The collar was the hardest - so...blatant. Xander had embraced most of the trappings of belonging to Spike - the new, tight, sexy clothes; the eyeliner; the piercings; the submission - but the collar. Maybe if it had been a simple chain, or plain leather, but Spike? Not so subtle. It was a dog collar. Special order and all, but it was still a dog collar. A spiked dog collar.
It wasn't so bad to wear it at home. In fact, Xander really, really liked the way that Spike's face both sharpened and slackened when he fastened it around his neck - just a tiny bit too tightly for real comfort. Spike's eyes got that faraway look, and his tongue would come out to dance lightly across his surprisingly lush bottom lip as the leather slid through the buckle and the collar bit into Xander's tanned neck just a little.
But in front of the others - at the Magic Box or on patrol or just going about his daily business - the collar made him feel vulnerable in a way that the other things didn't. Frankly, the new look was great. He got tons of attention from strangers of both sexes, but he was careful to never, ever give the impression of interest. Spike's jealousy knew no bounds, and Xander liked being able to sit down, really he did.
"What are you thinking about, pet?" Spike was reclining on the love seat in the research area of the Magic Box, peering over the top of his book at Xander, kneeling nearby, hands clasped in the small of his back, eyes on the floor. The others were arrayed around the table - a normal night.
"My collar, Spike," Xander replied without raising his eyes, happy yet again that he only had to call Spike "Master" when they were alone.
Spike stood and walked to his side, crouching down on the floor to run light fingers along the warm skin above the black leather. "Do you like this collar, pet?" Spike asked.
"If it pleases you," Xander replied, remaining still.
Spike moved in closer, his lips nearly touching the top of Xander's bowed head. "It does please me, pet. It does. Do you know why?"
"No, Spike," Xander answered truthfully.
"It pleases me because you wear it, even though you hate it. You never say a word - you just take it because it's what I want. You do it for me. You please me, pet." He ran his hand over the collar one more time before returning to the sofa.
Xander swallowed hard, feeling the warm leather constrict his throat, and thought that maybe the collar wasn't so bad after all.