Pairing - S/X of course
Rating - NC-17
Notes - Thank you to ruric and menomegirl for the demon names and to mistressslash for the beta read through!
Word count - 8828

Summary - Spike and Angel need help from Xander



As the air horn sounded, signaling the end of the working day, Xander pulled off his hard hat and mopped his forehead, adjusting the eye patch strap to make sure that it hadn't shifted. After the stresses of Africa, he was happy for the simple exhaustion of construction work again.

All the records of his working as a supervisor had been swallowed in the hole that was Sunnyhell, but thankfully the union still had his journeyman certification and several of his licenses. It meant that even in the sucky job market, he wasn't working as a day laborer; instead working as skilled labor in one of the few large sites going up.

Giles had offered him a job, but Xander knew that there was no way he could go sit in an office. Instead, he'd gone home - or at least as close as he could get to home these days. Los Angeles.

He knew that Angel and his people had formed a new agency somewhere in the city, but he'd never sought them out. Why would he? He was done with all that. These days, he went to work, maybe went out with one of the members of his crew for a beer. Studied his way towards his master license. Did projects around the house. Didn't go hunting. Didn't even carry a stake anymore.

"You want to go to the bar tonight, Xan?" Tony asked.

"Nah. Got a test on Saturday I need to study for."

Tony shook his head. "Man - you're always studying. It's like you're trying to make up time or something."

Xander nodded. "You could say that." And he was. The advantage that Sunnydale had as a small town was that he could get ahead relatively quickly. LA was a different story - a lot more skilled workers, and if he wanted to become a supervisor again he needed that Master's license.

After a few more pleasantries, Xander packed up his bag and tossed it in his car. The drive to his apartment complex wasn't far, and once he was inside, he slid gratefully into the shower.

Clean and dressed in a pair of cut off sweats, he grabbed a beer and his book, heading out to the hammock he kept on the porch for times like this. Once settled, he flipped the book open and started reading about the right way to frame a foundation. Or at least, the right way according to the book, which was the only thing that mattered for the test.

As the sun set, he started. He'd drifted off into a half-doze, brought on by the heat and his tiredness, and he'd been dreaming about the summer after Buffy died, when he, Willow, Giles, Spike, and Tara had patrolled, pulling together in their fear and desperation. So he could be forgiven for thinking he was still lost in that haze when he heard, "Harris?"

It wasn't until his name had been repeated a few times till he blinked, looking out at the area of no man's land between his building and the one behind it. "Spike?"

"You looking to be vamp food, Harris? Cause you keep sleeping on your porch like a moron and you're going to be."

Xander stared at Spike for so long that he actually started to come closer. "Harris, the sun finally cook your brains or what? No 'fangless' or 'soulboy, junior?'"

"Spike? What are you doing here? You're dust." Xander finished flatly.

"Yeah, Harris. I was. Now I'm not. " Spike said, patiently. "Working with the great ponce, now. So, we gonna continue to stand here while you stare at me or you gonna invite me in?"

"Right, Spike. I'll invite you in when the hellmouth reopens. But in the meantime, you can come sit over here and tell me how the hell you can go from being dust to standing behind my place, annoying me."

Spike hopped up on the wall that ran along one side of Xander's back porch and made himself comfortable, legs swinging. Once there, he proceeded to tell a story so unbelievable that even someone raised on the hellmouth was having trouble believing it. "So, let me get this straight. Someone fetched out the amulet from the bottom of a giant hole and shipped it to Angel. You popped out as a ghost, and then that same someone arranged to have you get your very own body again. That sound about right?"

"Pretty much, yeah. Some adventures in between and after, of course. Saved the great poof's life for some reason, and now I seem to be stuck with 'im."

Xander sat up and rested his face in his hands. "You know, I just wanted a normal life. Go to work, come home, drink the occasional beer, watch some TV. Is there a reason you people had to drag me out of that?"

"Sorry, mate. I can get out of your hair - let you go back to the exciting world of - Spike jumped down off the wall and snatched up the book lying forgotten on the hammock. "Oooo, foundation framing! How very... normal of you."

"Get lost, Spike. Let me get back to my life and you get back to... whatever it is that you're doing."

Spike set down the book on the hammock and nodded. "Sure thing, Harris. Sorry to have disturbed your quiet little life. Just do yourself a favor and make sure there's a stake back here - there's a new little gang of vamps in the neighborhood."

"Whatever it'll take to get you to leave me alone, Spike."

With one last look over his shoulder at Xander, Spike stalked off, coat swirling around his legs.

The next day, the encounter with Spike seemed like something out of a dream, or his over active imagination. Spike was dead, after all. Well, really dead, No-longer-out-and-about dead, as opposed to his previous state of undead.

So when the sun set, why was Xander arguing with himself about going out on the porch to sit in the hammock? Why had he picked up a scrap of wood today to make a stake, which was even now stashed on the little table out there? He wasn't going to let a figment of his imagination derail his routine, was he?

Picking up his studying stuff, he went out on the patio, where he stayed until it got too dark to read even with the porch light. When he finally closed the text and went inside, he tried to persuade himself that he wasn't disappointed that Spike hadn't been back.

Days passed. Xander got an A on his course and enrolled in one on doing molding work. He went to the bar a few times and became convinced that he truly had imagined Spike.

Then came one of the rare rainy days. The site was closed, and he was bored, watching a day of crappy sitcom reruns and talk shows. Just as he turned off Jerry Springer (You're my sister's baby's daddy!) and decided to call Tony to see if he wanted to go do something, there was knocking at the glass sliding door. Parting the curtain, he found Spike, holding up a six-pack of beer and looking rather like a drowned rat.

Opening the door, he stared at him for so long that Spike said, "Harris, I swear your brain has been rotted out. It really is me. I still have the soul and I'm not gonna eat you. Wouldn't even do that without the bloody soul. Now, you gonna tell me to come in?"

Xander was so surprised that he actually echoed, "Come in?" and Spike stepped across the threshold with a grin.

Closing the door with a grimace, he snarked, "And not being willing to eat me only proves that you're lacking in good taste. 'Course, anyone who's seen you dressed knows that..."

The ritual of insults completed, both of them sat down on the couch and an uncomfortable silence grew as each of them drank their beers. Finally, Xander jumped to his feet. "I, uh, I have the DVDs of Red Dwarf - did you ever get to see them?"

Spike rolled his eyes, but waved at Xander for him to put them on. Pretty soon they were both laughing at the antics of the disgusting Lister and his up-tight roomie Rimmer. As more of the beer was drunk and they progressed through two seasons, both of them relaxed past the uneasy truce they'd had back in Sunnydale. Amazing what a lack of an impending apocalypse could do to reduce tension levels.

By the time Spike stood up to leave, Xander might even have said that it looked like they could be friends.

Over the next few weeks, they settled into a pattern of spending an evening or two a week watching bad British comedies and drinking beer. Neither one enquired too deeply into what had brought them to this point, both knowing that the other had sore points that weren't ready to be touched. Instead, they laughed about ancient history - Xander's Hawaiian shirts, Spike's friendship with Clem - or joked about their mutual antipathy towards Angel.

Then came a series of weeks where Xander was putting in twelve-hour days, doing finishing work, and Spike was fighting with Angel almost every night, so they didn't see each other. So when Spike showed up at Xander's place on a Friday night, Xander was almost pathetically happy to see him.

"Hey there! Where have you been hiding yourself?"

Spike snarked back, "What? 'Snot like we're married or anything." But as he entered the apartment, he stumbled. When Xander put out an arm to catch him, he hissed in obvious pain. "Spike?"

"S'nothing, Harris. Just got a bit banged up last night, is all." But Xander couldn't help but notice that Spike made no effort to pull away, instead leaning on his arm for a long moment.

"Okay, get in here and let me see it," Xander backed away, holding the door and pointing towards the couch.

"There's nothing to see," Spike bitched, but still, he took off the duster carefully. When he tried to lift his t-shirt, his grip faltered. Without quite understanding why, Xander found himself kneeling next to the couch, helping him ease it off. Spike's torso was a mess - dark bruises, barely healed cuts and scratches.

"Jesus, Spike!" Xander went to the bathroom and hauled out the first aid kit - you could take the boy out of Sunnydale, but years of experience meant that he still had a kit to rival one belonging to a paramedic - and gingerly began cleaning the cuts all over his shoulders and chest. "What the hell did this to you?"

"Agartha - damn thing is almost impossible to kill and likes eating babies."

"Almost - please tell me it's dead?" But Spike's averted gaze gave the lie to that. "Dammit - why didn't you call me for help?"

"Because you're out of it, Harris, and better for all that. I think you've given enough to the good fight, don't you?"
Fuming, Xander returned to cleaning the cuts and taping Spike's ribs. He couldn't argue the point - he was the one who'd insisted that he was done with demon fighting. He couldn't really fault Spike for respecting his wishes. But still, he was hurt that Spike had thought he wouldn't help. He knew it made no sense, but still, there it was.

Once all of the injuries were addressed, Xander helped Spike ease his t-shirt back on. "Any others?"

Spike pressed his lips in a thin line, clearly considering. Finally, he stood up and undid his jeans enough that Xander could see his hip, where there was an even deeper cut. From the look of it, it must have gone nearly to the bone.

"Shit!" yelped Xander. "How the hell are you walking?"

A tight grin, and Spike said, "Not well, truth be told. It really needs to be stitched so I quit reopening it every time I take a step, but I didn't want to ask the ponce to do it."

Xander rolled his eyes, but dug in the box for the suture kit that he'd kept in there. Looking Spike over, he realized there was no way that he was going to be able to do this here. Standing, he grabbed the sewing stuff and pointed towards the bedroom. "Pants off and lie down on the bed. I'll be there in a second." Detouring through the kitchen, he grabbed the bottle of whiskey he kept in there.

A second stop in the bathroom for a clean towel and then into the bathroom, where he found Spike standing awkwardly next to the bed, pants still loose.

Folding the towel into a thick pad, he placed it on the bed and then glared at Spike until he slipped out of his pants and laid down on the other hip. Handing him the bottle, he waited until he'd taken a big drink, and then took the bottle back, pouring a fair amount over the cut.

As Spike cursed and sputtered, Xander pressed the bottle back into his hands and then started to slowly stitch up the cut. It was deep and long, and seemed to take forever to sew shut. Thankfully, it took all his concentration, so he could ignore the fact hat Spike apparently didn't wear underwear. He wasn't looking. Nope, he wasn't. Just being a good buddy, stitching up a friend and not looking at said friend's dangly bits. By the time he was finished, Spike was well on the way to drunk and the whiskey bottle was almost empty. Pushing him over so he was lying on his back, he gathered a pillow and blanket.

"Wait a minute, Harris. Where I' the bloody hell do you think you're going?"

"I'm going to sleep on the couch. You're too drunk and too injured to go home tonight. Sleep it off and we'll talk in the morning." Spike started to argue, only to realize that he wasn't getting anywhere.

"Fine, but only cause it would be a shame to waste the last of good whiskey."

"Right." And with that, Xander returned to the living room, making up the couch and lying down. He should be exhausted, but instead his brain was too busy going to shut up and let him sleep.

As soon as it was late enough that the butcher shop should be open, he went and bought blood for his guest - and when did he start thinking of Spike in those terms, rather than the peroxide menace? - and then he stopped by the bakery for some donuts.

He still made it back before Spike woke up, so by the time he wandered out of the bedroom, bare-chested and jeans hanging low on his hips, there was a mug of blood heated up and sitting on the counter. With a quiet thank you, he sat down at the table and started sipping at the mug.

"How's the hip this morning?"

"Much better, thanks. I appreciate you sewing it up for me."

Xander picked up a donut, NOT thinking about a naked Spike, and started picking at it. "Yeah, well, I should keep in practice with my sewing skills anyway."

Spike smiled but didn't say anything in response. For several moments the only sounds were those of Spike drinking and Xander eating, but Spike kept looking at him sidelong. Finally, Xander couldn't stand it anymore. "What?!"

"Did you mean it?"

"Did I mean what, exactly?" Aw, damn. Spike had seen him looking.

Spike took a gulp of his blood and set down the mug. "Did you mean it that you were willing to help? 'M not asking, but if you're volunteering..."

Was he willing to help? The empty socket chose that moment to throb, as if in protest of his thoughts. He had to admit that his life these days was stable, safe... boring. Yeah, he might be willing. "I, uh, I think so. Depends on what you need."

Spike dropped his eyes and stared hard at the table. "You really need to talk to the poof about that."

Xander very deliberately whined, as seeing Spike so serious was wigging him out. "Aw, man, Angel? Can I change my mind?" Spike laughed, breaking the tension, and before long they were quibbling over which of the Doctors was the best.

Later that afternoon, Xander parked in the shade behind a local diner and let Spike out of the trunk. Together, they walked in and found a booth in the back. Five minutes later, Angel joined them.

"You know, we could have met back at the office." Angel looked - well, okay, he looked tired. But he also looked like he was a little peeved that Xander wasn't falling all over himself to do as he was told.

"And like I said on the phone, there is no way in hell that I'm walking into that place. And I'm not inviting you in to mine, either. So, if you need me, we can meet in nice public places." Xander wasn't stupid, and he'd never forgotten that Angel could become Angelus. All he needed was the right piece of happiness.

Angel's face tightened a little, and then he apparently decided to just go along with the flow. Relaxing all at once, he slid into the booth. "So, has Spike told you anything?"

"Just that he got beat to hell and back -"

"Hey! Bloody thing is twice as big as me, I'll have you know!"

"- by some sort of demon, and that my strictly voluntary help would be welcome." Xander grinned at Spike, who was doing a good job of looking affronted.

"Right. Well, it's Agartha - big, ugly demon. We have the axe we need to kill it - what we don't have is someone to wield it."

Xander, confused, looked from Angel to Spike and back again. "Why can't one of you do it?"

Angel sighed. "Because it has to be used by a human who has sacrificed for the greater good. In my, er, our hands, it might as well be a stick of wood for all the good it does. Less, actually, because at least a stick of wood could be used to stake the vampires in this thing's retinue."

Oh, this was sounding better and better. A demon that Angel and Spike couldn't kill but they expected him to do it. And the damn thing had a retinue? No way in hell.

But Xander didn't say anything. Instead, he just slid out of the booth and walked out of the restaurant. Leaning against the trunk of the car, he stayed quiet when Spike joined him. They stayed there as shadows grew longer.

Finally, Spike spoke. "You don't have to do this, Harris. You have given up more than anyone has any right to expect and neither of us are going to demand that you take this risk."

For the first time since he left the restaurant, he turned to look at Spike. "Do you have anyone else who can?"

Spike thinned his lips, and then shook his head. "No."

"Then I really don't have a choice, do I? But I can't do it right now - it's been too long since I've done anything with weapons."

Nodding, Spike said, "Yeah, I get that." He looked him up and down, and then nodded again. Xander tried hard not to blush. "You're still in good shape. Shouldn't take more than a few days to get you back in fighting trim, if you're willing to work out with me. Don't have to do it at the office. Could go to my place - got plenty of room there."

"Yeah, could do that. Guess we should go ahead and start if you're healed up enough for it."

"No time like the present. Let's go."

Xander went to get in the car, only to be stopped by Spike. "Trust me - leave your car here. It's safer than in the neighborhood I live in."

Shooting a hard look at Spike, he followed him into the sewers. It was a fifteen-minute quiet walk and then they came up in the middle of a warehouse. "What is it with you and fucked up places to live?" he asked, shaking his head in disbelief. "Even Angel rents an apartment!"

"I like my space." When Xander looked at him with disbelief, Spike snorted and rolled his eyes. "Okay, okay - the poof has money. I don't, so I take what I can get. And right now, that means I live in a warehouse. But it means plenty of room for us to practice, right?"

"Right." Practice. With an axe. Damn - this wasn't going to go well, Xander just knew it.

And within five minutes of starting, Spike knew it too - Xander's depth perception was all off, and he couldn't hit the target for anything. After an hour, during which he'd only managed to connect with the dummy twice - with one time being a pure fluke - he waved Spike off, bending over and resting his hands on his knees while he tried to catch his breath.

Finally, he stood up again, took the axe and set it aside. "Look, I'm not going to be able to throw this thing. I wasn't much good with thrown weapons before I lost the eye. We're gonna have to come up with a plan that lets me get within striking distance to whack him."

Spike looked anxious, but also resigned. "That's really not a good idea, Harris. He's got a pack of smaller demons and vampires and there's only so much the poof and I are going to be able to do."

"Then we're just going to have to separate him from his pack, then, aren't we?"

"Look, if we could do that, then yes, this becomes much simpler. But there is no way - "

But Xander had had a brilliant idea. "You let me worry about that part, okay? Let's work on me being able to hit this thing when we have a clear path."

Spike studied his face for a long moment, and then nodded slowly. "Okay."

Xander stretched himself awake, only realizing he wasn't at home when his hand didn't hit the wall. "Where the..."

Oh, yeah, he'd forgotten. He and Spike had worked out till Xander was ready to drop last night. Then Spike had surprised him by being willing to spring for Chinese food - only to find out that he'd stolen Angel's credit card.

Over moo goo gai pan and beer, they'd planned and tried to come up with contingencies for every possibility. It was futile, and they knew it, but it was also a comforting habit.

Then the conversation had changed, become less focused. They'd talked about Willy the snitch, and Clem. They'd skirted talking about Buffy, but talked a bit about Willow.

And then it had gone on. Politics, TV, sports... everything and anything, until Xander couldn't keep his eyes open any longer and even Spike was yawning. Rather than try the sewers, Spike had offered his bed. Xander hadn't wanted to put him out, but Spike had said -

Xander whipped around to find that yes, he was sharing a bed with a vampire who was very much awake, thank you, and if the grin on his face was any indication, he'd gotten through his own mental warm up much faster than Xander had.

Burying his face in hands, he muttered, "Go ahead and say it, Spike..."

"Say what? I wasn't going to say anything! I certainly wasn't going to say that it had certainly been a long time since I'd shared a bed with someone so willing to snuggle in their sleep, or that you're nice and warm or that -

"Okay, okay! I was tired and sleeping and could we please not do this right now? I'm embarrassed enough!" Strangely, though, there was a traitorous little voice in the back of Xander's head that was saying it had been nice to share a bed with someone. Even better to share with someone who wouldn't mind the missing eye - even if they were male.

"Alright - no more teasing. Today, anyway. Got lots more to do to get you ready to meet this critter head on."

Xander crawled out of the bed, relieved that he was still wearing his jeans. He was sore, very sore, but not as bad as he'd half feared. A quick trip to the bathroom for necessities, and to make sure his patch was in the right place, and he was ready to give it another try.

By Sunday afternoon, he was ready to drop, but he was at least managing to keep hold of the axe when he and Spike tangled. He was still pretty sure he was going to come out of this dead, but at least now he thought there was a remote chance he was going to take the demon with him.

"Aw, hell - I've got to work tomorrow. I can barely move," he groaned. Spike smiled at him sympathetically.

"I could give you a backrub, if you think it'll help," he offered.

Xander rolled his head to look at Spike. "You're kidding, right? Of course, it'll help." Another of those sympathetic smiles, and then there were strong, cool hands on his shoulders, pressing and rubbing. He let himself fall into a half sleep as Spike continued to find all the knots that the unfamiliar work had put into his back and spine.

His mind started to wander, first over his plan for separating the demon from his little buddies, and then further afield. Eventually, it settled on picking at the strange relationship he was developing with Spike. He had to admit that he'd not had many male friends. There'd been Jesse, and his heart still ached sometimes for him. The only other one had been Oz, and no one had seen him in years. And in both cases, from the security of hindsight, Xander could admit that there had been... more than just friendship there. He'd been more than a little in love with Jesse. And he'd had a crush on Oz.

Spike? Well, he had to admit that there was a bit of a crush there too. It helped that Spike had stood by them as everything had gone to hell. Hell, he'd died for them. But like the other guycrushes he'd had, he wasn't going to do anything about it. He was just... appreciating the male form, so to speak.

Decision made, he relaxed further into the backrub, and never even noticed when he fell asleep.

When Spike shook him awake a bit later, he stretched, feeling the burn in well used muscles, but no knots or real soreness. "Need to go home, pet. You've got to work in the morning."

Grumbling, Xander stood up and followed Spike back through the warehouse and sewers to where he'd left... aw, shit. His car was missing!

Spike grinned. "The poof moved it for you. You sure you two never had a thing back in Sunnyhell? He sure seems anxious to get back in your good graces."

"No! Well, not unless you count me threatening to kill him!" Spike laughed and handed Xander's keys over.

"So, a few more days and I think you'll be ready. Sure you can't let me know what plan is brewing in your head for distracting the lesser demons?"

Xander shook his head. "Not till I'm sure it'll work. Just trust me, okay?"

Spike didn't look happy, but he nodded. "So, I'll see you tonight, yes? Remember how to get back to my place?"

"Yep. See you then."

After a few phone calls to Giles and then the local Watcher, Xander had the location of what he needed as a distraction. Exhausted, he stumbled off to bed.

The next day, it was a damn good thing that the site was in the middle of some fairly simple framing, because if Xander had had to think, he never would have made it through the day with a job. As it was, after the fourth mistake, he took himself off to the crewboss and arranged to take the rest of the week off, pleading a family emergency.

Going back to his place, he packed a bag with a few days of clothes and a few other items that he might need. Mindful of danger in a way that he hadn't been in a long time, he tucked a long knife into his waistband and a few stakes here and there throughout his clothes.

As he made his way to the nearest sewer access, he had reason to be grateful for his paranoia, as two vampires met him inside the tunnel. His preparation and willingness to stake first came in handy, and while he was a bit rusty, it didn't take long for old habits to come back.

After that, Xander practically flew through the tunnels. It was possible that it was just a coincidence that he was mistaken for vamp bait, but for some reason he suspected not.

When a large demon, flanked by two more vampires, stepped out of the shadows, saying "So here's the human that's supposed to take down Agartha? Doesn't look like much, does he?" Xander almost laughed. Yep, not a coincidence.

Xander backed up so that he had the tunnel wall at his back and pulled the knife in his belt. In his other hand, he held one of the stakes. With luck, it'd be the vampires first.

And it was. Both vamps charged him at the same time. Slashing at the one coming up on his blind side, he tried to stake the other, but either his aim was off or these two were smarter than the first pair, because not only did they manage to evade his strikes but one of them managed to get his knife. Fumbling frantically, he managed to get his hand on one of the other stakes just as they both landed on him.

This time he was lucky, and managed to dust one instantly. The other backed off, looking between Xander and the demon, like he wasn't sure if this was such a good idea. But when the demon didn't move, the vampire shrugged and attacked Xander again.

This time, the exchange of blows lasted longer. Just as Xander was starting to think that he was coming out on top, though, burning pain lanced through the shoulder on his blind side, followed by Spike's yell of "Xander!"

As he fell against the wall, trying not to pass out, Spike took his place, fighting with his old flair and fury. It wasn't long before the vampire was dust and the demon was.... well, pretty much paste.

"Xander! You okay? How bad is it?" Spike was pulling at his shirt, trying to see the wound.

"It's not that bad." And it wasn't - just a long slice that started at the left shoulder and - as Xander craned his head to try and see where it went - continued down over the shoulder blade. "Looks like you're gonna have to do some stitching, though." And then he fainted.

He came to with the sound of Spike swearing a blue streak and demanding that he wake up in his ears. It took a second to remember what happened but when he did, he gasped and opened his eyes. Bright lights disoriented him, and his shoulder felt like it was on fire. "Spike?"

"Xander! You're awake!"

"Where are we?" The last Xander could remember was Spike looking at his shoulder in the sewer. Couldn't still be there, or even Spike's warehouse, since there was too much light. He started to struggle up.

"Don't move, Harris. We're in the ER - the doc just finished cleaning out your shoulder and he's getting ready to stitch it up. Next time, you stay out of the way of drunks in the bar, okay?"

Xander started to ask Spike what kind of drugs he was on, but his brain was faster than his mouth, thankfully. "Wha- whatever. I didn't do anything."

Just then, the curtain parted and a young doctor came in. "Well, Mr. Harris, you're very lucky - no real muscle damage done. Let me just get this numbed up - "

"No anesthetic, doc. Just stitch me up."

"It's going to hurt terribly. It's only some Novocain..."

"Nope. It'll make my whole shoulder numb for hours. I can take it. Let's just get it over with."

"Xander - "

"Mr. Harris - "

"I said no. Just stitch me up or I'll go."

The doctor didn't say anything else, just helped Xander turn over. He didn't make a sound as he was stitched up, barely even flinching. Finally, the last stitch was tied off, and Spike stepped in to help him sit up. "I'll send in a nurse to bandage that up and bring you the discharge paperwork." Then he left the little cubicle.

Spike leaned against the sink. "That was unnecessarily stupid, Harris."

"No, it wasn't. I had my reasons." Xander knew - as did Spike, if he stopped to think about it - that they were likely to run into more opposition on the way back. Xander was a target now, and he couldn't afford to have his shoulder numb and rip out stitches because he couldn't feel it. The nurse bustled in and quickly wrapped his shoulder, giving him a sling for his arm so that he wouldn't move it. Handing him his discharge paperwork, she cautioned him to keep it clean and dry, and then they were done.

Angel met them right outside the ER, since the sun had set while they were inside. With him was a girl with blue hair who stared at him as if he was a bug. "Spike called you, huh?" he asked, sourly.

"Yes. Xander, this is Illyria. She's the third member of Angel Investigations. Illyria, this is Xander. He's going to help us with Agartha."

Illyria examined him as if he was a bug she was contemplating squashing and then turned back to Angel. "He is damaged. He cannot help us. Find another human."

Angel sighed and shook his head. "He'll heal. Until he does, we need to make sure none of Agartha's friends find him. I thought we'd take turns guarding his apart -"


Angel turned to glare at Spike. "What?"

"He's not staying in his apartment. He doesn't want you there and frankly I can't blame him, peaches. He can stay in my warehouse. There's room for all four of us."

"Hey! Wait a minute! Don't I get a say in this?" No, nononono. Four days surrounded by Angel and blue-girl? He'd never be able to hide his crush.

Spike didn't even look at Xander. "No, you don't. Shut it, Harris. Your apartment isn't safe and until this is over, it won't be. A lack of invitation will stop vampires, but it won't do anything against most demons."

"My pet is correct, Angel."

Xander grinned and mouthed the words "My pet." Oh, this was good. If they managed to survive, he'd never let Spike forget it.

"Fine. Let's go."

Xander started walking, which startled everyone long enough that he actually managed to cover some distance before they caught up with him. Then Angel pulled up in a big shiny black convertible, and all Xander could think was that he didn't think penis extensions worked on vampires. But, it meant not walking, so whatever.

Three hours later, Xander was ready to go mad. Illyria wasn't actually too bad - a little creepy, but she didn't seem to expect much from him.

Angel and Spike on the other hand...

Angel was pacing from one end of the warehouse to the other, irritable about being stuck and visibly angsting over what Agartha was doing. Even that would have been tolerable if it wasn't for the fact that Spike was staring. At. Him.

For - Xander checked his watch - three hours and four minutes now.

Just staring.

Just as he was getting ready to snap, Angel spoke up. "I'm going to go do a patrol around the neighborhood. I'll be back in about an hour."

"Fine," Spike said, not looking away from Xander. "Take Big Blue with you."

Angel paused, looking from Spike to Xander and back again. Finally he shrugged, and motioning to Illyria, he left.

"You want to tell me what this is all about, Spike?"

Now Spike wouldn't look at him, instead staring at his hands. "I'm sorry, Harris. I didn't think when I got you involved in this and now you're in danger."

Xander couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Whoa, Spike. First off, this isn't the most danger I've ever been in - it doesn't even rank in the top five. Remember, I've been in danger most of my life. Secondly, I volunteered and knew what I was getting into when I did, so it's not your fault."

Lying back on the bed, he put his good arm over his eyes. "I just wish we could get it over. This delay just means that Agartha can be even more prepared." There was a creak of leather as Spike shifted, and Xander opened his eye, looking over. "Spit it out, Fangless."

"Um... There is a way. I could give you some of my blood."

"What? No! I don't want to be a vampire, and besides, I have to be human to use the axe, remember?"

"Oh, shut up, you git. Your blood volume is fine, so it wouldn't turn you, just speed up your healing a bit. But..." Spike still looked it uncomfortable.


"The side effects can be... unpleasant. If you can ignore them, though, you'd be healed enough that we might be able to attack tomorrow night."

Xander sat bolt upright. "That fast? Let's do this thing."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure."

Spike stood up and took off his duster. Sitting down on the bed next to Xander, he shifted a bit and then there was a crunching sound as his face showed his demon. Biting down on his wrist, he held it out for Xander, who took a moment to take a deep breath and then held it to his mouth.

There was a moment of "ewwww" and then...

hunger need hunt kill eat bloodlust NEED heartbeat right there helpless xander lust need want wanttodrinkwanttofuckwanttoprotectwantwantwantwant WANT

Gasping, Xander dropped his grip on Spike's wrist and when had he grabbed to hold on anyway? Spike looked a little pale and worried. "You okay, Xander? Tried to cushion you from the worst of it..."

Xander shook his head, trying to sort it all out. What was that? Surely not the way that Spike felt - people didn't feel other people's feelings like that! Unwillingly, he was drawn back to Buffy's "aspect of the demon" back in high school. Okay, so it was possible. But if that was true, then not only did Spike want to eat Xander - which he'd suspected anyway - but he also wanted to... well, do more than that.

Suddenly, he was reassembling certain assumptions that he'd made - like the one that Spike was only interested in little blonde slayers. For some reason, he thought of Drusilla, who'd been neither little or blonde. I wonder what ever happened to her? Slowly, the sound of his name being repeated in increasing desperation penetrated. "What?"

"You okay in there, Xander?"

"Yeah, just... what was that?"

If vampires could blush, Xander would swear that Spike was. "Nothing to worry about. You should lie down for a bit, let it settle, yeah?"

"Yeah, that would be a good idea." Xander practically collapsed onto the bed, and then he remembered nothing else.

This time, when he woke up, he knew exactly where he was. He also knew that if he managed to survive the upcoming battle, he and Spike were going to have something to do besides watch bad British comedies. Experimentally shifting his shoulder, he was pleasantly surprised that the blood had worked. There was barely a twinge of ghost pain now, instead of the screaming agony of earlier.

Just then, Spike came into view carrying a glass of juice. "How you feeling, Harris?" Before he could answer, though, Spike had given him his juice and gestured for him to drink up.

Once he'd done so, he grimaced and said, "Much better. Call the other two in and let's do this."

Angel had been no happier about Xander's refusal to tell his plan for dispersing Agartha's allies than Spike was, but ultimately he had to admit that he didn't have any plan that would work, either. He had also been unhappy about Spike's willingness to let Xander have some of his blood and had only stopped bitching when Xander had offered to go and get his shoulder sliced open again. So, as soon as dark fell, Xander was back in his own car, headed to the location given to him by the LA watcher.

Pick up made, he met up with the other three back at the warehouse. Picking up the squirming bag carefully, he said, "Let's go. And I need to find some sort of vent or something before we go in. These little guys should do a good job of scattering 'em."

"Could you finally tell me what you have? The curiosity is killing me!" Spike complained.

"Lomax demons." Surprisingly, it was Illyria who spoke. "I can smell them. Yes, those should do nicely as a distraction."

Angel and Spike looked at each other and then looked at Xander. "What? You don't know what lomax demons are?" Two identical headshakes. "Think of them as an unholy cross between cats, ferrets and skunks. Fast as blazes, will steal anything shiny, and if cornered or threatened they spray like nothing you've ever smelled. Give these little guys twenty minutes or so and everything will be complete and utter chaos in Agartha's lair."

Within seconds, everyone was laughing hysterically as Illyria looked on.

After all the lead up, the fight was almost anticlimactic. The lomax demons had vampires and demons alike running in circles within about twenty minutes, and under the cover of chaos, the four of them slipped in. Spike, Angel and Illyria formed a living shield around Xander, guarding him against attack as they made their way through the building to Agartha's quarters. The occasional bad guy would come across them, to be taken down in seconds by one of the three.

Xander, for his part, clutched his axe and tested his shoulder obsessively. He tried not to flinch as he was showered with vampire dust and demon blood. Finally, they came to the center most room, and here the underlings were better trained, still at their posts.

As if they'd practiced it, Xander fell back and let the others take the lead. The fighting was brief but fierce, and it was only luck that the stake missed Spike's heart, going through his abdomen instead. "Spike!" Xander dived into the fray, dusting the hapless vampire and turning to Spike.

Spike climbed clumsily to his feet and waved them on. "I'm okay - keep going!"

"Screw that!" Xander hooked a shoulder under Spike's arm and half walked, half carried Spike inside the room. There, in front of him, was the biggest, ugliest demon Xander had seen. Easily twelve feet tall, with arms and tentacles and glistening in a way that made him think fondly of mucus demons. "Aw, hell."

Gripping his axe tightly, Xander dodged the remaining few vampires and headed straight for the demon, only to realize that his blind side was being flanked by Spike. "What the hell are you doing? I've got him!"

"You've got him and I've got you. Do what you need to do, Harris, so we can all go home."

Xander nodded again, and ran ahead. He managed to evade the punching arms, but one of the tentacles wrapped itself around his arm and squeezed, forcing him to the ground in pain. Agartha laughed, a hollow, wet sound. "So this is the human who's going to kill me? I don't think so!"

Another tentacle wrapped itself around his throat, and as black spots danced in front of his eye, he brought up the axe in one desperate swing. Suddenly the pressure disappeared, and there was a very small, "Oh!"

A weight hit Xander in the chest, pushing him backwards, and as he stared into Spike's eyes, a massive explosion shook the building. Demon... parts rained down around them, and then the weight was gone. Staggering, he pulled himself to his feet.

Where Agartha had stood was a scorched circle. The remaining vampires had fled, with the exception of one that Illyria was still fighting. She seemed to be toying with him like a cat toys with a mouse, and even as he watched, she ripped off his head, reducing him to dust.

For a minute, Xander just stood there and blinked. Then as Spike looked on, he pumped his fist in the air and went, "Yes!"

After a brief debriefing - for which Xander consented to going back to the Angel Investigations office - Angel ran Spike and Xander back to Xander's apartment.

After a few minutes of awkward silence, both of them started speaking at the same time.

"Harris - "

"Spike - "

Xander gestured for Spike to go first, and he did, looking very hard at the floor. "Look, I know what you probably got when I gave you some blood, but I just wanted you to know you don't have to do anything about it. I'm enjoying being your friend and don't want to lose that, okay?"

Starting to laugh, Xander practically fell on the couch. Spike glared at him, and that just made him laugh harder. Finally, he managed to get enough breath to speak. "What makes you think you're the only one who was thinking it?"

"Um, because you're straight?" And as Xander continued to laugh, Spike started to look thoughtful. "You are, aren't you? Straight, I mean?"

Xander sat up and managed to get the laughter under control. "I'm starting to seriously doubt it. It's only luck that you haven't noticed me staring at parts of you that aren't for straight men to look at."

Spike blinked. And then he blinked again. Then he looked even more thoughtful, if that was possible. "So, maybe..."

"Well, maybe. I'm still getting used to the idea, but I wouldn't be adverse to... trying things out, seeing how the parts go together, you know?"

Spike sat down on the couch, right next to Xander. "So do you think I could kiss you then, pet? I'm going mad, here."

Xander started laughing again. "Only if you don't call me pet - I think Illyria will get confused if her pet has a pet, don't you?"

Snorting, Spike leaned forward. "I'm gonna ignore that and kiss you now, okay?"

And now Xander wasn't laughing anymore because Spike looked so serious, and his mouth was right there, and then there were soft lips pressing into his and he just melted. Faint hint of tobacco, and copper, and clever lips and a tongue that was asking permission to enter. With a soft moan, Xander opened his mouth, letting Spike's tongue slide into his mouth.

By the time they split apart, he was hard and panting. "Yeah, I think we can wave goodbye to my heterosexuality. It's gone, it's former straightness, it's - "

"Shut up and kiss me again, you twit." And then Spike's mouth came down on his again.

This time, there was no stopping. Xander slid down on the couch, with Spike following till he was blanketed in hard vampire. Xander slid his hands down Spike's back to his ass and pulled him up close. When Spike shifted down in response, licking a long streak up Xander's neck, he moaned again.

Swallowing hard, he said, with faked nonchalance, "You know I have no idea what I'm doing, right?"

In response, Spike nipped him and said, "Don't worry - just let me handle this one." When Xander nodded, Spike nipped again and then ground their pelvises together. It felt good - no, it felt better than that - and Xander gasped.

"Why don't we go somewhere flat and lose some clothes?" Spike suggested. Xander nodded again - and where had his voice gone? - and as soon as Spike was standing, climbed to his own feet. Together, stumbling more than a little because neither would let go of the other, they made their way over to the bedroom. Once there, Spike stepped backwards deliberately and, eyes locked on Xander, dropped his hands to the hem of his t-shirt. Pulling it up and over, he waited till Xander had imitated him before undoing the fly of his jeans.

Xander was doing fine up to that point, but the idea of taking off his jeans was just suddenly too much and he started to breathe heavily. Spike immediately stopped. "You okay, Xander?"

A couple of deep breathes, and Xander said, "Yeah. Just a momentary freak. I'm fine now." And as if he needed to prove something, whether to Spike or himself, he finished unzipping his fly and slid his jeans off. After watching him for a second, Spike did the same.

Spike pressed him back onto the bed gently, and proceeded to taste what Xander would swear was every inch of skin above the waist. He'd never been so thoroughly, well, made love to - as girly as that sounded. Spike was clearly in no hurry.

His neck was licked, his collarbone nipped, each nipple suckled until he didn't think he could stand it. Spike traced every muscle, every rib. His belly button was tongue fucked until he was ready to sob, and his stomach nibbled. When Spike finally moved below his waist, Xander was nothing but a huge pile of want and need.

And when his mouth engulfed Xander's cock, he nearly screamed in pleasure.

Spike kept him on that edge till he was babbling and begging, playing him like an expert. When he let go with a small pop, Xander would have sworn his brains were leaking out of his ears.

Then Spike asked, "Can I fuck you?"

That brought him down with a thump. He wasn't sure that he was ready to deal with that, yet, but Spike looked so hopeful, and he'd been so good at everything else, so what else could Xander say but yes?

He expected that Spike would get some lube and stretch him out, but what he wasn't expecting was for Spike to start with his mouth, licking and kissing him like there was no difference between that and his elbow. "Jesus, Spike!" He tried to pull Spike's head away, but then he did something with his tongue and he flopped back on the bed. It may be gross, but it felt too good to make him stop.

Then there were fingers, and it didn't hurt - oh, hell, no, it didn't hurt. Xander felt nothing but pleasure and pressure and when Spike went deeper and pressed Xander swore he was going to come.

When he didn't think he could take it anymore, Spike shifted up on his knees. "You ready, Xander?"

"Yes, oh, god, yesssss...." Spike lifted one of his legs over his shoulder and then there was a thick, broad pressure at his entrance.

Now there was a little pain, but it was so small as to be as inconsequential when compared to the pleasure of being filled. One of Spike's hands was on his hip, the other at his cock, and the only sound he could make was, "Oh, oh, oh..." as he started to move.

Sparks going off behind his eye and he couldn't breathe, just lie there and take it and it felt so very, very good, and then Spike leaned forward and kissed him and it got even better. As his hips moved, his thumb glanced over the knot of nerves right below the head of his cock, and Xander couldn't take anymore, crying out and pumping into Spike's fist.

One, two, three more strokes, and Spike cried out, his back arching. He collapsed, falling on Xander's chest, where he stayed for a long moment. Then, with a long sigh, he pulled out and rolled to one side.

"That was..."

"Yeah, it was..."

For a long time, there was only the sound of breathing in the room. Then Xander said, "You know, I'm kinda glad you aren't dead anymore."

"So am I."

The End

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