Rating: NC-17, contains m/m sex and bloodplay
Who/what: Spike/Xander, set in season 6 after "Flooded" in a world without Spuffy.
Disclaimer: The characters are theirs. The fic is mine.
Acknowledgements: Muchas muchas gracias to Miriam and Skiddie for their incredibly valuable beta. You guys rock

This Year's Vamp

China Shop

Before Xander even opened his eyes that morning, he knew something was up. Something other than that. Something unusual.

The apartment was amazingly quiet. If he focused he could hear a couple of guys in the street discussing the ugliest bank robber in the history of the world. "This little blonde chick smashed him right between the eyes, dude," said one of them, "and then he knocked her flat as a pancake. It was freaky!" Xander tuned out.

Mmmm. Pancakes. Xander was starving. Ten hours of patrol, three of them in intensive battle mode, and no midnight snack. Or breakfast. It had been so close to sun up when they'd finally dispelled the Skal'x clan that he'd even magnanimously let Spike crash on the couch, seeing as how he was stranded a good fifteen minutes from his crypt. And also taking into account that Spike had saved Xander's life. Again.

Xander lay there a moment longer, revelling in the soft mattress beneath him, the glow of a sunny California day leaking through the blinds. God, he was glad it was Saturday.

Suddenly his internal alarm began to ring against the inside of his skull.

Icy panic crawled inward from his fingertips and toes, along his arms and legs into a ball of terror in the pit of his stomach.

He'd been awake three minutes -- at least three minutes, maybe five -- and he hadn't inhaled once.

That realisation was quickly followed by a sudden awareness that the palm of his left hand was painfully itchy, and an insistent conviction that somewhere nearby Anya was cooking a steak. But Anya was in Albuquerque. His eyes sprang open. Smoke was curling up from his skin. Even as he watched, a small orange flame leaped out of nowhere and pounced on him.

Not from nowhere, no. From that beam of sunlight. Oh god.

Flammable? Check. Unbreathy? Check. Blood-thirsty? At the thought his forehead rearranged itself with a painful bone-crunch, like tectonic plates graunching against each other. Woah.

By now Xander had a medium-sized campfire on his hands. Literally. He flew into action, thundering down the hall into the bathroom and extinguishing himself with a gush of cold water that sprayed everywhere.

Soaked to the skin, he sagged against the basin, looking down at hands that he now saw had black-painted nails. When the hell had that happened? Suspicion hit him like a fist to the gut. Oh no! No! Never hanging out with Undead Idol ever again, not even if he now turned out to be Xander's only social option. The vamp was an influence in the worst possible way. Xander rubbed his face desperately, feeling the ridges smooth until he was human again.

Muttering a sailor's worth of curses and clinging to vain hope by the rough edges of his nail polish, Xander risked a lightspeed glance in the mirror, only to be faced with a cream-tiled wall, evidence of his own non-reflection. "This is so bad," he told the towel rail. "So so bad."

He shook his head to clear away the last of the sleep fog and disperse the mind-numbing fear, and a course of action finally occurred to him: call Buffy.

Hurrying into the lounge, he noticed his body was tighter, tauter, more powerful than before. Able to leap tall buildings? Was this what Jesse had been talking about, with his "connected to everything" vamp evangelising? Just like Highlander minus the anything good.

Hey, hang on sixty seconds, he thought, coming to a halt. Am I good? Why aren't I evil? Am I evil? He pictured a blood-soaked virgin sacrifice and staggered under the bizarre combination of light-headed starvation and revolted nausea.

The pile of Spike on the couch snorted and sleepily rolled over towards him, arm dangling near an empty Scotch bottle on the floor. Sweet Santa on a Snowplough! Spike was wearing his face! His Xander face. The face of Xander! Familiar features were plastered entirely wrongly atop the snoring length of... not Spike. The blanket slipped, and there was the scar from the Goresh demon, and the tooth marks from Epaskon Formata. Spike was wearing Xander's body, and Xander didn't like it one little bit.

"Hey!" he said. "Wake up!" He shook the sleeping shoulder. "What did you do?"

Spike hunkered down into the blanket and said, "Shurrup. Gowey."

"Spike!" said Xander, over-enunciating to calm himself down. "You took my body. I'd like it back before you break it, or--" He stopped. The possibilities were too frightening to consider.

Spike opened his Xander-like eyes and stared at him blurrily. "Who the fuck're you?' he mumbled.

Xander raised his eyebrows, waiting for the truth to hit home.

There was a pause. Nothing. Bleached moronic, and hungover to boot. Xander was going to have to spell it out. "Who do I look like, Einstein?"

"I dunno. Some git with a running tab at the local plastic surgeon's, if you ask me." Spike frowned. He took a deep breath, and his head fell back against the couch giddily. "Hey. My voice is--"

"Spike." Xander kicked the Scotch bottle aside. "Check out the hair."

Spike ran his fingers over his head, face still wrinkled in confusion.

"On me, Spike. Check out the hair on me."

Spike ignored the instructions. "Xander? Who--?" He fell silent. Xander could hear mental connections shooting around like Spike's head was a pinball machine. "What did you do?" he asked at last, with the weary air of someone who was going to have to put it right.

"Me? It was you! What did you do?" They stared accusingly at each other for a good minute. At least, Xander was accusing. Spike seemed resigned.

"So, that's what I look like, eh?" he said finally.

"Hell, I don't know," said Xander. "I looked in the mirror and all I could see was grout. For all I know, we've all taken a step to the right and I'm in the immortal meatsack of a vampire Dolly Parton." His hands raised involuntarily to his chest. "Or not. Either way, you've got my skin on, and I want it back."

Spike was twisting Xander's features into a new and expressive pattern. "Know what you mean," he said. "All this oxygen's turning my stomach."

"All that alcohol is turning your stomach," Xander pointed out, noticing a dozen empty beer bottles next to Spike's boots. "I'm calling Buffy."

"Reckon it's the combination," said Spike, and promptly hurled onto Xander's bare feet.

"Ah, aah, eww!" yelped Xander, doing something akin to the Snoopy dance. "That's it. Now. Clean. Shower. Me."

He walked back to the bathroom on his heels, trying to protect the carpet, trying not to think that he was avoiding calling for help. Recently-dead Buffy was brittle and bright, and he was reluctant to bother her, to be yet another thing she had to worry about.

He rinsed off his feet as best he could, and decided he really did need a shower. After all, he didn't know where this body had been, other than sleeping in a plumbing-deprived crypt and pummelling gooey demons. The thought of all those death cooties made his skin crawl, and he concluded a quick scrub and sluice was definitely required.

The leather trousers he'd been pretending didn't exist peeled off with surprising ease. They didn't even smell that bad –- smokey and dusty and infinitely dry. The lack of underwear made him squirm, but he was trying to stave off trauma fatigue so he glossed over that, too.

At least being reflectionly challenged meant he didn't have to see naked Spike in the mirror, he told himself. Gotta find that silver lining. He stepped under the warm flow of water -- too hot! too hot! aaaah, perfect! -- and started to rub soap around. The skin felt foreign, smoother than his own, not as soft as Anya's, hard muscles flexing underneath. Xander weakened just a little, let his hands find their own course.

It's my body, my temporary sublet, he thought. I’ve got tenant's right. His fingers slid in investigative circles lower and lower and, Suffering Succotash, if he'd had any doubt he was in unfamiliar territory it was vanquished for sure by the feedback loop he'd slotted into here, because Spike's schlong was twice as responsive as his own, and smattered with all sorts of nerve endings he wasn't expecting. Xander forgot everything else and threw himself into a healthy bout of self-abuse. Or Spike abuse. With whoosh like this, he no longer cared. Oh. God. He was so overcome, he had to lean against the shower wall and brace his legs. He was whacking and panting, and just about to let loose when his own face appeared in the steam, leering unmistakeably through the glass wall.

Xander shut his eyes. Too damned good to care. Too... damned... oh...

He sagged, slid to the floor, and sat there, water pounding down on him, his heart unnaturally unnervingly silent.

"Having fun?" The voice was Xander's, but the combination of curiosity and mockery was pure Spike.

"Get out," said Xander.

"Or what?" Spike pointed at his former head. "You can’t push me around, y’know. Government says so."

"You're wearing my body."

"Makes no difference." Spike pursed his lips. "Bodily harm? Migraine." Fire? Burn. "Now, let's see what I've got in my trousers."

"Hey!" Xander raised his hands in protest.

"Gotta take a piss." Spike flipped the lid up and reached into his pants. "Not too shabby," he concluded, as though it was a compliment. As though Xander wanted Spike's opinion of his dick.

The flow went on a long time -- Xander, head leaned back, eyes shut, shoulders slumped, wondered absently how many beers Spike had poured down Xander's mortal coil.

Then there seemed to be a lot of fumbling and fiddling and, emerging from this, a rhythmic--

"Hey!" Sharper this time. "Hey! Stop that!"

Spike scowled at him. "Turn and turn about. Fair's fair."

"Get your hand off my--"

The boner of contention was long and hard, and was being skilfully played out by practiced fingers. "Bog off. You had your fun."

"That's my cock!"

"Yeah," agreed Spike, and a tiny smile played around the corner of his mouth, like this fact didn’t bother him at all.

"That's--" Xander, open-mouthed, watched him as he beat off vigorously. "No. No way." He sprang, unexpectedly easily, to his feet, and intervened, grabbing Spike's arm. "I am the only one with jurisdiction over my body. You're trespassing. Stop it."


They faced off, brown eyes somehow cold and steely from the vampire lurking behind them.

Then, insistently, "Xander."

Xander felt a rush of warmth, a lump in his throat. "If anyone--" he said, and reached out to touch himself, to touch Spike, to hold his own erection.

Spike blinked, and didn't move a single other muscle.

Xander's fingers closed around it, familiar from an unfamiliar angle. There was no feedback, no internal knowledge. Spike was so close, so warm. Xander could sense the blood rushing beneath the surface. Pulse. Xander stroked--

Not a single muscle.

--and stroked. Gently. Building up a head of steam. "Mine," said Xander softly.

Without warning, Spike staggered sideways into the wall. He was gasping, his lips white. "Bollocks," he said hoarsely. "Forgot to breathe."

Xander snapped back to sanity. "I'm calling Buffy," he said, backing away, away out the door, away from this insane stupid intimacy that was growing, that was all wrong. Demon magnet, he thought bitterly. Jesus Christ.

"Summers' house," said the voice on the line, so full of chirp you could stick wings on it and call it a swallow. Xander went very still, and tried not to word associate from swallow. The feel of his, Spike's, the cock still imprinted on his hand.

He plunged quickly into soothing denial. "Hey Dawn. How's the renovations?" And then, without waiting for an answer, "I need to talk to Buffy."

"Spike?" Dawn sounded puzzled. "You sound weird. Like--"

"I woke up British this morning," Xander non-explained.


"Buffy?" His voice strained with the effort of not feeling anything.

"Right." There was the clunk of receiver on table, and the clatter of jelly sandals on the distant floor. A faint murmured girly conversation. Dawn whining about a paint tint.

Half of Xander's apartment was filled with Summers' junk. "You're sure you don't mind?" Buffy had asked, hauling yet another six boxes up the stairs while Xander had staggered up with two. "There's nowhere to keep it since the flooding, and with Will and Tara in mom's room and the supporting wall hanging from the--" "I know," he'd said, warm understanding guy. "It's just for a week," she'd added, turning away, taking his help for granted. He took it for granted, too. He needed to be there for her. And yeah, it hurt that she hadn’t wanted him around for the redecorating. "Sisterly bonding," she’d explained. "Besides, you’ve done enough." He’d tried to believe that was barb-free, even as it stung. Still, emergency is as emergency does, and he was forever and always a scooby, which automatically entitled him to Priority Slayer Service. At least, he hoped so. "Help me," he said to the receiver, just before Buffy came on the line.


"Sort of," he admitted. "But really not."

"Xander?" Buffy sounded confused. Distracted and confused.

"Bingo. I have sort of a-- How can I put this? We're in each other's bodies."

Now he had her attention. "You don't mean like--"

"No," he said hastily. "No. We've swapped. Bodies. We're bodyswapped. We're--" He tried to come up with an illuminating pop culture reference, but his circuits were fried.

"Did he use a katra? Cos that really stings."

"I don’t know what he used. I just know I'm a vampire. I need you. Please."

"Just over there!" said Buffy, and there was a loud crash. "Sorry," she said. "Ladder. I'll be there as soon as I can."

"And Willow! Bring Willow!" But she'd already hung up, and Xander didn't want to make any more phonecalls. He didn't want to talk to his friends in a voice that wasn't his own.

Spike was leaning in the doorway, eyebrows up, stance sultry. At least, Xander thought it was sultry. It was hard to tell when it was his own body, but somehow Spike was making Xander’s oldest sweatpants look cool. The hair was gelled back, sleek and gleaming, mapping his skull. Xander decided not to think about it. "I'm going to Revello."

Spike shook his head. "Daylight."

"Fuck. You go. No, don't go. I'm not letting my body out of my sight. God knows what you'd do with it." He glared at Spike's considered head tilt. "I don't want a tattoo."

"What do you want?"

Blood, thought Xander, his stomach like a snare drum, unfamiliar vampire instincts messing with his appetite. "Nothing.’

Spike shrugged and disappeared into the kitchen, and after a while Xander followed. Spike was constructing a Zen sandwich: one with everything. Xander intervened. "That pizza's two weeks old," he pointed out, pulling out the pepperoni laden slice. "And to be honest I think you're better off without the potato salad. Here." He tossed Spike the peanut butter. "Try this."

Spike grunted his thanks, and suddenly they were domestic, experimenting together, constructing one weirdass sandwich after another. Some met with Spike's instant and wolf-like approval, and others were casually tossed aside, into the bin or the sink. They were Frankenstein and Igor, Beaker and Doctor Honeydew, Calvin and Hobbes.

And then they were out of bread. Xander grabbed the ex-vampire by his upper arm and marched him back into the lounge, carrying a clutch of beers and a packet of chips in his other hand. "Saturday morning," he explained, settling himself on the floor. "Cartoons."

Sometime during a Smurfs rerun, Xander relaxed. Maybe it had something to do with the beer, or maybe it was Spike, lying lazily on the couch behind him burping to himself. It crept up on him, and Xander had lived on the Hellmouth long enough to distrust things that crept up on him, but this time he thought Why fight it? Spike was right behind him, and they had unfinished business, and that Gargamel never came up with a decent plan in his life.

During the next commercial break Xander turned to look at Spike. "I didn’t--" He broke off, his heart in his mouth. Someone's heart in his mouth. He wasn't sure anymore.

Spike was sprawled lengthways, his hand cupped over his crotch like something was going on. He was heavy-lidded and liquid, and hot as hell. Xander didn't think of himself as sexy. He was solid and carpentery, and had always been the straight guy, the failed stripper, the reject. Even when Cordelia had stuck his picture in her locker, he thought she'd probably photoshopped it first.

But Spike had taken Xander's body and made it his own. And his own had the erotic charge of a buffed and shapely nuclear reactor. Xander slapped that thought away and opened another beer.


"Mmm?" Spike twisted his hand against his crotch. "The breathing's a load of bollocks, but the heartbeat makes it all worth while."

"That's your verdict?"

"Warms the cockles."

Xander tried again. "Spike?"

There was pounding on the door. Oh god. Buffy. If he'd-- If they-- Good. It was good that the slayer was here to free his body from its bondage, to evict his evil-- The banging started up again.

"Sounds like your knight in shining boob tube," said Spike, not moving.

Xander glanced down at himself. Towel. "I'm wearing a towel!"

"Didn't want to say anything."

Spike was more or less dressed. "Would you get the fucking door?" Xander let annoyance flood his words. It suited the snarky British voice. Goodbye Calvin and Hobbes, hello Sid and Nancy. He scrambled into the bedroom and grabbed random clothes from the closet.

The girls were talking in the hallway. "You look just like him," said Dawn excitedly.

"What have you done to his hair?"

They fell silent when Xander made his entrance, their jaws dropping in unison.

"What? What did I do?" Xander automatically checked his fly, then looked down at his Spike-like self. A baby blue t-shirt blurred in his vision. "Guh!" He stripped it off and tossed it back into the bedroom with the force of a hurricane. The Summers girls eyed his newly naked torso with interest, but Willow was distracted.

"'Queer babe'?" she quoted doubtfully.

"There was this-- Anya's friend-- Look, can we focus? The point is I'm in Spike's body, he's in mine. How do we swap back?" They continued to stare. "I'm begging you."

Buffy blinked and raised her eyes, finally, to his face. "How did it happen?" She turned to Spike. "What did you do?’

"Wasn't my stupid idea," he growled, hands raised in wounded innocence.

"We woke up and--" Xander looked around at them, and what he saw made him gesture wildly. "Separately! We woke up separately and we were already like this. Apart. In different rooms."

"Tara and I already checked," said Willow. "It isn’t a katra."

"This is giving me the wiggins," said Buffy, eyeing Spike, who snorted and headed for the couch.

"You could help us out here, you know," Xander said to his retreating back.

He sounded bored. "You slayerettes'll sort it. Always do."

Xander gazed pleadingly at his rescuers. "You see what I'm stuck with?"

"You could always send him home," said Dawn.

"He's not going anywhere. He's in my body. Lord only knows what foul depravity he'd use it for."

Feminine consultation followed, reaching the Research conclusion.

"I can't leave the house till sundown, and somehow I don't think the Attention Deficit Marauder's going to be much help with the books."

"That's okay." Willow patted his arm. She smelt faintly metallic. "We'll call you if anything--"

"Are you on the rag?" Xander interrupted. His stomach was growling.

There was a round of awkward silence.

"Sorry, sorry." He help up placatory hands. "Enhanced vampire senses combined with Spike's limited brain power. It's kinda confusing in here. And, y'know, hungry."

They left pretty quickly after that. Dawn, the only one of them to take this in stride, hugged him. "We'll find a cure," she promised. "Call if you need anything." She smiled her sweet Dawn smile.

"Thanks, Dawn." Xander felt a hundred years old. "The surgical removal of my foot from my mouth, when you have a moment."

She scrunched up her chin in sympathy and followed Buffy out the door.

Xander could hear them all down the hall. "Where do we start, Will?" "Let's get donuts before we go to The Magic Shop." "Did you see that t-shirt?"

He leaned his forehead against the door and waited for the voices to die away.

Spike had his feet propped on the coffee table, the chips in one hand, and was watching a film about talking animals.

Xander stood in the doorway, vibrating with restlessness. He felt edgy. "I'm hungry," he announced, winning himself a gold medal in understatement.

Spike glanced at him lethargically. "Yeah? What d'you want me to do about it?"

"Nothing. Just -- how do you stand it?"

"I eat," said Spike. He sighed and got to his feet. He looked at Xander for a moment, as though waiting for a sign or an insult, and then apparently decided to take the lead. "You've got some pig," he said. Xander rubbed his hands over his newly chiselled face and tried to convince himself that it would just be like drinking liquid meat: ham smoothie. No problem there. He heard the fridge door and then the microwave. "Here," said Spike, pushing a mug into his hands. "You'll feel better."

But he didn't.

He took a sip, expecting to gag, letting it pool in his mouth. He swallowed. Nothing. It was blood, but it wasn't what he wanted. It was like craving steak and eating tofu.

"How do you stand it?" he asked again, after grimacing down another gulp.

"What's that?"

"This. This is cheese whip without the cheese, fries without the ketchup, this is coffee without the caffeine or the flavour."

"You get used to it."

"But aren't you hungry all the time?"

Spike disappeared into the kitchen, came back with Weetabix. "Gives it a bit of body," he said, crumbling it into Xander's mug.

"Thanks." Xander tried to tune out the sound of human pulse.

Spike cocked his head, squinted at Xander perceptively.


He just smirked. "Bloody well-fed Americans. Probably never gone hungry before in your life."

"That's not—"

"Alcohol." Plainly this was a prescription. "Dulls the craving."

Xander thought Sure, why not? and went to raid the liquor cupboard, only to find that Spike had drained it Sahara-like the night before. "There’s nothing here."

"What's this?"

"Champagne?" It was a crate of bubbly Anya had bought in the post-New Year sales and had been saving for their engagement party. "Sure, why not?" He was a temporary vampire, and he was going to get drunk with Spike. Reality was blurring around the edges even before Spike had wrestled the foil and wire off the bottle.

Three glasses of warm fizz later and Xander was finding out something irritating about Spike's alcohol threshold. A couple of bottles after that and he'd finally made a dent in his sobriety. Spike was sprawled on the couch staring into an empty glass.

"Top up," said Xander, pointing the fat green bottle towards him. Spike held out his hand clumsily, bashing the glass into the neck of the bottle, smashing it into a dozen pieces. He swore and a jewel-bright drop of blood welled up on the tip of his thumb. Blood.

The rest of the world went sepia.

Xander put the bottle down with drunken care and moved in helplessly. "You've cut yourself." He could smell it, could almost taste it.

"Yeah." Spike peered at his thumb, opened his mouth to lick away the droplet.

"Allow me." The gallantry rang false, but Spike was maybe too drunk to notice, or maybe toying with him, and Xander frankly didn't care cos he was dying of hunger. He was dead of hunger. His forehead shifted, involuntary and demonic.

He took the hand -- his own familiar hand -- and brought the thumb to his lips, which tingled at the contact. He sucked it greedily inside, into the cool cavern of his mouth.

The world exploded on his tongue, and he closed his eyes and paid attention. He was alive. Every tiny hair on his body quivered and his dick throbbed. Coke hadn't lied. Can't beat the real thing.

The rush passed. It had only been a small cut and, try as he might, Xander couldn't get a satisfying flow of blood. I'm giving Spike's thumb a hickey, he thought hysterically after a minute or two, and eased off the pressure, feeling shocked. He looked at Spike who, to his surprise, had dumb shock plastered all over his face too, mouth hanging open, eyes wide. For a moment it really did look like Xander sitting there, and for some reason that made it worse. "Spike?" he wanted to say, to check, but his mouth was full of thumb.

Thumb which had been a passive participant up to this point. It brushed Xander's teeth and then withdrew, leaving him empty.

Xander narrowed his eyes, harbouring a sudden suspicion that Spike wasn't as drunk as he was making out.

But making out seemed the order of the day, and Xander -- parts of him screaming with repulsion and the rest of him screaming with impatience -- watched silently as Spike took a shard of wineglass and drew a neat red slit across the ball of that same thumb.

Oh yeah.

And then Spike pushed the sweatpants down and his cock stood to attention, and Xander thought No no no and wanted to leave, wanted to run screaming from the building, just let the sun sizzle him and all his unholy appetites to ash, but the need for blood held him steadfast. When Spike rubbed his thumb over the cock, leaving smears and drips of gory goodness, Xander had to clench his jaw, grip his hands together to keep control.

They froze in that tableau for five seconds, ten. Xander kneeling between Spike’s legs, hands fisted together, fixated on Spike's bloodstained cock, acutely aware of Spike watching him, daring him.

He could hear a soundtrack of doom. Was it just in his head? He was pretty sure it was.

"Okay." Even as he said the word, he couldn't believe it. Not his voice. Not his voice, not his word. Someone else was saying it. This wasn't Xander agreeing to go down on his own body. No, this was Spike's body agreeing to go down on Spike. Yeah, maybe Xander could abdicate responsibility. "Okay."

Spike gasped. Spike. Gasped. "Alright then," he said. Xander thought he might have been trying for bravado, but it came out soft and keen.

Spike lifted his arm and tasted the last traces of blood from his thumb, then grimaced in disgust, and in different circumstances Xander might have laughed at that, but there weren't any other circumstances that would see them like this. Half-naked and dirty with desire. There was some serious work to be done here. Thank you, Mr Kubrick, I've found my motivation.

In a hidden corner of his mind he knew this was the most perverted thing he’d ever done -- even taking into account when Anya had discovered the Good Vibrations website and maxed out his credit card, leading to the violation of a number of federal laws -- but My blood, he rationalised. And Spike won't tell.

He bent his head, tongue sliding down the length of the cock, mouth circling, chasing the red cells and platelets -- better than double chocolate ice cream, better than pizza, better than beer after a long day on the building site. Nothing else mattered. Xander licked urgently, forgetting about Spike, about the spell. Wanting to sate his hunger, wanting more and more.

Spike's hips began to tremble. Xander gripped his thighs and pushed them further apart. There were drops eluding him, trickles too far south to reach. He drew back, slowly, searching for every molecule of blood, even enjoying the bitter salt of precome.

Spike grunted when Xander's lips lost contact, and dug desperate hands into Xander's hair, trying to push him back down. Xander ignored him, easily taking Spike's wrists and pinning them to the couch, one on either side. Then he dove back down, his tongue swiping the length of the cock, seeking and urgent.

Some of the blood had trailed onto his balls. Xander let go Spike's wrists and took the cock in one hand, balls in the other, and sucked fervently wherever he could find blood. There was a smear on the sweatpants and he sucked the fabric clean, nuzzling Spike's thigh with his nose in the process. He was drunk on it, had never been so high in his life -- but then, whenever he’d had the chance to try drugs Willow had always been there frowning. Good thing she wasn't here now. Chances were, she wouldn't approve.

Disturbingly -- and what wasn't disturbing in this scenario of epic disturbation -- the moment that thought slid snakelike through his head, Spike shuddered and came, his hands back on Xander's skull, come lacing Xander's cheek, shoulder, hair.

Xander did a Something About Mary to his hair, and avoided Spike's eyes. By now he had the kind of aching boner that wasn't just going to go away if he ignored it.

"I'm gonna shower," he said.

"C'mere," said Spike, composure back in place, and that was just extra proof that it wasn't Xander in there, because Xander would've let himself sleep for hours after that, after the Richter 9 quake of that blow job which he himself had--

Inexpertly, he assured himself. I was totally not good. Except Spike was smiling, was moving down towards him, reaching for him, the flex of his fingers ancient and unearthly and irresistible. "God," gasped Xander. "Jesus." He tried to remember he had vampire strength and he could stop this if he wanted.

He was stupid, but not that stupid.

He let Spike do him. Yeah, just sprawled on the floor in shock, head under the coffee table, right foot landing in a mess of beer bottles. Xander hummed and vibrated his way through the best fucking fellatio of his life.

Mind melt. Stars. Darkness.


* * * * *

He woke to ringing and the smell of cigarettes. He woke to sanity and a horrible fear in the pit of his stomach. What he been thinking, Spike wouldn't tell? Spike would so tell.

Xander felt hungover and mad as hell. He grabbed the phone. "What?"

"Xander?" Willow was using her little girl voice. He must sound like a monster. "Yeah, Will. What's up?"

She answered gravely, "We've checked the books, and Tara and I ran some readings and there's nothing. No magical emanations, no hotspots."

"What are you saying, Will? That I'm imagining this? Cos I have a flammable lack of reflection that says different."

"No, not that. Xander, this thing's localised -- probably a charm. You'll have to check round the apartment for anything that--"

Xander groaned. "You mean I have to wade through seven hundred cubic metres of Summers' paraphernalia until-- Can't I just set the whole lot on fire?"

There was consultation on the other end, like they were taking this question seriously. "That could render the spell permanent. No, you'll have to find it. And don't touch the configuration till we get there."

That last instruction was laden with doom. Xander wanted to scream. There were upward of fifty boxes in piles around the place, all of them crammed with winter clothes, obsolete weapons, and a complete set of Ikea back catalogues. "You're coming over to help, right? You'll be here in when?"

"Sorry, Xander. There's trouble down on the farm."

"What? Where?"

"There's a nest of Fyarl demons hatching underneath the Starbucks on Main Street."

"Oh come on, Will," he said, frantically. "You're choosing Starbucks over me?"

"Xander, they may be a demon-run empire of caffienated evil, but most of their clients are humans." She softened. "You're practically invulnerable, Xander. There’s no immediate danger, and we'll be there as soon as we can."

No immediate danger? Willow clearly didn’t know anything. Which was just as well. "How will we know when we find it? We need you."

"It’ll be glowing and smell -- unusual. You have vampire senses now. You’ll be able to tell."

"Great. That's just great." Xander slammed the phone down, but managed to restrain himself from yanking it out of the wall. "Fine." He was on his own.

Worse. He was on his own with Spike.

Spike who was standing pressed against the window in the mid afternoon sun, who was defiling his -- Xander's -- healthy pink lungs with over four thousand different chemicals and apparently taking great pleasure in doing so. Bastard.

"Could you not? Do that?" raged Xander, and when that had no effect he stalked across the room and tore the glowing butt from Spike's fingers.

"Hey!" Spike slouched menacingly into Xander's personal bubble while also, probably on purpose, moving his shadow off Xander's torso.

"Oww! Shit!" Xander stumbled back out of the light, and then thumped Spike, aiming for the solar plexus, and sending him flying across the room with a crunch. Oops.

Out of nowhere, someone sliced through Xander’s brain with a rainbow-coloured buzz saw. Fuckfuckfuck. The chip. Shit! Xander melted unpleasantly and the world globbed up to meet him as he slithered to the floor. Curled up. He wanted to cry.

"Bitch," yelled Spike from the other side of the room.

"Don't start with me." Xander bubbled with fury.

"What's gotten into you then?" Spike seemed genuinely puzzled, but even once Xander had regained control and the pain had more or less receded he didn't want to talk about it. No way. Instead he relayed Willow's instructions. Spike was as dismayed as Xander at the prospect of filtering through umpteen boxes of expired makeup and soft toys, so when he hobbled pathetically over to the pack of cigarettes, Xander took pity on him and let him light up. As though he had a choice.

After a few hours of searching, the apartment looked like a Lord of the Rings-themed rummage sale had hit -- weapons and jewellery everywhere -- and Xander was totally fed up. "We don't even know what it looks like," he wailed. "What if we don't recognise it?"

"Uh, Xander?" Spike wandered into the room looking subdued. "I found it."

Xander followed him into the bedroom, where Spike had been unexpectedly tidy with his seekage, and there it was: a box crammed with kids' books and junk jewellery. One of the metal trinkets was glowing, and smelled -- spooky.

"Look what it's lying on," said Spike.

Xander looked. A battered copy of Freaky Friday. "You’re familiar with the works of--" he checked "--Mary Rogers? Not really your expected reading material. What happened to the complete works of Spidey? What happened to the Handbook for the Wreaking of Havoc and Corruption of Innocence?’

Spike gritted his teeth, but his tone was patient. "Live as long as I have, you got time to branch out, pet. Anyway, I liked the film. Jodie Foster was bloody brilliant."

Xander tried not to care. He framed the box with his hands. This was it. "Do not touch that. Do not touch it," he ordered, backing towards the phone. Willow would have her cellphone with her -- or Buffy would have hers -- and they'd leave the stupid Starbucks and come rescue him. He knew they would. That's what friends were for.

Everyone's phones were switched off. Spike followed Xander into the lounge, and stood listening as he left a message. Spike’s hands were shoved deep in his pockets, lips a straight line.

Lips. Xander felt something stir in his pants, but ignored it ruthlessly.

Spike tried to talk to him. "Xander. Listen to me." Xander shook his head and locked himself in the bathroom. He was overloaded, full of rage. Utterly utterly exhausted.

"Xander, we need to talk." Spike's voice insinuated itself through the cracks around the door. But Xander knew he was wrong. There was nothing to say.

Spike tried anyway. Tried and tried, and then gave up. His footsteps faded into static.

Later, after an hour during which the front door opened and shut twice -- each time eliciting a gruelling combination of terror and relief -- and an acrid chemical smell crept into the bathroom, Spike rattled the doorknob, then hammered on the door. "Stop being such a wanker and open the bloody door. I need to wash my head!"

Xander ran water to drown him out, all the faucets gushing noisily. In the end he stripped off and showered. Yeah. Tried not to go there. Went there anyway. Sat weak-kneed on the toilet feeling gritty and alone.

The phone rang. Spike answered it. Xander didn't move.

Spike was probably getting him hooked on nicotine or cocaine, was probably abusing his body in ways Xander didn't think he wanted to think about.

Xander ran the flat of his hand over his wet cool chest, thumbed the nipple. It felt way too good. Another loss of blissful ignorance.

Once he was back in his body, the first thing he'd do was call Anya. He'd phone her. He'd say, "Yes, honey, it's great that your Charm Suppliers' Conference is going so well, but I need you back here NOW" and she'd drop everything, she'd let it all go and come back and save him from himself. Anya, his faithful orgasm friend. Except he'd never make that call.

Because how could he face her now? Because he knew too much to go back. Because--

Because once bitten, twice gagging for it. And hell, even the thought of getting bitten didn't seem so wrong anymore. Not now he knew how powerful his blood was, and how much Spike's body craved it.

In the background he heard voices -- Willow and Tara and Spike -- heard the girls, scolding and then chanting foreign tongues, heard a whoosh and a snap sideways, and a bumble bee hum in his ear that got louder and louder. Warp Factor 5.

There was a moment when he was cold and insubstantial, forced between molecules, panicking wildly, and then SLAM! He was winded, gasping, and his scalp stung and his stomach really really hurt.

Willow was crouched down beside him. "Spike?"

But then the bathroom door clicked open and there was Spike, unmistakeably him, standing in the doorway, saying, "Yeah? Yeah, it worked."

"Xander?" Will put her small woman-loving hand on his shoulder. He nodded and stared at his knees, fighting nausea and a hollow disappointment he couldn’t bear to acknowledge.

"Are you okay?"

"Just go, okay?" He forced a smile, forced eye contact. "I'll be fine. I just need to be alone for a while."


"Maybe we should go." And Tara was dragging Willow to the door, and thank the lord for Tara, and they were herding Spike out too, Spike who was resisting, who'd opened his mouth to say something, who was staring at him like nothing could be more important. Spike who knew all the horrible little secrets of Xander's body: the pimples on his bum, the funky taste of his breath first thing in the morning, his weaknesses and aches, and how it felt when he came.

Xander shut his eyes. They left.

The apartment was empty and tired. The fridge clicked on; water was still running in the bathroom. He could hear his pulse thudding in his ears, footsteps carrying him closer to death.

After a long while, he stood up, had a glass of water and eyed the empty packet and damp towel on the kitchen bench. Then he went to turn off the faucets. His reflection stared wide-eyed back at him. Do you want the good news or the bad news? he asked himself. The good news is you have a reflection. The bad--

He left abruptly. He pulled on a sweater and shoes, tucked his keys in his pocket, left the apartment at a run.

He ran the whole way, arrived trickling sweat, burning with righteous indignation or something else that felt just like it. The door made a satisfying crash when he shoved it open.

Spike, beer in one hand, smoke in the other, tilted his head back and stared at him.

"My hair?" Xander had no words for it. He'd never wanted to be blond.

"Thought you could use some more fun."

The words hung in the air like a promise.


The evil undead didn't move. The evil undead was waiting.

"Spike, I--" Xander took a step forward, and then another. They were a foot apart, electricity snapping under Xander's fingernails, under his heels, propelling him.

He lifted a hand and touched Spike's Adam's apple, felt it flex as Spike swallowed.

"You know me," he said, and it meant everything he wanted to say and half a dozen things he didn't, but he didn't take it back. Spike had a history to make him shudder and weep, but that was in the past. They all relied on him now: Buffy, Willow, Dawn, and Xander. Xander most of all. Xander couldn't hide from it anymore. "I know you."

Spike brought Xander's hand round to the side of his neck and pressed it there below the jaw, against the silent pulse point. "Always did," he said.

Xander leaned in, holding his breath, too scared to exhale into this fragile moment. Lips moved softly against lips, exploring and answering, and it was the perfect end to this freaky fucked-up day.

"Yeah, you did," lied Xander, who'd always until now been second runner up. He pulled Spike's skinny breathless body close and held him, Xander's heart pounding fast enough for two.

The End

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