, and then sink back again. "You -- God, Xander, you don't know what it was like!" Giles' voice dropped, thickened. "You were there, between us, and I was so tired and so worried and I felt as if it wasn't happening, not really."

Giles swallowed and sat back, his eyes never leaving Xander's face now, as though he was determined to hide nothing. "Seeing you like that aroused me," he said bluntly. "Unforgivable and completely inappropriate, I know, but it did. You were hard, I'm not sure why -- you certainly weren't aware enough, but -- and you were making these sounds -" Giles face flushed and Xander felt his own skin heat, not with fever but embarrassment and a stirring of lust, basic and primal. Shit. He could see himself spread out naked on this bed with both of them staring at him, and both of them hard because of him, and shit, that shouldn't turn him on this much...

"He wanted you, too," Giles said, the words spilling out. "He asked to help bathe you and I -- Xander, I let him, and when I saw him touch you, saw you respond, I just -- I snapped and grabbed him. I wasn't doing it to get back at you, or because I don't love you, I just -- I wanted you and I couldn't have you, and Spike was mixed in with it all somehow, and he -- we didn't, you have to know that we didn't -- but -"

And finally, finally, Giles stopped talking.

Xander was still feverish. He knew he had to be, because that was the only explanation for why he was kind of turned on knowing that Spike and Giles had been sitting right here, looking at him, naked. That they'd... Xander could picture them both, and even despite the fact that he was sick and exhausted, his body responded to the mental image of the two of them together.

"You didn't," he repeated, and Giles confirmed it with a miserable nod of his head. "Okay, well, that's good." Possibly it was good because he'd have hated to have missed it, but maybe this wasn't the right time to add that.

Then again, maybe it was.

Xander reached for Giles' hand, taking it in his own and pressing it over his swelling cock, wanting Giles to understand and not sure how else to explain it. He was naked under the thin sheet, and he drew a shivering breath as he pushed his hips up, rubbing his growing erection against Giles' palm. "There, see?" Xander said. "That's... God. When I think about the two of you together, it's..." He groaned when Giles' fingers traced his length under the cotton sheet, not letting go of Giles' wrist because he didn't want this to stop.

"That's how it was for us," Giles said, curling his fingers around Xander's cock. "Seeing you. And when you told me about you and Spike, I was hurt and angry at first, but I had all day to work it out, and it wasn't because of what you did as much as the fact that I wasn't included." Giles frowned, sliding his hand up and down almost absentmindedly, Xander thought, concentrating on his thoughts, not his actions. And, because he was Giles, still managing to do a good job of bringing Xander to the point where he wanted the sheet out of the way. "Does that make any sense?" Giles asked. He shook his head. "I really can't believe you're not furious with me. You have every right to be, you know." He huffed, sounding a little indignant. "And with Spike, who seems to have done a wonderful job of disrupting our lives, as per bloody usual."

"Maybe I just don't have the energy to be furious," Xander said. It was a reasonable enough suggestion, he thought, even if he doubted it was true. Giles' hand kept moving slowly, so Xander let go of Giles' wrist and slid his hand up Giles' arm. "I like him," he said. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I didn't want our life disrupted either; I liked it the way it was. But this feels okay, too." He didn't know if he was talking about Spike or what Giles was doing with his hand.

Giles leaned forward and kissed Xander, which was way better than talking, because Giles was kissing him just like he always did, making Xander feel safe after hours of worrying. If Giles could kiss him like this, he still loved him, and no matter what he -- and Giles -- felt for Spike, which Xander hadn't figured out yet, this mattered. He had to know Giles was there for him or nothing else would be right.

And Giles was. Xander lay back and let Giles draw the sheet away, the cool air touching him in a barely-there caress, with Giles' hand warm and hard against him a moment later.

He was feverish and he ached, but with Giles touching him, Xander didn't care as much. He closed his eyes and pictured Giles the way he looked with his head thrown back, cock buried deep inside Xander. He moaned softly. He wasn't sure he could come, but he didn't care about that, either. This was more about comfort and reassurance, Giles showing him that things were going to be okay. Xander whimpered and shifted restlessly.

"Shh," Giles said. "Be still."

Xander tried to obey, he really did, but he couldn't quite manage it. All his muscles ached, and he rolled toward Giles again, curling up on his side. "I hate this," he said, knowing that Giles would understand that he meant being sick.

Giles slipped from the chair to his knees beside the bed, with a comforting pat against an erection that Xander knew was already flagging, the arousal having been mostly in his head. The spirit had been willing, but his flesh wasn't weak as much as tormented.

Positioned like this, Giles could kiss him again, and he did, soft kisses that asked for nothing in return, so that Xander could lie there and feel those warm lips on his without needing to do more than that.

"You'll feel better tomorrow," Giles said with a certainty that should have been irritating, given how very far from well Xander felt right then, but somehow, when Giles pulled back and smiled at him lovingly, it became something to hold on to.

"Promise?" Xander asked.

"Yes," Giles said. "Now if you're quite sure you don't want to use what little energy you have in punching me, I think we should concentrate on achieving that goal, don't you? So sit up and try to eat something."

"Okay." Xander let Giles help him to a sitting position with a pillow jammed between him and the headboard and looked without much interest at the soup and sandwich and juice on the tray. He wasn't hungry, but he knew Giles was right that he'd feel better sooner if he ate, so he was determined to do what he could.

As he looked up at Giles, Xander realized that he'd do whatever he could for him, too.


On the couch the next day with a totally unnecessary but made-Giles-happy blanket around him, Xander sighed and clicked the remote again. He didn't know why he bothered. There was never anything on.

Giles had gone off to the office for the afternoon; he'd said more than once that he didn't absolutely have to go, and that if Xander wanted him to stay home he would, but Xander had rolled his eyes and insisted he'd be fine. It was only a few hours, and Spike was there in case anything happened, which it wouldn't, because after two days on the medication Xander was well on his way to recovery. The worst of the aches and fever were gone -- at this point he was mostly just kind of tired.

The awkwardness of the whole situation had faded into a mutual, if unspoken, agreement not to talk about it, but Xander knew that now that he was well again things were going to have to be said.

He didn't know if he was looking forward to that or not, but anything was better than another day of watching Spike be studiously polite, and Giles withdrawn and edgy whenever Spike was around.

Spike had gone to his room as soon as Giles had left, and Xander guessed he planned to stay there, but what would that solve? Taking a deep breath, he yelled, "Spike! Come here, will you?"

Spike appeared in the doorway, looking as tired as Xander, a frown furrowing his forehead. "What?" he said, without crossing the threshold, not meeting Xander's eyes. "You need a drink or something?"

"No -- I'm bored. Come talk to me." Xander didn't think Spike would go for it, not really. He figured Spike would make some excuse and go back to his room. So he was surprised when Spike hesitated, then nodded and came into the living room, sitting down in the chair that was as far away from Xander as possible and glancing up at him warily.

Xander shut off the TV and set the remote on the cushion beside him. After a minute, Spike said, "Maybe I should get you something to read. A book? Could run down to the corner shop and get you some magazines?"

"Nah," Xander said, shaking his head. Then, watching Spike, "Giles told me what happened the other night."

He could see the relief on Spike's face, then wariness set in. "Yeah?"


Spike stared at him in silence, and then shook his head, the ghost of a smile crossing his face. "This the bit where you ask me what the hell I thought I was doing? Because I'll save you the trouble; I don't know. It wasn't planned, any more than what happened with us was. Heat of the moment and all that." He sighed and sat back in his chair, looking contemplative. "You angry with me? With him?" he asked.

Xander shook his head again. "No. I was... I don't know, kind of sidelined for a little while. But I've had lots of time to think the past couple of days." He looked down at his hands. "And it's not like I can't see the attraction."

"Don't say that!" Spike growled.

Xander glanced at him in surprise, to find his face flushed with determination -- and how weird was it still to see color and warmth in Spike's skin, changing him subtly from alien to accessible?

"It isn't that I'm not flattered," Spike went on, his face softening a little, "and it's not that it isn't mutual -" Xander shivered as Spike's gaze flickered over him yearningly, "but you and Giles, you've got a good thing going here, and you don't want to fuck that up."

"No, I don't," Xander said. He didn't, obviously. He only wished it was that simple. That it was easy to turn away from Spike and pretend like there wasn't something there between them.

"Well then," Spike said. "Looks like that's settled then." He hesitated. "Giles -- does he want me to go? Because I will if it's best."

"I don't know," Xander said honestly. Giles hadn't mentioned it since Sunday; somehow, it had ended up on the list of things none of them were talking about. He hated that there were things they weren't talking about. "I mean... I guess you're not gonna want to stay. Right?" He looked at Spike.

"Not if I'm not wanted," Spike replied. "Had enough of that with Angel." He looked desperately lonely and proud; not a good combination as Xander knew only too well. "I never meant to -" His face twisted. "I can't do anything right, can I?" he said bitterly. "You two give me a place to stay, a job, and I go and - " He stood up suddenly. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry," Xander said, sitting forward. "It's not your fault. It just... happened." He wasn't sure how else to explain it. He wasn't sure he understood it, himself. "Look... promise me you won't go without saying anything."

Spike shrugged. "Yeah... see how it goes. Not like I've got anywhere to go, so you might be stuck with me for a while longer." He glanced at Xander. "You want anything? Because I didn't get much sleep last night and I might try to make up for it now."

That reminded Xander that yes, Spike actually was human now, and needed sleep, and that made him feel guilty. "I'm okay," he said, which was a lie, but it wasn't like he needed anything he could put his finger on; whatever it was he needed didn't seem to be something physical that Spike could get for him like a glass of water or a snack. "Go ahead and get some sleep. I'll be fine."

The day passed by with Xander counting down the hours until Giles got back and he had someone to talk to. Spike had emerged from his room after a few hours, not looking any more rested, and started to do some translation work at the kitchen table. Xander could hear the rustle of paper and Spike muttering to himself in a steadily more frustrated voice, and decided not to go and keep him company.

He slept instead, waking from a doze to blink up at Giles, who was standing beside him looking cautious and hesitant, as if he wasn't sure what to do next.

"I didn't mean to wake you," Giles said apologetically.

Xander yawned and stretched a hand out to Giles. "S'okay. I'm glad you did. C'mere." He closed his fingers around Giles' and pulled the other man down onto the couch beside him, wanting the contact. Needing it. "How was work?"

Giles was perched sideways on the edge of the couch, his back stiff, but when Xander kept hold of his hand, rubbing his thumb across Giles' knuckles, he relaxed and leaned forward, giving Xander a warm kiss. "Do you really want to know?" he asked, pulling back just far enough for Xander to be able to see the smile on his face. "Or can we pretend I bored you with an account of my day and move on to the part where I forget work exists for a few hours?"

"Okay, but only if you actually come sit with me," Xander said, tugging again until Giles moved closer. He put both arms around Giles, his cheek cool and nice against Xander's overly warm forehead. "Missed you."

Giles' arms were tight around him. "You can stop that now," he said with the twist-of-lemon humor it'd taken Xander a while to decode when he'd first met him. "I'm right here." He was sounding contented rather than stressed, which was good. "I might just stay here indefinitely, if that's all right with you."

"Sounds good," Xander said, feeling like everything was okay again. He sighed and closed his eyes.

"Started some dinner," he heard Spike's voice say, and he opened his eyes to see Spike standing in the doorway. "Thought you might... oh. Sorry. Didn't realize... sorry." Before Giles or Xander could say anything, Spike disappeared again.

Xander sighed more deeply and pressed the side of his face to Giles' shoulder.


Giles didn't think he'd ever been so nervous about getting into bed with Xander, not even the first time it'd happened. No, definitely not then, with Xander's panic making his own seem like no more than a mild trace of concern by comparison, and none of it mattering at all in the face of their mutual longing.

Xander was waiting in bed for him, naked and with the sheets barely covering his hips. The day's rest had left him well on the way to being fully recovered, although he hadn't protested when Giles said firmly that work was out of the question the next day and he looked wide awake.

"Are you coming to bed, Giles?" Xander asked, trailing his hand over his bare chest, absentmindedly scratching at an itch before rolling over to put the book he'd been reading on the night table. The sheets fell away as he moved and Giles caught a glimpse of the curve of Xander's backside and the broad expanse of his shoulders.

Wide awake -- and completely and utterly fuckable.

"Yes, in a moment," Giles replied, pretending that he was having trouble undoing the strap of his watch and wondering if Xander knew just what he was doing to him. Well, if he didn't, he would when Giles slipped out of his robe, because he was as hard as he'd ever been.

Just... nervous.

Sighing, Giles snapped off the main light, leaving the room lit only by the lamp beside the bed, and took off his robe, tossing it over the chair in the corner. He watched Xander's gaze travel southward and got into bed rather quickly, pulling the sheets up around him and keeping rather a lot of the king-size mattress between Xander and himself. Xander frowned, his dark eyes asking a question, and Giles gave up any idea of keeping his doubts unspoken.

"I want you," he said, reaching out to take Xander's hand, even that small point of contact enough to make him ache with the need to move closer. "Which can't be news, but I don't want you to feel... we don't have to. I could always sleep in the spare -- in your room. If you're not well, if you're not ready after all that's happened, I promise I'll understand." He gave Xander a reproving look. "Why are you snickering like that when I'm trying to be considerate?"

"It's just nice to know that I can still make you look like this," Xander said, although clearly there was very little looking going on as he freed his hand and slid it down along Giles' body to circle his erection. "Considerate's good. I like considerate. Especially if you're thinking that you're going to be considerate," Xander's hand squeezed in emphasis, drawing a gasp from Giles, "with this."

"You'll be able to get this reaction out of me for as long as I'm physically capable, I imagine," Giles said dryly, trying to control his voice. Xander's hand on him was robbing him of rational thought. Dropping the casual tone, he moved closer, slipping his arm around Xander and kissing him hard, trapping Xander's hand between their bodies. "God, there isn't a waking moment when you couldn't have me wanting you with a look, or a smile, do you know that?"

Moving with a slow purposefulness, he eased back a little and tilted his hips, thrusting his cock through the tight circle of Xander's hand. "Like I want you now," he whispered, biting down, not too gently, on Xander's lip.

Seemingly reassured, Xander leant forward and kissed him hungrily, warm tongue exploring Giles' mouth while Xander's hand continued to torment Giles' cock with a great deal of expertise. It was startling, Giles thought, how very quickly Xander had learned his body, learned what to do to drive him half mad with desire, to bring him to a shuddering release. "Wanted to do this last night," Xander admitted, bending his head to lick at Giles' throat. "I wish I'd had the energy."

"You seem to have sufficient now," Giles managed to say, turning his head slightly so that Xander could do whatever he wanted, which seemed to consist of flickering his tongue over every sensitive place on Giles' neck, leaving Giles pliant and close to squirming underneath him. "God, Xander -"

Raking his nails fiercely from Xander's shoulders to his arse and getting a moan and a biting, sucking kiss in return that left his neck smarting and tingling, Giles gave himself up to making Xander know how much he was loved, forgetting that they weren't alone in the house, letting himself be as vocal as Xander's mouth and hands demanded.

Xander crawled half on top of Giles and kissed him harder, groaning loudly as his cock skidded across Giles' abdomen and attempting to muffle the sound against Giles' shoulder. The two of them moved together, thrusting erections against each other's bodies, mouths meeting in kisses that were sometimes gentle, sometimes rough and careless.

Giles could feel the moment when Xander went from eager to determined, but even if he hadn't been able to, he would have known by the way Xander's voice changed. The muttered words became a bit louder, the squeaking of the bed more rhythmic as Xander moved faster.

"Want you in me," Giles said, feeling the eager shiver that went through Xander. "Need you to fuck me, Xander. Please. Want you to -"

The bedroom door was pushed open forcefully, revealing Spike standing in the doorway, silhouetted against the faint glow of light from the hallway downstairs. "And I want you to keep it fucking down," he snarled. "Christ, like I want to hear you two fucking right above me. You selfish pair of buggers."

Xander and Giles moved apart instinctively, with Xander's dismayed face mirroring the expression Giles was sure was on his own. Spike sounded angry, and Giles might have been moved to anger himself by the intrusion, but Spike's face was twisted with more emotions than simple rage, and even from here Giles could see the shine of tears in his eyes.

"Spike -" he began awkwardly, dragging the sheet up over him and Xander.

"Forget it," Spike said bitterly. "Comes easy to you two, right? Forgetting stuff. People. Yeah. Just forget it -"

He left, slamming the door behind him.

Part Eight

Xander pulled back, moving away from Giles to the other side of the bed, clearly upset. "Shit."

That did a fairly good job of summing it up, Giles thought.

"The worst part is, he's right," Xander continued. "I wasn't thinking about anyone but you, and... I should have been." His eyes met Giles', alarmed. "Not like that. You know what I mean."

"I know exactly what you mean," Giles said a little grimly. And he knew exactly how Spike was feeling, too, because it was the way he'd felt picturing Spike with Xander. Isolated. Unwanted. It had turned out not to be the case, and he'd been so happy about that -- selfishly happy, in fact. "You don't think I feel the same way? I was just so glad to have everything right between us again that I -"

"Forgot Spike," Xander said. "Yeah."

Giles pushed back the covers and got out of bed. "I'm going to talk to him," he said, reaching for his robe. "And you're coming, too. This is something we need to do together, I think." He slipped his arms into his robe and glanced over at Xander. "All three of us."

He waited for Xander to pull on some clothes, then opened the door and went out into the hallway, listening. Just then, the comparative silence was broken by the sound of the CD player in the living room being turned on at quite high volume. He exchanged a glance with Xander as they started for the stairs.

Spike was curled up on one end of the sofa, a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. He looked up as Giles blocked the light from the hallway coming into the room and quickly put the bottle between his knees, using his now-free hand to rub his knuckles across his eyes. Then, defiantly, he took another drag off the cigarette.

Pushing past Giles, Xander went over to the stereo and turned it down.

"What'd you do that for?" Spike asked sullenly.

"We need to talk to you and I'd rather not have to shout," Giles said. He glanced at the cigarette and what was -- yes, his 18-year old Macallan, dammit -- and managed, with a slight effort, not to comment on either, because he could see the traces of tears in Spike's eyes.

Sitting down beside Spike, turning so that they faced each other, Giles studied him for a moment, seeing the strain in his face, and then sighed. "I'm sorry. There's more to say than that, but it's as good a place to start as any."

"Me, too," Xander offered. He was standing as though he wished he had pockets to put his hands into, shoulders slightly slumped. His posture made him look larger than he was in the small room.

"Don't need to be sorry, though, do you," Spike said, sounding defeated. "Your house, your..." With a shake of his head, Spike took another very long drag off the cigarette. He blew the smoke out along with a sigh. "Guess I ought to be moving on," he said, giving Giles a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Outstayed my welcome."

"I don't think Xander feels that way, and I know I don't," Giles said. "But I do see that what happened between us makes it all very -" He tried to find a word to adequately describe the situation they'd found themselves in and failed. "Awkward?" he said doubtfully.

Spike snorted, stubbing out his cigarette in a small ashtray he'd stolen from the first pub he'd been thrown out of. "Could say that, yeah."

Giles reached out and took the whiskey from him, taking a swig from the bottle with an apology to the shade of his father who'd always made a ceremony out of pouring a careful amount into sparkling crystal. "Bloody awkward," he said firmly, hanging onto the bottle. "Again, I'm sorry. You didn't do or say anything to make me think you wanted that from me -- quite the opposite as you were obviously attracted to Xander -- and I shouldn't have forced myself on you."

He remembered the way Spike had allowed his kisses without returning them at first and cringed inwardly. God, he'd been so concerned about getting Xander to forgive him that he'd neglected to give Spike the apology he deserved. "So very sorry," he said, tightening his grip on the neck of the bottle. He glanced up at Xander, then at Spike again. "That goes for both of you."

"You don't owe me any apologies," Spike said, his gaze meeting Giles' for a moment before skittering away. This wasn't like Spike. Or, at least, not like the Spike Giles thought he knew.

Which, he was realizing, wasn't the Spike sitting beside him. Not really.

"I do," Giles said. "Xander knows how sorry I am... I hope..." He looked at Xander, who nodded, looking dismissive of the apology, frowning as though to tell Giles to get on with it. "But I do owe you an apology as well, Spike."

Spike grabbed the bottle of whiskey back from Giles' hand and surged to his feet. "If I tell you I accept your apology, will you stop whinging on and on about it and leave me be?" he asked bluntly.

Feeling slightly taken aback, Giles nodded. "I'll stop apologizing, certainly, if you're willing to forgive me." He couldn't help adding rather acidly, "I'd hate to bore you both, after all."

"Good," Spike said. "Apology accepted." Which was not, Giles noted, the same as being forgiven. "Now, if you'll let me, I'm gonna go sit out back and drink the rest of this. Slowly, so you two can finish up what I interrupted without me having to listen to it."

"You'll still know what we're doing," Xander said. "And we'll know you know, and -"

"And it won't happen," Giles said with certainty, before Xander progressed any further. "I really couldn't, Spike. Not under those circumstances."

Spike turned in the doorway to the room, leaning on the frame. "You're not seriously telling me you're not going to have sex as long as I'm staying here, are you?" he asked, gesturing in Xander's direction with the bottle. "Oh, unless you're planning to toss me out in the morning. You can do that now, you know. M'not a vampire anymore."

"No, I'm not planning to toss you out in the morning," Giles replied, wondering what on earth he could do to get through to Spike, to prove to him that things were different and that he was trying.

"Just let it go, Rupert," Spike said quietly, closing his eyes for a second or two with the side of his head supported by the door frame. "I can't do this."

"You don't have to," Xander said, and Spike opened his eyes and looked at him. "Let us help."

"You can't bloody help!" Spike's voice rose. "You think I can just stay here, knowing the two of you are... and I'm..."

"What?" Giles said, standing up. He walked towards Spike, pausing a foot away. "Knowing we're in love? Knowing we're happy? I can see how unbearable that must be, but it's not going to change, and I don't think you really want it to, do you? You don't hate us after all -" He took the bottle out of Spike's hand and placed it down on top of a bookcase beside the door. "You just want what we have, which is perfectly understandable." Spike looked as if he was about to say something, but Giles was determined to get this out into the open. "The question is, do you want it with someone else -- or do you want it with us?"

The eyes Spike raised to meet his were anguished. "Giles... I can't. Don't put me through this. I know I'm horrid to live with and you've both got plenty of reasons to hate me, but don't. It's hard enough knowing I can't have it without you rubbing it in my face."

"I asked you a question," Giles said inflexibly. He heard Xander make a small sound of protest behind him -- close behind him -- but he ignored him. "Has seeing what we have made you want to go out there and find someone of your own -- or do you just want to stay here, with us?" He made his voice gentle. "Please, Spike. Either way we can make this work. I promise you we can. I just need to know."

"No 'we' about it if you're the only one doing the talking," Spike said. His voice was just the tiniest bit shaky as he looked over Giles' shoulder. "Xander?"

"Yeah?" Xander said.

"You in on this? This what you want?"

"The three of us together?" Giles wished Xander sounded more convinced, but at least he sounded willing. That was something. "Yeah, that's what I want."

"What about you?" Spike asked Giles, looking right at him. "That what you want?"

Giles reached behind him and felt Xander's hand slide into his at once as Xander moved beside him. "I asked you a question and I'd like it answered," he said steadily. "You know we both want you -- but I'm still not sure how you feel about me." He realized that he was gripping Xander's hand hard enough that it must be hurting him and tried to relax. "Because this can't work if you want Xander and just tolerate me at best."

"That feel like 'tolerating' to you, the other night?" Spike asked. His tone was light, but he looked utterly serious.

"No," Giles admitted. "But it wasn't me who got you hard; it was Xander." He met Spike's eyes, wondering how they'd got to this point, where nothing was left to hide behind. "I won't be what you put up with to get to him."

"Okay... I've been trying to let you two do the talking, but are you insane?" Xander asked. "You don't seriously think that anyone could look at you and not want you, do you?"

Giles was flattered and, admittedly, a bit flustered. "We're not talking about 'anyone'," he said. "We're talking about Spike."

"I'm with him," Spike said, tilting his head toward Xander. "That look you get in your eyes... gets me going every time." He reached out for Giles' free hand and pressed it to the front of his trousers in demonstration of the fact that he was, undeniably, hard.

"Oh God," Giles said, feeling Xander's fingers clutch at his and guessing that all three of them were equally aroused -- he knew he was -- which probably explained Spike's abrupt decision to move from discussion to demonstration. "I don't have the faintest idea what look you're talking about, but you've made your point." He let his fingers stroke along the hard swell of Spike's cock and raised his eyebrow. "More than adequately," he said, trying to hold back a grin and failing when he heard Xander snicker.

Spike shook his head. "Well I can see who's the steadying, mature influence around here," he muttered. "And it's not you, Giles." He glanced between them, still with a shadow of uncertainty in his eyes. "So are we good here? No one's still feeling the urge to apologize for having the good taste to fancy me?"

Giles hadn't thought of how their apologies might have been misinterpreted. "We weren't ashamed of wanting you because it was you, Spike," he said quietly, slipping his arm around Spike's waist. "It just felt like a betrayal of what we had together. It's different now."

"Doesn't get different that fast," Spike protested, although Giles noted that he didn't attempt to pull away from the embrace.

"Maybe sometimes it does," Xander said. "Or maybe we just want it to. Does it matter?"

Spike blinked at Xander in astonishment. "If you turn around tomorrow and change your minds back it will," he said. "And I'll be the one suffering for it."

"You've known us a long time," Giles said. "Long enough to know we're capable of making mistakes. Bad ones. Long enough to know there's no guarantees -" Spike started to tug free of Giles' arm, but Giles held onto him. "And long enough to know that you can trust us, even so," he finished. "You came to us for help. I've lost count of how many times you've done that, or we've turned to you. Have we ever let you down before?"

Spike looked wary still, and Giles sighed. "Oh, come here," he said half-impatiently, kissing Spike without letting himself think about it too much, because if he did he'd start to wonder if Xander would mind, if Spike would step back, if -

But this time there was only the briefest hesitation on Spike's part before he threw himself into the kiss wholeheartedly, parting his lips to encourage Giles to do more. Spike's mouth was warm and tasted of whiskey, and Giles groaned and pulled him closer, feeling Spike's body against his, losing himself in the kiss.

He felt a hand on his arse that was most definitely not Spike's -- it was too familiar -- and he broke away, breathless, to turn his head and look at Xander.

Xander was wide-eyed. "Do it again," he said.

Spike and Giles exchanged amused glances. "I'm glad you enjoyed the show," Giles said, slipping his hand around Xander's neck and leaning in to kiss him with a brevity that didn't stop him becoming even more aroused, because Xander's mouth was so very eager. "But I see you more on stage than in the audience."

"Yeah," Spike said. "And I'd like a kiss from you when you know just who you're kissing." He gave Giles a sidelong look. "Can't imagine he really thought I was you, though."

"I did!" Xander protested.

Spike lifted a skeptical eyebrow, and then grinned. "We're both good," he said, running his hand up Giles' back casually and leaving Giles wondering what it would feel like to have that hand on his skin again. "But it'd be nice if you could tell us apart in the dark."

"I was asleep," Xander muttered, but Spike stopped any further protest with a kiss that would have had Giles hard and wanting in the first few seconds if he hadn't already been. Xander made a small sound of surprise and need, his hand coming up to grab onto Spike's hair in what seemed to Giles a rather dominant manner.

When they broke apart, Spike was gasping. "Like it better when you know it's me," he admitted grudgingly.

"Good," Xander said, his hand still tangled in Spike's hair. "So do I." He glanced at Giles. "Are we going to go back to bed now?" he asked plaintively. "Still recovering, you know. All this standing around has to be bad for me, not to mention being this hard, for this long."

"I think we're all suffering from a similar complaint," Giles murmured.

"I'm not complaining," Spike said promptly.

"You complain about everything else," Xander said, but he was smiling at Spike.

"Lot to complain about around here," Spike said.

Xander attempted to look affronted. "Hey, if you don't like it..."

"Right, that's enough," Giles said. "Upstairs with the both of you."

He'd have been gratified by the speed at which they obeyed him if it wasn't obvious that it was less a recognition of his authority -- and he wasn't even going to consider Spike's claim to be the most responsible one in the house -- and more down to the need for more than kisses. A need he shared, of course.

It was odd to walk back into the bedroom and find the lamp still burning and the bed covers still rumpled. It felt as if hours had passed since he and Xander had been in that bed, so close to each other, with Spike listening, miserable and frustrated. Spike swallowed, hesitating, staring at the bed.

"I -- this is your place-"

"It's going to be fine," Giles said brushing a soft kiss across Spike's mouth. "At least it will be when you two are wearing less. Xander, get undressed again, please."

"Is he always this bossy?" Spike asked Xander, who grinned and didn't reply.

Giles walked to the bed and pushed the pillows up. "I don't think Xander minds being told to undress, Spike." He shrugged out of his robe and got onto the bed, leaning back against the pillows. "And I did say 'please'."

He was aware of Spike's eyes on him, but when he began to watch Spike he could see that Spike was mesmerized by the sight of Xander slowly removing his clothes. First the T-shirt, up and over the head, revealing a toned upper body and tight, pale pink nipples. Then the soft sleep trousers pulled down over hips that Giles loved to grab hold of while thrusting deep into Xander's warm, welcoming body...

Giles swallowed and fixed his eyes on Spike again as Xander kicked off the pants.

"Now Spike's," Giles said. Both of them looked at him, so he clarified, "Xander, please undress Spike."

He could see the exact moment when Xander got turned on by the idea of that, and it was about a second after Giles had finished speaking. Filing that away to think about later, Giles gave into temptation and reached down to stroke his hand across his cock, shuddering less from the light, expected touch than the swift pass of Spike's tongue over his lips as Xander smiled at him.

Xander started at the top, holding Spike's gaze as he hooked his thumbs under the hem of Spike's T-shirt and slowly pushed his hands up, taking the thin material with them, baring Spike's stomach. Giles could remember running his hands over that flat, muscled skin and even the memory was enough to make him move his hand away from his cock, because he really didn't want this to be over quite that quickly.

Xander eased Spike's arms out of his T-shirt, one at a time, and then gave into temptation himself, kissing Spike, not on the mouth, but on his stomach, sliding down to his knees to do it and dragging his mouth slowly across the taut skin.

Giles bit down on his lip at about the same time Spike muttered, "Fuck, Xander, please," sounding close to desperate. Giles didn't blame him. He could imagine - he knew - just how that felt.

He was certain that the first thing Xander would do upon unzipping Spike's jeans would be to lick Spike's cock, and from the trembling groan that escaped Spike he surely thought so as well. But Xander didn't do anything that Giles hadn't specifically told him to do -- he eased Spike's jeans down over his hips, exposing Spike's swollen, upright cock, and helping Spike step out of them, then turned back to Giles expectantly as Spike's hand settled on his dark hair.

"Taste him," Giles said, keeping his voice level with an effort, as Spike gave him an imploring look, his blue eyes dark with need. "Just for a moment, and then come and kiss me." He stared at Spike and smiled. "Both of you."

Xander nodded, and Giles was left to choose between watching Xander's tongue lap slowly across the head of Spike's cock before he took it between his lips, or concentrating on Spike's reaction as he threw back his head, jaw clenched, his hand dropping to Xander's shoulder. He'd watched his own cock slide into Xander's mouth and enjoyed the sight, because if ever Xander looked wanton it was then, eyes half-closed in pleasure, lips forced wide and open, but there was something so erotic about what Giles was watching now that he was spellbound.

They were beautiful together, he thought without envy, admiring them without bothering to glance down at his own body, still strong, but which really didn't compare to theirs in his eyes.

Xander pulled back, looking unsurprisingly slightly reluctant, Giles thought, and reached up to take Spike's hand, letting Spike help him up and keeping hold of Spike's hand as they walked over to the bed.

Xander bent to kiss Giles first, the press of his lips as familiar and eager as always. Giles grabbed onto the back of Xander's neck and sat up, exploring the inside of Xander's mouth with his tongue and only finding the faintest hint of anything unusual there.

He felt cautious fingers touch his thigh just above the knee, then they ran up along his inner thigh. "Can I touch?" Spike asked.

The fact that Spike was asking for permission did things to Giles that his body responded to fiercely.

"Not until you've kissed me," he said, sternly repressing the urge to say, 'yes, please'.

Spike gave him a thoughtful look, and then smiled unexpectedly. "Sure. Where?"

Giles opened his mouth, although he wasn't quite sure what he was going to say to that, because it redefined 'spoiled for choice', but Xander beat him to it. "He likes this -"

Giles let Xander push him back down and moaned as Xander's tongue teased his nipple hard enough to be caught between Xander's teeth and sucked.

"Right..." Spike murmured, sounding eager as he moved to copy Xander. Giles concentrated on breathing, which was about all he felt capable of, wrapping his arms around their shoulders and running his hands over their backs, feeling the subtle difference in skin texture.

Spike's mouth was far from tentative, reminding Giles that however unsure Spike might be about some things now he was human again, he still had well over a century of experience to fall back on when it came to sex.

"I think you can touch me now, if you like," Giles said, aware that his voice sounded husky.

"Good," Spike murmured, breath warm against his chest, and a moment later Giles felt strong fingers curl around his erection.

"You do that," Xander said, clearly speaking to Spike. "And I'll do this." He moved up, lips finding Giles' while his finger toyed playfully with one nipple. Then a hot mouth closed around Giles' cock and he gasped into Xander's kiss, his body arching at the combined sensations that weren't possible without more than one lover.

"Tastes good, too," Spike said, sliding lower and licking at Giles' balls, then taking one into his mouth gently and sucking at it.

Oh, God.

Giles couldn't reach Spike with his hands and Xander didn't seem keen to break their kiss, but he brought his knee up and rubbed it against Spike's shoulder encouragingly. Xander he could reach, and he took full advantage of that, sliding his hand over the warm body in his arms, and making no secret of the fact that every pass of his hand brought it closer to Xander's cock.

He wrapped his hand around Xander's erection just as Spike moved lower, the tip of his tongue stroking languidly across the entrance to Giles' body, something Xander hadn't done yet and Giles hadn't asked for. With an assurance Giles felt it would take a while to get used to, Spike spread Giles' legs wider and rubbed his thumb across the sensitive skin he'd just awoken, pushing firmly enough that Giles felt the tip of it enter him. Spike's mouth replaced it a moment later, with his tongue moving in fast flickers that left Giles' cock aching.

Xander whimpered as Giles's hand tightened around his cock and began to work it hard, tearing his mouth away and gasping out Giles' name. Then he glanced down to see what Spike was doing to Giles and, even though he wasn't able to see much, Giles supposed he'd figured it out by the way his eyes widened.

"Touch me," Giles begged, taking Xander's hand and moving it down to his cock. "Hard. God, please, Xander." Then Spike's tongue slipped inside him and he cried out as he came, with a release all the more powerful for being so long delayed.

Xander's hand encouraged him, stripping every last ripple of sensation from him until he gave a little whimper as it went from too much to really too much. Xander knew him well enough to let go then, although Giles still had his own fingers wrapped a bit clumsily around Xander's still-erect cock.

Gasping and heaving for air, Giles barely noticed that Spike had left the bed and disappeared into the bathroom until he heard the sound of running water. A few moments later Spike was back, flopping down onto the mattress beside Giles and running a slightly damp hand up and down Giles' chest. "Good?" Spike asked.

Giles laughed, but the sound was fairly pitiful considering he still hadn't caught his breath completely. "Extraordinary," he said.

Spike looked pleased, bending to kiss Giles, and then looking over him to Xander on Giles' other side. His hand reached across over Giles' stomach and his fingers joined Giles' on Xander's cock. It was even more awkward like that, but from the expression on Xander's face, it was still appreciated.

"Looks like it's your turn, Xander," Spike said, eying him both speculatively and admiringly. "What do you want to do with this then?"

Giles realized, with an entirely pleasurable shock, that although the logistics of this might take a bit of getting used to, the benefits were going to be considerable. He'd never worried too much about being at an age where Xander's ability to respond with an apparently unflagging erection outstripped his own; he was certainly as eager to make love as Xander, and it wasn't as if that was all they could do... but the slight concern he'd felt vanished now. And not just sex... Spike would be happy to go to all manner of clubs and pubs that left Giles feeling ancient just thinking about --

"I want to fuck you with it," Xander said, pushing their hands away gently and kneeling up on the bed. He gave Giles a look that brought Giles' wandering thoughts back to the here and now and seemed to be waiting for his reaction.

Giles didn't have to think about it at all. If anything had been needed to make him trust that what they were doing was right, it was his instinctive reaction to Xander's proposal which held no jealousy or doubt, simply an anticipation that left his satiated body greedy for more. "God, yes," he said fervently, preparing to move out of their way, possibly even off the bed.

"But no taking turns, or just watching," Xander said firmly, reaching out and grabbing Giles' wrist. "You see anything you want to do to either of us, Giles, you join in. Got it?"

"I take it back," Spike said. "He's the bossy one."

"Shut up," Xander said, pointing a finger at Spike and apparently failing to notice that another part of his body was also pointing directly at him.

"Gonna make me?" Spike asked, grinning.

"If I have to." Xander clambered over Giles and tackled Spike down onto the mattress, driving a startled oomph from Spike that was quickly stifled by Xander's mouth on Spike's.

Shifting over, Giles rolled onto his side to face them, desire burning low in his belly although the flesh was, at that moment, at least, rather weak. Still, he couldn't resist reaching out and running a hand down along Xander's back and over the curve of his arse, watching eagerly as Xander and Spike kissed.

Xander seemed to be doing an excellent job of silencing Spike, he thought -- as long as moans didn't count, anyway.

He was expecting to feel perhaps a little left out, a little awkward; prepared for it, in fact; but it never happened. The two of them were absorbed in kissing each other -- and he'd been on the receiving end of a kiss from both of them and knew exactly how easy it was to get lost in Xander's enthusiasm and Spike's single-minded concentration -- but Xander was arching up against Giles's gently caressing hand and Spike, who had his arms and legs wrapped around Xander, slid his hand down Xander's back and linked his fingers with Giles' for long enough to make Giles smile.

It occurred to Giles that there was one thing he could do to make himself useful. Rolling onto his stomach, he stretched out his hand and eased open the top drawer of the night table, his fingers closing around the bottle of lube after a short search. He felt the bed shift, but didn't realize that Xander and Spike had stopped kissing until he heard Spike say, "You know, before you start to put that to good use, is anyone going to tell me if your arse is out of bounds, Giles? Because we can play this anyway you like, but a chance at fucking you is going on my Christmas list if it is."

Giles turned his head and saw that they were both staring at him, Spike still on his back and Xander propped up on his elbows. Well, they were staring at one part of him, anyway.

"It's not at all out of bounds," he said mildly, letting his gaze travel over them in turn, and deciding that they both looked more than ready to move past kissing. "But generally -" He hesitated, not entirely comfortable with speaking for Xander or sharing details of what they'd done in the past, however much he approved of Spike asking. And yes, he felt flattered by Spike's request, and intrigued, too. It wasn't that he'd ever discouraged Xander from fucking him, and they'd certainly enjoyed the times that Xander had taken control of their lovemaking, but there'd always been a slight hesitancy and generally, Giles supposed, he'd been the one on top.

Somehow he didn't think it was going to be that way with Spike and Xander, which was interesting.

And the thought of being fucked by Spike, whom he sensed wouldn't be in the least hesitant, was enough to make Giles feel a far from faint throb in his cock even as he glanced appealingly at Xander.

"What are you looking at me for?" Xander asked, shifting his weight. Spike made a small sound and arched underneath Xander, and Xander closed his eyes for a moment.

Giles couldn't see exactly what they were doing, but he could tell that it felt good, and seeing the both of them like that when they'd made him come so hard he'd seen stars only minutes before was so incredible that for a few seconds Giles forgot there was a question he was meant to be answering. "It's not up to me. Or rather, it's not up to just me."

"Assuming it's all right for Xander to fuck me, can we talk about the rules after?" Spike asked, writhing against Xander.

"Yes," Xander said. It took Giles a moment to realize that this was an answer to his question. "Yes, it's okay with me if Spike fucks you." He moved off Spike and to the other side, leaving Spike next to Giles in a sprawled, wanton position, legs spread, cock stiff and eager against his belly. "Want to help?" Xander asked Giles brightly, then bent to kiss Spike, one hand on Spike's inner thigh to spread him open further, making it very clear what he wanted Giles to do.

And, of course, Giles was more than happy to do it. He squeezed some lubricant onto his fingers and teased at Spike's balls until Spike gave a wriggle that surely meant 'get on with it,' then took a bit more lube and rubbed his slippery fingertips over the tight, warm entrance to Spike's body.

Spike's moan as Giles' finger slipped inside him was heartfelt, but Giles smiled at him, keeping his movements slow and deliberate.

"Can get on with it, you know," Spike panted when Giles showed no signs of speeding up, two fingers moving in leisurely thrusts inside him. "Done this before."

"Since you became human?" Giles asked.

Xander looked down at Spike, his expression strangely possessive, lifting a dark eyebrow.

Spike shook his head, less in reply than in a restless fever of impatience. "No... shouldn't matter... Giles! Fuck!"  

Xander pressed his hand against Spike's lips. "Stop it. Giles knows what he's doing."

Spike rolled his eyes and bit down hard on Xander's fingers, glaring at him. Xander yelped, returning the glare, but any annoyance he felt -- and somehow Giles, watching them both with a private grin, didn't think there was much -- disappeared when Spike snaked out his tongue, lapping at the fingers he'd bitten until Xander pushed two inside Spike's mouth.

Watching Spike suck and lick at Xander's fingers, still using his teeth if Xander's hissed intakes of breath were any indication, was distracting, but the heat of Spike's body clutching at Giles' slicked-up fingers was equally so. Deciding that Spike was as ready as he'd ever be, Giles reached forward and put the bottle of lubricant into Xander's free hand.

Xander pulled his fingers out of Spike's mouth, smiled and picked up Spike's hand, turning it over and squeezing some of the clear liquid from the bottle into Spike's palm. "You do it," he said. "I want to feel your hand on me."

Spike did as ordered, half sitting awkwardly and wrapping his hand around Xander's erection as Giles took advantage of the situation and stroked Spike's cock at the same time.

"Fuck" Spike said in a low voice. "Xander..."

Apparently that was enough to shake Xander's control, and he quickly rearranged them, pushing Spike's knees up to his chest and lining up his cock, pressing forward with what, from Spike's expression and hiss of pain, was rather too much eagerness.

"God, Spike," Xander said, leaning down to kiss Spike, muffling the noises he was making as Xander slid deeper, more slowly now. "Sorry."

Spike shook his head. "S'okay. Fuck, Xander. Yeah, like that. Fuck me."

Xander groaned and pulled back, clearly doing his best to be careful now. He eased up into a kneeling position, both hands on Spike's arse as it lifted up off the mattress and he thrust in again with a circling motion of his hips that made Giles hard just watching it. In that position, Spike's cock lay tight against his belly, begging to be touched.

When Giles reached out and stroked Spike's cock, just once, Spike cried out, arching his back, trembling. "Giles... God, yeah. Touch me. God, so close..."

"Not yet," Xander told Spike, his own face showing that he was fighting to keep control. Xander was breathing in shallow, fast pants, his teeth digging into his lip. "Kiss him, Giles? Please? Want to see you kiss him."

It was odd to hear the subtle shift in Xander's voice when he went from talking to Spike to talking to Giles: commanding to pleading in a single breath, in fact. Giles moved up to the head of the bed, ignoring Spike's fervently muttered, "Bastard," making sure that he was lying at an angle across the bed so that he didn't block Xander's view of Spike's body. Spike turned his head, his intensely blue eyes wild, and Giles kissed him, their mouths meeting and clinging, the only point of contact between them. Spike's tongue was against Giles' at once, demanding and desperate, encouraging Giles to kiss him harder.

"You two -- God -" Xander said hoarsely, staring at them. He somehow found a rhythm between one thrust and the next, fucking Spike with a new-found assurance he'd never shown with Giles, until Spike broke the kiss and cried out, clearly at the point where his climax was imminent whether he was being touched or not.

"Xander," Spike said, eyes wide and locked on the man fucking him. "Xan, God, fuck, yeah." His breathing hitched, every line of his body suddenly tightening and the expression on his face one of pained pleasure. "Gonna..."

And Spike came, shuddering, crying out again when Giles reached a hand out to encircle his twitching cock and stroke it fast and hard.

There was something to be said for watching, Giles thought, feeling aroused, God, yes, but still capable of observing, unlike Spike, whose eyes had closed as Giles' hand gripped him and who was making soft, inarticulate sounds of pleasure, his body moving in a sensuous wriggle that drew a long groan from Xander.

But it was the chance to see Xander come that had Giles catching his breath in anticipation, because usually he was too wrapped up in what was happening to him to be able to pay close attention. He could now. Xander's dark hair, long enough to be clinging damply to his neck, framed his face without hiding it, and with his body locked in the same spasm that had left Spike wordless and spent, he looked, well, glorious.

Xander's hips surged forward one final time, burying him as deep in Spike's body as he could go as the last of his release wracked him. He gave a shudder, and then gasped in a lungful of air while collapsing down onto Spike, managing to catch most of his weight on his forearms. "Spike..." Their mouths found each other in a shaky, desperate-looking kiss.

Giles lay back and stared up at the ceiling, feeling as drained as they looked, sudden tiredness blurring his eyes.

"Giles?" Xander sounded a little concerned. "Are you okay?"

He turned his head and found them watching him, identical anxious frowns on their faces. He smiled at them, hoping it came over as reassuring. "Oh, yes. Just a little -"

"Freaked?" Spike suggested, turning onto his side to face Giles as Xander eased out of him.

"I don't get freaked," Giles said firmly. "Ever. Overwhelmed, confused and lost for words on occasion, but never freaked. Kindly bear that in mind."

Spike grinned and wriggled close enough to kiss him. "Yeah, you're freaked. Can't blame you."

Giles returned the kiss, making it gentle. "I'm feeling too happy for that. Really." He looked from Spike to Xander. "Go and clean up?" he suggested, trying not to yawn. "Before I fall asleep?"

"Mm. Sounds good." Xander struggled to his feet and looked down at his softening erection. "Come on, everybody up. If we don't change these sheets, we're going to be stuck to them in the morning."

Spike did get up, glancing from the bed to the door and rubbing a hand over the back of his neck. "Right. Well... guess I'll see you tomorrow."

"If that's an attempt to get out of helping to remake the bed, it failed miserably," Giles said, standing up, still feeling the after effects of his climax and wondering if he could manage to stagger to the bathroom, let alone dig out fresh sheets. His head cleared after a moment and he gave Spike a quizzical look, seeing how tense he looked. "You're not seriously suggesting that you go and sleep downstairs, are you? If the bed's big enough for what we just did, I think it's big enough for us all to sleep in."

"Yeah, except if you want to stay you have to help get these off," Xander said, struggling to free the bottom corner of the sheet.

Spike moved to help automatically, although Giles wasn't convinced that Spike had really heard anything either he or Xander had said. "Go get washed up, I'll do this," Spike said gruffly.

Xander frowned at him. "Or we could finish this, and then you could come shower with us."

Pulling the sheet free, Spike stood up, wadding the fabric into a loose ball in his hands. "You sure that's what you want?"

"Yes," said Giles. "Except the shower definitely isn't big enough for three. But you're sleeping with us, Spike. Although the way Xander steals the covers, kicks, and snores, I can't blame you for preferring solitude."

"All right. If he gets too annoying, I'll just tip him out onto the floor," Spike said, offering Giles a cocky grin that might have been put on.

"If you push me out of bed, you'll regret it," Xander said, crossing the room to the chest of drawers where the clean sheets were kept and taking out a fresh set.

Spike seemed to relax further. "Oh no, Harris is threatening me. I'm shaking in my boots." He glanced down at his bare feet. "Well, I would be if I were wearing any."

Handing the opposite edge of the fitted sheet to Spike, Xander began to tuck it under the mattress. "Hey, I'm well versed in the art of practical jokes. You don't want to get on my bad side."

"Which side's that?" Spike asked, eyeing Xander appreciatively. "Don't think I noticed a bad side. It all looks good to me."

Xander looked at him, his face showing a sudden vulnerability at the compliment that Giles found rather touching. "Thanks," he said simply, straightening. "Want to put the pillows back, Giles?"

Giles looked at the four pillows he and Xander usually used, and then replaced three at the head of the bed, spreading them out so they each had one. He gave them both a smile and moved casually towards the door. "Looks as if you two have this little task well in hand, so you won't mind me taking the first shower."

He left before they had chance to protest, intending to make the shower a quick one, but needing a moment alone to gather his thoughts. When he reached the bathroom, he stared at himself in the mirror, seeing nothing that would explain why the two he'd left behind would be interested in him, but grinning unselfconsciously at the sleepy, well-fucked look in his eyes.

"Old fool," he muttered, still grinning as he stepped under the hot spray.

Xander was waiting for him when he came out, leaning against the wall.

"Spike?" Giles asked.

"He went to use the one downstairs," Xander said. "Don't worry; he's coming back up. I think he just wanted some space."

Giles picked up a towel and began to dry himself. "I can understand that," he said. He finished toweling himself dry and walked over to Xander. "I love you," he said quietly, needing to say it, needing Xander to know it beyond any shadow of doubt. "So very much."

"I know," Xander said, meeting Giles' gaze for only a moment before glancing down. "This is... is this okay?"

Giles cupped Xander's chin in his hand, gently tilting his head up. Xander stood very still, his face unreadable to Giles. "It happened very fast," Giles said, hearing the shower running downstairs and feeling relieved that he and Xander had this chance to talk alone. "Too fast? Possibly, but yes, it feels right. I can't explain why. It just does. I can't pretend I don't have concerns, but we've all been through so much that they seem small in comparison." He kissed Xander, because with him this close, his dark eyes wide, Giles couldn't help himself, and felt Xander move closer as he responded, although he seemed tense, as if he was waiting for something.

"Tell me if there's anything, anything at all about this that troubles you," Giles urged him, needing to know Xander was happy and starting to feel a little worried. Xander couldn't think that he hadn't been enough for Giles, could he? Or had even that short encounter with Spike made Xander wish it was just the two of them?

Biting his lip, Giles stepped back, giving Xander a helpless look. "Please just tell me," he said softly.

Now Xander looked worried. "No, it's okay. Really. I just wanted to make sure it was okay with you. Because I don't... I wasn't sure. You don't think you're going to change your mind?" He asked it as if he weren't quite sure what the question was, himself.

Giles shrugged his shoulders, feeling his age. Guarantees, promises, certainties... he'd learned not to expect them in relationships, but at Xander's age he supposed he'd still thought they existed.  "I can't -- I don't know, Xander. It's too soon to say. I don't think so. Believe me, I wouldn't have started this if I wasn't as sure as I could be." He rubbed at his eyes, feeling the strain of the last few days press down on him. "Let's just see how it goes, shall we? But, really, I think this is going to work. I do." He ran his hand down Xander's arm and gripped his hand. "I want it to work," he said.

"Me, too," Xander said, seeming more relaxed. "Don't worry. Maybe it'll take us a little while, but we'll figure it out."

The sound of the shower running downstairs stopped, and Giles nudged Xander's shoulder. "Go on and get cleaned up. I think we could all use a good night's sleep."

Xander nodded and went to shower, and Giles returned to the bedroom. A minute or so later, Spike reappeared in the bedroom doorway, damp hair slicked back and a slightly wary expression on his face as though he weren't sure if his welcome had been rescinded in the brief time he'd been gone.

"Poor Xander's probably going to run out of hot water," Giles said ruefully. He arched his eyebrow at Spike. "If he puts his cold feet on you, please don't scream. I have a feeling I'm going to be asleep about thirty seconds after my head hits the pillow and it'd disturb me."

He went to the bed and got in on the side he usually slept on, and then, without looking at Spike, asked casually, "Are you going to stand there all night or come to bed so that I can take advantage of the twenty seconds of consciousness remaining to me and say goodnight properly?"

Spike hesitated, but after a moment he joined Giles, getting into bed and lying down on his back, but leaving considerably more space between them than Giles would have preferred. Reaching over, Giles used a hand on Spike's far shoulder to roll Spike toward him. "We need to leave room for Xander," he explained, stroking Spike's chest gently.

Spike's eyes still reflected some uncertainty, but he didn't pull away.

"What?" Giles said, sleepiness making him more direct than usual. "Isn't this where you want to be?"

"In between you two?" Spike asked. "Splitting you up?" He sounded worried.

Giles put his arm around Spike and pulled him a little closer. "Or gluing us together?" he suggested with a yawn. "Spike, I'm exhausted, and that's about the best you're going to get out of me tonight. You're with us. That's where we want you to be, remember." He brushed his lips across Spike's in what was less a kiss than reassurance. "Stop being so tactful and considerate," he said drowsily. "It's not like you at all."

"Hey!" Spike said, sounding affronted, but it was clear to Giles that it was an act, because Spike sighed and inched closer still.

The shower stopped running, and a few minutes later a damp, slightly flushed Xander joined them, snuggling up behind Spike and shoving the smaller man more firmly against Giles' body. "Mm," Xander said. "Night." And, clearly feeling that everything was right with the world, promptly went to sleep.

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