Hunt-Brother


by
Lady Cat



Part Four

He never realized what an uncomfortable chair this was.  Not that it had been all that comfortable before, but he’d never really paid attention to it.  It was just a chair.  He rarely sat on it, anyway, usually standing as he wolfed something chocolatey and sugary before he left for whichever scut-job he worked that day.

Now he sat.  Mechanically, he began eating the cereal before him.  Hard plastic was sucking out the heat from his body.  Something he really didn’t want to think about was stretching the skin of his face and making him itch.

He shut his eyes, deciding that one more prayer would hurt nothing.  Opened them, and Spike was still sitting there, uncharacteristically serious.

“You have to breathe, y’know.  Humans do that.”

He wanted to ask if he was still human.  Doesn’t swallowing vampire-cum make you a vampire, too?  Except Spike was breathing as he sipped at his breakfast, idly tapping one finger on the table.  His right hand, not his left.  That was suddenly very important.

“Breathe, pet.”

He inhaled so sharply that he began coughing.  Doubling over to hack and gasp, he was aware of three things.  His throat hurt, possibly from screaming, probably from accepting something it was in no way big enough to accept.  He was sitting at his table naked, with a butt-plug, cum drying on his face, across from an equally naked vampire. 

And he felt good.

Choking gasps turned to laughter.  It was long, low, and he couldn’t tell if he was supposed to be crying underneath or not.  His mind kept telling him that this was wrong, that it wasn’t supposed to be like this—and the rest of him was finally at peace. Offering that peace with a seductive whisper that sounded far too much like Spike’s accented baritone.

He laughed until he was exhausted, tears creating paths through the white, flakey mask, his cheeks aching almost as much as his throat from grinning too hard. 

Something warm and soft settled around his shoulders.  He forced himself to stop, looking up in surprise.  Spike stood above him, fussing at the blanket so that Xander was completely covered.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

Spike shrugged.  It looked odd without his usual black duster, or even the black t-shirt to cover those corded muscles.  “You looked cold.”  Xander studied blue, blue eyes; they glowed from light reflected by the table.  He waited for the blustering he knew was coming, the excuses to cover the embarrassment of the Big Bad taking care of a pathetic human.

Saw only calm concern.

“Thanks.  But that’s not what I meant.”  Tucking the blanket so that it went under his right arm, he turned back to his cereal.  He was incredibly hungry.  Spike sat down again, toying with the rim of his mug.  He watched as Xander finished his first bowl of cereal, silently fixing another when Xander began drinking the sugar-flavored milk.

Xander ate this one slower, trying to decide if he was stalling or not.  He settled on ‘not’, since he was hungry enough to eat a third bowl.  It was—it was just weird.  He wasn’t mad at Spike, couldn’t be mad at someone that was only following his nature.  And wouldn’t the girls be thrilled to know that that is why I hate Angel so much?  They still thought it was jealousy, some macho pissing contest they didn’t understand and didn’t want to have to deal with.

He was jealous of Angel, but he was jealous of a lot of people without hating them.  Angel, he hated.  The martyred guilt-complex, the embarrassed vanity, and the total belief that just because he had a soul, he wasn’t bad anymore—all of that was crap.  Angel was a vampire.  He could pretty it up, hide as much as he could, but it never changed the fact that he could be brutal, cruel, sadistic, and petty. 

Just like normal people. 

But Angel had to be so self-righteous that it made Xander physically ill.  He’d had everyone fooled.  It had almost been a relief when Angelus appeared, because then they’d all see what Xander had always known was there.

They weren’t two different people, not the way Angel meant it.  Both versions of the vampire felt the same impulses and desires, and Xander firmly believed that if Angel hadn’t been so busy denying it than Angelus would have been more sane.  Repression wasn’t good for anyone’s soul.

That was why he’d always liked Spike better.  Spike, at least, was totally up front about what he was.  Monster, yes, but with more human emotions and feelings than either incarnation of the be-souled vampire could admit to.  A monster that enjoyed life, even while he took it.

It had given him some comfort, knowing that.  He’d done his research.  He scrapped together information whatever and where ever he could, even going so far as to question Angel in a few painfully awkward conversations.  Combined with what he had gleaned from his own observations and the chaos in his head, Xander had a fairly decent idea of what was going on.  He’d known that one day, this would happen.

Spike moved, startling Xander from his introspective daze.  Rummaging around for his duster, he held up a pack of cigarettes and raised his eyebrow in silent question.  Xander nodded.  Then he stared in shock as Spike carefully opened the window through their blackout curtains and sat down directly beneath it.

Xander blinked, wondering if his eyelashes were fusing together.  They could have been.  Spike was acting. . . considerate.  And there’s my long-delayed panic.  Wondered where you’d run off to!  Too bad you couldn’t have shown up, say, last night when I needed you.

There hadn’t been panic.  There had been wigging and what-the-helling and occasionally whimpering even before his brain had decided to take a holiday, but there hadn’t been panic.  There hadn’t even been panic about there not being panicked.  He’d expected Spike to dominate him, probably humiliate him, definitely hurt him.

Okay.  Spike being nice makes my insides feel like jelly, and not in a good way.  Weird.  Or weirder, not sure about how far away from ‘weird’ we are at the moment.  Xander took a deep, calming breath.  Get a grip, Xan-man.  He said he wouldn’t hurt you.  Spike keeps his promises.

“You gonna sit there all day, luv?”  Spike exhaled heavily, smoke traveling from his nose to the open window.  Xander could sense only faint traces of tobacco in the air, and his insides gave a little shake again.

“No.  Sorry.”  Spike raised an eyebrow but otherwise remained silent.  “You breathe.”  This time both eyebrows raised, something like amusement tingeing the habitual smirk.  “I mean, you’re a vampire and Giles says that you don’t need to breathe, but you do.  Not just when you’re talking or smoking, either, but when you’re just sitting there or—or when you’re. . .”

Or when you’re sleeping.  But we can’t say that, oh no, because that would be admitting something that we aren’t ready to admit yet.  Like that we’ve been watching and waiting for this to happen—and when did I become a we?

“Don’t need to,” Spike was saying while Xander mentally babbled.  “Don’t need t’ smoke, or eat human food, neither.  S’just somethin’ I do.”  More smoking while Xander tried to think of another way to avoid the impending conversation.  He didn’t want to do this, despite the equanimity he was feeling.

Because peace and happiness?  With the evil undead?  These are unmixy.  One of these things is so not like the others.  Didn’t change what he was feeling.

“C’mere.”  Spike crushed out his cigarette as Xander settled himself in the smaller man’s lap.  He always forgot that he was physically bigger—Spike’s forcefully personality always made him seem towering.  Spike spread the blanket over their legs pulling Xander against his chest.  One hand went into thick, dark hair, the other began playing with his body.

Xander sighed, trying not to think about how good this felt.  Cool skin was soothing pressed to his, Spike’s motions purposeful without being arousing.  A nipple was tweaked and Xander amended his thought—not too arousing.  Just enough that Xander could feel himself becoming slightly off-balance.  He snickered against smooth, nearly hairless skin.

“Somethin’ funny, luv?”

“Of course not.  It’s a normal Xander-day when a vamp who hates me makes me his bitch.”

Spike chuckled lightly.  “Too right, mate.”  More petting, hands sweeping lower although never touching the places his body wanted to be touched.  He’s doing this on purpose, Xander thought muzzily. “What didn’t I have t’ do, pet?”

“Huh?  Oh.  Mark me.”

Spike didn’t stop, but Xander was positive he felt the big, bad, manly vampire start in surprise.  “You know about marking?”

He nodded, burying his nose in Spike’s collarbone.  Leather, tobacco, lingering traces of clean soap, and something musky and earthy filled his head.  Home, part of him whispered.  The rest of his body had to agree, thanks to Spike’s busy hands.  “Read about it.  It’s used with minions and, um, ‘recalcitrant childer’.”

Spike went death-still, not even breathing.  “Who told you that?”

Xander’s throat closed up.  “Angel,” he whispered, forcing the words out.  “I asked him about it when he was still Angel.  He didn’t want to tell me, but I just kept bugging him about it until he told me just to shut me up.  He didn’t tell me everything, either, I had to look up a lot of the details—and I don’t want to know how some of the books got the information they got.  I mean, knowing how a vamp—”

“Stop.”  The breathing started up again.  Xander swallowed a sigh of relief, suddenly aware of just how much he missed that quiet sound.  The lack of heartbeat didn’t bother him, nor did the cool-but-not-cold skin he rested on.  The breathing he needed.  With it, Spike stopped being a vampire and became just another person.  Maybe even a friend.

“I’m s—”

“Oh, bloody hell.  You listen here, boy, you—OW!”  Spike’s hands dropped from the nape of Xander’s neck, where they had grabbed presumably to shake.  Scooting back, Xander brought his knees to his chest while he waited for Spike to ride out the pain.

“Goddamned chip.  Wasn’t tryin’ t’ hurt him!”  Muttering more imprecations, Spike blinked a few times and stared.  “Right, ducks.  First off, get back here.  You’re bloody warm.”  Xander tried to think like a doll while Spike positioned his body.  One golden leg was wrapped around the vampire’s middle so Xander was straddling him, but shifted to one side so that he was balanced on Spike’s thigh instead of his hip.  The blanket was cocooned around them, trapping the heat.

“I thought vampires didn’t feel heat or cold.”

A long suffering sigh ruffled his hair.  “Learn this now, boy.  I.  Am.  Not.  Like.  Most.  Vampires.  An’ I hate bein’ bloody cold.  Now, comfortable?”

“Yes.”  He wanted to wash his face, but otherwise he was very comfortable.  Spike was all hard muscle and sharp bone, but his skin was satiny smooth and soft against him. 

“Good.”  Spike began petting him again.  “Now.  Explain t’ me why marking you as mine isn’t necessary.”

Xander didn’t think he’d ever heard that tone of voice from Spike before.  From Giles, yes, that infinitely patient tell-me-or-you-die was something he’d heard, oh, every apocalypse, or so.  He didn’t think Spike had the maturity to pull off that kind of tone, though.

“Because I’m not a minion or a childe?”  Spike tugged his hair, but not enough to hurt. “Because you—you. . .you claimed me.  L-l-last night.”  Wow.  Okay.  Don’t want to say that again, please.  In fact, can I just sit here and shake for a while?  Oooh, yeah, Spike do that some more.

Whether it was because Spike had heard the tremor in his voice, or some other reason Xander didn’t want to think about, Spike had given up on his gentle caress.  The instant the word ‘claimed’ left his mouth, Spike’s fingers were dancing on his cock.

“I claimed you?”  A squeeze, then more light teasing.  Xander rolled his head back, panting.

“Yes, claimed—you claimed me—claimed—”  Each repetition was rewarded with a harder squeeze, a longer stroke.  Xander thrust his hips, trying to create more friction, mewling when Spike pulled his hand away.  Oh, right, I have to listen.  “Yes, you—you did—yours.  Please, oh, god, Spike. . .!”

“Not yet.”  Spike tickled along a taut stomach before softly stroking along Xander’s face.  “Look at me.  That’s right.  I claimed you, boy.  Me.”  Xander nodded frantically.  “How’s a human know about claiming, hm?  Why does a human want t’ know about how vampire’s control their own?”

“Hyena.”

“Really?”  Xander wondered through his haze of lust how Spike could continue to drawl like that, so calm and so slow.  “Does this hurt?”  The piece of plastic in his body was pushed forward, making him moan, and then pulled completely out.  He started keening at the loss, a yawning feeling of emptiness climbing up from his gut.  Slick fingers pressed against the stretched opening.  Xander pressed back eagerly, needing to be filled again.  So empty, so alone. . .

“Hurt?  No!  Well, sore, but. . . ohhhh!”

“Now,” Spike said comfortably, as if it was totally mundane to pet a painfully hard human while finger-fucking him into oblivion.  “Explain to me about the hyena.”

Xander told him: about the hyena who had possessed him and how, despite Giles’ spell, it had never truly gone away.  Told him about Angel taking him to Spike, offering him up while casting him from the pack.  He didn’t even notice when he slipped into pack-speak, telling his story as well as he could while humping onto Spike’s increasing number of fingers.

“So, lemme get this straight.  You’ve been possessed by a hyena and y’still got traces of it in your head.”  A panted yes.  “When I was tryin’ t’ fool Angelus, your beastie took that for acceptance—and you’ve been waiting for two years, now, for me t’ claim you, make you my pack?”

“Pack-leader,” Xander gasped out.  “M’not alpha.”

Spike withdrew his fingers and held Xander still.  Xander froze, blocking his whine of frustration.  Something was burning deep in Spike’s eyes and both man and beast knew not to push.  “Xander, hyena’s are matriarchal.”

He sounded almost kind, like he was sorry for letting Xander down.  “I know.”  It took three big gulps to say that without choking.  “I looked up all that.”

“Then how could Angelus give you t’ me?  And why me?”

More breathing.  Xander grabbed onto the edge of the blanket, knuckles turning white as he forced himself to talk rationally, not beg for release.  “Buffy was pack-leader.  Angel was her mate.  A mate as strong as she was, and. . . and she would deferred to him, sometimes.”  He struggled to put the beast’s instinctive hierarchy into words.  “He wasn’t just pack-leader’s mate.  He was, um, he was hunt-brother.”

“So—he had rights to the rest of the pack?”

“Yeah.”  Xander rested his head on Spike’s chest, still thinking hard.  “You challenged pack-leader’s mate.  But you weren’t challenging the right to his mate, you were. . . um.  Not explaining this right.”

“No, I get it.  I wasn’t tryin’ t’ take his place in the pack, right?  I was just fightin’ him t’ see who was the stronger.  An’ since Peaches was still pantin’ after Slu—the Slayer, he had the right t’ offer you as spoils—as prey.  Prey that could be eaten, or claimed.”

Xander nodded, enjoying the feel of that porcelain skin rubbing his.  “Yes.  You won.”

“But I never claimed you.”

The speculative tone was lost on Xander, who was too busy reliving the daily struggle between man and beast.  Sometimes, it was good.  The soldier memories—which had also remained—were useful in fighting, and the hyena memories gave him a little more insight and awareness.  But the other times. . .

Wake up, wanting Spike.  Wanting to give myself, let myself be taken.  All day, whispering to go find Spike.  It would all be better, if pack-leader was there.  Pack-leader would fix it.  Never be alone with pack-leader.  Every moment of the day, it made me think of Spike.  And at night, I dreamed.

The soldier memories hadn’t helped that yearning.  Soldiers traveled in their own kind of pack—squads, brigades, divisions, units.  They had a strict hierarchy and followed orders without question.  So when pack-leader said do something, the soldier heard his commanding officer.  Great.  I was obeying Spike because of the damned soldier.  I thought the soldier would help me—hello, don’t ask, don’t tell?

“So, when I made you suck me off, that claimed you?  The cum?”

“No.  The—debasement.”

Spike snorted.  “You even know what that means, pet?”

“You ordered me!” Xander snapped, suddenly—finally!—angry.  “You made me make you get off.  Didn’t matter that I swallowed—”

“Mattered that I came, an’ from your obedience.”

His whole body was turning red.  He knew it, he could feel his temperature rising and he knew Spike would know it, too.  Which only humiliated him more.  Tears pricked his eyes, and he wanted to be far, far from the vampire that in every way but human terms, owned him.

“I claimed you.”  Spike’s was stroking his cock, fingers still slick from before sneaking in to tease him again.  Xander jerked and gasped, anger draining into fierce lust.  “An’ I marked you.”  Spike’s knowing fingers found that wonderful place inside Xander body and rubbed.  “Means you’re mine, now.  My property.  My boy.  Mine!”

Xander buried his face into Spike’s chest, giving up any control over his body.  Spike did own him; the beast was strong enough not only to make Xander’s mind and body obey, but to make him like the obedience.  With no means to fight, there was no reason to fight.  Spike wasn’t hurting him—ohhh, no, not hurting, feels so good—and Anya had never made him feel like this before. . .

He can’t hurt me, not really.  He can’t bite me or turn me.  He could probably order me to cut my own wrist or something, but. . . I don’t think he will.  And oh, god, yes, Spike do that harder!  Please. . .

Above him, Spike chuckled.  “Vocal little thing, aren’t you?”

Um, I said that out loud?  Crap.

“Not gonna hurt you, boy,” Spike was whispering now.  “Gonna make you my puppy, mouth and ass for me alone.  Whatever I want, whenever I want it.  You like that, huh, pet?  Like the thought of bein’ my toy?  Yeah, you do.  You’re a good little boy, such a hot little boy. . . Cum for me, luv, now.”

Xander immediately screamed, arching back, body convulsing as he came all over Spike’s chest and stomach.  Panting, he slumped back down, careful to angle his body so that he wasn’t lying on the dripping cum.  Gets sticky, he thought through post-orgasm fuzz.  God, Spike made him cum so hard.

“Liked that, hm?  Good.”  The hand on his cock was removed, and Xander felt something hard, cold, and very slick against his anus again.  “Push down.”  He complied, the plug slipping in painlessly.  “You’re so tight back there, pet.  We’ll get to that later.  Don’t worry, pet, you’re gonna like it.  Can’t hurt you ’cause of this buggering chip, so gonna take it nice and slow, but you’d like it anyway.  S’like my fingers, only so much bigger an’ harder.  Fillin’ you up, stretchin’ you so nice. . . you’re gonna love me up inside you, making you scream.” 

His voice is like sex, Xander thought.  Slight pressure at the nape of his neck and he bent his head to begin licking that pale, sculpted body.  Sucking on nipples and nipping at the nearly hairless expanse.  Tasting himself while he memorized each dip and roll of skin that tasted like salt and cream.  It’s like chocolate and sex.

“Gonna train you, pet.  Gonna make you my perfect little boy.”

A good boy.





Part Five

He looked younger while he slept.  Less a man and much more a boy.  Lost boy, why are you crying?  There had always been nightmares, before.  Good dreams, too, where he woke up hard and hungry and slipped out to demon-girl’s place for a bit before work.  But more often the nightmares.  Tossing and curling up into a tight little ball, alone and afraid from the images in his mind.  Murmurs and tears escaping a mask of I-can’t-hear-you and I’m-not-really-here, you-can’t-see-me.

There were no nightmares, now.  Just deep, even breathing, childlike in his trust of the arms that held him.  I could hurt him, now.  Slip in, drain him an’ make him mine forever.

He’d never taken a Childe before.  Minions, yes, fledges by the dozen to make sure he and Dru were properly taken care of.  Never a Childe, though, someone to share conversations and memories, to make new memories with.  It had never been a need of his.  Drusilla had been jealous of his attentions elsewhere, and had filled his mind such that playing the father to some innocent vamp held little appeal.

He was the Sire in their happy home, to all but Drusilla herself.  Her whims were immediately catered to, no matter how they clashed with his own.  To the rest, though, he was the one who handed out orders, punished transgressors, generally making all the decisions.  He was the Lord of their little court, and only his Lady held any sway over his actions.

Creating a fledge was like hiring on a servant, marking them as slaves, and ensuring the little things that held neither time nor inclination would be dealt with by someone else.  Creating a Childe was an act of procreation.  Newly risen Childer were stronger and smarter than most minions but still very weak and innocent.  They had to be trained, taught, coached and coaxed into becoming something more than a two-legged animal.

His own training had been—interesting.  Angelus had needed him to be intelligent and capable, since he was Drusilla’s protector and nursemaid.  Drusilla had needed him to be observant and caring, her provider as well as her lover. 

Angelus had used pain and humiliation to achieve his goals.  Drusilla had used pleasure.  Any pain at Drusilla’s hands had been mutually acceptable to both.

One taught him how to be powerful, the other taught him how to be devoted.  No question which method he was using with this delightful human who slept in his arms.  And it wasn’t because of the chip.  Pain could be useful and he did want to introduce the boy into a bit of pleasurable pain—mm, smacking that bottom rosy and the fucking him while he still felt the sting—but pain was not conducive for inspiring devotion.

Xander would make a magnificent Childe.  Give him a bit more in the way of viciousness and capacity for violence with the demon inside him. . .the damage we could do, drinking and fucking our way wherever we wanted.  Focused solely on my pleasure, my whims. . .

I know, lets brood about the things I can’t do anymore!  Don’t think about biting the boy.  Can’t do it, deal, move on.

The bulk of the day had been spent in teaching Xander.  The boy was put through quite a work out, soaked with sweat and cum.  He’d done just about anything Spike could think of that would give himself pleasure and Xander no pain.  The boy had been compliant, almost eager to do what Spike wished—except once, when he had violently protested his instructions.

It wasn’t unexpected, and Spike already had a plan.  Thought he’d balk lot sooner than he did, an’ not over rimming.  Know he’s eaten out demon-girl.  Reaching into Anya’s bag of tricks, he’d pulled out a cockring, the vibrator, and plenty of lube.  He’d tied the boy to the bed, stroked him hard, made sure the cockring was snug, and then applied the vibrator and his own talented tongue on the boy.  It was the first time Spike had done more than jerk him or finger him, and after only two minutes Xander had been incoherently thrashing.  After fifteen, Xander couldn’t move, could hardly gasp out the words promising that he would never disobey Spike again.

He’d passed out from cumming so hard, that time.  Spike had let him sleep, sure that he’d made his point.  They’d get to rimming another time.  Oh, yes, we will.  Think I’ve proved just how good it can feel.  The boy had been exhausted, and a phone call sometime before had informed them of a scooby meeting that evening at eight.  Spike was not invited.

Like that’s stoppin’ me.  Where my boy goes, I’m goin’.  Snagging the phone, Spike read the number written on the back of it and made a quick call.  Stroking warm, golden skin, he debated waking the boy with a hand job—and blue-white lightening sparked over his vision.

He growled, grabbing at his forehead.  Fucking piece of government shit!  Okay, right, the boy’s too sore.  Forgot, humans can’t keep it up that long, can they?  Well, there were other rewards beside orgasm.  Right now, though— “Luv, wake up.  C’mon, that’s right.  Wake up.”

Xander looked up at him blearily, eyes not very focused.  “Wassat?”

“C’mon, pet, we need to shower.”  Spike didn’t have the problem of sweat, but he’d been liberally doused with cum—an’ even those humans would notice us smellin’ like a whore house.

“Don’ wanna,” Xander grumbled.  Pouting, he curled against Spike, nuzzling his face into Spike’s crotch, still mumbling something about school and sleep.

Okay, this is pushin’ even vamp stamina! Spike thought incredulously as he hardened under Xander’s warm breath.  Well, don’t look to get any tonight, so. . . sure, why not.

Leering, Spike hefted the boy up into his arms.  Ignoring Xander’s shout of surprise, he carried him to the bathroom and turned on the shower.  Pushing the boy under the water, he was still surprised when Xander washed him, first.  Not that Spike was objecting.  Dropping to his knees, the boy washed slim, muscular legs and looked up at Spike questioningly.

“A quick one,” Spike said, leaning back against the tiled wall.  Xander nodded, moaning when Spike dumped shampoo in his hair—which vibrated against Spike, making him grin evilly.  Then he gasped.  God, he learns fast! Spike thought as Xander nipped at the head, before tonguing the slit fiercely.  Much too quickly Spike froze and came.

Xander was humming when he got to his feet, ducking his head under the water.  As soap streamed down his face and body, he gave Spike a sheepish grin.  “I was hungry,” he said.

“Oh!  Bloody hell.”  Quickly finishing, they tumbled into their clothes moments before someone pounded on the outside door.

“Um, Spike?  What the—why are you giving me my wallet?”

“So you can pay for the food, dolt.”

“What—” more pounding “—right, that food.  You ordered me food?!”  Spike ignored him, pushing him towards the door as he prepared a mug of blood for himself.  A few moments later, Xander clomped back down the stairs and began pulling out little white and red boxes of chinese food.  “I’m very frightened.  I can say that, right?  That I am very, very frightened?”

Next lesson: work on the bloody babbling.  I had a century with Dru rambling, I do not need it from this one.  Least it isn’t ’bout the blinkin’ stars.  Spike closed his eyes.  “An’ why are you asking me permission for that?”

Oh.  Guess that wasn’t what he meant.  Wide, wide brown eyes stared at him, jaw hanging slightly in shock.  Faint traces of actual fear sifted through the air, and the boy unconsciously angled his body as if expecting a blow.   “Um.  I, ah, I have to ask you for. . . permission?”

“If you weren’t, why’d you ask what you did?”

“Cause you got me fried dumplings, moo shoo pork without the pancakes, and crunchy noodles.”

Spike sighed heavily.  “This is bad because. . .?”

“Because these are things I like.”  When Spike raised his eyebrow, Xander blushed and began fussing with his food.  The fear-smell was disappearing—why’s that a good thing, again?—but the kicked-puppy look was still there.  So was the please-don’t-hurt-me-too-much body language. 

That bothered Spike.  A lot.  Chip, remember?  Little piece of sodding hardware that clipped my short and curlies?  The reason I’m living in the antechamber of hell, also known as Harris’ basement?  I can’t hurt him!

So why’s he so afraid I will?

Hiding his suddenly dangerous thoughts, Spike rolled his eyes and snorted.  “How many times the past week’ve you ordered from this place?  An’ what else do I have t’ occupy my time with, ’cept the telly?  Which, by the way, you should get cable for.  I want cable.  That Passions show is ruddy brilliant.”

An interesting mix of emotions crossed the boy’s face, beginning with a speculative frown and ending with frustrated annoyance at Spike’s very purposeful comment about Passions.  Not that it wasn’t a good show, and he did want cable, but that wasn’t why he said it.

“Could you be more of a mooch, Spike?” Xander demanded—but it was habit-driven, and lacking the boy’s usual acidic wit.  The fear scent was fading and—changing.  This is old fear, somethin’ he’s learned t’ live with.  Not of me, neutered though I am now.  This is something deeper.

“What, you don’t want cable?  Telly all crystal clear?”

“Why are you being so nice to me?”  Spike tried to catch his eye, but Xander was staring resolutely at one plump dumpling.  It didn’t matter, Spike knew what he’d see.  He could hear it in that little, whispered voice.

He’s the boy, again.  I shock him any more, an’ it’s back to being a puppy.  Christ.  It had to be now, when they were due to go to the Watcher’s?  Where people would actually care if the boy was hopping at Spike’s feet, shaking his ass like he had a tail attached.  Ohh, now there’s an image—no, later.  Right.  Boy’s bein’ a boy again—what set him of, then?  What set him off last night?

At the time, he’d thought it had something to do with touching the boy.  He remembered smelling humiliation and tears and had reacted the way Dru had always needed him to—smoothing away the bad memories, using words and touches to be here, instead of the bad places inside her mind.  He hadn’t even thought about it, just calmed the boy and given him a bit of physical pleasure to ground him and encourage him.

An’ that’s when the boy appeared.  The puppy came later—when he thought he’d done something wrong.  Okay.  M’not stupid, though only Drusilla ever thought so.  What the hell is tying those two things together? 

“Eat your food,” he said absently, still trying to puzzle it out in his head.  Xander hesitated a moment, sneaking a glance up at him, before swallowing heavily.

“I’m sorry.”

Spike responded with a growl, angry at the defeated tone of voice.  What?  No, just don’t like being interrupted.  Tone of voice?  Oh, sod it all.  “Eat your damned food, whelp.  You’re supposed t’ be at the Watcher’s in half an hour.”

“Okay.”  The boy ate quickly, shifting between extremely uncomfortably and shyly pleased.  “You’re coming with me?”

Spike thought about making a horrible pun and decided against it.  “You got a problem with that?”

“No.  It’s just. . . Riley’s going to be there.”

“Slutty”—ooh, look at the puppy pretend he has teeth—“mean, Buffy’s new boytoy?  Tall chap, looks like a damned corn stalk?”

“Yeah.  Riley.”  Xander did not like Buffy’s new flame, if the sullen set of his mouth meant anything.  “He’s part of the Initiative.”

“Seen me before, hasn’t he?”

“He—he’ll report you.  I know he will.  Buffy won’t be able to protect you.”

Not even one full day I’ve made him mine.  Less than twenty four hours, an’ he’s stressin’ over me leavin’ and meanin’ it.  He’s afraid for me.  “Boy.  Slayer’s not gonna let anyone but her have the privilege of stakin’ me.  She’ll have him so wrapped up he won’t care about li’l ole me.  Don’t fret.   I’m not leavin’ you.”

Xander still looked nervous, but nodded and finished inhaling his food.  Spike chuckled; the boy consumed an enormous amount of food.  Gonna have a time keepin’ him fed.  Makes a nice change from Dru.  Drusilla, who had to be forced to eat regularly, and would waste away to skin and bone if he wasn’t careful.

Much as he had loved his Dark Goddess, there were drawbacks with someone built like she was.  He smirked as he remembered thrusting into the boy’s thigh, right along the groove of his hip.  Dru had never like that position; she didn’t get any stimulation out of it, and the feel of a too-prominent bone hadn’t given Spike much pleasure.

With Xander, though, it been damned near perfect.  Holding onto a shoulder that had some give to it, pulling one long leg up to create a warm, snug channel, listening as the boy begged to be used, to be treated like a toy, a living sex-toy who’s purpose was to make Spike feel so good. . .

The smell of his arousal, the feel of his dick just barely brushing against me as I moved, and not one hint of humiliation, shame, or anger.  He likes bein’ my bottom-boy.  Bet he would even without the thing in his head.

“You, um, ready to go?”  Xander held up Spike’s now empty mug.  Only when Spike nodded did he rinse it out and place it in the sink.   “Giles didn’t sound too worried, so it’s probably just research or basic patrol,” Xander said as they exited the basement. 

The night was cool, and felt good after the stuffiness of the basement.  They walked along companionably for a while, but Spike could tell the boy wanted to say something.

Time for more lessons, then.  “Plug still in?”  Spike smirked—he could hear the blood rushing to the boy’s face.  “You should take it out soon.  Don’t want you t’ get too sore.”

The sound of carefully measured breathing mixed with normal night sounds.  “Now?”

“Nah, at the Watcher’s.” 

Xander missed a step.  “At—Giles’?  I—” Gulping, Xander forced himself to nod.  “Okay,” he whispered.

Delicious.  If he was stripped naked before his classmates, he couldn’t be more embarrassed.  But he said he’d do it.  No promptin’, no cajolin’, just ‘okay’.  An’ he reeks of arousal.  Oh, you are a nummy little thing, aren’t you?

He felt like dancing, caroling his joy to anyone who could hear.  He hadn’t felt this good since the flaming chip had buggered up his life.  Maybe not even since Angelus had stuck his fat arse back in Spike’s life.  Before he screwed things up with Dru, before the Slayer was something other than a passin’ amusement.  Back when I was the Big Bad.

Which led to a question he’d been fighting since he realized the extent of the chip’s control.  What was he now?  Vamps are sex an’ blood an’ violence.  Got enough blood t’ survive, an’ the sex is startin’ to look bloody fantastic, but the violence?  Don’t give a rat’s arse ’bout what Slayer and her Watchers think.  Vamps need the violence.  Know Angel craved it, s’why he helped Slutty patrol half the time, an’ it is why he was off his fuckin’ rocker when the soul got evicted. 

No human blood, no violence.  Yeah, sex, but that’s not gonna be enough without the rough stuff Dru an’ I did when we couldn’t hunt.  Three things make a vamp, an’ I can barely do one of ’em.

So what the hell does that make me?  An’ why do I think so damned much just when I was startin’ t’ feel—

“S-Spike?”  The boy flinched, taking a step back when Spike whirled on him with a snarl.

“What?”

Fear-scent slammed into Spike.  He blinked, shifting out of game face when he realized that the boy was practically cowering, huddled in the shadow of a mail box.  The low-level arousal that had hung in the air for the past week was gone, totally.  Wiped out under a wave of pure terror.

He’s terrified of me, Spike thought dimly, wondering why that didn’t make him feel good.  I can’t hurt him, an’ he’s terrified of me.

“Shh, pet, easy now.”  Xander held himself completely still as Spike approached him, breathing shallowly.  He jerked once when Spike touched him, but didn’t move away.  Spike took that as a good sign.

“S-s-s—”  Hesitant, desperate, and horribly frightened, voice so tiny and little that it was barely more than a whimper.

This is the boy who stood up to Angelus.  More than once, whether or not the Slayer was there to protect him.  This is the boy who has never backed down from a fight, not even when he was screamin’ like a girl.  This is the boy who’ll match me, insult for bloody insult.

Terrified.  An’ I can’t hurt him.

“Don’t talk, luv.  S’alright now.  That’s right, come here. . .”  Grateful for the empty streets, Spike sank to the ground and gathered the boy into his lap.  Cradling the larger frame, one hand twisted in hair that was becoming too long while the other petted a warm, cotton-covered stomach.  “Hush, now, precious.  Hush.”

Xander burrowed his body into Spike’s, desperate for—something.  Spike wasn’t sure what.  The boy was sniffing him, mouthing along his collarbone, even while his body trembled and shook uncontrollably.  Spike kept petting, whispering reassurances.

It took several minutes for the boy to calm down.  Not because the fear was so strong, no, that had abated to something tolerable once Spike had tried to calm it.  The tremors had started when Spike began petting him.  Not before.

Bloody hell.  What is wrong with this boy?

“Better now, pet?”  Xander had his face pressed into Spike’s chest, licking at the bit of skin above the shirt but below his neck.  He never went there.  Little moans and whimpers escaped as he sucked.  Spike wondered if the puppy had taken over again.  “Luv?  Boy, look at me.”

Innocent eyes met his.  The puppy.  Bollocks.   “Y-you were angry.”  Well, ’least he can speak, even if he sounds like a bloody two year old.

“Not at you, I wasn’t.  Just thinkin’ about the mess of my unlife.”  Why the hell is he shrinkin’ back like—oh.  “The chip, idiot.  You were mine before soldier-boys decided t’ play god.”

“So, you aren’t angry?”  The boy still sounded young and scared, but there was more Xander this time.  Enough that by the time they got the Watcher’s, no one should notice anything unusual.  “I didn’t—I didn’t do anything wrong?”

Spike knit his eyebrows together.  “Wrong?  You think you did somethin’ wrong?”

“You were angry,” Xander whispered, toying with the collar of Spike’s duster.

“Not at you.  Said that.”  The puzzle of Xander’s psyche went from two dimensional to three.  What was going on in the boy’s head?

“Sorry.”

“Stop apologizin’.  Git.”  That’s what he’d been trying to say before, too.  Not ‘Spike’, like he’d thought at the time, but ‘sorry’.  Sorry I was mad?  Sorry he did somethin’ wrong?  Sorry he was afraid?  Hells, he’s worse than Dru!

“Better now?”  Xander nodded, pushing up into Spike’s hands.  “Right then, come on.  Gotta get to the Watcher’s.”

For a moment, Spike was certain that the boy was going to pout at him.  It passed, and instead he was looking chastised and sheepish as he helped Spike to his feet.  Spike let him, watching the slumped shoulders and unconsciously bared neck.  Whatever that had been, it was better but not completely gone yet.

“Don’t forget to take the plug out,” he instructed when they were inches from the apartment.  “In about an hour.”

Flaming brighter than the sunset Spike never saw, Xander knocked on the carved door.





Part Six

“Never fear, Xander is here!”

“Xander!”  Willow grinned at him from the doorway, eyes twinkling.  Good.  It was about time she finally got over Oz, stupid werewolf-deserter.  “You’re such a goofball.  Come on, the arguing hasn’t even started yet.”

“No arguing?  Dang!  And I so wanted to come in mid-shout!”  Xander almost tripped when he realized what he’d said.  He could feel Spike smirking behind him and hoped no one noticed he was blushing.  I’m amazed I have enough blood for—no, remember?  We made ourselves a promise.  Ourself, we are not going to think about Spike, sex, or the past twenty four hours while with Giles and the girls.  Oh, and Riley.

“What happened to Riley?”  Xander flung himself onto the sofa, waving hello to Buffy and Giles on the way.  Spike slid into the chair behind him.  He hasn’t made a single comment yet.  I should be worried?

Buffy glowered at the white bandage around her boyfriend’s upper arm.  “Something took a chunk out of him last night.  I’m going to find it and kill it.”

“And nothing says ‘I’m a sociopath’ like nonchalant threats to kill.”

The insanely neutral look that Buffy sometimes got disappeared in favor of a big grin.  “Xander!  I am not!”

“No, you were just totally determined to rip the stuffing out of anything that hurt your boytoy, right?”  I can do this, I have to do this.  We have practice with this, remember?  Acting like everything is perfectly fine and focusing on Buffy and Willow.  See?  No problem.

He felt cool air brush the back of his neck and knew it was Spike’s breath.  I can’t do this!  At least before my problems stayed away from the rest of my life!

“Of course,” Buffy was saying, turning to share a puzzled look with Willow.  “That’s what a good Slayer does for her boyfriend.  Kills whatever hurt him.”  She leaned over to give Riley a kiss, smiling coquettishly at him.  “Aw, c’mon, Riley.  You’re mine and I’m not letting a creepy-crawly even look at you funny.”  Another kiss and Buffy turned back to her book.

Xander breathed deeply, allowing Willow’s familiar babble about whatever had attacked Riley to wash over him.  Sometimes, although not in the last week, Xander was very grateful to the soldier and the hyena that lived in his head.  They showed him things that he wasn’t sure he would have seen, if he’d been just plain old Xander.

Like the flash of pain on broad, corn-fed features that had nothing to do with physical injuries, the anger and resentment that clouded it, and the absolute dismissal of Buffy’s possessiveness.

No, he realized, he would have seen those things.  But he needed his two alter-ego’s to put it into to terms he could express.  They didn’t trust Riley.  The soldier appreciated his loyalty to his unit and the confident military swagger it missed, but even it could see that the swagger was mostly bluster.  Riley didn’t understand the world he was inhabiting, depending on orders from people who had no respect for it.  Without understanding or respect, he couldn’t really handle the insanity of the Hellmouth.  The Scoobies all knew not to expect too much; the minute you tried to prepare for one thing, something totally unexpected happened.  Riley was still totally confident that his military training and high-tech goodies were more than enough to take care of anything they might see.

He still believes that, even with his arm in a sling.  Riley was talking now, obviously repeating that all this research was unnecessary and the Initiative was working on it.  They’d fix it.  Which brought up the hyena’s point.

Buffy was pack-leader.  She would share her position as alpha with a mate, make alliances with others she couldn’t control as pack, but she would never give up her authority.  She didn’t know how, and wasn’t supposed to.  She was a fighter and a leader and would not submit to anyone.

Riley already had a pack, and enough alpha-traits to have high standing.  He wanted Buffy in his pack—but to work her way from the bottom up.  It wasn’t that he wanted to be more dominant than she was—although that was part of it—it was that he was unsure of his place in her pack.  He wanted her to be part of his, where he knew how to relate with more dominant alpha’s.  So when Buffy declared herself pack-leader, and Riley part of her pack, he rejected the claim.

One or all of those things was going to create trouble.  If Riley was lucky, he’d be the only one to get hurt—even killed.  If he wasn’t. . .

Shaking his head, Xander tried to concentrate on the debate swirling around him.  Willow was pretty sure it was a snarath demon—it looked like a walking snake, according to one of the books.  It wasn’t a great fighter, but it was smarter than most demons and it used magic.

Riley pulled a face—and then grew thoughtful.  “What’s that around it’s neck?”

“It’s their clan-stone,” Willow said after skimming the text.  “They all wear one, and this book thinks that maybe it’s where their power comes from.  You can’t just cut it off—ew, people have tried—it takes work, but once it is off, it says that the demon is much easier to kill.”

“Is that what the Initiative was after?  This necklace?”

“Yeah, maybe.  They told us to look for a bright orange stone like that.”

Buffy gave her boyfriend a long look.  “They knew this thing had magic, but didn’t warn you?  God, the Initiative can be so stupid sometimes!  They just. . . they don’t understand what they’re doing!”  Riley’s annoyed expression said they’d had this particular fight before.  Given Maggie Walsh had tried to kill Buffy, it wasn’t surprising.  “They just mess with the natural order of things!”

“Natural order?” Riley yelled.  “You want to talk about natural order?  You’re supposed to be a vampire slayer!  So why is he here?”  Riley’s good arm flung out to point towards Spike, who raised his eyebrows in a silent ‘who me?’ expression.

Xander closed his eyes briefly, struggling not to say or do anything stupid.  My pack, the hyena was snarling.  My pack-leader!

“We talked about this, Riley,” Buffy ground out.  “I told you.  He came to me for help, and I’ll give it to him.  And no, I will not stake him!  I’m not a murderer!”

“He’s a hostile!  It’s not murder, it’s getting rid of a killer!  It’s saving innocents, isn’t that your mission statement?”

“God, Riley, you just don’t get it!  He’s chipped and can’t hurt anything, and that makes it murder!”

“He can hurt things!”

“I what?”  Spike’s voice was electric in the sudden silence, hope and desperation making him lean forward to fix a steely look on the sheepish young man.  “I can hurt things?  What kind of things?  Answer me, white bread!”

“Yes, Riley, we were given to understand that the chip prevented him from causing any living thing ahrm.”  Giles cast a nervous look towards Spike, who hadn’t moved from his seat, before turning back to Riley.  “This is frightfully important, you do realize that?  Can he hurt people?”

“Not people.  But—”

“But what, Riley.”  Buffy lost some of her aggression, although not all, placing her hand on his good arm.  “Please, we have to know.”

“He can’t hurt the living,” Riley said finally.  “And you don’t need to know more than that.  It’s classified.  You’ve made it clear that you won’t stake him or throw him out, but I am not telling you everything.”  My pack, not yours. . .

Xander blinked, the phrasing of Riley’s answer smacking him suddenly.  He caught Spike’s appraising glance, but shook his head.  Spike tilted his head, studying him, and then nodded.  Then he glanced at the clock and winked.

I hate him, he thought, squirming uncomfortably around the thing he’d tried to forget about.

“Riley,” Buffy was saying, “we—”

“Buffy, I believe that between Willow and myself we can cast a spell to show us where this snake-demon is.  Or where he should be, at least.  Once we have that, I suggest you patrol, see if you can find it.  There are fairly extensive weaknesses listed here, and it shouldn’t be very difficult to kill.”

Xander hid a snicker, wishing he could take a picture of Riley’s face.  They all knew that Giles was neither helpless nor fainthearted, but it was easy for people like Riley to forget what else he did, beside act as nursemaid and retired librarian.  Being told by the genteel, older Englishman that it wouldn’t be ‘difficult to kill’ was a hit to Riley’s ego.

Good, he thought smugly.  Riley needed to become more aware of the realities—and he doesn’t go after Spike.  Not anymore.  And wow, go Buffy sticking up for the bleached menace.  I know he said she would, but I didn’t expect to see it!

Xander muffled a sigh when he felt himself poked in the shoulder.  Nodding to Willow, who was the only one paying even remote attention to him, he got up and went into the bathroom.

Slowly unzipping his jeans, Xander tried hard to ignore the fact that he was getting hard—and that hurt.  Pulling off his boxers, he looked down and winced.  His penis was red and raw looking, half-hard as arousal warred with pain, bruises turning the skin purple from his and Spike’s hands pulling on it too hard.

Ow.  Whatever Spike was going to do with him later, Xander hoped it didn’t involve orgasms for him.  And what nineteen year old guy ever thinks something like that?  His life was insane.  There was really no other way to look at it.

Xander braced his shoulder against the wall, bent forward slightly, and spread his legs as far as he could.  Reaching around, he swallowed when he felt cool plastic instead of warm flesh.  Don’t think, he instructed desperately.  Don’t think, just do it.

So why was he pushing it forward, just a bit, trying to find that place inside him that made sparks in his vision and turned his body to jelly?  He didn’t find it, but the movement itself felt. . . good.  So he repeated it.  Two more times and—oh, god, there.  Right there. . . oh, Spike, please. . .

He bit his own forearm, stifling the deep moan that tried to crawl out.  He thrust his hips in counterpoint to his hand, playing with different angles.  Tears squeezed from tightly closed eyes, pain sending white hot bolts from his waving, overused dick to sizzle along his skin.  He fucked himself harder, pain and pleasure melding, burning through his skin.

Please let me cum, please, Spike, I need to cum, god, it hurts so much, so good, please Spike, please let me cum, please let me cum, please please please please please—

“You need my permission, boy?”

Xander raised unfocused eyes to see Spike leaning against the closed door.  “Wha. . .oh, gotta—please, I. . . please. . .”

“Wondered what was takin’ so long,” Spike said.  He stalked forward, every inch the predator as he lasciviously watched his prey.  “Then I smelled it, smelled you, pet, hard and hurting and so desperate.”  Spike licked his lips, causing Xander to shudder.  “You want it so bad, don’t you luv,” he whispered, husky voice traveling right to Xander’s insides.  “You need it, need me.  That’s me inside you, takin’ you, pushin’ in so deep while you shake and moan, lettin’ me split you apart, fill you up, usin’ your tight, hot little body. . .”

The tiny, tiny part of Xander’s brain that was still rational didn’t know how Spike got in the bathroom unobserved, didn’t know why the others didn’t hear him gasping and panting, didn’t know why Spike’s voice was making his hand move faster, pounding into himself over and over and over. . .

Please, Spike, please, let me cum, oh, god, Spike. . .

Xander’s eyes pleaded and begged since his vocal cords seemed to have stopped working.  Spike smirked at him, looking intensely pleased at whatever he saw in those liquid brown depths.  “Take it out, boy.  All the way.”

He almost cried when his traitorous body obeyed, pulling the plug completely out of his ass.  Nooo, he wailed in his head.  Empty, fill it up, please, Spike don’t leave me so empty and alone, hate being alone, can’t be alone, pleeeeeeease—

He could feel himself spasming, searching for something to fill what had previously been full.  The aching emptiness made him shake, barely holding himself upright against the wall.

“Shhh, pet, don’t worry,” Spike whispered, pressing his own body up close.  Spike slid one hand down his back, the other stroking his stomach the way he had—no, don’t think, gotta cum, please let me cum, Spike, it hurts, it’s sooo good, please—

Two fingers pushed inside, the stretched ring of muscles immediately clamping down.  Xander swallowed more of his arm, trying to stifle the deep groan of pleasure.  “Follow me,” Spike whispered, pulling Xander away from the wall and supporting him over towards the far wall.  When Spike touched his cock Xander almost screamed, the pain and pleasure blackening his vision.

“Cum.”

Xander bit his arm hard, nearly sobbing with the force of his release.  Through the rushing in his ears, Xander could hear a soft tinkling sound of something landing in water and realized what Spike had done.  Weird, was all he could think as his body unclenched and began relaxing.  He did moan quietly when Spike pulled out and petted him.

“In you, pet, I’m in you an’ on you.  You need that, don’t you, boy?  Need me to make it feel so good.  My touch on your skin, my body in yours. . .”  Cool breath tickled his ear and he would have fallen if not for Spike’s strong grip around his waist.  “Yes, you know it now.  Standing there, pretendin’ it was me up inside you, waitin’ for me, for my touch an’ my words to give you release.  My boy.  My pretty little toy.”

In a few moments that strong arm unwound itself and Xander found he could stand on his own two feet.  “Clean up before you leave here.”

“Wh—what about you?”  How did you get in here, when I know I locked the door?  Why aren’t I upset?  How the hell can I have coherent thoughts when my brains just came out my dick?  “What’ll they think you doing?”

“Gettin’ myself a bit o’ blood an’ whatever else I damned please.  Watcher don’t control me.”

Xander nodded, knowing that Giles would accept that explanation.  He’d wonder just what exactly Spike had done to his things, but he wouldn’t pry.  Spike gave him a cheeky smirk before heading towards the kitchen.

Cleaning was easy, especially since the messiest part was flushable.  Spike, being nice. . . again.  He’s been very nice to me, this whole time.  I don’t get this.  I don’t, and that scares me more than—than what happened before.

Yellow eyes flashing, voice low and guttural, the level of annoyance and anger outweighing the more expected hate, the bone-chilling fear of again and I didn’t mean to and I’m sorry crowding in his throat until he felt like he was choking on it.

He expected blows, pain, and humiliation.  He was used to that.  Except Spike gave him soft touches, kind words, and the offer of safety.  The evil, soulles vampire gave me what—what I never had before.  Willow and Jesse had been all he had through childhood.  Highschool and Buffy had given him more, but never the kind of closeness he always craved, bodies offering comfort instead of pain.

Even the sex doesn’t hurt.  I mean, well, it does, he thought with a rueful glance downward.  He’s controlling. . . masterful—okay, shivering is bad—he’s dominant, but he isn’t hurting me.  Xander had always known he was submissive, sexually.  He was used to being seen as a tool for his partner’s pleasure—he actually had more personality and interaction with Spike than he did with any of the others.

Cordy and I were too young to do more than fumble around.  Faith treated me like a living piece of plastic.  Bug-lady and Mummy-girl had other agendas.  Anya. . . Ahn wants me to enjoy it, but. . .  It wasn’t about sharing, it was strictly about orgasms—hers.

And Spike?  Spike appreciated his attempts at creativity, and seemed to want Xander to enjoy it as much as Spike did.  The vampire’s pleasure was first and foremost, but the things he said, the way he breathed and moaned, it gave Xander a sense of power and pleasure that Anya never inspired in him.

“Xander?”

Oh, shit!  Big, black, and very shiny, four inches of plastic stared back at him from the counter.  Where to put it, where to—Xander sent a quick prayer that his pants really were baggy enough.  He could always claim it was his keys or something—right?

“Just a minute, Wills.”

“Are you okay?  You’ve been in there for a while, now.”

“Just a sec.”  It didn’t look too bulgy, and. . . right, he’d deal.  He could hear her shifting by the door, could picture that hesitantly curious and hopeful face.  The one he’d always turned to since he was four years old.

“I’m here, I’m here!  We gotta plan?”  Open the door, shut the door, move away from the bathroom, sit down on the sofa, ignore Spike drinking blood in the corner, watching Buffy and Riley argue quietly in their corner.

“Giles is getting supplies now.  We’re gonna cast a spell!”  She bounced, big happy Willow-grin crinkling up at him.  Just a little bit of this, and whatever his problem, it all just disappeared.  Then the smile faltered and she gave him her Concerned Face—not quite as fierce as Resolve Face, but still pretty darn scary.  “Are you okay, though, Xander?  You’ve been so quiet tonight.”

He shrugged, giving her a goofy smile.  “Just tired, that’s all.”

“Missing Anya?”

Not really, and won’t that be fun when she comes back.  “Yeah, I guess.  Mostly it’s work.”

She who went to college made a sympathetic face, trying to look like she understood.  She didn’t.  It was impossible to understand the horror of doing scut-jobs for scut-wages, no hope or end in sight without actually having worked one.  “Poor Xander.  Don’t worry, you’ll find something you like.”

Cold, salty, with a hint of cream and copper—oh, my god, not with Willow!

“Oh, he makes me so mad sometimes!”  Buffy huffed her way over to the sofa, while Riley stomped out of the apartment.  “Sorry, Xander,” she smiled, “didn’t mean to ignore all night.  Stupid boyfriend.  So, how was work yesterday?”

Xander relaxed, talking about his coworkers—idiots, all of them—and listening as the girls talked about school.  This was what he would always come back for, why he would put up with the hassle of being the only real male scooby and a useless one at that.

He loved to hear them laugh.

They talked for an hour, as carefree as they had been nearly three years ago when they had been two girls and a guy dealing with a normal life.  “Oh, god, Xander!  Tell me you didn’t!”

“He reminded me of our tenth grade math teacher, Mr. Oaks.  You better believe I did!”

Willow was convulsing beside him, laughing too hard to make words.  “You—bad Xander!” she gasped out after a moment or two.  Buffy looked like she was ready to do this same.  Xander just grinned, happy in their happiness.  The jerk had deserved getting told off like that, too.  Fortunately, the boss of the grocery store agreed with Xander and he wasn’t getting fired for bitching out another employee like he had.

“Right in the frozen foods?” Buffy asked.

“He split a bag of frozen french fries, he was clutching it so hard.  So then, the manager comes by, and I am sure that I’m about to get fired, and—”

“Buffy?  Sorry, Xander, I’ll return her in a minute.”  Riley gave him an apologetic grin, which Xander didn’t feel like returning.  He’d just gotten them to relax a bit, too.

“Willow, if you’re ready, we can begin the preparations now.”

“One sec, Giles.”  Turning to Xander, she gave a twisted-smile.  “Sorry, duty calls.”

“It’s okay, I’m on Spike-patrol, I know.”

“Riley, hang on.”  Buffy frowned prettily at him, hazel eyes very serious.  “He’s been behaving, right?  I mean, he’s not messing with you?  Cause he is not allowed to mess with you.”

“He’s—oddly well behaved.”  He’s training me to be his sex-slave, but otherwise. . .  “Don’t worry, Buffster.  He can’t hurt me—”

“The chip won’t stop him from setting the place on fire, Xander.”  Buffy crossed her arms, shooting a glance at Riley like it was his fault that the chip wasn’t more powerful.

“Yes, because vampires are so flame-retardant.  It’s okay, Buffy.  Right now, he can’t even bite the hand that feeds him.”

Another moment of narrowed eyes and a glare at Spike.  He, in turn, raised one eyebrow.  “Come off it, Slayer,” he groused.  “I’m chipped, can’t do a damned thing to anyone now.  Least you lot feed me, and the whelp is lookin’ t’ get cable.”

“Ah, because it’s never wise to come between a vampire and his creature comforts.  Willow, if you please, the sooner we get this spell cast the sooner you lot can start hunting for this demon and leave my apartment.  It’s nearly nine thirty.”

Willow leaned forward.  “Are we expecting something to happen a little later?”

Xander coughed, suddenly.  Giles was blushing!  “G-man!  You gotta hot date?”

“I’ve asked you repeatedly not to call me that.  And Olivia is due to return sometime after ten, so I’d appreciate it if you were all not here when she does arrive.”

Buffy, Willow, and Xander all exchanged looks.  “Sure, Giles!” they chorused merrily.

“Oh, bloody hell.”  Except Giles was smiling while he cursed them.  God, I love this pack.




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