Happily Ever After

by
Whichclothes

Part Three

Spike shifted slightly as the dream slipped away. He had hoped to hold on to it a bit longer—it was strange but pleasant. He didn’t often dream of his human days, and certainly not with such vivid sexual content. He snorted softly to himself: in reality, William would have had apoplexy at the mere thought of being buggered by a strange and mysterious bloke. Not that the nancy hadn’t secretly wondered what sodomy would be like, hadn’t furtively admired handsome men. But he’d never admitted that to himself until after he was turned.

But now the dream was truly gone. Spike shifted again, making his chains rattle softly, making the pains in his back and arse twinge anew. At least dream-William had got his end away. That was considerably more than Spike was going to manage anytime soon. He looked down at the snug metal cage that was fastened over his tackle and scowled. Couldn’t even get hard in the bloody thing.

Spike didn’t know what quirk of his unconscious had led him to dream about shagging a one-eyed American human. No, not quite human. There had been something … more about him. Something beastly. In a very nice way. Xander, he’d been called. From where had Spike’s brain dredged that odd name? But even now, with the dream fading, Spike felt an odd longing, as if he had lost something valuable. Perhaps Xander was meant to symbolize something Spike had lost. His humanity? His love? His freedom? He’d lost so much it was hard to know.

He moved again, just a bit, and leaned his head back against the brick wall. Everything around him smelled of his blood, and he was filthy and hungry and so sodding tired. Perhaps he could fall back asleep. Perhaps he’d dream of that Xander again.

But as if on cue a door slammed open and heavy footsteps came stomping down the stairs. Spike didn’t have to open his eyes to sense the large figure looming over him, and he had already prepared himself for the kick aimed at his knee.

“Get up, ye lazy rubbish.”

Slowly, Spike complied. He didn’t actually look at Angelus until he had to, though, and when he did he saw the expression he'd anticipated: malice and annoyance and brutish amusement. When Angelus reached toward him, Spike flinched, and then Angelus smirked as he simply unlocked the chain that fastened Spike’s collar to the wall.

“Time to earn yer keep,” Angelus said.

Spike nodded wearily and bent to retrieve his trousers. They were nothing but rags now, but that didn’t especially matter because he couldn’t slip them past his ankle hobbles anyway. He began to tie the fabric about his waist as a sort of loincloth, but Angelus snatched it from him and tossed it away.

“Oi!”

“Did I give ye permission to wear clothes, boy?”

“No. But—”

Angelus backhanded him hard enough to knock him off his feet. The pain in his back bloomed anew. But he scrambled awkwardly up before Angelus could kick him again. Angelus clapped a meaty hand against Spike’s back, making him yelp. “Ye’ve still some skin remainin’ on yer back, boy. Get upstairs before I whip that off as well.”

Spike wanted nothing more than to sink his fangs into that smug face. But Angelus had been stronger to begin with, and now Spike was underfed and weak. An attack would only leave him with broken bones and bloody welts. So, chains rattling, he shuffled past Angelus and up the stairs.

The demon upstairs was prettier than Angel but twice as dangerous. Fortunately, she seemed distracted as Spike entered the room: she simply curled her lip at him in disgust and turned to Angelus. “It’s well past sunset,” she said in her little-girl voice. “We should be off hunting already.”

Spike’s stomach clenched at the words. When had they last allowed him to feed? But Angelus only grunted at Darla and then pushed Spike forward. “Go and clean up the mess, boy.”

The mess in question was the leftovers from the previous night: a pair of corpses piled unceremoniously in the corner. One of them was a young priest, his young face transfixed in horror and his brown eyes staring sightlessly at the ceiling. The other was a nun. She was young as well, her black skirts hiked up to her waist, and she smelled of Angelus. Spike hoisted her body into his arms first, snuffling at the wound in her neck for any sign of blood. But none remained except a dried little crust around the holes. Spike carried the body out of the parlor, through the dining room and kitchen, and out into the back garden. There he left it, returning a few moments later with the dead priest. Darla had a pair of minions who would take the cadavers and dump them somewhere before they began to smell; Spike himself hadn’t been permitted off the property by himself since Dru dusted.

Bitter tears threatened to spill as he made his way slowly back to the parlor. Drusilla, his beautiful dark princess. He’d loved her so, and she’d cared for him as well, in her own daft way. As well as she was able. But his adoration of her hadn’t kept her from slipping out of their bed one afternoon and running out into the sunshine—the birds were calling her name, she’d said. Spike had watched her burn from the threshold. And although her final death wasn’t really his fault he’d blamed himself. Unfortunately, Angelus had blamed him as well. And without Dru to act as a buffer between Spike and the older vampires, Spike’s unlife had become worse than miserable. Really, that stupid dream with the one-eyed man was the best thing that had happened to him in ages. Even if he still inexplicably yearned for a bloke who wasn’t real.

Angelus cuffed the side of Spike’s head. “Fetch our coats.”

The coats were upstairs. Spike had to walk past the bedroom he used to share with Dru, the one with the huge comfortable bed and the adjoining bathroom with the copper bathtub. The minions used to fill it with hot water for him and Dru would bathe him, nattering happily about mermen and the like, as often as not ending up in the bath with him.

When he returned to the parlor, Angelus and Darla were arguing. Spike held back against the wall, silently cursing his cowardice but unwilling to face their ire.

“It’s a ball, Darla. Dancin’. For humans.”

“Yes, but we’ve been invited as well.” She held a cream-colored card in one delicate hand.

“We’re not human.”

“I know, idiot boy. But they think we are. They think we’re minor nobility in fact, important enough to be invited to a royal ball.”

Angelus huffed. “I don’t like the way nobility taste. Too fatty.”

“We’re not going to eat them, stupid! We’re going to wear fancy clothing and mix among them, dancing and laughing and drinking their wine.” Her eyes sparkled at the notion. Spike wasn’t meant to know that she had once been a whore, but Dru had divulged that secret not long after she turned him. Even now that she was a demon, a former whore might very well relish a night of acceptance by the upper crust.

Angelus might or might not have understood this, but he certainly recognized when his sire had her mind set. He scowled in Spike’s direction, silently promising to take out his frustration on Spike’s hide later, and then took Darla’s hand. “If it makes ye happy, darlin’, we’ll go.”

Darla smiled at him. Then she marched over and grabbed her coat from Spike’s hands. Angelus did the same, and for a brief moment Spike hoped they would just leave, giving him the chance to escape. But then Angelus slapped Spike’s arse and pushed him down onto the rug. Soon Spike was hogtied and gagged and abandoned.

***

“Do you think I should wear this dress, dear, or the blue one?”

Angelus raised his head wearily. “Ye look fetchin’ in both.”

“I know that. But which is better?”

“Uh … this one.”

Darla frowned at him, looked down at herself, and said, “I’m gonna change.” Ignoring Angelus’s aggrieved sigh, she flounced out of the room.

Spike was on all fours, bare arse in the air, attempting to scrub blood from the Persian carpet. Sometimes Angelus lifted a lazy leg and pressed the pointed toe of his shoe against Spike’s buttocks, always right where the bruising was worst. “Put yer elbows into it, boy.”

Spike suppressed a growl and kept on scrubbing. The scent of the blood made him slightly dizzy. He was hungry again, of course. Two nights earlier Angelus had dragged in a maid—a virgin girl perhaps 15 years old—and he’d fucked Spike while forcing Spike to lap at the crying girl’s cunt. The wanker had taken his time about coming, too, and after he did he tore into the girl’s throat. He’d left Spike only a few swallows of her blood, and then made Spike suck him off to thank him for it.

Now, Angelus rested his heels on Spike’s arse and turned the pages of his book. But he jumped to his feet and set the book down when Darla entered the room, resplendent in peacock blue, her hair done up with ringlets, and a shimmering necklace about her pale throat. “Ye look ravishin’,” Angelus said. “All the women will be green with envy.”

“Of course they will. Now take care of that,” she waved a hand in Spike’s direction, “and let’s go.”

Spike was gagged again, but this time Angelus left him propped in a corner, wrists chained firmly to his ankles. At least the fire was still roaring in the fireplace; Spike would be warmer beside it than in the cellar.

With nothing left to do, he dozed, again half-hoping for good dreams. But he was awakened suddenly by a strange sound, a sort of bell-like tinkling. And then he yelped into his gag as a woman popped into existence in front of him.

She was not long out of her teens and she had bright ginger hair. Her clothing was very odd: a pair of blue trousers and a fuzzy pink jumper. She gave him a sad smile. “Oh, poor William!”

“Spike,” he tried to say, but couldn’t.

She walked over to him and patted his head before pointing a stick at him. At first he reckoned she meant to stake him, but she didn’t actually touch him with the stick; she simply waved it about, muttering something in horrible Latin. It was a wand, he realized as the gag simply disappeared. He wasn’t sure if he ought to be relieved. But he licked his cracked lips and squinted at her. “What are you then?”

“I’m your fairy godmother.”

He blinked. “Fairy—I’m a bloody demon. I don’t have a fairy godmother.”

“Yeah, I know. I thought the assignment was kind of weird too. But the boss said you needed help and, well, you kinda do. Angelus is being a great big poop-head.”

“He’s a vicious, serial-killing, torture-loving son of a bitch, love.”

“Right. A poop-head who’s being really mean to you.”

Spike’s head was starting to hurt. “What do you want from me?” he asked wearily.

But she shook her head. “Nothing. You get to ask me for something. That’s the rule. You’re in trouble and so you get one bona fide good fairy wish. What do you wish for?”

He closed his eyes. “Wish I weren’t going as mad as Dru.”

She bonked him on the head with her wand. “A real wish. I can do something gory to Angelus if you want. Flaying is kind of a specialty of mine.”

He opened his eyes and gave her a careful look. She didn’t seem to be taking the piss. “Erm … no. Cheers. Couldn’t you just poof these chains away?” He wiggled his feet and hands a little.

“Think big, William.”

“Spike.”

“Oh. Sorry. Think big, Spike. What’s your heart’s desire?”

He’d never really asked himself that before. Freedom would be lovely, but was that truly what he most yearned for? He’d been free when he was alive and he wasn’t happy then. He’d been lonely and desperate for love. “Bring Dru back,” he said.

“I can’t,” she said sadly. “Resurrection of the dead is one of our no-nos, along with the old wishing for more wishes scam. I can raise zombies, but ew, and anyway not when all that’s left is ashes.”

He shut his eyes again and slumped over his knees. “Never mind then. Just … leave me be. Go flit somewhere else.”

She crouched down and cupped his chin with her warm hand, raising his head. She smelled brilliant and he considered biting her, but she could probably poof out of his range and besides, eating a fairy would probably be a mistake. “Come on,” she said softly. “There must be something.”

“Xander,” he found himself saying. “I wish I could see Xander again.”

It was her turn to look surprised. “You want to see Xander? The Xander with the, um …” She covered her left eye with her hand.

His dead heart leapt. She knew him! He was real! “Yeah.”

“Oh! Well, you should’ve said so. That’s easy!”

And while he was still trying to process that, she stood back, waved her wand, and muttered more Latin. The manacles disappeared. Even the heavy metal collar on his neck—the collar that had weighed him down for months and had rubbed his skin raw—was gone. The sodding cock cage was gone as well. He rose to his feet a bit unsteadily, but before he could take a step he was wearing clothing. Strange clothing, yet oddly comfortable: a pair of tight black trousers in an unfamiliar heavy fabric, a black buttonless shirt of very soft cotton, and a long leather coat, also black. His feet were shod in heavy boots.

The fairy godmother smiled and nodded with approval. “Okay, the wardrobe is done. Now we need transportation.”

“Transportation?”

“You can’t arrive at a royal ball on foot, Spike.”

He decided it was better just to play along instead of interrogating her. At least he wasn’t bored. So he followed her out of the parlor and through the kitchen, where she grabbed an empty bottle of whiskey off the table. In the back garden, she frowned thoughtfully at the corpse that had been Angelus and Darla’s dinner the previous night: another priest by the look of him. That tosser Angelus had no imagination.

The fairy set the bottle on the ground near the body. There was more spell-casting and wand-waving, and with a tremendous bang the bottle was transformed into an elegant carriage. As Spike stood and gaped, the priest rose to his feet—none too gracefully—and scrambled on board the carriage. With another wave of the wand his somber black suit and white collar were gone, replaced by an ornate coachman’s kit.

“What …” said Spike.

The fairy grinned. “Told you I can do zombies. Now, let’s see. Horses …” She looked about the garden, but of course no equines appeared. She poked her wand at some spiderwebs that were tucked under the eaves. Two large black spiders descended to the grass and, as Spike watched, changed into fine—if slightly leggy—black steeds, already harnessed in place.

Spike was beginning to enjoy himself. He looked at the girl expectantly. “One more thing,” she said. She pointed the wand at him and said a few words.

An explosion occurred under his skin and he toppled over. She leaned down and dragged him upright—she was loads stronger than she looked. “What … what …” he stuttered again, his hand on his chest, over his heart. His beating heart.

“I can make a vamp humanish. You’ll fit in better at the ball that way. But you’re only alive for a few hours. When the sun rises, you’ll be back with the fangs and blood-swigging. And you have to come right back here, to this house, or else, well, poof!” She waved her arms wildly, which made him jump. “Even a fairy’s magics have limits.”

She waved at the carriage. “Climb on up.” She swatted his bottom with the wand and he jumped again. He didn’t want her transforming his arse! But she simply seemed to want to hurry him along, because then she gestured at the carriage again. “Up you go.”

“But … how will going to a bloody dance allow me to see Xander?”

“Because he’s there, of course! So go and have a good time. But remember to be home before sunrise, ’cause I can’t uncrisp a roasted vampire.”

He still wasn’t convinced that he hadn’t gone insane. But he climbed onto the former bottle and sat on a plush seat. The carriage began to move, rattling down the garden, past the mews and out into the street. Darla had chosen a house in a posh neighborhood and the palace wasn’t far away. It wasn’t the finest palace Spike had seen—they were in a mediocre kingdom at best—but it was fine enough, with columns of stone and fine statuary adorning the broad front stairs. Lights sparkled merrily.

The carriage drew to a halt and servants immediately darted forward to greet it. Just as it occurred to Spike to be worried over his lack of an invite, a card materialized in his hand. He peered at it quickly, smiled, and handed it to one of the servants. The servant bowed and ushered him to the stairs. Spike could hear the music already, and the sounds of many voices talking at once.

He was met at the front doors by another servant, who bowed and then led him up a grand stairway, down a short hall, and to another set of doors. Not surprisingly, Spike found himself in a huge ballroom. The floor was polished marble and where the ceiling wasn’t gilded it was painted with elaborate frescoes. Huge oil paintings adorned the walls and statues were tucked into niches. The room’s columns had been wrapped with vines and flowers. An orchestra was playing at one end of the room; a great many people were dancing there. At the other end, vast tables had been piled with wines and foods.

It was all a bit overwhelming.

Nobody paid Spike much attention, other than throwing a few scornful glances in his direction. There was no sign of Xander, nor of Angelus and Darla. Spike was suddenly very hungry, so he grabbed a piece of cake from one of the tables, scowling at the servant who wanted him to use a plate and fork. Spike clomped across the room to a door ajar. As he’d hoped, the door led to a long balcony that overlooked the palace’s elaborate gardens. He leaned on the stone railing, looking down at a burbling fountain, licking the cake crumbs from his fingers.

“You have the right idea,” said a familiar voice.

Spike spun around.

It was Xander, of course, the man of his dreams made flesh and blood. Xander’s hair was still shaggy and his eye still covered, but instead of rough workman’s kit he wore a fine suit that flattered his muscular frame and brought out the little glints of gold in his eye. Ribbons and medals were affixed to his chest. He was grinning. “Man, I hate these things. The music sucks and my shirt collar’s itchy. I’d rather just sit down and have a couple pints of ale.”

“Uh,” was Spike’s intelligent response.

Fortunately, Xander didn’t seem put off. If anything, his smile broadened. “Have we met before? ’Cause I can’t quite place you—and you’re pretty distinctive, pal—but I feel like I know you. Oh. I’m Xander, obviously. Well, Prince Alexander, but that’s kinda formal for my taste.”

Spike shook his head. He knew this man, and not just from his dreams. He was certain of it. But he couldn’t imagine how. It wasn’t as if he often met royalty. “ ’M Spike,” he finally said. “Dunno if we’ve met. Perhaps.”

“Well, I’m glad we’ve met now, anyway.” Xander came a few steps closer and stood next to him. Very close but not quite touching. They both leaned forward on the railing, stealing glances at one another. “Maybe you’ve been to some of the other palace shindigs?” Xander asked.

“No.”

“Yeah. You don’t really look the shindig type. Which is a compliment, by the way. Me, I get stuck going to them all the time. The parents want me to hook up with an eligible maiden. Which is so not gonna happen. Not my style.”

Spike turned and looked at him straight on. “What is your style then?”

Xander turned too, closed the short distance between them, and took Spike’s coat lapels in his hands. “You,” he said, and then he leaned in for a kiss.

It was every bit as nice as the dream kisses had been. Nicer, perhaps: Xander tasted of wine and chocolate. In fact, the kiss was nice enough that Spike stopped worrying about his daft swooning over a one-eyed human bloke, and he simply let himself swoon.

It was Xander who broke the kiss, breathless and flushed. “Follow me,” he said. Wordlessly, Spike did. They re-entered the ballroom, winding their way through clots of people who stood and stared. A few of them tried to get Xander’s attention, but he simply smiled and nodded then continued on his way. Spike caught sight of Angelus and Darla. They both looked flabbergasted and furious, but at that moment Spike didn’t care.

Xander and Spike left the ballroom and climbed a set of stairs—more modest than those of the entrance hall—and then more yet, finally walking down a long hallway that was empty except for a few moth-eaten tapestries. Xander pulled a door open and tugged Spike inside.

They weren’t in a bedchamber, as Spike had half-expected. Instead, they were in a small library that was crammed with shelves. Everything was very dusty. The gaslights flickered softly, not doing a very good job of illuminating the room. But that was fine, because Xander was already pressed up against Spike, his arms wrapped tightly about Spike’s middle. “Nobody ever comes in here,” Xander whispered in his ear.

Spike considered making a bad joke about coming. Luckily, Xander stopped him with another kiss.

The kiss soon evolved into groping, and the groping became stripping, until they were both naked—Spike’s black clothing scattered amongst Xander’s posh suit. They spent some time stroking bare skin and rubbing up against one another. Xander interrupted another thorough snogging to laugh softly. “I don’t normally do this. Or, like, never. Hook up with strangers, I mean. It’s only … you don’t feel like a stranger. It’s like I’ve known you for years.”

“I know,” said Spike. “As if we’ve done this before, yeah? I know where to touch you, just how to make you beg or scream. How could I know that?”

“I have no idea. But, um, I’m willing for you to demonstrate.”

Spike did. They didn’t have any slick and neither of them was willing to wait for Xander to fetch some. So they ended up on the floor, Xander on his back and Spike astride him, each of them with the other’s cock in his mouth. Spike could nearly have climaxed just from the taste of the boy’s precome, from the scent of him as Spike pressed his nose into crisp hairs. When Xander slid a spit-lubed finger into Spike’s sphincter, Spike reciprocated, and within minutes they were both coming. Spike shouted. Xander swore.

Spike slowly rolled off and twisted himself around so they could kiss. He liked tasting himself on Xander’s tongue. But they had knocked a few books off the shelves as they undressed, and Xander groaned a little and pulled a largish volume out from under his back. “So not comfortable,” he complained, tossing it aside.

They put their clothes on reluctantly, much more slowly than they’d taken them off. They stopped often to kiss. Spike got frustrated with the complicated laces on his boots. “Bugger this,” he grumbled and left them untied.

They walked hand in hand back to the ballroom, and then Xander astounded Spike by tugging him in front of the orchestra for a waltz. He allowed Spike to lead. After that there was a gavotte and a polonaise, and although William had always felt like an idiot when he was forced to dance, Spike was having a brilliant time and Xander seemed to be as well. They ignored the gaping guests and kicked off their boots when their feet got sore and kept right on dancing. Spike wished he could simply gather Xander in his arms and press up close, but who danced like that? This was good enough, at any rate. He was with his boy.

But time ticked by, as it always does; and as Spike spun in the midst of another waltz he caught a glimpse of the sky outside the window. It might have been his imagination, but it looked as if the black was lightening just a bit. Most of the guests had gone long before and the musicians were knackered. He did the exact opposite of his desire: he pulled away from Xander.

“What’s the matter?” Xander asked. “Need a breather? Maybe some snacks?”

Spike took a step backwards. “No. No, I … I have to go.”

“Go? No! The night is young. Okay, the night is actually really old, but you can still stay. Stay here, Spike. Please.” Xander held out his hands and looked as if he might cry.

“Can’t,” Spike replied, and he turned and ran. His bare feet slapped across the marble floor, across fine rugs on the stairs and in the hallway. Then he was outside and the cobblestones were slippery, but he picked up more speed. He heard Xander calling his name, far behind him, but he kept on going. The water in his eyes was just irritation from the wind.

His heart stopped beating as he turned the corner near the house Darla had chosen, and he nearly fell. He felt the exposed bits of his skin begin to char. He ran even faster and lurched in through the front door just as his hair was about to burst into flames.

Angelus was waiting for him. Perhaps Darla had gone to sleep already, or perhaps she’d picked up a pretty boy at the ball and taken him to her bed. She liked to play with her food that way. In any case, Angelus was alone and he was not happy. While Spike was still trying to stop the smoldering, Angelus grabbed him and began to tear the clothing from Spike’s body. The larger vampire let loose a steady string of curses, and Spike’s struggles were useless. As soon as Spike was naked, Angelus grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and propelled him down the stairs and into the cellar. Spike almost got free as Angelus was attempting to chain him up, but in the end Angelus was stronger. Spike was caught and hung from the wall by his wrists, his legs spread wide and manacled in place. His nose was pressed to the rough bricks.

Spike wasn’t at all surprised when Angelus rammed his cock into Spike’s unprepared hole. “Sneakin’ dirty little bugger,” Angelus snarled into Spike’s ear. “Thought ye could get away with somethin’, did ye? Thought ye were smarter than me.”

“I am,” Spike said, because Angelus was already nearly as furious as he could get. Maybe in his rage the wanker would just dust him and be done with it.

But Angelus only growled and pounded Spike’s tender passage. At some point he must have vamped out, because his fangs ripped into the side of Spike’s neck and Spike felt his remaining strength fading away.

Angelus pulled his cock and fangs away before Spike lost consciousness. He stuffed some filthy rags in Spike’s mouth and tied them in place. “I’ll be punishin’ ye properly tonight,” Angelus snapped. He stomped away, leaving Spike hanging helplessly in the dark.

It was a very long day. Spike’s shoulders ached and then screamed with pain, his abused arse and neck throbbed, and he was so bloody hungry. He tried to sleep and couldn’t manage it. He kept thinking about Xander. Prince Alexander! How had he appeared in Spike’s dreams and why were they so drawn to one another? Why, even now, did Spike feel as if he would be safe and happy if Xander would simply appear and take Spike in his arms? Spike knew he was missing something, some important clue, some vital piece of the puzzle, but he couldn’t suss it out.

Well, it didn’t matter, he told himself philosophically. Angelus and possibly Darla would be after him shortly, and if they didn’t dust him they would doubtless do something that would ensure he’d never escape again. Angelus had threatened to do so loads of times. He’d run his big hands over Spike’s skin and described in detail how he would cut off Spike’s cock and balls, how he’d pop out his eyes with a spoon and tear out his tongue and fangs. How he’d pull off Spike’s limbs the way a child might pull the legs off a fly, until there was nothing left of Spike but a mutilated mess. Spike fervently hoped that he’d lose his sanity very quickly; it seemed to be rather tenuously attached as it was.

And then he heard voices.

Angelus had been angry or drunk enough that he left the cellar door open, so Spike could hear quite clearly as the conversation entered the parlor.

“—what an honor it is to have you in our home.” That was Darla in her smoothest, most unctuous tones.

“We won’t keep you for long, madam.” Spike jerked and twisted on his chains, because that voice was unmistakably his Xander. Spike tried to shout to him, but nothing came through the gag in his mouth but a muffled groan. Christ, what if Xander got himself killed?

Xander himself sounded oblivious to the danger. “I was hoping you could help me with something.”

“Of course!” Darla exclaimed. “We’d be delighted. We had a wonderful time last night.”

“And that’s kinda what I needed help with. You, um, probably noticed this guy … I was dancing with him. Weird clothes, killer cheekbones …”

“Yes.” Darla sounded considerably less enthusiastic about this topic. “I suppose we did see him.”

“Great! ’Cause now I can’t find him, and I really want to. He, um, left his shoes. See?”

“We don’t know him,” Angelus growled.

“Are you sure? ’Cause my people said they thought he ran this way, and I’ve tried most of the other houses. Maybe he’s a neighbor? Look, he’s not in trouble or anything. I just want to see him. And give him back his boots.”

“I told ye. We don’t know him.” It sounded as if Angelus was getting impatient, which was never good.

“Hey! That’s the prince you’re talking to. Be polite.” That was a woman’s voice, one that Spike didn’t recognize. Whoever she was, she sounded angry.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness.” Darla again. “I’m afraid Liam woke up in a terrible mood today. Family troubles.”

“I know how that goes. Even royal families can be a royal pain in the ass sometimes. I’ll leave you to it, then. Just, if you see this guy, please tell him I’m looking for him. He calls himself Spike, by the way.”

“Stupid feckin’ name,” Angelus mumbled, but loud enough even for Spike to hear.

Apparently Xander’s female companion heard as well. “I told you once already, jerkface. Be respectful.”

“I’ll show ye respect, all right!”

Someone shrieked and someone else cried out. Footsteps pounded as some sort of scuffle ensued, complete with muffled shouts. Spike had a sudden vivid mental image of Xander spread out on Darla’s precious rug, his throat ripped wide open, his pretty brown eye sightless.

“NO!” Spike yelled into the gag. And perhaps his fairy godmother was still hiding somewhere, because when Spike gave a desperate yank with his arms, the chains gave and he fell backwards onto the dirt floor, twisting his joints painfully. He didn’t pause, though; he simply jerked on the cuffs at his ankles and they gave too. Moving awkwardly and trying to unfasten the gag as he went, Spike ran up the stairs.

What he saw in the parlor froze him in his tracks. There was no sign of Darla at all, save for a suspicious-looking pile of dust in the middle of the room. Angelus was flat on his back, his demon face ugly with fury. A small young woman with her hair in a blonde queue was kneeling on Angelus’s stomach, the point of a sharp stake digging into his chest.

Xander seemed unharmed and not even especially ruffled, as if he encountered vampires all the time. But when he caught sight of Spike his face drained of color. “Spike!” he cried and ran across the room.

“Don’t!” the girl on Angelus’s chest screamed, stopping Xander in his tracks. “He’s one of them, Xan.”

Xander looked at Spike, wide-eyed. “You’re … you’re a vampire?”

No point in lying. “Yeah.” Spike looked down at his feet and waited to be staked.

But Xander simply walked over until he was very close. “What about … what about last night? You could have eaten me and you didn’t. Um, not in a fatal sort of way, anyway.”

“Was a spell. Made me a man for a few hours.” Spike looked up at Xander’s face. “But I wouldn’t have harmed you anyhow. I … I know it sounds mad. But I love you.”

Xander’s face relaxed into a small smile. He gently grasped Spike’s biceps. “Yeah, it’s crazy. But I love you too.”

“Hey, guys,” said the girl. “Smooshiness later. Big, pissed-off vamp right now.”

Xander glanced at the girl. “That’s Buffy. She’s my chief of security.”

“She appears very good at it,” Spike responded, a trifle shakily.

Xander leaned in close to whisper, “She’s a vampire slayer.”

“Oh.”

Then Xander’s hands were smoothing at Spike’s skin, his fingertips brushing over the still-gaping wound at Spike’s throat, then moving down to touch the irons that were still locked around Spike’s wrists. “Did he do this to you, Spike?”

“Yeah.”

Xander looked back over his shoulder at Buffy. “Dust him.”

“No! Wait!” Spike yelled.

“You want me to torture him a little first?” Buffy asked. She didn’t look unhappy at the prospect.

Spike had to think about that for a moment. “No, I expect not. He’s my Sire, yeah? A right bastard, but … family.”

Xander kissed Spike’s cheek. Then he turned and stood over Angelus, prodding his head slightly with one toe. “Here’s the deal. The sun just set, so you’re gonna get your wide ass out of my kingdom pronto. If I see one strand of your stupid hair again, I’m gonna let the Buffster do anything she wants to you. Or, you know, maybe Spike’ll want a little payback. Good enough for you, Spike?”

Spike managed to smirk at Angelus. “Brilliant, love.”

With a final little dig of her stake, Buffy climbed off Angelus. He rose to his feet and backed away from her, then looked at Spike, and finally at Xander and Buffy. He roared, spun around, and stomped across the parlor and out the front door.

Xander walked back to Spike and folded his arms around him. It felt lovelier than Spike had hoped for. Felt like home. “Let’s go back to the palace,” Xander said. “Get you patched up and bathed—you wouldn’t mind if I gave you a bath, would you?—and I bet we can get some servants to donate some platelets. Hell, I’ll donate some myself.”

Spike’s stomach rumbled and, against all reason, his cock began to harden.

Xander must have felt it against his hip, because he chuckled. “And clothes. Clothes would be of the good. While we’re in public, anyway.”

“But … I’m a demon, love. A monster. You can’t want me.”

“You’re all I want, Spike.”

Spike’s heart almost began to beat again. He stopped wondering why he needed this man, why he loved him. He simply did, and that was good enough. He leaned his forehead against Xander’s and sighed happily.

“Let’s go,” said Xander. “And, um, about that monster thing? Let me tell you about this little monthly problem I have.”





Part Four

It was a brilliant time to be a vampire. All of Europe was burning it seemed, with neighboring nations turned against one another. It was like hunting in a zoological park, the prey practically caged up for the killing. Spike and Drusilla ate whomever they chose without fearing detection, they slept wherever they pleased, they took whatever they wanted.

Dru was ecstatic. She swayed from place to place, drunk from a surfeit of fresh young blood, creating odd little shrines in the rubble and luring orphans away into alleys. She wore blood-spattered silks and crusted diamonds. She shagged often—dazed soldiers, weary refugees, well-fed demons. And she’d ride Spike hard, leaving bloody furrows in his skin with her fingernails, screaming out her climaxes to the stars.

Spike should have been happy as well, but he wasn’t. Something was wrong. There had been those strangely vivid dreams about that Xander bloke. But more than that, there was the conviction deep inside him that he needed something, that he was meant to be doing something aside from fucking and fighting and feeding. Problem was, he hadn’t any idea what that something was.

His uncertainty made him restless. He wandered half-destroyed cities and meandered through fields where nothing had been sown. He was especially drawn to libraries and bookshops, but whatever it was he was seeking, he didn’t find it there either.

One evening somewhere in central Europe—with the ever-shifting borders, he’d long since stopped caring what a country was called on a particular day—he and Dru fed off a pair of tubercular spinsters, and then Drusilla went tripping down the pavement. Searching for pixies, she said. Spike looked around at the remains of a village that had perhaps been a market town before the war. There was a large main square with a shattered fountain. A pub still in operation just off the square served swill that tasted more like vinegar than wine and the ales were watered, but it had a monopoly and the landlord spoke passable English. Spike had visited there the last three nights and he went again tonight. He fancied of a bit of sane company, even if it was human.

There were only two other customers that night: an old woman in the corner who scowled and made the sign of the evil eye at him, and a young man in a worn uniform. The soldier, big and broad, had an empty shirtsleeve pinned to his shoulder. He had sandy-colored hair that fell in his face.

“Glass of something,” Spike said to the landlord, sitting on a slightly wobbly chair. The landlord nodded and poured, then set the glass on the table in front of Spike. Spike pulled a pair of gold earrings from his pocket and set them next to the glass. “How much will these get me?”

The landlord picked the earrings up, squinted at them, weighed them in his palm. “Three more.”

“Lovely. Then keep on pouring, yeah?”

Spike had finished the first glass and was starting the second when the soldier stood, limped across the floor, and sat opposite him. He brought his own glass with. “English?” the man asked.

“Once upon a time.”

The man held out his remaining hand, which was his left. “Radoslav.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Spike shook it. “Spike.”

“What is an Englishman doing here, now?”

Spike shrugged. “Tourism.” Then he tilted his head a bit. “You speak the lingo well enough.”

“I was a student in Oxford, before the war. I returned to fight for my country.” Radoslav laughed humorlessly. “You see how that turned out.”

“ ’M a Cambridge man myself.”

Radoslav smiled and took a sip of his beer. “I liked England, but I love my homeland. This used to be a beautiful place. The crops were bountiful and the cattle were fat. The women, oh, the women, my friend!” He shook his head. “They are all dead now, or widows in black.”

“The war will end someday. They always do.”

“Perhaps. But what will be left when it does?”

Spike shrugged again, downed his drink, and waited for a refill. “There’s always someone to come sweep up the ashes. Always someone to rebuild—and then someone else to tear things down again. Way of the world, innit?”

“You seem … wise for your years, Spike.”

“Seen a lot, haven’t I?” He decided to change the subject. “Was walking through the woods the other night. The ones on the other side of the hill.”

“Nobody goes in those woods. Not even soldiers. Especially not at night.”

Spike smiled easily. “I did.”

Radoslav gave him a careful look, but didn’t pursue the matter. A bloke saw loads of odd things during a war, and learned when it was better not to pry. Perhaps Radoslav had even seen scarier things than a vampire.

“So I was walking through the woods,” Spike continued, “and in the center of them was this … thing. Bloody strange.”

“A blackberry bramble,” Radoslav said.

“Yeah. Biggest one I’ve ever seen, and right in the middle of the trees. Why?”

“There is a legend.”

Spike waved the landlord over and plunked a necklace on the table. “You tell the tale and I’ll buy,” he said to Radoslav.

Radoslav grinned. “Excellent. My grandmother told me this story when I was very small.”

Spike looked significantly at the soldier’s large frame. “Don’t reckon you were ever small, mate.”

“Well, smaller than I am now. My grandmother told me that once this was the center of a kingdom. My town was here, and the king and queen had a castle nearby, surrounded by woods because the king liked to hunt. And a long-ago king and queen had a baby, a beautiful son. Prince Aleksandar.”

“Aleksandar?” Spike asked. He had a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Yes, that is what she told me. And when the prince was born, the king and queen invited all the important local people—the mayor and the priests and the wealthier merchants. And they invited some of the forest folk as well. You see? We are still simple people here, and we believe in witches and fairies and other myths.”

“ ’T’s a big world, mate. Mysteries stroll by right under people’s noses and most never notice.”

Radoslav downed another glass of ale. “And some of these mysteries might even buy an old soldier a drink, perhaps. So the king and queen invited some of these … others. And the prince was given many gifts. But there was one who was not invited to the castle, a demon named Anyanka. She was beautiful but vengeful. She came to see the infant anyway, and when it was her turn she gave him a curse instead of a gift: soon after the prince grew up he would be pricked by a poisoned spindle and would die.

“Fortunately, one witch had yet to give her gift. So when Anyanka was finished, this witch stepped forward and altered the curse a little. She could not remove it entirely, but she said instead of death, Aleksandar would fall into a deep sleep that would last for centuries, until he was rescued by his true love.”

“Hard to find a true love when you’re snoring, innit?” asked Spike.

“Perhaps. The king banned all looms and spindles, and the prince’s childhood was uneventful. He grew into a fine man, kind-hearted and brave. He lost an eye in a battle, but—”

“Hold on!” Spike said in a near-squawk. “An eye?”

“Yes,” said Radoslav with a nod. “Unfortunate, but it could have been worse.” He gave a wry glance at his own missing right arm.

Spike felt slightly dizzy, and not from the bad wine. He still didn’t understand what was happening to him, but he was bloody well going to find out. With an effort, he calmed himself. “So what happened to him?”

“After the war he returned to the castle and helped his parents rule. But one day Anyanka slipped into the castle disguised as a peddler, and she found the prince. She begged him to buy her wares. Of course he reached into her basket, and there was a spindle. Poisoned. He fell immediately asleep and couldn’t be awakened. His grieving parents put him in bed, and then every man, woman, and child in the castle fell asleep as well. Even the animals, the horses and the dogs and the cats, the mice that crept in the kitchens. Over the years, a great blackberry bramble grew over the castle, covering it entirely. And when a few hardy young adventurers tried to make their way through, every one of them was pierced by the thorns and died.” As he finished his tale, Radoslav looked genuinely sorrowful, as if these were people he had known.

“Perhaps the prince was better off asleep. Never aging, never dying,” Spike said.

“Yes, but is immortality so valuable if one spends it alone?”

Spike didn’t have an answer for that.

He and Radoslav drank more. Their discussion turned to England and then to literature, and they only stopped when the old woman was long gone and Spike was out of gold. Spike walked Radoslav home—it was only a few blocks—and they paused outside the man’s half-crumbled house. “There are ways to escape this place,” Spike said. “Ways to move on.”

Radoslav smiled sadly. “Thank you. But I think this is my home. I will stay.”

Spike nodded at him and went off in search of Dru.

***

Spike tried to sleep during the day, but couldn’t. Instead, he paced the uneven floors of the small house in which they had been staying. Drusilla didn’t care; she slept like the dead. But then she woke just before sunset, and she caught at his arm before he could slip out the door. “Don’t leave me, my Spike.”

“I’ve … an errand to run tonight. ’M sure you can find a way to keep yourself busy.”

“The words swirl about you like a storm, my dark knight. Don’t let them carry you away from me.”

He used his free hand to pat her shoulder while he squirmed out of her grip. “This is something I have to do, pet.”

She nodded slowly, sadly. “Your heart has gone to another.”

“I’ll always love you,” he said, because it was true.

“But my happily ever after isn’t yours.” She looked intently at his face, and for a moment he was certain she was going to explain what was going on, and that she was going to do it in a way that would make bloody sense. But then she looked away again and murmured something about needing to walk widdershins around gravestones. She slipped past him through the open door and was gone.

Spike set out for the forest.

As on his previous visit, as soon as he stepped among the trees he was convinced that nobody else had entered the woods in a very long time. The underbrush was heavy, snarled with fallen logs and rotten stumps, and small creatures scuttled furtively through the leaves and branches. He couldn’t see the sky at all through the canopy above him.

Thick as the forest was, it was not especially large, so even with having to fight his way over, under, and around debris, it didn’t take him long to get to the edge of the bramble. Here the sky was clearly visible, as dark as spilled ink. Spike spent ages simply staring at the snarl of thorns, wondering how the bloody hell he was going to get through it. It never occurred to him, however, to simply walk away.

The minute he pushed his way into the vines, the bramble swallowed him up. Long thorns tore at him, and he wished he was wearing that kit the fairy godmother had given him in his dream. Leather and denim would have been better protection than cotton and wool. Soon his clothing and his skin were in tatters. The blood running down his face was blinding him anyway, so he closed his eyes tightly and grabbed blindly, fighting his way through what felt like a forest of claws. A living forest, because the vines moved like arms, wrapping themselves around him, flailing at his face and body. When one of them actually impaled him in the belly, he realized that a well-placed stab might actually dust him—the vines were woody, after all—and he redoubled his efforts.

He was weak and exhausted by the time he bumped up against a stone wall. The bramble continued to savage him, but he dug his fingertips into crumbling mortar and scrambled painfully upward. After what felt like centuries, he reached the top; then he rolled off, landing inside the wall with a bone-jarring thump. He lay there for ages, grateful to at least be free of the fucking thorns.

When he stood up, he realized that he no longer wore a scrap of clothing except for his shoes. He kicked them off and looked about. He was in a narrow bit where weeds had grown amongst the cobblestones. A second wall, shorter than the first, was in front of him. He assumed that if he walked long enough he’d come to a gate, but there was no guarantee that the portcullis had been left open. So once again he climbed the stone; at least it was easier without the vines trying to drag him down.

The castle courtyard was on the other side of the wall. Spike dropped down to it inelegantly. Human and animal bodies were scattered everywhere, as were carts and overturned baskets and piles of various debris. But when Spike investigated a bit more closely, he saw that the people and beasts were asleep, not dead. Spike’s stomach rumbled, reminding him that he hadn’t fed that night; he needed to mend his wounds as well. So he knelt next to a lumpy man who still clutched a loaf of bread under one arm, and he dropped his fangs. But then it occurred to him that Xander—or Prince Aleksandar—wouldn’t be very pleased with him for killing off his baker, so instead Spike found a slumbering ox still tethered to its toppled cart, and he drank from it instead. Its blood tasted a bit odd, but not unpleasantly so. And since oxen have loads of blood, the animal was still dreaming peaceful bovine dreams when Spike pulled away, his stomach nice and full.

The layout of the castle was a bit confusing, with buildings and doorways wherever someone had thought over the centuries to add them. Spike poked about for some time, stepping over sleeping people as he went, and eventually he found a large wooden door that had been left ajar. The inside looked like a museum, with paintings and rugs and tapestries, with big vases and statues and various other adornments. Surprisingly, nothing was dusty; the place looked as if everyone had settled down for a kip just a few hours ago.

Spike ascended a stone staircase and began to peek into rooms. It was in the last room, the one at the end of the hallway, that he found Xander stretched out on a tall, wide bed. An embroidered coverlet was pulled up to his chest, but his bare arms were revealed, his wrists crossed over his torso. Both eyes were closed, but one of them had a sort of sunken appearance. His chest rose and fell slowly, and his sensuous mouth was curved slightly upward as if he were having a pleasant dream.

“Xander?” Spike whispered. There was no response, of course. Spike hadn’t expected one. But he knew with every fiber of his being that the man he saw before him was his, body and soul.

Spike crept forward and settled a hand on Xander’s bare shoulder. Xander was bed-warm, his skin soft. He didn’t react to the contact. So Spike leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on those curved lips.

But still nothing happened.

Doubt trickled into Spike’s head. Perhaps he wasn’t Prince Aleksandar’s true love. No. No, that couldn’t be true. It was going to take more than a kiss, that was all.

Moving slowly, Spike drew the blankets off Xander’s still form. Xander was naked, his big, soft cock nestled against a strong thigh. Spike knew exactly what that cock tasted like, what it felt like in his hand, in his mouth, in his arse. He leaned down again to snuffle at the patch of dark hairs between Xander’s legs, and he knew that scent as well; it made Spike instantly and achingly hard.

A human might have paused to consider the moral implications, but Spike was a demon. Consent had never been an issue for him before. Besides, he was as familiar with the body on his bed as he was with his own. He didn’t understand how or when, but he knew Xander belonged to him—and he belonged to Xander—and he knew that they had made love many times before.

With a small grunt of effort, he rolled Xander onto his belly. That revealed the man’s fine arse, which Spike spent several minutes stroking and squeezing. Finally, however, he spread Xander’s legs as wide as they would go and crawled between them. Xander didn’t move as Spike licked at his scrotum and perineum, and then tongued delicately around his tight little pucker. But when Spike’s tongue actually entered the ring of muscle he sensed a slight unevenness in Xander’s breathing, a small hitch and a sigh. Spike smiled to himself and moved his tongue in and out, savoring the familiar flavor of his boy.

When the muscles felt softer, Spike inserted two moistened fingers instead. This time he was certain that Xander moaned slightly, and he thought that Xander might also have moved his hips infinitesimally back, impaling himself slightly more on Spike’s digits. While Spike worked his fingers in and out, he licked at the swell of Xander’s buttocks, at the knobs of his lower spine. Xander was salty and a bit soapy, as if he’d bathed not too long ago.

An echo of a memory told Spike that there were times when he’d spent hours doing nothing but touching and tasting his boy, driving Xander and himself mad with need. But this was not to be one of those times. Spike snaked his free hand underneath Xander and was delighted to discover that Xander was hard. With a slight cackle of glee, Spike withdrew his fingers and poised himself over Xander’s prone body. And then, as exquisitely slowly as he could manage, he pressed his cock into that welcoming heat.

Xander exhaled loudly and spread his legs a bit wider, but still wasn’t awake. So Spike began to move, pulling himself nearly all the way out and then fully sheathing himself again. “Xander,” he panted. “Pet? Love?”

No answer apart from a muffled groan.

Spike sped his movements and knew he wouldn’t last long thrusting into that tight channel. And then inspiration—and temptation—struck. Still flexing his hips, he lowered himself completely onto Xander’s back, pushed a few stray hairs out of the way, and bit Xander’s neck. Not an artery or a major vein; the last thing he wanted was to kill his boy. No, he simply sank the tips of his fangs into the tender nape of Xander’s neck, feeling the skin pop and give, crying out at the wonderful taste of the blood when it reached his tongue.

Xander cried out as well, and he rose up on his knees, now shifting his body in earnest to meet Spike’s thrusts. Spike reached underneath and wrapped a hand around Xander’s wet shaft. That was enough, because seconds later Xander shuddered and came, and when his interior muscles spasmed around Spike, the vampire came as well, muffling his howl against Xander’s broad back.

Spike didn’t want to move out of Xander—he felt so bloody good!—but Xander was making small, confused sounds. So Spike rolled to the side. Xander blinked at him. “Sp-Spike?” he croaked.

“You know me.”

“I … I … what … I don’t understand.”

Spike couldn’t help but stroke his boy’s face with his fingertips. “What do you remember?”

“I’m … There was a curse. A spindle. And … I fell asleep.”

“Who are you, pet?”

“Prince Aleksandar. Xander. Yours. I’m yours, aren’t I? But how?”

Sounds began to reach Spike’s ears as the castle’s other residents woke up. Matters would likely become very hectic and confusing within a few minutes. “You’re mine,” he confirmed. “There’s an enchantment of some sort, I expect. And not just Anyanka’s. Something very strange is happening to us.”

“I know. But … I’m pretty sure it’s not the first time we’ve experienced weirdness.” Xander sat up, still looking groggy. He pulled on Spike until he was sitting as well. “You just rescued me, didn’t you?”

“I expect I did.”

“Is that how you got all scraped up?” He ran a thumb over the healing bramble gouges on Spike’s chest. Spike had nearly forgotten he was injured.

“Yeah,” Spike answered. “But I’ll mend soon enough. I’m—”

“A vampire. You’re a vampire, aren’t you?” Xander shook his head in wonder. “I’m in love with a vampire.”

“And a vamp’s in love with you,” Spike added.

Xander grinned widely. “You know, we have a wizard. Maybe he can help us figure out what’s going on. ’Cause whatever the hell the problem is, I’m positive I don’t wanna lose you.”

Spike climbed off the mattress and held a hand out to Xander. “Right then. Find us some clothes and we’re off to see the wizard.”