Late Night Double Feature

Kimberly A

9 Paralysis

They fell fairly rapidly into a strange new routine.

On the surface, everything looked the same. Patrol three times a week, with the usual Hellmouth assortment of vamps and baddies. Occasional research parties – but luckily no apocalypses – and pizza/video nights with the whole gang. Evenings spent helping Dawn train to go on patrol. Occasional nights out at the Bronze. Friday nights at the Majestic.

Spike acted the same as he had before. He hung out with everybody, spent time listening to Dawn's troubles, snarked over the pool table at the Bronze, mooched beer, threw popcorn at the screen at the Majestic, and fought the bad guys in a graceful fury.

But when the movie was over, when the research party broke up, when they finished their game of pool, when they went back to Xander's apartment after patrol…everything was different.

Because that was when the games started.

How weird is it that I feel safe enough wit Spike to try stuff that would have made me feel stupid before? Sure, Spike's big with the mocking, but not once we get to the sweaty naked wrestling. He's just so…so intense…so sexual. I just get caught up in it. It's never been like that with anybody else.

Okay, well, maybe it was a little bit like that with Faith, but that wasn't exactly my finest hour…or even my finest five minutes. It was sort of the exact opposite of Spike, in a weird way. Both of them are sexual to the point of violence, but with Spike…Spike doesn't put me down…not when it matters. Spike cares about me. I'm sure of it.

Now, I'm not fooling myself. Much. I know he doesn't care about me like Anya did. But Anya…god, if I'm completely honest…I was using Anya. I didn't want to. I tried not to. I really really tried not to. I think I showed admirable restraint. But she was just so persistent! And then once we were together, there was definitely plenty of sex…but she was always so clinical, it made it all sort of impersonal, sort of like having sex with your doctor. "Okay, now cough!"

How weird is it that sex with Spike – who's only my friend – is more personal, more emotional, more comfortable – than sex with the woman who loved me?

I mean, sex with Spike isn't comfortable in a ho-hum ratty old pair of jeans way. God no! But it's comfortable in a "sure, okay, let's do that kinky thing" sort of way. With Anya, that sort of stuff always felt…silly.

Not with Spike, though. Nuh-uh. No sir. Not silly.

Now it's addictive.

But it was a little strange, this sharp division between friendship and sex.

One night after a particularly boring researching party, they barely made it in the door before Spike's jeans were open and pale hands were shoving Xander down, grabbing his head and pushing a hard cock into his mouth. Xander drooled and sucked and opened his pants to stroke himself when Spike told him to. He came embarrassingly fast, still sucking Spike's cock, trying not to bite down. Spike came immediately afterward with a tightened grip on Xander's hair and a groan aimed at the ceiling.

One Friday after the creature feature at the Majestic, Xander was over Spike's knee, pants around his ankles, getting a spanking that had him begging and pleading, not for Spike to stop, but for Spike to let him come. He'd never been big on spanking – the "bad boy needs to be punished" element had always seemed ridiculous – but Spike's low, angry voice was anything but ridiculous, and in between slaps Spike's hand lingered and stroked in all the right places. It hurt just enough to sting without setting off the chip…and it made Xander want to be a very bad boy again, someday soon, after he'd had a little time to recover. He had trouble sitting down at work the next day, but every time he settled gingerly into a chair, he felt himself blush and couldn't help but smile secretly to himself.

He got better at talking during sex, too, because the look on Spike's face, the grip of Spike's hands, the twitching of Spike's cock in response to his words…it was all worth it. He learned that flattery made Spike crazy, and he praised Spike's cock with clumsy stutters that nevertheless had Spike gasping and arching and bucking, sometimes even had Spike coming with the first touch.

When Spike got him really worked up, writhing and desperate, mindless, he always begged Spike to fuck him, but Spike never did.

And, since the dodge, Xander hadn't had the guts to attempt any kissing, though he tried to always be kiss-accessible. Spike never took him up on it.

This wasn't romance.

It was just games.

It had all been going on for about three weeks, and they'd gotten pretty used to the new rhythm of their strangely split relationship. Patrol…to be followed by some Spike-determined form of sex. Unfortunately, the bad guys hadn't gotten the memo.

The demon was fat and ugly, but surprisingly spry. "It's a Kashith demon," Spike called out as he fought. "Stay out of the way."

Xander kept to a safe distance, throwing a knife whenever he got a clean shot, which wasn't very often. Spike had hopped onto the thing's back and wrapped his arms around its neck, trying to strangle it. It looked like a strange maneuver, but Xander stayed back, trusting Spike's judgment in a battle situation.

"Fuck! It's a female!" Spike suddenly let go and fell to the ground, writhing in what seemed to be pain.

Trying to give the fat demon a wide berth, Xander ran over, worried by Spike's uncharacteristic collapse. "What happened? Spike, are you okay?"

Spike spoke through gritted teeth. "Just kill the bitch. Xander."

Xander gave it the old never-went-to-college try, but his knives just bounced off the demon's tough skin, and eventually she seemed to decide he wasn't worth her time. She disappeared into the shadows and was gone.

"Can't go after her right now," Spike growled from the ground. "Need to get home. I'm covered in kashithnek."


Spike opened his eyes and glared at Xander. "Female Kashithi excrete a defensive liquid through their skin. Usually, the females are smaller. I guess she's just a bit on the portly side." Spike staggered to his feet, taking hold of a tall tombstone to keep him steady.

"Defensive liquid? What does that mean?" Now that he looked closely, Xander saw that Spike's clothes and hair were sopping wet.

"It paralyzes the attacker so the Kashith can get away to protect her young." Spike started walking carefully in the general direction of Xander's apartment.

"Paralyzes?" That didn't sound good.

"Yeah. Got me good, too. Never been dosed by a Kashith before. Need to wash this crap off." With his stiff, uncoordinated limbs, Spike was doing a pretty funny Frankenstein impression, but Xander chose not to point that out. Spike was already pissed off enough.

"Let's get to my place, since you don't have a shower."

They were almost to the apartment when Spike stumbled hard enough to almost fall. Xander reached out to take his arm, but Spike flinched away.

"Don't touch me, you daft git! This stuff'll paralyze you in a second!"

Xander ran up to the door and unlocked it, stepping out of the way to let Spike in. "Then how are we supposed to get it off you?"

"I'll do it myself." Spike shuffled clumsily toward the bathroom, his hands and arms not cooperating particularly well. He didn't look capable of sitting down by himself, let alone taking a thorough shower.

"You said this stuff washes off with soap, right?"

Spike nodded as he removed his clothes with jerky movements. "Should do." He gave up on getting the t-shirt over his head, and instead just ripped it down the middle. When he was naked, leaving behind a pile of ruined clothes on the bathroom floor, he gingerly climbed into the shower and turned on the water.

Xander persisted. "So if my hands are soapy, I should be okay."

"Can't be sure. Like I said, never been dosed by a Kashith before." Spike reached out for the soap and knocked it onto the floor of the shower. "Fuck!"

Xander just ignored him and quickly took off his own clothes, stepping into the shower and picking up the soap. He started lathering his arms and chest.

Spike backed away on clumsy legs that sent him careening into the shower wall. "Get away from me, you half-wit! I don't need your bloody help." When Xander just kept soaping himself without replying, Spike spat out, "I said I don't need your help! Just…just look at you…how could I possibly need help from a loser like you?"

"Me?" Pausing in his ablutions, Xander repeated disbelievingly. "What about you, Slimy Paralysis Boy? I think you just need to shut up, stop being such a prick, and turn around so I can wash your hair. This demony stuff is obviously paralyzing your brain."

With his body well-soaped and hopefully kashithnek-proof, Xander poured some shampoo and reached out to begin vigorously rubbing it into Spike's wet hair. To his complete surprise, Spike obediently closed his eyes and turned away, leaning his head back a bit into Xander's touch.

"This doesn't mean anything," Spike said firmly. "We just fuck. It's just…fucking."

"I know." The words didn't hurt as much as they probably normally would have, because Xander was more concerned with keeping Spike from getting paralyzed. Kashithnek was a lot more important than relationship definitions at the moment.

"You're just experimenting, and I'm just in it for the sex."

Xander rolled his eyes. "I know. Now rinse."

"I'm the one who gives the orders." Spike sounded petulant. Almost like a little kid.

Xander sighed, then said patiently, "I know that, Spike. So fine. Tell me what to do. You're half-paralyzed…you can't do it yourself…so you're the boss…tell me what to do, and we'll get you cleaned up."

But, strangely enough, after pointing out his own dominance, Spike seemed pretty docile. Instead of barking out orders, he moved where Xander pushed him and held still while he was carefully soaped. Xander ran soapy hands along the well-defined muscles of Spike's arms, enjoying this chance to explore Spike's body in more detail. Spike's biceps were hypnotic, and Xander washed them thoroughly before sliding his hands beneath to wash under his arms. Spike twitched ever so slightly, and Xander bit back a grin. Ticklish, are we?

The pecs and abs were even more interesting. Xander had gotten more of a chance to touch them in the past, but wet and soapy was different. Spike's wet skin seemed to gleam, even in the fluorescent light. Xander wanted to lean over and taste those nipples with water running over them…but this wasn't the time.

In fact, Xander was just pleased that neither of them had yet fallen down paralyzed. Apparently the soap had been a good idea.

Spike's movements were sluggish and still a bit clumsy as Xander turned him and ran soapy hands up and down his back, tracing the bumps of his spine, palming the wiry muscles on either side, cupping his shoulder blades, then sliding down to draw wide circles on Spike's tight buttocks. Still turned away, face hidden, Spike gave no obvious reaction to the touch, and so Xander daringly allowed one hand to slip between those mounds of flesh, brushing gently against a part of Spike's body he'd never been allowed to touch before this. Mostly he'd only given blow jobs.

Spike audibly caught his breath at the unexpected touch, but his buttocks remained relaxed. Xander wasn't sure, but he thought maybe he widened his stance a bit, giving Xander more room to maneuver.

Xander slowly ran his soapy hand down to stroke just behind Spike's balls, then dragged his fingers back along the smooth skin of the perineum to softly circle the puckered hole he found there. Biting his lip, hoping he wasn't going too far, he gently pressed a finger there, not pushing inside, but thinking about it. Spike went even more still, if that was possible.

Unfortunately, Xander's brain chose that moment to remind him that he hadn't washed off all the kashithnek yet, and Spike was most likely getting closer and closer to paralysis, just because Xander'd gotten all distracted by the hotness of his vampire butt.

Back to business, Xander knelt down to wash Spike's legs, and from the lower vantage point he noticed that Spike's cock was hard. Oh god.

When he was reasonably sure that Spike was clean all over and all the kashithnek should be gone, Xander stood up again. Spike was still facing away from him, swaying slightly from time to time, strangely meek and apparently sleepy.

Xander looked…and yep. Spike's cock was still hard.

Hoping that this wouldn't come back to haunt him tomorrow, Xander soaped up both hands into a thick lather, and then pressed himself lightly to Spike's back. He grasped Spike's cock with his right hand and began a slow stroke that had Spike leaning back slightly, resting his wet head against Xander's shoulder.

Then Xander slid his left hand between Spike's buttocks, gently stroking the puckered skin there, making Spike groan and flex in something Xander interpreted as enjoyment or even request for more. But he didn't go beyond that light touching, gentle stroking and circling, while his other hand work firmly on Spike's hard cock.

It only took about a minute, and Spike's cock was pulsing and throbbing as he painted the tile of the shower wall with white stripes. His body was a heavy, relaxed weight against Xander. "Sleep it off," he muttered.

Rinsing them both off thoroughly, Xander tried to keep a grasp on Spike, since he seemed in danger of tipping over in a rather undignified heap. Drying them both off was even more difficult, and eventually Xander gave up, hauling a damp Spike over to the bed and maneuvering him onto it and under the covers as best as he could. Spike was shivering a bit, so Xander crawled into the bed with him and spooned up behind him under the covers, wrapping his arm around the smaller framed man in an effort to lend his body heat. He'd planned to phone Willow to ask for more info on the Kashithi and kashithnek, but first things first. He had a cold vampire to take care of.

Bundled up in the blankets with his eyes closed, Spike wasn't shivering so much anymore, but he was talking softly to himself. It sounded remarkably lucid, given the fact that Spike didn't seem to be talking to anybody but himself. "Donut Boy?" Xander hadn't been listening too carefully until he heard that oh-so-flattering moniker. "Dru…my ripe wicked plum, my dark princess, lovely pale death in the deep of night. And Buffy…the Slayer, the one girl in all the world…all gleaming power and sunlight in a world of darkness. And now there's…there's Xander Harris? Bumbling pizza delivery boy to the Hellmouth?"

Xander couldn't make out everything – Spike's voice got quieter and more slurred as it went on – but he understood enough to get offended. "Hey! I'll have you know I'm a carpenter now!"

Spike's voice sounded half-asleep as he murmured softly, "Jesus was a carpenter."

Xander was taken aback for a moment. "Uh…yeah. But I'm pretty sure he never took naked gay showers with vampires…unless there's a secret book of the Bible I don't know about. And, boy, I'm just gonna burn in hell for that one, aren't I?"

"Be in good company."

And then Spike's eyes were quiet and he took a few more breaths – growing slower and shallower until they were imperceptible – and then he was still. Leaning up on the arm not currently wrapped around Spike, Xander looked at him while he slept. His eyelashes were dark against the paleness of his skin, his lips soft and pink, his hair damp. Carefully extricating his other arm, Xander gently stroked Spike's shoulder, then down along his arm.

Spike stirred, then mumbled without opening his eyes, "It's just sex."

Xander stroked his arm again and then lay back down, wrapping his arm around Spike's body again and pressing his chest to Spike's back. "I know, Spike. Spike, don't worry…I know."

When Xander woke up the next morning, he was unsurprisingly alone.

10 Concentrate and Ask Again

The next day at work, Xander came up with 1,436 different ways to tell Spike the truth about the time loop. He actually counted them. And all of them sucked.

Last night…Spike was so…soft…so vulnerable…he hasn't let me really see him in a long time. Hell, he's never let me see him like that. No big badness. No barking orders. No bravado. No…um…anything else starting with "b". Just…Spike. Spike actually needing my help, and letting me help him.

If he can be that honest with me, then I pretty much owe it to him to be honest too.

Enough excuses. I have to tell him everything.

The question is: how?

Again – or, rather, still – Xander didn't have any brilliant answers.

He decided to leave his car at home and walk over to the girls' house for the evening's research shindig, if only to give himself a bit more time to think. It didn't help. Taking care of Spike had been so intimate…he knew he had to tell the truth now. Unfortunately, that knowledge didn't magically telegraph the right words into his brain.

Sometimes I really wish my life was a science-fiction movie, because that brain telegraphing thing would come in really handy right about now.

When he opened the door and stepped into the Summers' entryway, he still had no idea what he was going to say. He saw Spike sitting with Willow and Dawn in the living room, but as soon as their eyes met, Spike's face tensed and he stood up, grabbing Dawn's arm and practically dragging her out of the room. Dawn glanced at Xander curiously through a screen of flying brown hair as they went past.

Willow was sitting cross-legged on the couch with a large, dusty, crumbly, Giles-type book open on her lap. She looked up when Xander came in, then glanced after the fleeing Spike and Dawn with a concerned wrinkle between her brows. She looked up at Xander and asked mildly, "What's that all about?"

Excellent question. Got a Magic 8 Ball handy? Because maybe I could get an answer that way, because heaven knows my brain isn't much help. In fact, I should just trade my whole head in for a giant Magic 8 Ball. I doubt my decision-making would get much worse.

Outlook not so good. Reply hazy, try again. Better not tell you now. My sources say no.

Xander walked distractedly into the living room and glanced around. "Where's Tara?"

Willow frowned a bit more. "She went to the Magic Shop to get us some stuff for an identification spell. We think maybe these Kashith demons might be working with the Bregnis or something. So we're going to do a spell to…" She seemed to notice that Xander wasn't listening, because she trailed off and quietly closed the book in her lap. She leaned forward slightly so that she could see his eyes. "Why did Spike run off like that when you came in?

Xander glanced toward where they'd gone, then shrugged. "Dunno." Better not tell you now. Reply hazy, try again. Actually, he was pretty sure Spike was avoiding him – maybe embarrassed because of the shower shenanigans, or mad, or whatever – but he didn't want to get into some big ol' girl talk with Willow when Spike was bound to come back into the room at any moment. Ask again later. I am the human Magic 8 Ball. Shake my head and wait for random answers to appear. Better than no answers at all, right?

How sad is your life when a Magic 8 Ball is more useful than your brain?

"Well, how goes Operation Vampire Smoochies?" The secretive excitement of Willow's smile made him feel vaguely guilty and brought him back to the fact that she was actually trying to talk to him while he carried on extensive conversations with the Magic 8 Ball in his head.

Xander smiled with a bit of effort. "I'm pretty sure Spike would stake himself before using the word 'smoochies'."

"Who cares about the saying of smoochies…what about the giving of smoochies? It seemed like you were getting pretty optimistic last time we talked."

"Me?" Xander glanced around melodramatically. "Optimistic?" He gave Willow a sardonic glance. "You obviously have me confused with some other devilishly handsome carpenter of your acquaintance."

Willow nodded. "Yes, there are so many of you in my life these days."

Xander slouched into the cushiony couch and sighed.

Willow asked gently, "So…no smooching?"

Xander shook his head. Willow just watched him with a little sympathetic frown. Eventually, it got to be too much, and Xander couldn't help but succumb to the power of the Willow Sympathy Face.

"He's really different from what he was like during the time loop," Xander explained hesitantly.

Willow tilted her head slightly and said, "Well duh."

Xander shook his head. "I mean…when we kissed during the time loop, he just…he just grabbed me and kissed me, you know? Well, I kissed him first, but he was into it. Very into it. But now…no kissing at all. It's weird."

Willow looked deep in thought for a moment. Then, "Well, he was a lot more vulnerable before…with all the lonely and the sad. So maybe he's built up his defenses since then." Willow was warming to her subject and began to talk faster. "Oh! Or maybe you just caught him off-guard with the time-loop smooches, and now he's all guardy. Or maybe…maybe he doesn't want to seem 'into it'. Maybe he's…um…shy." Willow smiled kind of apologetically at the end there, as if even she recognized how unlikely that sounded.

Spike…shy. Right. Because he's such a retiring flower when he's pushing me down and making me suck him off on the kitchen tile. It seems a lot more likely that he just doesn't give a shit. Maybe he's just using me and I've been imagining all that other stuff. 'Cause sometimes it really does seem like there's more there. And other times not.

God, I'm so pathetic. Why does that seem to be turning into a refrain? If this were a Greek tragedy – and, hell, who says it's not? – the chorus would be chanting it in the background in every scene.

Yeah, a choir of angels, singing, "He's so pathetic! He's so pathetic! He's so pathetic!" I can practically hear them now. Well, at least, hopefully it would be a choir of angels, and not Angels. Because the idea of Angel singing pretty much anything is just wronger than…um…than Principal Snyder making out with the lunch lady. And…ew. I so did not need that image in my mind. And yet, Angel singing would be worse. And the idea of an entire choir of Angels singing just makes my ears bleed even thinking about it. But…would they wear those long satin robey things? Because, hey, actually, that might be pretty funny.

Xander didn't realize how long he'd been staring into space until he heard the soft sound of pages turning. Willow had discreetly gone back to her researching. What had they been talking about? Oh, right, Spike's sudden disappearing act.

He cleared his throat and stood up. "I'm gonna go out back and…" He trailed off, but Willow didn't seem to notice. She just smiled encouragement up at him and went back to her reading. Xander stood still for a moment, hesitating, and then walked through the house to the back door.

When he opened the door and stepped onto the deck, he interrupted Dawn mid-punch. She and Spike were both standing out on the grass, but at the sound of the door opening, they both turned their heads toward the noise, and Dawn's punch accidentally hit home. Spike's head rocked back and then forward, leaving him cradling his jaw, frowning. Dawn, on the other hand, seemed pretty happy about the turn of events.

"Woo hoo! Did you see that? I punched Spike!" She grinned.

Xander smiled at her but didn't say anything. Spike was pointedly looking at Dawn and avoiding Xander's gaze. The whole thing got awkward fast.

"Um, I think I hear Willow calling me," Dawn lied, and then scampered into the house with only a fleeting worried glance behind her.

Xander shifted from one foot to the other and waited for Spike to look at him. Spike just rubbed at his jaw, gazing down at the grass. When a minute or two had passed with no luck, Xander said hesitantly, "I think we need to talk…"

Apparently, that was what was necessary to get Spike moving. Spike looked up and strode glowering toward him at an impressive clip, making Xander flinch when he got near, as if some kind of violence was imminent. But at the last moment, Spike dodged him with a simple sweep to the side and walked into the house without a word. Xander stood confused, looking out at the dark yard – Outlook not so good. Cannot predict now. – and then finally turned to follow.

When Xander came into the living room, he found everyone in mid- conversation. Willow was saying, "Sure. We can check out the Kashith demons here, doing the research thing. And Tara's bringing some candles and ingredients for an identification spell, and that might tell us…"

"Right. You do that, then," Spike interrupted. "I'll take the boy with me." He latched a hand onto Xander's upper arm tight enough that Xander looked at Willow and mouthed helplessly, "Ow." Willow just smiled encouragingly again and nodded in reply to whatever Spike had just said. The next thing Xander knew, he and Spike were outside, walking briskly through the mellow evening air. Spike flung Xander's arm aside as if he couldn't bear to continue the touch.

Nearly jogging along to keep up, Xander rubbed his arm where Spike had gripped it.

How come his chip didn't go off? Or was hurting me just worth it…worth setting off the chip? Hell, maybe he just wanted to humiliate me a little bit, make me feel like a 190-pound weakling in front of the rest of the gang.

He noticed that Spike was still frowning.

Is that the frown of "I have a migraine from rudely bruising my innocent pal"? Or is it the frown of "I think I'll throw Xander into a pit of hungry demons because I'm tired of him"? Or maybe it's just an "I'm pissed that they raised the cigarette tax again" kind of frown. Or a "Sweet little Dawnie clocked me one" frown. Or maybe a "Stupid Xander keeps staring at me with a confused look on his face" kind of frown.

Spike turned to look at him and narrowed his eyes, but still didn't say anything. Xander was so lost in thought and confusion that he hadn't really noticed where they were going. Suddenly, though, he realized they were in the middle of some really dark and disgusting alley, standing next to a very odoriferous garbage dumpster.

Xander looked around and then turned to Spike. "Why are we…"

But Spike cut him off. "Shut up." His voice was sharp and harsh, which was actually pretty unusual. Usually, they were good buds when they were out on the town, joking and occasionally indulging in some good-natured bickering. Spike didn't get all domineering and start barking out orders until they were in the privacy of the crypt or the apartment, and even then he wasn't usually this…mean. Then it was all in the spirit of fun. But now…there was a strange sort of tension tonight that was sort of freaking Xander out.

He knows. I mean, he probably doesn't know exactly what he doesn't know, but he knows there's something to know! He knows I've been lying and hiding stuff. He knows, and that's why he's pissed off. God, he has every right to be mad.

"Take your shirt off."

Xander blinked, surprised out of his thoughts, then glanced around the alley nervously. "Here?"

Spike glared impatiently, and Xander reluctantly pulled the long- sleeved t-shirt over his head and handed it over, wrapping his arms around his body for both warmth and cover. He wasn't really in the mood right now to flash his man nipples to every Tom, Dick, and Homeless Guy.

Spike immediately tossed the shirt into the dumpster. It had never been one of Xander's favorite shirts – the orange sleeves had always made him feel vaguely Ronald McDonaldish, and the flowers on the front just hadn't communicated the raw masculinity he'd been going for – but, still, it was the principle of the thing. It was his shirt, and Spike had trashed it.

"Hey! I liked that shirt!" Yeah, that was stretching it a bit, but still.

"At least you're wearing the tighter jeans. Show off your bum a bit."

Spike was noticing his "bum"? Well, things were looking up. Xander rubbed his hands along the worn denim that covered his thighs and mumbled, "Yeah, well, it's laundry day."

"Guess that could explain the shirt, too. You're better off. Let's go." Spike turned around and began to walk.

But Xander didn't follow. "'Let's go?' Let's go where? Spike, I'm half-dressed and freezing, standing in a dirty alley, with a perfectly good shirt now soaking in eau de garbage."

Spike stopped and turned to look at him, then smiled a smile that promised really really evil things…probably involving screaming orgasms. "No worries. The club'll be nice and warm, all those hot sweaty bodies rubbing against each other and all."


Spike smirked and somehow managed to look even more sexually dangerous. "Think it's time you got to check out that special little club you like so much, pet."

Signs point to yes.

11 The Club

The door didn't look like anything special. Spike was walking straight toward it, but there wasn't a sign or anything. It just looked like a beat up old warehouse door.

Nervous, Xander babbled. "Hey, do you know if this place even has a name? I mean, I don't see a sign or anything, and the postcard didn't…"

They were near the door by this time, but instead of going inside, Spike pressed Xander up against the nearby wall, pressing into him with the entire length of his body. His coat was cool against Xander's bare chest, and he felt his nipples tighten. Then Spike leaned over and breathed against the side of Xander's neck, his lips almost touching the skin.

Not the neck again! No! I'll give you a million dollars, which, okay, I don't actually have, not on my salary, but if I did I'd give it to you if you just…just don't…oh…oh like that…oh god…

That soft whisper of air against his sensitive skin made Xander shudder. It always did. And Spike knew it, the bastard. Damned vampire didn't even need to breathe. He just did it to make Xander crazy.

He felt Spike's head turn slightly and then that husky voice whispered in his ear, "When we go in there, you're mine. You belong to me, and you do what I tell you. You don't so much as sneeze without getting my permission. Got that?"

Xander blustered, "Hey, I've read plenty of dom/sub porn. I know how it works."

Spike pulled away a bit and looked at him, one eyebrow raised. "Dom/sub porn?"

Xander nodded.

Spike's lips curved a bit with amusement, but his eyes were still serious. "Long and short of it is: you do what I say. Tonight, in there, you aren't Xander the bloody carpenter. You aren't some member of the Scooby gang. You're not the arsewipe who always talks during the bloody football match. You're nothing. Nothing except my piece of very obedient fluff. So don't even start to talk back or argue or make smart remarks. You shut up unless I tell you to talk. And you do what I tell you to do." The last words were spoken with a quiet intensity.

Xander gulped. "You're not gonna tell me to…like…have sex with ten guys at once, are you? Or…or…take off my pants and do the naked macarena on stage? Or…you know…I'm not big on wearing wigs and women's clothes…"

Spike clapped a hand tight over Xander's mouth, pressing him tighter against the wall again, and now his face was grim. "Shut up." Spike's face came very close, so close that Xander couldn't see his eyes very well anymore. They sort of smooshed together until he looked like some kind of pissed-off vampire cyclops. And then suddenly Spike was pulling away and his hand was on the doorknob. "Won't make you do anything you won't like," he smirked, and then he opened the door and stepped inside.

Oh fuck.

Xander followed him in.

Xander found himself in a very small room with white walls and a black-and-white checkerboard floor. A tall bald man in a black leather tank top and black leather pants stood behind a podium – sort of like a goth maitre'd – talking quietly with Spike. Xander heard Spike say "Clive" and assumed that must be the tall man's name. It was difficult to tell whether they already knew each other or if Spike was running some kind of scam on the guy or what, since Xander couldn't make out more than a word or two of what they were saying. The one thing he did notice, even from a distance, was that Clive seemed to be wearing an awful lot of black eyeliner.

Very 1980s. Very Duran Duran. Not sure about that bold fashion statement there, Clive. But what kind of name is "Clive", anyway? That's a like…like a Watchers Council name. Somebody named "Clive" should be wearing a tweed jacket and sipping Earl Grey out of an intellectually humorous novelty mug while discussing the decline of Western civilization.

Or maybe that's just his day job. Tweed by day, eyeliner by night.

Or maybe a guy with a name like "Clive" just really needs eyeliner in order to be cool. Who am I to judge? The shirtless Xander judges not.

Reminded of his near-nakedness, Xander casually crossed his arms in an effort to hide as much skin as possible. But neither Clive nor Spike seemed interested in what he was doing, so Xander took the opportunity to look around him. On the wall behind Clive, above a closed door, flowing black script letters were painted on the wall, as if in decoration:

Bondage ~ Discipline ~ Domination ~ Submission ~ Sadism ~ Masochism Play At Your Own Risk

For the first time, Xander started to get truly nervous. Because he'd been under the assumption that this club was mostly a domination/submission sort of thing. And the word "sadism" just brought to mind all kinds of things Xander didn't want to consider.

Yeah, trust Spike to go in for the violence and pain gig – William the Bloody and all that – but getting whipped and burned and hit and cut and…and…whatever…all that stuff…that's just not my thing.

Okay, so maybe I've had some stray…thoughts…about Spike…and biting…but…but only when he does that neck thing! And he only does that because he's evil.

Oh god. Does he know about the bitey thoughts? Is that why he does the neck thing? That bastard!

Xander looked over at Spike, who was leaning on the podium with one hand, his hips cocked at a suggestive angle. A pang of jealousy ran through him as he wondered whether this quiet conversation was actually Spike flirting with another guy, right in front of him.

Would Spike do that? Flirt with somebody else, with me standing right here?

Yeah, he probably would. It's just sex. He's made that pretty clear.

Hell, maybe he brought me here specifically to show me. To…I don't know…is he going to mess around with other people here? Where I can see him? Does he come here all the time, when he's not with me, and fuck other people?

He could feel tears stinging his eyes and he turned his head away, wondering if he should just leave. Spike certainly seemed happy enough over there with "Clive"…he hadn't even glanced in Xander's direction since they came in.

He blinked rapidly, trying to get himself under control. Things were complicated between him and Spike, but he could still remember the feel of his soapy hands on Spike's skin, he could still remember the feel of Spike's body along the length of his as they spooned in Xander's bed, he could still remember how soft Spike had been. How soft.

There is more there. I'm sure of it. And we are going to have that serious talk. Probably not at a sex club, but…still…we're going to have that talk. And I'll tell him everything.

"Okay, then. You are okay." A heavily-accented voice rang out in the tiny room and Xander jumped and looked over at the other two men. Who'd have thought Clive would sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Are you Sarah Connor? I'll be back. Clive was looking at him. "You read the rules, and you go in." He pointed at a small, tastefully printed sign on the wall to Xander's left.

Club Rules

1. Do not GRAB or touch others without permission
2. Do not join a scene without an invitation from those involved
3. Do not interrupt a scene in progress
4. Clean your play space with the materials provided
5. Do not touch toys that do not belong to you without permission

Any violation of these rules will result in immediate dismissal and removal from the club

Scenes? What scenes? We're putting on a play, here? Because I've gotta say this really isn't what I always imagined when I heard about "Summerstock". And what's up with the "play spaces"? Like sandboxes and playpens? Because that's just a little too kinky for me. If Spike tries to make me wear a diaper, I'm outta here.

He also felt vaguely distressed by the "GRAB". It seemed to indicate that random vigorous groping was a problem requiring capital letters to describe. He found himself suddenly torn between holding his hands behind him to protect his ass and holding his hands in front to protect his…front. Which side was more likely to be GRABBED? He wished he could be sure. He considered asking, but didn't want to look stupid. Just to be on the safe side – Ha ha ha! – to cover all the bases – Hee hee! Look! I can still be funny, even when I'm freaking out about strange men groping my butt! – he held one hand in front and one hand in back. Clive looked at him a little strangely, but Xander just smiled nervously and kept his hands where they were and silently vowed not to touch anyone's toys without permission, praying that they'd keep their hands off his toys, too.

Clive opened the door, and loud music came pouring into the tiny room. He gestured with his arm, Spike looked at Xander expectantly, and Xander took a deep breath.

Here goes nothing.

As they stepped through the door, Xander felt one of Spike's hands on the back of his neck, thumb extending along one side, under his ear, and fingers wrapping around the other side. Not gripping, really, but holding. Firm, without hurting. He wasn't sure if the contact was meant to be reassuring…or just some kind of symbol of control. What it felt like to him, though, was connection, which was good. Unexpected, but good.

The club itself was remarkably similar to the few other clubs Xander had visited. The lighting was…well…it was club-like. Sort of dim, but with enough light to easily check out the other clubbers. The music was club-like, too. Thumping. Volume up high enough that you'd need to talk a little loud to be heard.

And you didn't need vampire senses to notice that the place smelled like sex. Sweat and musk were thick in the air.

As they walked, Spike kept that hand on the back of Xander's neck, perhaps to keep from losing him in the crowd, perhaps for some other reason. Xander couldn't even see very far into the room, mostly because of the crush of people, but there seemed to be a bright light on some area further in. Around him there were couches here and there with people sprawled on them, some just sitting and talking, some watching the crowd, and others…well, others were a bit more occupied. Everyone seemed to be wearing black, most of it shiny. He couldn't tell if it was leather or vinyl or rubber or plastic or what, but it was all definitely tight. One very tall guy was walking around in some kind of black bustier thing with garters hanging down, attached to thigh-high stockings. He was also wearing very high heels.

Where does a guy find high heels in that size? Frankenfurter's Big & Tall Transvestites' Emporium?

A guy on one of the couches was wearing a kilt, which his companion seemed to be enjoying immensely, since aggressively wandering hands flashed glimpses that verified what they said about guys and their kilts and what they didn't wear under them. Xander averted his eyes, which seemed kind of silly, since the guys were purposely doing this where people could see them, but staring just made him feel squirmy.

Most of the club's patrons seemed to be men, but a Xander noticed a few women scattered in the crowd. Two women were dancing to the throbbing beat of the music, just right there in the middle of the floor between two couches, swaying and rubbing against each other. They seemed like an odd pair, because the brunette was wearing a very prim skirt and long-sleeved blouse, while the blonde was topless and wearing a black leather skirt so short that she gave frequent glimpses of pale pubic hair as she writhed nastily, rubbing her small breasts against the brunette in an aggressive display of dominance, whispering often in her ear. The other girl seemed to do whatever she was told, though she moved with stiff, embarrassed movements and seemed very nervous.

Xander found himself wondering if the brunette was really so shy and prudish, or if it was just some kind of game the two girls were playing. The idea that someone might have a nerd-girl fetish made him think of Willow before he could stop himself. Would these girls get turned on by 9th-grade Willow in her corduroy jumpers and round- collared blouses? Xander was distressed to find that the idea was vaguely arousing, and he quickly looked away.

He turned to Spike to make some comment, but it immediately fled his brain when he saw the expression on Spike's face. He looked…vulnerable. It was only for a second, and then Spike tilted his head, all attitude and arrogance. They were standing close, people crowded all around them, and they were facing each other now, but Spike's hand was still cradling the back of Xander's neck, his arm stretched around Xander's body in a parody of an embrace.

Spike's chin tilted upward at a stubborn angle, and Xander could only stare. He knew that gesture. He'd seen it often enough during the time loop.

Man, they really needed to talk.


Spike raised an eyebrow. "Did I say you could speak?"

Xander frowned. "Knock off the crap." He wasn't finished, but Spike interrupted him.

"All right." Spike used his hand on Xander's neck to turn him around, facing the crowd. "Tell me what you see."

Frustrated, Xander sighed impatiently, "What I see? It's a club, Spike. With people."

"Just an ordinary club? You don't see anything besides that?"

"Well…yeah. The sex stuff. But…isn't that what this is all about?"

"Yes. Sex. That's what this is all about."

Xander frowned, turning around. Spike let him, though the hand remained where it had been, still holding Xander's neck firmly. Watching Spike's face, Xander looked for something…trying to figure out what was going on in that stubborn head. And then something clicked. "Is that what you're doing? Bringing me here to prove something? Make sure I get the message that it's just sex? Because you're afraid…"

The hand on the back of Xander's neck tightened suddenly, squeezing him enough that he broke off what he'd been saying with a yelp of pain. Spike's face showed only the slightest wince to indicate the firing of the chip. And he squeezed harder, staring into Xander's face with eyes that were dark and filled with something that looked like hate.

But it's not hate. He's afraid. He's afraid that nobody can care about him. He's afraid that if he wanted it to be more than sex, then I'd be the one to reject him. So he puts on the tough guy act and rejects me first. But how the hell do I get him to cut the act long enough to even listen to me?

"Suck me off."

The harsh words interrupted Xander's thoughts. Spike was watching him with an expectant glare.

Xander just stared at him. Here? With everybody watching? Why? He didn't have to decide how to reply, though, because another man approached them and shouted over the music, "Spike!"

Spike dropped his hand from Xander's neck, leaving a throbbing ache that would probably mean dark bruises tomorrow.

A tall, muscular Hispanic guy was clapping Spike on the shoulder, smiling broadly. Spike smiled back, but his face was still tight, his mind no doubt still focused on the conflict that had just been interrupted. As he and the stranger shouted back and forth, though, Xander could see Spike gradually relax, his smile growing more natural, more genuine. Apparently Spike knew this guy. Xander couldn't hear anything they were saying – the music was too loud and recent events made him hesitant to interrupt them – so he just stood patiently and waited to find out what was going on.

And then the guy was turning toward Xander, smile still bright, his teeth white against his brown skin. "I'm Jeremy," he shouted into Xander's ear. "Spike says you're a newbie."

Xander glanced at Spike, but his face was turned away, his eyes stubbornly averted, as if watching the crowd was some kind of duty he was determined to perform. Xander glanced back at Jeremy and just nodded. "I guess so."

"Any questions?"

Xander looked around, then pointed over toward the brightly lit area he had noticed before. "What's over there?"

Jeremy's grin broadened. "That's where it all happens." At Xander's blank look, he said, "Come on." He glanced at Spike and must have received some kind of agreement, because Jeremy turned around and began threading his way through the crowd.

Xander looked at Spike uncertainly, but Spike just jerked his chin in the direction of Jeremy's retreating back and said, "Go on."

When they caught up to Jeremy again, he was leaning against a low wall that reached only to about chest height. He gestured to Xander to come closer, and Spike nudged him from behind.

A circular area was cordoned off by curved chest-high walls – with openings at either side for people to go in and out. But inside the circle, bright lights illumined what looked like a torture rack, along with two low, padded tables that looked sort of like the pommel horses at the Olympics. Xander couldn't help imagining Mary Lou Retton running through the shadowy crowd of sexual deviants to perform a perfect vault, sending the leather-clad, dog-collared, nipple-pierced club patrons into a furor of patriotic applause and whistles.

Spike glanced at him, and he realized he must have chuckled out loud. He just shrugged.

But the people in the circle weren't doing gymnastics. Or, at least, not the Olympic kind. Mary Lou Retton would surely have been scandalized right down to her very muscular toes.

A nude woman was lying face-down on one of the pommel-horse-looking- things while a slender black man buckled her wrists and ankles to the sides, leaving her spread open, her genitalia clearly visible to the on-lookers.

Xander glanced over at Jeremy, who was now leaning his forearms on the top of the wall, watching the people inside the circle with interest. His biceps bulged, and the sleeveless black mesh shirt he wore showed muscles bunching in his back, as well. When his eyes found Jeremy's face, Jeremy winked.

Xander's eyebrows went up, and he glanced back at Spike worriedly, then back at Jeremy. The music wasn't as loud here – further from the speakers – so he didn't have to shout to be heard. "I wasn't…that is…I was just…I was wondering what's going on," he finished lamely.

Jeremy shrugged. "Lydia and Patrick are doing a scene. Oh, and Craig's going to help out."

"A scene?" On the torture-rack-looking thing, a naked 30-something guy with graying hair was being whipped by another man who was dressed all in black leather. The guy arched with each blow, crying out. Xander's stomach did a funny little dance of fear.

"Don't worry. It might seem like the dominant is in control, but really that's just an illusion. The game is often the submissive's idea. Maybe you might even be interested in trying something out, yourself. You finally get Spike to come to my club…it'd be a shame if you didn't take advantage of the facilities we have to offer." Another grin.

Spike stiffened behind him. They were barely touching, but Xander felt the movement.

Spike hasn't been here before? But…he seemed so…I mean…why wouldn't he? All these people, doing all this twisted stuff and getting off on it, some of them even hurting each other, making each other bleed…

I'd think this would be vamp heaven. So why hasn't he been here before?

Surreptitiously, he turned to eye Spike, whose face was partially turned away as he talked with Jeremy. But Xander could still see his profile, the paleness of his skin so bright in the dim club. His hair was slicked back in its usual rigid style against his head…none of that fluffy, curly after-shower mess Xander liked so much…this was totally under control.

Because, yeah, Spike likes to be in control. Um…yeah. I think we've seen that proven beyond a reasonable doubt. God, before the chip, when nothing was holding him back, he must've been…

Oh. Oh fuck.

The chip. Of course. That's why he's never been here before. The chip. He wouldn't be able to hurt anybody, but he'd have to watch all these other people, getting to do what he can't. What he wants to do, but can't.

God, it must make him feel like shit.

The slender black man was now fucking the girl who was strapped to the pommel horse. With her strapped down on her belly, legs spread, he had his hands on her upper thighs, thrusting into her with deep strokes, his buttocks clenching and unclenching rhythmically. Whenever he pulled out, it was obvious that he wasn't fucking her in the orifice approved by the Catholic Church. She really didn't seem to mind.

A meaty red-headed guy with a lot of freckles had joined them and was thrusting his dick into her mouth in unison with the other guy's strokes. The girl writhed between them, her pale skin rippling under the bright lights. A dark-skinned hand slapped down on one of her buttocks occasionally, which seemed to make her buck her hips upward even more, straining against her bonds.

She looked pretty damn happy to be there, actually.

Xander realized that Jeremy was talking again, though he'd missed part of it.

"In scenes, people play roles. Lydia's a submissive, and she wanted to be taken by two men at the same time while she was helpless to resist. It doesn't mean she wants to resist but can't, or that she wants to be helpless. She just wanted to play that role. Good clean fun for everyone."

Xander looked at Jeremy and asked slowly, "So…people sort of act out fantasies?"

Jeremy nodded. "It's a bit more complicated than that, but yes."

Xander watched the 30-ish guy weeping as his back was whipped with a multi-strand flogger. Heck, maybe that guy couldn't get that kind of emotional release any other way. There were red stripes on his back now, some of them bleeding. But as the leather-clad dominant ceased his blows and released the man from his shackles, there was a sort of peaceful joy shining through the man's tears as he was led away.

Xander felt intensely aware of Spike's body behind him. And the unresolved conflict from earlier.

It could all be so easy. Could it? Could it really be that easy?

"Like…if I maybe thought about what it would be like if…if somebody cut me" – he could almost feel Spike's surprise behind him, like a shiver of excitement – "not a lot of cutting, you know, 'cause I'm not really into pain" – I can't believe I'm actually saying this – "just cutting a little, just enough so I'm…so I'm bleeding." Without turning his head, he could tell he had Spike's full attention. "Just bleeding enough…enough so that somebody else…somebody else could taste my blood. Drink my blood." There. It's out. Wait…can I take it back? Because…knives…not really a Xandery happy thought. But the words were out and he couldn't take them back. Didn't want to, really. That didn't stop his stomach from doing that dance some more.

Around them, the club was as much of a chaotic kaleidoscope of activity as before, but Xander felt like he and Spike were standing in some kind of eye of the storm. Everything frozen in that moment, waiting for…something.

But Jeremy just nodded casually, seemingly unaware of the tension, and said, "We don't do a lot of blood play here, but if everyone involved is okay with it, then sure…that's just the sort of scene people do."

Xander heard Spike's voice from behind him. "Make the arrangements." Jeremy nodded and smiled, then walked away through the crowd.

He's gonna ask why. Why I'll let him. Why I didn't say anything before. And, well, obviously, there's the chip. I mean, he can't bite me. And I'm just way too squeamish to go slicing myself up for his dining pleasure.

But Spike didn't ask any questions. He moved from where he'd been standing behind Xander, sliding into the spot Jeremy had just vacated. He leaned his arms against the top of the wall and watched the pale girl getting fucked by two guys.

And he didn't meet Xander's eyes. Not once.

12 Bound

"Um…you do know what you're doing with that thing, right?"

Jeremy glanced up. "Believe it or not, at my day job I'm a doctor at Sunnydale Memorial."

"Sorry. I didn't mean to imply…anything. I'm just really not into pain, so I'm a little nervous."

Jeremy smiled. It was probably supposed to be reassuring. "It won't be bad at all. I'll make only really small, shallow nicks. Just enough to get some blood going. You'll barely feel it."

Xander eyed him disbelievingly, but Jeremy just dropped the shiny silver scalpel into some kind of tray of mediciney-smelling stuff. Probably disinfecting it. Or something.

Yeah, 'cause I wouldn't want to explain this at the emergency room. "Well, doc, you see, you was letting this guy cut me so my chipped vampire boyfriend could drink my blood." One trip to the loony bin, coming right up.

Jeremy didn't look up from his preparations when he said, "Don't tell him I said so, but it's good of you to do this for him."

Xander frowned in confusion. Then Jeremy shot him a look and he got it. Holy vamp-knowing doctors, Batman! "You know. About Spike."

Jeremy nodded, then said, "Show time."

Jeremy had a bunch of stuff prepared, and when they walked out into the circle, he got to work, but Xander barely saw him anymore. Instead, he stood frozen by the stares of what seemed like hundreds of guys, leaning against the circular wall from the outside, peering in at half- naked him, waiting for the show. It brought back somewhat disturbing memories of The Fabulous Ladies Nightclub…and the ignominy of shaking his groove thang in front of a drunken bridal shower and a couple of blue-haired grandmas.

But these guys were buff. All gym-toned and nipple-pierced and…um…whatever-pierced…and leather-wearing and…and what the hell was Xander "Donut Boy" Harris doing getting up in front of them to flaunt his manly boob muscles and bleed all over the floor?

Another disturbing memory. Larry and the other football players, snapping wet towels at him in the shower after gym, laughing. Pointing and laughing.

Heavens to murgatroid! What've I gotten myself into? Exit, stage left!

But then…the look in Spike's eyes when Xander had stripped for him, that first night in the living room. Yeah, Spike was into it. At the time, Xander had been feeling pretty confident, thinking about all the hours he'd put into working out, stroking his fingers over his stomach to feel the tightness of the muscles.

Xander pressed a hand flat to the bare skin of his belly and tried to stop breathing like a runaway horse being chased by Fyarl demons.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breath in. Breathe out.

All right. Let's do this.

He'd chosen to go barefoot, knowing this would give Spike a slight height advantage. He wasn't sure exactly how this whole "scene" thing was going to go, but he trusted Jeremy and Spike to guide him through it.

I trust Spike. That just gets weirder every time I think it.

They stood on a raised platform which Jeremy had covered with a tarp. Everyone could see. Barefoot and shirtless, wearing nothing but faded blue jeans, Xander felt the nervousness start to flutter in his stomach again. Spike hadn't even come out into the circle yet, and he was already feeling the urge to flee again.

Jeremy whispered to him to kneel, and so he did. Hands clasped behind his back. Head lowered. A heavy lock of hair fell into his eyes.

But then there was movement, and a moment later he saw the scuffed toes of Spike's boots, and just like that he remembered why he was doing this. He wanted to look up, to see Spike's eyes, but he knew he was supposed to keep his head down. Part of the whole "being dominated" package, apparently.

And it comes with this lovely set of Ginsu knives, as well! They slice! They dice! They make you bleed for your kinky vampire hijinx! Now how much would you pay?

"Shall I bind him for you, sir?" Out of the corner of his eye, Xander could see that Jeremy held in his hands a set of what looked like leather wrist and ankle straps. Xander wasn't sure how he felt about doing the bondage thing in front of a crowd, but he didn't say anything. He knew that much: Xander isn't supposed to say anything.

Right. Silent obedience. I can manage that, right? I mean, how tough could it be? Silence, obedience, and blood. Why do I not get the urge to start singing "These Are A Few of My Favorite Things"? Oh, god, this is going to be a disaster. There's going to be blood, and pain, and I'll run screaming like a little girl, and Spike will kill me.

But Xander's attention was drawn back to Spike when the vampire did not reply immediately to Jeremy's question about making with the bondage. Xander tilted his head back slightly and rolled his eyes up so that he could look up through his hair to see Spike gazing down at him thoughtfully. And then Spike shook his head. "Not this time." This time? "I want to watch him give himself willingly."

Something in the timbre of those words made Xander wonder what exactly this game meant to Spike. Because it sounded like…but…

Has he even drunk from a human since he got chipped? Is he just lusting after tasty fresh human blood warm from the source? Xander glanced at the crowd uncertainly. Or is he just putting on some kind of he-vamp power display to show everybody he's still a blood-sucking fiend?

Is this even about me at all?

But as he peered up through the hair that had fallen across his forehead, Xander could see that the look in Spike's eyes said yes, yes to that last one, yes it was something to do with Xander…which somehow made the whole thing only that much scarier.

Because that meant this wasn't just fun and games. This was…things were going to change.

Xander shivered lightly at the thought, and Jeremy seemed to take that as his cue to get things started. He probably thought Xander was cold, but even shirtless he was fine. The club was warm, all those bodies in such an enclosed space. He felt warm, but he couldn't help shivering again.

"This boy," Jeremy called aloud, loud enough for the crowd around the circle to hear him, "wishes to make an offering to his Master. An offering most precious. He wishes to offer to his Master a taste of his very self, his own life's essence, his heart's blood." He turned to look at Xander, kneeling on the floor. "Is this what you wish, boy?"

Xander began to speak, but had to clear his throat. Then he said clearly, "Yes, sir."

Knives. Going to cut me. Blood. If I faint, will Spike keep drinking anyway? Will they just prop me up like a half-naked bleeding Raggedy Andy and go on with the scene? Oh god, I'm going to faint. We could pretend it was part of the "scene"…I'm just playing the role of a girlie man afraid of his own blood. Heck, I've cut myself at work dozens of times, so why is this freaking me out so bad?

But then all thought stopped when he felt Spike's hands stroking through his hair, smoothing it back off his forehead. And then Spike's voice, surprisingly soft, said, "Xander?"

Xander looked up, up along Spike's black-clad body, up into the blue eyes that were gazing so intensely down at him, asking some sort of wordless question. Spike's fingers were still in his hair, motionless now, holding it back from his face.

"Say it," Spike said, still softly, so softly that surely the audience could not hear. Perhaps even Jeremy, standing only a few feet away, could not hear.

Uncertain what exactly Spike wanted him to say, Xander took a deep breath and then looked Spike straight in the eye as he said quietly, "I'm offering you my blood." Not as flowery and descriptive as what Jeremy had said before, but nobody'd ever said Xander was a showman.

More of a no-show man. A hide man, really. A stealth man. Yeah, that sounds better.

Spike's fingers slid away from his head, and Xander wanted to lean to follow the touch, but didn't.

"Stand up."

Xander did, though his knees felt a little wobbly. Jeremy stood a bit aside, apparently waiting for some signal from Spike. Xander tried not to shift from foot to foot. He tried not to look nervous. Tried not to look like he was about to bolt.

And then Spike stepped closer, leaned closer until there was no distance between their bodies. He rested one hand on Xander's bare shoulder and then pressed his face into the angle of Xander's neck, nudging Xander's head out of the way so that he could breathe onto the smooth skin there. Xander shivered again.

Then there was tongue. Spike was licking the side of his neck and Xander was horrified to discover that it was really really sexy. Spike hadn't really done much touching before this – their thing had mostly been Xander touching him, instead – and the movement of Spike's tongue against his skin made him feel weak. He wished this wasn't happening in front of an audience.

His eyes shifted back and forth, noticing how many people were watching them, until he felt the first press of teeth. His eyes closed, his back arched, and he tried to press himself harder against Spike's teeth. He had a hazy moment to wonder Is this what a vamp's bite does? Does it make you want more more more MORE? Or is it just because it's Spike? Oh god, I want more!

Spike's teeth were biting down hard now, slow and hard, almost hard enough to really hurt, but just hard enough to feel really really good. "Please," Xander panted, forgetting that he wasn't supposed to talk, forgetting that anyone was watching, his eyes closed tight, his hands balled into fists. "Please."

But then Spike was pulling away.

No not away! Come closer! Bite harder! Just…more!

Despite the bright lights, Spike's eyes were dark, the pupils dilated. He nodded past Xander, and then Jeremy stepped near again, behind Xander and a bit to the side. He heard him, but Xander couldn't look at him. He kept his eyes on Spike.

A tickling trickle along the skin of his upper chest was the first sign of blood. Xander hadn't even felt the cut…the blade must have been very sharp. He kept his eyes on Spike, watched Spike's eyes follow the trail of blood. Down. Down. Down.

And then suddenly it was Spike who was kneeling, pulling Xander down slightly bent so that he could lick blood from Xander's nipple. Xander watched him, fascinated by the sight of Spike's tongue as it flickered in and out of his mouth, red with blood, Xander's blood. Spike licked and sucked and finally began pulling Xander down so that he clumsily returned to kneeling. Spike licked along the blood trail, up up up toward Xander's shoulder. And then he was licking, sucking, lightly biting Xander's neck, and now Xander felt like he was going to faint for completely different reasons.

There was more. Xander knew that. There was more. They didn't stop there. But, afterward, all he could remember was Spike's tongue and lips and teeth against his skin. Fingertips. Palms. Wrists. Nipples. Neck. Throat. He was pretty sure he ended up lying flat on the ground, with Spike bent over him like an animal feeding on captured prey, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered.

Lips. Tongue. Teeth.

And eyes. Spike's eyes, shining and wide and dark, as if he were stoned out of his mind.

He's drunk on my blood. Or my offering. Maybe both. But I did that. I put that look on his face, that look in his eyes. That's because of me. That's for me. Nobody's ever looked like that because of me.

He looks…like he's worshipping. Worshipping me.

Spike was kneeling over him, rubbing absently against his lower body as he licked blood from Xander's throat, and then suddenly his lips were there. Right there. And they were kissing. Spike's lips were on his, and their mouths were hungry, tongues thrusting, and the taste of his own blood was familiar, not gross at all, and Xander couldn't help it. Not with Spike kissing him, kissing him for the first time since the time loop. For the first time ever, really, because this Spike had never kissed him before.

Xander couldn't help it.

He pushed up to rub harder against Spike's body, just for a second, just for the tiniest second, just a bit more friction. He barely needed it with Spike kissing him like that, but with that slight pressure against the body above him, Xander came, groaning into Spike's mouth, trying not to bite down, though Spike probably wouldn't have minded if he did. He came, his body arching off the floor, his hands clenching by his sides, finding no purchase on the slick plastic tarp.

And when his brain stopped buzzing, he realized he was lying in the center of a brightly-lit circle, with dozens of complete strangers watching him. He could feel the blush roll up into his face, his cheeks feeling as if they were burning.

But then Spike's face filled his vision, and he forgot about all that. Because Spike smiled at him. Not a smirk, not a sneer, not mocking or ironic or superior. Just a smile. A real smile. And Xander wasn't sure he'd ever seen that on Spike's face before, not for him. Maybe for Dawn, but not for him, not for Xander.

Xander was horrified to feel tears in his eyes. But Spike just offered him a hand up, and then they were both standing, and Jeremy was there, and the three of them were leaving the circle like everything was normal.

"Let Jeremy get you cleaned up," Spike said, sprawling bonelessly on a fake-leather couch in the hallway.

For a horrified moment, Xander thought Spike was referring to the fact that he'd come in his pants, but then he realized he must be talking about the cuts. Of course. The cuts. How could I have forgotten about the cuts? Xander nodded dazedly and followed Jeremy into the same clean white room where they'd gotten ready.

When he came out, sporting several small bandages, some of which would probably earn him some ribbing at work, he found Spike still sprawled on the couch. Their eyes met again, and it was like an electric shock.

Xander stood there for a moment, not sure what to do, waiting for Spike to say something, do something. They watched each other. And finally Xander said, simply, "Let's go home."

And Spike nodded as if he were the obedient one.

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