Secrets


by
Edibbea



13
Secrets and Sacrifices I

It was almost 2 a.m. by the time they finally set off for LA.  Spike had insisted that Xander sit and eat a proper meal while he packed his bag for him.  Then, just as they were heading out the door, Xander decided that he wasn't listening to punk music all the way to LA, and walked back into the loungeroom.  He scooped up a handful of the CDs he'd bought earlier and shoved them into one of the carrier bags that were still lying on the floor by the couch.  Spike had followed him into the loungeroom, and Xander saw him pick up the two small jewellery cases from where they'd fallen on the floor, and place them on the coffee table.  Spike raised his eyes and winced slightly as he caught Xander's gaze.

"Xander, I'm..."

"Sorry.  Yeah, I know.  You said."  Xander watched as Spike's shoulders slumped a little.  He sighed.  Stepped closer to Spike and took his left hand, stroking the wedding ring on Spike's finger with his thumb.  Spike looked at his hand, then lifted his eyes to meet Xander's gaze again.

"Maybe traditional vows would have been more appropriate.  Y'know, for better or worse?  I love you, Spike.  We'll work it out, together, one way or the other.  And anyway, I guess it was my fault, in a way.  I was trying to provoke a reaction from you.  Guess it worked."  He leaned forward and placed a light kiss on Spike's lips.  "C'mon, we'd better get going if we want to be in LA before dawn."


~*~*~*~*~


"Xander?  Wake up, love, we're here."

"Wha...?"  Xander stifled a yawn and blearily opened his eyes.  Damn, he'd wanted to talk to Spike on the way here.  He'd only meant to rest his eyes for a moment.  Xander gazed out the window at the brightly-lit hotel forecourt.  "Deadboy lives here?"

"No, pet.  It's almost dawn.  We're gonna book into a room here and get some sleep. We'll go see him tonight."

"Oh."  Xander fumbled his way out of the car and followed Spike into the hotel.  He leaned against the reception desk and must have dozed off again, as the next thing he knew he was being steered gently into the lift.  "Sorry, Spike, I just..." he was cut off by a jaw-stretching yawn, and Spike chuckled.  An arm was wrapped around his waist, and Spike half carried him to their room.  Xander vaguely heard voices and felt himself being undressed before he sank back into the warm arms of sleep again.

The next time Xander opened his eyes, he could see slivers of light trying to creep past the edges of the heavy curtains drawn across the windows of the bedroom.  A glance at the clock on the bedside table told him it 12:57 - in the afternoon, presumably.  Xander felt slightly hungover, which seemed a little unfair as he hadn't been drunk.  A disturbing giggle in a corner of his mind pointed out that he actually had been drunk, by Spike.  With the somewhat surreal vision of himself as a bottle of beer floating around in his head, he decided that he really needed a shower and something to eat.  He carefully got out of bed, trying not to disturb Spike, who seemed to be sound asleep, and wandered into the bathroom.  His toothbrush and toiletries were laid out, so Spike had obviously taken the time to unpack a little after putting him to bed.  Xander showered and shaved, and started to feel a little more alive.

Xander got dressed and left the bedroom.  Spike had got them a suite.  Bedroom, ensuite bathroom and lounge area.  Nice.  He just wished he was in the mood to appreciate it.  He felt unsettled, jittery.  He needed to get out, get some fresh air, maybe, clear his head.  Xander found his wallet, watch, keys and a keycard for the hotel room sitting in a pile on the coffee table.  As he picked them up, he saw that the piece of paper they were sitting on was a note from Spike.  The copperplate script informed him that there was a restaurant in the hotel that Xander could use to get lunch, or that he could order room service if he wanted, and that he was loved very much.  Xander smiled, folded the paper carefully and placed it in his wallet.  As he did, he noticed the other piece of paper he'd tucked in there - the one with Angel's address and phone number on it.  He'd spotted this information last time he was at Giles' apartment, and had hastily scribbled it down, not really knowing why he was doing so, but figuring it might come in useful.

Xander wrote a quick note for Spike, saying he was going out to eat and then look around for a couple of hours, grabbed his jacket and left.


~*~*~*~*~


After a hastily eaten lunch, Xander left the hotel with the vague idea of possibly going to see Angel, maybe.  The doorman asked if he wanted a cab, and the next thing Xander knew he was on his way to the address on the piece of paper he was still clutching in his hand.

As he paid off the cab, Xander wondered what on earth he was doing there.  He really hadn't thought this through.  He should just go back to the hotel and -

"Xander?  Is that you?"

"Cordy?"  He'd forgotten.  Buffy had told them that Cordelia was working for Angel now.  And some other guy, couldn't remember his name, though.

"What are you doing here?  And, wow, looking so good, too!  Who is she?"

"What?  She?  Who?"

"Your new girlfriend."  Xander stared blankly at Cordelia.

"I don't have a girlfriend, Cordy," said Xander, slowly.  Okay, his headache was coming back again, with a vengeance.  He had no idea why Cordelia was suddenly so interested in his sex life, or even why he was still standing there.  He should hail a cab, get back to the hotel.  

"Oh, please.  You suddenly look like something that stepped out of GQ and you expect me to believe there's not a woman involved in this transformation?"  Cordelia looked him up and down and then suddenly squealed, grabbing hold of his left hand.  "Is that a wedding ring, Xander Harris?"

"Yeah, I..."  Damn.  Wrong answer.  Cordelia dropped his hand and swatted at his arm.

"You got married and didn't tell me!  You are in so much trouble, mister.  Right, inside now.  We can have coffee, and I want to know everything.  I want details."

Cordelia sailed into the building and through the office, towing a reluctant Xander in her wake, and he soon found himself sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee.

"So, spill.  Who is she?  When did you get married?  Buffy never mentioned it.  Are you living in LA now or just visiting?"

Xander raised his hands in a 'fending off' gesture.  "Cordy, I really can't talk to you about this right now.  It's... it's not what you think.  It's..."  He took a deep breath.  "Cordy, I'm gay.  I'm married to a guy."  Cordelia's mouth dropped open, and for the first time in his life, Xander Harris managed to stun Cordelia Chase into silence.  Xander would have given anything for a camera right at that moment, as Cordelia did a credible impersonation of a goldfish for several seconds.  But it could never be said that Queen C. did not know how to rise to an occasion.  She suddenly flashed him a brilliant smile.  "Well, I suppose that explains the clothes."  At Xander's look of confusion, she continued, "He's obviously got much better dress sense that you."

"Yeah.  Yeah, he does," said Xander, smiling.  Cordelia studied his face for a moment as he thought about Spike.  

"Damn, you're really in love, aren't you?  I'm happy for you, Xander.  Though I shouldn't be surprised you're gay, really.  I mean, I'm a hard act to follow, aren't I?"  Xander snorted at this, and they both burst out laughing.

"You live here?" said Xander, looking around the kitchen, desperately trying to change the subject before the topic of exactly who he was married to could be raised.

"Hell no!  Me living in a basement?  Please.  This is Angel's.  We work out of the office upstairs, but I'm having lunch.  And talking to you.  Anyway, not like we're rushed off our feet.  Wes usually gets the phone if anyone calls while I'm at lunch, but he's off researching something all day, or so he says.  I think he just wanted Saturday off, you know?"

"Wes?"

"Yeah, you know, Watcher guy from Sunnydale?  Took off after the whole 'Mayor tried to eat us all' thing?  Well, he showed up here, and Angel hired him.  We needed the extra help since Doyle..." Her voice trailed off.  At Xander's inquiring look, she explained, "Doyle was working with Angel when I first met them here.  He... he died.  Saving a lot of people.  I miss him."  Xander reached across the table and took Cordelia's hand, squeezing it slightly.  Cordelia seemed to shake herself, then the bright smile was back.  "But hey, anyway, so, husband, huh?  Is that why you're in LA?  Shopping?  Or are you moving here?  And when do I get to meet him?"

"No.  No shopping or anything, Cordy.  Actually, I'm here to um, see De...Angel.  Need to talk to him about something."  The bright smile changed to a look of surprise, which changed to suspicion almost immediately.

"Why?  Is something wrong?  Did Buffy send you?"

"No!  No, nothing like that.  I just need to talk to him."

"You do?  Okay, Xander, what's going on?  You've never just wanted to talk to Angel."  Cordelia leaned back in her chair and folded her arms.  "Okay, mister, spill."

"I can't.  Cordy, this is something..." Xander bit his lip and picked up his coffee mug with both hands to still their fidgeting.  "It's personal.  It's something only he can help me with, okay?  Look, is he around?  I can come back later.  In fact, why don't I just go, and I can call another time -"

"No need.  I'm right here."

Xander froze.  His heart seemed to stop for a second and then start again with a thump that he swore everyone in the room could hear.  He looked over to the doorway to see Angel watching him, his face expressionless. 

"Cordy.  Things are pretty quiet at the moment.  Why don't you take the rest of the day off.  I'm sure you can find something else to do.  There's a sale on at Neiman Marcus, didn't you say?"

As Xander watched Cordelia, he could see her wavering.  Much as she wanted to know what was going on, a Neiman Marcus sale was always going to win, Xander knew her at least that well.  But Angel wasn't going to get rid of her that easily.  Her eyes narrowed as she turned to Angel.

"Yes, and since when did you care about sales?  Anyway, even at sale prices, I can't afford anything decent on the pittance you pay me.  And I still have some things to do around here."  Angel reached into his pocket with a long-suffering air.

"Well, I was going to suggest a small bonus, but if you're too busy..."

She waved her hand at him. "Never mind, I can take a hint.  I'm going.  I know you just want me out of the way.  But I'm going to find out what's going on, you know.  One of you will tell me.  Xander, phone me later.  Angel can give you my number."  With that parting salvo, Cordelia deftly slipped the cash out of Angel's hand and headed back up to the office.  "Lock up on your way out," he called after her as he closed the door and then turned to look at Xander.

"So, it's you.  I should have known.  Where is he?"  There didn't seem to be any need to ask what Angel was talking about.  They both knew.  Something in Xander rebelled, though.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Angel.  I really should go.  Maybe I can check out that sale with Cordy, you know?  Carry her bags or something," said Xander, as he began to stand up.  Angel skewered him with a sharp glance, and Xander found himself dropping back into his seat.  Angel gave him a pitying look.

"Aside from the fact that I can smell him all over you, Xander, I can sense the demon.  Want to try again?"

"Um, he's at the hotel.  He doesn't know I'm here," sighed Xander.  Then his eyes widened.  He could have sworn he saw Angel slip into game face, just for a second... Angel smiled.  Xander felt a shock of recognition run through him for which he had absolutely no rational explanation.  But something in the man standing watching him called to something in Xander.   He began to feel very uncomfortable.  

"I bet he doesn't."  Angel walked towards Xander, then moved behind him, putting his hands on his shoulders, holding him in place when Xander tried to stand.  "No, stay."  Angel bent down, breathed in deeply, then pushed Xander's collar aside.  He ran his fingers over the claim mark, and the fingers of his other hand dug into Xander's shoulder when Xander shuddered and tried to move away.

"So, you came to LA to see me.  Want to tell me why, or shall I guess?"  Angel released Xander's shoulders as he spoke, then sat in the chair that Cordelia had just vacated.

"Spike needs...  We've got a problem."

"Yeah, I imagine you do," Angel said, that uncomfortably scary-looking smile back on his face.  "Spike never was one for paying attention to his lessons.  Taking a human as a Consort isn't something you do without making sure you understand exactly what is involved.  Leave it to Spike to screw it up.  I would say, what was he thinking?  But this is Spike we're talking about - so I don't suppose a lot of thought was involved."

"How did you...?"  

"How did I know?  Blood calls to blood, Xander, he's my Childe.  Of course I knew.  I didn't know who until you walked in here.  I should have guessed, though."

Xander glared at Angel.  "Doesn't matter.  So, what, something went wrong with the bonding?"

"Not as such.  It's just not complete, not until the Admittance ritual is performed by me.  Spike's demon needs its Sire's approval, demands its Sire acknowledge his Consort as Childe, protect you, give you status.  You don't fully belong to him without it.  The ritual should have been done within days of your bonding.  I'm impressed with Spike's self-control.  I'd have expected him to have turned you by now."  

A shudder went through Xander as he remembered what had happened yesterday.  Angel raised an eyebrow.  "I see.  That's what prompted the visit, is it?"

"Um, yeah, but just to ask you what's going on.  Not to do that Sire ritual thing, you know?"  This statement was obviously hilarious, because Angel burst out laughing.

"Well, I'm glad you find it amusing," said Xander coldly.

"Xander, the 'Sire ritual thing', as you so eloquently put it, isn't optional.  I thought I made that clear.  Your bond with my idiot Childe isn't complete without it.  If the ritual isn't performed, soon, Spike will turn you, probably within the next few days.  It's the only other way to complete the bond."

"But... but we read something, in a book, said we had a year, and..."

"Book?  Not Wisthorpe?"  At Xander's hesitant nod, Angel snorted.  "Small blue book, talks about the Lore?  He was an idiot.  Didn't have a clue what he was talking about.  He wrote about what happened between vampires, and assumed it was the same.  The ritual is symbolic between vampires.  That's not the case when a human is involved.  Nobody bothered correcting him, though; the less the Watchers know, the better.  Did Giles give you the book?"  At Xander's nod, he continued, "You told them then, about you and Spike?  Well, you'd have to, wouldn't you?  The Slayer would have sensed it straight away.  You're lucky she didn't try to stake you."

"She did.  Giles and Willow stopped her."

Angel burst out laughing again.  "Doesn't surprise me.  The Slayer's not that bright, though she's easy on the eye, I'll give her that."

Not Buffy. The Slayer.  Shit, shit, shit.

"Angelus?" Xander wished his voice didn't sound so squeaky all of a sudden.  He slowly stood and started backing away from the table, his eyes searching for possible weapons.

"Very good, Xander.  Wondered when you'd get it.  You felt it earlier, didn't you?  But you're not good at reading the demon yet, are you?  Oh, I don't keep sharp, wooden objects in the kitchen, by the way, and there's no possible way you could get to the door before me, so you may as well sit down and get comfortable."

"When did you... I mean, how..."  Xander gave up.  Coherent thought just wasn't winning the battle with the panicky Xander-babble running through his head.  He slumped back down into the chair.  Spike.  He wanted Spike.  He concentrated hard on his mate and felt his concerned presence at the back of his mind.  He'd woken Spike, but... damn - Spike would know he was worried, but not why...  He remembered his cell phone.  Casually slipping his hand into his jacket pocket, he wrapped his fingers around the small phone.  He was just trying to work out how to call Spike without Angelus hearing when the phone started making its merry chirping noise.  Fuck it, Spike got the phone idea first.

"I'll take that."  A strong hand grasped Xander's wrist and slipped the phone from his unresisting fingers.  Angelus pressed a button on the small object and pressed it to his ear.  Xander opened his mouth to protest, but a glare from Angelus had him snapping his mouth shut again huffily.

"No, not Xander.  Hello, Spike.  I seem to have something of yours...again.  Don't seem to be able to hold on to your possessions for very long, do you?  Tsk tsk, very careless, my boy.  Things can get broken that way."  He held the phone away from his ear, and Xander could hear the shouting from where he was sitting.  Angelus grinned at him as he pressed the end call button and put the phone down on the table.  Ten seconds later the chirping started again.  Xander had counted to twenty before Angelus pressed the answer button.  The shouting was clearly heard again, and Angelus simply left the phone on the table until it stopped.  He then picked it up and put it to his ear again.

"All finished?  You really need to show proper respect when talking to your Sire, boy, or have you forgotten everything I taught you?  No.  Not a word, Spike, or I hang up now."  Xander clearly heard the incredulous 'Angelus?' from Spike as Angelus moved the phone away from his ear.  After a few seconds, Angelus put the phone back to his ear.  "Are you listening?  Good.  I'm at the apartment.  You know where that is, don't you?  In fact I vividly recall your last visit.  Be here at sunset."  Angelus pressed the off button, and then casually flung the phone across the room, where it smashed against the far wall.

"There now, much better.  No more interruptions for a while.  Now, where were we?  Oh, yes, I remember.  We were talking about the ritual.  But you know, I think I've done enough talking for a while.  I think we need to get to know each other in a more...hands on way.  Practical demonstration of Sire's Rights, now that you're family."

Xander jerked to his feet, sending his chair skittering backwards across the floor.

"Um, I, er, need to use the bathroom.  Yeah, the bathroom.  I'll just, er..."  He started backing towards the kitchen door.  A sudden blur of motion and Xander found his back  slammed against the door.  The smile on Angelus' face was predatory, and Xander's stomach dropped.  As Xander tried to push Angelus away, his wrists were grabbed and pinned to the door above his head, Angelus holding them in place easily with one hand. 

"Uh uh, Xander.  You don't move."  Angelus was plastered against Xander, pushing his knee between his legs, forcing them apart.  

"What the fuck... Angel, stop..."

"Angel?  He wouldn't have even started.  Shh, Xander.  Relax, you'll enjoy this.  Trust me."  Panic flooded through Xander.  Oh God, Oh God, Spike, please...

Angelus nuzzled Xander's neck.  Cool lips brushed his ear.  "I can smell him on you, smell his claim.  I felt your bonding, you know.  I wondered how long it would be until you came to... see me."  Xander was fee ling light-headed.  The adrenaline that had surged through him had left him feeling buzzy and jittery.  And...and the something inside him that had surged at recognising Angelus suddenly surged forward again, and Xander found himself moaning and pushing into Angelus' touch, needing, wanting the contact with his Sire...  Angelus' fingers were efficiently unbuttoning and unzipping him as his lips returned to Xander's neck, his tongue licking and teasing the claim mark, which had the usual effect on his treacherous cock.

"Sensitive, isn't it.  I'll bet I can make you come just by licking it,"  Angelus said, attempting a practical demonstration.  Xander swallowed hard and tried to stifle the groan as Angelus licked and nibbled on the scar, causing Xander's knees to buckle.  Sire...  Xander shook his head.  What the hell was going on?  He didn't want Deadboy, didn't even like him.  And any second now, he was gonna feel fangs...  So why was he panting like a bitch on heat and hard as rock?  Why did he feel like he belonged here?  He tried to clear his mind, but his body didn't seem to want to co-operate, demanding that the few still-coherent brain cells just give up and go with the flow.

"Please.  Angelus, please..."

"Please what, Xander?  Stop?  Or don't stop," whispered Angelus.  "Or do this..." Angelus wrapped his hand around Xander's cock and started to pump him slowly.  He ran his tongue down the length of Xander's throat, then licked across the scar several times before bringing his lips to the mark and then biting down with blunt teeth.  Xander cried out and thrust into the cool hand as he came, hard.  Angelus released his hold and Xander slid down the door, to slump in a boneless heap on the floor. 

He sat there, eyes closed, panting, trying to steady his breathing as he felt himself flush with embarrassment.  When he finally opened his eyes, he saw Angelus standing over him, and he stared as Angelus brought his hand up to his lips and licked away the semen.  

"You taste good, Xander.  I must be sure to mention that when Spike gets here."

"What?"  Xander turned pale.  Angelus just smirked at him.

"Did you seriously think he wouldn't know?  Leaving aside the fact that he'd smell it, Xander, you're bonded to him.  He knew as soon as you did."

Xander swallowed hard.  "You bastard.  You did this to get at Spike."

"Maybe.  And really, you could be a little more grateful, Xander. I'm wounded, really.  I give you a hand job and that's all the thanks I get?  I could have been much more - demanding.  And you'd have given me anything I wanted, wouldn't you?"

Xander dropped his head, staring at the floor.  He would have.  He'd have done anything Angelus wanted.  "Why?" he whispered.

Angelus sighed.  He reached down and pulled Xander to his feet.  "Bathroom's through there.  Get yourself cleaned up, boy.  I see I need to explain some things to you."

Angelus turned away and headed over to the kitchen counter, getting out two mugs and pouring them both some coffee.  Oh, Spike, I'm so sorry, I should never have come on my own, Xander thought, willing his regret through the link as he headed to the bathroom.  The feelings of reassurance and love that were returned to him were tinged with concern, and Xander swallowed hard to clear the lump that suddenly rose in his throat.


~*~*~*~*~


Angelus placed a cup of coffee in front of Xander as he slumped into the kitchen chair.  He'd locked himself in the bathroom, and had only come out when Angelus had threatened to smash the door down and drag him out.  "Here,  drink this."  Angelus sat down and took a sip of his coffee.  Xander ignored his, sitting and staring at the table top instead.  He was totally confused.  Part of him was gibbering that he was sharing coffee with Angelus, for fuck's sake, and that the rest of his life could probably be counted in minutes on the fingers of one hand, while the rest of him was purring happily.  Xander waved a mental white flag and gave up.  No point trying to make sense of anything in his life any more.  He'd just sit there and wait for the axe to fall.

"Xander, do you understand what happened to you when you bonded with Spike?"

Xander raised his eyes and saw Angelus watching him with a look of... concern?  He dropped his eyes to the table top again, picked up a teaspoon lying there and starting fiddling with it nervously.

"Um, Spike said...  I need his blood, and that drinking it would change me.  I'd share his demon.  I'd be stronger, heal faster, age more slowly."  He dropped the spoon with a clatter and picked up the coffee, grimacing as he took a mouthful of the bitter fluid.  Angelus pushed the sugar across to him.  Xander picked up the spoon and heaped sugar into the cup.

"Did he explain what it meant, exactly, to be sharing his demon?"

"Um, no, not really," answered Xander slowly.  Angelus nodded slightly, a wry expression on his face.

"Figures.  He's probably not sure himself.  How are you feeling at the moment?"

"What?"  Xander had no idea how to cope with this new caring, sharing Angelus.  Angelus trying to kill him, yeah, that was normal.  But this?  He shook his head.  "I... I'm scared to death, like you didn't know.  Except, I'm sorta not, really.  Part of me wants to run screaming for the nearest stake, but the other part..." his voice trailed off.  This was just too bizarre.

"The other part wants its Sire," said Angelus.  Xander stared at Angelus in shock.  Yes, it did...  "The other part wants me to touch it, wants me to possess it, wants to be mine, yes?" said Angelus, his voice lowering as he spoke.   Christ, he was doing the voice thing, like Spike did.  "God, yeah," breathed Xander.  Then his eyes widened as he slapped his hand across his mouth.  Xander groaned and dropped his head into his hands.  "Fuck, did I say that out loud?" he said.

"Oh yeah," said Angelus, grinning at him.  "That's the part of Spike that you share, you're feeling the demon's reactions to being with its Sire.  You can't fight it, Xander, and it's a good idea not to try.  You should be learning how to use it.  It's what gives you your strength and agility, and it has a lot of knowledge and experience of the demon world.  It can save your life in a tricky situation.  I can teach you a sort of meditation technique you can use to help you integrate the demon more fully.  You need to learn this.  And the experience will be invaluable when Spike -"  Angelus' paused, and his expression became serious.  "Did he talk to you about being turned?"

Xander nodded.  "Yeah.  Well, he said it was up to me, if he did or not, turn me, y'know, but I kinda figured that it wasn't, not really."  He looked up at Angelus, who was nodding at him.  "That's okay, though.  I've told him yes, just - just not yet, y'know?  I'm not ready, yet.  But...but I will be, one day, yeah..."  Xander's halting words trailed off as he stared at his hands.  He was nervously twisting his wedding ring, pulling it half off his finger and then pushing it back on again.  Angelus sighed.

"Hmm.  Look, you need to come to terms with this, Xander.  Because he will turn you.  But probably not for a long time, yet.  The longer you're human, sharing his demon, the stronger you'll be as a vampire, and the more of yourself you'll retain  You'll be so used to being integrated with a demon that you'll barely notice the difference, or so I've been told."

"You know other people who've done this?"

"A few.  Not many, it's not common.  But given sufficient time before turning, they say they really feel very little difference.  And not one of them has regretted it, Xander."  Xander nodded, then picked up his cup and drained it.  Angelus' voice was so gentle and caring, and it was confusing the hell out of him.  Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, "Why are you being like this?  Why are you being nice to me, now?"

Angelus snorted.  He stood up and picked up the coffee cups, refilling them then placing one in front of Xander.  He put his own cup down, tilted Xander's chin up so he could look him in the eyes, then slowly leaned forward and dropped a kiss on his lips.

"Because, even though the bond is still not complete, you are virtually my Childe.  And I do love and care for my Childer... well, when I'm myself, anyway."

"Oh.  Right.  Um, when did you...  I mean, Angel, is he..."  Xander stopped, took a deep breath.  "If the soul's gone, why are we all still alive?" he blurted out.  His common sense was screaming at him to shut up and not draw attention to this fact, but Xander was tired of this.  First Spike, now Angelus.  Enough.

"Who said it had gone?  The soul's still here, Xander.  Contrary to what you humans seem to believe, Angelus hasn't gone anywhere.  Angel isn't somebody different.  He's just me with the soul affecting my behaviour.  It forces me to act as though I were human - no, more than that.  As though I were a 'good' human.  It makes me feel guilty for the things I've done in the past, and forces me to atone.  It makes me hate what I am, and hate those I created..."  Angelus' voice trailed off, and he stared into his coffee.  Xander sat silently, contemplating the plight of the creature before him, feeling a pity he'd never imagined he'd ever feel at the evident self-loathing.

After a minute or so, Angelus sighed, took a sip of his coffee, then began speaking again, almost as though to himself.  "To loathe what you are; to feel you have to apologise for your existence continually; to know you can never, ever atone for your sins but that you are ceaselessly, remorselessly driven to try.  Not something I'd wish on anyone."  Angelus stopped speaking again, then raised his head and looked Xander in the eye.  "The bonding ritual that you and Spike went through, it's ancient, blood magick, Xander.  And its call to my blood is powerful, powerful enough to significantly lessen the influence of the soul on me while you're so close.  Which is fortunate for all of us, I suppose, particularly you."

"Why?  I mean, why me in particular?"

"Because it means I can offer you a choice that I otherwise couldn't. Think very carefully before you answer this question, Xander.  Do you want to be bonded to Spike, permanently, knowing what that means?  Knowing you'll be turned?   Live out the rest of your existence as a soulless demon?"

Xander snorted humourlessly.  "Bit late to be asking me that now.  Not like I've got a choice, is it?  We're mated; I literally can't live without him any more, I know that much."

"That's not strictly true.  That's why I'm asking.  There is one other option, and this really is your last chance to take it.  But whichever way you decide, understand that it's irrevocable, you can't change your mind afterwards."

Xander stared at Angelus, a shocked expression on his face.  "But...but Spike said it was permanent, and the book..."

"Oh, please.  Don't quote that damn book at me again," Angelus said, wearily.

"Sorry, I didn't mean it that way, I just...  It's a shock, that's all.  I'd sort of settled it in my own mind, y'know?  Thought I'd blown up all my bridges..."  Xander picked up the teaspoon and started to tap it nervously on the table top while his mind raced.  He loved Spike, he wanted to be with him.  But the whole turning thing still scared him.  If there was a way out of that...  No, it couldn't be that easy.  There had to be a catch of some sort.  "If I said no, I don't want to be bonded, could I still stay with Spike?  Even if we weren't mated like that?"

"That wouldn't be possible.  You either have to stay with him as his Consort, with everything that entails, or you have to live without him, Xander."

"Why?  I mean, he probably wouldn't be happy about it at first, but he couldn't stay mad at me for that long, surely?  I mean, he'd get over it, right?"  Xander was rambling, he knew it, but Angelus just stared at him.  There was something in his expression that sent a shiver down Xander's spine.   Xander got the distinct impression he was missing something here.  "Hang on a sec.  You said you could offer me a choice that you otherwise couldn't, right?  Why?"

"Because if I had no soul to stop me, the ritual to complete your bonding would already have taken place.  And if the soul were fully in control, I'd have been planning to dissolve the bond as soon as I discovered that it was a human Spike had bonded with.  My conscience wouldn't allow me to complete the bond that would tie you to a demon and guarantee your death at the hands of that demon.  But as things stand, I'm capable of doing either, and as Spike's Sire, I'm responsible, so I'm gonna have to live with one more death on my conscience, either way."

"Oh."  Xander sat, thinking about Angelus' words for a moment, then said, "What do you mean, one more death either way?  Just exactly how would you dissolve this bond?"

"I'd dust Spike, and then I'd form a blood bond with you.  I'd do my best to keep you alive, and gradually wean you off my blood.  There's a very good chance you'd survive - the secondary bond is one of the reasons for the Admittance ritual."

Xander gasped.  He felt as though he'd been punched in the gut.

"What!  Fuck, no!  You keep away from him, Angelus.  I won't let you anywhere near him, you bastard."  Xander had shot to his feet, and was looming menacingly over Angelus, his fists clenched.  Angelus raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture.

"Xander.  Calm down.  I told you, it's your choice."  Xander's mouth was set in a grim line as he searched Angelus' face, as though looking for clues as to his intentions.  "Xander, sit down," said Angelus softly.  Xander slowly returned to his seat, his eyes never leaving Angelus' face.

"My choice."  Xander spat the words at Angelus.  "What sort of choice is that?"

"The only choice you have.  Whether you were fully aware of the consequences of bonding with a vampire or not, Xander, you did it of your own free will.  Normally that's the end of it.  I'm offering you a final get out of jail free card, and only because the soul is insisting that I do."  Angelus morphed into game face.  "Take a good look, Xander.  I'm a demon.  Spike's a demon.  This will be the face that you won't be able to see when you look in a mirror a few years from now, if we perform the ritual today; or a few days from now if we don't.  You will be a vampire.  Denying, avoiding and sidestepping the issue won't make it go away.  The only way to do that is to dust Spike.  This. Is. Real.  This will happen.  To you.  So choose," said Angelus, the familiar human features slipping back into place.

There was never really any doubt in either of their minds as to what the decision would be.





14
Secrets and Sacrifices II

Xander had sat, silent, pale and still as a statue, for a good five minutes before he had thrown the coffee mug he was fiddling with across the room.  He then leapt to his feet and began pacing back and forth, ranting at Angelus.  "Wonderful.  Just.  Wonderful.  My life just gets better and better.  You kill Spike, or Spike kills me, or we do the ritual, and...Spike kills me, just not for a while.  But hey, I don't stay dead, and I get a whole new look."

"Xander -"

"No.  No, it's ok.  Just...just trying to sort it out in my head, y'know?  I mean, I know it's gonna happen.  I agreed to it, for God's sake.  It's just that...it didn't seem real, not really, not until...  Not until he nearly did it, and it frightened the crap out of me.  But I need him, and if that's the price, then I'll pay it.  I mean, I'm not exactly thrilled at the idea, you know, but if you seriously believe for one second that I would let you -"

"Xander!"  Angelus grabbed the boy's arm, cutting off the torrent of words as Xander stopped dead in his tracks and glared at him.  "No, I really didn't think you would choose to break your bond with Spike by having him dusted.  But I had to give you the choice.  Now will you shut up and sit down?  We've got a lot to discuss."  Xander nodded jerkily and slumped into the nearest chair.

"Thank you.  I didn't want to have to kill him either, Xander," said Angelus mildly.

Xander looked surprised.  "But you hate each other.  Don't you?"

"The soul hates the fact that I made him, moulded him into what he is.  And Spike hates the fact that I can't, or won't be his Sire any more."  Angelus sighed.  "I can't be what he wants me to be, and it makes him angry, but there's nothing I can do about that."  Angelus stared at his clasped hands for a moment, then raised his eyes to Xander's.  "But I can do this for him - for both of you.  I'll make the ritual as easy as I can for you, Xander."

Angelus got up and walked over to one of the cupboards.  Brought out a bottle of whiskey and two glasses, and poured a drink for each of them.  Handing one to Xander, he said, "Here, you look like you could do with this.  I'll assume you know nothing about the ritual, okay?"

Xander nodded.  He wasn't going to argue.  Spike had told him little enough, and Xander had basically discounted it, assuming it was never going to happen.  He should have known better.  He took a mouthful of whiskey, gasping as it burnt on the way down.  Angelus placed the bottle on the table between them and sat down again.  He sipped his whiskey thoughtfully for a few moments, then began to speak.

"While it's not unusual for vampires to take a human as a pet, it's fairly rare that we will take one as a Consort.  Demons are very status conscious, and taking what basically amounts to a food source as a mate isn't something that's done on a whim.  And the vampire's Sire, or an older Master in their place, must be willing to accept the human as their Childe and offer their protection.  Until this is done, the mating bond isn't complete.  Do you understand?"  At Xander's jerky nod, he continued, "And the way we do this is by performing the Admittance Ritual.  At the end of the ritual I will have accepted you as Childe, you will have accepted my authority as your Sire, and you will be part of the Aurelius clan.   The ritual will be as simple as it can be.  You will be naked and your hands will be bound.  Spike will offer you to me, and I will accept you.  I will take you and mark you with my scent.  I will then drink from you, putting my claim mark on you, and you will drink from me, accepting my claim.  I will then give you back to Spike, say the words, and Spike will take you home."

Xander finished his whiskey in one swallow and reached for the bottle, filling his glass again.  He raised the glass to his lips with a shaky hand and took another long swallow.

"When you say, take me, you mean..." his voice trailed off as he bit his bottom lip.

"Has anyone other than Spike ever taken you that way?"

"No."

"Can you do this?"

"Don't have much choice, do I?"

"No, not really.  The ritual demands it.  Xander..."

Xander sighed heavily.  "Yeah.  Yeah, I can do this.  It's just sex and biting, not like I'm not used to it."  Angelus studied Xander's face for a moment.  Xander wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he seemed to find it, because he nodded and relaxed slightly.

"We've got about an hour until sunset, Xander.  You should eat something, then I'll show you that meditation technique.  You'll find it useful."  Xander was feeling a little lightheaded after drinking on an empty stomach, and figured food would be of the good right now.

"Yeah, sure.  You got anything in that fridge that doesn't come from the blood bank?"

"I was going to suggest take out."

"Sounds good to me."


~*~*~*~*~


Just after sunset, Xander told Angelus that he'd like to wait upstairs in the office so that he could talk to Spike on his own for a bit before bringing him down.  Xander had just unlocked the door and was heading over to grab a magazine when he was spun around and enveloped in a hug.

"Xan, I was so worried about you.  Don't you ever pull shit like this again, you hear me?  What on earth possessed you to come here without me?  What did he do to you?  I'll kill him if he hurt you..."

"Spike.  Listen, shhh, listen," said Xander, rubbing his hand in soothing circles over his mate's back.  "I'm fine.  I'm fine.  I know I shouldn't have come on my own, I'm not sure why I did...but I'm fine, really."  Spike pulled away, held Xander at arm's length, looking him over carefully.

"I can smell him all over you, pet.  I could feel him..."  Spike sighed.  "What did he do to you?"

"Nothing.  Well, nothing much.  It was no big deal, Spike.  And we've been talking, you know.  He's been telling me stuff, about us, and the demon, and Sires and Childer and the ritual...  Spike, what are you doing?"  Spike had taken Xander's arm and was pulling him towards the main entrance.

"I'm taking you back to the hotel, pet."  Xander dug his heels in and pulled Spike back towards him.

"Spike, I can't go back to the hotel yet, and neither can you.  You have to talk to Angelus..."

"Yeah, and I will, once you're safely back in the hotel."

"Spike!  Will you shut up and listen to me?  Please?  We can't leave yet.  We have to stay.  Angelus is...  He's sort of in control at the moment.  The soul's still there, just not in the driving seat.  Something about blood magick, he said.  Because we have to perform the Admittance ritual.  Anyway, that's what's wrong with you."  Spike's hand dropped to his side and he took a step back, staring at Xander in shock.  Then he shook his head.  "Bugger it.  Should have bloody well known..."  He sighed.  Wrapped his arms around Xander and pulled him in for a long, slow kiss.

"I love you, Xander."  Xander's breath hitched and he held onto Spike tightly, nuzzling his neck, breathing in the scent of his mate.

"I'm so sorry, love.  I know you don't want to do this.  I wish there were some way out of it."

"There isn't, Spike," Xander mumbled into his neck. 

"I know.  Right, well.  Better go see him then."  Spike pulled away slightly, kissed Xander again, then stepped back and took his hand.  "Xan, him and me have got some things to say to one another.  Just keep out of it, love, okay?"  At Xander's nod, they headed downstairs.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike followed Xander into the kitchen, to find Angelus standing by the kitchen table.  Xander walked over and sat down at the table, and watched Spike and Angelus as they stood, staring at each other.  Angelus walked slowly towards Spike, then suddenly punched him in the stomach, sending Spike flying across the room.  Xander jumped up as Angelus stalked across to Spike and hauled him to his feet, only to sit down again as Angelus wrapped his arms around Spike and hugged him tightly.

"That was for not having the courtesy to torture me yourself. Quite aside from the insult that I felt, never, ever trust someone else to do that sort of thing for you.  I thought I taught you better than that.  You knew the soul would never allow me to return the ring willingly, but you might have done better if you'd done it yourself."  Spike pulled away, walked towards Xander, and then turned back to Angelus.

"But it wasn't you, was it?  It hasn't bloody been you for almost a hundred years, Angelus!  And when you actually managed to get rid of the soul, when I actually thought my Sire had come back, you were a fucking psycho!  You made Dru look sane, for fuck's sake.  So don't tell me what I should or shouldn't bloody do!  You're never bloody there when I need you, you wanker."

Angelus took a step towards Spike, then stopped.  "I know.  I'm sorry, Will.  Not like I had a lot of choice.  I've missed you."

Spike sighed, shoved his hands deep into his duster pockets, stared at the floor for a moment then raised his head.  "Yeah.  Yeah, I know."  Sire and Childe just stood, looking at each for long moments.  Then Spike seemed to shake himself out of whatever was holding them frozen.  "Right then.  Xan tells me we've got a ritual that needs performing.  Wanna tell me about it?  You can pour me a glass of that, too, while you're at it," he added, gesturing at the whiskey bottle on the kitchen table.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander nervously walked into the bedroom, which seemed filled with moving shadows as Angelus silently lit the large red candles set in heavy candlesticks that were placed around the room.  He gave a start as an arm slipped around his waist.  "Only me, pet," whispered Spike.  "You sure you're going to be okay with this, Xander?"

Xander leaned his head back against Spike, closing his eyes for a moment.  "Don't have a lot of choices here, Spike."  Spike nodded in silent agreement.  That was the one thing they were all clear on.  They'd talked with Angelus about the ritual, what was involved, what would happen if they didn't do it, for almost an hour.  Xander had baulked at being given to Angelus like a possession, to be shared, but Angelus had pointed out to him, that was exactly what he was, from a vampire point of view.  Spike had to offer his Consort to his Sire, and it would be a grave insult if his Sire refused to take him.  Xander had simply stared at them, shaken his head and slumped further into his seat.  He hadn't said another word.

They stood and watched as Angelus finished lighting the candles, then opened a drawer in the bedside cabinet and took out a length of heavy, red cord, a wicked-looking knife and a tube of lube.  Xander shuddered, and Spike wrapped his arms around him tightly.  Angelus placed the items on top of the cabinet, then turned to address them.

"Ready?" he asked them in a low voice.  At their nods, he continued, "William, you know what this ritual entails?"

"Yes, Sire." 

"Prepare your Consort."  With those words, Angelus left the bedroom, closing the door behind him.  Xander sagged against Spike.  Spike hugged him tightly once more, then gently released him, turning him so that he could see his face.

"C'mon, Xan.  Sooner we start, sooner we get this over with, yeah?"  Xander nodded, closing his eyes again.  Spike began to undress him, neatly folding his clothes and placing them on a chair by the wall.  When he was naked, Xander started to unbutton Spike's shirt, but Spike caught his hands to still them.

"No, love.  Just you for the ritual, remember?  Xander flushed, suddenly feeling exposed and vulnerable.

"Spike, I..."  Spike hushed him, drawing him into his arms and kissing him gently.

"I know, love.  It'll be okay.  Come and lie down on the bed with me.  I'll make it all better, I promise."  Spike kicked off his shoes, picked up the lube and lay down next to Xander.  As Spike began to kiss and caress Xander, he spoke to him in a low, deep voice, telling him how beautiful he was, and how much he was loved.  Xander found it calming, almost hypnotic, and was surprised when he felt the first finger penetrate him.  He tensed automatically, then felt Spike nuzzle at his neck, nibbling his claim mark, and he began to relax again.  He felt as though he was drifting slowly deeper, warm and safe as Spike surrounded him.  He felt himself gradually drift to the surface as he became aware of what was happening outside his own mind again.

"Time to come back to me, love," said Spike, his voice vibrating through Xander.  He was dimly aware of a panicky, apprehensive feeling somewhere inside him, but it seemed muffled, somehow.  Spike looked at Xander.  He seemed relaxed, his pupils widely dilated.  Spike got off the bed and walked around to Xander's side, helping him to sit.  Xander smiled widely at him, feeling wonderfully floaty and really, really good.  The vague thought that Spike had done something to him to cause this crossed his mind, but he couldn't focus on it, and let it drift away.

"Angelus will come back soon, pet.  Part of you really wants this; wants him.  Think about it, and let that part be strongest inside you.  Can you do that, pet?" the low voice thrummed.  Xander tried to concentrate on the feelings of desire inside him, letting them float to the top, pushing the apprehensive ones further down.  There.  There it was.  It was red, and dark, and it growled; it wanted...  Xander growled, "Mine," grabbed a fistful of Spike's shirt and hauled him down onto the bed, plundering his mouth.  Spike allowed it for a moment, then pulled away.

"Good.  Hang on to that.  Right, time to start, pet," he said.  He pulled Xander up until he was standing next to the bed, and picked up the heavy cord.  "Cross your wrists in front of you, Xan."  He then tied Xander's wrists firmly with the cord.  He led Xander into the middle of the room.  "Kneel here, pet, and raise your arms above your head for me," he said, taking hold of the ends of the cord firmly and pulling Xander's arms back, so that his bound hands rested behind his head.

Xander felt himself floating higher and higher and then, with a sudden jerk, he was back in control of himself again.  He cursed and tried to recapture the earlier feelings, force the demon back to the surface, but he couldn't.  He began to shake, and then the hold on his arms was released and Spike was squatting in front of him.

"Xander, what happened, you okay?"  Xander smiled shakily at him.

"Guess I'm gonna have to do this on my own, Spike, the demon baled on me."

"Fuck!  You're too strong.  Which is a good thing, love," he hastily added, "just coulda done without it right now, you know?  Gonna make it harder for you."

Xander sighed.  "I'm not made of glass, Spike.  I'll cope.  We'll cope," he added, seeing the look of worry in his mate's eyes.  "We're in this together, right?"  Xander just hoped he sounded more confident than he felt.  His stomach was twisting in knots.  Just then, the bedroom door opened and Angelus walked in.  Spike stood, took the ends of the cord and pulled Xander's wrists behind his head again.  Xander looked at the floor, as instructed, and waited.

Angelus crossed the floor and stood in front of Xander.

"William, Childe of Angelus of the House of Aurelius, what do you seek?"

"I seek what is mine by right under Lore.  This human is mine by blood.  I have claimed him as Consort, under Lore.  I demand you acknowledge him as Childe, blood of your blood.  I demand the protection of my Sire, Master of the House of Aurelius, be given to this, my possession.  I offer him to you, Sire, to take, as is your right."

Xander felt his arms being pulled forward as Spike thrust the hand holding the ends of the cord towards Angelus.  He glanced up and noticed that Angelus was in game face.  Angelus reached across and took the cord from Spike, tugging upwards, guiding Xander to his feet.  Xander was relieved to let his arms drop down, they were starting to cramp up a little, though Angelus held on to the cord.

"You do this willingly, little one?" asked Angelus.  Xander swallowed hard, then nodded.  Angelus simply looked at him, until Xander figured he probably needed to speak.

"Yes," he managed to croak out.  Nonononono, run away, run away... An hysterical giggle caught in his throat.  He looked up as a hand stroked his cheek, and saw Angelus smiling gently at him.  "It'll be okay, Xander," he said softly.  "Childe?"

Spike pulled Xander towards him.  "Slip your arms over my head, love.  I've got you," he said.  He wrapped one arm around Xander's waist and held him firmly against him, while his other hand cupped the back of Xander's head as it rested against his upraised arm.  We could be dancing, thought Xander.  Apart from the whole me being naked with two vampires doing the blood and sex ritual thing.  He jerked when he felt hands run over his shoulders, down his sides to his ass, caressing him gently.  Spike tightened his hold.  Suddenly Angelus was pressed against him.  He could feel the slide of the silk shirt against his back, the slight scratch of the woollen pants and the hardness nudging him.  Spike's head tilted forward, and Xander was surprised to see Angelus and Spike kiss across his shoulder.  Angelus pulled away briefly and then he was back, pressed against Xander again, but this time there was no clothing in the way.  Spike's hand was pushing his head now, tilting it further, baring Xander's neck.   He felt kisses on his shoulder, and then the light prickling of fangs as Angelus nibbled along his shoulder to his neck, where he began licking and sucking the skin above the muscle there.  Hands drifted down his sides to his ass again, but this time they stayed here, kneading, pulling the cheeks apart.  He felt Angelus shift behind him, then the familiar bluntness at his entrance.  Xander was panting, and he could feel his heart racing.  No.  No, I don't want this.  I don't want to do this.  But the hand on the back of his head pressed his face into Spike's neck, muffling his words, and Spike was whispering to him, trying to soothe him, calm him down, but Xander could have told him he was wasting his time.

Hands on his hips, now, holding him in place.  Xander braced himself.  He panted, trying to force muscles to relax as they tightened, his body trying to enforce the rejection his mind screamed as he felt himself being breached.  "Fuck," he cried out as Angelus slammed home in one smooth, hard movement.  A bright flash of pain shocked through him.  Angelus thrust a few times, until he was buried as deeply as he could be, Xander's protesting muscles fluttering and spasming around the intrusion, then he stopped, holding Xander firmly against him.  He licked and sucked on Xander's neck a moment longer and then sank his fangs in, sucking hard for several seconds.  Xander groaned at the second shock of pain.  He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, feeling tears forcing their way past his eyelids to run down his cheeks.  A torn wrist was pressed against Xander's mouth and he opened his eyes to see Spike staring at him.  Spike nodded, and Xander sucked at the wound until Angelus pulled his arm away.  Xander felt himself growing hard again.  The erection he'd had from Spike's preparation of him had flagged during the ritual.  It felt wrong, somehow, he shouldn't be getting off on this.  Something of his distress must have shown on his face, because Spike kissed him, then whispered, "It's okay, Xan.  I want you to enjoy this.  I want you to come for me, love."

Xander gasped as Angelus suddenly began thrusting into him.  As he pounded into Xander, he shifted slightly again and suddenly Xander was seeing stars.  He groaned and found himself thrusting back.  A hand was pumping his cock; probably Angelus as Spike was holding him up.  He felt his knees begin to buckle then he was coming, hard, and Angelus was slamming into him until he jerked, slammed home a final time and Xander felt the cool liquid wash inside him.  It seemed to take Angelus a few moments to collect himself, then he tilted Xander's face towards him and kissed him.  When he broke the kiss, he gently pulled out of Xander and wiped them both roughly with a towel.  He slipped on his pants, then lifted Xander's arms over Spike's head, pulling him so he was standing upright.  Angelus picked up the knife, and cut the cord binding Xander's wrists.

"I accept you, Alexander Harris, Consort of William, as Childe, blood of my blood.  You have the protection of Angelus, Master of the House of Aurelius."

Spike took Xander's arm and led him to the bed, sitting him down on the edge, because he looked as though he was about to fall down.  Xander felt... numb, cold.  Drained.  He didn't seem to have the energy or motivation to do anything, so he simply sat.  He watched as Spike and Angelus talked quietly.  He watched as Spike kissed his Sire again, and then tilted his head.  He watched as Angelus drank from Spike for a moment, then offered Spike his wrist.  He watched Spike drink from his Sire.  And he knew that something significant was happening, but he figured he'd wait until his brain was working again before he tried to make sense of it all.  Then Spike was next to him again, dressing him.

"Take him home, Spike."

"Angelus?  Thanks.  For everything.  It was good to see you again after so long.  I... I've missed you."

"I'll try to be here if you need me, Will."

"Yeah.  C'mon, pet.  Let's go get some sleep.  Then I'm taking you home."


~*~*~*~*~


It didn't take them long to get to the hotel.  Xander hadn't said a word since the ritual, and Spike was giving him increasingly concerned looks.  Spike pulled into the forecourt and opened the car door.

"Spike.  I don't wanna stay here.  I wanna go home," said Xander.  He was shaking, and Spike turned the heater on, hoping the boy was just cold, but worried that it wasn't that simple.

"Okay, love.  You want to come in with me while I get our stuff?"  Xander shook his head, still staring out the side window of the car, avoiding Spike's gaze.  "Right, then.  I'll park up over here.  You wait here for me, I won't be long.  Okay, love?"  Xander nodded.  Spike closed the door again and parked in one of the reserved bays near the entrance.  He left the ignition switched on and the heater running, and slipped in one the CDs that Xander had brought with them, adjusting the volume until the music was a soft, soothing background noise.

Fifteen minutes later, Spike was loading bags into the trunk.  He'd simply grabbed everything and stuffed it into their bags, shoving the overflow into plastic carrier bags.  Obviously, packing things neatly took up a lot less space - either that, or their clothes had spent the night breeding.  When the clerk at reception had started muttering about the computer system being down, Spike had simply growled, thrust his credit card at him and told him to take the number, saying they could send him the damn bill when they got their act together.  He'd then swept out of the lobby on a carpet of profuse apologies.

As he started the engine and drove out of the forecourt, Spike darted a quick glance at Xander.  The boy was still staring out the side window.  The shaking had subsided somewhat, but his eyes seemed unfocussed, as though he were miles away.

"Xan, you okay?  D'you want to stop and get something to eat on the way home?"

"No, I'm fine," he said, his gaze never leaving the distant point that seemed to hold his interest.  Spike sighed.  He tried to reach through the link, but found that Xander had slammed it shut.

"Xan, do you -"  But Xander reached across and turned up the volume on the CD player, drowning out Spike's words.  Fine, ignore me then, thought Spike.  But you will talk to me when we get home, love.

Spike drove as fast as he safely could, bearing in mind his human passenger, and they were pulling into the carpark of their apartment less than two hours later.  As Spike switched off the ignition, Xander got out of the car and let himself into the apartment, completely disregarding Spike, who just sat there, staring after him.

"Fuck it," growled Spike, as he got out of the car and slammed the door shut.  He grabbed the bags, slamming the trunk as well, then followed Xander inside.  The boy was bloody well going to talk to him whether he liked it or not.  Spike dumped the bags on the floor in the bedroom and stalked over to the closed bathroom door.  He tried the handle and found it locked.

"Xander?  Xander, open the door, love."  A muffled, "No," floated through the door.  Spike tried the link again, but this time pushed hard, breaking through the inadequate defences that were the best Xander could do.  He gasped at the pain he felt from Xander and he'd broken the lock and was in the bathroom before he even registered that he'd moved.  A strange feeling of deja vu hit him as he saw a dejected Xander sitting on the toilet.  But this time, instead of a confused drunk, he found a boy sobbing his heart out; his face buried in one of the soft bath towels to muffle his crying.

"Xan?"

"It hu...hurts, Spike.  O...other people d...do this stuff all the ti...time, right?" Xander choked out as he sobbed.  "So why do I f...feel like a whore?"

"Oh, fuck.  I'm sorry, I'm so fucking sorry.  C'mere baby," he said as he fell to his knees in front of the boy and gathered him into his arms.  Xander stiffened for a second, and then crumpled into a sobbing heap in Spike's arms.  Spike swallowed hard to force down the lump that was threatening to choke him.  He rose to his feet easily, picking Xander up and carrying him to their bed.  He laid the boy down gently, efficiently stripped him and slipped him under the covers.  He tore his own clothes off and climbed in quickly, pulling the unresisting body into his embrace.  Xander curled himself tightly around Spike, clinging on like a drowning man to a life raft.  Spike petted, cooed, hushed and soothed until the crying petered out and he sensed Xander's breathing and heart rate were slow and steady enough that the boy had obviously cried himself to sleep.  Only then did he allow his own pain to show.

Spike lay with Xander wrapped around him, still petting the boy absently as he thought about what Angelus had said to him before he'd left LA.  Angelus had warned him that something like this might happen.  That the boy was dangerously close to the edge.  That the only reason he'd agreed to the ritual was that the alternatives scared him even more.  And that Spike had made matters much worse by not really understanding what the hell he was doing before he started all this.

"I'll fix this, Xan.  I'll fix this, love, I promise," Spike whispered into Xander's hair as he dropped kisses on the boy's head.  "I love you.  I'll do whatever it takes to make this up to you, I swear.  Whatever it takes."





15
Secrets and Sacrifices III

Heat.  Soft, wet heat enveloping him, sucking, swirling.  He throbbed, ached; so hard that just a little more, yeah, like that, just like that...  "Fuck," torn from his throat as his orgasm washed over him, was swallowed up and licked away.

"Xan?"  His voice was creaky, his throat dry and scratchy.  He felt the mattress dip and opened his eyes to see Xander get off the bed and head into the bathroom.

"Xander?"  Spike got out of bed and followed him.  He reached to turn on the lights.

"Don't."  Spike's hand froze at the barked word.  Spike could see clearly in the dim illumination, but Xander would be almost blind.

"You need more light, love.  How about I just turn it up a little?" 

"No.  I don't need it.  You know there's no windows in here?  Anywhere?"

"That's 'cause we're underground, Xander, you know that.  That's why I have all the lights.  We can change the lighting, make it any time of day or night that we want."

"No.  Not day.  Night.  It should be night.  Dark.  I can see quite clearly, Spike.  Just as well as you can.  I'm not really human any more, am I?  I don't belong in the light now."  Xander walked up to Spike, draped his arms over Spike's shoulders, pressed their chests and groins together.  Xander tilted his head.  "Feed from me, Spike."

"Xan, love.  I think you should -"

"Please, Spike."  The ragged whispers sounded as if they'd been ripped from Xander's throat. 

"No, Xan.  I don't think that's really what you want right now.  Please, love, why don't we just -"

"No.  Of course not.  You feed on humans."  Xander's voice was flat as he pulled away from Spike and walked back into the bedroom.  Spike just stood there, his mind racing.  What the hell was going on in the boy's head now?  Feeling like a particularly slow participant in a game of follow the leader, Spike walked back into the bedroom.  Xander was lying on the bed, his hands crossed behind his head, staring at the ceiling.

"Xander.  What's going on, love?  I'm not going to feed from you, you're not food, you're my Consort.  We share blood; you're not my friggin' dinner!"  As Spike stood watching Xander, his words percolated through Spike's brain.  Oh, bugger.

"Xander.  You're human, love.  You belong in the light."  Spike sat on the edge of bed, and tentatively reached towards Xander.  The dark eyes swivelled towards Spike, and the hand was withdrawn.

"No, don't think so.  I'm the possession of William.  I'm the Childe of Angelus.  I'm part of the House of Aurelius.  The Vampire Slayer set off alarm bells in me, and she would have staked me if someone hadn't stopped her.  I need your blood to live.  Doesn't sound very human to me.  What do you think, oh Master of mine?" Spike jerked back as though the acid tones had slapped him across the face.

"That's a load of bollocks, Xander, and you know it."  Spike kept his voice as steady as he could.  Something was badly wrong here.  Angelus' voice drifted through his head, '...things get broken that way...'  "You want me to feed from you, fine.  But you need to eat first." 

"Doesn't count now.  'Cause you know.  You'll do it anyway."

Christ on a crutch.  Right, enough of this crap, thought Spike.  Time to take control.  "Get up, get dressed and go into the kitchen.  I will make you breakfast and you will eat it.  Now," said Spike, putting as much authority as he could muster into the demand without actually using the Voice.  Without any further arguments, Xander got off the bed and pulled on a pair of jeans.  Spike tossed some jeans and a t-shirt on and headed into the kitchen, followed by a bare-chested, barefoot Xander.

Spike quickly cooked up bacon, eggs and toast, poured a large glass of juice, and placed it all in front of Xander, making sure he adjusted the lighting in the apartment to suit the time, almost midday.

Xander ate every scrap, and drank two glasses of juice while Spike heated up a mug of blood and drank it as he watched the boy eating.  Spike's attempts at questioning Xander were ignored, and the boy seemed to be operating on auto-pilot; Spike was worried. 

"Xan, why don't you go and watch TV for a while, I have a few phone calls to make."

Without a word, Xander wandered into the loungeroom, found the remote, flicked the switch and then stared at the TV, idly flipping through channel after channel.  Spike stood watching him for a moment, then went into the study and closed the door.  He threw himself into the chair and sat tapping his fingers on the desktop, trying to gather his thoughts.  Okay, the boy had somehow got it into his head that he wasn't human any more.  Except it wasn't just that, was it?  His mood was all over the place, reminded him of Dru when she... Spike shied away from the thought.  No.  Probably still in shock over what happened yesterday, that's all, be enough to upset anyone.  Spike's gaze wandered aimlessly over the desk, and lit on the calendar.  Bugger it, Sunday.  Supposed to be starting with Stan tomorrow.  He picked up the phone and tapped out a number.

"Stan?  's me."

Spike!  How's it going, mate?

"It's been better, to be honest.  Look, Stan, the boy won't be coming in for a few days.  Not gonna cause any problems?"

Nah.  Got a few bits I can do, no rush jobs or anything.  He can start anytime.  You got problems, Spike?  Spike sighed deeply.

"Yeah, you could say that.  Had to go see my Sire yesterday, ritual that needed doing.  Boy played a starring role."  The hiss as Stan sucked air through his teeth summed up Spike's thoughts on the whole thing.

Bugger.  Nasty bastard, that Angelus.  The kid all right?

"Not really.  Think I'm gonna need a few days to sort him out, you know?"

Yeah.  Is he hurt bad?

"No, no, nothing like that.   Angelus's still got the soul in residence, so he says.  Mind you, didn't seem to slow him down that much.  Though he wasn't anywhere near as bad as he could have been."

Be grateful for small mercies then, mate.  Look, don't worry about him trying to get in this week.  Leave it till he's ready.  Give him some time.  This sort of thing can be hard on humans, y'know?

"Yeah, you're right.  He's acting really strange this morning, not like him at all.  And he's not with it, you know?"

Isn't he?  Doesn't sound good.  I mean, you'd expect him to be a bit upset...

"Yeah.  He was last night, and I expected him to be much the same this morning, but he's not.   Spouting some crap about not being human any more."

Bugger.  He's only young, mate.  Kids get funny ideas in their heads, you know?  You'll have to talk to him, Spike, sort him out.  Marlene's always here if you need a hand with anything, you know that, right?  She's always been good with kids.

"Yeah, I know.  Thanks a lot, Stan.  Take it easy, mate.  I'll give you a bell later in the week, let you know how he's doing, okay?"

No bother, Spike.  Speak to you later then, mate.  Take care of him, eh?  See ya.

"Yeah, bye."

Spike hung up and stared thoughtfully at the phone for a few moments.  Stan was right, of course.  He needed to talk to Xander.  He'd been so upset last night, and Spike had expected more of the same this morning; expected to have to comfort the boy.  But this...  Spike sighed.  Why didn't anything in his pathetic excuse for an unlife ever go right?  Sitting in the office wasn’t going to do any good, was it?  Resisting the urge to smash something, Spike made his way to the loungeroom.  The TV was playing loudly to itself.  Spike switched it off, and heard the shower running.  He headed towards the bathroom, then stopped, thinking that maybe Xander needed some space.  So he sat in one of the armchairs by the fireplace and waited. 

Xander walked out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, and headed to the walk in closet, totally ignoring Spike.  Spike sat patiently while Xander dressed, but jumped up from his chair and grabbed Xander by the arm as he saw the boy pick up his jacket.

“Where do you think you’re going, pet?”

“Out.”

“Where out?”

“Just out,” said Xander, pulling his arm free of Spike’s hold.

“No, Xan, you’re not.  Not yet.  We need to talk, pet.”

“Don’t wanna talk, Spike.  Just need to get out for a while, need to think about stuff.”

“What stuff?”

“You.  Me.  What happened yesterday.  Y’know, stuff.”

“I kinda hoped we could talk about that stuff together, Xan.  You’re worrying me.  You’re not acting like yourself at all this morning and…”  Spike’s voice trailed off as Xander began to laugh.  It was a very disturbing sound.

“I’m not?  What a surprise.  Well, maybe that's because I don't feel like myself, Spike."  Xander pulled away and walked towards the bedroom door.  He stopped and spun around, walked back to Spike and jabbed him in the chest with his index finger.

"You.  You knew something like this was gonna happen, didn't you?  When we went to LA?"

"What?  No, I had no idea, Xan, I swear -"

"Bullshit," shouted Xander, jabbing Spike again.  "You said you needed to see Angelus, not Angel, Spike, I remember you saying it."  Xander shoved Spike hard in the chest, pushing him away.  "Fuck, what an idiot I am.  I went to see Angel, thinking I'd have to protect you from him.  What a joke.  You talked about me like I wasn't even there.  You tied me up, you bastard, and gave me to him.  And you kissed him.  You kissed him while I watched and then you held me down while he fucked me.  And you know what's really funny, Spike?  I agreed to do it so I could stay human.  But since I’m not actually human any more, it was pretty much a waste of time, wasn’t it?  Should have just turned me.  Or is this what's supposed to happen to me?  And you don’t seem interested in touching me so far – what, used goods now?  Not what you want any more?  Or is it Angelus that you really want now?  Is that who you rushed off to call?  Well fuck you, Spike,” yelled Xander.  He stormed out of the bedroom and was out of the apartment before Spike could gather his wits.

“What the fuck?” said Spike, though there was no one there to hear him.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander angrily swiped the tears from his face as he walked.  He had no idea where he was heading, but somehow he found himself back at the coffee shop where he'd waited for Willow the other day.  He went in, grabbed a copy of the local paper from the counter and sat in a corner booth.  Fortunately the place was almost deserted, and after Xander ordered his coffee he slumped in the corner, staring at the paper.  The waitress gave him a sympathetic smile as she brought his coffee over, and Xander scrabbled in his pocket for some tissues to wipe his face.  He felt Spike delicately probing at the link, and slammed it shut as hard as he could.

He didn't want to talk to Spike.  He didn't want to talk to anyone.  Even if he did, who could he talk to about this?  As Xander sipped his coffee and stared into the distance, he felt himself calming down a little.  He shouldn't have yelled at Spike like that, and then stormed out.  All very dramatic, but it didn't solve anything.  And really, Spike was the only person he could talk to.  Xander was so confused.  Last night, he had felt violated, so dirty after Angelus had fucked him.  Xander took slow, deep breaths as he felt his mind begin to swirl again.  But when he'd woken up this morning, everything had been different.  As he'd lain next to Spike, thinking about what had happened, it all made sense; it all felt - right.  Sire had...  No, not Sire, damnit!  Angelus.  Angelus had been pleased with him, with them, and it had made him feel...  Happy.

And then he'd noticed that he could smell Spike, although the word 'smell' really was an understatement for the way his senses had been flooded. The intoxicating scent of his mate had been so overwhelming Xander couldn't stop himself from wanting him.  And the taste of him, it had been so powerful, but it hadn't been enough.  He'd felt like he had that time Spike had shared some of his feelings through the link, after he'd been hunting, when Xander had pounced on Spike and wanted nothing more than to sink his teeth into his throat and... Jeez!  Xander took a deep breath again and forced himself to calm down.  It was wrong.  He shouldn't be feeling like this.  He didn't want to feel like this.  Spike did this stuff, not him. 

So he'd quickly got out of bed and headed to the bathroom; reached to turn up the lights, and noticed that they were off.  He'd been sure they were on low, 'cause he could see quite clearly.  That's when it had hit him, the realisation that he wasn't human any more.

And now, sitting in the coffee shop, he could smell - everything... He could hear people talking quietly at the other end of the cafe quite clearly, could hear their heartbeats if he concentrated, for fuck's sake.  He picked up his cup with a shaking hand and was surprised to find it empty.  He called the waitress over and she gave him a refill. 

Obviously the ritual had affected him in some way, made him more...  Made me a demon, he thought.  Xander's thoughts were whirling, and as he tried to make sense of them, they slipped from his tenuous mental grasp.  This wasn't working.  The sounds and smells surrounding him, the urge to go home and get Spike and...  And what?  Kill him?  Fuck him?  Claim him - and where the hell did that come from?  Right, Xander thought to himself.  Time to approach this is a more Willow-ey way.  He went up to the counter and grabbed a couple of the flyers there that were blank on the reverse side.  A small container of pencils was sitting on the counter.

"Er, can I use one of these?" he asked the waitress.

"Sure, hon, go ahead."

He grabbed a pencil, sat down again and began to write.  A further cup of coffee and a doughnut later, he'd filled two of the flyers with notes, arrows and various doodles.  By the end of his third cup of coffee and a bathroom break, Xander felt clearer in his own mind, and was surprised to discover that really there were only a couple of questions that he needed answers to.  Granted, they would not be one word answers, but at least everything now felt manageable.  Xander sighed as he sat, staring at the words. 

1. Spike's behaviour with Angelus during the ritual.
2. What am I now?
3. Why do I have all these weird feelings (because of point 2?)
4. Did Spike know this was going to happen?

Last time he'd been here, waiting for Willow, he'd thought about how he'd really needed to talk to Spike.  But they never did have that talk.  Spike had almost drained him, and they'd ended up going to LA.  And yes, he had to admit, the trip had answered some of his questions.  But it had also raised a whole heap of new ones.

Xander folded up the papers and put them in his pocket.  He felt - better, actually.  Calmer, more in control.  Realistically, he knew that whatever answers Spike gave, nothing would change.  Xander knew he could never leave Spike, even if he wanted to.  But if Spike had deliberately lied to him; if Spike knew this was going to happen and didn't tell him, Xander didn't think he would ever trust him again.

Xander paid the check and gave the waitress her pencil back, and headed home.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike paced around the apartment liked a caged tiger.  Xander had deliberately gone out into the sunlight, knowing that Spike couldn’t follow him.  Spike had tried his cell phone before remembering that Angelus had smashed it the day before.  Roundly cursing his Sire back to hell, Spike toyed with the idea of phoning the Watcher in case Xander had gone there.  But finally, he realised that he simply had to calm down and let Xander have the space he needed.  He was pretty certain he’d be home by the evening.  And if he wasn’t, well, once it was dark, Spike would find him; hunt him down and drag him back home if he had to.

He couldn’t blame Xander for feeling upset and angry about the way things had gone, but he had it all wrong, and Spike was going to make him understand that, even if he had to tie him up to do it.  In fact, that was a bloody good idea…

Spike kept tabs on Xander’s mental state through the link.  He'd felt Xander slam it shut, but that really didn't stop Spike, who gently pushed through without Xander being aware of it.  He'd gradually felt the anger that had radiated off his mate fade away, to be replaced by despair and confusion.  Which in turn gave way to a peaceful, calm emotional state. But there was something else...  Something felt different, and it was nagging at Spike.  Xander had been gone a good couple of hours when Spike heard the key in the lock.  As relief flooded through him, he gave himself a little pep talk, 'keep calm, no shouting' as he walked into the hallway and stood in front of the door as it opened.

“So, feeling better now?"  Spike held out his hand, and breathed a sigh of relief when Xander took hold of it and twined their fingers together.  He suddenly realised that he'd been scared.  Scared that Xander wouldn't come back, wouldn't want him any more.  He had to fight to keep an inane grin off his face.  Christ, what has the boy done to me?

"Yeah.  I'm sorry I walked out, Spike.  But I needed to calm down.  I was confused and hurt and angry, and I needed to sort myself out.  You were right, I know.  We need to talk.  I just couldn't before, you know?"

"I know.  And I wasn't talking to Angelus on the phone, Xan.  I'd called Stan, to let him know that something had come up, and you wouldn't be starting tomorrow.  I think we need some time to ourselves, sort everything out before you start work there, okay?"

Xander nodded.  "Did you tell him...?"

"About what happened?  No details.  Just that we'd been in LA 'cos we had to see my Sire, and that you wouldn't be free for a few more days yet, that's all."

"And he's okay with that?"

"Yeah, sure.  He's not busy at the moment, Xan.  He's happy for you to start any time you're ready.  Don't worry about it.  Now, come and sit down, Xan.  Want a beer?"  At Xander's nod, Spike got them each a beer out of the bar fridge, then sat next to Xander on the couch.

"So, did you sort yourself out then?  D'you want to tell me what's wrong?"

"Yeah, I - I wrote some stuff down," said Xander.  He reached over to his jacket, flung over the arm of the couch, and pulled the folded pieces of paper out of his pocket. At Spike's raised eyebrow, Xander continued, "I couldn't think, so I wrote everything down to try and get it sorted out in my head. Things haven't been right for a while, and yeah, I know why now.  But yesterday just - well.  I think it did something to me.  I'm different, Spike.  I'm not human any more."

Spike rested his hand on Xander's thigh and squeezed reassuringly.  "Yeah, you said that before you left.  Look, Xan, I know you're still upset.  The ritual can be -"

"No," Xander said, cutting off Spike's words.  "No.  Last night I was upset, Spike.  But now - now I'm totally freaked."  Xander snorted.  "I'm happy that our Sire accepted me.  Can you fucking believe that?  And I can see in the dark, Spike, as clear as daylight.  I could smell you so vividly this morning, the scent of you was - still is - driving me crazy.  When I went out, I could smell the humans, their blood, I could hear their fucking hearts beating, Spike.  So don't tell me I'm still human, 'cause I'm not, not any more."

Spike was staring at Xander in surprise.  This was unexpected.  He'd actually heard of this happening, but...

"Xander.  I think I might know what's happened."  Spike reached across and plucked Xander's beer bottle from his hand.  He put both their drinks on the coffee table and then turned back to Xander.  "We need to go to bed, love." 

Xander's mouth dropped open for a second.  "What?  I'm having a breakdown here, and you want to fuck?"

Spike closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose in a way that immediately brought Giles to mind.  "Xan, love, I always want to fuck you.  But no, that's not what I'm suggesting at the moment.  We need skin contact for this, and it's easier if we're lying down.  I'm going to need you to open the link as wide as you can.  I need to get inside your head.  Just trust me, please?"

Xander sighed.  "Yeah, why not."  He picked up his beer and drained it, then stood up and walked towards the bedroom.  Spike stood watching him as he went.  Xander's words were reluctant, but his body was screaming out a completely different message.  Oh yeah, Spike knew he was definitely right in his suspicions, and he could barely keep the smile off his face.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander stripped quickly and lay on his back in the centre of the bed.  Spike threw off his clothes and crawled onto the bed next to him, smirking at Xander as his eyes raked over him, lingering on the growing hardness that Xander was trying to will away.  Damnit, Xander thought, not now.  But the sight and scent of a naked Spike crawling towards him was just too much.  And Spike slithering on top of him really wasn't helping.

"Wrap your arms around my waist," said Spike as he slipped his forearms under Xander's shoulders, holding himself up a little, so they were staring into each other's eyes.  Spike's head dipped down, and suddenly they were kissing desperately.  Xander bucked and groaned into Spike's mouth.  Spike broke the kiss and lifted his head again.

"Spike, God, Spike, I need -"

"Shhh. Xan.  I know, me too, but later, love.  We need to do this first.  Look into my eyes, and open the link as wide as you can, okay?"

Xander nodded.  He stared into the blue eyes and reached out towards his mate with his mind.  Spike's eyes seemed to grow darker, and Xander felt himself falling into them.  He grew dizzy and closed his eyes for a moment.  When he opened them, he found himself in a small room, lit by a few scattered candles.  He was sitting opposite Spike, and they were holding hands, but Spike was in game face, staring at him intently.

"Spike, where are we?" Xander asked slowly, looking around and not recognising the room.

"In the bedroom."  At Xander's look of exasperation, Spike continued, "Our bodies are still in bed, but at the moment we're inside your head, Xander."

"Wanna tell me why?" asked Xander.  Spike nodded, but didn't take his eyes off Xander's face.

"Just confirming my suspicions, love."

Xander sighed.  "Spike, please?  And why are you staring at me like that?"

"You're gonna make a beautiful vampire, Xander," said Spike, smiling widely, fangs glinting in the dim light.  He released one of Xander's hands and reached up to run his fingers over Xander's face.

"What?"  Xander reached up and touched his forehead, and his hand shook as he felt unfamiliar ridges there.  He ran his tongue over his teeth, to find sharp fangs in place of the usual bluntness.  "Christ, Spike!  What -"

"Shhh, Xan.  Calm down.  Give me your hands."  Spike's voice vibrated through Xander and he found himself obeying without thought.  "It's nothing to panic about, love.  We're inside your head, remember?  Listen to me.  This is something I do actually know about.  The Master, long may he burn, told me this bit of Lore, and you listened when he spoke, if you knew what was good for you.  It's pretty rare, but sometimes a bonded human will merge with the demon that he shares with his mate.  I suppose...well, Angelus is Master of Aurelius now, and I'm next in line, and you're a very strong human - should have expected something like this, especially when you overpowered the demon during the ritual."

"Angelus said I needed to learn to merge with the demon."

"Did he now?  Wonder if he suspected something like this was going to happen?"

"So, what does this mean, Spike?  I am a demon now?  Is that what this means?"

"No, love.  It's me, my demon, remember?  You just share part of me, that's all, but you've integrated it, merged it into yourself, made it your own, in a way.  Makes you stronger, much stronger.  And when you're finally ready to be turned, you'll hardly change at all.  You'll still be you.  It's a really good thing, love, something I didn't dare hope for."  Spike stood up, and pulled Xander with him, into his arms.  "You're mine," he growled as he tightened his hold on Xander and kissed him.  Fangs clashed as tongues duelled, and Xander felt himself growing hard.  He needed - he could taste Spike's blood in his mouth as tongues and lips tore on sharp fangs.  It exploded over him.  He'd never known, never even suspected that Spike's blood was so wonderful...  He pulled away roughly.  Xander desperately needed to do...something...

"Spike, I need..."  As Spike tilted his head, baring his neck, Xander knew what he needed.  He nuzzled at Spike's throat, filling himself with the scent of his mate.  Then he bit down, hard, amazed at how easily the skin parted for the razor sharp teeth, and sucked, swallowing mouthful after mouthful of the precious fluid.  He felt Spike nuzzling at his neck, and gasped as Spike bit down, drinking from him as he fed from Spike.  They ground against each other as they shared blood, and as Spike sucked hard, Xander shuddered and came, thrusting hard against Spike.  He felt Spike jerk and then stiffen a few moments later, and then Spike was pushing gently at his head.  Xander pulled his fangs out and licked at the wound as he felt Spike do the same.

As Spike pulled away slightly and rested their foreheads together, Xander noticed that they were both panting.

"Close your eyes, Xan," said Spike.  As Xander closed his eyes, he felt a tugging sensation, and when he opened them again, he was back in the bedroom with Spike on top of him.  And a soggy, slippery mess between them.

"Wow," Xander said shakily, "that was intense."

"Yeah," said Spike, grinning.

"Was that...  Was that real, Spike?"  'Please don't tell me I'm gonna start vamping out...'

"Um.  Yes and no.  The feelings are real.  The vamp senses you have now are real.  But you aren't a demon, Xander.  You won't try to drain anyone.  Your friends are safe, love."

Xander nodded slowly.  "So.  Okay, yeah, I can see that.  Um, Spike? Me being a vamp in my head, that wasn't real, right?"

"No, love.  That was just me talking to the merged part of you - you're human, inside and out, I promise.  Just got a few extras that might keep you from being demon fodder in the future.  Every little helps, what with living on a hellmouth and all."

Relief flooded through Xander.  Things were hard enough with his friends without him suddenly turning into a demon.  He lay still for a moment, staring into Spike's eyes.  He could live with this.  It made things a lot clearer, actually.  It was one thing to try and understand why Spike acted in a particular way, being a vamp and all, but it was quite different to actually feel these things for yourself.  And really understand.  Then Xander grinned.  So he'd forced Spike's demon to merge with him, huh?  Cool.  "Yeah, I'm pretty okay with it, I guess.  I mean, it's the same as before, right, just now I don't have to work at getting the demon to help out."  At Spike's nod, he continued, "So, me being all vamp super-powery was a dead giveaway, huh?"

"Yeah.  But it was you calling Angelus 'our Sire' that really gave me the hint, you know?  This just confirmed it."

"Uhuh.  Well, at least I really get the whole vamp neck fetish thing now."

Spike smiled.  "Oh yeah.  And we'll do it for real, one day, Xan."

Xander bit his lip and his eyes flickered away for a moment as he considered this.  The thought of being turned really didn't seem such a big deal to him any more.  No sinking feeling in his stomach or panicky little voices.  No big, moral dilemmas, just - acceptance. Another side effect of merging with the demon, he supposed.  It was just something else that they would do, one day.  He looked up at Spike, staring into his eyes once more.

"Yeah.  For real, Spike, one day."

Spike groaned and leaned down to kiss Xander.  He felt Spike begin to harden against him, and was surprised to find himself reacting - okay, another benefit of merging with the demon, apparently, zero recovery time.  Spike broke the kiss and whispered against Xander's lips, "Wanna fuck you, Xan.  Need you, now."

Xander whimpered as the words sent a bolt of arousal through him.  He spread his legs and bent his knees, placing his feet flat on the bed.  "So what are you waiting for?" he whispered back.

Spike's preparation was slow and teasing, and Xander was almost screaming with frustration as Spike finally, slowly, sank into him.

"Mine, Xander.  Only ever mine," said Spike as he withdrew slowly and then slammed home again.  And as Spike sank his fangs into Xander's neck after tearing open his wrist for Xander to drink from, he felt like he was being claimed all over again.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander opened his eyes to find himself clean and tucked under the blankets, nestled in Spike's arms.  The last thing Xander remembered was feeling incredibly sleepy after a mindblowing orgasm.  He snuggled closer to Spike and dropped a kiss on his nose.  Spike's eyes opened, and he tilted his head to capture Xander's lips.

"Have a nice nap, love?"

Xander grinned widely.  "Yeah, I feel really, really good, Spike."

"Well, I hate to do this, Xan, but we still need to talk, don't we?"

Xander sighed.  Damn.  But yeah, they did.  There were a couple of things...well, one in particular.

"Why did you kiss him, Spike?  He hurt me, and you..."  Xander shook his head and closed his eyes.  He understood the reason for the ritual now, he really did.  God help him, he was even happy about it.  But the image of Spike kissing Angelus was burned into his mind.  That had hurt. 

"Xan?  Xander, look at me, love, please?"  As Xander opened his eyes Spike met his gaze.  "First of all, I had no idea at all that when we went to LA we'd end up doing this ritual, okay?  It was as big a shock to me as it was to you.  I knew I was going nuts, but I didn't know why.  I did know, though, that if anyone knew what was going on, it'd be my Sire, right?  And secondly, everything that happened in that room was part of the ritual.  Everything.  I had to submit to him, renew my bond, acknowledge him as my Sire.  And offer him the most precious thing in my existence.  I know you were scared during the ritual - I know you wanted to get away, I could hear you and feel you, love.  But you couldn't.  Once the ritual has started, it has to be completed.  The demon is in control, and Angelus would have killed us both, love, soul or not.  Everything that happened, happened because it was part of the ritual."

"Oh."  Xander considered this for a moment.  When he thought about Angelus, feelings arose within him, 'love, want, Sire'.  He felt his stomach clench.  "So you wouldn't rather be with him?  Even though you love him?  And I can feel it too, Spike, I know exactly how you feel."  The words seemed to catch in Xander's throat as he spoke, but he forced them out.  He had to know, and he could share Spike, if he had to.  It wouldn't be so bad.  Oh, who was he kidding, it'd kill him.  Spike stared at Xander for a long moment, and then hugged him tightly.

"Oh, bloody hell, love, is that what's been bothering you?  I don't want Angelus - well, I'd like to have a Sire that I could talk to and rely on occasionally, but that's it.  I don't want anyone but you, ever.  He's my Sire, and yes, I love him, Xander.  I can't help it, it's how a Childe feels towards their Sire; you know that now, you can feel it too.  But you're my mate.  I chose you.  I'm stuck with him.  Big difference, believe me!"   Spike gently touched Xander's cheek.  “You’re my Consort, my mate, Xander, and I love you. What you did for us yesterday was – well, it means so much to me.  Especially as I know you could have broken the bond if you’d wanted to.”  Xander’s head jerked back, his shocked eyes meeting Spike’s.

“I didn't want you to know.  I suppose Angelus told you?"  At Spike's nod, he continued, "Spike, there's no way I would have broken the bond that way.  I mean, I thought about it, but once Angelus told me how he'd do it...  I'm sorry, Spike.  I love you, I was just scared..."

“Hey, hey,  It's okay.  I don't blame you for considering it, Xander.  I understand, love.  Hell, I couldn't really blame you if you had decided to have me dusted, I mean, I've made a right fuck up of this bonding thing."

Xander rolled abruptly, pulling Spike under him, pinning him to the bed.  "Don't ever say that, Spike.  Yeah, it would have been nice to know what we were doing, but it doesn't change anything.  If I'd known everything up front, I..."  Xander bent his head and kissed Spike.  "I wouldn't have changed a thing.  And maybe that's just the new, improved me talking, but I'm glad it happened, all of it."

"Even getting up close and personal with Angelus?"

"Well, I can honestly say that's one of the scariest things I've ever done and hey, I survived, and something good came out of it.  So yeah, even that."

"He was very impressed with you."  As Xander snorted, Spike laughed.  "You stood up to him, even when you thought the soul had gone completely.  Very few have done that.  Well, and lived to tell about it, anyway." 

Xander opened his mouth to answer, but was silenced by the loud rumbling of his stomach.  They both began laughing, and stumbled out of bed to shower and eat.


~*~*~*~*~


Despite Spike's insistence that Xander really needed to eat more vegetables, Xander had convinced him that what he really needed was pizza.  So they compromised and Xander had a pizza with vegetables on it, while Spike heated himself a mug of blood.

"So. What d'you wanna do tonight?" asked Xander as he pushed the empty plate away.  "'Cause, I'd like to play on the Playstation.  You wanna play too?"  Spike had a different sort of playing in mind, but that could wait until later.  "Yeah, sure, pet.  But make sure it's something nice and violent, eh?  I fancy a bit of a rampage."

"Thrill Kill it is then!" said Xander, as he headed to the living room.

"And make sure it's the uncensored version, I'm not playing that piss-weak bloody demo..."

"Yeah, yeah," said Xander as he got out the disk and started the game.


~*~*~*~*~


A couple of hours later, Xander threw down the control pad in disgust.  "You win.  You always win!"

"Yeah, well, had a century of practice at the real thing, pet.  Comes in handy, sometimes," said Spike with a smirk.  He reached over and turned the machine and TV off.  Then he jumped to his feet and hauled Xander up with him, grabbed his hand and started towing him towards the bedroom.  "There's something else I've had a century of practice at, pet, that I feel the need to try out tonight."

"Oh yeah?  And what would that be?" said Xander.

"Guess," said Spike, as he threw Xander onto the bed and started stripping him.

"Um, chess?"

"Nooo... lift up," said Spike, as he unzipped Xander's pants and pulled them off him.

"Backgammon?" said Xander, as Spike finished stripping him and began to remove his own clothing.

"Well, there are backs involved, yeah, but, not really..."

"How about... driving your lover insane with desire?" said Xander, his eyes drinking in the naked vision crawling up the bed towards him.

"Much closer, pet," said Spike, as he pushed Xander's legs apart and moved between them, licking a path from his cock, detouring around his navel, up the breast bone, and ending at Xander's lips.  As their tongues duelled and parried, Xander wrapped his arms around the cool body covering his own, and Spike began to thrust his hips.  They were both hard now, and their cocks slid against each other teasingly.  Spike broke the kiss and put his weight on his forearms, lifting his head up to gaze into Xander's eyes.  "I want you, Xander.  I don't think I've ever wanted anyone this much, ever."

"You've got me, I'm all yours," whispered Xander.

"Mmm, yeah, mine," Spike growled softly.  "You know, you were amazing last night, pet.  I know how hard it was for you, how scared you were, but you did it for me.  And I figure it's my turn, now.  You're still feeling like you need to do something, but not sure what, yeah?"  Spike wrapped his arms around Xander and rolled them over, and Xander found himself looking down at Spike, feeling somewhat confused.

"Spike, I don't understand," said Xander.

"Xander, you're feeling the urge to claim me, aren't you, since the ritual?"  Xander felt Spike's words gather in his pit of his stomach and then spread out, sending tingles through his body.  Yes.  Oh, yes.  But he'd been pushing the feeling away firmly.  Spike did the claiming, not him.  He couldn't do that, not to Spike.

"Yes.  I mean, no.  I mean... I thought it was just some weird side effect of the ritual.  I'm sure it'll fade, don't worry about it," said Xander, and he felt himself blushing.

Spike sighed.  "No, it won't.  Look, Xander, you could probably just bite me.  That would be enough to satisfy the demon.  But I think it's time you claimed me, properly like."

Xander just stared, and he searched Spike's face, looking for some clue.  Spike couldn't possibly mean...  A soft "oh" escaped his lips and his expression became serious.  He pulled his arms out from under Spike and rested his forearms on either side of the blond head.  He caught Spike's gaze and said, "I don't...  Spike, this isn't something I've asked for or told you I wanted.  And you haven't shown the slightest interest in doing this before. So what's going on?"  Spike sighed.  "Always have to look a gift horse in the mouth, don't you, pet?"

"No, Spike.  It's just that there's more going on here than whose cock goes where, isn't there?  You just said that I only need to bite you. Tell me," Xander said.  Spike sighed again. "Xander, I'm offering you something I've never offered anyone else.  Just take it, love."

Xander's eyes widened.  "Oh, Spike," he breathed, as he lowered his head to capture Spike's lips in a gentle kiss.  Spike tightened his arms around Xander, deepening the kiss until they were devouring each other.  Spike wants me to do this - I can do this, thought Xander.  Xander broke the kiss, and leaned across to grab the lube.  "You sure about this, Spike?"  The vampire simply pulled his knees up and spread his legs.  "Jeez," whispered Xander shakily.  He fervently prayed that he didn't screw this up.

Xander had never done this before, but he figured if he just copied what Spike did to him, he wouldn't go too far wrong.  Not having any body temperature, putting a blob of lube on Spike wouldn't do much to warm it up, he thought.   So Xander just poured some into the palm of his hand.  He knelt between Spike's legs, and just stared at the vision laid out before him.  He finally noticed that Spike was glaring at him, so he decided he'd better make a start.  He slathered his fingers with lube, and then leaned forward and slowly licked up the length of Spike's cock.  The hissed 'fuck me', made him grin.  He swirled his tongue around the head a few times, and then he sucked the cool length into his mouth.  At the same time, his fingers started sliding up and down Spike's perineum, skating over the top of his pucker.  Xander circled the hole a few times, and slipped the tip of his index finger inside.  Spike twitched as Xander slowly pushed inside him.  He pumped a few times, then pulled out, added more lube, and began to slowly insert two fingers.  A sharp hiss made him stop for a moment as the muscles clamped down hard, and he pulled the fingers out again.  "Just get on with it," demanded Spike.  Xander pulled his head up sharply, releasing Spike's cock with a popping noise.  "Who's doing this, Spike?" he said. 

"Just do it, then.  Vampire here, not a fragile human, y'know.  You can't hurt me."

"When was the last time you did this?  Are we talking years?  Decades?  A century?  You are very, very tight.  I want us both to enjoy this, so we'll do it my way, okay?" 

Spike huffed, and then smiled at Xander.  "Okay, pet.  You're driving.  I'll just lie here and think of England, shall I?"

"I really hope you won't be able to think about anything at all soon, Spike.  So just shut up and let me do this," said Xander, grinning at the impatient vampire.  Xander added more lube to his fingers, and then thrust two in, quick and hard.  Spike's cry of pain and tensing muscles made Xander smile wryly.  "Just get on with it, yeah?"

"Okay, you've made your point, smartarse," said Spike.

Xander was feeling more confident now, as he lowered his head and captured Spike's cock in his mouth again.  He sucked gently, playing with it as he patiently stretched and lubed the tight passage.  He'd just got three fingers inside and was pumping them in rhythm with his sucking on the now dripping cock when he felt Spike rear up, and he was grabbed and hauled up the bed.  Spike latched his mouth onto Xander's and kissed him desperately.  He then tore his lips from Xander's and hoarsely demanded, "Fuck me.  Now."  Xander wasn't going to argue.  He was more than ready himself.

"Um, yeah, Okay.  Do you want to roll over?"

"No.  Wanna see your face as you come inside me, Xander."  Xander shuddered.  "God, Spike, you keep saying things like that I'm gonna come right now."

"Don't you dare," said Spike.  Xander grabbed a pillow and tucked it under Spike's hips.  As Xander knelt between Spike's spread thighs, carefully smoothing lube over his over-sensitive cock, he raised his eyes to find Spike watching him. 

"Just like our first time, love.  You lay there and watched me lube up, getting ready to fuck you for the first time, and then claim you, remember?" said Spike.

"Yeah," whispered Xander, and it suddenly hit him - he would be the one doing the claiming.   He leaned forward, positioning himself against the still-too-tight hole, noting that his hands were shaking again.  He took a deep, calming breath and started to push, but Spike's body seemed to fight him.  He pushed harder and the head popped in.  Spike hissed and the muscles clamped down hard around Xander's cock.  Xander stopped pushing and wrapped his hand around Spike's cock, pumping it a few times until the muscles relaxed a little.  He then began a slow, rocking motion, slipping further and further inside each time, until finally he was buried balls deep in the cool, silky passage.  Spike's hands were plucking at Xander's arms, so he stretched himself out on top of his lover, resting his forearms on either side of Spike's head again.  "Need to see your face, need to kiss you," gasped Spike.  The needy, uncertain look on Spike's face shook Xander.  He lowered his head, brushing his lips against Spike's.  "I love you," he whispered.  Spike's lips parted, his tongue darting out to lick at Xander's.  Their tongues danced as the kiss grew deeper, and Xander felt a pushing at the edge of his thoughts.  He opened himself to Spike, and as his lover's emotions swirled through him, he began thrusting slowly.  "God, baby, you're so tight around me," groaned Xander, trying desperately not to come yet.  Spike lifted his legs and wrapped them around Xander's waist.  "More," he gasped, and Xander braced himself and began to thrust harder, and faster.  Spike wrapped his legs more tightly around Xander, tilting himself forward more, and suddenly gasped.  Sparks flew through Xander's mind, and he figured the angle must be just right.  But this couldn't last.  He was going into overload.  The wet, slippery tightness around his cock and the sparks that flew through his head each time he hit Spike's prostate were sending him spiralling out of control.  He was pounding into Spike, now, thrusting as hard and deep as he could.  "Gonna come soon, babe, come for me," he gasped.  He burrowed into Spike's neck, nibbling and sucking, and then suddenly he sank his teeth into the cool flesh.  As the blood welled into his mouth, Spike stiffened beneath him and a truly spectacular fireworks display went off in Xander's head.  He pulled his mouth away from Spike's neck and stared at his lover's face, contorted in the throes of orgasm.  "Mine, Spike. You're mine," he ground out, and as Spike's eyes snapped open he slammed into him, hard, and then the whiteout hit.

Xander wasn't sure how long he lay slumped on top of Spike, waiting for the buzzing in his ears to settle and his breathing to calm a little.  It felt like hours but was probably only a couple of minutes.  He felt his cock slip out of Spike, and he lifted himself up and rolled off to the side, pulling Spike with him, so they lay face to face.  Spike lay silently, his eyes closed, but Xander knew he was awake.  He reached up and gently stroked the pale cheek, before leaning in and placing a kiss on the perfect lips before him.  "Look at me, Spike," he whispered.  The sooty eyelashes fluttered, and Xander gasped at the vulnerable look in the blue eyes.  "You okay, Spike?" he asked in a soft voice.  "Yeah.  Yeah, I'm okay," breathed Spike.  Xander wrapped his arms around his lover and hugged him tightly.  "Thank you, Spike.  Thank you for... " he broke off, his voice choked with emotion.  Xander knew that he had been given something precious.

Spike lay in Xander's arms, listening to the shallow, even breathing and slow, steady heartbeat of his sleeping mate.  "I can feel my demon in you, you know.  I wonder, can you feel the part of your soul that you've given me?" he whispered. "Too human, now.  And I've given you the last piece of me.  My last refuge.  Never willingly gave that to anyone before.  Would have made me too vulnerable.  Too much of a surrender.  No defences.  Don't hurt me, Xander, you're the only one who can, you know.  And it would kill me."





16
Secrets and Christmas Presents

"Hey, Giles.  Not busy?"

"No.  I was just thinking of getting some lunch.  Care to join me?"

"That'd be great, thanks."  Xander shrugged off his jacket and hung it on the peg by the door.  Giles headed into the kitchen, and Xander followed him, casting an eye at the piles of heavy books lying around the loungeroom.  Looked like Giles was having a one-man research party.

"Not working today?"

"No.  Stan's closed the workshop this week.  Marlene insisted that he help her get organised for Christmas.  Said she wasn't doing it all on her own this year."

"Oh?" said Giles, as he began pulling packages out of the 'fridge.  He placed them on the table and began assembling sandwiches.

"Well, her and Stan kinda have an open house at Christmas, you know?  Marlene says nobody should be alone, thinking about how everybody else is having fun.  Stan sort of grumbles about it, but he wouldn't have it any other way.  They're good people, Giles."

Giles looked up from slicing tomatoes and smiled at Xander.  "Yes, I'm sure they are.  So, are you enjoying the work there?"

"Oh yeah," said Xander, a huge grin on his face.  "Stan says I have a natural talent with wood, you know?  There's something so satisfying about making something yourself, with your own hands.  And Stan's actually sold a couple of small pieces that I've made.  He said people really like my work."

"That's wonderful, Xander," said Giles.  He poured himself a cup of tea and passed Xander a can of soda, then they picked up their sandwiches and took them into the loungeroom.  Giles put his plate and cup down on the coffee table, and pushed a pile of books out of the way to clear some space for Xander.

"And how's everything else?"

"Really good, Giles.  Since we got back from LA, well, things have settled down, you know?"

"You went to LA?  When?"

Xander froze.  Crap.  He really needed to engage his brain before opening his mouth.  He'd forgotten that he had kept this from Giles. 

"Um.  Few weeks back, just before I started working with Stan."

"You went to see Angel," said Giles.  His voice sounded - flat.  "The ritual, I assume?  I thought you were going to avoid that."

"Um, yeah," said Xander, staring at the floor.  "Turned out it was kinda unavoidable, in the end.  But hey, it was fine, really.  No big deal, I'm fine, Spike's fine, everybody's fine."

Giles sighed.  "That bad?"

The smile slid off Xander's face.  He wasn't a good liar at the best of times, and trying to lie to Giles, well...

"It was scary, Giles.  You know what the ritual involves, right?"  At Giles' short nod, he continued, "The blood bond sort of brought Angelus out.  'Cos Angel couldn't have done it.  But - well, he didn't hurt me any more than he had to, you know?  And Spike was with me the whole time.  I wasn't in any danger from him or anything."

Giles gasped.  He reached forward and gently turned Xander's face towards him, and Xander could see the shock in his eyes.  "Angelus?  Dear Lord.  And he hurt you?  Oh God, Xander, you must have been so scared."  Xander felt a lump rise in his throat at the look of concern on Giles' face.  Xander swallowed hard and forced a bright grin.

"I'm fine.  Really.  So, anyway, we did the ritual, came home again.  Spike stopped acting all psycho-vamp, and I...  Well, I'm sorta different too."

The expression on Giles' face became grim, but he listened intently, his eyes never leaving Xander's face.  "Go on."

"Apparently I've somehow merged with Spike's demon.  So, all vamp super-powery, without the whole 'grr' and blood drinking thing.  Well, not from anyone but Spike, anyway."  Xander bit his lip.  "You...  You gonna be okay with this, Giles, cos, you know, if you're not, I..."

"Oh, Xander," said Giles, as he pulled the boy into a hug.  He patted Xander's back from a few moments, then released him again.  Leaning back, he looked Xander in the eye again.  "Of course I'm all right with this.  You're still you, Xander.  And I still...care about you.  It's not going to change anything; it might make things even more complicated with Buffy, however."

"Yeah, I know," said Xander.  Buffy was still avoiding him, and it hurt that she continued to act this way.  "But there's nothing I can do about that, Giles.  I mean, even Joyce is okay with it, but Buffy just won't listen..." His voice trailed off miserably.

"She'll come around eventually, Xander.  She's rather busy with school and Riley just now, so she doesn't seem to have much time for anyone else at all."  It was Giles' turn to look dejected.

"Sure she will," said Xander, his cheerful tone sounding fake even to his own ears.  They both jumped at a sudden knock at the door.  "It's Wills, and somebody else," said Xander, without thinking.  "Her friend Tara, I think.  Don't know her that well."

"How do you..." Giles' made a vague gesture at the door. 

"Vamp senses," said Xander.  "Comes in handy at times."  They shared a genuine smile, and Giles got up to answer the door.

"Hey Giles, Tara and I were wondering if you could...  Xander!" Willow squealed, and she bounced across the room to give Xander a hug.  "How are you?  Haven't seen you in ages.  Have you been avoiding me, mister, cos -"

"No, no, I swear," said Xander, laughingly cutting off the Willowey word avalanche.  "Just been busy with work.  Actually, I'm glad you're here, too.  I came to ask you and Giles if you wanted to come over on Christmas Eve, spend the day with me and Spike, if you're not doing anything.  I mean, I know you guys will be at Buffy's on Christmas Day..."

Willow squealed again.  "I'd love to!  I haven't been to your new place yet, big secret keeping guy!  Oh!"  She turned to Tara.  "Oh, we're supposed to be -"

"Th-that's okay, Willow.  You go to your friend's place.  I'll be fine."

"Hey, no.  You can come too, Tara," said Xander.  "I mean, if you want to.  Any friend of my best friend is - my best friend, too, I guess," said Xander, a mock-confused look on his face.  Both girls began laughing, and Tara smiled shyly and nodded at Willow.

"We'd love to, Xander," said Willow, smiling brightly.  Xander turned to Giles.

"What about you, Giles?  We'd really love you to come, you know."  Giles seemed to be considering the invitation seriously for a moment.  Then he nodded.  "Of course.  I'd love to, Xander.  If you want to give me your address, the girls can meet me here and I'll take them.  What time do you want us to arrive, and is there anything we can bring?"  Xander thought for a moment.  If they arrived in the morning, he would maybe get to spend some time with them on his own before Spike woke up.

"How about late morning some time?  We can have lunch and stuff?  And you don't need to bring anything.  I've got it all under control."  Giles rolled his eyes and the girls giggled.  "What?  I have!  I can be organised, you know!"

"Of course you can, Xander," said Giles, a small grin playing about his lips.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander took the dirty crockery into the kitchen while Giles moved piles of books so that the girls could sit down.  He made a fresh cup of tea for Giles and got out some sodas from the fridge.  Once they were all sitting down, Willow said, "Um, Xander, we need to ask you something."

"Okay," said Xander, looking nervous as Willow and Giles exchanged glances.  Giles cleared his throat and Willow sat back.

"Buffy has been seeing this Riley boy now for a while, and...  Well, not to put too fine a point on it, she's started to neglect patrol somewhat."

"She's not patrolling?" asked Xander in surprise.

"No, she still patrols, as do Willow and I, and Tara has been helping us, too," said Giles, smiling at the blushing girl.  "But she has started to cut patrols short, and has asked that we take over a little more so that she can have some 'down' time."

Xander's jaw dropped.  This didn't sound like Buffy at all.  "But...but she's the Slayer!"

"I am aware of that," said Giles dryly.  "But she insists that there's less and less to do on patrol these days, and that she's just wasting her time when there's nothing to slay.  I have to admit, demon and vampire activity has fallen dramatically in the past couple of months.  But nevertheless, this does not mean that duties can be shirked."  Giles was now polishing his glasses, and Xander could see that he was upset by Buffy's new attitude.  "So we were wondering if you would consider resuming patrolling duties with us, Xander," said Giles.  "I would understand if you said no, given your current, um, status.  But we could really use your assistance."

Xander took a drink of his soda, and considered his words carefully before he spoke.  As much as he really, really wanted to help his friends out, a lot had changed.

"Of course, I'd love to help you guys.  But, and this is a big but, you have to understand that my view of all things oogie in the night has changed over the past few months, okay?  Not all demons are evil, guys.  Sure, we've come across our fair share of those who want to kill, maim and destroy, but they're not all like that.  I'm happy to help slay the dangerous and homicidal, and the suck the world into hell type bad guys.  But I'm not gonna kill anything without a damn good reason.  Just 'cos something isn't human doesn't automatically make it the bad guy, you know?" 

Willow's mouth had fallen open as Xander spoke, and she shook her head slowly.  "Wow, Xander, you sound so...  You've changed," she said.

"Yeah, guess I have," said Xander, smiling gently at her.  Giles nodded slowly, and Xander continued, "There's one other thing.  I'll need some time to talk to Spike about this first, and he may well want to come along, too.  But, if you're okay with that, then great, let's do this thing."

"Thank you, Xander.  That sounds perfectly reasonable," said Giles.  His expression became pensive, and he continued, "Er, you think Spike would want to come on patrol with us?"

Xander laughed.  "Wandering through a cemetery with me in the dark, looking for something to kill?  He'll probably think I'm being romantic."


~*~*~*~*~


The rest of the afternoon passed pleasantly, with Xander chatting, laughing and just enjoying spending time with his friends.  He was getting the distinct impression that Willow and Tara were more than just friends, but figured he'd wait for her to tell him herself.  When Willow finally exclaimed at the time, Xander said he needed to get home, too.  He left his new cell phone number, address and directions with Giles, with instructions to park in the underground car park and ring the number when they arrived, so that Xander could come out and get them.  "We have a lot of security," he explained at Giles' puzzled glance.


~*~*~*~*~


The next few days flew past in a hectic blur.  Xander bought a tree, decorations and presents for everybody.  He'd managed to find several things that were just perfect for the girls, and Spike's gifts were all organised.  But apart from a bottle of good, single malt whiskey and a couple of CD's, he was at a loss for something special for Giles.  Spike said that he knew where he could lay his hands on a book that Giles would kill for, and Xander happily left it in his hands.

Spike had collapsed into hysterical laughter when Xander had announced that he was going to cook lunch for everyone.  He then had the good grace to apologise to his offended mate, before assuring Xander that lunch was under control.  As Spike and Xander had volunteered to help out with the kids at Stan and Marlene's on Christmas Day, Marlene had said she'd make sure they had a lunch they could be proud of on Christmas Eve.

Sure enough, the day before Christmas Eve, Marlene had arrived at the apartment with a couple of her older children in tow.  They were weighted down with bags and boxes, and Xander hurriedly cleared the kitchen table and benches as Spike helped bring more boxes in from the car.

"Right, boys," said Marlene.  "Here's your lunch, complete with a list of instructions and times, okay?  Think you can manage?"  Xander got sodas for the children and made Marlene a cup of tea while Spike went through the list with her, making sure everything was clear.  By the time Marlene had finished her tea, Xander's head was whirling, but Spike seemed to have everything under control.  They saw their visitors safely out to the car, and waved them off.

"Wow, Spike.  I wasn't expecting all this..."  Xander's eyes swept over the overflowing surfaces in the kitchen.  Marlene had prepared and stuffed a turkey, which was in an aluminium baking tray, ready to go into the oven.  The vegetables were peeled, ready to be cooked, and sealed into plastic bags.  There was a large container of gravy and a smaller jar of cranberry sauce.  Marlene had even made them a 'proper' English plum pudding with brandy sauce and Christmas cake for dessert.  A box containing nuts and other snacks sat on the kitchen table.

"She's a proper treasure is Marlene," said Spike.  "I've got the list of instructions here.  If we follow it, we've got nothing to worry about, right?"

Xander groaned.  "Why does that sound like tempting fate, Spike?"  Spike just grinned at him.  "It'll be fine, Xan.  You worry too much.  Now, let's make some space in the fridge for this lot."

After much cursing, rummaging and rearranging, they finally managed to get everything squeezed into the fridge and cupboards.  Xander was just about to get himself a cold drink when his watch began to beep at him.

"Damn.  I forgot about that.  Spike, I have to go out and pick something up.  Won't take long," he said.  Spike raised an eyebrow in query, but Xander just smiled mysteriously at him.  Spike laughed, guessing it was a surprise for him for Christmas.

"Yeah, sure.  Take your time, love.  I might hit the sack for an hour or two.  Been keeping human hours this week, and it takes a lot out of me, being awake at...  Bloody hell, four pm.  That's the middle of the night for me!"

Xander smiled.  Spike had wanted to make the most of Xander's time off work, so he'd taken to staying awake during the day and sleeping at night.  Except that the sleeping at night thing wasn't working out too well, and Xander knew for a fact that Spike had gone hunting several nights this week already.  Xander really appreciated Spike wanting to be with him, but the silly vampire was asleep on his feet by mid-afternoon.  He dropped a kiss on Spike's cheek.

"Good idea.  You catch some sleep.  I'll wake you up in a couple of hours, okay?"  Spike nodded and made his way into the bedroom, while Xander grabbed his wallet and keys and headed out to the car.


~*~*~*~*~


It took Xander longer than expected at the Mall.  The shops were crowded, parking spaces were as rare as hen's teeth, and it was almost seven pm by the time he got home.   Spike was still in bed, but the tousled blond head turned in his direction as he walked into the bedroom.

"Get everything okay, love?" Spike asked in a sleepy voice.

"Yeah.  It was unbelievably busy out there, Spike.  You've got no idea.  These people are insane.  I saw two women fighting, literally throwing punches, over a doll!"

"Yeah, gotta love that Christmas spirit, peace on earth and all that," sniggered Spike.  Xander grinned.

"Well, not everybody's like that, thank God.  Spike?  Did I say thank you?"

"What for, love?"

"For helping to organise things for tomorrow.  I'm really looking forward to having my friends over, you know?  You sure you don't mind?"

"They're your friends, Xan, and this is your home.  They're welcome if you want them here."

"Thanks, Spike.  I really am grateful, you know, for arranging the lunch and everything."

"Well then, why don't you get naked, come here and show me just how grateful you are, pet?" said Spike, sounding more alert now.  His eyes seemed to twinkle in the dim light as he watched the impromptu strip show Xander put on for him.  Xander turned his back as he shimmied out of his pants, bending forward to allow Spike a good look at one of his favourite views.  Xander straightened slowly and turned.  His skin seemed to glow, and Spike licked his lips as he watched his lover slink towards him.  The light glinted off the gold nipple rings, and as Xander crawled onto the bed, Spike reached towards them and tweaked them, hard, causing Xander to gasp loudly as his cock jumped in reaction to the stimulus.

"Definitely one of your better ideas, pet," said Spike, as he pushed Xander onto his back and sucked one nipple into his mouth, flicking the ring with his tongue as his fingers toyed with the other one.

"Gah, oh yeah," panted Xander.  He couldn't believe how much more sensitive his nipples seemed to be now, and just remembering the night Spike had pierced him was enough to make him instantly hard.

"Enjoyed me piercing you, didn't you, pet?  You know, I can always take them out.  You'd heal real fast, then I could do it again."

"Oh, fuck," breathed Xander as a shudder ran through him.  Spike chuckled around the ring in his mouth.  He gave it a final flick of his tongue and lifted his head.  "Oh yeah, we'll definitely do that, then.  But I've got something else in mind for you tonight.  You've been a very good boy, and I think you deserve a special Christmas treat."  Spike reached down and tapped the blunt end of the butt plug that Xander had worn all day.

"Tonight?" asked Xander, hopefully.  Spike nodded.  He looked thoughtfully at Xander for a moment.

"Xan?  This first time, it'll be just for you, okay?  It can be very..."  Spike paused and chewed at his bottom lip for a moment.  "You've read up on this, right?"  Xander simply nodded, and Spike continued, "Even with sharing my demon, it can a bit much; the feelings can be overpowering, and I'll need to stay in control.  I want this to be good for you, love."

Xander stared into Spike's eyes.  He felt their connection; felt Spike's love, and his concern, and knew that his mate would make it good for him, for both of them.  And he wanted to do this, so much.  He wanted - no, needed, to give himself to Spike in this way.

"You hungry?  You want to eat first?"  Xander shook his head.  "Right then.  Better go and get ready.  Take your time, make sure you do a good job, but don't bother lubing up, okay?  I'll take care of that, need to use something a bit different," said Spike.  Xander swallowed hard.  This was it.  Spike had had him wearing the butt plug for the past couple of days to get him ready for this.  And Xander couldn't wait.


~*~*~*~*~


By the time Xander was securely fastened into the sling, and Spike had made sure he was comfortably but firmly restrained, Xander was panting, shaking, and hard as a rock.

"Shh, calm down, pet.  You need to relax, okay?" said Spike, slowly rubbing his hand in soothing circles on Xander's stomach.  Spike tipped some massage oil into his hand, and then began slowly and firmly kneading the muscles in Xander's arms and legs, taking his time, until Xander's breathing slowed and the tension left him.

Xander jerked as he felt a cool tongue begin to lick at his balls, then moaned as Spike sucked first one, then the other into his mouth.  That wicked tongue then began circling, licking and jabbing at his entrance, slowly opening him up.  After a few minutes, Spike pulled away and Xander felt something hard slide into him, followed by a cool, flooding sensation.

"Wha..."

"Shh, love.  Just getting ready to start, okay?  If you open your eyes, you can see what I'm doing," said Spike.

Xander opened his eyes and saw Spike standing between his legs, holding a large plastic bottle that had a nozzle at the end.  Then his eyes widened.  Spike had placed a large mirror on a stand next to him, angled so that Xander could see himself.  He watched Spike put the bottle down, and then adjust the cockring Xander was wearing until it was very tight.

"Just making sure we've got plenty to start with, need lots of this stuff.   And we can't have you coming too soon, or it'll all be over before the interesting stuff starts.  You all right?" asked Spike.  Xander nodded.  "You can close your eyes again if you want, or you can watch what I'm doing in the mirror, up to you.  Whatever you need to do, love," added Spike.

Xander thought about it for a moment.  He looked at Spike, and then looked at his reflection in the mirror.  He could see Spike's finger circling him.  Being able to see it as well as feel it was so hot.  He smiled at Spike.

"I want to watch," he said.

"Thought you might like that," Spike said with a grin.  He put the bottle of lube on the table and dipped his hand into the large bowl full of lube he'd placed there.

Xander was surprised how quickly and easily Spike was able to ease three fingers into him.  Spike massaged the muscles, stretching and loosening them for a minute or so, then pulled out slowly and dipped his hand into the bowl again.  He began to rub small circles on Xander's stomach with the other hand as he said, "Okay, Xander.  We've done three before, so nothing new there.  Now we need to take our time, love.  Tell me if you need to stop."

Xander watched as Spike began to push four fingers into his entrance.  He pumped slowly, going slightly deeper each time, and Xander began to feel the burn as the muscles stretched.  This felt familiar, reminded him of the large butt plug Spike had made him wear.  After a couple of minutes of gentle pumping the burn eased, and Xander guessed his muscles must have relaxed further, because Spike removed his hand, dipped it into the lube bowl again, and said, "bit more now, love," before pushing the four fingers back in.  But this time, Spike had tucked his thumb under his fingers, and was pushing that in as well.  Xander felt the familiar burn and breathed through it.  It didn't really feel much different until Spike reached the widest part of his hand.  Spike pumped a couple of times and then began to push in.

"Fuck," Xander groaned.  This hurt.  A lot.  He was panting, hard, and he felt himself tense up, which of course made the burning worse.  He tried to move away, but Spike's hand was on his stomach, holding him still, and Spike was whispering to him, "Shh, Xan, shh, baby, it's all right, it's all right, love, nearly there," as he slowly and steadily pushed in.  "Breathe, love, remember to breathe."  

Xander dragged his attention back to this breathing.  He found himself groaning loudly; couldn't seem to stop, but somehow it helped him to focus.  The pressure seemed to build and build until he really thought he couldn't cope, was just about to say, 'stop'; and then, suddenly, a bright flash of burning pain and the pressure eased a little on his abused muscles.  It should have been a relief, but it wasn't.  The sudden feeling of fullness and pressure inside was overwhelming.

"Stop, just stop," he moaned.  Spike stilled instantly, and he could feel Spike's other hand rubbing gentle circles on his stomach.

"It's okay, Xander.  We'll just stay still like this for a while, wait for you to get used to it, love," said Spike in a low, soothing voice.  "Just breathe, slow and steady."

Xander lay gasping for a moment, willing his breathing under control again, and then peeled his eyes open.  He looked at the mirror in shock.  Spike's hand was inside him.  Damn.  He looked up and saw Spike watching him, his concern clear on his face.  Xander gave him a shaky smile.  

"I'm okay, Spike," he said, trying to reassure his worried lover.  Spike gave him a relieved smile.

"Good.  That's good, baby," said Spike.  Xander watched as Spike began to slather lube absolutely everywhere.  "Close your eyes now.  Just feel.  Are you ready?"

No, thought Xander.  He couldn't imagine anybody ever being ready for this.  But he wanted it.  So he nodded slowly and closed his eyes.  Spike began to move his hand.

The feeling was indescribable.  Xander was shaking and finding it difficult to catch his breath.  He should be taking slow, steady breaths, he knew that; but it was too much.  This was too much.  He felt Spike rotate his hand, very slowly, back and forth.  He felt fingers sliding inside him, and then bright flashes as his prostate was hit again and again.  Spike's knuckles, a detached part of his brain informed him.  This part seemed to be keeping track of what was going on, which was good, thought Xander, because the rest of him was floating away.

"Gonna do something different now, love."  Spike's voice drifted over him.  Xander felt a shifting inside him, more pressure, and then movement, a pumping action rather than rotating now.  Xander forced his eyes open again, and watched Spike push his arm in a little way, then pull out again.  That's what it is, he thought.  He closed his eyes and drifted away again.  The strangest sensations were building inside him.  More pushing, more pressure, and suddenly he felt as though he was flooded with some sort of warm, golden light.  And it all just felt - right, somehow.  That he could give this, give himself so completely to the beautiful man that he loved so much.  Spike, who truly was his master, and who loved him in return.  He felt at peace, wonderfully happy.  Except, someone seemed to be making an awful lot of noise.  Xander eventually figured it was quite probably him, but he couldn't seem to stop himself as ripples of intense pleasure coursed through him.  He shuddered violently as a slick hand was wrapped around his neglected cock, and he opened his eyes again to see Spike slowly jacking him off, staring intently at Xander's face.

"Need to come now?" Spike asked.  Xander nodded, as coherent speech seemed totally beyond him at this point.  If Spike thought it was time, then it was.  He felt Spike remove the cockring, and then his hand was back on Xander's cock, and the hand inside him did - something - and suddenly Xander was coming, and coming...

Xander opened his eyes to see Spike standing next to him, releasing his wrist cuffs.

"Spike?" he croaked out.  Spike held a sipper bottle of water to his lips and Xander drank the icy water gratefully.  His throat felt as though he'd swallowed a cheesegrater.  Spike placed the bottle in one of Xander's hands, then leaned down and kissed him deeply.  Xander wrapped his arms around Spike and hugged him.  He was surprised to feel himself crying.  So he held on tighter.  Spike squeezed him back, then pushed away.  He finished releasing Xander from the cuffs, helped him out of the sling, and then carried him to the bed.  He put Xander carefully under the covers, stripped quickly and climbed in next to him, gathering the shaking man into his arms.

Xander tried to speak again, but words eluded him.  Spike seemed to understand, though, because he held Xander close, rubbing circles on his back while he talked to him.

"Shh, baby.  It's all right.  I'm here.  It's all a bit overwhelming, isn't it, the first time?  Lots of feelings, emotions, hard to cope with; just let them out.   Don't try and think about it now.  Just close your eyes and rest here with me.  You gave me a beautiful gift, and I love you so much."

Xander felt himself choking up, and tears ran down his face again.  Why the hell couldn't he stop crying?  But Spike cradled him close, patted his back and whispered soothing nonsense to him, and he felt himself drifting off to sleep.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander opened his eyes to find Spike, propped up on one elbow, watching him.

"Hey."

"Hey yourself," said Spike, and Xander felt something flip flop inside him at the smile Spike gave him.

"Have I told you that I love you lately?"

"Might have mentioned it in passing, earlier on," said Spike, the soft smile widening a little.

"That's good.  I'd hate you to forget," said Xander, pulling Spike down for a kiss, which slowly deepened.  They lazily thrust against each other, sharing kisses, stroking and petting warm, sensitive flesh.  Spike's hand crept down and curled around their aligned cocks, and he slowly jacked them both off.

"We desperately need a shower, you know," said Xander, several minutes later, aware of just how sticky he was even before they'd come all over each other.

"In a second, love.  You need to drink first, and so do I," said Spike.  He morphed into game face and sliced his wrist open.  He pressed it to Xander's mouth and then sank his fangs into Xander's neck.  Spike only took a couple of mouthfuls, but he allowed Xander to drink for longer.

"You didn't take much," said Xander, as Spike licked the wound on his wrist to heal it.

"No.  Only need a few mouthfuls for the bond.  You needed a bit more to make sure you'll be able to sit down properly tomorrow.  Got a busy day, don't forget."  He grinned as Xander yawned widely, and then dropped a kiss on his forehead.  "Right," said Spike, pulling back the covers and getting out of bed, "come on then.  Shower and bed for you.  I'll clean up in here.  Won't be far behind you, love."


~*~*~*~*~


Xander groaned as the alarm went off, batting his hand ineffectually in an attempt to turn it off.  Finally peeling his eyes open, he glared at the clock, picked it up and threw it across the room.  It hit the wall with a satisfying crashing noise, and the alarm abruptly stopped.

"And a good morning to you, too, my little ray of sunshine," said Spike in an altogether too cheerful sounding voice.

"Shutup Spike," Xander mumbled, burying his head in the pillows and pulling the covers over his head.  A few seconds later, the covers were unceremoniously yanked away.

"Spiiike, it's six am.  I'm still asleep here."

"Well, unless you're talking in your sleep, you're awake now," said Spike.  He ran a hand down Xander's back, then moved to kneel next to him.  "Xan, just wanna check that you're okay," he said, as he gently parted Xander's cheeks.   The little pucker was still a bit red, and he swiped his tongue across it then dropped a kiss on it before releasing the cheeks and kneeling upright again.   "How does it feel, love?"

Xander wriggled and flexed a little.  "Surprisingly, not bad at all.  I mean I can feel it, you know, but I just feel well...you know..."  Spike could almost hear Xander blushing.  He was still amazed at how coy the boy was sometimes.

"Well fucked?"  Spike asked.  Xander laughed softly.

"Yeah, very well fucked."  Xander turned his head to look at Spike, and the sleepy, adorable look on his face made Spike melt.  I am such a sucker, he thought to himself.  He leant forward to give Xander a gentle kiss.

"Tell you what, I'll get up and make a start.  You catch up on a bit more sleep.  But you owe me, Xander.  No complaining if I decide to grab a bit of kip this afternoon, okay?"

"Really?  Thanks, Spike," yawned Xander.  Spike pulled the covers up again, and Xander was asleep within seconds.


~*~*~*~*~


By ten am, Xander was up, dressed, and feeling much better.  Spike had let him sleep for several hours, and had the cooking under control, thanks to the detailed instructions they'd been left.  Spike gave Xander a cup of coffee and a couple of pieces of toast, and then shooed him out of the kitchen.  So Xander decided to organise some Christmas music for while they ate lunch, and DVD's for them all to watch later.  Then he helped Spike decorate the dining table.  He was just wondering what to do next when his cell phone rang.

"Spike, they're here," Xander called as he made his way out to the underground parking garage.  His stomach felt as though a flock of butterflies were just taking off and had discovered there was no way out.  He'd successfully conquered his nervous feelings all morning, but suddenly - they were here.  This would be the first time Willow and Giles had spent time with Spike since before they bonded.  He sent a quick prayer to any deity that cared to listen that it would all go well, please, and helped the girls with the bags they were pulling out of the trunk of Giles' car.  Then he pinned a smile firmly to his face and took a deep breath as he led Giles and the girls into the apartment.

One guided tour of (almost) the whole apartment later, the suitably impressed visitors settled into the chairs in the loungeroom while Xander saw to drinks.  Spike had simply nodded and returned their Christmas greetings, cordially, before returning to supervising lunch preparations.  Xander breathed a sigh of relief, and hoped this was a sign that the day would go well.  Spike had promised to be on his best behaviour.  Well, what he'd actually said was that he wouldn't eat anybody unless they really pissed him off.  It was the best Xander could hope for, all things considered.

"So, um, Spike is cooking?" said Willow.  The look of surprise on their faces as they saw Spike bustling around the kitchen had almost made Xander laugh out loud.

"Well, it was either that or pizza for lunch," said Spike as he walked into the loungeroom carrying some bowls and packets.  Willow stared in disbelief as Spike arranged bowls of snacks and coasters on the coffee table, took the beer that Xander handed him and dropped a quick kiss on his lips before heading back to the kitchen.  She looked up and saw Giles grinning at her.  Tara appeared to suddenly choke, and Xander grinned at her attempt to tactfully cover up her fit of giggles.

Spike walked back into the loungeroom and glared at the suddenly too-innocent faces smiling at him.

"One word, and you can all bugger off home now," he snarled at them.

"Wouldn't dream of it," said Giles.

Spike sat on the arm of Xander's chair.  "Right, lunch won't be long now.  So, killed anything interesting lately, Watcher?" he asked.  Giles stared at him for a moment, obviously trying to decide if this was the vampire equivalent of discussing the weather, and then said, "As a matter of fact, there was a very odd demon the other night..."


~*~*~*~*~


Lunch was a complete success.  Even though Marlene had prepared everything beforehand, and left idiot-proof instructions, Xander had expected something to go wrong, and was still in shock.  The food had been perfect.  The table had looked wonderful, the conversation over lunch had been amusing and friendly, and everybody was still alive, or undead, at any rate.  They were now all slumped on the lounge suite, groaning.  Xander had put the 'It's a Wonderful Life' DVD on, but nobody was paying much attention to it.

"I can't remember the last time I ate that much," said Willow.  "I don't think I can move."

"Too tired to open your presents then?" said Spike.  This comment was treated with the disdain it deserved as Xander and Willow made an undignified dive at the pile of presents under the tree.  Tara simply smiled as Giles shook his head at their antics.

The gifts were quickly distributed, and the pile of torn wrapping paper in the centre of the room grew quickly.  Giles was the only one who showed any restraint, and that was simply because he'd opened the book that Spike had found for him first.  It was an extremely rare, first edition of Daemons Maleficus by Ravensthorne.  Giles had uttered an undignified squeak when he unwrapped it, and had refused to put it down long enough to unwrap any of his other gifts.  He said he recognised good whiskey among the unopened packages by the shape of the bottle, and that if he unwrapped it, it may not make it home unopened, casting a meaningful look in Spike's direction.  Spike sighed at the less than subtle hint and got out the whiskey and glasses.

Willow was the first to unwrap a painstakingly hand-carved and finished wooden stake. 

"Oh, Xander, it's beautiful," she said.  "And my name is carved in it!"  Everyone reached for their stake-shaped gifts and opened them.

"Really, Xander, these are wonderful.  I shall certainly treasure mine," said Giles.   Xander blushed. He'd put a lot of work into carving and personalising each one.

"Yeah, I made one for each of us.  Figured they'd come in useful, you know?"

Spike unwrapped his and looked at it in bemusement.  "You trying to tell me something, pet?" he said, then burst out laughing as Xander began to babble apologies, thinking that he'd upset his mate.  Spike wrapped his arms around Xander and dropped a kiss on his cheek, and then grinned widely at the "aww, sweet," comments coming from the girls.  At Spike's glare, as he suddenly remembered he was the Big Bad, they hurriedly picked up another present each and began unwrapping them.

Both Tara and Willow were absolutely speechless at the delicate gold necklace and bracelet sets that Xander had bought for them, and insisted on wearing them immediately, both heading to the bathroom in search of a mirror so they could admire themselves.  Spike gave Xander a beautiful set of woodworking tools, and Xander gave Spike a new silver lighter, with their entwined initials engraved on it.  The girls gave them some hand-made scented candles and an intricate dreamcatcher from the three of them, saying that Giles had the other present from them all.  Xander gasped when he opened it, and wordlessly passed it to Spike.  It was a charcoal and pastel portrait of the two of them, carefully wrapped in plastic.  Xander sitting in a chair, with Spike standing behind him, his hands on Xander's shoulders, looking every bit the Master Vampire with his Consort.  Spike looked at Giles, a query in his eyes, and Giles nodded.

"How the hell did you manage to get him to do it?" Spike asked.

"He owes me," Giles said simply.  "Actually, he was quite happy to do it.  Said he owed it to you."  Spike simply nodded at that statement.  Xander caught Spike's eye and said, "Angel?"  At Spike's nod he turned to Giles.

"Thank you, guys.  It's beautiful.  It's the most wonderful present - and I know just the sort of frame I'm going to make for it," said Xander.  He got up and propped the portrait up on one of the shelves behind the bar.

"While you're there, Xan," said Spike, holding up his empty glass.  Xander grinned and refilled everyone's glasses.  He then raised his glass.

"A toast, to friends," he said.  Everyone raised their glasses, and returned the sentiment.

"Oh, hey, the movie's finished.  Wanna help me pick another one?" Xander asked Willow and Tara.  The three were soon rummaging through DVD's, each one lobbying for his or her favourite as the next movie to be watched.

"I'm gonna have a smoke, Xan," said Spike, picking up his new lighter and slipping it into his pocket.  At Xander's absent "uhuh", he turned to look at Giles.  "Need some ice for this whiskey, too.  Wanna join me, Watcher?" he added, as he picked up the whiskey bottle and his glass and headed towards the kitchen.  The tone of his voice left no doubt that this was not a request.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike led Giles to the small table and chairs near the back door that led to their private underground parking area.  He put the bottle and his glass on the table, then sat down, took out his cigarettes and lit one, inhaling deeply.

"Want one?" Spike said, offering the pack to Giles.

"No, thank you," said Giles.

"I'll just leave them on the table anyway.  You might want to change your mind in a minute," said Spike.  He refilled both their drinks, then took a good swallow of whiskey.  Spike leaned back in his chair, drew deeply on his cigarette again, and blew a stream of smoke towards the ceiling.

"So.  You're suddenly bosom pals with Angelus, eh?" said Spike, still staring at the ceiling.  "You just called him up, out of the blue, asked him to do the portrait and he agreed, just like that."

Giles picked up his glass and sipped his whiskey for a moment.  "Well, not exactly. I simply thought it would be something that Xander would like."

"Right.  Xander.  Of course," said Spike.  He turned his head and stared thoughtfully at Giles.  "Seems to me, my Sire would be the last person you'd want to be talking to.  And as for commissioning him to do a portrait, well..."  Spike drew deeply on his cigarette again, sending another steam of smoke heavenwards.

Giles sighed.  "If you have something to say to me, Spike, just say it.  I'm not in the mood for games."

"I don't play games, Watcher.  Never had the patience; not my style, you know?  The boy told me that he let slip about our little visit to LA.  He didn't want to tell you; thought it'd worry you.  So, what was going on in that head of yours, eh?  Wanted a blow-by-blow account, did you?"  Spike ignored Giles' affronted, "of course not!"  and continued, "Should have just asked me, Watcher.  'Cos I know for a fact that that ponce Angel didn't tell you a bloody thing."  Spike dropped his cigarette butt to the floor, crushing it underfoot.  "He'll be too busy trying to convince himself that it never happened."

"That wasn't what I..."  Giles paused for a moment.  "He did refuse to discuss it when I called him, you're right," he admitted.  "So you can imagine how surprised I was when he turned up at my door the other night, totally unexpectedly, and gave me the picture to give to you."

"Did he say anything?" asked Spike.

"Well, nothing really.  He didn't ask to come in.  Simply knocked, and when I answered, he said, 'Give this to them. It's the least I can do for you, and I owe them something.'  Dropped it on the doorstep and walked away."

Spike drained his whiskey and lit another cigarette.  "Swept off into the night after being all enigmatic, did he?  Sounds about right.  Always did have a flair for the dramatic, stupid git."  Spike poured himself another drink, and topped up Giles' glass.  "Still doesn't explain why you phoned him in the first place though, does it?"

"I was merely concerned.  I care about Xander -"  Giles stopped abruptly as Spike snorted.  He glared at Spike as the vampire waved his hand in a 'carry on' gesture.  "No, you seem to find something I said amusing, Spike.  I wasn't the one who placed Xander in the hands of Angelus.  I'm sure you had your reasons, though I can't imagine what they would be.  Please, enlighten me." 

Spike sprang to his feet and morphed into game face at the exact moment that Xander walked out the door.  His startled cry of 'Spike!' froze him in place.  Spike closed his eyes and forced himself to change back.  He opened his eyes again to find Xander standing in front of him, watching him closely, a look of concern on his face.

"Spike?" Xander said again.  "I could feel you getting upset.  What's wrong?"

Spike ran his hand through his hair.  Took a deep breath and exhaled loudly.  "Sorry, love.  The Watcher and I were having a bit of a heated discussion, that's all.  No harm done."

"Well, maybe you guys should come back in now.  You're missing the movie."  The cautious plea in Xander's voice was enough to calm Spike down.  He knew he wouldn't make the same mistake again.  But he needed to finish this.

"Yeah, we'll be along in a minute, love.  Just wanna finish talking to Rupes here.  It'll be fine, I promise."  Spike felt Xander probing at the link, and let him reassure himself by tapping into Spike's emotions.  Xander nodded, then turned to Giles.

"Everything's fine, Xander, I assure you.  It's not as if I'm in any danger from Spike.  We'll be along presently."  Xander caught Spike's eye again and held his gaze for a moment, then said, "Right, of course not.  But I'm coming out to drag you both inside if you're not done in ten minutes, okay?"  He gave them both a stern look before heading back inside.

Giles sighed and reached for the cigarette packet.  "I believe I will have one of these after all," he said.  Spike took one too, and lit first Giles' and then his own.  They sat for a minute or two, smoking and sipping their whisky.

"I didn't take the boy to LA through choice," said Spike, finally breaking the silence.  "Claiming a human, well, it's not the same, see?  Turns out the ritual's not optional.  Xander faced down Angelus, made me bloody proud.  He's fine now; a lot stronger for it.  And that's all you need to know, okay?"

"Of course.  It's really none of my business.  It's just..." Giles' voice trailed off.

"I'm not stupid, Watcher, and I'm not blind," said Spike, softly.  "The boy thinks a lot of you.  You're a friend he can confide in, and more of a father to him than the miserable bastard he was stuck with.  But he's bonded to me; he belongs to me.  Don't ever forget that, or overstep your boundaries.  You understand me?  One wrong move, and it'll be the last one you ever make."  Spike ground out his cigarette and finished his whiskey in one swallow.  "Right then, we've said what needed to be said, so we'd best get inside and see what the kids are up to, eh?" said Spike cheerfully.  Giles looked at him, surprised at the sudden change in mood.

"Er, right.  Yes, of course," said Giles.  He dropped his cigarette to the ground and crushed it out, finished his whiskey and stood up.  As they headed into the apartment, Spike turned to Giles and said,  "But here's something for you to think about, Watcher.  Angelus was the artist.  As far as I know, Angel wouldn't know one end of a pencil from the other.  Probably just as well you didn't invite him in."  He grinned widely at the shocked look that suddenly appeared on Giles' face.


~*~*~*~*~


As they walked into the loungeroom, they saw Xander rummaging around behind the bar. 
"Aha!  Here it is," he said, dragging out a box.  He smiled as he saw Giles and Spike.  "You two decided to be sociable, did you?  Good, we're going to play Clue.  So, who's ready for some detectivey fun?"

Several games, two movies and a lot of snacks and drinks later, Giles declared it was getting late and they had better be going.  As much as Xander didn't want the party to break up, he and Spike had to be up early on Christmas Day, so he didn't protest too much.

As they gathered their things, Xander grabbed a bag he'd placed by the door.  He handed it to Giles and said, "Can you take this to Buffy's tomorrow, Giles?  It's just a few things for her and Joyce, for Christmas.  I, er, I made her a stake, too."

"Of course, Xander.  I'm sure she'll love it," said Giles, smiling sadly at Xander.  "She'll come round, just give her some time," he added.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander slumped bonelessly as Spike withdrew gently and rolled off to the side.  They lay there panting for a while, then Spike got out of bed and padded to the bathroom, quickly cleaning himself up and bringing in a wet washcloth and towel for Xander, which he flung back in the general direction of the bathroom once his mate had finished with them.  He then reached into his bedside table drawer and took out a small, giftwrapped box.  Xander smiled, reached into his drawer and pulled out a larger, similarly wrapped box.  They laughed and swapped gifts.  Spike opened his and looked up at Xander in surprise.

"It's wonderful, pet.  Where the hell did you find it?"  He held the dagger carefully, and turned the bedroom lights up a bit so he could see it more clearly.  It was an antique, and was elaborately carved and engraved.  It had obviously been carefully restored. 

"You really like it?" asked Xander anxiously.  He'd wanted something special, but was at a loss until he'd spotted this in an antique shop.  Well, more a junk shop really.  He'd bought it and taken it to a specialist in restoration work, and they'd done a wonderful job on it.   Especially considering the fact that they'd agreed to do it in only a couple of days, as Xander wanted it before Christmas.

"Yeah.  It's perfect," said Spike.  He placed it carefully back in the velvet-lined box, and then watched as Xander unwrapped the gift from him.  He gasped as he opened the box.

"Oh, Spike.  It's beautiful," he said, lifting the heavy chain from the box.  As he looked at the heavy links, he realised that every other heavy link was the letter 'S', lying on its side, with the letter 'X' between them.  Spike must have had it made for him.

"I love it," he said, as he placed it around his neck.  Spike reached over and helped him with the clasp.  "I'll wear it always."

"C'mere, love," said Spike, pulling Xander into his arms.  They lay, wrapped around each other, with Spike nuzzling Xander's hair.  

"Spike?  The thing with you and Giles.  Is it...  I mean, are you guys okay?"

"Yeah, we're fine, love.  Just a bit of a misunderstanding, that's all.  Nothing for you to worry about, I promise you.  Anyway, did you enjoy yourself today?"

"It was great, Spike.  It's the best Christmas I've ever had," said Xander.  "Thank you."  Spike tightened his arms around Xander for a moment.

"Not over yet, love.  Still got tomorrow to go.  It'll be a mad house, kids everywhere, but you'll enjoy yourself, I promise."

"Love you, Spike," said Xander, and then he yawned widely.

"You too, love.  Get some sleep.  Busy day tomorrow.  Sweet dreams, pet."




unfinished




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