Summary: "Harris was a mess, but he was a succulent, compelling, gorgeous mess. The little Harris had just revealed, the pain of his revelation, his need, fed something in Spike's hungry soul that had been famished since Angel's death." — Spike and Illyria are the sole survivors of the battle against The Circle of The Black Thorn. Half in despair, mourning Angel, Spike isn't ready for the appearance of a drastically altered Xander in Los Angeles.
Pairings: Spike/Xander, Spike/Angel (with some Spike/Illyria). This story is set post-NFA.
Rating: NC-17
Story Notes: It's slash, all right? Hey, I can have layers!
Author Note: I took some liberties with the emotional tenor between Spike and Angel in AtS season 5, because I was indulging my particular kinks. Nothing more credulity stretching, I think, than the fact of the slash relationships themselves, but I thought I'd mention it.
Disclaimer: All hail Joss from whom all these characters flow
Completed: Last day of April, 2006
Thanks: To The Deadly Hook, who helps me Get It Done. Dedicated to her because I finished this fic on her birthday!

The Approved Mode of Payback


He'd changed. He was thin again, but like a man is thin, not like the boy he once was. His arms were dark brown and ropey. The back of his neck was brown and creased. His hair was cut short. The most startling thing was the glass eye he wore now: it was blue. A bright staring blue, like a doll's. Spike wondered: was that supposed to be a joke? Some kind of fuck-you? It sure was disturbing, even to him.

"Bide a wee, pet," Spike said, slipping out of his chair. "Gonna talk to a fellow."

Illyria barely glanced up. Engaged in some very important staring, she was. She'd been so distracted lately, so inward, that she'd begun to remind him of Dru when she was having a turn. Maybe she was about to molt, or spawn, or produce a new unified theory of the universe. Whatever, she was even less good company than usual, and he hadn't been able to get a leg over in more than a fortnight.

After a detour to the bar, Spike set a fresh cold one on the table in front of him. "Harris. What brings you to our fair city?"

Xander's head snapped up like he was wearing reins.

"You're supposed to be dead."

"Still am. My demise ... didn't quite work out like you'd hoped."

"Didn't give you that much thought, actually." Xander's glance slid off him, to alight on the bottle Spike had placed on the table. "What, is that supposed to be for me?"

"You look thirsty. Like you've just come in out of the sun." Andrew had mentioned that Xander was working in Africa. That was over a year ago, and felt like a hundred, but he looked like he'd just touched down from there an hour ago.

"Like I would," Xander said, shoving the bottle firmly back towards him.

Spike was on the verge of saying something else—wasn't he always?—when a hand clapped down on his shoulder with a hard familiar grip he felt down his spine and around into his balls.

"I tire of this noise and the writhing of the females."

Xander looked up, and paled a little under the tan. "Who's your friend? She looks like she escaped from an incident in a denim-dying facility."

"She used to be a god. Guess she's a demi-god now. Illyria, this is Xander."

Illyria didn't seem to see Xander, or to hear Spike. Her grip on his shoulder tightened. "We will leave this place. I find the smell here foul."

"You find the smell everywhere foul. Gimme a few minutes. Talkin' to an old acquaintance."

"Your new squeeze is a demi-god? Moving up in the world," Xander said.

"She's not my squeeze. We keep company together, yeah, an' I keep her from killing the policemen she occasionally irritates. When I can. But we're not goin' steady."

"Glad to see you're still a fucking freak, Spike. Now leave me alone."

Illyria's grip shifted from his shoulder to his neck; she jerked him towards her. Xander was already looking, if you could call it that, at the stage, as if their conversation had never happened. The bottle of beer Spike had bought sat sweating and unattended at the table's edge. He grabbed it up as Illyria dragged him to the exit.

"You hate me."


"Because of Buffy." Spike paused, watched. "Because of Anya."

Xander didn't look at him. "Anya is dead."

"I know." Spike considered saying he was sorry for this, which would be true, and saying some kind thing about her, which would be sincere. She could be an irritant, dogged and humorless, but she was a sweet lay and a loving creature. She'd loved Xander with all her heart. But instead he just bit his lip.

Xander stared towards the stage.

"Why d'you come here?" It was two nights after their first meeting. Last night Spike saw him here too, but didn't approach, waited instead to see what Xander would do.

Xander had done nothing. Acted like he didn't know Spike was there. Which maybe he didn't.

Now Xander drank and stared at the dancers, but Spike was pretty sure the dancers weren't all he was seeing.

"Why do you care? Fuck off, Spike."

Xander sounded weary, infinitely weary, which was something Spike could identify with.

"I always come here. Partial to pole-dancing, always have been. You're the one's out of place. Someone send you to Hell-A?"

"What? I only go where I'm sent?"

"Bloody hell. Touchy much?"

Xander turned a little in his chair. Trained both eyes on him then, full-on. The real brown one, the fake blue one. Spike wondered again what the fuck was up with that blue eye. There was a shortage at the glass eye warehouse? Damned if he'd ask.

"I hate you," Xander said. "Yes. We've established that. And I don't want to talk to you."

A number of ripostes rose up in Spike's mind—along with the idea of just turning on his heel and going instead to any of ten other places where the beer was just as beery and the pole dancers just as chesty as they were right here—but when he opened his mouth, what came out stunned him nearly as much as it stunned Xander.

"Don't want to talk to me. All right. Can fuck me, then."

Xander goggled. Spike felt the man's temperature shoot up.

His own was unchanged, but the hair crawled at the base of his neck. What was he doing? Turning into a nutter.

Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. He slipped his hands into the rear pockets of his jeans, thrust out his chest. "Give you a crack at me. One night, all night, I'll be your bitch. Take your revenge."

"Why would I want to do that?"

Why would he—why would either of them—want to do that? Spike figured he must be drunker than he knew. "S'not ... s'not good for you, Harris, goin' around with a lot of hate in your heart. Not if you can let it go. Put it on me, an' be free. Of that much, anyway."

"Are you insane?"

"Guess I am," Spike said, already turning away. "Wouldn't be the first time." He walked off, thinking he'd relocate at the bar two blocks down.

As he hauled open the club's heavy street door, Xander caught it against his callused palm, and slipped out beside him. They walked to Spike's apartment in silence.

Illyria wasn't there. Spike hung the do-not-disturb sign on the outer door, which nine times out of ten, Illyria remembered meant her. Although he hadn't been bringing much outside company around lately. Still, she'd been gone on walkabout for two days now, so it was safe to assume she'd stay away for a third.

"I'm curious, Spike," Xander said, walking slowly around the confines of the dingy living room of the basement flat. "You've been around a lot more than me. Is there really a culture where a guy fucks another guy who's put horns on him, for revenge? Because I'd have thought that was faggy stuff. I always understood that the approved mode of payback in these matters involved shotguns and/or large blunt objects."

"You really want to bludgeon me, Harris, there's heavy weapons aplenty in that box under the sofa."

Spike went to the fridge, took out a couple of beers, keeping his back to his visitor. Xander stood in the middle of the room, and Spike could feel him thinking about this—he was really considering it. Probably would like to stove his pretty face in. After all, he'd approached it a time or two, hadn't he? Once with an axe.

He wanted to ask Xander again what he was doing here. Looking for slayers? Among the pole dancing population? Not likely. And this wasn't his territory, he was on the Africa tip. He wanted to ask about Buffy, about Dawn, about Willow. Xander's friends—why wasn't he with them, why weren't they taking care of him? Why was he so far off, so alone, so pared away that his body, all lean and spare and hungry, showed off the desperation in his mind? Harris wasn't a fellow who ought to be hungry and desperate and wearing the wrong color eye as a regular thing.

Seemed like a shame.

He reminded Spike of himself ... the self he hadn't been for a long long time. The self he'd hated and sometimes hated still. The self he managed a bit of compassion for, since regaining a soul.

When he came forward with the beers, Xander was taking off his jacket. He shrugged at the bottles. "Why do you keep doing that? I'm not going to drink with you."

"No? Well then. Don't drink with me, but your beer's here when you want it." He set it on the coffee table, next to the XBox controllers, and took a long swallow of his own.

Xander's move clacked the bottle hard against Spike's teeth before it fell on their feet with a splash, so it was to the overwhelming smell of spilled beer that Spike got his first taste of Xander's mouth.

Xander held him by the jaws like he wanted to squeeze Spike's head off his neck with a hearty pop. His tongue was a rude invader. Spike resisted his urge to tear the man's hands away, to shove him back. He'd invited this, and he was curious. Wanted to see how much rough handling this Harris was capable of doling out.

"Huh," Xander breathed, easing off to suck in a breath, "I do want to fuck you. Who knew?"

"I never figured you swung both ways, but I used to be naive about stuff like that."

It was only when Xander said that, that Spike understood. Xander slept with men now, too.

"Don't seem innocent of much anymore."

"I've seen it all," Xander said, his tone curiously devoid of irony. When Spike was naked, Xander looked him over. He wasn't sheepish about it. Didn't smell at all like nerves. The expression in his one good eye was hard to read. "So this is it?" he said, pointing to Spike's cock. "What the girls can't get enough of. What makes 'em take leave of their senses. William the Bloody's Magic Wand."

He wasn't hard yet, though he knew Xander was starting to be.

"Don't get too flattered, though, because that's the last attention I'm giving that part of you. Turn around. Turn around and stand still."

Spike hadn't expected this. Hadn't expected that Harris would have this kind of thin metal rope in that dusty backpack he carried, or that he'd know how to tie someone up this way, so his hands were bound high and tight against his back, and could be jerked higher and tighter at the same time that his windpipe was choked off. Of course Harris knew he couldn't asphyxiate that way, or any way—but he could be silenced. Silenced and made to suffer the exquisite agony of not being able to draw enough breath to come.

Not that he was at all sure coming was going to be on his menu.

Before they'd gotten to that point, while he was still fixing the rope, pushing Spike to his knees, Xander said, "What, you're surprised? You think I'm some kind of Boy Scout, pure of word and deed? Vanilla as the day I was born? Anyway, how freakin' exotic is this kind of thing anymore? You can get bondage manga at Borders these days." He tipped Spike chest first across the ottoman. "Remember, you asked for this. Where's the lube?"

It hurt. It all hurt, just like Xander wanted it to. The lube was more for Xander's benefit than his—he did nothing to get Spike ready before driving into him. He worked him hard, yanking on the metal rope (he'd put a work glove, also extracted from the knapsack, on the hand that held the rope) until the muscles in Spike's shoulders and arms burned, until the wire around his throat was so tight he was afraid anything more would decapitate him. Xander wasn't under-endowed either—nothing to be shy about there. Taking in that thickness felt like taking a cudgel. Talk about blunt objects. This experience wasn't up to the pain of a typical recreational interlude with Angelus, but it was pretty remarkable for something being presided over by Alexander Lavelle Harris, former goat of Sunnydale High.

Xander's breath sawed, but he didn't lose control. "So when does your special magic start working, huh, Spike? When am I gonna feel better? They fucked you so they'd feel better—when is that gonna happen here? You're supposed to make me feel good. Do you feel good? Because I sure as shit do not."

All of a sudden, the agonizing tension on the wire rope eased. Xander pulled out; Spike's arse, suddenly empty, contracted painfully. He groaned. Xander stood over him, a rough denim knee in his back, a hand curled around his bound wrists. Spike could feel himself being looked at; the back of his neck tingled and rushed.

"What the fuck," Xander muttered. "Do you have any friends, Spike? Besides that blue scarecrow?"

The wire was still too tight around his throat for him to speak. He managed a slight head shake.

"Then how the hell do you hang on? What are you hanging on for? I mean, I do. I still have a few friends. I can't talk to them about anything real, and I rarely see them, but on the books, under subject heading Friends Of Harris, there are still some names. But I don't know what I'm hanging around for at all. Nothing's any good."

The knee lifted off his back, and Spike was yanked up to kneeling. Xander knelt beside him, at an angle where Spike could only see the staring blue eye. It gave him the shivery bits, that eye. The wire at his throat went slack. He drew air into his lungs, but still didn't speak.

"You know what I should do? I should give you one good meal. Yeah, that would at least make me feel useful, and what the hell, you've already taken so much of my shit, you might as well take—let me see it. The fang face. Show me."

"Not gonna bite you."

"I want to see it. No arguments! You said that for one night you were my bitch."

He had, yeah, but suddenly he was out of patience. Like Xander said, what was this for? Why go on this way? With a motion easy as a shrug, he snapped the metal rope around his wrists, and rose, rolling his shoulders, flexing. Xander stepped back, but to his credit, he still projected no fear. Spike went to him, plucked the glove off his right hand, tugging his jeans down over his hips.

Xander slapped him off. "What're you doing?"

"When people make love, they take off all their clothes. They face one another."

"Who said we were—that's not what—you said—"

Spike felt almost as startled as Xander, at what he'd just proposed, at what he was doing now. But he concealed it, glad he couldn't blush. "That for one night I'd be your bitch, yeah. But that doesn't seem to be workin' out for you, Harris. You're not gettin' your needs met. An' I aim to satisfy."

Xander recovered quickly from his reversion to stammering, and stared at him with a prolonged naked gaze that made Spike, for the first time ever, experience something like fear at the sight of him. What was going on now behind Xander's one real eye was unfathomable. Dark. Too dark.

"Satisfy, huh?" Xander shrugged. "As if." It seemed for a second that he was going to curtail this. But he let his jeans slide down instead, and stepped out of them. Stepped towards him. This time, Xander's mouth opened against his, and when their tongues met, sliding together, Spike's cock sprang up between their bellies, and he shivered down to his toes.

Xander expelled a chuckle against Spike's lips. "Yeah," he breathed, touching him with fingers spread wide, sliding hands down the expanse of his bare chest, his hips. "Yeah, this is it, isn't it? What brings the girls to your yard. I get it now. It's how you satisfy."

The words were mocking, except Spike wasn't sure Xander meant them that way exactly. Everything seemed different now, from three minutes ago. A new tilt. They were both off balance.

"Okay. So show me," Xander said, his hands sliding up Spike's arms, spreading on his shoulders, exerting a slight but unmistakeable pressure, "show me what you apparently do so well."

Though he'd had the idea that he wanted to take Xander into his bed, where things would feel more equal lying side by side, it was clear that Xander wasn't ready for that. Spike folded obligingly to his knees.

Xander's hand clenched in his hair. He rode in, fucked Spike's mouth, not fast, but deep. Like he was entitled. When Spike's fingers drifted from his hips back towards his butt, Xander peeled them away. When he tried it again, Xander repelled him again. All right then. Spike folded his hands in the small of his back, which submissive gesture Xander acknowledged with an appreciative grunt, even as he thrust harder against Spike's tongue, the back of his throat. Holding himself this way made the muscles in his arms and shoulders ache again, that Xander had so abused a few minutes ago.

He hadn't sucked cock since Angel died, and he sort of missed it.

No, he definitely missed it. The more he strained to take Xander in, to give him his best, the more ... God. His own cock was on fire. The pressure in his balls was too intense. He groaned.

Xander was silent, except for the occasional guttural sound.

That was completely different from how it was with Angel, those last few times. When he'd sucked him off, kneeling on the deep pile carpet between his half-splayed sire's knees, at the foot of his huge bed, Angel had talked to him. Said filthy things, indulgent things, the kind of amorous babbling he'd only ever let loose on Spike—or Will, as he called him at those times—when he was lapping crazily at Angel's massive upstanding prick, breathing around it because the excitement of worship required breath, required moans and cries. Angel used to bind his hands back also, so he couldn't jerk himself off while he serviced him, and because, as Angel said, he was just so damn pretty that way.

They were so satisfying, those secret nights in Angel's suite high atop the Wolfram & Hart building. There were only a handful of them, squeezed into a short period of time before the end, and he remembered each distinctly—what Angel had said, how he'd touched Spike, how he'd encouraged Spike to touch him. There was a perfection in serving Angel when he was in that special mood, taking pride in demonstrating a masterful—entirely private—kindliness in the midst of his bold desire. Spike had seldom felt so appreciated as he did those nights, when Angel held him with both hands in his hair, calling him his own sweet William as he stroked into Spike's mouth. He'd know that Angel was going to shoot when his fingers shifted down to tickle at Spike's throat, a gentle undulant caress that made him open wider, made him swallow. You remember everything I taught you long ago, Angel said, pulling him up from his crouch for a kiss, his big hands gripping Spike's bound-back arms. But it's not like it was, is it, Will? I think you're fond of me now, aren't you, boy? I think you are.

In here I am, right here, now, Spike admitted, meaning in this room, alone and naked with you, but later he thought Angel understood him to mean that he loved him in his heart, and this wasn't untrue either. Certainly he hadn't hesitated to follow Angel to the abyss.

Unable to restrain himself from trying to rub off against Angel's thigh, he'd looked into his face, waiting for more of those words that made his flesh creep and bridle, because they were like the things Angelus used to say, things that were horrible from the mouth of Angelus. But not horrible now. Not horrible, to be told by Angel that he was a beauty with his mouth full of cock. Angel caught his desperate erection in his hand, held it in tight restraint as he praised Spike with soft words, not letting him move, keeping him hard and waiting. Shall I fuck you, lad? Shall you give yourself to me to be fucked? Shall I have you with your hands still bound, and shall I tie a bit of something around this pretty splitter so it'll last me out? I'd like to see it leap and pump while I'm inside you. When I pull the string.

When Xander let out a string of curses, Spike remembered where he was. The immersion in memory was so full, Angel taken over behind his closed eyelids. Now Xander pulled Spike's hair hard, his cock swelled and jumped in Spike's stretched lips, and his mouth was full of jism that was hotter than Angel's ever could be. Startled, Spike would've withdrawn, except that Xander was holding him so tightly, dragging at his hair, taking his last helpless thrusts.

"Shiiiiit." As hard as he'd held on, Xander shoved him back harder. He careened a little, stepping backwards drunkenly, and ended up, barely, sitting on the sofa.

Spike wiped his mouth. He was a little dazed, wanting Angel, wanting .... "Been a while for you?"

"What, because I just went off like a pop tart?" Xander almost snarled.

"No. Just ... you feel pent up."

"So it's been a while. Yeah. I was in places mostly where ... well, half the people there have AIDS. I didn't want to take any chances. And I had other reasons for keeping myself to myself. Sex just wasn't a priority."

"Sometimes it isn't," Spike agreed.

"Oh, you think so?" Xander made a scornful face. He touched himself then. His limp cock glistened, and his hand came away wet. He looked at it for a moment, then wiped it off on his thigh.

There was a silence. Spike's visitor glanced around the room as if he was seeing it for the first time, as if he was surprised to find himself here. At last he stirred himself, said, "So you figured, what? That sooner or later you'd bed all of us? The Scoobies. Each in our turn. This is another notch for you."

"Don't be stupid."

"I am stupid. I came here. I've got you smeared all over me." Xander shot up, grabbing his jeans off the floor.

Spike watched him jump into his clothes, grab the bag.

"Bye-bye then," he murmured. Xander left without looking at him again.

His rope and glove still lay on the floor. Spike didn't pick them up.

Illyria still wasn't back. Spike spent the next night looking for her, though trying to find one blue godlet in Los Angeles was pretty much like trying to find your keys in the Pacific Ocean. Especially given her penchant for blipping in and out of the present dimension. One of these days, Spike knew, she might well fuck off for good, and he wouldn't even know, because she wasn't the type to leave a note.

Still, his sense of responsibility, always sore, dogged him—Illyria had a way of getting into trouble. When she couldn't find demons to kill she liked causing car smash-ups, or rearranging the municipal statuary. Sometimes these activities left victims Spike had to add to the long bill of his conscience, though he was powerless to control her activities.

Anyway, he wasn't in the mood for the pole dancers. The encounter with Xander left him moody—not quite angry, because really what else could he have expected? Harris wasn't going to snuggle him under the covers. He'd gotten off lightly—he might've easily been decapitated or set on fire.

But since being with him, the memories of Angel had come unplugged. Spike was awash in the emotions he'd been drinking to suppress.

The aimlessness. Loss.

There was no one to talk to. Or even to talk at. At least when Blue was around he could pretend she was listening.

Why don't you go to her? Angel asked him once, in a drowsy postcoital hour, the only time they ever could talk to each other without sniping or worse. I mean, all the bullshit aside ... you had her back in Sunnydale.

Never had her, not there or anywhere.

Had her back. You know, like—

The misunderstanding embarrassed him. Laughable, that. Did what I did so's she'd be free. An' free she is. S'none of my business—or yours either—what she does now. Who she does.

You really believe that, Spike?

Got to, he'd said. S'what my soul tells me is right. He cringed a bit, admitting that, but as part of their unspoken agreement when they lay together, Angel didn't torment him with it.

After a little bit, as he slipped into sleep, Angel said, Glad to have you here, Will.

He didn't miss Buffy anymore the way he used to. Time had mellowed that. Mellowed it, and made it seem more and more as if he'd be irrelevant to her if they were to meet.

The work with Angel took on primacy in the last couple of months before that Last Battle. The work, and the rivalry, and ... and the other thing that went on in private, that was no one's business but their own. Wolfgirl, his rival—except he never could work up much jealousy about her—might've twigged to it, given her keen sense of smell, but if so, she'd never let on.

Occasionally Spike thought of seeking her out. To tell her how Angel had died.

But he hadn't gotten around to it yet.

Illyria wasn't in any of the parks. She wasn't at the tar-pits, a site of recent fascination. Searching for her was futile—he might be five minutes behind her all night. Or she might be in Outer Fangoria. Spike was stone cold sober, and under the speed limit.

At one of the beaches, at four in the morning, he stripped off and waded into the ocean. Struck out hard, swimming towards the horizon. He could swim for a couple of hours, and be past changing his mind when dawn came. What would it look like, if you glanced down from a plane, to see a vampire burn up in water? Talk about a damp squib.

He stopped powering forward, flipped onto his back, floated. Watched the moon sailing above.

Away from the city lights, the sky was a bed of stars.

He wanted to say to someone, Look. Look at that. Never get tired of it. Imagined Harris floating beside him, bobbing in the surf, sometimes touching, sometimes floating off a bit, but they'd both be looking at the same thing. Chatting quiet like, though the water gurgled in their ears. Taking in the enormity of it all, the universe, beyond good and evil.

Except Harris would never come swimming with him. Harris would never chat with him. Harris hated him.

He was alone out here.

He was alone everywhere.

Illyria was playing the Xbox when he came in. He heard her from the sidewalk; she always turned the volume up full, and muttered loudly at her play.

Would she wonder about him, if he never came back? If he'd stayed in the ocean until sunrise?

These little jigs with destruction he sometimes danced off on were as stupid as everything else he did anymore. Just made him feel like a coward. Why pretend?

He wasn't going to off himself.

"Your Highness. You've returned."

She never moved her eyes from the TV screen. "I went far off, where all the colors smell burnt, and the Ords had deserted their pinions, and yet I could not stop thinking of how to top my high score."

"S'infernal like that." Retrieving a beer from the fridge, Spike dropped down beside her. "Was looking for you."

"A being came here looking for you, but I told him that he was foolish to expect you to be here while the bars were open."

"You did, huh? Well aren't you a clever girlie."

"I am Illyria, there is no knowledge that is closed to me."

"Too right." Spike smiled. Despite himself, he was fond of her. She was utterly unknowable, in many ways obscene, and one day she might carelessly kill him. But she was occasionally good for a laugh, too.

"Who was this being?"

"He did not give a designation. He had a true eye and a false eye."

Harris. Harris had returned?

"Did he leave a note?"

The question coincided with a deafening crash; Illyria's fingers moved so fast on the controller that Spike couldn't follow them. She didn't answer. He waited. When she spoke again, she'd apparently forgotten the subject. Still intent on the game, she slid down a bit on the sofa cushion, spreading her legs. "I wish you to pleasure me."

"Shut off the game, an' I will."

"You do not make conditions!" She continued to rack up points even as she laid down the law.

"You get too overstimmed, afraid you'll snap my head off like a mantis," he said, but he was already obligingly moving to kneel between her thighs. Should have known, the first time he'd done this, that she'd get to like the multitasking too much. It had gotten so she wouldn't let him have her except when she was playing Crash Bandicoot or at the least flipping through the cable channels at a speed that would've given a human being an epileptic fit. It was enough to put him off the box a bit, much as he worshipped it himself.

He was a one-box-at-a-time fellow. But when he'd tried to explain this to her, she only ignored him.

Still, everything having to do with sexing Illyria up was weird. In order to give herself, she had to dissolve the hard shell at least half way, and when she did that, she became more like Fred. Her cunny smelled like Fred's—not that he'd ever been up close and personal with it, but there wasn't a woman he'd ever talked to whose cunny he wouldn't have been able to find in the dark afterwards.

Sometimes while he was eating her out, he'd glance up and see Fred's pale pretty face gazing at him, her pink bowed lips trembling and smiling, tears overspilling her big green eyes.

That was like a knife to the gut.

He could beg her not to do it, but that had little effect. Empathy wasn't something God-Kings really got.

Illyria prompted. "Now, Half-Breed. Why do you delay?"

He assumed the position.

After a while her playing slowed. She began to gasp, and slumped lower, spreading her legs wider. Her lower half was all milky-skinned Texas girl, the fragile belly dusted with freckles, the mons covered in soft pale brown curls, but from the ribs up she was still Blue, which was a mercy. Spike took a chance, yanking the controller from her hands as he freed his cock, swarming over her. She was warm and bendy and didn't resist when he went into her. She continued to stare at the TV screen as he fucked her, even as she responded with a fascinating grinding motion that kept things, on the whole, quite interesting.

At least until she looked at him all of a sudden, and said, in Fred's soft Southern voice, "I would prefer it if you were the other one. Wesley. He was more interesting to the shell."

And then she was all Fred, and the big eyes closed, and tears dotted her cheeks.

Spike wanted to wring her neck.

He got dressed again. There were bars he could get to through the sewers.

It wasn't until that night that he ran into Xander again. He'd been to a few different places, and had a pleasant stew on, but it was back at the first place, where the great and wonderful Sunshine did her stuff, that he saw Xander sitting at the same table in front of the stage, nursing, apparently, the same beer. Spike stayed at the bar.

Xander let a quarter hour dissolve before coming up to him.

Spike glanced, but decided to wait for Harris to speak first. He wanted at least that much.

But Harris didn't.

He just stood there, leaning against the bar, a beer bottle dangling from his hand. Long enough that Spike began to feel spooked. Spooked, and then angry.

He got up and slammed out of the place.

But when he reached the corner, Xander was right behind him.

Spike turned. "You left your toys at my house."

"I did." Xander gave him an oblique glance, his mouth curled in an oblique smile.


They walked in silence.

Outside the building, Spike heard the loud jangle and explosions that said Illyria was still intent on her toy.

Reaching, he stopped Xander from going to the building entrance. Xander's bare arm was moist and heated. Touching it made the hairs rise on the back of Spike's neck. "Herself's in residence."

"Right. Don't want to bring Mr Demon Magnet in to meet your Blue Heaven."

At another time, Spike would've laughed at this. Harris could be a funny bloke. And that was a good joke. "Isn't that, you berk. Only—"

"Right. Irresistible force, immovable object. I know which you are, berk, so that leaves her to be the other."

Spike was about to propose that they go to Xander's room—he must have a room somewhere—when Xander's hand closed on his wrist, and he was jerked into the alley. They moved past the garbage cans, deeper into the dark. It was the kind of place Spike was used to as a stage of operations, but it surprised him when Xander pushed him up against the bricks, that still held the heat of the daytime sun, and pulled at Spike's belt and flies.

"'m fine, Harris, an' how are you?" Spike said, even as he helped, stirring his hips so the jeans dropped to puddle at his ankles. "Why yes, wouldn't mind if I do."

"You never mind," Xander said. "Apparently."

Spike let this pass without riposte.

"I'd like you to spread your legs. Bend over and grab your ankles for me."

Spike wanted to ask him where he'd learned this, but then it wasn't like there was anything particularly unusual about it. Was what men liked, what they did. The only unusual part was that it was Xander, who never was, in Spike's estimation, up to anything in this line.

For the first time it occurred to Spike to wonder—was it only Harris in there? Was he magicked up, was he—?

But his scent was the same. Just had all the fearful boy distilled out of it.

He was going to be fucked now by Harris The Man.

The idea that it was Harris, about to fuck him rough in an alley, made his balls crawl. When Xander spit into his callused hand, prodding his arse with wet fingers, Spike went hard.

"Bonus," Xander muttered, as if talking to himself, as he pushed his cock in, "I get to bareback and no worries."

"No worries? Vampire here." Spike fanged out, craning around to make sure Xander saw the flash of his yellow eyes in the dark. Remind him who was really the stronger one, remind him he was complying with this because ... well, of his own free will.

But Xander only gave off a dry laugh, driving in fast, dragging hard on the collar of Spike's leather jacket like a harness. "Like I have to worry about that."

Inside to the hilt, Xander paused, to let them both feel it. Were he human, Spike would probably be dizzy from being arse over tit this way. As it was, his bumps felt like forcing through his skin, like he was gripped by the world's most pounding sinus attack. He was full to overflowing, exquisitely aware of the throb and pulse of Xander's cock, of Xander's whole body behind him, holding him and ruling him.

Was a bit of all right, really.

"You are so damn tight," Xander breathed. "How d'you stay so tight for a century?"

"Same way—" Spike had to puff to get the words out, "—same way I heal up from everythin' without a trace."

"What, you mean every fuck's the cherry popper?" Spike felt him flush in excitement, his prick surging in its tight channel, and he snapped his hips, the moment of contemplation over. Now was roughhouse time.

"This—is—something—about you—that—is—really—interesting." Xander yanked sharply on the two fistsful of leather, fucking fast.

Angelus used to find it infinitely interesting as well. He'd been the one to harvest Will's first fruits, of course. Had expressed mild surprise that he'd completed a public school education without his ass being plundered, but that only went to show that Liam hadn't been away to school himself. Far from being raped there, Will had barely dared to wank.

Drusilla was his first lay who wasn't an indifferent whore. But Angelus ... Angelus was his first experience of being the whore himself, and far far from indifferent to it.

Angelus had opened him up in every way possible, and a couple that he'd have sworn—that he earnestly wished—weren't possible at all.

Angelus always liked how tight his boy was. Liked how no matter how debauched he made his boy, how accustomed to being filled up and fucked, each time called for the force of the first.

And Angel liked it too. In the plush-carpeted hush of his Wolfram & Hart suite, Angel once invited Spike to mount his lap, to impale himself slowly, and he watched Spike's face as he did it, with that expression on his own that was otherwise seldom seen, a boyish, good-natured approval. He said, Easy, Will. Go easy. That's good, lad. Take me in. That feels lovely. You're like velvet inside. And Spike answered, If I am, it's what you made me. And he thought, but didn't say, I'm yours, I'm yours. Didn't say it then. Later, when it was all unspooling in a rush, he'd say it—he'd say everything. But not yet. When he was seated astride at last, with Angel so far up inside him that he thought he could feel the crown of his cock up against his very heart, Angel kissed his mouth and his nipples, played with his balls and his cock, wrapping it in one big hand and caressing it with a slow tender inexorable glide of the wrist, that made Spike gasp, made him writhe. Pretty Will, pretty Fuck, kiss me with that pretty mouth. Angel could get away with things like that, planted beneath him like a great carved idol, and instead of wanting to punch him for them, Spike only writhed more wildly, wanting Angel's tongue to fuck his mouth the way his cock filled him up below.

Sweet Will, good boy, fuck yourself on me, ah you're a pretty thing, pretty cock an' mouth an' all, my pretty get.

No one else ever spoke to him that way, that made him feel so needed. Not Drusilla. Certainly not Buffy. It wasn't just that they were women and Angelus was so very male. It was how Angel knew him. How he saw him. In those last encounters, Angel had shown him over and over how he accepted—no, relished him. How they belonged to each other, despite all that still filled them of rivalry and anger and sheer mutual cussedness. Angel made those times to put it all aside, and ... those comings-together were sacred.

"So I guess it was Angelus who taught you," Xander said now. He'd been pistoning harder and harder, so Spike was sure he'd blow any second, but instead he almost stopped, buried to the cods, just keeping up a little rolling quiver as he leaned in close against Spike's back. "Must've been, right?"

Again he'd lost himself in thoughts of Angel. Of course, Xander made it easy for him to regress into memory, because all that was happening here was about bodies. They weren't engaged, man to man.

Except that all of a sudden Xander was asking questions Spike didn't particularly want to answer.

If anybody on this earth hated Angel with an undying hatred, it was Harris. Harris who didn't know the half of him.

"Shurrup," Spike growled. "Fuck if yer gonna fuck." He gave his tail a shake, as much to keep from seizing up with cramp as to get Xander moving again.

"I'm getting some things now," Xander remarked. "Not quite—not quite what I thought I'd be getting, but I think I know what the Buffster liked about you. You're a raging top's sweetest dream. A raging top who's also the slayer—no wonder she couldn't keep her hands off you for a while there."

Spike pushed up then, shook Xander off and came around roaring. In a moment he had him pinned against the wall, a fist twisted into his shirt-front, full-on fangs in face. "I said. Shut. UP. Don't you know better'n shoot your festerin' trap off when you're into somethin' you like?"

To his credit, Xander didn't flinch, and his erection didn't waver either. For a long moment neither of them breathed.

Then Xander laughed. It was such an incongruous sound—that sort of raggedy simp laugh Spike remembered from years back, evoking the teen-ager who'd seemingly vanished into the chiseled man.

Spike let go of his shirtfront, but didn't step back. It was dark here but Spike could see—Harris' cut prick and his hooded one, both red-tipped and crossed like swords. Xander looked into his face—Spike knew the yellow eyes would be as bright here as reflectors. They seemed to fascinate Xander, though he remained as unintimidated as ever. After a moment Xander grabbed their two cocks together, pressing hard, using both hands, stripping them upwards, once, twice, again. He erupted with a shout, and the sight and smell of his jism bursting out from his jerked hands brought Spike off too.

For a moment they leaned against each other, and Xander's breathing was ragged.

"Fucking hell."

Spike started to shake off the bumpies, but Xander's hand closed on his jaw. "Wait. Don't. Kiss me with that mouth."

"You don't—"

"Do." It was Xander who kissed him, fearless, tongue probing in to explore the ragged teeth, to meet the demon's long unfurling tongue.

It wasn't an affectionate kiss, but neither did it express revulsion.

Spike pulled back, let his face slide back into the human mask.

"Mr Demon Magnet, you are."

Xander was putting himself away. "Have a nice evening with yours."

Off balance, Spike found himself suddenly alone, as Xander, hefting his bag once more, was halfway to the alley's mouth.

So that was it, then?


Spike closed the distance in an instance, grabbed Xander, spun him around.

"What is it you want, Harris?"

"Right now? A nice hot shower and an eight hour sleep." Disengaged from Spike's grip, he smiled. "Hey thanks, Spike. You sure know how to take the edge off."

Spike showered, though he was oddly reluctant to wash away the traces of Xander's body. It was so long since he'd been entwined with a living thing. Not that there was anything stopping him from picking up a girl, or a boy, but ... he just didn't. Since the big battle he'd cut his world small. It occurred to him that he could go on with the mission—could patrol on his own, like he had for a little while there when that Doyle faker was around. Or find a slayer somewhere who'd welcome help, there must be plenty of them out there who were clueless or overwhelmed—even if he didn't fancy getting in touch with Andrew and making it official. But somehow he kept putting it off. With Angel dead nothing about fighting evil seemed as urgent anymore. He couldn't convince himself it would make any difference. His soul didn't trouble him overmuch as long as he kept to himself, didn't kick any puppies or run over any old ladies at cross-walks.

He'd have liked an eight-hour kip too, but Illyria was still playing Xbox when he emerged from the shower. There was no stopping her—she was capable of playing days at a time, with no need for rest, food, or the toilet. If he wanted to sleep, he'd have to go elsewhere.

Maybe it was time to go elsewhere altogether. Leave LA, find someplace to get on with the quiet life where Xander wouldn't pop up again to humiliate him.

When Xander Harris of all people felt free to treat you like a tuppenny whore, you knew ... you knew ... Spike wasn't sure what he knew, anymore.

Spike was bored. Being bored with a soul was much worse than being bored without one. What was he supposed to do now, change the library books? Maybe he should get a job as a pole dancer himself.

Or a hustler. Might as well get paid for it, yeah?

At any event, there was no sign of Xander in the clubs for the next couple of nights. Must've moved on, no surprise there. He clearly hadn't come to LA for Spike, and he'd obviously had enough after that scene in the alley.

Had enough, done just enough to make Spike restless, more-than-usually dissatisfied. He wasn't sleeping, and all the beer no longer gave him a buzz.

The next time he returned to the apartment, the blare of the Xbox was no more.

Xander was seated at the table with Illyria, showing her how to play a solitaire game with a deck of cards. She watched and listened with her insect intensity, eyes riveted on Xander's deliberate, unhurried movements. Only when he'd played the game out, at a stately hypnotic pace, and gathered the pack up again to give to the godling, did Xander glance up at him.

"Quieter, right?"


"Sometimes I like the quiet," Xander said, rising slowly. He headed towards the door on the other side of the room—Spike was about to tell him that that wasn't the way out of the apartment when he realized that Xander knew that.

He followed him into the tiny bedroom.

"Didn't think I'd be seein' you again."

"Was that a good thing, or a bad thing?" Xander turned on the bedside lamp, as if this was his room. He was already getting undressed.

This was cheek.

"Think my offer's run out."

"Offer?" Xander paused, half-way shrugged out of his shirt. White shirt, brown Xander, Spike couldn't help but take in the view.

"Said I'd give you one night. That was days ago."

"But I still haven't had it."

"Not my fault. It's you keep pullin' the fuckus interruptus."

"I haven't had what they had. What Anya got from you." Xander sat down, abruptly, heavily, on the bed. "What is it you give to them, Spike? The magic thing that makes them feels better?"

"Think you've been misinformed."

Xander denied it with a vehement headshake.

"Idea of me touching her—made you sick. You've always hated the demons."

"I really always have." Xander sighed, blinked. Rubbed his eyes.

"An' yet all your girls've been demons. Ever thought of that?"


"Wasn't yet. But she died a demon."

Xander opened his mouth, then shut it. His hands tightened into fists.

Spike didn't let up. "An' what about your men? What've they been? Would be interesting to know, but think I can guess a bit. Starts out innocently enough, right, but somehow they all turn out to be some sort of shape shifter, or they're sportin' an extra horn somewhere— Ever think what it's really about, Harris? What you're lookin' for? What you want?"

"I don't want—!"

"Naw, you don't. Couldn't be why you've drifted back here for a third time, pretending you're doin' me a favor, when it's really you who's itchin' for a tumble with old fang-face Spike. You like the dark, well as the quiet. Always full of darkness, you were. You think you're gonna fuck that out on my back? That what this is about?"

Spike leaned against the door. It was as far away as he could get in the close little room, but he was still near enough to smell Xander, to see every detail of his face. The brown eye and the spooky blue one. He was trying to conceal himself still, but the mask was porous now. Spike could see, could sense, the turmoil that he'd kept so firmly throttled during their other encounters.

Of course, if he wasn't obviously in turmoil he wouldn't be here on his own, looking like that, acting like that. He'd just gotten a hell of a lot better at handling himself.

He'd acquired whole new layers, laid on by God knew what.

"Look," Xander said, "do you want to fuck or not?"

Now Spike did. At any event, it would stop the sparring. Suddenly it was too much, trying to communicate with Harris, baiting him, trying to get him to tell some truth. It made Spike want to weep, how hard up he was for conversation. For something real. Some back and forth with defenses down. All he'd ever had with Buffy, with all the Scoobies, was duels fought out in words. It was like Buffy had admitted to him once near the end: We were never close. At least she'd respected him by then.

Harris never did. Never wanted to know a thing about him, or convey anything to him that couldn't be done with an insult or a blow.

It made Spike tired. To meet up again with someone he knew, and get nothing but that.

When it was so simple, what he wanted. To be told how they were, Buffy, Dawn, and the others. To be asked how he'd come to survive the Sunnydale hellmouth. To be spoken to, like an old comrade.

Just a little quiet intimacy. He'd been looking for that since he was a child, and living or dead, it always eluded him.

Spike sprang off the door, jittery all over, kinetic. "Right. Need to finish fucking me. Won't respect yourself in the morning if you don't get over on me, give me what I deserve." He grabbed up the metal rope and the glove from the top of the bureau, and held them out. "C'mon. Do your worst."

Xander looked at the things as if they weren't his, as if he'd never seen them before.

"Go on, you berk."

Xander paled. For a moment he resembled his old self, the defeated jilter Spike had jeered at. "F'chrissakes," he muttered. "What is this?"

All at once, Spike was in a towering rage. It was all he could do to keep still, to keep from fanging out, throwing the furniture. Except it wasn't Xander he wanted to attack. Wasn't violence he wanted to do. With a weird pang he remembered how it felt when Buffy beat him up in the alley, pounding his face over and over, while he just lay there and took it.

He hadn't had a drubbing like that in a long time.

"What it is, is what I brought you here to do. What you came here to do. Equipped!" He threw the rope and glove onto the bed. "Been saved up between us these eight years, yeah? You've always wanted a piece of me, to punish me. Gimme it good, Harris, an when you've had your jollies, you can give one hard yank on that rope an' take off my he—"

Xander grimaced, his hand flying out to stop Spike's lips. "Jesus, shut up. What's wrong with you? Don't say that." Xander pulled his hand back almost at once, but it was already too late.

The room felt upside down.

Xander gave him a long look. His mouth slightly open, eyes wide. Then he blinked, and reached for his shirt.

"Shit. Spike, I don't want to fucking slay you, man." He had to almost push Spike aside to get to the door. "You should ... have a drink or something. Chill. I'm out of here."

Illyria was still hunched over the table, her hands turning over cards three at a time, that she surveyed with bug-eyed intensity. She didn't look up as Xander scuttled across the room, flinging the apartment door open too hard, slamming it behind him.

Spike felt the bang of the door like a blow.

... didn't even care enough to cut off my head .... He grimaced when the tears came to his eyes. Sometimes he couldn't stand himself.

Couldn't stand himself for another sodding minute.

When he caught up the table, sending the cards flying, flinging it across the room to crash into the television, the Xbox, Illyria jumped up with a roar.

The necessary drubbing immediately followed.

Do you still hate me, Will?

He was resting, spent, on the deep slope of Angel's chest when the question rumbled out, barely a whisper. Spike wasn't sure if he was meant to answer it, or if Angel was musing out loud.

Angel's big hand came up, resting gently on his head, fingers stirring into his hair. The great chest rose and fell in a sigh.

Does it matter? Spike answered in a matching whisper. He couldn't see Angel's face, just his nipple, so close-up it loomed in the foreground of his sightline like a mountain, then the sloping plane of his pectoral, and part of an arm, the one that wasn't curled around to caress him.

They'd recently returned from Rome, so memories of Buffy, the fierceness of their rivalry, over her and everything else, were strong between them. Angel was already growing tetchier and more distant with each passing day, so Spike was surprised and apprehensive when he asked him to come up to his suite that night.

Less surprising was how he began the evening: on the floor, bound at the wrists and gagged, rode so hard, long and sloppy that his chest was seared with carpet burn, his whole body shaking and striving with need, before Angel had his first climax.

But when he did, Angel pulled him to his feet, released the gag, enveloped him in his big arms. Angel was still clothed; he was naked. He held Spike, back to front, like they were going to do some kind of slow swaying dance. Spike's cock rode up tight against his belly, wet at the tip, untouched.

You like this. Angel said. Giving up your control to me.

I could stop you if I didn't. Spike nodded. S'not like the old days.

Spike recalled their fight over the cup of torment. He'd won it, flat out won it. But what a hollow victory that turned out to be.

I know. Angel nuzzled his neck, bit gently on his ear. Sometimes I think this shouldn't ... but then I know you want it too.

I do. He shivered in Angel's embrace, and Angel kissed his neck.

Shall I untie you? His fingers strayed to Spike's nipple, squeezed it, but only hard enough to make it plump, to make him squirm. He'd segued into one of his indulgent moods.

Want to come first.

It's better that way, is it? And how shall I bring you off, Will?

S'pose you takin' a ride on my charger's out of the question?

Angel turned him about then, to face him. His hand encircled Spike's cock, as if to get a sense of the weight and density of it, like that was going to figure into the answer. Of course the answer would be no, if he bothered to answer at all. As far as Spike knew, no one had ever penetrated Angel.

Spike pressed himself into his sire's big hand, wishing it was warmer, but liking the smoothness of it. Angel always took such good care of his hands.

You've always wanted to fuck me, haven't you?

No, Spike said, Not always. An' what I'd like now is for you to fuck yourself on me. S'not quite the same. He wasn't quite sure what it was that excited him so about his proposal, but he thrummed all over at the idea of it—of bearing Angel's weight, of watching him impale himself on Spike's cock.

And you don't want me to untie you?

Spike shook his head. I'm freer this way. He paused. Glanced at Angel with what he knew would be a glint in his eye. You should try it some time. Letting go. Might do you good.

I'm not allowed to feel that free, Angel said, solemnly. That's the difference between you and me, my Will. He nuzzled Spike's neck again, in that sweet spot below the ear, and kissed him on the mouth, with deep, slow, gentle sweeps of the tongue, that made Spike's throat catch, made his prick quiver in Angel's grasp.

But I'll give you what you asking for. Just this once.

The mere promise was so unexpected, so enticing, that Spike had to jerk himself out of Angel's way, to keep from shooting right there. But Angel followed, actually dropping to his knees before Spike's upstanding prick, from which the pre-come rose up in slow insistent bubbles.

Look at that, Angel breathed. You always get so hard for me. How pretty that is. Before Spike could reply, Angel slipped his mouth over it, giving the head a long evaluative swirl of the tongue, keeping at it until Spike couldn't repress an answering groan.

Angel separated his wrists, tied one to each bedpost. Stood over him, running a finger down one taut arm, then smoothing his hair with a tenderness that made Spike's hips twitch.

This's how I think of you, Angel said, slowly circling the bed, how I'll like to remember you, if I'm in a remembering place. Probably won't be. But you're at your most beautiful, like this. You should know that. If you're able to remember me. He bent over and kissed Spike again, then slipped the ball gag back into place.

From that point on, there was nothing to distract him, from what happened next. Watching Angel take off the rest of his clothes. Watching him ready himself, with a palmful of slick. He did that slowly, his large brow creased with concentration. Spike would've liked to know what he was thinking, and if this really was the first time the old man was going to take a cock up the bum. Perhaps when he was a fledgling? He was glad his mouth was stoppered, because it wasn't the right time to ask. It was the right time for him to be silent.


Angel climbed up on the bed, straddled him, his own cock in his fist. His balls rested softly on Spike's belly for a moment, before Angel lifted himself up.

You want me to come with you inside me.

Spike nodded. Angel said nothing about him coming, but somehow that was right. He was tensed all over now, almost unbearably aching for it; if he wasn't bound, this was the moment when he'd be compelled to ruin this by turning it into a wrestling bout, to overpower Angel, force him down, take him from behind with his face ground into the pillow.

But that wasn't what he truly wanted. What he wanted was this, which Angel was so unaccountably giving. This deliberate ... not quite a surrender. Call it a concession. That's how Angel was certainly thinking of it. As part of the strange truce they observed in Angel's bedroom, where they acknowledged emotions each of them scorned in the plush offices below. No one here was watching, unless you counted their legions of ghosts. And the thought of being observed by all of them just made Spike more desperately aroused.

Angel's back arched as he positioned himself, one hand wrapped around Spike's wet cock. At first he just rubbed it against the seam of his body; Spike felt the exquisite softness of Angel's ballsac, the smooth stretch of perineum. Angel's eyes closed as he moved, his powerful thigh muscles bunching and flexing.

Will. He whispered it. William.

When his cock first breached the tight ring, Spike strained upwards, wanting to be encased, buried in his sire to the cods. Angel paused, maybe to get himself under control too, though his face betrayed no pain. He leaned forward, supporting himself on one columnar arm, to look at what they were doing. His hand still encircled Spike's shaft, guiding it to its target.

Ah yes, Angel breathed, as if he was discovering something. With a sigh, he lowered himself a little more. Spike gasped through the gag. What Angel lacked in body warmth he more than made up in tightness, nip and ripple.

If he wasn't bound, he'd certainly want to wrap his own two hands around Angel's prick, and milk it hard. If he wasn't gagged, he'd want to babble every filthy Anglo-saxon imprecation he knew. As it was, he jerked and wriggled, stirring his legs to try to speed the moment when he was all the way in. Angel shifted, putting his hands, his weight, on Spike's thighs. Pressing them down, pressing them still. This position arched him like a bow, so his cock pointed at Spike's face. The sight was almost unbearably arousing, and Angel was almost there. Snugged down the final half inch, so his arse rested on the saddle of Spike's groin.

For a moment, Angel looked thoughtful. It was like him, to manage to look thoughtful though he was full of cock. Needing friction, needing to gallop, Spike stirred as much as he could. But Angel pinned him like a boulder, a slow smile spreading on his face as he made it clear that he wasn't going to let Spike set the pace.

This is your one time, my Will, so don't you rush. Easy, boy. Easy.

It was also like Angel not to betray himself by admitting what this was like for him. If it hurt, he didn't show it. His expression didn't betray his pleasure yet either, if there was that. Though his cock was drooling now onto Spike's belly, bobbing slightly on its own, tantalizing, untouchable, and that pretty much told the story. Spike's pride was as engorged as his own member. Whether Angel was ever going to say so or not, he was liking this, and it was something, a big something, that they were doing this together at long last.

And in some way Spike couldn't explain to himself, it was better that it be this way, with him held down, and Angel in control. He would remember this, the amazing sight as Angel began to move, slowly at first, then more and more—not frantic, because he was never that—but with an increasing looseness and ease. He felt it, Spike could tell, felt good, because after a little while he found a rhythm, an angle, that he stuck to, arched into, and bit by bit his inscrutable expression gave way to parted lips, and he was gasping, throwing his head back so Spike couldn't see his face at all. For a long time he worked himself on Spike's cock without touching his own, and it was maddening to watch it bounce in the air and not be able to grab it. Biting on the rubber ball between his teeth, Spike imagined sucking Angel's cock, dragging on it hard, tongue swarming around the drenched head, the gooey slit. The fantasy was so real he had to squeeze his eyes shut lest he blow his wad too soon. He wasn't going to shoot, no matter what, until Angel did.

But then Angel started to talk. Is this what you like, my Will? Is it good? You feel so big inside. There you are all tied up and you're fucking me too. So fucking beautiful you are.

The more he said, the more impossible it was to keep still. When Angel started fisting his cock, instructing Spike to watch him, telling Spike he knew how much he wished that cock was between his lips, his grip on himself, his reactions, slipped. There was no getting it back. Rippling, yanking on the restraints, yelling through the gag, Spike battled for purchase, fucking up into Angel's brisk downstrokes, faster and faster. Angel was laughing now, laughing at his frenzy, but it didn't matter, because he was pulling on his own prick with dizzying speed. And in the end he was the one who gave way first, shooting hard so his jism sprayed across Spike's chest, his neck. One blob hit his chin; he yearned for the gag to be gone so he could lick it up. His own climax crowded on even as Angel was still wringing himself out. After all the build-up, it seemed to come too fast, and left Spike flattened, hanging off the restraints.

It wasn't until Angel shifted off him, disconnecting with a little pop, that Spike was able to open his eyes. Angel loomed over him on all fours. Pulled the gag off to give him another long speaking kiss, holding his jaw, pressing in on him with gentle though inexorable firmness. His limp cock dangled against Spike's belly, making wet trails around his navel as Angel kissed him over and over. After a little while he released the bonds, pulled Spike's arms slowly down, massaging the shoulders and the long muscles. It was then that they settled together, Spike's head resting on the slab of Angel's chest, the quilt pulled up over their tangled legs. Then that Angel asked his question. Do you still hate me? And then, still quiet, still, almost tense: Yes it matters. It matters now.

Hate you, Spike said. But that's not all I do. You're my sire. An' I belong to my sire.

But do you like it?

Belongin' to you? Yeah. Feels right. Though I'm never gonna stop fightin' you. Never gonna bow the knee to you, anywhere 'cept in here.

Angel's soothing caress of his hair went on, unbroken. So you love me then, Will? Do you love me a bit, my lad?

The question, so unexpected, so raw, resonated through Spike like a gong-stroke. He didn't know how to answer. That Angel would ask it at all made Spike feel that they stood on the lip of some terrible abyss.

He struggled for something both reassuring and true. ... I've got your back. For what that's worth, Sire, I've got your back.

A flood of feeling welled up as he made this promise; Spike chastized himself for being so bloody sentimental, but Angel encircled him then with his other arm, squeezed him in a way that acknowledged his confession, thanked him for it.

Sire, Angel repeated, musing. You like calling me that.

I do, Spike said. As much as you like hearin' it.

They slept then, in each other's arms, and when he awoke a few hours later, it was to find Angel kissing him again, his erection pressed against Spike's hip. This time they needed no discussion, no words at all. Spike shifted, bent his knee; Angel lifted it onto his shoulder, and went smoothly into him. Curled around each other, they rocked in the dark, kissing all the while.

This is how I want you to remember me, my Will, Angel said. Remember everything, all the wickedness we did, all the hatred. But remember this too. Remember this first and last.

Sire, I will.

He did. Lying in his narrow bed, as his face throbbed, and his broken bones knitted, Spike had plenty of time to revisit that last night in Angel's bed, that last intimate conversation.

He'd never know their like again.

On the other side of the bedroom door, he could hear the slipping sound of the cards, as Illyria played her ten thousandth game of solitaire. At least, the TV being irretrievably broken, there was quiet. He'd have to get another set, soon's he could get up and walk out of here. He figured that pack of cards was good for another little while, before she'd start wanting Crash Bandicoot and deafening explosions again.

Or before he would.

He could forget the new TV and just tell her that the time had come for them to part. After all, he really didn't feature the next century in her company. No good letting her get too used to him.

He drifted in and out of sleep. She fed him periodically, telling him in her imperious way that he must mend so as to service her again. She called him My halfbreed or sometimes my pet, but Spike didn't want to belong to her. Belonging to Illyria would be worse than belonging to no one.

The next time he smelled heated blood, there was another aroma accompanying it. Heated smell of human being. Clean, male, sun-toasted.


Spike opened his eyes. Got up on his elbows, blinking. Knew at once from how his body responded, pain-free and nimble, that he was better: bones whole, bruises reabsorbed, flesh once more white and smooth, though he didn't know how many days had elapsed while he drifted in that nostalgic twilight sleep.

"What're you doin' here?"

"Waiting around. Improving the shining hours by having a confidential chat with the Queen of Infinite Space. Who's gone for a stroll, by the way. Thirsty?"

"Waitin' for what? Still don't know what you're even in LA for. Much less why you keep turnin' up back here like a bad penny."

"I am a bad penny, Spike. I'm the baaaadest penny there is."

Spike couldn't figure what Xander thought he was doing now. His mood was difficult to read. But he was offering Spike's thermal driving mug, so Spike took it, and drank a long draught of warm blood.

"And it's kind of touching, that you keep asking."

"Don't really care," Spike grumbled. "Just hate a bloody mystery, that's all."

"Can I sit?" Xander asked, indicating the foot of the bed.

"Nah, I'm gettin' up."

"You look pretty good now. Not like yesterday."

"You were here yesterday?" A spark of outrage floated up into Spike's inner night—he didn't like the idea that Xander was looking at him while he was unconscious. Too bad there was no uninviting spell that worked on live people.

"That fast-healing thing, I never stop envying that. You, Buffy ... of course she really needs it. Deserves it."

"Deserves everythin' good," Spike agreed, clambering up. He was naked, but there was nothing less sexual-tensiony than this moment. Xander didn't look at him; he found his jeans lying on the floor and skinned into them quickly. "Look, I'd like to chat—except that's a lie—but got places to go, beers to drink. So fuck off, an' have a nice life."

He moved towards the door, but Xander blocked him.

Fanging out without thought, Spike growled. "Move."

No fear, and no move.

God, the boy was all grown up. Had to give him some credit there.

"Spike, just give me a minute here, okay? There's something I want to say."

Oh, this was suspicious. No good was gonna come of this.

"Not listenin' to anything 'til I've had a beer."

"No," Xander said. "I don't want you tasting like beer."

The bold-faced nerve of this shocked Spike to silence. Xander didn't want him tasting like beer? What the fuck?

And then Xander's hand was on his shoulder, fingers caressing his neck, tentative, daring. He was moving dangerously close.

"Look, I've been thinking. About how it went between us the other day. It wasn't how I wanted it to go. How I wanted to leave it."

Spike opened his mouth, but no words came out. Xander was right up against him now, he'd have liked to take the boy's head off, and he couldn't move for incredulity.

"That first night, you said—you said people should face each other, and take off their clothes."

Spike growled. A reproof. A warning. He didn't know what he'd do to him, when he stopped trembling long enough to— But it would be bad. It would be bloody. "Harris."

"Spike. Lemme ... look, we're not ever gonna ... I still don't like you. I don't know if I can really forgive—but I'd like to turn this around. I'd like to leave it differently."

Again he tried to speak, but his mouth was arid. Harris's heart was racing.

"You always come back over an' over to fuck men you hate?"

"You don't really know me, Spike. Not anymore, anyhow."

"An' you don't know me. You think you can come in here an'—"

Xander's face clouded. He stepped back, staring at the floor. "I need—I need to know what they got from you. I need to feel it. What Anya—"

God, this was pathetic. The two of them, pathetic. Spike shook his head. "Can't do for you ... unless you'll take it. You ... you're not ready. Not for me, not for anyone. I mean, look at yourself." An' look at me. Think I've got anything left to give out, you're barkin' up the wrong bloody tree.

Xander glanced up then, stung. There he was again, the seventeen-year-old kid with the sad yearning concealed behind the clownish grin. Scolded to shame.

The moment stretched out. This was like being dangling head-first over an infinite pit.

"So this's really about Anya? You're this way because—"

"What way?" Xander flared on him, like he'd just beamed down into an insult, fist raised.

Whoa. Man of no fixed mood.

Spike batted the fist down. "You're a goddamn junkyard dog now! How'd it happen? Didn't throw myself into the fucking inferno so you could turn into a wild animal with mismatched eyes! You lot were supposed to—"

"Like you did it for me at all!"

"I did! Did ... did it for all of you. Buffy would tell you, I always liked the world. Wanted to save it even when I was evil. Was pleasantest place to be evil in."

"I'm not the world, and I'm not a pleasant place for you to be evil in! Or otherwise. And I don't owe you any explanations." Xander punched him, coming up with a left that Spike didn't expect. He hit the floor. When he sat up, Xander loomed over him.

Spike winced. "See now. That's what I meant. Even Buffy was readier'n you are, to be gentled a bit."

Then Xander reeled around, sat down on the bed. Head in hands. His voice a thin rasp. "Don't you think I know that?"

Spike didn't know how to respond to this Harris, who was quite possibly in the early minutes of a psychotic break. This was one of those times when it was damn inconvenient to have a soul. The old Spike would've just walked out and left him. Or, pre-chip, had him for breakfast, end of story. "Was only the once, you know that, yeah? An' was because she loved you. Because she was hurtin' over you. I know you two got back with each other before the end there."

Xander's shoulders were shaking. "We did. But it wasn't enough. And she died. So now it'll never be right."

"I'm sorry for that. She was ... she had consequence. And she was a lovely girl." Where was Illyria when you really needed her?

Xander's mouth worked. "I know. I wasn't kind enough to her. Because when it came down to it, I couldn't ..."

Spike repressed the kneejerk urge to contradict him. Waited instead. To find out what Xander couldn't.

"... I could never forget ... what she was. Because I hate. Demons. What she'd once been, and took on again. Because of me." He giggled then, a terrible laugh. "And isn't that a kicker." He gazed up at Spike, and he looked like a frightened child. "I couldn't stop judging her. Even after ... after we supposedly forgave each other—she forgave me—and it was sweet between us that little while, in here—" he tapped his head, "I couldn't really let go."


"I'm saying I didn't love her."

"An' I'm saying that's bollocks."

A sound escaped Harris then, half sob, half laugh. "I didn't know, Spike. I didn't know. Things I know now, things—I failed her. I failed her, and she fought, and she fell, and—"

And she didn't come back, but I did, so here you are tryin' to make things good with me instead. Any demon in a storm. 'Cept you've got no fucking clue how to begin, and you're half mad besides.

"I know this sucks. You should throw me out."

It was like he'd come back, from one moment to the next, from the outlandish place. Now Xander just sounded weary. He got to his feet. "I'll throw myself out."

"Wait." Spike reached out. Encircled Harris's arm, tugged him closer. He radiated heat. Maybe was a little feverish, which wasn't surprising, given the state he was in.

Xander looked at him. It was hard, being looked at this way. Hard for him, but hard, Spike knew, for Harris too.

Least he could do, was return that look. Man to man.

Harris flushed warmer. Then he started to take off his clothes.

Spike was only wearing his jeans; he let them drop.

Took Harris in—spare, lean-muscled. Nothing extra, nothing comfortable. No bogus physical modesty. Callused on his hands and feet, the skin peeling a bit from the elbows and knees. Now they were facing each other with the lights on, Spike had time to notice other things. Silvery scars here and there on his torso, legs, and upper arms, bright by contrast with the darkened flesh. And a starburst-shaped one on the hip, that looked like it was made by something nasty.

"Where'd you get that?"

Xander glanced where Spike pointed, then covered it with his hand. "Africa."

"Why's it we always say 'Africa' when it's an enormous continent featurin' all sorts? S'pure ignorance."

"I'm not ignorant about that place. Not now."

Spike heard an edge of anguish, something concealed. "Right, doesn't look that way. So how'd you get—"

"How do you think? Fighting. Obvious much?"

Spike dragged the hand down, leaned in to look closer. "Almost decorative, that." The wound's shape was so unexpected, like it was made by something bursting forth from inside.

"Getting it didn't feel decorative."

"No. Didn't mean. Still ... good, in a way, that you get to wear your experiences. You're the story of ... of yourself." Fuckin' awful poetry would bubble up when he least want it.

"I get to suffer and sunburn and scar and grow decrepit and die. Oh yeah. Only an undead freak would envy that."

"You get to survive. Scar like that—didn't kill you—should be bloody proud of it."

"Don't tell me what—"

This hair trigger thing again. Despite himself, Spike was intrigued. Harris was a mess, but he was a succulent, compelling, gorgeous mess. Spike wanted to know about him now. And not just because he'd be bored and alone otherwise. The little Harris had just revealed, the pain of his revelation, his need, fed something in Spike's hungry soul that had been famished since Angel's death.

"All right, not tellin' you. You tell me." Spike touched the starburst scar with his fingertips, tracing its points. It was beautiful, pinky-silver against Xander's dark hide (he was tan all over, which another interesting detail), its tendrils spreading across the sacral arch, which on this new-improved Xander was as sharply defined as Spike's own.

Xander jittered under the touch, but he stood still, and his cock twitched in its thicket of black hair.

"Why're you here, pet?" Spike murmured. "Why'd you leave Africa? Andrew said you were doin' good work there. Sounded like you'd come into your own. Finding slayers, training them."

"Oh, I found 'em all right. I found plenty."

"You like slayers. An' they like you. Must've made a success there."

"I had to leave." Xander shook his head, like a horse shaking off flies. He wasn't looking into Spike's face anymore, but at his body. "You ... you really do have a nice one." He reached, and as his hand touched Spike's cock, he went down smoothly on one knee. "You think about cock a lot when ... when all you can really do is think about cock."

This was an evasion, but Spike wasn't so strong he could resist a warm human breath on his flesh, warm wet tongue peeking out to lick the tip, to suck him in as he engorged. Xander held the cock head in his mouth for a few moments as it grew, not doing anything except breathing around it, his eyes widening appreciatively as he felt its expansion. But his hands were there too, one encircling the base, the other exploring Spike's balls, rolling them, squeezing softly. He couldn't help threading his fingers in Xander's short hair, prodding him to open wider, let him go deeper.

Harris apparently really did think about cock, and more than think: he knew what to do with one, as well. Knew how to lick, and suck, how to grip and squeeze. He was a man who really liked cock.

Was only a few minutes before Spike blew. And it was so fucking good, because—well, because what wasn't good about a hot eager mouth. But because it was Xander Harris, who was someone else and also the same, and who hated him and also felt other things, apparently, which he put into action in ways that left Spike gasping and weak-kneed.

And afterwards Harris rested his forehead for a moment against Spike's thigh, and shivered, expelling a sheepish laugh. "Oh man, I needed that." He looked up from his crouch, and smiled, a boyish smile unlike anything he'd shown Spike yet. It was like sunshine after weeks of rain. Spike couldn't not smile back. His heart lifted, the atmosphere around them lightening so fast that it was like breathing pure oxygen.

Except that all at once, Harris dissolved into tears.

Spike tried to pull him up, but Xander only collapsed onto his bottom, curling down as the sobs wracked him. So Spike sat too, and even as he wondered at himself, at the sheer insanity of this, he pulled Xander to him, wrapped him in his arms. "That's it, Harris. Let it out. Might as well."

He cried for a while, letting Spike hold him. Hiccuped and gasped, and then began to talk, like a doll whose string was pulled. "There's ... an insurgency. A war. They're totally powerful and completely out of control! They've got militias, they're ravaging the countryside, slaughtering whole villages, press-ganging the children, stalking and killing each other. No one's safe, the whole area's succumbed. The country's on the verge of collapse. And I just ... After I got this ..." He touched the star-scar, "I couldn't cope. I failed. I left."

"Went to get help? Consult the Council. More firepower, yeah?"

"No. I fled. There is no help, Spike. Don't you see? They—they've violated the Prime Directive! They're killing people."

"Wait a mo—who? Who's killing people?"

Xander turned his face up then, and there was horror in his eyes. "The slayers."

It took some coaxing to get the whole story out of him. Xander seemed to be re-experiencing it internally as he talked, his body jerking and quivering like a dreamer's caught in nightmare.

Things had started out well enough—Xander had gone to a fairly stable part of the sub-continent on his first solo mission of identification and recovery. Found slayers who were mostly young, some barely pubescent. At first things had gone well, as well as could be expected when he didn't speak the language, was the wrong color to blend in, and was proposing to separate young girls from their families.

Matters changed when he'd trained them a bit, shown them something of what they were up against, what they were capable of. As the young girls got a feel for their power, as they encountered one another, and the concepts Xander was trying to inculcate, of teamwork, of the worldview necessary to recognizing the demonic threat, the situation went pear-shaped.

His lessons got twisted. His examples, taken out of context. His grasp of the local cultural issues was never very firm—how could it be? He was a stranger. When the girls started their internecine squabbles, their fierce rivalries, he didn't really understand their motivations. They seemed at first to be about who could punch harder or run faster or whose family had more cows—when that turned out to be completely wrong, he realized, too late, that he couldn't trust his local guide and translator. When the slayers and their families started breaking into factions, forming alliances, recruiting and arming civilian fighters, he misunderstood the situation for so long that by time he figured out that they were filling the local power vacuum to take over the countryside, it was too late to stop them.

The area turned out not to be so stable after all. All it took was a crop failure and a few well-timed murders, before vast swathes of the populace were displaced, and terror stalked the countryside.

The slayers only slayed when it suited their larger purpose—more often they manipulated demons into doing their dirty work for them. Ethnic cleansing by vampire.

"Forget sacred duty to slay vampires and demons. These girls became war lords. Savage teenage war lords with super strength. Now that would make some kinda comic book! Can you just see the cover of issue one?" Xander threw his head back and laughed, except it was more like a yelp.

They had magic on their side too, these rogue slayers. Strategic alliances with local shamen and witches, some of whom flocked towards the slayers' power. Those who resisted the new dispensation were gradually eliminated. Few escaped.

The star-scar, Xander finally revealed, was what remained of an enchanted wound that had turned him into a tool of one of the worst slayers, a girl of fourteen whose ruthlessness and cunning he still couldn't entirely fathom. "I was a kind of higher zombie for Twinkle. That's her real name, believe it or not, one of the first slayers I found, a little girl with a sweet round face and eyes like a kewpie doll's. That power coming on her so quickly brought out her latent Idi Amin. I ... I don't entirely remember what I did, because the magic really fucked with my senses, my memory. But I know I commited ... acts I can never atone for. Murders. Maimings. She made sure of that. Made sure that no matter what, I'd never ...."

Spike knew what it was like to be ridden by an unshakeable Power, forced to act against his will, commit atrocities that curdled his newly-restored soul. But at the moment, all he could do with what Xander told him was let it pass without expressing revulsion. Xander was watching him so carefully, waiting to see Spike judge him, the way Xander had once judged Anya.

"How'd you get away from there?"

Xander shook his head. Like he didn't know, or couldn't bring himself to say.

"Harris. You had to leave there. That you were able to—no bad there. No ... no shame."

"I was captured by another faction. You can't even say there's two sides, because it isn't that simple—there's more sides than a diamond, and they all hate each other. But there were a couple of slayers who never exactly went dark—they were trying to raise some kind of resistance."


"But they had nothing. No resources. There's nothing there to eat."

"Christ. So?"

"So, one of them and her people orchestrated a raid, captured me back. Managed to get me unhexed." By the look on Xander's face, Spike knew he'd better not ask how. "Once I was juju-free—or juju-lite, anyway—they expected my help—Shalaya thought I was her watcher, that I was going to somehow solve things! Guide her and figure it out all out, like Giles used to make it all better when we were in high school! I just bolted. Hied myself to the nearest US embassy like a fucking pussy and got out of there. Took a while, because I had no passport anymore, I had nothing. And I was sick. Something like malaria, but I don't think it was Our Earth Malaria, if you know what I mean. I know I spooked the government types. But the Council was able to help, at least, with that." He paused, tracing the pattern on the linoleum floor, as if he was afraid it was going to start crawling up his leg. His thousand-yard stare showed he'd crashed. Spike helped him up onto the bed, brought him a glass of water. He drained it in one long glug, and then another, before he was able to speak again.

"We empowered all those potentials. We thought it would be this brave new world of positive girl power. But we ended up with monsters." He blinked, eyes fixed on his knees, seeing—Spike could only imagine what he was seeing, the terrible by-play of memory.

Well, best to keep it practical. Get the denoument. "What's the Council doin' about it?"

Again that smile of cosmic amusement. "They're not doing anything. What can they do? Send slayers to kill other slayers? To kill human beings? Human beings, I might add, who are armed with automatic weapons. Even if slayers with axes could go up against that—"

"There's that pesky Prime Directive again, yeah." Spike didn't want to believe this. He wanted to assume that Harris was insane, that he was telling hallucinations brought on by too much sun, or at least that he was exaggerating. But that was the worst kind of wishful thinking. This sounded all too plausible. The magic Willow worked at the hellmouth was enormous and literally global. And he'd always known—he'd told the Scoobies, not that they'd ever listened—Magic Had Consequences. And you never could foretell what they'd be.

Speaking of magic. "Must be somethin' the good witches can do to turn the tide. Thought Giles had a coven at his beck and call."

"It's too much. The Council is Giles and a handful of others, the coven can only do so much. The whole organization—and calling it an organization is a bit of a glorification at this point—is underresourced, flying blind, overwhelmed. Morale's in the toilet. They just haven't got it."

"But ... what did Buffy say? What about Willow? Aren't they—?"

Xander leaned back against Spike's spartan pillow, his eyes falling shut.


His eyes opened again, the brown one an oily black, the blue glass like something dead. "Last I heard, Buffy, Faith, and some of the others were dealing with a very serious situation in South East Asia. Very hush-hush. Giles wouldn't call her away—he said this thing with Twinkle and company was not the worst problem on the Council's plate. Not the worst! And Willow ... even with the coven, she doesn't have that kind of power. To stop a war. A human war."


Xander rubbed his good eye. Tears fell from the unblinking blue one while he did. "Hey, it's just Africa, right? That's how it always is in Africa. Fast cheap and out of control. The rest of the world just kinda wrings its hands and makes UN speeches and the armies of genocide just go on with their bad selves."

"So .... you're tellin' me that's it?"

"It. Is what I'm telling you," Xander said, nodding, shoulders wobbling as he laughed again. "Because I walked out. Walked away." He made a walking motion with his fingers on his bare belly. "One foot in front of the other and— I am done."

It made Spike feel sick. How? How could something that seemed so right at the time, so earned—the making of the potentials, defeat of The First Evil, closing of the Sunnydale Hellmouth—how could all of that turn out, down the line, to make the world worse off? To spin the evil out, dislocate it so it could set up base camps in fresh places? Corrupt those whose very existence was supposed to be about service, and sacrifice?

What the fuck was this thing in South East Asia? He didn't ask, because it was obvious that Xander didn't know, and anyway ... one thing at a time. All Spike could do now was take care of what was right in front of him.

"Try an' have a kip. I'll have somethin' to eat for you when you wake up."

He was turning away when Xander plucked at his arm. "Aren't you going to gloat, Fang-Boy?"


"I'm no better than you are now." Xander smiled, it was almost like the ray-of-light smile from a little while ago, when he'd sucked him off. "Well, obviously, my actual kill rate's not up there with yours, because I didn't have as much time to operate. But—in terms of the ugly—"

Grabbing Xander's shoulders, Spike shook him. "In terms of nothing! Shut up with that shit!"

"I used to hate vampires and demons because they were filthy killers, having fun with the entrails."

"Harris, shut it. You're not goin' down this road. You're not goin' to flay yourself because of what you did when you were spelled up."

"I don't even know if I have a soul anymore. Sometimes ... a lot of the time ... it feels like no."

It was clear there wasn't going to be any sleep any time soon. When Spike sat on the side of the bed, Xander reached for him, rolling closer.

It was pretty unexpected—okay, it was mind-blowing—that Harris was turning to him for physical comfort. Letting him see the frightened orphan child within. But Spike pulled him close, rocked him softly, whispered reassurances.

Now the mystery was filled in, Spike saw what this was going to be. He was ready, again, to help the helpless. Take care of what needed taking care of. Personal assistant to heroes, that was the job title. At least until he could get Xander reconnected with his real friends. He couldn't believe Willow and Buffy and Dawn wouldn't come for him, no matter where they were or what they were doing, when they knew what a bad way he was in.

"You're a good man, Harris. You've always been a good man. Anya remembered that about you, 'fore she died. Buffy never forgot. Nothin' bout that's any different now. You're just broken up. Need a bit of time."

After a bit, Xander murmured, "That's what Andrew thought you'd say."


"Andrew. The one with the video camera, who—"

"I know Andrew. I mean—what? He sent you?"

"He ... I talked to him. Not much but a little more than to anyone else, because ... Andrew's killed too. And he said that you'd helped him come to terms with it. And that he'd seen you, in LA, after the rest of us thought you were dead. But he didn't know if you were still around. Because we heard ... heard about the collapse of that law firm."

"Helped him reach something off a high shelf once. That's about all the help I ever gave that little prat." Spike didn't want to get into the Wolfram & Hart debacle, or how Giles blew off Angel's call for assistance at the end.

"He said—"

"Guess he made that part up. Fantasizin' was all he ever did. An' he always had a little stiffy on for me."

Xander tensed, started to pull away. Spike felt his embarrassment, and let him go. "Don't meantersay I won't help you, Harris. An' nothin' to do with stiffies, yours or mine."

That's when Xander slid back to him, put his lips up close to Spike's ear. "No? Because I was kind of thinking you wanted me." The way he said it, clearly meant, I want you. Bad. He slipped a hand into Spike's lap, closed it around his prick.

Spike lifted the hand away. "Don't think now's a good time—"

"Now's the only time. Now is all the time there is. Don't treat me like a patient, Spike. I'm not an invalid, you're not my damn nurse."


Xander hitched closer, urging Spike backwards, his warm hands making inroads. "I can't tell you how long it's been since ... I just need this. You. Okay? I need to be in bed with you."

Spike let himself be eased back, let Xander move on top of him. His movements were slow, supple, considered. All the violence of their earlier encounters cleared away. "Look at us," Xander breathed. "We happen to be naked."

"We are, pet."

"It's good to be naked. It's ... it's a relief."

"Could use some relief," Spike agreed. Xander was on all fours above him, holding his own weight, but dipping down so their bellies brushed, pubic hair tickling, stirring cocks making contact.

"I'm gonna kiss you," Xander said. "Will you kiss me?"

"Kiss you an' anything else you like. No need to ask, pet. Just—just show me what you need. I want you too."

Understatement of the bloody millenium. How he wanted this. The way Xander looked at him, the gentleness of his insistence. It was almost too much, except that his own need was so vast.

"You're ... you're so fucking strange, man," Xander said, holding off, still hovering, watching Spike's face. "You've got this big soft gooey thing about people, don't you? They get under your skin, and even though you don't like them—even though they've been the world's biggest asshole to you for years—you have this thing. That you do."

"Guess so. Gonna do it for you, Harris."

"Because I'm ready now."

"Reckon you are."

Spike took Xander's face in his hands, drew it down the couple of inches required to catch his mouth. Xander grunted, sighed. Collapsed bit by bit to lie full out on Spike, covering him like a bony quilt of warmth, his pulsing cock a hotter bar against Spike's hip, as he gave himself up to the conversation of mouths and tongues. Spike reached around him with his arms, feeling him up, gathering him in, constantly astonished at the narrowness of him—the shoulders were wide, though not as big as Angel's (no one's were) but then he tapered, so that where their hips met, sliding together, legs entwining, they were the same size, two hard slender men. Xander pressed himself against Spike's belly, with needful little stirring motions, almost shy. "Your skin is amazing," he murmured. "I thought you'd be ... sort of clammy. Cold. I didn't know what you'd be like. I'm sorry."

Harris was sorry. Spike realized he didn't want Harris to be sorry, they were way on beyond sorry now, but he just thrust his tongue deeper into the other's heated mouth.

"This's ... you're really good at this," Xander said, caressing Spike's face, holding his head in both hands like a brimming bowl. "Kissing. God."

"That's me, the kissin' god, yeah. You're all right yourself."

It was sort of wacky, to be doing this, talking like this, when half an hour ago Xander had confessed himself guilty of murder and despair. But Buffy's circle had always been this way: they shared a unique, or maybe just a deeply Human, kind of resiliance. Whatever unspeakable thing happened, they took it on, took it in and kept going.

One of Xander's hands went traveling then, down the length of Spike's body, pausing to explore nipple and flank with touches that made Spike curl and shiver, before pushing between them, the fingers tangling in pubic hair, then closing around Spike's fat shaft.

"Will you put this in me?"

Spike's breath caught as Xander's thumb circled the head. The weight of him, the warmth, was delicious; Spike could've easily spilled just from that. But Xander was already shifting, rolling off.

"S'not ... not your first time takin' it, is it?"

"Far from it." He met Spike's eyes, smiled. "Some time maybe I'll tell you about that."

"Sure, pet."

Xander was still holding him, wanking slowly, watching the result with absorption. "Got slick?"

"Yeah." Spike reached into the bedside table; Xander rolled over. Spike was seized with pity for the scars that dotted the back, the thighs. Nothing as bad as the star-scar in front, but he'd clearly been through repeated ordeals. Skimming fingers over the worst of them, he said, "Lovely you are."

"Not anymore," Xander said, dipping his head and arching as Spike laid a hand on his rump.

"Shut up. You're a proper man. Gonna like fuckin' you." Spike followed the hand, tracing a delicate path between Xander's cheeks, with his mouth. Got a noseful of Harris's particular funk, and first sight of his arse, the brown corrugated hole, ringed with short fine hairs. Harris moaned, pushed back as Spike began to lick, his hand stealing beneath to grip himself. When Spike pushed his tongue a little way in, Harris jerked, crying out, but it was a cry of desire. Spike made his tongue and lips wet, giving deep succulent kisses that made the hole flex, and little by little relax.

Xander was begging now. Writhing. Jacking himself, until Spike pulled his wrist to make him stop. "Wait a bit. Let me get inside, an' then it'll be good."

"Because it's not good at all right—this—minute—!" Xander babbled. "Shit. Shit! I need—fuck me, Spike. Fuck!"

"Hush. Hush an' wait."

Now for the slick; Spike handed it to Xander, let him spread it with two greedy hands all over Spike's cock and balls as he did the same to Xander's rump.

He was positioning himself behind when Xander stopped him. "Could you—I want to be facing you."

Spike wasn't sure why he sounded so sheepish, asking for this. The request made him feel happy; it was as if Xander was showing him some intimate possession, something he kept deep in his pocket and only took out for the select few. There was something a little unnatural, a little over-polite, about both of them, but that was all right, Spike thought. Part of what they were doing here was being kind to each other, and that was so new and unusual for the likes of them that it had to be a sort of performance. There were certain notes they'd each sound to make it complete.

"S'how I want it too," he said. "Gonna put your knees on my shoulders and fuck you 'til you see stars."

Not very original, but when he heard this, Xander looked half delirious; sometimes the old clichés were best.

For a moment before pulling Xander into position, Spike just looked him over, stretched out on his back, head on the pillow. Liking the roughness of him, everything extra pared away. The deep brown of the skin, the pitiable scar riding the hip, and the very un-LA-like naturalness of the thick bush of hair from which sprang Xander's cock, so full it lay flat against his belly, dribbling pre-come. He couldn't resist leaning in, licking at it, slipping the heavy head in and out between his lips. Xander gripped his hair hard, pulling at first, then suddenly shoving him back. "Don't want to come yet. Please, Spike. I need you to fuck me."

"Need to fuck you. Just want all of you. All of you at once."

"You want me?" Xander asked. His eye fixed him with an attention that made Spike's balls crawl, as he lifted him up, brought peg to hole, and pushed inside. The other eye, the blue one plucked from some awful toy, stared too, expressionless. A reminder of all that was capital-S strange about Xander Harris. About what brought him here, and what they were doing.

"Yeah. Like blazes." Spike tugged the pillow from under his head, slid it instead beneath his hips. Knelt between Xander's outspread legs, lifted first one then the other to his shoulders. Xander's ass warm and slippery against his belly, his legs heavy, cock dangling backwards. "Gonna get inside you now. Gonna have you. Make you like it. Make you come. You're gonna come like a geyser, Harris."

Then Xander's eyes closed, and he wriggled hard, gripping the sheets, and chanted, "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck me. Oh God. God."

Holding the legs he wore like a stole, Spike drove in and down, pushing to the extreme, pulling out so far that only the flaring head remained within the tight ring, and Xander's mouth opened in a pleading O. Then in again, finding the sweet spot that made Xander curse and curl, digging into it in short hard thrusts, his balls tightening up, spine going liquid, gaze fixed on Harris's balls, on the wet wagging inverted cock.

"Touch yourself. Touch it for me."

Xander seized his prick, pulling in rhythm with Spike's hard dicking.

Spike wanted this to last, but at the same time he wanted to get it over, so that the next time would be better, so there would be a next time. He wanted to take Xander in every position he knew, wanted Xander to fuck him too. Wanted it fast and hot and frantic, wanted it slow and sleepy and prolonged. Wanted to kiss every bit of Xander, taste his feet and knees and navel. In his head, they peopled an orgy room, a dozen Spikes and Xanders, cocks in every orifice, awash in spunk.

When Xander spent, it came like a convulsion; he cried out like something was tearing inside, and then it turned into real crying, tears spurting from the squeezed eyelids, sobs jerking out as his cock sprayed thick globs of jism across his chest. Spike leaned in, a leg held firm in each hand, part of him wondering if he should stop, comfort him, but Xander was still fucking him back. Fucking and weeping.

Spike didn't like to recall the times when the sound of a human's crying gave him a cockstand. How he'd come so hard when ...

Then his control unspooled so fast he couldn't catch it, something let go at the back of his balls, rushed up and out, snapping his whole body, making him howl.

When he was free of it, he was collapsed, Xander bent double under him. Still sobbing like a wounded animal.

Gently, Spike pulled free. Drew his leg down, quested for the face, hidden now behind an upthrust arm.

"Harris—Harris, you all right?"

"That—oh God. Shit." He sat up abruptly, the tears running freely down his face, and swabbed at them with his hands. When Spike tried to help, he batted his hand away.

"Sssh. Let me—"

Again Xander pushed him off. "I can't. This isn't. I'm going—!"

"Not goin'. We're not finished. Want my cuddle an' my nap an' my second go."

"This is sick," Xander said, gesturing with his hands.

The temperature between them plummeted. When Xander turned to him now, his face was blank.

"Spike. Doesn't it burn you up? That all you get ... is people who ... who only come to you when they're already squashed flat? And when ... if ... they get better, they kick you to the curb."

It did burn, it burned like hell, to hear Xander state it so baldly, his truth. To stand before the prospect that it was happening again, that he was inviting it. That it was so much a part of what he was, he couldn't imagine any other way.

Was there some bad angel attendent at his birth, that fixed some invisible mark on him? Sloppy Seconds Only For This One. A flaming brand everyone could see, but him.

"Yeah, well you're used to it, anyway," Xander said. The tears were cleared from his voice, replaced by a coldness that scorched. Xander got to his feet. "I guess I wasn't ready after all. Or ... maybe your mojo's all run out." He wandered to the bedroom doorway, paused, but said nothing else before disappearing into the other room.

Spike was cold now, his cock wet and cold and limp, his hands smelling of Xander's body, his juices, dried on the pale skin. He heard the other man open the refrigerator, heard a beer can pop.

I don't want you tasting like beer.

Dizzy. Going back over it, trying to figure out what had just happened. How it crossed over from the way it began, all that attention and kindness, to ....

Spike rose too. The soft-taffy goodness of having shot a mighty wad replaced already by the same old tension, a yoke across the shoulders. Began to gather up Harris's clothes, throw them across the footboard. He'd want to get dressed in a minute. Want to get back to his other life. Leave him to his pole dancers, his god-king, his afternoon drunk.

But then there he was in the doorway, with a beer can in either hand.

"You need a drink."

Spike took the can; startled by the cold, and the radiant warmth of Harris's hand.

"I am the most enormous jerk in the history of jerkdom."


"Me, yeah. Back now. From the bad bad place. Thanks for giving me a minute to pull myself together. I ... I didn't know I'd react that way. I didn't know ... " He winced, pressed the can to his forehead. "I am a junkyard dog. I'm the same—no I'm worse—than the guy who told An— Shit."


"No, wait a sec'. Lemme say it. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I ruined the undeniable thing we had working there, because ... because it was so good it felt like it would flat-out destroy me." Xander brought his gaze up, met Spike's with a small wince. He could see how Harris forced himself to confront when all his instinct was to avoid. "I know you never trusted me, and I just made it so you mistrust me even more. And that—that makes me want to punch my own lights out. If you want me to go, I'm gone. But if you can give me just a little more rope, I'd like that cuddle. I'd like to sleep with you and try the fucking thing again. Try the—making love to you thing."

Despite himself, Spike blurted, "You don't love me, Harris." It wasn't the right reply, it wasn't right at all. Totally irrelevant, and stupid, and not what was under discussion.

But Harris just regarded him straight on, sipping delicately at the beer, a hint of a smile in the corner of his mouth. "Not yet. So what about it?"

"Are you warm enough? Hey, I said I'd take the wet spot."

"Doesn't matter. Whole bed's wet. Yeah, I'm warm. That's nice, pet."

They were quiet then. Blanketed in Harris's body, he listened to the dull steady thub of his heart, and remembered lying with Angel, their two silent forms hugged up as if in search of some warmth, some spark, they were never going to possess. Remembered Anya, that frantic quarter hour that sent so many lives over the precipice. How slipping and small she was beneath him, hips so narrow, grasping little pussy denuded of hair. The softness of the hair on her head, and her lips grasping for kisses. Grasping for revenge, for distraction, for solace. Buffy, too, grasping, taking, controlling, full of hunger for feeling, pain, ecstasy, just so long as it was sharp and shocking.

They'd all come to him for whatever they needed. Whoever they needed. For as long as they needed.

And no longer.

"Spike?" Pillowed as he was on his shoulder, Xander's drowsy voice made a little vibration at the base of his throat.

"Harris." He liked saying it. Liked that exchange: Spike. Harris. Even though it could mean anything, and he was still as hinky as a fledgling. One apology, one night lying in each other's arms, wasn't going to turn around anything so vast as their combined hurts. But still it was good. He was ready to snatch at any goodness going.

Xander hitched his arm more snugly around Spike's chest, wriggling the hand half under him. "So ... could I stay around for a while?"

"Illyria will be back. Might get kinda crowded in here."

"Maybe not. She told me, she's seriously considering lighting out for the territories."

"Huh. Figured she might do."

"So. Could this ... could we ... see what it'll be, maybe?"

"Yeah. Give it a go."

"Okay," Xander said. "Thank you. I ... I'm glad you said yes."

"Okay then."

"I'm a shit, though," Xander murmured. "I'm a viper. I used to be a hyena. Still am. A wounded hyena."


After a while, Spike felt Harris drop into sleep. He wanted to follow, but his mind was overflowing. After a while, when he was sure Xander wouldn't wake if he moved, Spike slid out of bed. Went out to the front room, rifled through Harris's bag for his cell phone.

They were all in there, all the names, in alphabetical order. Andrew. Buffy. Faith. Giles. Willow.


He wasn't clear on whether Andrew had told Buffy he was alive. It seemed like perhaps he'd only told Xander. Since he'd sent Xander here to reconnoiter on that subject.

Anyway, she was in Asia somewhere, fighting the thing that was so unspeakably worse than corrupt slayers ravaging an African country.

He chose Willow. No idea where she was, what time zone. But after three rings, he heard the familiar voice. "Xander! Where are you?"

For a moment, Spike couldn't find his voice. Couldn't find his self. How easily it got lost, around these people. No, not easily. Nothing was ever easy with them. Buffy had promised that at the beginning, and it held true all the way.

Alarm in her voice now. "Xander? Are you there?"

Certain he was doing the necessary, the right thing, so why did it feel so damn bleak?

Yeah, payback was a bitch.

"Hello, pet. Spike here. Listen, save your questions. Got a bit of a tale to tell. Thing is—Xander's in proper trouble. Needs his friends. Needs you."

The End

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