10 Processing

After showering and dressing, Xander left the house and wandered around town for more than an hour before ending up outside the Magic Box.  Shrugging to himself, Xander walked inside.  "Hello?  Anyone here?"

Buffy's blond head popped out of the door to the training room.  "Hey Xander!  How's it going?"

Xander wandered into the back and slid down the wall to sit on the floor.  "Hey Buff.  What's up?"

Buffy eyed the dejected looking man in front of her with a frown.  Gracefully she folded herself down into a comfortable position in front of Xander and tapped him on the knee.  "Okay, spill."

Xander sighed.  "Not much to spill.  Just another fabulous day in the fucked up life of Xander Harris."

At Buffy's glare, Xander relented.  "Well, last night was Forrest's and my one month anniversary, and this morning we broke up."

Buffy opened and closed her mouth several times before nodding.  "Right.  I think you'd better tell me the whole story."  She motioned to a large box.  "I'm supposed to be taking inventory of these books that just came in, you can help me while we talk."

So they sorted books and Xander talked.  He told Buffy everything leading up to that morning's events and gave her a play by play of the fight that caused Forrest to walk out.  When he was finished, Buffy let out a deep breath, "Wow.  Well, first off, don't worry about the Initiative.  I'll talk to Riley tonight, make sure Forrest doesn't do anything stupid."

Xander relaxed, "Thanks Buffy."

"Second, Forrest was totally in the wrong.  You're right; he's being an asshole.  He's been in Sunnydale long enough that he should know not all demons are bad.  But, Xan, you do realized you picked a Vampire friend over your human boyfriend, right?"

Xander flopped backwards onto the training room mats and looked up at the ceiling.  "I know.  And what's even worse is that I don't care.  I'd pick Spike over Forrest in a second.  Actually I'd pick Spike over anyone in a second.  Buffy, oh gods, I think I'm in love with Spike."

Buffy reached over and squeezed his hand.  "Welcome to the club, sorry, but I left the 'In love with the Evil Undead' club pin and membership packet at home.

Xander laughed weakly.  "Doesn't this bother you?  I mean, we're talking about Spike here."

Buffy turned back to the box of books, "Of course it bothers me Xander.  But more in an 'I don't want to see you get hurt way' than in a 'Spike is an evil monster' sort of way."

"Oh, well, thanks Buffy.  Now I just have to deal with the whole, being in love with someone who is never going to love me back thing."

Buffy glanced at him sideways, "Xander, what makes you so sure that Spike doesn't care about you?  I've seen the way you two act together."

Xander blushed, "I know that Spike is my friend and cares about me, it's that he's not ever going to want to be with me in that way."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Buffy...shit, okay, but you can never say anything.  Hear this and immediately forget it."

"Alright already."

Xander took a deep breath. "Spike had some...bad experiences in his past."

Buffy stared at him blankly.  "Buffy!  Bad experiences, around sex, with another man!"

Buffy rolled her eyes at the brunette.  "I understood what you meant the first time.  Listen to me Xander.  I don't mean to make light of Spike's past, but do you know how many people are raped every year?"

At Xander's shocked look, Buffy quickly reassured him.  "Not me, or anyone else in the group, as far as I know, but Xander, its unfortunately pretty common, and even though its terrible and scarring, the majority of those people go on to live happy, healthy lives, that include sex.  Look, all I'm saying is maybe, if Spike loves you, his past won't always be an issue.  It takes time and support, but people heal, Xander.  Even Vampires heal."

Xander just shook his head at the blond slayer.  "How did you get to be so smart?"

Buffy grinned, "Women's studies class Willow talked me into.  I'm all about the women's empowerment stuff now."

"Does that mean you're gonna trade in your Riley for a Tara?"

Buffy rolled her eyes and smacked Xander with a book.  "Ow!"  Xander laughed and grabbed the book from her before she could hit him again.  He glanced down at the book he was holding and froze.  "Huh."

Buffy scooted closer and glanced at the book.  "What?"

Xander read the title.  "Blood, Sex, and Magic: the Rituals of the Vampire."

Xander and Buffy looked at each other with huge eyes.  "Do you think Giles knows he ordered this?"  Buffy asked with an exaggerated whisper.

Xander shrugged.  "Dunno.  Do you think he'd get mad if we read it?"

Buffy nodded solemnly.  "Yes.  But it's research, and he's always telling us how important research is."

Xander nodded, "Right then, we'd better read it, it's for our own good."

Glancing guiltily over their shoulders at the empty store, they lay down side by side on the mats and began reading through the book.

Hours later Xander lifted his head and blew out a breath he didn't know hed been holding.  "Wow, that was...kind of squicky.  But kind of..."

"Hot, too."  Buffy finished for him.  She glanced back down at the page they had been reading.  "I wonder if getting drained by a Vampire is always that hot, or is it just turnings?"  

Xander shrugged and turned to the next chapter.  "Probably just the turnings, that way the Childe's first memory is of sexy type stuff, happy Childe, happy Sire.  Huh, what's a Claim?"

Buffy looked down at the page and read aloud.  "When a Master Vampire wants to link a human or another species of demon to himself without turning them, he claims them.  The Master exchanges blood with the claimant, which establishes a bond.  One exchange of blood creates a pet, or slave, under the Vampire's control but still retaining a semblance of free will.  The more blood exchanged, the stronger the bond.  When a Vampire wishes to take a mate, a special bite is used, one that leaves a scar."  At this Buffy unconsciously touched her neck, and Xander tried to politely not notice.  

Xander took up reading.  "When taking a mate, the blood exchange is paired with sex.  Repeated exchanges of sex and blood build a stronger bond.  Other Vampires and demons can sense the mark of a Master Vampire and few will risk a Master's anger by harming its mate.  It has been rumored that long mated pairs gain a type of psychic bond, able to sense their mate at great distances.  The mate of the Vampire gains some of the Master's strength and speed, while retaining their soul."  

"Wow, crazy."  Xander glanced over at Buffy, who was looking thoughtful.  "Buffy?  What's on your mind?"  Before Buffy could answer, the bell above the front door jingled and Giles voice echoed through the store.  "Hello, is anyone here?"

They jumped up and hurriedly dropped the book back into the box with the others.  Giles walked into the training room just as they turned around, trying to wipe the guilty expressions off their faces.  "Oh, hello Xander.  Buffy, did you finish the inventory on that book shipment?"

"Almost Giles."

Xander quickly excused himself and headed out the front door while Buffy and Giles discussed the book shipment.  Glancing up at the sky, Xander realized that it was almost dark so he hurried back to the apartment. Xander was sure that Spike was still blaming himself for the breakup and Xander needed to let the Vampire know that Xander didn't feel that way.  Letting himself in the front door, Xander glanced up and noticed several things had changed.  For one, the apartment was clean, spotless actually.  Second, something smelled really good, and Xander suddenly realized he hadn't eaten all day.  His appetite was quickly squelched though when he noticed Spike sitting in the living room with a packed duffle bag and two boxes, the Vampire looked positively dejected.  "Spike!  What's going on?"

The Vampire shrugged and looked at the floor.  "Figured I'd make it easy for you pet.  Cleaned the place up nice, got dinner in the oven.  I'll make myself scarce and you can call Forrest and invite him over for a make-up dinner.  I'm sure if I'm out of the picture, he'll come round."

Shaking, Xander turned around, locked the front door, dropped his keys on the table, tossed his coat aside and walked slowly up to Spike.  He didn't stop until he was standing right in front of his roommate.  He grabbed Spike by the shoulders and pulled him up.  Keping a firm grip on Spike's shoulders, Xander looked the Vampire directly in the eyes.  "No."

"No?  Pet, I don't understand."

"What if I don't want to get back together with Forrest?"

"Xander...look, I know you're upset about him being all soldier boy, but you'll get over it.  You two seemed happy together, you belong together."

"And you belong here.  Not in some crypt somewhere."

"Pet, Xan, I don't belong here.  I'm just getting in the way.  If I stick around I'll end up fucking up your life.  You don't need me, you need human friends, human boyfriends, not undead roommates who leave wet towels and bloody mugs all over the place and scare off potential boyfriends."

Xander shook Spike hard, anger, despair and an almost overwhelming fear of being abandoned causing him to be more rough than he normally would be.  "No!  Shut up Spike!  You  don't get to decide what's best for me, no one does.  Damn it, I do need you here.  Who else is gonna watch bad kung fu movies with me and insult my clothing and patch me up after the latest demon beats on me?  Who else doesn't mind that I come home covered in sawdust and track mud all over the floor?  Who else knows that pizza is one of the four major food groups and who in the hell else knows how to keep me sane?"  Xander's rant came to an end and he collapsed forward onto Spike's chest, wrapping shaking arms around the blonde's waist and burying his head in Spike's shoulder.  "Forrest was nice and I liked him, but I didn't love him.  I don't know if I ever would have.  You're my best friend Spike, I want you here, I need you here.  Please don't leave me Spike, please don't leave."

Shocked to his core, Spike wrapped his arms gingerly around the shaking boy and held him close.  His mind was whirling, Xander wanted him around, him, not that bloody army git.  Smiling softly, Spike petted Xanders hair and tried to shush the shaking human who was squeezing him tightly.  "Xan, pet?  I may not need to breath, but I do like my ribs intact."

Xander pulled back slightly, a wary look on his face.  "You're not gonna go anywhere?"

Spike shook his head.  "No, not if you're sure you still want me as a roommate."

Xander nodded quickly.  "Yes!  Please stay."

Spike looked at Xander.  The boy was pale and shaking, his eyes bright with unshed tears.  He looked like he would break at the slightest provocation.  "Christ, Xan.  You look like shit.  You've had a hell of a day and I just made it worse.  Let's get you sitting down and get some food into you, okay?"

The brunette nodded and meekly followed Spike to the table, allowing himself to be seated.  Spike went into the kitchen and pulled the roast chicken and vegetables out of the oven, bringing it to a table that had already been set with two place settings.  Xander watched, slightly awed as Spike carved the chicken and filled their plates.  "Wow, you really went all out."

Spike snorted ruefully, "Yeah, well, in my experience when you need to say 'sorry I was such an ass, please forgive me' it usually helps the groveling along when you do something like this."

Xander eyed the plate that was set in front of him.  "You lied to the girls when you said you couldn't cook."

"Didn't say I couldn't cook, luv, said I didn't normally need to."  Spike watched happily as Xander inhaled the food on his plate.  Spike ate more sedately, enjoying the novelty of a freshly cooked meal.  He refused to tell the boy that he was actually a good cook, it was just a skill he didn't need often.  When Xander had cleaned his plate, Spike refilled it without comment.  They passed the rest of the evening in casual conversation, neither mentioning the events of the day.  By the time that Spike herded Xander into his bedroom and forced the boy to go to bed, the only signs that anything had happened were Spike's bags sitting in the living room and the fact that Xander hadn't strayed more than two feet from Spike's side all night.  Spike watched sternly as Xander stripped down to boxers and climbed into a freshly made bed.  Leaning over, Spike brushed Xander's bangs out of the boy's face and smiled softly.  "Get some sleep, eh pet?"

Xander blinked sleepily, reaching up and cupping Spike's cheek briefly.  "You'll stay, right?"

"Said I would whelp."

"Good, don't want you to leave.  Everyone leaves me.  Couldn't stand it if you left."  With that, Xander's eyes drifted shut and the boy quickly fell asleep.  Spike quietly left and grabbed his bags, carrying them back to his own room.  He ignored the stinging in his eyes, telling himself half-heartedly it was just dust left over from cleaning the apartment.

The next day the girls all came over to watch movies and eat pizza, in a much quieter and subtler show of support than the Xander and Anya breakup party had been.  Spike noticed Buffy slip something to Xander and wandered over to investigate.  The boy was holding a small round button.  A red heart on a white background, with E.U. in black letters centered in the heart.  Buffy was wearing one on her shirt as well.  "What's this then?  Why do you love the European Union?"

Xander looked like he was trying to hold back laughter.  Buffy just smirked.  "Nothing Spike, Xander and I just started a club, that's all, just stupid human teenager stuff."

Spike eyed them suspiciously but figured it wasn't worth the trouble to pry it out of them at the moment.  The Vampire stalked off and Xander and Buffy grinned at each other before following him into the living room to start the movies.

11 The Injury

Xander raced around a corner and stopped, stealing a few precious seconds to lean over, hands resting on knees, and take a few deep breaths.  Sweat was pouring down his face and he had a cramp in his side.  It felt like they had been running for hours.  He glanced up through sweat damp locks to see Willow and Tara, red faced and damp, also taking a breather.  At least I'm not the only one not able to keep up with this thing.  I guess Witchy powers don't make up for being out of shape. Gods, it's warm for April, I'm glad I left my jacket at home.

Up ahead Buffy and Spike rounded the corner at the end of the block and Xander figured it was time to run again.  The three more normal humans set off again with a groan, gamely trying to keep up with the Slayer and Vampire, who themselves were trying to keep up with their quarry of the night.  Some slimy, tentacled demon that had been killing people in a park.  So what else is new?  Why don't they do something unique for a change, like hold up a bank or something?  The three turned the corner and Xander almost groaned in relief.  Finally, trapped in an alley.  At least it's just the fighting now, no more of this running all over town crap.
Buffy and Spike flanked the demon, weapons drawn.  Willow and Tara blocked off one side of the alley's exit and began chanting, an eerie glow immediately surrounding them.  Xander pulled out the sword he was packing and took up watch at the other side of the exit.  The demon didn't waste much time.  It glanced at all of them, sizing them up, and made its choice.  It headed straight for Xander.  Oh Shit, was all Xander could think before the demon slammed into him. He felt something wet covering him, then intense pain, then blessed darkness as his head hit the pavement and he faded out.  

Spike hefted his axe and eyed the demon warily.  He knew these ones, they were dangerous.  Sprayed some sort of caustic substance, burned the skin.  He'd be hurt by it, but the humans would be hurt much worse.  He saw the demon sizing them up and could practically hear its thought process, Slayer, nope; Vampire, too dangerous; Magic users, nada; Human, easy target.  Spike realized what the demon would do just as it did, but he was a split second too slow.  Screaming in rage he lunged for the demon, just as it slipped between him and Buffy, sprayed Xander full on with its caustic bile, and as the boy fell, headed out of the alley.  Spike barely noticed the lightning the witches threw hit the demon and incinerate it; he was kneeling next to the too still form of Xander.  The boy was near covered with the bile, and even unconscious he was writhing in pain.  Spike tried to wipe the worst of it off the boy's face, glad that the boys clothes offered him some protection.  Ignoring the worried questions he was being bombarded with he hoisted the brunette into his arms and glanced around, where are we?  When he realized Spike almost thanked the deities for small miracles, only half a mile from the apartment, he can make it.

"You, Witches, go get the Watcher, have him bring his heavy duty patch up kit, tell him R'rshak bile and hurry.  Slayer, come with me, I'll need your help."  

Spike set off running, not really caring if the others understood, just as long as they followed orders.  Xander moaned softly as he was jostled, but didn't wake up, for which Spike was extremely grateful.  As they neared the apartment, he hoisted Xander further up onto his shoulder and dug one-handed into his pockets for the house key.  He tossed it to Buffy who caught it with a nod and put on an extra burst of speed to head up the stairs and open the door.  Spike strode through the front door and headed straight for the bathroom.

"Start the shower, warm but not hot.  This stuff's caustic, if we don't get it off fast it will eat through him."  Once in the bathroom, Spike set Xander down and pulled out his boot knife, efficiently stripping the boy of  his clothing, then stripped down to his boxers.  

Buffy looked worriedly at Spike, "Won't you get it on you as well?"

"Already do, a little, and it won't hurt me as bad.  Besides, someone's got to clean him off."

So saying, Spike grabbed Xander and hauled him into the shower.  Quickly but gently as possible Spike washed the bile off of them, hissing as he uncovered the angry red and white blisters that were already forming over most of the boy's body.  Xander cried out as the sores were rubbed, but obviously the pain was enough to keep him unconscious.  It was enough, however, to set Spike's chip off, sending small sparks of lightning through his brain.  The Vampire bit his lip and tried to focus through the pain.

"Slayer, draw a bath, would you?  Cool though, it will be better on the burns."

"On it." came her reply, then, "How is he?  Is it bad?"

"Yeah.  But I've seen worse.  Looks like second degree burns all over his chest and arms, some on his face, a few on his back.  Just a few bad patches on his legs, his jeans protected him pretty well."

Spike tried to ignore the twinges his chip was sending him as he scrubbed Xander down.  Finally, when Spike couldn't smell the bile anymore, and the bathwater had shut off, Spike gently removed himself and his unconscious burden from the shower.  He was pleased to see that the Slayer had already removed the bile-covered clothing and disposed of it.  Voices drifted in from the front room, the others had arrived.  

"Oi!  Watcher!  You ready for 'im yet?"  

A few seconds later, Giles rushed into the bathroom.  He eyed Xander carefully, "Oh dear.  It most certainly was R'rshak bile.  You did very well Spike, you saved his life."

"No shit.  Now do you have anything for the burns or not?"

"We're working on it.  There's a salve from one of my books, specially made for this type of demon burn.  It won't take long to make, Willow and Tara are working on it now.  Luckily we had all the herbs already at the shop.  You'd best put him in the bath for now, keep the burns damp until we're ready."  

"Right then.  Let me know when you're ready.  Oh, and have someone fix up the Whelp's bed, clean sheets, cotton and all that."

"Oh, yes, yes, of course.  Do you need anything Spike?"

"Nah.  I've got blood in the fridge, but I'll eat later.  Kind of hard to eat and balance unconscious boy at the same time."

Giles looked perplexed, "Can't he just stay in the bath by himself?"

Spike scowled at the man, "Oh sure, I'll just prop 'im up on the side and hope he doesn't slip down?  Maybe he can learn to breath under water."

"Of course, of course, sorry.  Why is he still unconscious?"

Spike eyed Xander carefully, listening to his heartbeat and checking his scent.  "Well, when he went down, he hit his head pretty hard, that and the pain are probably keeping him out cold.  But his heartbeat's normal, so none's the worry."

Giles finally left to go supervise the making of the salve, and Spike considered his options for a few minutes before shrugging and just climbing in the tub, Xander curled up in his arms.  He arranged himself so he was sitting with his back against one end and lay Xander out in front of him, floating on his back, resting the brunette head against his shoulder.  That way there was as little friction as possible on the burns themselves.  

As they rested in the tub, Spike finally had time to think, and they were not good thoughts.  First and foremost on his mind was the way he felt when he saw the demon charge Xander; I've never been so terrified in m'life. Bloody 'ell, he could've been killed.  Almost was.

A voice that sounded an awful lot like his demon growled angrily. But if he was, so what, since when do you care about Humans?  

Another voice, more cultured and elegant answered the demon voice. Get a clue, Spike, you've been caring about this one for far too long now.  

Spike kept with that thought, as uncomfortable as it was, and worried at it like a sore tooth.  When the boy went down, I was terrified, but also pissed as hell that that piece of slime demon had touched something of mine.  Mine?  Shit!  Ah, Gods, in my head I've already claimed him.  Great, just wonderful.  Since when does William the Bloody go around claiming humans?

The thought came to him unbidden, when he's in love with the human?  

Damn!  Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!!!
Spike went through every profanity he knew, twice, in multiple languages, before he finally calmed down again.  The vampire glared at the unwary human, this is all your fault, Xander Harris.  Your bloody fault for being my friend and making me care about you, making me fall in love with you fer christ's sake!  It's bad enough that you're a human, but did you have to be a guy too?  Xander moaned softly and twitched, and Spike began stroking the boy's hair soothingly.  Ah well, it's not your fault, not really.  Fate's a funny bitch sometimes.

Xander began to stir and Spike yelled out a warning to the others, "Better have that salve ready soon Watcher!  He's starting to come around."  

Xander was floating.  He felt weightless and at peace.  Everything was dark and soothing.  Is this what being dead feels like?   Xander tried to hang on to the comfort of this space he found himself in, but gradually he began to be aware of certain things.
Certain things like pain.  It felt like fire was running up and down his body.  Faintly he heard sounds, muffled as if coming from far away.  A cool hand was stroking his hair, and a familiar voice somehow found its way to him through the pain.

"It's okay luv, you're safe, I've got you."  

Spike's voice was what finally brought him back to full consciousness.  He slowly opened his eyes, blinking as harsh light flooded them.  A ceiling.  He was staring at a ceiling.  He tried to sit up but strong hands suddenly gripped his shoulders tightly, "Don't move luv, better if you don't."  

Xander tried several times to speak, before finally croaking out, "Spike?  What happened, where am I?  Why am I floating?"

Spike laughed softly, "S'okay luv.  You were attacked by that demon we were chasing.  He spit on you."

"A demon spit on me?  Okay, that's gross, but how is that bad?"

"R'rshak spit is caustic.  Eats through anything, especially skin."

Xander started to hyperventilate, "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.  Am I deformed, am I like the elephant man or something?"

Spike's arms wrapped gently around his chest and pulled him close, and Xander realized vaguely that he was in a bathtub, immersed in water up to his chin, being held by Spike.  It was almost enough to break him out of his panic, almost.  

"Shh, luv, no, you're fine, you're fine.  Just some burns.  We got you back here in time.  You're pretty badly burnt, but nothing that won't heal up good as new."  

Spike stroked one hand through Xander's hair and made soft, soothing noises.  Xander eventually began to relax.  Then he shifted, and his arm rubbed up against the side of the tub.  The resulting pain almost made him pass out again.  As it was he yelped, loudly.  To his embarrassment, Giles and Buffy immediately ran into the bathroom.  "Oh, Xander, wonderful, you're conscious."  

"Xander!  What's wrong?  Are you okay?"  

Xander was in too much pain to worry about the possibility of Buffy and Giles seeing him naked, "I...I'm fine, I just realized that I feel like my skin's on fire, and like I've been hit by a truck.  Oh, and Spikes not talking, but I think I may be deformed."

Giles smiled understandingly, "Rest assured Xander, you're not deformed.  You are badly burned though.  I'm afraid life will be very uncomfortable for the next week or so."

Xander groaned, "How badly?"

Spike answered for Giles, "Second degree burns on most of your chest and arms, a few on your face and a few big splotches on your legs."

Xander had allowed his eyes to drift shut, the theory being that if his eyes were closed, maybe it would all be a dream, so he didn't see Willow poke her head in the room.  

"Oh, hey Xander, I'm really glad you're up.  Tara and I just finished the salve, so if you guys wanna get out of the bath, we can get you more comfortable."

Xander cracked open an eye and peeked up at Spike, "Are you burned too?"

"Just a few mild ones on my hands and arms."

"It's 'cuz he carried you back here when you were still covered with the goo stuff."  Buffy interjected.

Xander's eyes popped wide open in surprise.  "You carried me back?"

Spike rolled his eyes and tried for nonchalant, "Someone had to, you weren't exactly up to walking yourself, were you?"

Xander just gaped at the blonde, but Spike had turned his attention to the others in the room.  "Get a towel ready Rupes.  Slayer, help me get him up."

"Hey!  I can stand on my own!"  

Spike snorted.  "Fine, go on then."

Xander tried, he really did, but he couldn't do more than sit forward before his body inexplicably gave out on him.  Spike grabbed him before he could slip back under the water.  "Sorry luv, but you've got to depend on us for now."

Giles saw the look of confusion on his face and tried to explain.  "Besides being highly caustic, the bile of the R'rshak demon is also a mild nerve toxin.  You won't have much control over your own movements for the next day or so, but it should clear up quickly."

Xander would have cursed his bad luck, but he was too busy whimpering in pain as Buffy and Spike each grabbed an arm and lifted him out of the tub.  They held him while Giles gently patted him dry, and then Spike scooped him up in his arms and moved into the living room.  "Where do you want him?'

Willow and Tara motioned to the couch, where they had a sheet spread out waiting for Xander.  

"Um, Spike?"

"Yeah Whelp?"

"Does, um, does this salve stuff have to go anywhere near my, um, private areas?"

Spike eyed him strangely.  "No, pet, your dangly bits escaped unscathed."

Xander sighed in relief,  "Well, then, can I please put on some underwear?  I think everyone's had enough of the naked Xander show for one night."

The gang laughed gamely and Xander supposed that his jokes weren't so funny when he could barely speak through the pain, but it would have to do.  Spike detoured into Xander's bedroom and set him gingerly on the edge of the bed and grabbed a pair of boxers out of Xander's drawer.  As soon as Spikes hands left him, Xander started to tip back, but concentrated and found he could stay sitting up under his own power if he tried.

"Right then, lay back."


Spike rolled his eyes, "Lay back whelp.  You can't do this yourself, and I can.  So just lay back and let me take care of things for a while."

"Geez Spike, I always hoped you'd say that to me, but somehow I imagined it would be under different circumstances."

Spike snorted, and began gently sliding the boxers up over Xander's legs.  A few minutes and many agonizingly slow movements and pained yelps later the boxers were on, and Spike disappeared from Xanders view.  

Xander looked up to see Spike, turned partially away from him, stripping out of a pair of dripping wet boxers and pulling a pair of Xander's sweatpants on.  The sight of Spike naked almost blew out the last of Xander's working brain-cells.  Good gods.  My vampire roommate is hung.  This is so not going to help my no-obsessive-thoughts-of-Spike plan.  Suddenly Xander was very glad that his body was in so much pain, otherwise the sight that greeted Spike as he turned back around could have been way more embarrassing than a blushing Xander.  

Spike wisely chose to ignore the boy's blush, "Right then, lets go get you fixed up."

Spike carried the protesting boy back to the living room and set him carefully on the couch.  

Willow smiled a tear filled smile at him.  "Don't worry, Xander, this will fix you up good as new."  Xander balanced precariously on the edge of the couch and Willow started applying generous fingerfulls of the salve to his chest, while Spike soothed some on his back.  Xander tried hard, really hard not to let them know how much it hurt, but whimpers of pain kept escaping his lips.  

Finally, Spike pulled back with a hiss and turned to the group.  "Someone else has to help finish him up.  The bloody chip thinks I'm hurting the boy."

Tara took Spikes place, and Spike set about anointing his own burns.  

Willow talked as she administered to Xander.  "Now, this stuff is made to specifically help these type of demon burns, so it should work pretty fast.  Maybe three or four days before the blisters go away.  You'll still be sensitive for about a week though.  The only catch is that we have to keep the burns moist.  So you'll have to apply it every three hours or so, Spike can help you."

"Um, Wills?"  Xander managed to gasp out between moans of pain, "This hurts,, it set Spike's chip off.  How can he help me?"

Willow looked apologetic.  "It will only hurt this bad the first time or two, by then the herbs would have had a chance to start working, so after that it will be tender and sore, but not painful like this is."

The group finished treating Xander and Spike scooped him back up, "Bed time whelp."  

Willow followed them into Xander's room, and after he was arranged to Spike's satisfaction, the Witch placed her hands on either side of Xander's temples and whispered a few words.  A look of relief spread over Xander's face as the spell took effect, "Gee, thanks Wills..." was all he managed to get out before he fell fast asleep.  

Spike eyed the sleeping human, "What'd you do?"  

Willow managed a lopsided grin, "I blocked of the pain receptors in his brain so he could sleep for a bit, after that the shock and his body just caught up to him.  Don't worry, it'll only last a few hours, but by the time he wakes up the salve will have had time to work."  She motioned to the jar of salve sitting on the bedside table.  "Just remember, every three hours.'

Spike nodded and absently followed the redhead out of the room.  Shutting the door gently, he simply stood for a minute and took a few deep breaths.  Slowly, carefully he lowered the wall he had built up inside his head.  The intense emotions: fear; anger; pain  he had been feeling came flooding back.  He didn't care if the others saw him loose his temper, but he hadn't wanted the boy to see him so worked up when what Xander had needed more than anything was calm.  

Growling softly, he walked back out to join the others.  After making sure everyone was okay, he went to the kitchen and got out a packet of blood, some of the good stuff.  He microwaved it and took the steaming mug back into the living room.  Sinking gratefully into a chair, he slowly sipped the blood.  Giles was helping Willow and Tara pack up the first aid kit and clean up all the herbs and stuff.  Buffy was pacing the length of the room, obviously deep in thought.  He tried to relax, he really tried, but eventually the pacing got to him.  "Bloody 'ell Slayer, give it a rest!"

"Yes, Buffy.  Spike is quite right.  It's not your fault.  Please try to calm down."

Buffy turned on her Watcher, "Well if it's not my fault then whose is it Giles?  I'm the one they follow, I'm the Slayer, and I'm supposed to keep them safe.  Instead they keep getting hurt.  Because of me."

Willow and Tara immediately protested and Giles tried as well to calm the pacing Slayer, but it was what Spike said next that finally got her attention.  "No Slayer, you're wrong.  They don't get hurt.  He gets hurt.  It's always Xander we're patching up, always him as gets the worst of it.  He's the only one of you lot whos just a human."

"Really Spike, there's no need to speak that way of Xander..."

Spike glared at the Watcher, "I didn't mean it that way.  That boys better 'en the lot of ya.  She's the Slayer; the Witches have their magic.  Even you've got years of training and magic to boot.  What's he got?  Nothing.  And yet he's been going out there every night, holding his own, with nothing but luck and courage.  He never complains, never gripes about it, but he knows it and you know it."  The room was silent, everyone staring at the blonde Vampire, who during his speech had stood up and started pacing furiously.  "That demon did tonight what every other demon does, hell, it's what I'd do in their place.  Looked at the lot of you, sized you up, and went for the weakest link.  The one without any special protection.  He hasn't got magic or Slayer strength or anything or anyone to protect him."

Surprisingly it was Buffy's voice that broke the silence that followed, "But you can protect him, can't you Spike?"  

Everyone turned to stare at Buffy, and Spike dropped back into the chair with a tortured groan.  

Willow asked quietly, "Buffy, what are you saying?"

The Slayer stalked over to stand in front of the vampire, "Spike can give Xander that protection.  With his mark.  If he claimed Xander, marked Xander as his, the demons wouldn't see a normal human, they'd see a human under a Master Vampire's protection.  That would make them stop and think a moment, and that moment of hesitation would be all we'd need to finish them off."

Willow gasped.  "But Buffy, isnt that thing usually done to make human servants?"

Spike shook his head.  "Vampires mark humans for different reasons.  For minions and human pets it marks them as property of the Master Vamp, makes them easy to control.  But I wouldn't do that to the boy.  To give him protection and a little bit of added strength and speed, without making him some lackey for me to boss around it would have to be the type of mark given to a mate, to an equal."

Giles spoke up angrily, "Buffy, you don't know what you're saying!  To claim Xander, Spike would have to..."

"Care about Xander?  You're right, seems strange that William the Bloody would care that much about a human.  But you do, don't you Spike?"

Spike raised his head to stare into the Slayers eyes.  "Yes."  he gasped out.  

Buffy held his eyes for a long time, and whatever she saw seemed to satisfy her.  She nodded once, briskly.  "It's settled then, if Xander accepts, Spike will claim him."  She looked at Spike curiously, "How long will it take for the bond to be strong enough to protect him?"  

Spike shrugged, "Vampires would notice it immediately, but other demons, I dunno, probably two, three blood exchanges tops before anyone would know just by looking at him."

She nodded.  Then, apparently satisfied that she'd fixed the problem, wandered over to start packing up the weapons.  

Giles walked over to Spike, "Spike, please understand, I know that you can't hurt Xander, because of the chip.  But I'm not satisfied that this is the answer, or done with the best of intentions."

Spike understood, it pissed him off, but he understood.  "Come by tomorrow.  I'll talk to the boy when he wakes up, and if he accepts, then we'll do it tomorrow, you can watch.  Make sure I don't turn the boy."  That answer seemed to satisfy Giles, and he finally moved off to join the others.  Soon they were all packed up and, thank the gods they had cleaned up after themselves, because Spike really wasn't feeling like cleaning tonight, and then there were the normal rounds of goodbyes and finally he was alone again.  

Spike stood with a weary sigh and headed for Xander's room.  He stood in the doorway for a while, watching the human sleep, and silently arguing with himself.  Part of him wanted to sleep in the whelp's room, watch over the sleeping human, be as close as possible.  Another part wanted to run, far away, and not look back.  

Finally the overprotective part of him won and he crawled carefully into the bed beside Xander.  He lay on his side, close enough to feel the heat radiating off of the sleeping human, but far enough away not to bump into Xander and cause him any pain.  He watched the boy sleeping as fierce and contradictory emotions struggled within him.  

Bloody hell, what's wrong with me?  Claiming a human, falling in love with a human, I'm crazier than Dru.  Can I really do this? Spike thought of his life here with the boy.  Remembered countless nights spent watching movies and throwing popcorn at each other, countless jokes and teasing remarks.  Remembered what Xander looked like first thing in the morning, sleep tousled and not-quite-all-there, stumbling around the kitchen trying to make coffee.  Saw again the look of friendship, love and gratitude in those brown eyes, when he thought Spike couldn't see him staring.  Spikes undead heart tightened and he felt the unfamiliar sensation of tears pricking his eyes.  Ah gods, I can't give him up, I won't.  I love him too much.  But it's not that simple.  There's other things, other needs he has, hell, even I have.  How far am I willing to go with this?  

Gently Spike reached out one shaking hand and traced Xander's lips with a feather light touch.  He thought about kissing those lips, imagined how the boy would taste, what those warm lips would feel like against his. Right, no problem there, kissing him I can handle. He remembered how it had felt in the bathtub, to be pressed up against the boy, skin to skin.  How holding him had felt.  Warm and protective. MINE.  The thought welled up and Spike breathed a sigh of relief.  Right then, this isn't so bad.  

Then, reluctantly, Spike allowed his mind to wander where it hadn't yet.  Sex.  He imagined what it would feel like to press himself up against that heat.  To run his hands over that warm skin. He's definitely good-looking, great body, easy on the eyes.

Spike's hand clenched convulsively as he recalled the feeling of running through those dark, silky locks.  He let his eyes drift shut and tried to feel what it would be like to rub up against that body, hard length to hard length, maybe even be inside...instantly any budding erection he had died as the face of his Sire flashed into his head.  He heard Angelus' cruel laugh, heard the mocking tones, the commands to crawl and beg.  Felt the pain and terror as he was violated again and again.  

With a whimper he rolled over and pulled the pillow over his head.  Taking deep shuddering breaths Spike pushed all the terrible images out of his head and focused instead on the one thing he could hear through his terror.  Xander's heartbeat.  Eventually he relaxed, and turned back over on his side to watch the sleeping figure next to him. Sorry luv.  I guess that no matter how much I love you, there are still some things I can't do.  Spike allowed his eyes to drift shut, and finally fell asleep, soothed by the steady heartbeat, unaware of the tears leaking out of the corners of his eyes.

12 The Claiming

Xander groaned as consciousness returned to him.  He let his eyes slit open then sighed with relief as his ceiling stared back at him.  At least this time I know where I am. Suddenly he realized he wasn't alone.  He turned his head slowly to the side.  Spike was sleeping next to him.  At least I think he's sleeping, hard to tell with no breathing or anything.  Xander didn't have time to ponder what the Vampire was doing in his bed because he was immediately hit with the very urgent need to pee.  He tried to sit up, only to find he couldn't do more than wiggle slightly.  Well, shit.  This is going to be embarrassing.

"Spike?" he asked softly.  

Immediately blue eyes flew open.  "Hello pet.  How are you feeling?"  

This was too bizarre.  "Um, like my skin is turned inside out.  Also, I uh, have to go to the bathroom."  

To his credit, the Vampire didn't even blink as a red flush stole over Xander's face.  He simply stood up, walked around to Xander's side of the bed, and gently scooped the boy into his arms.  Xander gasped as he was moved, but then sighed happily at the feeling of the Vampire's cools skin against his hot, angry burns.  "Mmmm, you feel cool."  

Spike raised an eyebrow at him, "Well, duh?"

Xander smiled, "Your skin is cool and it feels good against my burns."

Spike just looked at him strangely as he strode into the bathroom.  "Right then, how do you want to do this?"  

"Can't you just set me down here?"

Spike eyed the boy in his arms, "Can you walk?  Or stand on your own?"

Xander blushed, "No.  But I really don't want you to hold me while I pee.  A guys got to have some limits."  

Spike rolled his eyes at the human's squeamishness, then deftly pulled Xander's boxers down and set him on the toilet.  "Right then, I'll be back in five minutes."

Xander took care of business, and even managed to wiggle and twist enough to pull his boxers back up before Spike came back in.  Spike gathered him back up and headed towards the bedroom.  "Anything else you need while we're up pet?"

"Um, actually, I am kind of thirsty."

"Right.  Sorry, forgot about that."

Spike detoured to the kitchen and filled the largest glass he could find.

Xander eyed it suspiciously, "Just water?"

"Sorry pet.  Burns, dehydrated, sodas and stuff'll only make you sick."

Xander sighed and took the glass handed to him, then preceded to drink half of it down.  

Spike chuckled and pried the glass from the human's hands, refilled it, then headed back to the bedroom.  The Vampire laid Xander down gently and grabbed the pot of salve.  "Sorry luv, this'll hurt a bit, but it's got to be done."

Xander nodded and tried not to whimper too much as the salve was spread over the worst of his burns and blisters.  Once the few worst were taken care of though, Xander found that the numbing affect of the salve in combination with Spike's cool fingers felt absolutely wonderful on his raw skin.  He let his eyes drift shut and leaned into the touch, murmuring happily.

Xander heard Spike gasp, and he eyed the Vampire questioningly.  Spike's eyes were wide with a mix of emotions that Xander couldn't quite recognize.  "Pet?"


"There's, um, there's something I need to talk to you about."

Spike set the salve aside and Xander wiggled around a bit till he could look Spike in the eyes.  "Okay.  What?"

Spike fidgeted, eyes looking everywhere but at Xander, hands worrying the blanket.  

Xander was starting to worry now. "Spike?  What is it?  You can tell me."

Finally Spike sighed and cursed softly under his breath.  "Look, I don't know how to say this, so I guess this'll have to do.  When that demon went after you, I...I've never been so scared in my life, or unlife, or whatever.  Anyway, I guess I didn't realize how much I'd gotten used to this," Spike waved his hand vaguely, encompassing the apartment.  "How much I've gotten used to us."  Finally Spike met his eyes, and Xander could see an echo of the pain and fear Spike had felt.  He ignored the heavy feeling in his stomach as well as the need to ask a thousand questions, and instead reached over and clasped Spike's hand.  Spike stared down at their entwined hands and continued.  "I know I can't be everything you need.  But...I care about you and I want to protect you.  I can give you that much at least."  Spike grinned sheepishly at the shocked looking boy, "Maybe some day I can give you more.  But for now, if you'll have me, I...Id like to Claim you."

Xanders world was reeling.  Spike cares about me?  Spike wants to claim me?  " want to c...claim me?"

Spike nodded.

Xander couldn't make any more words come, so he simply stared.  He knew he was making Spike wait, but his world was slowly reordering itself around him, and he wanted time to experience it.  Xander felt like all his dreams were coming true.  Well, almost all. But we can work through that later, he already said maybe anyway.  Xander was planning on saying yes.  The word was bouncing around inside his head, just waiting for him to part his lips so it could burst out.  But then Spike got tired of waiting, and leaned over.  Xander's heart stopped.  Spike leaned in and kissed him.  Softly, just the lightest brush of lips, but Spike kissed him.  It only lasted a moment, then the Vampire pulled away and whispered gently against Xander's cheek, "Please, Xan?  I can't lose you, I won't."  

Xander's body melted.  He flowed into opened arms, curled up against a cool chest, buried his head in Spike's neck, and began chanting softly, "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes."

Spike curled his cool body around his human's, HIS human's!, and began stroking a hand through chocolate locks, holding on as tightly as he dared considering the boys condition.  "Mine."  he growled softly.  

Xander shivered, but not from fear.  They lay like that for a while, but eventually Xander voiced the question foremost on his mind, "Spike?"



Spike sat up a little and looked down at the fragile human in bed next to him.  "In the afternoon, if you're willing.  You're still pretty weak, but the blood exchange will help you heal a little faster."

Xander's hand rose and lightly trailed down the side of Spike's neck, causing the Vampire to shudder.  "Why not now?"

Spike recovered and rolled his eyes, "'Cuz that bloody Watcher of yours doesn't trust me not to drain you.  He wants to be here, make sure you're safe."

Xander froze and stared up at the Vampire incredulously, "Giles knows?  The others know?  Spike, you're not doing this because they told you to, are you?"  Xander's voice broke on the last word, but he didn't care.  The thought that the others had put Spike up to this was too painful.

Spike shook his head vehemently.  "No!  No, luv, they had nothing to do with it.  I decided to ask earlier tonight, when we were in the tub.  You were unconscious, and I was thinking over what had happened, and I realized that the second the demon had gone for you, that my first thought was that it had touched something of mine and had to die.  You see, in my head I'd already claimed you.  My demon considered you claimed territory before my heart ever did, it only remained for me to ask you.  After you were cleaned up and in bed, Buffy suggested the idea.  She must've seen it on my face or something.  She suggested it as a way to help protect you, and the others agreed with her.  As far as they're concerned, this is a formal arrangement between friends.  But you and I know different, don't we pet?"  Spike stroked a cool hand down Xander's face, and pulled the boy closer.  

Xander moaned and leaned into the caress, letting his eyes drift close.  Spike curled up around his body and continued to gently stroke his face and hair as Xander gave into his body's demands and began to drift off to sleep.  Xander was almost asleep when he noticed something, he felt Spike shift against him and realized that despite the words of love and the tender caresses, not to mention the kiss, Spike wasn't showing any signs of arousal.  Tenderness and love yes, and didn't that thought send shivers down his spine?, but no arousal.  Xander sighed softly to himself, What kind of freaky arrangement are you getting yourself into Harris?  But Spike's hands were holding him and stroking his hair, and Xander felt Spike lay a gentle kiss on the top of his head, and suddenly all that mattered was Spike.  Xander let himself go and drifted off into a place where he was held and loved and protected, and there was no pain.

Xander continued to doze throughout the night and into the next afternoon, Spike waking him every three hours to reapply the salve and to bring Xander food and water.  Finally, Xander woke up and actually felt like he was truly awake for the first time since his injury.  He looked blearily around the room, realized he was alone, then listened and heard the voices floating in from the living room.  Two male voices, quietly arguing, and he guessed that Giles was here.  Xander tried to sit up, but the movement pulled the tight skin on his back and he gasped in pain. Spike must have heard him, because seconds later the Vampire came flying into the bedroom, "What is it pet?  What's wrong?"

Giles came in on Spike's heels, "Are you okay Xander?"

Xander smiled weakly at the men.  "I'm fine, guys.  I just tried to sit up too fast."

Spike gently pulled Xander into a sitting position, propping him up with lots of pillows.  "There you go pet.  I'm gonna go get you something to eat.  Rupert wants to talk to you."

Spike scowled at the Watcher but left the room.  Giles pulled up a chair next to the bed and immediately began cleaning his glasses.  

Xander sighed, "Okay Giles, talk."

Giles put back on his glasses and coughed nervously.  "Well, Xander, it's just that I'm not sure that this...Claiming is such a good idea."


Giles looked taken aback, "Excuse me?"

"You say you don't think its a good idea, I can respect that.  You've been around longer and know more about Vampires than I do, so I'd like to know what, exactly your reasons are."

Giles nodded, "That seems reasonable.  Firstly, Spike is a soulless demon, and despite the chip and despite how helpful he seems to have been to us, he remains evil at heart, I honestly don't trust that he doesn't have some plan to use you against Buffy.  Secondly, while some research has been done on human-Vampire bondings, there is really no evidence of what being tied to a demon would do to your soul.  Thirdly, this Claiming, even if it went no further than the initial blood exchange, would tie you to Spike for the rest of your lifetime.  Do you really want that sort of thing, Xander?  If you decide, sometime down the road to part ways with Spike, he would always be able to find you, always be able to manipulate you.  You must see that this is a ludicrous solution.  Surely with more combat training you would be just as safe."

Xander sat for several minutes and mulled over the Watcher's argument.  It was a very good argument, unfortunately for Giles, Xander's heart had never listened to reason.  "Giles, I really appreciate your concern for my immortal soul, but I hardly think that living on the hell mouth has left it pure and untarnished.  Also, I have to say, maybe it's just because I'm younger and more naive than you, but after living with Spike these past months, I think of him as a friend.  And furthermore I trust him."  Xander looked Giles straight in the eyes.  "I trust him, Giles."

At Giles' slightly disbelieving look, Xander motioned Giles closer.  Giles leaned in and Xander leaned forward, until his lips were almost brushing the older man's ear. He spoke quietly, barely breathing the words, mindful of Vampiric hearing.  "I love him, Giles.  I'm in love with him.  Please don't interfere with this."

Spike stomped quietly around the kitchen, furious at the Watcher for trying to talk Xander out of it and scared witless that Xander would listen to reason and refuse the Claim.  He finally calmed down and started fixing Xander some soup, listening to the conversation in the bedroom with half an ear.  He growled softly as he heard Giles' reasoning, admitting grudgingly that they were all good arguments, especially the one about the boy's soul.  A feeling of warmth spread through him when he heard Xander say that he considered Spike a friend, that he trusted the Vampire.  There were several moments of silence, then he heard the Watcher gasp loudly and choke off a reply.  Deciding enough was enough, he grabbed the bowl of soup and hurried back into the bedroom.  "So, you two finish your little chat?"

Xander nodded at the blonde, "Yup, all chatted out."

Giles looked grim, and didn't say anything.  Spike wondered what in the hell the boy had said or done to put that look on the Watcher's face.  He'd have to find out, later.  He shrugged it off for now and placed a tray with soup and juice on the bed in front of Xander.  "Got to get some food in you, whelp.  Eat up."

Xander grumbled but obeyed, while Spike flitted about the room, straightening things, picking up clothes and basically just trying to not look nervous.  Giles sat silently, seemingly lost in thought, but occasionally shooting Xander speculative glances.  Finally Xander finished and waved to Spike, who by now was pacing nervously.  "All finished.  Happy, nurse?"

Spike slipped into gameface and stuck his tongue out at the boy, something he knew made Xander laugh.  This time was no different.  He took the tray from the laughing boy and returned it to the kitchen.  Out of sight of the Watcher and Xander, Spike stopped and took several deep breaths, attempting to calm himself down.  He was incredibly nervous.  He had never Claimed anyone before, and it was very important to him to claim the boy as his own, to do it right.  Having to do so in front of the Watcher just made his nerves worse.  Sighing, Spike returned to the bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed.  "Right, well, we better get on with it."

Giles looked sour, but Spike only had eyes for Xander, who shot a happy smile his way.  Spike arranged himself on the bed so he was sitting against the headboard, and pulled Xander back to lean against his chest.  Spike stroked a hand softly through the brunette's hair and laid a soft kiss on the boy's neck.  "Ready pet?"

Xander nodded and leaned back against Spike, tilting his neck to the side to offer the Vampire better access.  In reality, the mark could be given with little fanfare, but Spike knew that the Watcher in Rupert was expecting some big showy ritual.  Spike decided that to keep Giles happy he would have to say something official sounding.  Gently holding Xander's head to the side, Spike slipped back into gameface and intoned in his best 'Master Voice', "I William the Bloody, Childe of Drusilla, Childe of Angelus, Master of the Clan of Aurelius, claim you, Alexander LaVelle Harris as Consort."  Spike lowered his head and gently slipped his teeth into the thick muscle where neck and shoulder met.  Xander's blood exploded in his mouth, a riot of flavors and emotions, imprinting Xander's essence in his mind.  The boy tasted like sunshine and life, sweetness with a spicy undertone that Spike knew he would now crave.  He swallowed a few mouthfuls, then raised his head and tore into his wrist, holding it to Xander's mouth and urging the boy to drink.

Xander listened, slightly amused, as Spike intoned the formal sounding words.  He knew they were for show, for Giles.  The book he and Buffy had read hadn't mentioned any declarations of any kind, just the biting, and sex, but Xander was pretty sure the sex part wasn't going to happen.  Then, suddenly Spike's teeth were at his throat, and he had a brief moment of 'vampire, teeth, bad' before forcing himself to relax.  Then Spike bit, and all Xander knew was the sharp, bright pain of Spike's fangs slicing through his skin and the sound of his blood rushing through his veins, rising to Spike's siren call.  The pull of Spike drinking from him overwhelmed his already overloaded senses.  Electricity was thrumming through his body and he was instantly hard.  He moaned softly and tried to lean back harder against Spike's cool chest.  Suddenly Spike's wrist was at his mouth and, following instinct, he drank.  Spike's blood was rich and spicy and dark as it flowed over his tongue.  Xander sucked greedily at the wound, whimpering softly.  He had never expected anything like this, and he wanted, needed more.  Too soon, Spike tore his wrist away and all Xander could do was try to remember to breathe as the powerful blood zinged through his system.

Xander's breath was coming in small gasps and Spike knew that the boy was painfully aroused, luckily, since Spike's blood was fresh in his system, he was also very susceptible to Spike's will.  "Sleep Xander.  Go to sleep now."  Spike used his Master voice and within seconds Xander's heart rate and breathing had calmed and the boy drifted into a deep sleep.  Spike was hard himself and hoped that the boxers and loose jeans he was wearing would be enough to hide his arousal from the Watcher.  As far as Giles was concerned, the claiming was completed.  Spike knew better.  Mates were claimed with blood and sex, and until he took Xander, the need would be an ever-present drive in the back of his mind..  Unfortunately, taking Xander that way was exactly what Spike wasn't sure he could do.  Until he did, though, the bond would be half completed at best, regardless of how much blood they exchanged, and while most demons and fledges couldn't tell the difference, other Masters could.  

But Giles and the rest of the gang didn't need to know that.  Licking any stray drops of blood from his lips, Spike eased Xander back onto the bed and scooted over to the edge.  He turned to look at Giles, who was silent and looking decidedly pale.  "Everything okay, Watcher?"

Giles nodded, then seemed to shake himself out of whatever space he'd been in.  "I thought that you wouldn't be able to control Xander.  How is it you were able to put him to sleep like that?"

Spike rolled his eyes.  "Because the blood was fresh in his system and he's weak so he's more susceptible to my suggestion.  If he weren't injured, and if I had given it a few minutes, I wouldn't have been able to force him to do anything.  Once he's at full strength again that won't happen.  But Vamp blood is powerful stuff and I figured he'd be better asleep while it works on him."

The two men walked out into the living room.  "Will your blood have any effect on his healing process?"

Spike shrugged.  "Yeah, probably.  The first dose will probably help get the last of the nerve toxin out of his system, a second exchange in a couple of days should help the burns more."

Giles nodded.  "Very well.  I'll leave you then.  I'm sure the girls will be by tomorrow to check on Xander."

"I expected as much."  Spike breathed a silent thank you as Giles finally left.  He poked his head in the room to see that Xander was still sleeping peacefully and then headed to the bathroom.  He needed a cold shower.

Unfortunately, ten minutes in a freezing cold shower wasn't enough to counteract the fresh blood flowing through his veins.  The demon was raging to claim his mate through sex as well as blood, so Spike turned the water up to hot and leaned back against the wall, giving in to the demon's demands the best he could.  Slicking his hands with soap, Spike's left hand began playing with his nipples, teasing them into hard peaks as his right slid lower to grasp his weeping erection.  

As he stroked his aching flesh, Spike tried to imagine past lovers, soft and curvy with large breasts and wet cunts waiting to envelope him; but his mind kept coming back to the brunette sleeping in the next room.  He finally gave up and began picturing Xander in the shower with him, Xander's warm, work callused hand stroking him, Xander leaning over to suck and nip lightly on his nipples.  

Spike moaned as the fantasy took over, thrusting his hips and ramming his cock into the slick tunnel his hand formed.  In his mind, Xander was standing there, stroking him and looking into his eyes, chocolate eyes full of love, trust and passion.  It was the look in Xander's eyes that finally pushed him over the edge.  Twisting a nipple sharply, Spike bucked up one final time and came hard, hissing Xander's name as he shot over his hand and the shower wall.  

As soon as his shaking legs could hold him again, Spike rinsed off and climbed out of the shower.  He stared into the mirror, not really noticing the empty room that was reflected back at him.  "I've got to figure this out."

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