Happily Ever After

by
Whichclothes



Part One

Spike loved to watch his boy work. He helped, nominally: sometimes fetching a hammer or picking up a dropped nail or holding a ladder steady. But mostly he leaned against a wall or straddled a chair, admiring the tautness of Xander’s arse beneath tight denim, the play of muscles on his broad back, the confident and deft movements of his hands; grinning at the way Xander’s fringe would fall in his face; waiting for the frequent moments when Xander would glance over his shoulder and give Spike a warm smile. If the Hyperion hadn’t already been a source of never-ending construction projects, Spike would have destroyed things just for the pleasure of seeing his lover fix them.

“Hey, Fangface. Wanna get off your lazy butt and hand me my drill? If it isn’t too much of a strain.”

Spike gave a mock growl before slowly standing and languidly stretching, knowing that doing so revealed a strip of skin above the low-slung waistband of his jeans. He swung his hips just a little as he sauntered across the room, and when he bent to retrieve the tool he made sure his arse waved invitingly in Xander’s direction.

“Not gonna work,” Xander laughed. “I wanna get the wiring done today and then patch the holes so I can paint tomorrow.”

“Could paint the next day.”

“No, the next day I’m gonna install lights and shelves and cabinets. C’mon, Spike. Just another hour or so and then I’ll be done and we can take a nice hot shower together.”

“You’ll shampoo my hair?”

“I’ll clean every inch of you.”

Spike sighed happily and brought him the drill, then returned to his chair. Building an infirmary had been a good idea. In their strange household someone was always needing patching up and the scattered first aid kits weren’t always up to the task. It wasn’t as if they could go to hospital either—doctors wouldn’t know what to do with vampires, a Slayer, or a werewolf. Even Wesley, the most human of them, had spent some time as a ghost and had come away from the experience with a few quirks in his system. And now there was the newest resident, the poor bloke Xander had dragged back with them from Praesidium. Magics had saved the bloke’s life but hadn’t mended the psychological trauma that kept him nearly comatose.

The sound of the drill hurt Spike’s ears as Xander bored into a wall stud, and neither of them heard Angel enter the room. “Hey!” he shouted and they both startled. Xander almost fell off the ladder, but managed to keep his balance and turn off the tool.

Spike shot out of his seat to glare up at Angel. “Be careful, wanker! If you cause my Xander to hurt himself—”

“Sorry!” Angel said, clearly not meaning it. “But there’s this wacko out in Long Beach and if we don’t get there soon—”

“Right. Another bloody emergency,” said Spike. But Xander had already descended the ladder and was unbuckling his tool belt. Angel left, presumably to wait impatiently in the lobby, and Spike and Xander ran up to their suite to collect their jackets. Xander slipped his eyepatch on. They both cast longing looks at their bathroom as they passed it. “I think I fancied him better when he was a baby,” Spike grumbled, referring to his grandsire. “Didn’t interrupt us with apocalypses all the time then.”

“No, just with stinky diapers. I think I prefer apocalypses.”

Spike had to concede that Xander had a point. They raced back down the stairs, skidding to a halt in front of Angel, Kyna, and Wesley, all of whom looked ready to leave. “You coming too, Wes?” Xander asked.

“Yes. Magics are involved, apparently, and my knowledge might prove useful.”

“I bet it will. But what about the mystery man? Is he gonna be okay on his own?”

“Maffeo,” Wes replied softly.

“Huh?”

“Maffeo. It’s his name.”

Xander was clearly about to ask how Wes knew that—Spike was wondering as well—but Angel huffed impatiently. “Can we do this on the way?” he asked.

So they all piled into the van with Xander behind the wheel and Angel navigating. “What’s the 411 on tonight’s bad guy?” Xander asked as soon as he pulled onto the freeway.

It was Kyna who answered. “He’s a wizard.”

Spike groaned—his experiences with wizards had not all been happy ones.

Kyna ignored him and continued. “Until recently he’s been harmless. He’s been selling love charms and minor curses.”

“What kind of minor curses?” Xander wanted to know.

“Oh … staining your favorite clothing, plumbing problems, never getting a good signal on your mobile phone. Things like that.”

“That doesn’t sound too awful.”

“It wasn’t. That’s why we’ve let him be. But our informants tell us that a week or so ago he suddenly became much more powerful. Nobody knows how. And tonight he means to destroy the port.”

Xander shrugged. “Okay, that’s worse than staining. But why?”

“I told you,” Angel said. “He’s a wacko.”

Xander must have decided that was explanation enough because he changed the topic. “So, Wes. Maffeo?”

Wesley was sitting next to Spike in the middle row of seats. He looked preoccupied, and he didn’t respond to Xander’s question until Spike gave him a gentle nudge.

“Oh, sorry. I was …” Wes shook his head as if to clear it. “He was a bit more … coherent than usual this morning. His eyes actually focused on me and he asked me who I was. At least, I believe that’s what he asked. That language …”

“Latin through a blender,” Spike agreed. “I reckon in his world the Romans made it to North America and brought some version of their language with them.”

Wes nodded. “Yes, and it evolved over time as the other Romance languages did. At any rate, we managed a brief exchange. I told him my name and he said he’s called Maffeo. Then he looked about and his surroundings overwhelmed him. I know he’s in a simple hotel room—”

“But it’s a long way from where he’s been,” Spike interrupted, shuddering at the reminder of his brief but painful captivity in the Keep.

“Precisely. He’s withdrawn again. But I have hopes that with patience he’ll eventually recover, at least to some extent.”

“You’re aching to interrogate the poor bloke, yeah?”

Wes smiled slightly. “Yes. But also, well, I’d like him to realize that he’s free.”

Spike was going to accuse Wes of succumbing to Florence Nightingale Syndrome, but then realized that he himself was the beneficiary of the syndrome: Xander had fallen for him when Spike was cursed and wounded and Xander had saved him and cared for him. So Spike only patted Wes’s knee and turned to look out his window.

The evening traffic was heavy enough that it took them some time to get to Long Beach. Kyna was in the far back seat, so when she and Angel spent most of the ride bickering whether he would go back to Ireland to visit her family, Spike had to endure being in the crossfire. He didn’t understand why Angel bothered to put up an argument; in the end Kyna would have her way. Angel hadn’t returned to his homeland since he’d been turned, and Spike wondered whether the visit would be a shock to him. That got Spike thinking about London, where he hadn’t been in many decades. It might be nice to go there with Xander, show the old bitch of a city that Spike had someone now, that he was someone. Perhaps they’d even pay a visit to Rupert and Lindsey, who were now apparently living as country gentleman.

Spike was happily imagining a run through the heath, Xander loping four-legged at his side, when the van came to halt inside a parking garage on the waterfront. Everyone piled out, and Angel and Kyna led the way out of the building and down the pavement toward a crowd of people who were clustered beside an enormous cruise ship. Most of the people were smiling and laughing, taking pictures, tugging suitcases this way and that. But one man was off by himself at the far end of the ship. He was sitting on a bench and scowling—no holiday air to him at all. He wasn’t dressed for a cruise either: frayed jeans and a t-shirt that had faded from red to pink, and an unraveling watch cap pulled over his long, greasy hair.

The man looked at the group of them with some alarm as they approached. Spike reckoned that their lot didn’t much look as if they meant to set sail either.

“Todd Snowden?” Angel asked when they reached the bench.

The man’s worry deepened. “Who are you?” he demanded.

“We’re— It doesn’t matter. Look, we know what you’re planning, and—”

Snowden leapt to his feet and scuttled a few feet farther from them. “How? Who told you? Who are you people?” His voice was squeaky and uneven, as if he hadn’t quite left adolescence, even though he looked to be in his early thirties.

Angel held his hands up placatingly. “We don’t want to hurt you, okay?”

“Hurt me? Do you have any idea what I’m capable of? Do you know who I am?”

“Well, yeah,” Spike responded. “Peaches just told you that.”

Angel and Kyna gave Spike dirty looks, but there was nothing new about that.

Snowden backed away a bit more. “You guys can’t stop me!”

Xander tried his goofy grin, the one that made him look like the friendly chap who lived next door and occasionally popped over to borrow some eggs or natter about football. “Hey, Todd. I bet something’s bugging you. I get it—been there myself, my friend. How about if you come back to our place, throw back a few beers, and you can tell us all about it. Maybe we can help.”

“Nobody can help!” Snowden screamed.

“Maybe not, but look at these people.” Xander gestured at the crowds waiting to board the ship. “They just want to climb on the fun ship, pig out on food, get drunk on margaritas, watch bad comedians, buy cheap medicines in Ensenada. You don’t want to ruin their vacation.”

“I don’t care about those people. They’re … nothing. Bugs.” Snowden took another step back and the rest of them moved forward, trying to surround him without sending him completely bonkers. “I used to be a bug, too. But not now! Now I have powers!”

“Sure, buddy. I know how that goes. Now think of all the good you could do with those powers.”

“Good? Why should I do good? The fucking world’s never done anything for me. Not even when I tried … I was a nice guy. I really loved Sara. Bought her flowers and shit, took her out to dinner even when I couldn’t afford it. I treated her nice. Promised her someday I’d make it big and then she’d really be my princess. And what does she do? Dumps me for some asshole who wanted to take her to Mexico! Just dumps me like I was nothing, like I was dirt.”

Kyna asked, “Is Sara on this ship?”

“Of course not! That was last year. I dunno where the bitch is now. But I couldn’t do anything about it back then, and now I can. Now I will. I’ll show her!”

Snowden’s eyes flashed and Spike realized that talking reason to him wasn’t going to work. After a century with Dru, Spike knew what lunacy looked like and this bloke was a prime example. Unfortunately, offering to serve entrails and virgin’s blood at a tea party—the usual method of calming Dru down—probably wasn’t going to work in this instance.

Spike shot Xander a warning look, trying to communicate all of this with a glance, and Xander nodded. The others seemed to draw the same conclusions, because while they still moved slowly, they began to close the circle around their prey.

The man’s mad eyes filled with panic and he raised his hands. He had something clutched in one palm, but not enough of it was visible to identify it. “Stop it!” Snowden screeched. “I mean it!”

Everyone took another step closer to him. Out of the corner of his eye, Spike saw that some of the holiday-goers had noticed the ruckus and turned to watch, but they weren’t important at the moment.

“C’mon,” Xander said in one last attempt at peace. “We can talk about this. We can—”

Snowden launched himself at Xander, screaming words in what sounded like ancient Greek. Xander howled and dropped to his knees, clutching his head, red streams of blood trickling from his ears.

And Spike lost all ability to think rationally. He simply leapt at Snowden, knocking the man to the pavement and landing on his chest so that the air was expelled from Snowden’s lungs in one loud grunt. The spell-casting stopped as Snowden tried to take in more oxygen and Spike vamped out, meaning to tear the bastard’s throat out. But before Spike’s fangs met with flesh, Snowden’s hand thumped against Spike’s shoulder. The blow was nothing in itself. Spike wouldn’t have noticed at all, except the hand that hit him was the one that had been holding the mystery item. As soon as the object made contact with Spike, every nerve in his body seemed to jerk all at once. It was as if he had touched a powerful electrical wire. He fell off Snowden, his limbs in uncontrollable spasms and his back bowed so sharply he felt as if it might snap. He was choking on his own blood from having bitten his tongue, but his jaw was clamped closed and he couldn’t even cry out. He couldn’t tell what was going on around him either, as his senses were as disarrayed as the rest of him. All he could make out were sparkling lights and a muffled jumble of sounds. It took all his might to remain conscious.

He didn’t know how long the seizure lasted. By the time he could once again control himself he was lying in the back seat of the van. He blinked his eyes open and realized that his head was in Xander’s lap. Xander looked like hell—blood on his cheeks and neck, his eye bloodshot, and his brows drawn in worry—but he was clearly alive, and he was stroking Spike’s hair.

“You back with me, Fang?” Xander asked softly.

Spike licked at his lips and swallowed a few times. “Yeah. What’s … what …”

“Don’t worry. Everything’s okay. That whammy Todd put on you drained away all his power. He’s gagged and hogtied and nothing sank.”

It took a great deal of strength for Spike to raise his arm and brush his fingertips against Xander’s face. “He hurt you.”

“I’m fine. Just a headache.” He bent down and touched his lips to Spike’s forehead. “You saved me. But Jesus, Spike, you scared the hell out of me.”

“ ’M all right. Just … tired is all.” And sore. His muscles felt as if he’d run for miles.

“So sleep. We’ll be home in half an hour and then we can tuck each other into bed.”

That sounded lovely to Spike. He shut his eyes and let the gentle sway of the van and the warmth of his boy lull him into a doze.

By the time they reached the Hyperion, enough of Spike’s strength had returned so that he could stand and walk, supported only by Xander’s arm around his waist. Or maybe his arm was supporting Xander—it was hard to tell. In any case, Spike watched with little interest as Angel heaved a bound and struggling weight onto his shoulder and lugged their captive into the hotel.

As Xander and Spike staggered through the lobby and toward the lifts—and Spike was feeling very thankful that his boy had the lifts running again—Wes put up a hand to stop them. “You’ll want to be careful,” he said.

“Going to bed,” Spike said with a snort. “That careful enough for you?”

“Yes, yes, that’s fine. But I mean for the next several days.”

“I told you, I’m fine,” Xander said. “Just a headache.”

Wesley looked very grave. “That spell he was using on you would have killed you if you were merely human. But you’re a werewolf and Spike stopped him in time, so you’re right—you should be fine. It’s Spike I’m concerned about.”

“Vampire, mate. Mended by morning,” said Spike.

“Our wizard’s rather weak talents were enhanced by a very rare item. I shall be quite interested to learn how he obtained it. It’s a sort of … mystical fungus. It enhances the magical properties of the people and items it touches.”

“Todd has a magic mushroom?” Xander asked incredulously.

“Something like that, yes. Well, he had one. When Spike attacked him, Snowden hit Spike with the fungus. The fungus itself was destroyed in the effort, which is just as well. But I fear that some of its effects may have been transferred to Spike.”

Xander’s eye widened. “Effects? What effects? I don’t want Spike affected!”

Wes clapped a hand to Xander’s shoulder. “It should be temporary. A few days at most. But during that time, any magic that Spike encounters is likely to have disturbing consequences.”

“No worries,” Spike said wearily. “Never have fancied mojo and I mean to stay well away from it. My boy and I will lock ourselves in our suite if necessary.” He was proud to manage a weak leer. But then he had an alarming thought. “Erm … this fungus … it won’t do anything to supernatural beings, will it? Like … make a werewolf … wolfier?” Like the time Xander had been stuck in wolf form and Spike had nearly been dusted trying to save him.

Wes shook his head. “No, you should be safe around Xander and Kyna and Angel and me. And yourself, for that matter. The fungus enhances spells, charms, talismans, things like that. Not living beings. Or unliving ones,” he added with a small smile.

“Lovely. We’re off then. I expect you want to check in on Maffeo.”

“I do. Just be careful, and fetch me if anything … unusual happens.”

With a tired nod, Spike led Xander to the lifts.

Their shower wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the one they had planned earlier that evening. It was a quick one, just enough to wash the blood from Xander’s face and to relax Spike’s sore muscles a bit. They were both still damp as they climbed into bed. As they always did, they moved against one another, Xander’s arms wrapping around Spike. Spike pressed his lips to Xander’s neck and sucked just a bit, finding comfort as always in the familiar actions.

Spike meant to fall asleep straight away. But Xander’s breaths remained a bit rapid and uneven; his boy was having trouble drifting off. “What is it, pet?” Spike murmured.

“Nothing. I just hate seeing you hurt, that’s all. It worries me.”

“But ’m fine now, yeah?” Spike pressed more tightly against him to prove his point. “Tomorrow you can finish your wiring and I’ll watch. Might even help a bit.”

Xander snorted. “Your helping isn’t all that helpful.”

“Oi!”

They lay there a while longer, but Xander remained restless, his legs jittery and his fingertips twitching on Spike’s skin. Finally, Spike sighed and sat up. “I’ll read to you a bit.”

Xander smiled at him. “You could read that stuff you had the other day—”

“Byron?”

“Yeah. Old poems. That’ll probably conk me right out.”

Spike rolled his eyes but reached for his bedside table. Instead of the volume he’d intended, his hands closed on another book: a collection of fairy tales that he’d found at an antiquarian book shop the previous week. The old edition, beautifully bound and illustrated, was meant as a gift for Buffy’s children. But when Xander had glanced at the book, he goggled at the violent and bloody unexpurgated fairy tales, and vetoed handing the book over until the children were in their teens.

Well, Spike reckoned, the book made perfectly fine bedtime fare for a vampire and a werewolf. He opened the book and began to read. He was only two or three pages in when Xander’s soft snores began. Spike smiled, put down the book, and turned off the light. Then he snuggled up against his boy and fell asleep.





Part Two

“Mother! I look a complete prat in this coat.”

His mother tutted and brushed at the lapel. “You are a Pratt, William, and you ought to be proud of it. Besides, this coat belonged to your Grandfather Pratt and your grandmother shall be quite pleased to see you in it.”

“It was out of style before I was born, Mother.”

She smiled. “True quality never goes out of style.”

“It’s red!”

“A color that complements your complexion, dear.”

William huffed and rolled his eyes, but stopped protesting. He would take the long route so as to avoid the possibility of being seen by anyone he knew. He was the butt of jokes often enough as it was and he didn’t intend to give them any additional ammunition.

Anne stepped back and looked him up and down, then nodded approvingly. She turned and picked up a large basket from a table and handed it to him. He knew what was inside because she’d insisted he watch her pack it: a loaf of bread, a round of good cheese, two jam jars, a plate of spotted dick, and a bottle of sherry. It was his mother’s annual birthday gift to her late husband’s mother. Anne may never have got on with her mother-in-law but she didn’t shirk her duties.

Unfortunately, this year she had decided that using William as messenger was sufficient to fulfill her responsibilities. William didn’t get on with the old hag any better than his mother did. Even when he was a young boy, the old woman had called him ugly and stupid and impudent, and neither her temper nor her opinion of him had improved over the years.

But William wasn’t one to deny his mother, so he took the basket and headed for the door.

“Remember, dear. Straight to your grandmother’s house. No dawdling.”

“I’m not a child, mother.”

“And no stopping at pubs, either. Or at the booksellers.”

“Yes, Mum,” he said with a sigh.

When he left the house William considered hiring a carriage, but then decided against it. His grandmother’s house was only a mile away. It was mid-morning and although the sky was a leaden gray, it wasn’t raining. A bit of a constitutional might do him good, even. Give him the chance to work through the fiddly bit in his current poem. What rhymed with magnificent?

Instead of going straight up Gower Street, where two of his acquaintances lived, he walked to Bedford Place and turned left. That took him to Russell Square, which he knew would be populated at this time of day only by doddering old ladies and nannies with their charges. The grass and trees in the square were pleasantly green, with a few bright flowers here and there. Perhaps his next poem could be composed here; it wasn’t quite Nature, but it might be close enough to inspire him, and it was certainly more convenient than taking the railway to the countryside.

Lost in these thoughts, he nearly collided with a man who was turning onto the path in front of him. “Pardon me,” William mumbled, keeping his head down in case the man might recognize him in the ridiculous coat. But the man hopped nimbly to the fore, blocking his way.

“Where are you going in such a hurry?” The man had an American accent.

At first William assumed it must be someone having a jest at his expense—that sod Robert Farrington was prone to just such bad humor. But when William finally looked up, he realized the man was a complete stranger—and strange was an apt term. He was hatless, with nearly-black hair long and somewhat unkempt. He wore a black patch over one eye, while the other eye sparkled with merriment. His lips were curled in an easy grin. He wasn’t much taller than William but he was broad and muscular, and he wore the clothes of a workman: plain black trousers, a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to reveal heavy forearms, a dark waistcoat. He was tieless as well, and the top few buttons of his shirt were unfastened to reveal a small patch of dark hair.

“Pardon me,” William repeated, inexplicably feeling himself blush. “You’re in my way.”

The man’s smile intensified, showing a great many straight white teeth. “Well, that’s too bad, isn’t it?”

William frowned at him. “I don’t know what you’re after, but you’re being frightfully rude. I’ve an errand to run—”

“Yeah, I can tell, with your nice basket and all.” The man waggled his eyebrows and, to William’s horror, actually leered at him. He didn’t move out of the way, either.

“See here, you impudent—”

William was silenced as the man set a large hand on his shoulder. The hand wasn’t forceful—to a bystander it would have seemed friendly, in fact—but there was something … masterful about the act, something possessive. William shuddered slightly, and not from disgust.

“C’mon,” said the stranger. “Is it really that big of an emergency? I bet you have time to take a break. Come have a drink with me. Or something.” His voice remained easy but his eye was bright and predatory.

The ridiculous thing was that William was sorely tempted by the man’s offer. He could almost imagine the taste of ale in his mouth, the words that might be said in that abominable accent if they were somewhere more private— No. He shook his head. “Get out of my way at once. I must get to my grandmother’s house.”

“You can visit granny after.”

“Now. Before she takes her midday nap. She’s all the way on Upper Wimpole Street.”

The man’s easy grin didn’t fade. “Okay. I’ll come with. Help you carry.” He flexed a bicep as if to demonstrate his strength.

“You will not! Grandmother Pratt would never—” William stopped himself, suddenly unsure why he was even bothering to explain. “Out of my way!”

With a shrug and a mocking bow, the man stepped aside, waving William forward. “Sure thing, pal. Maybe another time.” And he winked, which looked very odd with the single eye.

William scowled at him and continued on his way. He half expected the man to pursue him, but when William came to the end of the path and turned to look back, there was no sign of the American. “Good,” he mumbled to himself. “Horrid ruffian.” But he didn’t feel nearly as relieved as he should have.

He didn’t encounter anyone he knew as he continued the journey, and although sometimes he had the sensation of being watched, he saw no sign of the strange man.

His grandmother lived in a four-story building. The exterior of the ground floor was white plaster and the remainder of the building was tan brick. A low fence of black iron ran the width of it. It was an expensive house, but in no way posh or showy; it was as no-nonsense as his grandmother herself. Before his grandfather retired from medicine, the old man had his surgery on the ground floor. William had vague memories of being dragged through the place when he was very young, the strange smells and devices nearly terrifying him out of his wits. Even though that had been over two decades earlier and William was now a grown man, even though his grandfather was long since in the grave and few traces remained of the surgery, William had to take a deep breath and straighten his shoulders before he knocked.

He waited impatiently, but the door remained closed. So he knocked again, but still there was no response. Frowning, he tried the knob—and the door opened easily. He would have to report to his mother that his grandmother’s maid had become completely derelict in her duties. Or perhaps some ill had befallen the maid—she was nearly as elderly as his grandmother.

“Mrs. Hales?” William called when he was in the entry hall. “Grandmother?” But there was no response. He frowned at the closed door that led to the former surgery—now simply two bare rooms, devoid of furnishings of any kind, the old wallpaper faded and stained—and peered into the small parlor on the other side of the vestibule. Nobody was there, and no sounds came from the kitchen beyond.

Still frowning, now with worry, William climbed the stairs. His grandmother’s bedroom was on the next floor. When he was younger, she used to meet him and his mother in the parlor, but she had been largely bedridden for some time now. He hated the smell of her room: powder and medicine and urine and age. But he steeled himself nonetheless and rapped on her door. “Grandmother?” he called again.

Sounds came from within. Hurried sounds, he thought, and there was something furtive about them. William paused a moment and then reached for the door.

“Hey.”

William nearly jumped out of his skin. He leapt backwards, dropping the basket and nearly falling in the process, because the door next to his grandmother’s had been flung open and the man from Russell Square was standing there, smiling.

“Y-You!” William croaked.

“Man, you’re slow. Did you take the scenic route?”

“How … how …” William sputtered hopelessly, finding himself unable to form a full sentence.

The man took a slow step toward him. A prowl, really. William stumbled back again, this time bumping into the wall.

“I beat you here,” said the stranger. “Upper Walpole’s not a very long street. I just asked someone where old lady Pratt lived.”

“I demand to know why you’re here! What is it you want?”

Another step closer, and then another and another, so that they were nearly face-to-face. The man reached up and stroked William’s hair. “Thought that was pretty obvious. I want you.”

“You—!” William couldn’t even breathe, let alone speak. He gaped like a fish instead—until the man leaned forward and kissed him.

The only kisses William had ever received had been maternal pecks on his cheek. Nothing … sensuous. He had imagined the act, of course. He’d even attempted to write about it—something about lips transcendent and angels’ caresses, he recalled. But his attempts at poetry had failed because he’d never experienced a true kiss, and now he realized that his imagination paled before the reality. A real kiss made his heart race so fast he thought he might expire, caused a tingle in him that ran from his face straight to his groin, made his mind whirl dizzily.

When the stranger pulled away, William nearly grabbed at him to keep him close.

“That was really nice,” the man said.

“This … this is an outrage,” William said. But he didn’t sound outraged, not even to himself. His voice was soft.

The man smiled and reached up again, this time to run his calloused fingertips along William’s cheekbone. What big hands he had! William shivered at his touch.

“What do they call you?” the American asked in a hoarse whisper.

“W-William.”

“Will. That’s nice too. Will he or won’t he? Oh, I bet he will.” His voice was teasing and so was his smile, but his palm was warm against William’s jaw. “I’m Xander.”

“You can’t … I can’t—”

“Sure you can. It’s easy. Like this.” And Xander leaned in again, stealing a kiss that was even longer and more toe-curling than the first. Then he moved back and took William’s hand in his, tugging firmly. “Come on.”

William was dimly aware that he should be struggling. He should be raising a ruckus and finding out what had happened to his grandmother. But he meekly permitted himself to be pulled down the hall, past the open door from which Xander had appeared, and into the room beyond.

The last time William had entered this room he had been a boy of five or six, escaping his parents’ watchful eyes to explore his grandparents’ house. He’d discovered a bed and chest of drawers here, which hadn’t interested him at all, but there had also been a bookcase crammed with books. Most of them had difficult words and no pictures, but after pulling several of them out he’d discovered some that were clearly meant for children, with easy rhymes and colorful prints. Not caring about the dust, he’d sat on a rug and begun to leaf through one with beautiful illustrations. Until his father came marching in, furious at William’s disobedience. William had received a spanking when they got home, his father’s hard hand assuring a bruised bottom for days.

The bookshelf was still there. But Xander dragged him to the bed, and as William stood there helplessly, Xander tugged the dirty linens off until only a bare mattress remained.

“We can’t …” William tried again, without much conviction. His knees felt weak.

How did Xander manage to have such big, straight teeth? “We can. I’ll show you.” He grasped William’s red coat, pushing it down until it slid off his arms and onto the floor. Then he began to unbutton William’s waistcoat.

With the last of his self-control, William grabbed Xander’s wrists. “Stop! I don’t—”

“Oh, but I do. Tell you what. I’ll start.” Xander slithered back, out of William’s grasp. As William watched, open-mouthed, Xander undressed. First his waistcoat and shirt and undershirt, revealing a broad chest rippling with muscle and partly covered in curly black hairs. Then he kicked off his boots. Their thuds against the floor made William jump a bit. Finally, with the biggest smile yet, Xander unfastened his trousers and let them drop to his feet. He wore no underclothes.

“Oh!” William exclaimed involuntarily. Xander’s … organ … was fully erect, and very, very big.

“Don’t worry, baby. My bark is worse than my bite.” Xander bent to remove his socks, then stepped closer again. William was helpless to resist as those rough paws tugged at his clothing. Soon, William was as bare as the other man. And, he noticed with some surprise, just as erect.

Xander licked his lips. “Tasty. I could eat you right up.”

William had read about opium dreams and now he wondered if he’d somehow fallen into one. But Xander’s hands felt very real against his torso and arms and flanks, petting and stroking, and when Xander pushed him back onto the bed, the mattress felt realistically scratchy. And when Xander landed atop him, skin against skin, that felt more real than anything William had experienced in his sheltered, limited life.

Xander began to kiss him, lips soft yet insistent against William’s neck, against his collarbones. Tongue and teeth worrying at his nipples, nipping just enough to sting, and William realized that he was moaning and that his hands had found their way to Xander’s buttocks, which were as strong as the rest of him.

This isn’t me, he protested silently. I’m not this wanton … catamite. But his body was responding as if it were made for this, and Xander's weight and caresses felt so familiar, so right, so good.

Xander’s mouth moved down William’s body, lavishing attention on his sternum and then his belly, licking at his pelvic bones. Then Xander was nuzzling at William’s groin, his nose buried in the curls. Only when Xander tongued at William’s most private bits did William realize that he had spread his legs wide, bent his knees, and tilted his hips, giving Xander freer access. “Oh, God!” William cried when that agile tongue actually entered his body.

Xander chuckled darkly against him.

“Please, please, please …” William chanted breathlessly. He didn’t even know what he was begging for. For Xander to stop? No, definitely not that! For him to continue, then, and for his wandering fingers to stop their teasing and finally touch William’s cock, which was throbbing with need. For the intrusion in his body to be harder, faster, more. For all of Xander in him, on him, over him. For permission to squeeze, to taste. For being opened and completed.

When Xander suddenly moved off the bed, William nearly sobbed. But Xander was back in a flash, his vulpine smile triumphant, and he had a small glass vial between his fingers. William watched as Xander removed the stopper and upended the vial between William’s legs. The oil within was cool and smelled like a pine forest. Xander softly ran a single fingertip down William’s inner right thigh. He stroked ever so gently at the sensitive skin behind William’s bollocks. And then his finger was inside William, just as his tongue had been, but his finger was longer, harder, more there.

“Xander,” William moaned.

“Just a sec, baby. I want you nice and ready for me.”

“I am! I am ready,” William protested, because he was suddenly certain that this was something he had been waiting for, yearning for, his entire life.

Xander laughed again, deep and raspy. William watched with wide eyes as the other man stroked his own cock, making it glisten with moisture and oil. A moment later the fat tip of that cock was pressed against William and, just when William meant to protest that he couldn’t possibly accommodate that thing inside his body, it was in him, the length of it sliding slowly deeper.

It hurt, and the feeling of being stretched and filled was entirely alien. William cried out and might have pushed Xander away, except just then Xander’s hand finally wrapped around William’s neglected cock. Xander’s thumb traced the wet slit, pushing in just a bit, and William no longer cared about the pain. In fact, he welcomed it, like spices in a meal, and he once again grasped Xander’s buttocks, urging him in deeper.

“Christ, that’s good,” Xander groaned. His single eye was focused on William’s face and William again had an almost deja-vu experience, as if he and Xander had done this countless times before.

The erotica that William had furtively glimpsed over the years had given no hint of how … earthy sex would be, with the wet sounds of flesh in flesh and the breathy gasps and grunts, with Xander’s sweat dripping onto him and his own sweat sliding off his brow. With the musty odors of mold and old dust and the musky scent of two men. With the taste of his own blood in his mouth because he’d bitten his lip. It wasn’t a spiritual act or a mystical one, as some of the poems implied, and it wasn’t the quick little slap and tickle he’d seen in etchings. But it also wasn’t the crude and vulgar act that moralists would have had him believe. Sex was carnal and primitive, it was simple and true. Every nerve in his body sang with the unsophisticated joy of it, and the stranger pounding into him was more real than any person he’d previously met.

Xander moved faster, changing the angle of his thrusts, and William quite literally saw stars.

Then Xander collapsed onto him, nearly bending him in half, and bit William’s shoulder very hard. William gasped voicelessly. Xander released his jaws and reared up again, howling loudly enough to shake the window glass. And William came undone, climaxing in wave after wave of pleasure, adding his own cries to the din.

The minutes afterward were soft and somewhat hazy. Xander pulled out of William with a squelching sound that made William blush. Xander rolled off him. William straightened his legs, feeling suddenly empty and bereft. But then Xander was wrapping an arm around William’s middle and licking at the wound on his shoulder—which stung—and the continued contact was an unexpected gift.

It had begun to rain outside and the drops pattered noisily against the window. Bother! William had forgotten an umbrella. He was going to have to find one before he went home. If he went home.

He turned his head so that his face was inches away from Xander’s. The eyepatch had gone slightly askew during their lovemaking, but Xander didn’t seem to care. “What did you do with my grandmother? And Mrs. Hales?” asked Spike.

Xander shrugged slightly. “Nothing worse than you’ll do to hundreds of people—thousands, maybe—someday. Or actually, what you’ve already done.”

William didn’t know what to make of that statement, so he let it be. He’d find out the truth soon enough, when the real world came back. For now he could steal a few more minutes of false peace. But he couldn’t help asking, “And what will you do to me now?”

That made Xander grin. “Nothing you won’t beg me for.”

“Who are you?”

Xander’s smile grew larger and toothier and he tapped the tip of William’s nose with one fingertip. “Haven’t you guessed already, baby? I’m the Big Bad Wolf.”